Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cha cha cha changes

Picture I took of a downtown Dublin phone booth.
Some things change.
OK, most things change. 

All right, all right. Everything changes.

After moving back to Cleveland, I’ve had to get readjusted. Many things are familiar in a bizzaro way. The news anchors are still the same…Wilma Smith and Romona Robinson. Dick Goddard is still talking weather and trying to save all the lonely pets. 

But, things have changed. Dick Goddard doesn’t give out recipes and encourage you to make snow ice cream anymore. In fact, he warns against it. Chemicals and pollutants in the air and snow you know.

And then there is WMMS. The Buzzard. Rock and Roll royalty if you will. I always remembered the station as the standard for all that was cool.  WMMS repeatedly won the Rolling Stone readers poll as the number one radio station in the country (we will just ignore that pesky ballot stuffing for a moment) for years and years.

But they have changed too. I thought it was just me, but a listener wrote in to the Alan Cox show (the 3 pm - 7 pm shift), and everyone at Clear Channel for that matter, exclaiming how the current DJs and format is basically ruining a national treasure - WMMS.

Ding ding ding. Winner chicken dinner.

I agree. But…things change.

When I started listening to WMMS, there was no MTV. There were no music videos. Aside from an album cover or a rock magazine, you would have no idea what your favorite musician or band looked like. It didn’t matter.

We'll use Bruce Springsteen to illustrate my point. I jumped on to the Boss bandwagon fairly early compared to the rest of the country and certainly my peers. I was a fan before Born in the USA. I fondly recall bringing home my The River cassette and then saving up my allowance to get the rest of his albums.

I loved him. The Boss was telling stories that I couldn't even imagine until I was an adult. It was fantastic.


Part of that love came from the exposure on WMMS. Kid Leo was one of the early supporters of Springsteen, making Cleveland a fan of this kid from New Jersey. 

Kid Leo seemed like he knew everyone. It seemed like this guy was best friends with all the rock stars, and by listening to him, you were somehow in the know. Not like today and the TMZ riddled entertainment news pouncing with their paparazzi on every misstep of the self described rich and famous. It was like Kid Leo was telling you about his friends. His pals.

Radio was completely different then. Artists didn't depend on flashy stage shows for the fans (OK, maybe KISS and Pink Floyd) but it was more about the music, not the image. Concerts used to have intermissions. Springsteen would play until everyone was ready to go home. Hours after he took the stage.

But think back..and depending on your age, you may have no idea what I am talking about here, this was before the Internet. To get concert tickets, you had to get up, leave your house and stand in line at some record store. If it was a big show, you camped out. You would con some caring adult figure to camp out on a crummy cold sidewalk with you and wait for the record store to open to buy your tickets.

Zippos and bics flicked. From Flicker.
Signs of appreciation and begging for an encore was done with a bic lighter. Flicking the switch over to blow torch, you would switch hands once your finger started to burn. The flame high and hot.


Now, as this picture from a Taylor Swift concert shows, cell phones are the rage.  Fans open their cells up to light up the arena, which is cool in a lightening bug kind of way, but it loses something.  I miss going to a concert and on the way home (or waiting in the parking lot) listening to the radio, the sponsor station playing the entire artist's catalog. 

On my way home from work, I listen to WMMS and Alan Cox, partially because I am more inclined to talk radio nowadays, partially because he is entertaining. Mainly it's because I'm trying to hold on to something. Some lost feeling I suppose. 

I understand where the angry letter writer was coming from, but the days he was remembering have gone the way of Atari 2600,  Jarts, and Sun Country Wine Coolers in a 2-liter jug. The world changes around us and unless you want to become a recluse watching old reruns on Nick at Night, it is time to move on.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Browns v. Steelers Game or Why Away Fans Should Stay Away

A Muni Lot fan showing what he thinks of yellow towels.

I'm not a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I'm not a fan of "Big Ben."

I'm not a fan of Big Ben waving his little ben.

I'm not a fan of little yellow towels waving around, and yes, I'm still not a fan even though I know they were brought about for a good cause.  They are indeed terrible, like in the category of wet socks on your feet during a blizzard sort of terrible.

One of the many Muni Lot vendors.
For anyone reading this that is not a fan of the Browns or the Steelers, you should know, they feel the same way about us. I had to go to Pittsburgh on business and it was like bizarro Cleveland.  On street corners there were card tables set up with t-shirts in black and gold, with the guys behind them hawking their wares. There were of course witty sayings on the shirts and the ever present cartoon Calvin peeing on a Browns helmet. Classy stuff. But, if you have been to a Browns game, you have noticed we do the same thing.

