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July 26, 2015 / thackersam

July 26 – Max and Steed

Max&Window2 (2)This would be Max checking out the sunset the other evening that’s reflected in the windows of the building across the highway. He’s actually facing east. And yes, I have a tree in my apartment. His name is Tree and he has an interesting story to tell that goes back more than 30 years. Tree has been sporting my bowler hat for the past couple of months, and is looking so dashing in it that in honor of recently passed Patrick Macnee, aka John Steed, it will remain there indefinitely.

Yesterday was another movie with the ex day. My first movie pick was going to be the animated Inside Out, even if we were still a little gun shy from last year’s Lego Movie debacle (we were the only ones in the theater and I had to go looking for someone to start the movie as they forgot about us, but that was a mistake, cause the movie sucked – big time). Second choice was Trainwreck, which the ex was okay with. I think he’s just antsy to get out more. And if I hadn’t already discovered that Mr. Holmes was the movie I really did want to see, I admit I would have thought twice about the Trainwreck thing after recent events. I think it may be telling that the sick fuck with a gun chose a movie that would ensure many, probably mostly women in the audience.

Anyway, the fact that Mr. Holmes was playing at the same theater where we saw Amy three weeks ago to the day, we had the chance to again go to the Landmark Café on Grand Street, one of my favorite diners. The movie dragged a bit, but I very much liked the ending. And I like this theater that reminds me of a citified Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, L.I., the next town over from where I grew up, a progressive town that boasted both Hamburger Choo Choo and the Unitarian Fellowship, which was a pretty cool way to grow up back then. Lately, when I go to theaters that play more mainstream movies and therefore have mainstream trailers, I rarely see one that makes me want to see any of the films they’re attached to. The trailers at this theater: for a movie about the suffragette movement (that had the ex demanding to know why we (women) haven’t done something like this before filmwise), and documentaries about Malala and Steve Jobs, all piqued my interest. I guess gone are the days when I would think a movie like Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke was so incredibly funny that I then had to drag my mother to go see it. She called me man every day for a solid month afterward before she began to taper off.

I’ll say this, it is a good thing we didn’t do the 5lbs in a month thing. That pact the ex and I’ve got going for each of us to lose 6lbs in two months isn’t looking so good either. He is not the best influence, but I had not a kernel of his popcorn. We did have bacon though.

July 20, 2015 / thackersam

July 19 – Zoot (and Rowlf)

Zoot & RowlffI am so excited. The Muppet Show is returning to nighttime television. I heard this TV commercial and recognized the sound of Muppets. I like Muppets, so I guess I was subconsciously paying attention when something tapped me on my mind’s shoulder and said – hey, you may want to look at this. Then it registered. The Muppets are back. That makes me very happy indeed. Those who have been with me for a while may remember that when we ended the M’s during the album A to Z segment of this presentation (a fancier word for my blog), which was I think was December of 2013 (also recall that this was a mighty good holiday time for me starting with probably the best birthday ever), we were forced to exercise to The Muppet Show album from the late 70s. It was a gift, I swear. But an appropriate one, cause I loved that show. After work on Mondays when I still lived at my mother’s house on the Island, I’d walk the 12 to 13 minutes back home from the LIRR station, which even way back then that was unheard of on Long Island, whistling The Muppet Show theme song. 

It once was that the TV was always on, then eventually it was always on and I was paying less and less attention. Now I’m not only having the TV off in favor of music or the radio, I find that I sometimes prefer nothing at all, and appreciate the silence. You do get other sounds living on the river though, even in the City, even this high up in an apartment building. Why only recently one of those massive cruise ships, possibly the Queen Mary II, was heading out towards the ocean and passed a smaller cruise ship (not small, just smaller) that was coming home and had yielded to the larger one. And as it passed, the larger one let out a long, low blow, if you will, and the smaller ship responded with a less deep blow of the horn. They exchanged blows a few more times. I really enjoyed it. I can imagine how the people on the ship felt.

