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Sunday, June 10, 2018

The American Odyssey of Anthony Bourdain

    Television icon, best-selling author, and renown chef & food critic Anthony Bourdain died Friday, June 8, at 61 years old in an apparent suicide-by-hanging while on location for his CNN-aired "Parts Unknown" show in Strasbourg, France. A late bloomer to the burgeoning celebrity culture, Bourdain had cultivated an image in the past two decades as a globe-trotting TV host and culinary wizard. In his day, he defied the standard norms of television and book writing. Being one who ventured into topics and realms beyond food, he was almost to the level of a journeyman figure in American life. The episodes of "Parts Unknown" were crafted in such an intricate way as to take the viewer on a journey to a world totally unknown to most people. His loss shakes many people and places to the core, and once again opens up a discussion of the stigmatization of mental health illnesses.

    It's a funny thing how something like this works. I remember, shortly after midnight on June 8, seeing this star shoot across the sky towards the general area of a stack of clouds. When the star disappeared, there came several successive flashes of lightning. There has been, in my memory, a decent correlation between major shooting stars and the death of major figures in one realm or another. Several times when a musician of note passes away, I will see one of those distinct light shows brighten the sky. However, as they have been on my mind of late, I was thinking more George H.W. Bush or John McCain. When I woke up later in the morning and heard someone on TV talking about someone being remembered for his "great, adventurous spirit," I automatically assumed McCain had passed. Instead, the headline read "CNN's Anthony Bourdain Dead at 61," which definitely rates right up there with that time I saw the headline "Prince Dead at 57" in terms of shock value. The true significance of his death hits in new ways from time to time, but I doubt the full realization has yet come.

   When the 'Parts Unknown' show was first announced as a new part of the CNN lineup in 2013, I was at first very unsure of both how I would like it and the wisdom of airing such a show. The idea of a food and travel show on a 24/7 cable news channel struck me as an odd one. Not even Fox and MSNBC were doing totally non-news programming, though they did and do inject lots of tabloid-worthy coverage into the mainstream. Couple this with the fact that Anthony Bourdain had attained Emeril-level status symbolism as a Food Network personality and beyond, and the choice seemed dubious at best. Perhaps it was a matter of doing anything and everything to right the ratings ship, I don't know. From the outset, it seemed on paper like a Fox News/MSNBC-worthy effort at tackling 'Tabloid TV' for ratings gain. Clearly, though, the top brass at CNN knew something we did not. That said, it can be fairly said that my expectations going in were not high.

    Can't remember exactly when it was that I first saw his show. However, whenever it was, I was right off the bat taken away by his unique, often gauche sense of humour. Also cutting against my first blush impression, the show wasn't just about food. The show covered travel, which was something I was then just starting to do with my road trips throughout the state. Cultures were revealed to the average viewer that would have otherwise been obscured indefinitely. He also weaved politics into his shows, which always took me out of my comfort zone in a good way. Even in the morass of my now long gone days as a flame-throwing Trump supporter, I strongly respected his diametric opposite opinion. For one thing, he was tackling the spectre of Trump from a restaurant perspective('The whole industry would collapse if we built a wall and deported them'), and not from a rehearsed partisan view. I wholly resent people who talk as a sheet of paper instead of as themselves! Bourdain was communicating as himself, who he really was, and not as a fiction ideal. Moreover, when you saw him in pictures at a white tie affair, he always looked uncomfortable in a suit. He was definitely more common man than elitist snob, in that and many other ways.

    The teaser for his shining moment came in the Fall of 2015, when Bourdain was doing the late-night circuit promoting the new season of "Parts Unknown." During an interview with South Carolina native son Stephen Colbert, our culinary correspondent dropped the ultimate bomb-shell: He had been to, and liked, Waffle House. For those who have followed him for even a little bit, this was a major shocker. The man who panned the vast majority of commercial food depot's was now singing the praises of Waffle House. Intrigued, my mother and I made a note to watch that particular episode of the show. It did not disappoint. One of the marvels of that episode was the writing and communication techniques employed in Bourdain's delivery. You could tell he had an active mind and that he carefully considered every word that would make his points and paint for the audience a verbal portrait. That episode and Bourdain himself somehow took on greater meaning in my life, as the end of 2015 was a period in my life where I was suddenly realizing that I was a rudderless mess, without any sense of where I was going. Guys like him and Don Imus became faces and voices of levity at a time when I nearly drowned in my own depression, and I think both would have gotten a good laugh from that.

    The 2016/2017 episodes from New York, New Jersey, & Los Angeles, CA, showed Bourdain taking in aspects of the big city that very few others are inclined to try. Most people want to dine high end on someone else's dime, while Bourdain himself took the viewer to the cafeterias and the diners and spoke to owners, workers, and patrons alike. Looking here at Atlanta, most people would clamour for seats at places like the Sun Dial Restaurant, Universal Joint, and the food revue at Music Midtown, and put on their most garishly oafish public displays, puffing themselves(For the benefit of other people, of course) to astronomical degrees. As to me, I like to check in and see what the cool people are up to over at the likes of Wendy's and Long John Silver's. As you would expect, LA provided a good cultural look at different elements of the American alchemy. While there, just like with the shock of his digging the Waffle House, he also surprised us with his expressed adoration of the In and Out Burger restaurant chain(Post mortem, it also comes to my attention that he also loved Popeye's chicken). New Jersey showed the culinary correspondent reminiscing on lost youth and lamenting how a once-beautiful beach now has the Trump Casino("The enemy of the human spirit.") as part of its view. In New York, over several episodes, he gave viewers the grand tour of the city-scape and gave me ideas of where to go and what to do should I ever find myself up there. How, indeed, should I go about navigating the Bronx and Brooklyn? Those episodes gave me a starting position from which I can take things in the future.

    In June, 2017, when a friend of mine didn't show up to help me with Vacation Bible School as he'd done in previous years, I brought in Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" book as a source of personal amusement and entertainment in his stead. My job at VBS was almost a nothing job, so I had ample time, time made more voluminous by my friend's absence, to read. In that time, I managed to get over 80% of the book finished(Small book), and it was a true delight as well as a wonderful distraction from my now-moribund relationship with that church. He had a highly idiosyncratic way of looking at things, to be sure. The tome recalled his life experiences over the course of his first four decades, regaling with lessons learned and un-learned in that time. From his experiences, I had some things with which to identify, especially as I once did a 'working interview' with a local sit-down restaurant back in 2015. It was an illuminating experience that I hope I never have to repeat, and Bourdain's book confirms the truth of a lot of what I came away with from that experience. He also made it a point to emphasize the importance of character in everything one does, as he says that "Character is not taught. You either are or aren't." Important words to let simmer.

