Sunday, January 31, 2010
The Dog Days of Winter
2:51 pm est
What a terrible weekend this is. All of the football momentum of the previous three playoff weeks has
come to a grinding halt as an anxious nation turns its attention to the Pro Bowl, the first ever held before the
end of the football season. Of course this means that Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, and Drew Brees will be absent,
but the NFL never let a competitive game get in the way of their all-star festivities.
Looming large is the barren
sports wasteland that is February and the first two weeks of March. Six weeks of monotony worthy of a Masterpiece Theatre
mini-series. This span of shame is made all the more arduous for us New York hoops fans, whose local teams,
the Knicks and Nets have combined for 22 wins. 22! The Winter Olympics might offer a brief respite from
the tedium, at least in regards to hockey, but let’s face it, until the NCAA tournament begins it’s
best to avoid the TV entirely.
 My God, did I just make a case for watching the winter Olympics?!
Monday, January 18, 2010
Night at the Office
1:08 am est
Last night's gig was an affair at Lincoln Center playing for a group of Cornell University alums at their annual
gala. My criteria for a successful gig begins and ends with parking. After securing a spot on 70th street I realized
that I was about to have the sickest fuckin' gig ever. Why did I drive into Manhattan when a subway ride would have
saved time, as well as facilitated a drunken end to the evening at Smalls? I had to bring my keyboard. You
would have thought that a spare piano could have been located at Alice Tully Hall but I guess they were
all in the shop.
It was a good band -- good musicians, nice guys, and very easy-going. We were
doing our thing as only professionals of our caliber can: A little Gershwin, a little Rodgers & Hart, Irving
Berlin...you get the picture. People were enjoying the music, dancing, drinking, and conversing, until the band leader
called Take the A Train. During the middle of the song this old Cornell guy sidled up and began
lecturing me on why "A Train" was a terrible dance number. According to him the song had no beat
and it was putting a damper on the party. Being an Ivy Leaguer you can imagine what a strong connection to rhythm this
man must possess. Indeed, I was lucky to receive his pearls of wisdom, even if they did interfere with my concentration, since
we were, in fact, in the MIDDLE OF THE GODDAMN SONG.
Can you imagine if I had the gall to show up at
the Cornell beat-meister's investment banking office and began doling out advice on CDOs and IPOs? What if I barged
into his office and interrupted his conference call to suggest a walk-through in fixed income offerings? Something tells
me he would not be amused.
But I'm a pro. I smiled, nodded, and asked him what he would like to hear.
He requested "Manhattan," which we obliged with a businessman's-bouncy two-beat. He was as happy as a pig
in shit. It made his night, the old bastard. In his mind he had effected positive change, much like Obama promised
us. But that's for another post.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
To Tape the Impossible Game.
1:20 am est
It is next to impossible to tape a home team playoff game and not find out
the score before viewing it. Two nights ago I endeavored to do just that. My good friend -- we'll call him Jeff
-- taped the Jets/Bengals game which I couldn't watch live due to a gig. The plan was to watch the game at his house
after the gig.
As stated in my previous post Jeff and I have come to the conclusion that it's best not to
ask people to refrain from telling you the score since these words seem to trigger an innate impetus to give
the score. I showed up at the gig and was setting up when in walked the drummer. What do you suppose were
his first words to me? "7-7 in the first quarter." I responded (relieved that it was only a first
quarter score) "That's great, but please make this the last score you give to me...I'm taping the game." Just
then the host of the party, who was sitting a few feet from us, piped up: "14-7 Jets!"
You see what I'm up against. My luck turned, however. The gig began, the hilarity ensued, and people seemed
to forget about the Jet game. You should have seen the spread -- lobster tails, crab legs, calamari, clams, oysters,
and sushi. Of course it was two days old but who cares when it's free!
The gig came and went and lo
and behold I still hadn't learned of the outcome. I was home free. I was going to make it to the Bronx without
a final score! Just then I remembered that I had received a voice mail so I pulled out my phone to retrieve
it. As I looked at the screen this is what I saw: "Jets won! 24-14."
was a text from the bass player's girlfriend. Her kids, who know that I'm a big sports fan, had said to her "Mommy,
let's tell Uncle Keith that the Jets won!"
Uncle Keith?! Uncle Keith says "FUCK
YOU!" Still and all, the Jets won and since I did not
expect to avoid hearing the score I wasn't that
mad. It's amazing, actually. All these years and now I've discovered one more taping pitfall...the dreaded text
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Watch Ernest Bynar
11:26 pm est
A few posts back I wrote about video taping foibles; today you would call
them tivo foibles. Today I am going to document one of my two greatest gaffes. What is a taping foible?