And there you go. I guess the theme of this evening’s post is that it’s the little things in life that make me happy – like the return of the Muppet Show or watching two ships passing and saying hello. I realize that being able to afford to live in the City to watch the two cruise ships on the river is not so little, and, I’m sorry to say, it’s something that can’t continue much longer. I have known that this is not my landing spot, and I don’t think the next one will be either.

Btw – My weight is now creeping back in the right direction. I went to one of my favorite diners today to get some work done over eggs and coffee. I ordered an omelet with no potatoes. That was difficult to say, as I usually ask for my potatoes to be well-done and never say “no potatoes,” but I did.


July 13, 2015 / thackersam

July 12 – Jeff Beck

Jeff BeckWe now return to the Trouble-Buddy collection and the two Jeff Beck albums it contains: Blow By Blow and Wired released in 1975 and 76 respectively. As a writer, and I assume this goes for Trouble-Bud as well, I love lyrics, so listening to two strictly instrumental albums was a little odd for me. But Beck, who is a phenomenal guitarist put out some decent stuff, with the help of legendary rock producer George Martin, known mostly for his work with The Beatles. One or both of the albums will make an appearance tomorrow when company comes over, and not just as background to our chatter.

Jeff Beck got his start with the Yardbirds, and like a couple of other Yardbirds’ guitarists (Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton) gained recognition and respect for his craft. His Jeff Beck Group gave the voice of Rod Stewart a pre-Faces boost and I remember well their rendition of “Ain’t Superstitious” as that tween who was newly addicted to FM radio in the late 60s, when Stewart was doing what Stewart does best (Note to Rod: you may want to go back and listen to your old stuff. You are not Tony Bennett. Stay Rod.).

In 1985, Jeff Beck briefly joined the MTV generation, impressively so, with the video of “Ambitious” that played out as an audition for the singer of the song and featured Donny Osmond, who mentions having sung with his brothers and “a chick named Marie” when asked about his credentials. There are many other recognizable faces in the video, including the late, great Dr. Joyce Brothers, who does not sing, but offers sage advice. Beck, at the age of 40 when the video was shot, not only demonstrates his awesome talents as a guitarist, but shows what a good-looking guy he was. Still is, but you know, he’s 70.

I’m not really into jazz instrumentals, as many of the songs are, particularly on Wired, but about nine or ten years ago I had the opportunity to meet, interview and write an article about jazz drummer Al Dreares, who played with some of the jazz greats in the latter half of the 20th century, and shared some wonderful stories with me. I’ve not seen him in years, but I still keep a message from him on my voicemail, oh just because. And speaking of Tony Bennett, I forgot to mention last week when we reviewed the movie Amy, that if you didn’t know it by now, the movie proves just how absolutely cool he is. He is the epitome of cool in style, demeanor, kindness and appreciation of others’ talents, not just for his remarkable longevity. Artists of all ages love him and deservedly so.

Btw – It’s a good thing the ex and I agreed to 6lbs by Labor Day, after a wee bit of negotiating it down from losing 5lbs in a month from the 4th of July. For me, my initial weigh-in wasn’t horrible when I texted him my weight last Sunday morning, but then I started heading in the wrong direction. And then I find out that the ex plum lied to me about his weight for some idiotic reason I don’t remember as it actually had nothing to do with me. Regardless, the pact remains on.

July 6, 2015 / thackersam

June 5 – Amy (and the 4th)

AmyWThis is not about any of the Amys I may know, deceased or living, and I apologize for any confusion. A warning first that this is a long post, as I do go on. You can read it or not, but it is something I needed to write. It has turned into my opinions of the movie Amy, a documentary about Amy Winehouse, inside of a narrative of how I spent my 4th of July, or it’s a narrative of my day yesterday that includes my views on what the movie presented. Either way, feel free to pick and choose.