    In the last episode I ever watched of "Parts Unknown" before his death, he took the viewer on a trip into West Virginia. Done more in an effort to help one and all understand that the people who are the back-bone of the Trump coalition are real people with real concerns, it also served as an illuminating look into Southern culture that you don't often see on television(Outside of a non-caricature setting). He took us into the coal fields and divulged the history of the area, going to great pains to emphasize the factors that took them out of the big leagues and also the perpetual cheery optimism that one day they will come back from the ruins. The a-religious Bourdain is recorded joining with families in prayer before dinner and having a polite exchange of ideas with the very Conservative people who are hosting him and his crew. In what may have been on of his seminal acts, he tried to show the world that there is a better way to communicate than through the tired tropes of division and resentment, even as he himself would have admitted that he did not always live up to the ideal.

    The suicides of both Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade bring back to the fore the touchy topic of mental health illnesses. Mental illness is a crisis as well understood as that of the opioid epidemic, and by that I mean not understood at all. My own personal battles have shown me that this is something that robs people of the ability to think rationally and clearly, leading them to conclusions very far from reality. Led to those conclusions, they take gruesome actions to rectify the imagined problem. Critics will no doubt come out of the wood work, telling us how suicide is selfish and how mental illness is only attention seeking. Clearly, neither of these "ideas" are true. Why would a person seek the attention by acting in a deranged manner? I'd imagine that few would want to embarrass themselves like that. Some classy people even feel the need to venture into the realm of conspiracies, calling Bourdain a secret supporter of thus and such movement, among other equally ridiculous claims. This is not a good thing. Besides, I could think of several more realistic, yet none the less still implausible, scenarios than the ones derived from InfoWars land. So sad that we've come to this point, in all ways.

    As to me, I will engage in my own personal tribute to Anthony Bourdain. Not involving video-making(Though there will be one of those coming up) or another write-up, mind you! One day, as I have already done a few times in years past, I will go to Waffle House and order what I call the 'Full Bourdain.' In keeping with the script to the still highly influential Charleston, SC-based episode of "Parts Unknown," I'll order scattered, heaped, and smothered hash browns, a pecan waffle, a patty melt, and a salad with thousand island dressing. Pork chop & T-bone steak optional. It is my hope that I can split this with somebody, as I can ill afford to kill myself with this heaping mess. Hopefully, I can snag proper female companionship between now and then(I'm specifically thinking of a young female former co-worker of mine who I've had eyes for over the past several months), so I can properly split these bad boys down the middle. Perhaps a dream, but it will all turn out some how, some way.

    "I feel like I’ve stolen a car, a really nice car, and I keep looking in the rear-view mirror for flashing lights. But there’s been nothing yet."

RIP Anthony Bourdain

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Doors of My Own Perception

    (Warning: Some content may not be suitable for mature audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.)

    The Doors have been one of my arch-favourite bands for a long time, and one of the biggest influences in terms of musical development that I have ever had. Very few bands commandeer the influence that these guys have. Off the top of my head, I would also include the likes of the Beatles and Tom Petty in with them. The memories made in my years of musical growth will always provide sources of entertainment and reflection through the coming years. For better and worse, I have been impacted by both the music and the history of this band more than the vast majority of others that came around in their time. Music and the people who make it come and go with the moods, but it takes remarkable staying power and a solid musical brew from start to finish to achieve such longevity that you keep coming back no matter the circumstances. The Doors, for whatever reasons, have done just that with me.

    The first ever memory I have of listening to a Doors song came around 2005. I was a grade schooler surfing the DirecTV music channels one night and happening upon some interesting oldies stations. One of them played Glen Campbell's song "Galveston," and another played a song called "Riders on the Storm" by a mysteriously-named group called the Doors. This was so unlike the songs and groups I had heard on Atlanta's then-Soft Rock radio station! My father happened to be in the same room at the time, and, as I was trailing off and falling asleep, he neatly tapped out the song rhythm on the blanket right over my knee. I remember thinking at the time "Well, this sure is interesting." Around a year later, as I was being properly introduced to the world of "Classic Rock," there were the Doors once again, this time with another song called "Light My Fire." Once again, I thought "Well, isn't this interesting." So interesting were those two songs to me that I considered investing in a Doors hits collection with birthday money. Only knowing the two songs made that idea an early strike-out in the process of deciding how to spent my newfangled 'riches.'

    In the Fall of 2008, as I was being introduced to the soundtrack of my lifetime via XM's "Top Tracks" and later Sirius/XM's "Classic Vinyl" channel, the Doors made a second play for my attention. With the song "People are Strange" and those hypnotic guitar tracks, they succeeded. "Love Me Two Times" cemented their status as a band to keep tabs on when the opportunities arose. They spent a solid year-and-a-half consistently inside my top 10 bands, but on the lower rungs. Everything changed in 2010, when I saw the new band documentary "When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors." It was an action-packed adventure, bringing me from high highs to low lows, back up, and then the flame out. The under-stated, yet implicit politics of the band coupled with the events and music of the day came to forge one hellacious brew. The experience vaulted the band from the lower rung of the top 10 to the #2 spot, before taking its rightful place at the top of the heap in even shorter order. In the coming weeks and months, I bought the "LA Woman" album and the self-titled debut album. More songs than just the hits drew me in. While you couldn't easily top the known songs off the debut album, the song "I Looked at You" certainly took a stab at it. The entrancing "Texas Radio and the Big Beat" and the gut-buster "Been Down So Long"(Which I now will not listen to at all) gave me a window into the band that few of the hits ever could. Obtaining and reading the Stephen Davis-penned biography "Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend" would also prove to be a foundational experience, a la the documentary. This newfangled, almost all-consuming enthusiasm continued unabated for over a year before flaming out just as it had flamed up.

