Thursday, July 24, 2008

Not one of my favorite weeks...

Sometimes it does seem like the bad news comes all at once.

And surprisingly, it's when that bad news affects people close to you, that you have to watch them go through it, is somehow worse, much worse actually, than things that happen to you personally.

My Dad, as I've written, did swing pretty close to death but he's now being watched by cardiologists and endocrinologists and other-ologists and if he pays attention and doesn't act too stupid he'll come through this pretty much intact. Still call every night, but (crossing fingers)the danger has pretty much passed.

My sister Shannon's baby was hospitalized because a) he lost almost half his birth weight in a week and b) couldn't breathe, besides. He's still in there, getting his blood transfused and all, but Shannon's been through this at least six times before with her other kids (seriously, is it cool or just odd that you know the nighttime emergency room lineup by name? Hey, Dr. Bob!). Concerned, yes, but we know the drill by now.

Well, last night my brother left three messages on my phone to call him. He barely calls me at all, let alone three times.

Well, it turns out his wife Lisa has a huge malignant tumor growing in her colon and totally blocking one of the other lower pipes, I forget which. It's serious - real serious. She goes in for surgery next Friday.

Lisa's pretty young, about forty, I think. She's got five kids, ranging from almost one to eleven.

Her parents are coming out Monday, and my parents are coming Tuesday and staying at my house (which is six miles from Sean and Lisa's) and possibly my brother's coming out Friday, so she'll have plenty of support.

This isn't really supposed to be one of those "poor me" posts. Anything that happens to me is pretty much nada compared to what's happening to others - I know that.

But to have three people who are very close to you come that close to death in the space of a week, well, it makes you think.

There are those people who claim that if God wants you, he's going to take you and there's not a whole lot you can do about it when your time comes.

I understand their point, but I also have one of my own (point, the joke is old):

A man was trapped by the flooding Mississippi, and a boat came to get him from his doorstep. "God will help me," he said, refusing the aid. The water came higher, so he went to the upper story. Another boat came by, but he refused to get in, saying "God will help me!" The waters really rose, so he had to go the roof, and a helicopter came by. Once again, he refused - "God will help me!" So the copter left, the waters rose further, and he drowned.
The man gets to heaven and sees God. "Uh, God? Why didn't you help me?"
God looks at him and says "What do mean? I sent two boats and a helicopter!"

Live while you can. No one ever died wishing they could have attended just one more meeting.

Anyway, if you get a chance, say a prayer for my sister-in-law.

Aand since I'm her only relative outside of California, say one for me too - I have a feeling I'm gonna need it. ;)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Music of the Night

I went to a concert last night, a little cabaret act with a fellow name of Michael Ingersoll.

Never heard of him? That's okay - neither had I.

Maggie remembered late Sunday that she had bought tickets for this guy. He's in a little show called Jersey Boys (not exactly little - sarcasm there).

He was outstanding - sang everything from the Tin Man song in Wizard of Oz to jazz classics, interspersed with interesting talk on his rise in theater and his life and his wife - who lo and behold, also showed up.

It was his first solo concert - ever - but he had chosen the Metropolis because he had appeared in a show there two years ago, before hitting it big (we had seen him in that show, too).

And the place went nuts when the other Jersey Boys showed up and sang along.

I did not go nuts. I had never heard these guys sing. It was all the white haired people (my dad included - he had seen Jersey Boys) who went nuts.

After hearing them sing - well, Maggie and I are buying tickets for his other show in August. The exact same show, probably. It was THAT good.

So that got me to thinking - of all the musicians I really like. Put my money where my mouth is. As in, have paid to see them at least twice. I've seen plenty of other singers and shows, but these are the people I have seen at least twice and that I really love - over the past twenty five years or so. Needless to say, i have multiple albums from each.

Ron Hawking
If you've never heard this guy, he is amazing. Sings Frank Sinatra and Rat Pack songs in his own inimitable style. Does Vegas quite a bit but also comes through Chicago semi-annually in all sorts of venues. Always top notch cabaret shows. Have seen him four or five times.