With his girlfriend out of town, the ex and I decided to spend the day together doing our usual breakfast and a movie, as neither of us had anything to do. Oh, don’t go feeling sorry for me this week. Being a bit of a loner as I am, having more than one social event per week, or in consistent weeks is pretty major. And this was my third this week. As the movie is only playing in two theaters in Manhattan I chose the downtown theater where I could take the ex to one of my favorite New York City diners, The Landmark Café on Grand Street. As stated here before, I do love a good diner and this one, a small establishment with old, but well-kept tables and all of three stools at the counter reflects the culture of the area in a traditional diner setting. We were lucky to arrive when we did as it was full but a table had just freed up. The coffee is good, the eggs were over easy and the bacon was crispy. I had to keep the ex on track though as he was distracted by the offer of spaghetti and meatballs for $8, and if we hadn’t been there specifically for breakfast, I don’t know if I could have dissuaded him. Me? I wouldn’t be enticed to order spaghetti and meatballs even in a fancy diner.

The movie comes with high recommendations from me for anyone who knows anything about Amy Winehouse. It obviously was made by those who love her, and those who used her unconscionably were appropriately vilified. I need to say that I believe that Amy Winehouse was responsible for her own death. However, she was victimized by her opportunist, scum-sucking father who cared not a fig about her health and well-being, only about himself and should be throttled and publicly humiliated then kicked repeatedly all over his body from head to toe. She was additionally used by the opportunist, scum-sucking egocentric predator that she loved and married, who assisted her with her overindulgences and introduced her to heroin, and whom I personally hope suffers immensely throughout the rest of his life. And her mother deserves a hard slap across the face, maybe two, for stupidly shrugging off her knowledge of her teenage daughter’s bulimia saying she thought she’d grow out of it. It’s a good and infuriating documentary that does have those bits that will have you smiling, even laughing. She was a clever girl. Not to give anything away, but watch her reaction of seeing Tony Bennett at the Grammy Awards as he announced her category and her reaction to an interviewer comparing her to Dido. I’ve no doubt the gruesome image we who are not in the know saw of her in the media was softened, but in the end she should have been allowed to walk away, as the ex observed. She would have been back one day. Sorry for the rant, but for those of us who had woefully inadequate parents like the ex and I did, we are angered when we see parents behaving badly and thankful that we had the innate strength to survive.

Having no further plans but not wanting to call it a day, we walked through Washington Square Park where we made a pact to each lose six pounds by Labor Day, which we forgot completely about when our stomachs told us that we might want to consider eating again. No, I was not going to take him back to the diner, but we found a lovely little tapas restaurant where we got to sit out on the sidewalk, eat adequate food and drink very cold Dos Equis amber from frosted glasses.

Not being overly impressed with the food, and it still being early yet, I thought it might be nice to wander a bit, find a café that serves dessert and coffee, and has a bathroom as that idea became more than just a thought (don’t look at me). We slipped into a fancy looking place on West Broadway that seemed friendly as well as expensive, but it appeared to suit both needs. Even though we said we were only there for dessert, they brought us each a glass of peach flavored prosecco and a plate of vanilla wafers. Without looking at the menu we ordered an absolutely scrumptious chocolate mousse cake and a bowl of berries, and of course coffee. I glanced outside and realized I could read the name of the restaurant written on the window even though I was doing so backwards. It was Cipriani’s. We were prepared that this would be an expensive dessert, however when I suggested to the ex that he run when I yell “run,” he thought it might be better to both go the bathroom at the same time as there must be a backdoor. I am far from a woman of means, but I have led a thrifty life and sometimes I just like to be a little cavalier. This was one of those times, and was well worth it. We could hear the fireworks in the distance and needed to get the ex to the train before the crowds started their exodus home.

They were lovely to us in Cipriani’s. The head waiter took my hand to say goodbye and joked that he would see us tomorrow. It occurred to me later, in fact just now, that I with my bright yellow hoodie, ill-fitting old jeans and Keds (yes, I have Keds) and the ex looking equally unsuitably attired for a place like this, and sporting a full mane of greying hair, we may have been taken for a couple of rich eccentrics out for a stroll in search of dessert on a warm 4th of July evening. Let me reiterate, we are not rich.