    In late 2013, I was plunged deep in my own personal morass and was finding it very hard to deal with the world around me. Good friends were leaving and new friends were proving to be little more than wasted efforts. Before finding my way back to a faith place, I had music. That Christmas, per my own request admittedly, I received among other things the Doors' "The Soft Parade" CD, which completed my collection of the group's studio albums. I'd put it off for years because of the negative reviews. At another point in time previous to this one, I would not have cottoned to it the way I did. But when I put this record into my computer's disc drive and played the first song, I was so blown away by the force, the power, and the attitude conveyed by both lyrics and vocal delivery. This was epic stuff, and it provided the best soundtrack going forward. That Christmas Morning proved to be one of my finest memories from the entire year, and few before or since could ever begin to approach it. In the new year, with everything both good and bad collapsing all around me, it was once again the Doors, in particular the 'new' album, that factored into my musical consciousness. It was in this period when I discovered probably the finest song the band ever did. The song is called "Wishful Sinful," was the second-highest charting single from the 'Soft Parade' album in 1969, and has the most haunting lyrics that felt so right at that time. The Doors faded once again as newer problems arose, but it would not be the last time I heard from them.

    By March of 2017, after a spurt of time rejecting them as being "Devil's music," the band and I had a 're-connection' of sorts. I randomly decided to put on some headphones and listen to a track or two. That track or two became about an album's worth of material. With dissatisfaction with my present employer situation starting to brew and a crush I had on a female classmate reaching an apex point, the music of the Doors resonated as never before. This go around, though, I was much smarter. With a then still-new Christian faith guiding me, I was able to steer clear of the Morrison cult-of-personality morass and just enjoy the music. The music may not have been the classic definition of 'spiritually emboldening,' but it gave me peculiar hope at a time when I now realize I needed it the most. When I said goodbye to my crush(One of my better ones at that), goodbye to my job, goodbye to the church I had attended for over a decade, and hello to new horizons, there was the Doors(Emerson, Lake, and Palmer also played an out-sized musical role at that time, the only other band who kept up). Inspired by my new Doors travails, I started branching into solo material and side projects of various band members. While Ray Manzarek's solo albums are the embodiment of nothing special, I did check into Robby Krieger's albums, the Butts Band(Krieger and John Densmore jamming on funk styles), and the Nite City album(A Manzarek spin-off group complete with a Morrison impersonator as singer). Will check back in later when I have listened to these recordings.

    In the early 21st century, original Doors drummer John Densmore sued former band-mates Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger for re-vamping the band line-up, now billed as "THE DOORS of the 21st Century," with a replacement for the irreplaceable Morrison(Ian Astbury of the Cult was one named prospect) fronting the band plus someone else doing drum duties(Stewart Copeland of the Police was a leading prospect). Were this nostalgia effort billed some other way, it would have been no big deal. However, not only did the other two members want to revive the old band, but they also tried to get away with putting the band's name in a large font, with the rest of the name in small print. At its core, the revival/non-revival of the Doors was a poorly disguised money grab, an effort to get into the nostalgia concert circuit helmed by such bands as Three Dog Night, the Temptations, the Grass Roots, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, and Classics IV.

    Members of the Doors were legendary for their willingness to stand up to commercial forces who wanted to co-opt their music. Jim Morrison himself vulgarly chastised his band-mates for their quick willingness to give their hit single "Light My Fire" over to the Buick car company for usage in a television commercial("Come on, BUICK, light my fire!"). After Morrison's tragic demise, Mr. Densmore picked up the mantle of protecting the songs from being tarnished by commercial elements, while acknowledging the reasons why up-and-comers and fellow music legends like Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, and Pete Townshend would go the other way on these matters. This gets down to the issue of what music is really about. At its core, music relays messages, and people interpret those messages however they will. In listening to music, memories are made. More than the souvenirs you get from the gift shop after hiking around Cloudland Canyon, memories are forever cherished. To hear those musical sounds that underpin your memories being used to promote the rival company's product(Think Pepsi, for Coke and RC Cola fans) diminishes the impact and potency of once precious memories.

    What Densmore did by suing to fore-stall the re-vamped Doors line-up was a noble effort which provides a template for members of bands/corporate entities like the Eagles to go rogue and put the kibosh on these elaborate money-making schemes. Bands are supposed to do it for the music, and not the paycheck. The money comes as a bonus if the music happens to be of high quality. Average people, not the shadowy people who book the tours and RSVP the resorts, make the ultimate call in terms of whether or not the music is of good quality. Densmore(Unlike, say, Don Henley) understands that the people made the call on the Doors long ago and are still making the call today, without anyone pushing their 70+ year old bones out in front of similarly-aged audiences under the insincere pretence of giving a performance where people can pay thousands of dollars for good seats and quality refreshments. At the core of the Doors' aura is the music, and none of that other stuff you've heard about.

    Ultimately, when you boil it all down, more than half the reason I became a Doors super fan in the first place can be pinned down to the ceaseless affections I have towards Morrison's lovely, red-headed girl friend Pamela Courson. From the moment I became even vaguely aware of her in watching the Doors documentary "When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors," I was positively hooked. Anyone who had the apparent tastes in women Jim Morrison had was worth my time, or so I thought. Don't get me wrong, I was there in the first place because of the music, and always was more of an avid musical digester than a card-carrying member of the Morrison cult-of-personality(you can also say the same regarding my like of admittedly over-wrought bands like the Beatles and Pink Floyd). Discovering this feminine aspect of the Doors gave my teen-aged mind the liberty to go all into the motions of Doors super-fandom, resulting in some psychological after affects from which I am still recovering. But more than any of that, she made me want to believe that Morrison had faked his own demise(as some dubiously like to think) so that there would be a chance that she hadn't actually died from a herion overdose less than three years later, as has been documented.

    Reading Stephen Davis' "Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend" was a roller-coaster both fun in terms of taking me on the fuller trip of which the documentary could only give me a basic taste and deadeningly disappointing in terms of the fact that all documented evidence pointed not only to Morrison's demise in Paris, France, on July 3, 1971, but also to Pam's subsequent demise in LA on April 25, 1974. It also divulged the legal recourses the surviving band members(Who tried putting on the charade of continuing the band for two years after the death of their leader) took against her when she, broke and destitute, tried to withdraw money from her late partner's collected net worth. The book said that some of the people in those circles enjoyed making her life miserable. All the grief they put her through in the final years made me so angry that I wanted to jump through the pages and knock the crap out of those guys. Beyond that, after having digested all of this, I just want to vomit every time I read where the Doors' late keyboardist Ray Manzarek hagiographically refers to Jim & Pam as the "Golden Boy" and the "Golden Girl." And yet you abetted his worst tendencies and stood by as other insidious people ran her roughshod! I remember the first word that came to mind when I read all of this was "deplorable," many years before that once meaningful word got polluted.