Billy Joel
Only the good die young, only Billy Joel can put on such a fantastic show, either alone or with Elton John. Seen him three times.

Jack Daniels Silver Cornet Band
Yes, the whiskey company has their own promotional band of, well, silver cornets. They each play characters from 1849 or so. Wonderful performers, great Christmas shows. Three times.

They Might Be Giants
Particle Man, Particle Man, does anything that a particle can.... just fun. Twice.

Barry Manilow
Say what you want, the man can put on a show that NO ONE can resist stomping their feet. If you only know him from records you've never seen the real Barry Manilow. Three times.

Harry Connick Jr.
Come on, the guys plays everything from Bear Neccessities to his own compositions, in a really cool jazzy style. Seen him twice and would love to see more of him.

Elton John
Can Corkidile rock still resonate forty years later? You damn well better believe it! Three times.

The Irish Rovers
My all time favorite Irish band. Just awesome! They're a bit older now but they still can sing the Unicorn! Wasn't that a party? At least ten times.

The Chieftains
Almost as good as the Rovers, a little less on the humor though. Still darn good. Six times.

Seamus Kennedy
My favorite entertainer of all time. Seen him at least a dozen and a half times and would see him more if he came to the Chicago area anytime. He's an Irish singer of incomparable quality and humor, and always gets me singing! He's absolutely terrific! Eighteen times, probably more.

Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson
Admittedly, this pair comes from twenty five, thirty years ago, but when I saw them I knew the words to every song. Highwaymen is still a classic. Ghost Riders in the Sky ! Two times.

Michael Crawford
Con-DOR-maaaaaaaannn! Yes, I knew of him before he was famous. He was a comedian, for cripes sake. Who knew the man had such a voice!? His Phantom is still standard, but he does so many other great songs too! Three times.

Reba McIntyre
Long before Reba had her own TV show, she toured a lot more, and she used to come to Buffalo every time. Why? Because we loved her. When she sang Fancy atop a stage that lifted into the air and whirled her around the Aud so she was on a level with the balcony (hey, they paid their money too!) - man, I still get excited. Twice.

Garth Brooks
The only thing I don't like about Garth Brooks is his habit of making every seat the same price. Every seat pays the same. I never got a good seat. Didn't matter much - the man plays to everyone in the house. Everyone knows every song. I mean, every word to every song. Again, like Manilow, if you've only heard the records you haven't heard or seen Garth. Awesome performer. Twice.

Beach Boys
I am such a sucker for surf music sometimes, though I prefer Jan and Dean a little more. Saw them a long, long time ago and their voices were going south. Know what? Nobody cared. :) Three times.

This is kind of a cheat, because I've only seen him once and don't have any of his records or anything. But I enjoyed his concert.

Well, those are the ones I can think of now. this doesn't include things like the Notre Dame band or the Sacramento/Buffalo/Chicago Philharmonics or jazz festival bands or Radio City Christmas that I've all seen multiple times. Just kind of gives you a little insight into my world...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Just a few More Hours...

Yesterday morning I was feeling low. Worries seemed to pile on and I just felt... bad.

By the afternoon I was feeling wonderful.

It's amazing what a Sunday afternoon outside can do for you.

Maggie and I went up to Lake Geneva, just across the border in Wisconsin. We walked around the town and the lake, visited a couple of our favorite stores, and had dinner on the waterfront with a nice view of the boats and the main dockhouse.

We went over afterward but the last boat tour wouldn't leave for almost an hour, but we did discover there's now a KC's Cones stand in the main dockhouse (Maggie kidded me that now she knew my secret source of cash, and I countered that it couldn't be me because it served Pepsi and I'm more of a Coke person).

Walked by the old arcade due to close for good at the end of the summer, and played a game of Ms PacMan (she kicked my tail - geez, she was good at that game. Hidden story there somewhere!) and then we walked a bit more and went home.