So I didn’t get to see the big fireworks display this year, but I did last year and have my smatterings of fireworks I can see from my window throughout the year. But I’m good and it was a very nice 4th in the City. It’s days like this that I love this city and am grateful to have the honor of calling myself resident. It reminds me to take advantage of all the little things it has to offer, because unfortunately many of us are not going to be able to stay here much longer.

Btw – the pact is still on.

June 29, 2015 / thackersam

June 28 – Mary Chapin Carpenter – Stones In The Road

Mary Chapin CarpenterAfter Trouble-Buddy left Long Island towards the end of our first year of high school, which was 10th grade for us, I became close friends with a diminutive girl who had a crush on the same older boy that I did. Of course I didn’t like her at first, but that changed. Neither of us got the boy, not even close, and soon there were other boys to replace him. We were friends throughout high school and through her, I became friends with our late friend Amy, and then Vicki’s sister and Vicki, who was a year behind us.

Shortly after Amy passed in the fall of 2013, I got a friend request on Facebook from someone whose name I didn’t recognize, but despite the fact that she was masked in her picture, and it had been a good deal of time, I quickly figured out who she was. She found me through Amy’s husband’s FB page after he told her about Amy. She had been the maid of honor at their wedding. It was four months later that I had to tell her about Vicki. We’ve been through a lot together in our short re-connection and though I far from relished my task of being the bearer of bad news and so soon after our last loss, I have welcomed her support. And although she hasn’t seen much of the results, her support of my writing projects has made me all the more productive.

So, what has this all to do with Mary Chapin Carpenter, you ask. I happen to have a Mary Chapin Carpenter cassette tape. Had two once, Come On Come On, before my old stereo system ate it. And because my friend, for whom I will have to think up a moniker, noticed that I’ve mentioned several times in my blog that I no longer have use of the tape deck in my CD player she sent me a little boom box with radio and cassette player. Now I can get back to exploring my tape collection, what’s left of it. And now you’re thinking, isn’t Mary Chapin Carpenter country? Haven’t you always said you’re a rock ‘n roll kinda gal? True. But she’s done some really good stuff (I also have a Dwight Yoakum tape), and I’ve got to say that I just went all goofy when “Shut Up And Kiss Me” played. It made me miss the other tape even more as that contains my very favorite Chapin Carpenter song, “Passionate Kisses,” written by Lucinda Williams. Listen to it sometime and see you don’t reckon you deserve things like a comfortable bed, pens that don’t run out of ink, and passionate kisses.

I publicly thank my friend for this gift. I am fortunate to have rekindled my relationship with her as well as with Trouble-Bud. Btw – I put a small package in the mail to her the other day and she should receive it in the next day or two.

Tonight – Max and I are paying tribute to Batman, a young kitty we never met, but of whom I’ve heard stories including how he got his name (just think cat with its head stuck in a plastic bag handle) from my favorite cashier at the market downstairs. I noticed today that she looked very sad, which is unlike her, and she told me that Batman was diagnosed with cancer and died soon afterward. So here is to Batman and his human mother who loves him.

Last thing – I wish my brother could have been alive to see this day. Just think rainbows.

June 22, 2015 / thackersam

June 21 – Elton John – Elton John – Tumbleweed Connection – Madman Across the Water

Elton-TumbleweedWait! Where did all this Elton John come from all of a sudden? Well, I will tell you. I was expecting a CD of pictures Trouble-Buddy took during her visit a few weeks back, so imagine my surprise when I found this big box waiting for me. She had mentioned still having some of her old albums and thought I might like them, but you know, people say things. But she delivered. And more than just Elton John, whom I can take or leave.

Leave is how I’ve felt since he irked me to no end by his duet with Kiki Dee on “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” which if you have learned anything about me in the past year and a half or more, it should be that I really don’t like that song. I was however, highly entertained by the feud he had some years back with Keith Richards, made all the better because I couldn’t take sides, though I guess I was leaning towards Keith. But they both got some good shots in there, and if it were anyone other than Elton John involved, it would have been much less enjoyable.