    All of this made me want to somehow do like Marty McFly and Doc Brown in the "Back to the Future" film franchise and hop in the DeLorean time machine, set it back to somewhere in the early 1970's, and don my counter-cultural rock musician persona so I could trick her into coming along with me and, though I wouldn't have spelled it out, inevitably avoid disaster. Failing all that, I would just get myself sucked into a lethal pattern of drugs and booze, which didn't sound so bad at that time because if she was going to go down, then so was I. This was beyond impossible to achieve, but it did prove the genesis for one of my very first fiction writing ideas, a counter-cultural rock and roll guy who lived the excess, knew and loved Pam, and himself nearly paid the ultimate price numerous times for his free-wheeling ways. Before I was thinking in terms of doing fiction, though, this alternate reality was something that helped me cope with the awful realities I had faced down in reading the book. I took this character to new heights in the years gone by, and it would be the most difficult thing to sit down and focus on over the course of days and weeks. However, it would be so worth it when it is finally done.

    Almost seven years later, I got around to reading Jerry Hopkins' book "The Lizard King: The Essential Jim Morrison," which gave me another ride through the Day of the Doors and shone light on some of the weirder and more saddening aspects of their ride through the American consciousness. Complimenting this was the fact that I had grown up and grown out of the super-fandom of my youth. However, I still hold affection for Pam, and it was hard not to see her as the tragic victim of Jim Morrison's escapades. More than wanting to deck the people who gave her grief in those last years, I wanted to jump through the pages once more, this time to smack hard sense into Morrison over his latently self-centered behaviour. If I had a treasure even a small fraction of what Pam was, I would not have done the abusive and downright awful things he did. Beyond that, though, I also had to accept that she caused a lot of her own problems with her copious heroin usage, free-spending ways, and promiscuity that rivalled that of her partner's. I had closure at long last, but my heart will always be broken for her that she(and Jim, too) died ensconed in her vices and will pay for all of eternity for her big mistakes. Even without Morrison's singularly corrosive influence, these are the sorts of things a well intentioned guy and his imaginary DeLorean couldn't have undone.

    For better and for worse, the Doors have been, with the Beatles, one of the bands who has had the largest and most multi-faceted influence over my musical development in the past decade plus of my life. Every time I put on an album of theirs, I instantly recall some memory or another from my teen years and I feel the same euphoric rush I did back then. Even going into certain cities and stores that were hallmarks of those years will remind me of the songs, both Doors and non, that I listened to at that time, and it will bring back the same feelings as the music. No small part of the euphoric rush I get comes with imagining myself as my fictitious rocker alter ego and looking at Pam in person, in the flesh, but then the lightning crashes and I'm back in the real world.

    And a final note on what the music is really about: A little over a year ago, I had a crush on a nice young lady who was in both of my classes that Semester. She sent the 'sensation' through me, but not in such an overwhelming way as to drive me out of my gourd. One day, I thought I saw her car in a super-market parking lot as I was out and about doing my own thing. My pulse raced. If I weren't already going inside, I would have gone in if only to scope out the people in search of a nice young lady(Yes, I am every bit as crazy as you are thinking). As I walked through the store, riddled with anxiety as I was, I started singing the lyrics to the Doors song "Riders on the Storm" to calm myself down. A prayer probably would have worked better, but I didn't think of it at the time. The trick none the less did work, and the lyrics perfectly relayed the sentiment of the moment. Did not see her, and ultimately nothing would come of that crush. Maybe it was all for the best. The period around this time created new memories with the music of the Doors. When nothing else suffices, music comes in and fills the void. Hollowly so, but fills it in never the less.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Deadly Impervious

    Looking at the landscape of society today leaves many a reason for concern. In the never-ending spin cycle that is the news of the day, crazy in all corners is the new premium. The voices of moderation and reason are being pushed out to the fringes, endlessly told their views don't apply any more. Perhaps if all these voices came together to form one cohesive, humanitarian unit, we could see a resurgence of these reasonable forces. Unfortunately, reason has no core philosophy beyond that of reason and morality itself. As such, we fracture and fall apart, leaving the operators and the nutjobs to do all the noteworthy talking. Absorbing all of this is a bewildered, oft-clueless public trying to find their way towards what they see as the right solution to what they know instinctively is wrong in the country, and the flourishing of bad ideas continues unabated. It seems to me we are afflicted as a culture with a certain deadly imperviousness in regards to all that which is of true importance.

    Some back-stories, to start with. It was with some satisfaction that I awoke this morning to the news of the Rick Saccone fellow losing his race up in Pennsylvania. He's the noxious little guy who blew that Congressional Special Election a couple of months back to a now-'super star' of the opposition party named Conor Lamb. Mr. Saccone is pretty much your typical ruling party good ol' boy who wants to rain God's judgement down upon those he deems lesser people. Most infamously, in the lead-up to that race, he deployed the biggest gun of all, getting President Trump to host a campaign rally for his flagging campaign. My clearest memory of this involved two old guys embracing at a Wal Mart, having not seen each other in some weeks if I recall correctly, and all they could do was gush over the Trump rally. "Tells it like it is," they said, before spinning the imaginary ball of yarn about mainstream media coverage. Did you watch these news outlets? How do you know? Of course, for myriad reasons, I only choose to observe these things from a distance.

    This gets into what has always been one of my pet-most peeves, that of lying and, in general, fictionalizing. I have said for years, never on here until now, that no lie or otherwise fiction can ever rival the badness of the truth itself. The mind that creates such fictions can be so given to unpredictability that it can be hard to keep up with the story-line from one day to the next. People will live the lie, imagining themselves to be this person who they are nothing at all like. This mentality results in pyramid-like story-schemes that collapse like a large house of cards, but the truth has no story-line. Rather, it just is. No fiction can be worse than non-fiction, and the imagined never approaches the reality. Why lie ten-fold when the truth will devastate hundred-fold? Politics, and public life in general, is all too welcoming a place for men who are cut from a wholly self-serving cloth, and will do and say anything for the amassment of power and resources. To that end, it can be said, as I once did in one of my classic articles, that the lies and broad-sweeping assumptions that come out of public life can lead us down the road to war and death in the most extreme cases.