Oh, we stopped at the old Dog n Suds drive in, in Richmond. Supposedly there are only eleven of the places left, and only three within driving distance. We just got some diet root beer.

It's like going to an actual A&W, same effect. The root beer is just that much better, that much creamier, than much smoother than anything available in a store. It is so damn good you can't believe it's legal. The perfect ending to a perfect day.

There's something about the water, and boats, and root beer for that matter, that gets me in the summer time mood, that brings back memories of long ago. That just makes me happy.

I can't explain it, really. But if you've ever heard those ads, where the man talks laconically about how refreshing it is to play golf, or boat, or swim... well, it was Wisconsin, but it sure felt like heaven.

Remarkable what a Sunday afternoon can do.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My dad is old

Yeah, I know, how original.

I just got word, like half an hour ago, that my dad started bleeding profusely and ... well, long story short, he's hospitalized in Lake Tahoe. Or was, overnight, they're driving home right now.

I cannot begin to say how much I hate the way my father takes care of his health. He doesn't. He goes off to the dentist, keeps it secret from my mother as to when he goes and what they do, he takes Advil even though he takes a blood thinner (news to me!)... aaaaagh!

According to my sister my mom awoke to Dad out of bed and a huge pool of blood on the bed, he's in the bathroom because he doesn't want to wake her - WAKE her? He's spouting blood like a turnip! They go to the hospital and he gets a transfusion and a blood thickener and it still doesn't stop and they're wondering whether to give him more would make clogs or give him a heart attack -

My dad is only 67!

Yes, I suppose that's old, but not these days! He's not supposed to have a club foot and arthritis and diabetes and he's supposed to TAKE CARE of them, not eat Jack in the Box milkshakes and chocolate cake! JEEZ!

He was bleeding like crazy Wednesday, so Thursday they go to TAHOE? HEL-LOOOOO!

I'm... so flustered I can't think straight. I am so mad! DAMN, he's getting worse - LOTS worse - and there doesn't seem to be anything we can do to get him to take it seriously! My brother's a DOCTOR, for crissakes!

And now they're saying there might be Alheimer's, because that's the only explanation? No, he's stubborn. Stupidly stubborn, just like his father. I just find it damn ironic that a man who could probably afford the best doctors around


Superhero on Tap

Let me state, right now, I am not a particularly big fan of dance. It's okay on occassion, I suppose, but there's about thirty things I can list off the top of my head that I'd rather spend the time on than attending a dance performance.

There's always an exception, and that exception is The Hourglass and the Poisoned Pen.

It's a superhero comic book done in tap.

I know, weird.

It's a big improvement over last year's show (yes, I dragged Maggie to that one), with a better set (a giant comic book whose pages are turned to form the backgrounds, and with projected captions!), better villains, better fight sequences (they've gone from tap dancing at each other to a mildly-inventive way of actually fighting while tap dancing) and even better costumes (for the sidekick, at least - I think the Hourglass' outfit was the same last year).

Before the show, we were warned that if we had seen last year's show, to forget it. You got it - it's a Hulk-style reboot! :)

So we got a different origin for our heroine (much quicker, allowed the story to move to the action faster), the sidekick had a costume right off, and the story went pretty much like a superhero comic book. You know, sidekick is knocked out, used as bait for hero - the usual.

What made it so enjoyable was the villainous Poisoned Pen, who's actor was terrific - both in secret and villain ID. The Conductor was kept from the previous show, and instead of just doing a little dance and raising an eyebrow got to beat the tar out of the heroines this time around. And the heroine herself, the Hourglass, acted far more like a comic book heroine (kind of in an Adam West vein) than the reluctant wimp she was in the first episode.

The play is actually going to a NY festival in September, given a chance to perform off-Broadway, which is darn good for a show that plays in an old 70-person theater.

