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Exhausting, But Damn Fine Weekend Part 2: Concert

We had yet another trip to Pittsburgh in store for us Saturday–my fourth in a row, as I’d been in the suburbs Wednesday to help my mom pick out 2011-chevrolet-cruze_100330176_land negotiate for a new car–a long but unexpectedly pleasant experience with Day Chevrolet in Murrysville, PA.  We got her an almost new Chevy Cruze–a perfect Grandma-car, but still a little sporty, a little perky to drive.  Way to go, Detroit–this one brings a hammer to the Compact Dance, and has the Asian marques in a tizzy, I’d wager.

After that, and the two days of swim meet, let’s just say I was less than enthusiastic about another day crammed into a car, even though the plans for the evening were for recreation.  I was grumpy all day, sick of restaurant food, weary of having a seat belt carving into my cartoid, and just plain tired.  If we hadn’t been locked in to the tune of $130 I would have been tempted to bail.  I just wanted to sleep.

That would have been a shame, because we had a semi-potluck in the mid-afternoon: ham, oven-baked herbed potatoes, salad, lots of fresh fruit and tasty bread, and apple pie for desert, with 4 friends and our kids, then the grown-ups saddled up and made the very familiar drive back to Cardiac Hill.  This time, after hours on a weekend, the parking was easy.  We quickly found a space in a small garage, downed some beers in the van–the garage was full of folks sitting in their vehicles, bartending out of PetersenEventsCenter_at_Pitttheir trunks.  Soon enough it was time, and we strolled up to the Peterson Center, a pretty fantastic venue on the Pitt campus.  We were there to see  The Old Crow Medicine Show and The Avett Brothers, and it turned out we got enviable, fantastic seats, just above floor level.

Old_Crow_Medicine_Show

And man, it was awesome.  Old Crow opened with a boisterous cover of John Denver’s seminal kneeslappin’ Thank God I’m A Country Boy and the crowd roared into Full Whoop–where is stayed through their too 4380881794_bf3f2fcf32_oshort 50-minute opening set.  I loved the crowd–more beards per capita than anyplace but downtown Islamabad– so I felt right at home, enjoying the irony of realizing that at the same moment Old Crow was jamming out genuine old-school Grand Old Opry-grade country to 35,000 hipsters in Pittsburgh, PA all over the country so-called Country Bands were shoveling candy-coated bubblegum pop to hundreds of thousands of rednecks.  The energy was pure and joyful–especially during the most popular songs, when the bands and 35,000 background singers–just listen to the voices….

By the time the Avetts ripped through more than two hours (!!) of their show then re-emerged onstage the crowd was in a danced-up, esq-avett-xlg-38788231full-flowering bliss, seemingly impossible to improve–until they called Old Crow out on the stage for a magnum freaking opus encore medley of Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again, The Carter Family’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken (you know an alt.country band is certified when they cover The Carters in their encore), and–finally–an inspired cover of the Spaniels’ Goodnight, Sweetheart.  Freaking awesome, and utterly perfect.  A stop for take out from Mineo’s Pizza on the way home, and the night was complete.

 

 

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Jim Crow, Thy Middle Name Is Kansas

I’ve been through Kansas a few times–it doesn’t seem like a bad place: Kansas-Sunflowerslots of sunflowers to go with the wheat, though it’s awfully flat, which puts that whole tornado alley/Wizard of Oz thing is perspective.  One of my very favorite people loved Kansas, and while he lived there only briefly I’ll forever attach his affection to the place.  My wife and I even spent an absolutely wonderful night camping under the stars at Cedar Bluff State Park, about a thousand years ago.  I’ve followed some of the weirder stuff to come out of that state in the years since, specifically the science vs. bible new earth foolishness, but I have to admit I did little more than snicker a little and write it off to old-fashioned stubbornness.

flatHow backwards could they be?  After all, Kansas was a fertile field for abolitionists during the civil war, and some of the fiercest fighting during the war took place in Kansas and Missouri, as militias, guerrillas, and old school n’er do wells on both sides fought tooth and nail over Kansas and it’s status as a free state. Indeed, the term Jayhawker, which has become synonymous with “Kansan” originally referenced the fierce anti-slavery John_Brown_Paintingirregulars who fought against the primarily Missouri-based pro-slavery “Border Ruffians.”  This is a state which the legendary John Brown, one of America’s greatest sons, called home, and where his image–and the freedom he has come to represent–is immortalized on the very structure of the Kansas Capital building.

It befuddles me to no end that the state of Kansas would gleefully reject and spit upon that legacy by embracing a set of laws that would effectively establish homosexuals as second class citizens, making it legal for Kansas businesses or individuals to treat them as Black Americans were treated in the south during the days of Jim Crow.  Indeed, the Kansas law may be worse, as it also limits–and in many cases eliminates–the options for redress against such open bigotry.

The law, Kansas Bill 2453, not only carries us backwards a hundred years, but it allows bigots to act on their suspicions, not just facts. Should a business owner decide that I might be gay, he can throw me out on my ear–or you.  Or your parents.  Your children.  Anything goes in a bill that is so purposefully vague that it can be twisted to validate just about any bigotry short of physical violence.

The entire movement is so ludicrous–the vast majority of white Christian Americans are being represented as being religiously oppressed by the relatively small number of homosexuals.  Imagine a room full of 100 people, 96 of whom start beating the shit out of the other 4 percent.  Now, imagine that 96 percent claiming that they are oppressed by the 4 percent who are their victims.

Ironically, folks my age and older will remember when being on the side of “the Russians” was a terrible thing to be constantly summoned by conservatives. Well, where are the Kansan bigots finding their strongest support right now?  You guessed it: Russia.  Way to go, comrades.

On the other hand, Kansas is home to the Westboro Baptist Church–a weird-ass hate-cult that tortures the bible to justify their message of 56363689venomous, violent animosity towards homosexuals and–oddly enough– American war dead.  Yes, Westboro has reserved a place in what Shepherd Book called “that special part of hell”, but who would have thought that the Republicans of the Kansas House of Representatives would go ahead and establish a place for themselves in the same zip code.

Now, I’m reading that it’s not quite a done deal.  The Kansas House got a free one–nobody really expected that these crackpots would actually go out and make themselves look like such a band of backwardsassed buffoons, so they didn’t hear a lot of protesting before the vote–but since then the sky has sort of opened up, raining down a fierce storm of dissent and putting the fear God (more irony) into the Kansas Senate, who are scrambling for ways to be rational and vote against this debacle without alienating the extreme right-wing teat upon which so many of them feed.

This doesn’t change the fact that this happened, or that these yahoos managed to push this through the house with a convincing margin of success.  Rational people aren’t going to forget this, nor will the growing reputation of Kansas at a laughingstock diminish any time soon.  It’s my hope, as it always is when the crazy pull off a coup, is that the resulting backlash will propel the mainstream further towards the future, but as the maxim goes: only time will tell.  It’s quite possible, from what we’ve seen this far, that Kansas will collapse in on itself so completely, so irrevocably, that it condenses into a super-dense black hole no bigger than a pea.