    People like to distort to their selfish ends the truth, often spinning balls of yarn so big that all rationale and reality are lost in the process. It has become something of a professional game, if you haven't noticed. Media and entertainment figures(cinematic, political, and sports figures alike) like to dish out the puffery in a one-upsmanship-like manner, raving about their imagined greatness and boorishly diminishing everybody else. Pervasive, it is. As such, I watch no network or cable news, opting instead to mentally aggregate important stories from various online news-feeds. The only television I watch is Weather Nation and on occasion the local Fox affiliate, who usually covers things more responsibly than their national counter-part. It is not that the media is biased towards the political left so much as they are biased towards ratings and their subsequent profits. From this point, we get the tabloidization of news, where every story is a 'SCANDAL,' a 'SHOCKER,' an 'OUTRAGE!' Stop it! At some point, people will tune it all out, tired of having to deal with severe cases of media whiplash. When will it end? Perhaps when enough people in the target demographics realize what is truly important and cut out this crap that is deadly impervious to reality.

    Admittedly, it is re-assuring to see persons like Saccone and West Virginia Coal Baron Don Blankenship lose their races. These developments make me believe for a brief, shining moment that sanity still prevails when the truth has the opportunity to get itself out into the open. However, in the face of all this, it is still stunning that over half of the members of the current ruling party in America today have, by varied extensions, pledged their fealty to some of the not so truthful forces at play, and I am not just talking Trump(he is but only a symptom). Beyond our current leader, their has always been a desire to spread lies in an effort to discredit any source that gets in the way of their agenda, and to what end should all this come? You just know that if Blankenship had been nominated, the ruling party would have engaged in the same wagon circling and slavish quasi-cult worship that took place when they nominated Alabama mall creep Roy Moore. A sure-fire recipe for disaster. When you lose power, all your accomplishments go down the drain in favour of forces effortlessly more corrosive than even you have tried to be. I tell you, one does not need to be a slave to agree with someone or something. Moreover, you don't need to incline your ear to the crazy side in order to believe what you do. A good, solid case made, whether based in empirical facts or (as with me)personal experiences will do just fine.

    The only reason they might get off scot free at the ballot box is the fact that their 'Resistance' is even more deadly impervious than they are, and that is a huge problem. Just looking here in Georgia, the Governor's race could be thrown away if the opposition party nominates the more 'Resistance'-flavoured candidate, because the exurban voters who decide Georgia elections don't go for this brand of lies, rat poison, and sexual warfare. Instead of focusing on local issues from the center-left perspective, they want to rile up the small-time farmers over the pressing issues of Trump & Putin, Stormy Daniels, gun confiscation, jailing those 'intolerant' bakers of cake, and the policing of 'insensitive' pronouns. That will get these voters riled up, but not in the way they hope. There are real problems facing our state in the next few years, and yet one guy wants to gloat about the size of his 'deportation bus' while another one wants to emphasize Hillary Clinton/Elizabeth Warren-style identity politics. Neither of these are winning strategies, and will only succeed in blowing golden opportunities at only the most unfortunate of moments.

    One wants to imagine a positive future for the country, far-fetched and infeasible though it might otherwise seem. As much as the country has been through of late, the American Spirit as envisioned by the Founding Fathers still lives on in the average citizen living out their day-to-day lives. If only the so-called 'gate-keepers' would give them a chance to think for themselves! People, more than dimly aware of a certain unease in the air, seek out meaning in life and solutions to everyday problems, and are getting it from the most insidious sources. Sources who are deadly impervious to the true realities of the world and are only seeking out of their own acclaim and glory. The ignorance of the average person who falls into the traps of life can be forgiven, but the war that is coming on the Judgement Day for these gate-keepers who set the traps will be epic in its scale.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Great Ed McMahon/Egg McMuffin Conspiracy

    As I well know, I am not the only one who has wondered about one of the oddest coincidences in modern life: That of the conspicuous similarities between former "Tonight Show" side-kick Ed McMahon's name and that of the McDonald's Egg McMuffin. We all know that people can be influenced by pop culture, consciously or not, and McMahon was a hot commodity around the time of the McMuffin roll-out. Next to no one seems to have spoken on this matter, so I'll volunteer myself, do the heavy lifting, and establish a connection that no one seems to have yet made. For a starter, some back-history...

    1972. Richard Nixon was President, Vietnam was raging, people still cared what Ringo was up to, and the "Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" was ruling the week-nights ratings roost. The show that propelled its namesake, side-kick Ed McMahon, and band-leader Doc Severinsen into the public mainstream could easily be said to be permeating the culture in other ways. One of the most infamous manners in which it would commandeer its influence is with Ed McMahon's 80's-era association with Publisher's Clearing House. However, as one can guess, there were myriad more ways in which Carson's "Tonight Show" influenced the culture.

    That same year, McDonald's, then as now America's largest fast food chain, rolled out the Egg McMuffin sandwich. Devised by Herb Peterson and his assistant Donald Greadel, the sandwich became(with the McGriddle) the most recognised item in the McDonald's breakfast menu, and ultimately second banana to the Big Mac as the most recognised item on their greater menu. But how did they come to the name? Some say that the McDonald's name had more to do with it than anything else, but I disagree. Burger King didn't name their classic menu items after their own name('Big King' and 'Bacon King' are not classics), and neither did Wendy's(that I know of). Some say the muffin had something to do with it, and maybe it did, but the sum of all the parts? Egg? McDonalds? Muffin? The popularity of the "Tonight Show" and subsequent visibility of Ed McMahon? This is more than a coincidence, I tell you!

    Many generations of proud geeks and nerds have, through no fault of their own, had to wonder to themselves if this all was just a strange coincidence, or perhaps something bigger. You can't fault people for keeping to themselves, as society has a way of stigmatizing people who are different(Just look at our ongoing discussion on mental illness). However, it would seem I am not the only person who has talked publicly about this, as 'Jedi Master' John Wesley Downey made his own thoughts known after the death of McMuffin derivator Herb Peterson at age 89 in 2008. Sanity at last! However, one lonely voice in a world of naysayers does not a case prove. Two lonely voices, and one with a blog of his own? Perhaps.