So if you get the chance to ever catch the show, I'd recommend it. It's fun, fast-paced, and interesting to a comic book guy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Making a Point

Well, Maggie and I went out to Cedar Point, Ohio this past Fourth of July weekend.

As did nearly everyone else in five states, apparently.

We went out there because her sister had insisted that on Fourth of July people stayed with their families and didn't go to the park. I had my doubts, but Cedar Point is located pretty far from any city of real size, so maybe...

(On our last night there, we went to Friendly's (a more or less New England based chain of ice cream and sandwich shops - great!) and our waiter told us he had worked at Cedar Point for five years and NEVER to even go in July, let alone the Fourth weekend - what were we, nuts?)

BUT - I had pre-purchased two-day tickets, just in case. We really hadn't planned on using them on the same weekend, but they were a lifesaver. The park was open until midnight and we just walked around and took in the coasters - anything with too long a line we skipped until the next day.

For thos eof you who aren't too familiar with Cedar Point, it bills itself as America's Roller Coast. It's no idle boast. There's something like 17 roller coasters. Yeah, no kidding. Even if two or three could be considered junior versions, that still leaves 14 full-size coasters.

And some are way bigger than full sized. Millenium Force stands over 300 feet tall and is nearly 7000 feet long. Top Thrill Dragster goes 120 mph, 420 feet straight UP. The Magnum is considered a steel coaster classic. And on and on.

Suprisingly, people lined up for hours for the newest rides - but left the Magnum, the Mean Streak, and the Gemini twin coaster relatively abandoned. The Gemini is my new favorite ride - racing twin wooden coasters, what's not to like?

Maggie even talked me into going on the Ripcord. That's where you get pulled 15 stories into the air with a cord attached to your back (through a steel hitch), in an arc; you pull the ripcord, and fly/fall 15 stories to within 6 feet of the ground, then swing up again, then swing back and forth for awhile. It was fun, but I don't think I'll tempt that again. It's like skydiving - all you need is one thing to go wrong and WHAM.

I DID hold out my arms like Superman and shout "Daht dah dahhh!" or something similar as I flew. Figure if I might die I might as well enjoy myself.

Anyway, the fireworks were terrific and literally fifty yards in front of our faces (were they SUPPOSED to be that close?) and they even played the music I'd chosen for Americana's theme song (which I'll post up soon's I can make a good recording) which considering it's not a true patriotic music thing I rather enjoyed.

In the end we got on almost all the coasters we wanted (exception - Maverick and Top Fuel Dragster, though we did them last year) and had a wonderful, wonderful time.

And having a Friendly's across the street from the hotel CERTAINLY didn't hurt. :)

(How small town is it? They had a Rally's Hamburgers, but it closed at 8. And those are summer hours. Eight o'clock?!)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


No, I did not choke to death on my own cooking, though you could read it that way (likely, if you've had my Margareta Chicken).

The Kansas City BBQ restaurant, down in San Diego, burned down last week, and this sad event has been talked about a lot by the people who went there.

Am I correct in saying that everyone I know who went to the San Diego Comic Con at one time or another has eaten there? The list is long, people...

The KC BBQ was located right next to the Embassy Suites, or close enough. That alone would have made it good, as it was a prime location for dinner after the Con closed (back when they had it at the old convention center) and even better, for lunch when the new center opened.

The food was delicious. Really. Either we don't have good BBQ in Chicagoland or the atmosphere just made it all the better.

It had to. Inside the restaurant was a veritable mess, with tables crowded together and all sorts of junk hanging from every post, all thanks to the movie Top Gun. What did the sign say? "Top Gun Cheesy Bar Scene Filmed Here"? "Cheap Bar"? Whatever it said, it was far worse.

Which made it better. :)

I always ate on the patio - even when it rained (which admittedly was not that much). The patio had just the right flavor, the nice outside views... damn, I'm going to miss that place.

Hopefully, by next year they'll have rebuilt - and I'm looking forward to digging in once again to a true classic.