My point is, we don't like each other.

Anyway... as of late, I have been very fortunate.

Incredibly fortunate.

Hitting the Power Ball kind of fortunate. 

If I were prone to breaking into song, I might gleefully dance down the street while singing something from Journey. My wish finally came true and I'm back home in Cleveland. Friends have taken pity on me and I have been showered in Cavs and Browns tickets (of course, it is helpful when the teams are a bit under the weather). I have been to more Browns games this season than the past 10 years combined.

And then...

The sky parted, angels sang and I was offered a chance to sit in the Dawg Pound...just a few rows up from the field. And these tickets weren't just for any game. No sir.  These tickets were for the Browns vs. Steelers match up. This is the one game that fans look forward to all season. Good (Cleveland) vs. Evil (Pittsburgh). For this game, there is usually absolutely nothing on the line for either team...only pride.

That weekend, I hustled back to Ohio (from Indiana where I have been trying to get my condo up and ready for the market) and made it in time for one last trip to the Muni Lot this season. It was cold, but the sun was shining and we were next to the Four Loko kids again, and it had the makings of a great day. I had met all sorts of awesome people throughout the morning, including my new friend that got me into the Dawg Pound, which we will call Mr. Awesome. It was cold as all get out, but I had hand warmers in my boots.

All in all, the makings of a good day. No, a great day.

And then...

The Steelers fans started to arrive.

*climbs up onto my handy ever present soapbox*

For many years, I have been a fan of the away team. I've followed my beloved Cleveland teams in Iowa, Tennessee and Indiana.  I once had to pay a large man that enjoyed lifting his shirt to scratch his equally large belly $50 to put on the Indians. The Indians in the World Series. In a sports bar. But it was the UT Bama game so I was the only one who cared about a little thing called the World Series. I ended up in a corner watching the game on an ittty bitty teeny weeny TV that kept fading in and out.

I have been a bartender at Indianapolis Colts games.  Think about that for a second. Try being a bartender for the Super Bowl champions ... as a Browns fan.

Whenever I watch a game, I am respectful and sometimes quiet, but I am always a Cleveland fan. I usually wear a jersey to watch a game, so there is no mistaking what team I'm rooting for. But I am respectful. When you are the away team, you are in someone else's house. You need to be mindful of that.that doesn't mean you don't support your team. That means that you behave and not act like a moron.

I'm going to just come out and say it. The Muni Lot is no place for opposing fans, especially Steelers fans. When pride is on the line and booze is flowing, as a fan, you need to be smart about things.

Before any feathers get ruffled, let's be honest and realistic here. If you are an away fan, an arch rival, you have no business on the home turf to tailgate.

You *will* be taunted with chants of "a**hole". You *will* be told to go home.If you are OK with that, to each his own I suppose.

As a Cleveland fan, I went to a Browns/Colts game in Indy. It isn't even any sort of rivalry and I *ahem* met my friends before the game at a sports bar. I didn't go to the Blue Crew hang out and mess with Colts fans.

Could I? Of course I could. I'm not afraid to go anywhere, but why would I go somewhere to purposely antagonize the other fans? That is just asking for trouble. It's like the guy who tried to hug a panda. Shocker, he got chomped.

*climbs down off of my ever present soapbox*

The day continued on, but with the tension between Browns fans and Steelers fans ramping up. Lots of louder taunting, yelling, the Four Loko kids burning a terrible towel. You get the picture. Some of it is good natured poking, some not so much.

Steelers/Browns fans parked next to us. A bit obnoxious all day, but whatever. One of the young ladies (and I will use that term loosely here) had a Ben jersey on. Personally, I don't understand how any self respecting woman would wear his jersey, but again, whatever. She was loud and obnoxious and as the day progressed, more and more angry. She didn't enjoy the taunting. A guy walked by and said, "Way to support your local rapist!" Umm...ouch. If you are going to wear Ben's jersey, you are going to get that. But then her response. I'm shaking my head as I type this. She yelled back, "Oh yeah? I would love to be raped by him!"



Nooo...she didn't just say...

Oh my. Yes she did.

Whoa. How do you even respond to that? It was all I could do to just ignore her and her moronic comments the rest of the day.

Finally, it was time to go to the game. We marched over to the stadium barking and waving our signs and I got to sit in the Dawg Pound. It was amazing. It was like a little family. We were so close to the field, I had an ever present grin on my face, that is of course until about 5 minutes into the game.

View from the Dawg Pound.
The Browns were terrible. It was like watching the 8th grade team play the senior squad.