    Pop culture is pervasive in all ways. To chronicle the vast influences it has had on the things most of us take for granted would fill up hundreds of encyclopedic volumes(Do those even exist anymore?). However, some influences are more obvious than others. When will people put down the Blackberry, open up a book, and actually learn something, instead of judging those who dare to be different? Whatever. Besides, it's not like our society, with its bugaboos and whatnot, will get in the way of our learning the real reason behind the Kennedy assassinations, Vietnam, Iran Contra, Russian meddling, and...oh wait...

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Remembering Tom Petty(1950-2017)

    Rock and roll legend Tom Petty, renown for his eponymous band and for being a part of super-group the Travelling Wilburys, died Monday evening after going into full cardiac arrest at his Malibu, CA, home. Undoubtedly the hardest-hitting death in all of 2017, and easily rivalling the most famous of those from years past. Petty crafted some of the most defining songs of the 70's, 80's, and 90's, and was in and of himself a singular force in rock and roll music a la Elvis Presley, David Bowie, and Prince. To consider what all we have lost as far as music in the past 2 years is incredible. Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon, Bowie, Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Prince, Leon Russell, Gregg Allman, Walter Becker of Steely Dan, and now Tom Petty are all gone. It's the curse of liking older(but quality) music, losing all your favourites.

    Some argue that he and his bands weren't instrumentally proficient and versatile in the same was as, say, Blue Cheer, Moby Grape, Pacific Gas & Electric, Quicksilver, or the Soft Machine. Some even argue that, lacking a 'singing voice,' he's just doing a fobbed off rendition of Bob Dylan. On the first point, I say that whatever talents they did(and they did) or did not have were trumped by the adept, incisive song-writing team of Tom Petty & Mike Campbell. To the second point, I must say this: Bob who? In much the same way as the Eagles, though, Tom Petty's music resonated with me more because of the deeper cuts than the hits. That's not a dig at the wonderful hit songs he did, I'm just saying the songs ignored by radio play-listers were of better quality. Here's a taster of what he was really capable of doing, culled mainly from his late-80's and 1990's releases.

    "Love is a Long Road," from the 1989 "Full Moon Fever" album, is anthemically descriptive not just of two young people passionately in love, but also the 'long road' of being in love(even if by one's self)--As I am apt to call it, the 'rush of the crush.' Lyrics and music both portray the image of a love cratering on a day-to-day basis. When it all gets too much, one has to jump off the 'love train' "To try and save my soul." Real talk from the realest of the rockers.

    "To Find a Friend," from the 1994 "Wildflowers" album, is about as simple and laid back as one can find in Petty's catalogue. At least, the music is laid back(as opposed to its usual rambunctious self). But wait, those lyrics ain't laid back. These are the after-effects of divorce and the process of self-reinvention at play. His songs from this period tend to cover similar ground('self-reinvention' was covered, albeit not as succinctly, in "All the Wrong Reasons" from 1991's "Into the Great Wide Open" album), for a variety of reasons. Petty, by now, is going through the divorce and seeking out his true friends. The song features drums from one of those friends, former Beatle Ringo Starr.

    "Walls(Circus)," from the un-heralded 1996 "She's the One" soundtrack, has Petty making universal statements. Granted, he arguably did it better in songs like "I Won't Back Down" and "Learning to Fly." However, this one, with our current President's talk of 'big walls, beautiful walls,' is especially timely. "I can't hold out forever. Even walls fall down." I'm sure some dismiss this song as flighty bubble-gum, but the simplicity of the lyrics belie the heady, weighty real-life concepts being expounded upon. Petty was, in 1996, breaking down his own decades-old walls. Definitely one of the more fitting, prescient songs he did.

    "A Self Made Man" expounds upon the bitter after-effects of love gone haywire. Discovered this one by laughing chance when I was looking at the back of my then-copy of the "Let Me Up(I've Had Enough)" LP and thought the song title looked interesting enough. I was blown away when I dropped the needle, more than any other time past or future that I've done the LP rounds(the song in the linked video is the product of that dropping of the needle). Saw the movie "Baby Driver" in cinemas a couple of months ago, and I thought of this song when Kevin Spacey's character proclaimed "I was in love once," not long before he got into a life-ending shoot-out. "He's a self made man, he knows how to lose."

    "Too Good to Be True" is Tom Petty at his most foreboding. He doesn't say it, and he doesn't have to. This girl has...lived the life, shall we say. The wayward life of a young girl. This I have seen from several vantage points. Saw from afar a Church girl on whom I had a crush on-again and off-again over the course of five years gradually lose, after she went to College, whatever semblance of the wide-eyed innocence that drew me to her in the first place. Nowadays, I couldn't possibly care less. "You don't know what it means to be free." How true. Most people never get that opportunity, or outright waste it entirely.

    "It's Good to Be King," a lesser hit from the "Wildflowers" album, is one I cottoned to just recently. In fact, the whole "Wildflowers" album got a re-listen from me(initially, I wasn't much of a fan beyond the hits and key deeper songs), and I realised why Petty himself liked it so much. Raw honesty, which reached a new level on this album. Recently put this song to a burned disc, and I can be occasionally heard singing to myself the lyric "Can I help it if I still dream time to time?" 'Everybody wants to rule the world,' and 'you may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.' A universal sentiment borne of life's whole cloth. Also, adapted to today's circumstances, very prescient. It's like Tom Petty was keyed into the American spirit in a way that would make people like Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen look like total shysters by comparison.

    "Room at the Top," from his highly personal 1999 "Echo" album(having been recorded in the midst of the aftermath of his aforementioned divorce and a late-in-life heroin addiction), is the best song he ever did in my estimation. My love of the song stems from the linked video I did for the song, the idea for which sprouted at one of the lowest periods in my life. Was driving down the road the day after one of my magic crushes cratered(sensing a pattern?), more spectacularly than usual. Had the "Echo" album in my CD player, and this song was playing. I thought to myself "Room at the top of the world...Windows on the World...Hey, that's a good idea! Mark that one down somewhere."  The song became one of my favourites ever as a result of that video, which has to be the best one I ever did. "I've got a room at the top of the world tonight, and I ain't coming down" is my own way of looking at life and where I am now.

