Best rock’n’roll instrumental ever

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It’s Los Straitjackets’ cover of the horrible Celine Dion theme from The Titanic, “My Heart Will Go On.” Without ever having seen the movie, and without intentionally listening to hideous “easy listening” radio, I’ve heard part of the song about 2000 times, so, yes, I know it. But the Straitjackets take it through the Ventures/surf rock funhouse, and without camping it up too much turn it into a wild ride of an instrumental, right from the Telstar opening, through the harp riffs and the Star Trek Theme haunting space vocals. Everything that was cool about the Ventures style of instrumentals is in here. The version from “The Velvet Touch of Los Straitjackets” is better than the live version, but only because it allowed them to put on that veneer of perfection that went with The Ventures.
By the way, Los Straitjackets and The Ventures are playing together on a cruise ship. I’m not sure what to make of that, but I wish I could be there.

U-Haul

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There are things you forget about and don’t miss when you’ve owned a home for a while (in fact, 11 years, I think) is apartment life, especially moving. Especially moving. And if I did move now, I would do what I did last time, hire big burly men to move it all. I moved just about nothing. Know why? Not big and burly. So when I finally got U-Haul to admit that the hitch I ordered was in, I went down to get it installed yesterday.
Our U-Haul is something of a landmark, highly visible from the river in an old 9- or 10-story hardware factory, with a big spinning U-Haul truck on the roof. Everyone in Albany knows where the U-Haul is. Getting there is another matter, because it’s on a section of Broadway that is one-way, and to get to the head of the one-way section, you have to drive all the way up to the Port and then come back down through a tangle of accidental streets without signs or much by the way of signals. But I’d found it before, and I found it again. What I didn’t realize, and what I would have instinctively known if I were still in apartment land, is that this is the last week of the month. Worse, the last week of August. Making it moving week for a billion people who can’t afford to hire big burly men. And these people are tired, and they don’t want to do this. And they are at the U-Haul, where there are two people to help them. Those two people were as helpful as they could be, under the circumstances. But the general ambience of a U-Haul store, where they don’t really splurge on the furnishings, the thematic color is a garish orange, and the surrounding merchandise is bubble wrap and flattened cardboard boxes, . . . well, it’s not Starbucks. And it’s not helping. I felt like I was trapped in a bus station, another place I haven’t been in in quite some time (since before I could afford the services of U-Haul). People of uncertain means are confronting challenging transitions in the most depressing, undesigned space possible (just like a bus station, but without the terrible coffee). No wonder the staff couldn’t quite get it together to tell me when my order was in, or when my truck was ready, or anything at all, really.
On the other hand, I’ve now got a nifty hitch so I can load up bikes on the back of the truck.

Am I getting enough glycerol ester of wood rosin?

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Well, my Powerade has some, and if I’m getting any, I imagine I’m getting enough. Unfortunately, it doesn’t add enough to the flavor . . . this thing is weak!
Finally cooling down, and my stomach bug of this week is over, so now all I need to do is actually get my ass out of bed and I’ll be a runner again. Ran Albany at lunchtime, up to Washington Park and back down to the new Hudson River Way. Warmer than I would have thought since it was so overcast. I actually stopped in a little secret fountain at the Plaza and wet myself down a little. There was a farmer’s market at the Plaza, and I was dying for a peach, but I had no money with me. I actually cast my eyes about looking for someone I knew that I could cadge a buck from, but no luck. I normally don’t need money when I’m running, there’s nothing to buy out on the wilds of Best Road. (It leads to Best, but if you live here, you know that.)
The girls are at my mom’s for two nights. Actually, they turned into pirates on the way there, and attacked her with plastic swords, I’m told. When they’re too old for all this, I’m very much going to miss waking up to bunnies and kitties, pirates, clowns, ballerinas, and whatever else they think up to become. They dream it, they become it. (My whole problem with Halloween is I can’t think of anything I’d like to pretend to be . . . sign of contentment with self (no) or just pathetic indifference (probably)?) So, tonight, cultural hedonism in the form of a drive-in double feature of XXX and Blue Crush. I feel so dirty. I can’t wait.