I started perusing Trouble-Bud’s collection with John because that’s what I remember of her from the few but pivotal years we were tween and early high school friends. The other albums in the bunch are from artists I didn’t know she had liked. She had already moved away. I do recall that she particularly liked the song “Amoreena” from Tumbleweed Connection.

I’m covering the albums in order and all together due to that leave him thing, even though this is what I would consider his good stuff. The first album, John’s self-titled second, was impressively worn and crackly, but for me had little going for it except for “Take Me To The Pilot.” “Your Song” was the song that brought John and lyricist Bernie Taupin into the limelight, and while I think I liked it once, I find it plain sappy now. Tumbleweed Collection was a much better collection of songs, especially “Country Comfort,” though I still like Rod Stewart’s old cover of it, and the only song I like, and like a whole lot, from Madman Across the Water is “Madman Across the Water.” I few memories were stirred, but Elton John did not provide for a good workout. There are other songs from other albums that I do like from John and Taupin, but I don’t know what Taupin’s up to these days, and I find John a bit annoying. I do remember a television interview with Bernie Taupin in those early years during which his wife Maxine wore boots with her name boldly printed down both calves. I thought that was so totally cool that it influenced my perhaps not so wise decision to wear my own name on the seat of my pants, which I would later turned into shorts.

So in the coming months I will explore the rest of the albums, most of which I am very familiar with the artists but not these records. I’m looking forward to it. A big thanks to Trouble-Buddy, and happy summer solstice to all.


June 14, 2015 / thackersam

June 14 – Sheryl Crow – Tuesday Night Music Club

sheryl crowSheryl Crow and Stevie Nicks are good friends, and though Nicks served as a mentor, their styles are oh so very different. Remember, we just covered Nicks and her pivotal album Bella Donna last week and now we are on to Crow’s breakthrough album. Nicks’ backstory is also quite different – she was making music with then boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham, taking odd jobs to pay the rent, when Mick Fleetwood calls her boyfriend to join the well-established and respected Fleetwood Mac, but he won’t go unless Stevie can too. And there you have it, great rock ‘n roll history based on the magic that occurred.

Crow, a child of musical parents, taught music, sang jingles and then backup for some pretty major folk. She toured with Michael Jackson before stepping out bigtime from the shadows with this, her second attempt at a debut album in 1993 from which “All I Wanna Do” got her loads of attention. In contrast to Nicks’ mystical mystique, Crow was comfortable rockin’ the MaryAnn look in plaid shirts and cutoffs, looking like a laid-back, guitar-playing natural woman (aside – when I first heard “Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin, as a little girl, I thought she was singing – “you make me feel like a man should a woman” and that she had lost her shawl, not soul, which was recovered from the lost and found).

I am very glad to have found this CD for a buck at Housing Works. I’ve had the tape for nearly 20 years, but as we all know I can’t play cassettes anymore. I probably wore down “Strong Enough” and “No One Said It Would Be Easy” anyway. Good songs. And though I like this album much better than Nicks’ Bella Donna, Stevie’s songs like “Landslide” and “Silver Springs” outrank any of Crow’s on my long list of all-time favorites. However, Tuesday Night Music Club is a much, much better workout album.

Off-topic: You know how I like learning the origins of songs? Well, today on CBS’ Sunday morning program, musician and producer, whom I’ve never heard of, Mark Ronson was interviewed. Turns out he produced Back to Black, the Amy Winehouse album that currently provides the background for more than half of the long workout (my long workout is a little more than an hour and the short one, which does not include Amy, is 38 minutes). He was also a friend, and one day when Winehouse told him that they were trying to make her go to rehab, he said no, no, no. Understandably he is regretful, but they did put out a quality piece of work and now I know who he is.

Btw – another beautiful Sunday in NYC.


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