    I'll end this song set with another "Echo" album track: "Lonesome Sundown," a mournful lamenting of past relationships and the disintegration thereof. Petty wrote a great many of these, almost all of them good, though few could match the mournful energy of this song. I don't know anything about relationships myself, but I do know about crushes that fall apart. Some are far more painful than others, especially when there's another guy in the mix. "Forgiveness is the key," and so few people ever realize the truth of the sentiment. I'd imagine lots of 'lonesome sundowns' gradually give way to even more 'tequila sunrises.'

    Was in Athens, GA, earlier Monday afternoon sifting through several LP Bins, and came across brand new, shrink-wrapped Tom Petty LP's. Not just re-issued studio albums, but also live performances. Gave me a curious chuckle to see that Petty and his band did a live cover of the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" Since I am a cheapskate, I didn't give them a serious thought(around $20 a pop). No doubt people are buying them up now. This was all before I got the horrible news, standing in the music section at the Athens Barnes & Noble. Overlooked a great many selections as I bee-lined for the Petty slot to finally get his band's debut release(it's a better album than even I had ever imagined). With the Eagles and the Moody Blues, they were a band I had wanted to see live in concert. However, on his last two swings through Atlanta(with Mudcrutch and the Heartbreakers, respectively), I found ticket prices to be on the high side for me(north of $100 per seat). Again, my cheaper side won out.

    The first memories I ever remember of Petty's music involved my tween-year love and hate relationship with the song "Free Fallin'." In one of the more love-fuelled periods, the band's 'Greatest Hits' compilation became my first ever music CD(when love transitioned back to hate, I kicked myself HARD for passing up Matchbox 20 and Clay Aiken). Later, towards my teen years, I added "I Won't Back Down" to the ranks of songs for which I possessed said 'love/hate relationship.' As my music tastes fell more solidly into place, Tom Petty slowly became a favourite, propelled by the songs "Running Down a Dream" and "Learning to Fly." In no time, those stragglers came on out the other side, and not a moment too soon. When my big crush fell through in 2012, it was "Free Fallin'" that resonated the most, as it summed up everything. As time went on and circumstances unfolded, I would come to find "A Woman in Love(It's Not Me)" appropriate.

    Tom Petty was a giant of music in America and around the world. His loss is absolutely staggering. Music was in a downward-spiralling state the past 15 or so years, and Petty was the only one still doing good albums. That's gone now. What that means for music is at present unclear, but one can guess the end result won't be a good one. More personally, this is not the article I ever thought I'd have to do right now.

RIP Tom Petty

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Jumping on Bandwagons

    The other day, I saw a co-worker of mine walking around the store in a Pink Floyd t-shirt. Now, this came as a surprise--She'd never before struck me as a music fan, and still doesn't. Maybe I'm wrong, though I can usually get a sense of people in not too long a time space, let alone several weeks of the work experience. Pink Floyd shirts are pretty popular with the younger sub-set, as are Beatles shirts. The latter is an even more insincere expression of musical taste. Everyone knows who the Beatles are, and even more like their music. The shirts, not too long ago a true statement of taste, are starting to remind me of the Christian crosses lots of people wear. That is, little more than jewelry that scares off the demons and questioners. Moreover, it's a case of the fickle public jumping on the bandwagon of a marketing campaign from both bands(The Beatles did their re-mastering of the entire catalogue back in 2009, and Pink Floyd did theirs back around 2015).

    When I started liking groups like Pink Floyd and the Beatles, and Rock music in general, I was in Public School and the sentiment wasn't exactly popular the way it seems to be now. One could take a chance on being bullied for musical taste, or be cowed into submission by the whims of the crowds. Same holds true today, and it's even worse with the advent of social media. Rap and modern Pop were the 'in-music' of the mid-2000's, when I was in school. I raised myself on Atlanta's then-Lite FM station, and the Beatles were among many very familiar sounds("Oh, I believe in yesterday") I would hear. Come 2006, I was trying out the new Classic Rock station. Fortunately for me, so were a lot of my fellow students. Many times, I could count on hearing one of the guys singing the lyric "Slow ride, take it easy," without a notion of how ironic that would turn out to be years down the line. My chance to explore the music I was listening to blossomed throughout my teen years in a home school environment, while everyone else's probably atrophied through the years. The classic life stages of a bandwagon jumper in a nutshell: Jump on, take it in, and jump off.

    People can sense someone who's jumping on the bandwagon, doing what's cool. The most common way this is expressed is when a musician dies and you go out to buy one of their albums. I fondly remember my Ten Years After, Ramones, and Jack Bruce musical phases very well and with some fondness. When Glenn Frey of the Eagles died in 2016, I visited several antique store booths in an effort at finding his solo LP's, and I had the best conversations with similarly-minded people on the related subjects. Truth be told, I only thought to consider him as a solo act because of his death, having already thoroughly picked through the Eagles' catalogue. Keith Emerson's death prompted me to buy ELP live albums and round out my collection. There are people who also do this quite a bit in politics. In fact, there are swaths of people, operating in a quasi-group think manner, who are just waiting for THE candidate to whom they can hitch their wagon.

    Political bandwagon-jumping is among the most publicised and disgusting varieties you'll see. Going against basic decency and established fact to support the party's agenda. Choosing friends based on politics, all in defence of ideology. Partisans will support everything espoused by the top of the ticket, no matter how ill-informed or incendiary. Shifting focus to the modern day, you'll see the opportunists who support the Clinton's, John Kerry, and Barack Obama continue their wars of attrition against the supporters of Mike Dukakis, Walter Mondale, and Bernie Sanders. Likewise with Bush and Trump supporters' constant belittling of those like myself who supported John McCain and Mitt Romney. The notion of losing and being on the wrong side now and again is anathema to those who are obsessed with winning.

    I'll never forget seeking out the Facebook profiles of my old cohorts from Middle School towards the latter end of the year 2015, and discovering that many of them had jumped aboard the Trump Wagon. A lot of the same people who bullied me endlessly were now cheering on the bullying demagogy of Donald Trump. Over-grown children. I walked away slightly dismayed. The worst of the lot, however, must be the so-called 'Never Trump' people, who don't actually oppose him for policy's sake or even as a matter of decency. No, they oppose him because they're trying to advance their business interests and personal brands. Think about it, folks. They're money-changers, the people who's tables Jesus famously flipped over at the Temple in his time on Earth. If they and the 'Resistance'(partisan windbags who'd say the same things about McCain, Romney, Paul Ryan, or Marco Rubio if they'd gotten in) are Trump's main opposition, then he's not in the bad shape many say he is.