A taping foible occurs when:
a) You incorrectly set
your VCR to record a ballgame and end up with 3 hours of the home shopping network or the weather channel.
b) You tape a sporting
event, doing your best not to find out the score while you are out of the house. This means no car radio,
or at the very least a ’safe’ spot on the dial such as the jazz or classical station. You
must avoid looking at any restaurant or bar TV, and if someone near you begins to talk about the game you have to immediately
cover your ears, begin singing loudly, while running out of the room. The foible occurs when someone tells you
the score, thus ruining the game.
In 1987 the Broncos played
the Browns in the AFC Championship game. My brother was in town and we had plans for that day so we decided to
tape the game and watch it that evening. We knew that our Dad was going to call that day because he always
called on Sunday. Knowing our Dad, if he knew a score, he would blurt it out on the answering machine. Years
ago they used to show the Oscars on tape delay in Los Angeles. Dad would hear the winners on his way home and tell
us before we even had a chance to watch. He loves to be ‘in the know.’
We had this idea that we would preempt him by calling in advance to let
him know not to tell us the score. When we called, however, we got his answering machine. We left
him a message saying “Whatever you do, don’t tell us the score of the Brown game!”
I don’t remember what we did that day but I do have a vivid memory of returning to my apartment
and seeing the light blinking on my answering machine. Sure enough it was Dad and here is what he said: “It
was a great game! I know you guys don’t want me to tell you the score, but watch Ernest Byner.”
Watch Ernest Byner?! Ernest Byner?! GOD DAMNIT!
So we watched the entire game waiting for Byner to do something. Sure enough the Browns were down
a touchdown with time running out when they handed it to Byner. Why would our father tell us to watch Byner if he was
just going to score a tieing touchdown. Why? Because he didn’t score. In fact he fumbled
on the two yard line. Denver recovered and that was the ballgame. We both knew he would blow it thanks to Dad’s
Now what can we learn from this experience?
Two things: First, you may think it’s best to warn someone not to tell you the score, but in reality this
method has less than a 50% success ratio. People just don’t understand the taping concept and for whatever
reason, be it wanting to save you from watching a boring game, or just plain old-fashioned meanness, they will spoil
it for you. The second reason is never, NEVER, listen to your answering machine messages until
after viewing the game.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Deconstructing "New York, New York"
6:24 pm est
There is a special place in hell reserved for those with the lack of imagination to request New York, New York.
If there is a more clumsy and obvious song dedicated to a municipality I have yet to find it. That's right,
Randy Newman fans, even "I Love LA. "
When I'm playing a gig, enjoying myself, minding my
own business, creating the magic, as it were, and I get a request from a patron -- "Hey! Play New York,
New York!" -- it's all I can do to refrain from delivering a quick, clean punch to the solar plexus. "Here!
Here's your New York, New York!"
Hold on. I need a minute...
Back. I got a little emotional,
what with the violence and the adrenalin. Let's compare Fred Ebb's pedestrian lyric with a genuine lyricist,
Lorenz Hart. I realize that this is akin to comparing Moe Howard to Lawrence Olivier, but what the hell...this
is my blog. I'm calling the shots.
In 1925 Rodgers and Hart wrote a song called "Manhattan." There's
a verse which establishes that the protagonist doesn't like to go on vacation due to the aggravation that comes
with travel. He's got a flat in 'old manhattan' and that's where he prefers to be. Since there is no verse
in New York New York proceed to the refrain.
"We'll have Manhattan
the Bronx and Staten
It's lovely going through
Right away, you like this guy, right from the first word, "We'll."
It's inclusive and welcoming. He gives props to the Bronx and Staten Island, but would it have killed him to mention
Queens?! I'm giving him a pass since the Mets weren't around back then. I'm sure if they had been there
Queens would have made the song.
Let's contrast that elegant opening to Ebbs' pratfall of a beginning:
"Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today
I want to be a part of it - new york, new york
shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it - new york,
What a bastard.
Listen to him bragging about coming to the big town. Who the hell is he?! I only hope that he arrives via port
authority and gets one of those friendly taxi driver that takes you to the Village via Jersey City.
"It's very fancy
on old Delancy
street you know.
The subway charms
when balmy breezes blow
to and fro.
And tell me what street
compares with Mott Street
Sweet pushcarts gently gli-ding by."
Listen to this sweetheart of a man referencing Delancy and Mott
streets! These are not posh addresses but the streets of the people - Lower East Side and Chinatown.
back to Ebbs' elephantine screed:
"I wanna wake up in a city, that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m
king of the hill - top of the heap
These little town blues, are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start
of it - in old new
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you - new york,
This dullard has no interest in the cultural melange of downtown Manhattan, but craves raw power.
His desire is to be a master of the universe and he doesn't care who he steps on to achieve his goal.
about it for New York, New York; the rest of the song repeats the lyrics from first half. Hart,
on the other hand, was just getting started. Even Yonkers, not technically a part of New York City, gets a shout
"We'll go to Yonkers
Where true love conquers
In the whiles ..."
So there you have it. You can have prime rib, or you can have spam. The choice is yours.