Vacation, had to get away

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Semi-obscure reference to the Go-Go’s aside, had a nice (although short) vacation. But hot. So hot. Really way too hot for tenting, which is what we were doing. It was 100 degrees on a bluff overlooking Lake Ontario, which is not a natural condition. So hot I tried to take a tip from The Disgruntled Housewife and buy a tent for the fan (we were camping among trailers, with electric hookups). But, alas, no fans to be had anywhere in the greater Watertown suburban strip hell. I feel better, because I would have forever felt guilty about having a fan in the tent. But I may have slept better.
The lake was warm, and the girls got to swim in the light waves and had a great time. We did the whole Thousand Islands thing — Clayton, Alexandria Bay, Boldt Castle, a ride in a runabout, etc. They were having Pirate Days in A. Bay, which I highly recommend. The kids had a great time fighting some pirates, looking at old weapons, watching a pirate magic show (which consisted of a pair of fairly funny magicians who had dressed appropriately and added a healthy smattering of “arrrhhh!” to their act). Rebekah learned to ride a two-wheeler (pretty much completely, too, from starting to stopping and everything in between), and she handed her fear of lightning over to her sister and now can’t wait to watch the next lightning storm with me. We mostly made our own meals (so I can pass on the peanut butter and cranberry sandwiches for a while), had ice cream every day, got in a couple hours of paddling, and had a nice time. It’s so beautiful up there. This state kicks your state’s ass!

Too much and too little weekend

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Actually, the entire last week was crazy hectic, just on the personal side. A rare week without a trip to NYC, but I made up for that with all the running around I had to do. Wednesday night Cracker was playing, free, at the Plaza, and we even had babysitting. But nothing is simple, and I had some work to do up there after work and before the show, so I changed at work and left my car here, and then rode home with Lee in her car. Cracker was enjoyable . . . we did not join the masses who seemed to think there was a very special “Matlock” on and starting filing out during the last couple of songs, pre-encore, but we did get out of Dodge as quick as possible once the show was over to beat the drunks to the streets. When you don’t drink and don’t smoke, and you hang mostly with people who don’t drink and don’t smoke, it’s easy to forget that many, many people think the entire point to a summer evening is to smoke like chimneys and drink like fish, and then get into their cars and kill somebody.
Of course, that meant that my car was at work, so I biked to work in the morning, 3.7 miles mostly downhill; having run 6 miles already that morning, the part that wasn’t “mostly” put a little burn in my thighs, and I got to do it twice, having forgotten my pager and phone at home. At the end of the day I did a quick little 4-mile spin on the Corning and went home. Then on Friday there was a picnic way out at Grafton, so drove out there and spent the afternoon hiding from the sun, though it was a lovely afternoon. Saturday morning, so fearful was I of the crowds expected for the opening of the Hudson River Way, I drove the truck down to a prime position in our parking garage and positioned it for perfect viewing of the fireworks that would come. Then ran back home (3.7 miles, every speck of which was uphill as far as I could tell), hung around the house all morning and dragged the kids around Albany all afternoon. Turned out that not only was parking in our garage not a problem, but I could have driven in at any time and gotten just about the same parking spot. Folks hadn’t doped it out. Anyway, that meant a car left behind again, so on Sunday afternoon, in 90 degree heat, I rode my bike back down the hill, then did another 9 miles on the path at a pretty aggressive pace, then drove home just in time to shower and get ready to go to a Valleycats game we had tickets for. We lasted 5 innings and then enough was enough. I got up to run this morning, but didn’t. I’m going on vacation later this week, which should really exhaust me.
Need rest….

Lest I leave an inaccurate impression…

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Okay, I didn’t JUST watch the waving ivy yesterday. I also spent a good five minutes watching someone try to parallel park a midsize sedan in a spot that was easily half again as big as it needed to be. Granted, it was on a hill, which would have presented a challenge in a stickshift, but this wasn’t a stickshift. The person, my age or older even, couldn’t seem to put together the two swings of the wheel necessary, and in fact kept stopping at the end of the first arc before trying to launch into the second arc. If you don’t maintain movement through the two arcs, you’ll never be able to put the car where you want it, as this person’s repeated caresses of the curb with the back right tire attested. Ultimately, the driver gave up. Living in the suburbs robs you of the need, and therefore the ability, to parallel park. I’ve always been pretty pleased with myself for my ability to put a car into a tight space on the first try (my deep sense of shame would never let me try it for five minutes, believe me), although I’m not sure I understand it well enough to teach it. It’s just a zen thing, a being thing. Be the car, park the car.
On the other hand, we’re all idiots for some part of each day, so maybe that was just that particular person’s five minutes of idiocy.