     I look at bandwagon jumping in any corner of life as a cop-out to the malleable whims of society, and most dishonourable behaviour no matter who is engaging in the act. The sincerity of the bandwagon jumper is also at best dubious. Some are wearing the Pink Floyd/Beatles shirts to avoid predictable conversations about music with older guys with pronounced tastes. Like Newt Gingrich calling himself 'cheerful,' it is their way of telling us all to 'go f--k ourselves.' It muddies the waters, and takes away from those of us who were there longer and put in more of our time and efforts. Should we remember the fighters for freedom who prevailed in their quest for Civil Rights through perseverance, tenacity, and will-power, or should we remember the 'house negroes' who reaped the rewards of freedom after the Emancipation? The answer seems obvious, but these things will be hashed out for some time. I don't doubt that I'll be remembered better than will the insincere sorts who go out of their ways to side with majority opinions--Weather vanes who twist with the prevailing thought of the day.

I just hope the bandwagon jumpers won't try to co-opt Steely Dan, Bojangles, and Books-A-Million.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Reflecting on the Eagles and Their Music

    (Editor's note: The above picture features the Eagles with touring drummer Joe Vitale, the best drummer the band ever had)

    The last Eagles post I put to this site was more than a touch hotly worded--I was still working out some bad feelings I was having with a popular Eagles online forum, but the basic sentiment still remains. One of the great bands of the 1970's and early 1980's has become a Vegas tribute act. For a month's salary, you can hear country crapper Vince Gill and his backing band churn out a plastic, lifeless version of "Take it to the Limit." But enough of that. I'm hear to talk about the real band, the reason you're here reading this post.
    To say that the year 2016 was something else is understating things considerably. Right on the heels of the death of Pop/Rock mega-star David Bowie, on January 18, 2016, Glenn Frey, front-man and lynchpin song-writer for the Eagles, died as a result of pneumonia contracted during a hospital stay necessitated by the need for further intestinal surgery. I was sad when Alvin Lee of Ten Years After died in March, 2013. I was very sad when Jack Bruce of Cream died in October, 2014, and when Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon died in September, 2015. Frey's death precipitated a whole new level of sadness for me, as the Eagles have long been one of my favourite bands.

     Admittedly, my introduction to the band initially didn't yield the best results. When I was little, I was put off by the insipid sounds of "The Best of My Love" and "I Can't Tell You Why." My later introductions to "Take it Easy" and the acoustic live version of "Hotel California" from the "Hell Freezes Over" re-union album only added to their dubious reputation. Many others came and went, never impressing me much. The only song I liked was "Already Gone," and listening to that song one early morning in 2008 ignited a musical fire that resulted in my being introduced to the bands and sounds that now foundation my musical tastes.

    This musical transformation also coincided with young me coming to full terms with my attraction to the opposite sex. It was no surprise that, as I was embracing more love-oriented lyrics, I came to take even more of a shine to some of the more delicate songs of the Eagles. Songs like "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" and "New Kid in Town" took on new and better meanings. The latter song served as an inspiration to me, alongside "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd and "Day Tripper" by the Beatles, with regards to my ill-fated daydreams of of pursuing music as a career option. Throughout the remainder of my adolescence, the Eagles would continue to make their out-sized mark and help expand the musical horizons.

    There are some albums you'll always remember buying. If you've bought as many as I have, this says a lot. One such album is the Eagles' "On the Border" album, which I bought in February, 2012. The title track drew me in most of all, but it was songs like "You Never Cry Like a Lover," "My Man," and "Ol' 55" that made the album what it is. For a band that had as many good songs as did the Eagles, to discover even more came as a pleasant surprise. Later in the year, with newfangled Christmas money, I was introduced to the "One of These Nights" LP, which blew even more doors off my mind and served as a pacifier in the beginnings of a very turbulent period in life. The songs "The Hollywood Waltz" and "Journey of the Sorcerer" remain big favourites to this day.

    "King of Hollywood" is a song that says more than most others in the band's catalogue. The song chronicles the pratfalls of fame and seeking out the best talents. For one thing, I've conducted my life as something of that type of guy. In the early days of my College education, when I would see a girl I liked and wanted to learn more about, I would stand back and sponge in information like full names and such, look them up on Facebook, and let the dominoes fall where they may. Private investigating. I'm the reason you hate Facebook--I've fallen a step or two short of being a full-bore stalker. I don't do that any more, as it would make for far too many uncomfortable opportunities. Still, the truth remains. I'm always on the hunt for love, always wanting to know more. A perpetually broken heart looking to make his mark.

"What you get is not quite what you choose."
Eagles, "How Long"

    When a particularly potent crush I had went up in smoke in Spring, 2016, all I listened to that day, before and after, was Eagles albums--Five of their six classic-era studio albums(I did not give "The Long Run" a listen that day). I had just gotten the Rolling Stone commemorative edition magazine for the band, so I was in even more of a mood for the band. Moreover, the music for that moment communicated more to me than an album by the Doors or REM would have. "Tequila Sunrise" and "New Kid in Town" were stand-outs from that day, particularly the latter song. With the lyric "Everybody loves him, and he's holding her, and you're still around," I nearly wrecked my car on the highway with all the tears in my eyes. I knew it was over. 3 1/2 turbulent months culminated in my washing back my sorrows with Eagles music and Diet Coke. Of course, I've learned in life that there are far worse things in the world than angling for a nice young something over dinner and getting Glenn and Don over the speakers instead.

    The local rock radio station has been advertising ticket sales for the new Eagles concert sometime this fall. This stabs me in the heart. Back in 2013, I was really keen on seeing the Eagles in concert. Coming on the heels of the documentary "History of the Eagles," which made a most compelling case for the band, it was something I felt particularly pressed to do. They had tour dates in Louisville, KY, and in Birmingham, AL, and a road trip looked very appealing. When an Atlanta, GA, concert was announced, I was amped. However, a lot of things fell through in the lead-up to the concert, and I missed out. My last opportunity was a 2015 Greenville, SC, concert I wasn't even aware of due to numerous distractions in my life at that time. I shouldn't fret the fleeting, earthly things, but it still grinds me that I missed out on seeing them. This, it should be said, will not compel me to go see the new band.

    The Eagles under-pinned the most formative and memorable experiences of my life, and that's a contribution money just can't buy.