We ended up leaving before half time, unable to watch anymore of the thrashing, but I still loved the day. I met some great people, made new friends, got to sit in the Dawg Pound and once and for all see for myself what is so great about being a Browns fan.

Win or lose, I'm always a Browns fan. The best part is I'm not the only one.

As always...waiting until next year. Because it really is a rebuilding season. Really. Honest.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Karmic Retribution or Coincidence?

LeBron James for Nike Basketball.
Sometimes, if you are incredibly lucky, you can see karma unfold right before your eyes. This is something that I have dreamed about. Someone does something awful to you - whether it is cutting in line at Marc's or smashing your parked car without leaving a note - and all you can do is hope that the guilty party will somehow be held accountable for their actions.

On most occasions, you never see what happens to the guy that stole your lunch at work. So, to save yourself from losing your mind, you hope that karma will take care of them. Maybe someone will steal their lunch or they will get food poisoning from your ham sandwich.

But LeBron. Oh LeBron, thank you for letting me see you for who you truly are. A lying backpedaling coward.

LeBron has become a fan of twitter lately (you can follow his "Yes Sir!!!!" under his self selected name, KingJames), tweeting about and to his buddies and sometimes thanking restaurants (which if you ask anyone in Cleveland that has ever waited on him, he was anything but thankful) for their spectacular service. LeBron has tweeted about the "haters" and how he is watching everyone that has talked bad about him. Sort of making a list and checking it twice. Or over and over.

He has gotten better with his twitter skills, putting RT in front of a "retweet" (a repeat of someone else's tweet). Responding to his "fans", the haters and Michael Vick, LeBron understands how it works. He has been working with the medium long enough now that he gets it.

And then...the Cavs lost a game. Ok, ok, the Cavs didn't lose the game. They were destroyed by the Lakers. The worst loss in in Cavs history. Following the loss, LeBron posted on his twitter page the following:
To me, it certainly looked like he was talking about Cleveland, Danny Gilbert, the fans, the haters and all. The media of course jumped all over the tweet and LeBron distanced himself saying it was what he was thinking at the time and it was something someone else sent to him. It wasn't even from him he told reporters. Ok, so we are to believe that he is a plagiarist too?

The next night the Heat lose and LeBron sprains his ankle.  The Heat are on a losing streak and LeBron is on the bench.

Karmic retribution? Coincidence?

Either way, I'll take it.

(If you are wondering why LeBron still bothers me or why I even care, read my blog post here.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

We Need To Go Back To Friday

Ice Cube and Chris Tucker in "Friday"  
The movie Friday is something of a classic. Not a classic in a Gone With the Wind sort of  way, but a classic in a Roadhouse sort of way. The movie didn't win any awards, but is still a must see.

Friday follows Craig (Ice Cube), who just got fired on his day off, and his buddy Smokey (Chris Tucker), through one Friday afternoon. Craig needs to find a J-O-B and Smokey thinks he should just get high and forget about it all. I readily admit, this isn't normally my type of film. But the ending is something that I think we need to go back to.

But I'll get to that in a minute.

Within the past week or so, there was a disturbance at the neighborhood McDonald's. A co-worker was in his car in line at the drive through, patiently waiting his turn, thoughts of "cheeseburger or double cheeseburger" occupying his thoughts when a kid comes zooming into the line on his bike. The boy was zig zagging between the cars pedaling as fast as he could in the snow and ice. He was being chased by three other boys on foot, in the middle of the afternoon, in the McDonald's parking lot, shooting at him. Shooting. With a gun.  At him. In the McDonald's parking lot.

As my co-worker told the story, I couldn't help but think of every action movie I had seen, the heroes making perfect shots at the bad guys, sometimes even holding back because of the crowd of innocent by-standers.

On Friday, the same boy was chased by the same other boys just a further down the street. This time, the gun boys (I can't really refer to them as *gunmen*) were a little quicker and they caught up with him. Shot him 3 times in the parking lot.

Which brings me back to the ending of the movie Friday. The short version is that Craig is tired of being chased and threatened by guys with guns. So he wants to settle it the old way. Throw down the guns and fight with your fists.

I'm not condoning violence here and I certainly don't want to see anyone hurt, but when I was growing up, kids fought with their fists. Kids got beat up. 

But they lived.

There were times that the tables were turned on the bully.  Kids fought back and the bully left them alone.

These kids however, thought they were big and tough with their guns. Give me what I want or I'm going to shoot you. That isn't big. That isn't tough. That is the weak, cowardly way to get what you want.

I want to go back to Friday.