Urban spaces

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The least of cities contains spaces that are more interesting than the best of suburbs. Little spots of magnificence, little spots of decay, little spots of history. You wonder, looking at the bare brick on an outside wall, what happened to the building that used to be attached there, when it came down, who may have lived there, just a couple of blocks from the State Capitol. I spent a wonderful half hour in a semi-secret garden behind City Hall, watching the patterns the breeze made in the ivy that climbed up one of Richardson’s more lighthearted designs. (Note to self: be sure Richardson did City Hall.) Just a delightful way to spend time.
I heard not too long ago that one of the things that most distinguishes the human brain is its ability to distinguish patterns (often even when they are not there). It made me think of all the different patterns there are to a river . . . the ripples that you see on the surface, gathering into the patterns of waves and riffles you see as a canoeist, which assemble further into different patterns that are visible from the air, and from still farther away still different patterns. Wind is the same, harder to see. Did this ability help us to thrive and survive? Maybe it’s the thumbs.
Community swimming pools are a very good thing. Just thought I’d mention that. I don’t quite understand owning your own swimming pool, but I’m pretty chore-averse. For the fifteen minutes a day I would spend in the water, I’m willing to let somebody else do all the work.

The bride wore . . .

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Well, in my opinion, brides should always have biceps. It just looks better. A little muscle tone isn’t too much to ask…
Weekend of wedding and birthday parties and some stealth virus that keeps giving people spiky fevers. Yesterday was a lie-on-the-floor-and-finally-watch-the-end-of-Harry-Potter day, so that’s what we did. Not enough caffeine in the house and no energy to go out and get some. Scanned in some old postcards for some eventual project or other, and called it a day. Watched “Hell is for Heroes” on AMC, it was really still as good as I remembered, and enough years have gone by that I can see Fess Parker as someone other than Daniel Boone (I know, he was Davy Crockett first, but that was just barely before my time). Steve McQueen and James Coburn were great, and Bob Newhart was the comic relief. They actually had him doing one of his telephone routines, and it fit into the movie, which is amazing. Night before we had watched Caddyshack on DVD; it was somewhat above our intellectual capacity after having hosted a 6-year-old’s birthday party at the pool, but we tried to follow the complications and plot twists. Hadn’t seen it unedited (read: unruined) in years, so it was a treat.
Even snuck in a paddle on the Hudson on Friday morning. Cool, quiet, gloomy . . . perfect paddling weather, and not a single asshole jetski around.
Asshole Jetski would be a good name for a band.

Old friends

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Had one of those weekends that could not be ruined, even by drunken motorcycle racing fans who think it’s okay to try to assemble a tent between slugs of beer at midnight, swearing the whole time, next to tents full of families. (Give them credit for stamina, though . . . up drinking until 2 a.m., back at the drinking before 7 a.m.). But when we were away from all that nonsense, had a wonderful weekend of playing whiffleball and swimming, building sand castles and hiking around the lake, with my girls and three of their little friends, and it was just delightful. Cooked hot dogs on the fire (note: longer fork needed!), made smores (laugh at my store-bought marshmallow sticks if you must, but they’re thin and they keep the kids out of the fire), looked for werewolves and zombies in the woods (the whole Scooby-Doo thing), and let the girls bike in circles until they dropped. Massive breakdowns waited until the tents and gear were already packed up and we were ready to go . . . success!
Then home, quick shower, run to the grocery store and off to an old friend’s birthday party at Thacher Park. Just a great time, seeing people I see too seldom. If my every weekend seems to be committed to something all year round, why are some of those weekends not to these people? Something wrong with me, something I intend to fix. Some of these people have been my friends for more than 25 years; we come and go out of each others’ lives but we’re always there. And all these children! Wonderful little creatures.
Mine have been having The Summer of Fun. Baseball, ballet, camping, picnics, bicycling, swimming, summer camp, hiking, fireworks . . . and summer’s only half over!

Le maillot jaune

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I’m excited about the Tour de France, really I am, just as I am about most displays of outstanding athleticism. And I think Lance Armstrong is a tremendous athlete with a great story, and I’ve used one of his trainers’ muscle recovery techniques to maintain my Achilles tendon with marked success (stretch, stretch, then stretch some more). But damned if I can find anyone or anywhere where I can get a simple explanation of the rules in these damned races. How does the whole team thing work? What does it mean that a teammate led the way most of the way today, then dropped back to let Lance take the stage? How does all that work? The press reports it all as simple fact, as if every one of us had a Frenchman’s understanding of bicycle racing. I think it’s a good sign they don’t understand it themselves. And if you read the dispatches from former bicycle racers covering the race, they don’t bother with explaining the basic assumptions. Somebody just tell me how this damned thing works.
Let’s be honest, this thing would get ZERO coverage over here if it weren’t for Lance. We don’t cover a lot of bicycle racing in this country. Or yacht racing. Or distance running. Or even non-Olympic skiing. It’s a little frustrating for someone who doesn’t really think that doubling your normal body size with steroids and then banging your body into another steroid case is precisely athletic.