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Weekend Report: Kennywood, Todd Snider, Football, Apples.

I worked a late day Friday, cleaning up leaves on a pleasant autumn afternoon, under bright clear skies, the hills around we alight with gold and fiery red leaves.  Fall is 50005524_20852slipping away quickly.  It always does.  Since my children were young I have counseled them to keep their heads up and their eyes open during these first two weeks of October, when the leaves catch fire and fall.  By Halloween the hills will be be gray, save for stubborn oaks which hold their leathery leaves, faded to brown, deep into the winter.

PHOTOS: Above and Below, The Indiana Gazette

Exhausted by the time I retreated indoors near dusk, my wife off on a “girls night out” dinner & wine binge with a group of friends, I shuttled my kids to the football field, having begged off myself.  I was tired, hungry, and flushed from a day spent Knoch vs. Indiana football INDY # 8 Knoch#outdoors–I returned home to have leftover spaghetti for dinner while I listened to the game on the radio.  Of course, it turned out to be one of the more exciting games in recent history: the home team triumphed at the very end of a hard-fought, back and forth battle in which numerous game, season, and career records were set by our talented quarterback and wide receiver duo.  I sure can pick the right time to be a lazy dog and stay home, can’t I?

Saturday was big event day–we herded up our friends Brian & Ann, our daughters, two of their friends, and all of their boyfriends into both the van and the Chuckwagon and drove the kids down to Kennywood, Pittsburgh’s legendary amusement park, for Kennywood’s Phatom Fright Night–an annual event in which ghouls haunt the creepy park (bringing all your Scooby Gang nightmares to bear and remember that Pittsburgh is pretty much the center of the Zombie Underground) and kids get to ride roller coasters and freeze their butts off on cold October nights.  We dumped the kids and left the Chuckwagon in the lot for them to use as emergency shelter–a smart move, as it turns out.

We old farts rolled down along the Monongahela river to Pittsburgh’s Southside, the historical working class district that’s gone and turned itself into a carnival-like nightspot.  It was predictably crowded with revelers, but we lucked into a parking space just a block from our destination, the funky old Rex Theater, where we met up with some more friends to take in a much-awaited Todd Snider concert.

We were a little disappointed at first–the show had originally been billed as having Elizabeth Cook as the opening act, and the talented and charismatic singer would have been a perfect match for Snider’s outgoing persona.  Alas, we got a guy named Jesse Aycock, who was as quiet and earnest and introspective as Snider is larger-than-life, even in the Rex’s super-intimate setting. We felt bad for Aycock, whose simple, maudlin, acoustic ballads and lack of interaction with the audience was poorly suited for a crowd that was already anxious to see the main attraction.

Snider didn’t disappoint, either.  He sauntered out on stage to the tunes of Booker T. & The MG’s “Green Onion” like he owned the place, in his stocking feet, an old sweater, sniderblue jeans and his trademark hat, and quickly announced that he’d be playing two sets and we’d hear everything we wanted to hear–all the “good stuff” he enthused, because he knew how folks hate to get to a show when the artist plays what “he” wants, and everyone is thinking, “not all that new shit, damn.”  And true to his word, he pounded through the next 2.5 hours hitting most of his most popular songs, drawing cheers and sing-a-longs, wild applause and deep satisfaction from the crowd.

The only downer was an obnoxious drunk woman who was making everyone around her miserable.  When she shouted a request in the midst of one song, Snider finally stopped, leaned forward, and said, “I’ll be glad to play whatever y’all want me to play, but it’d be great if you waited until the end of one song before yelling for the next one.”  Chastened, the woman relented for a few songs but eventually started yelling and blabbing loudly.  Snider stopped again and begged her “Please, for the love of god and all those people around you would you kindly shut up?  I mean, you’ve been talking all night what could you possibly have left to say?  I now know more about you than I know about some of my friends.”  She didn’t make it another song before, now clearly defiant, she was at it again.  The bouncers finally dragged her out, earning an enthusiastic round of applause, but Snider was clearly rattled and banged through about 8 songs without stopping, when it’s usually his style to tell hilarious stories and interact with the audience.  Not that 7 or 8 straight Todd Snider songs live in a small club is bad!  Jesse Aycock joined him for the encore–after a pair of 90 minute sets–that was as rousing as it was generous.  Aycock redeemed himself with some sweet slide guitar work as Snider’s side man, and the pair closed with a cool acoustic ballad version of “Freebird” that had the crowd laughing, at first (I always yell “Freebird!” at conerts) and holding up their lighters.  Old school.  Did I mention that this show cost $20?  Awesome, I know.

We grabbed some pizza down the s street, noting that the light rain had turned to sleet, then rolled back to Kennywood to retrieve 8 very cold, tired, and happy teenagers.  They all slept, while Brian and I kept up a steady conversation to stay awake, and made it back home around 230am.  Long day.  Good day.  (Set list at the end of the post)

On Sunday we slept in late and never did much of anything–replaced a brake light on the family van, did some grocery shopping, and picked up a peck of apples at a local orchard.  It’s been cool and bright all year, and the fresh apples are out of this world this year–perfect conditions, and the orchard expects to be open until Thanksgiving.  Lots of apple pie in my immediate future.

I spent the rest of the day nodding off, or shambling around the house in as stupor.  All in all, though, it was an outstanding weekend.

Todd Snider Live, October 18th, 2014
Pittsburgh, PA   Rex Theater

Set One:
Good Fortune
Is This Thing Working
Everything Else…Except For Nothing
Greencastle Blues
[The Frisbie Story]
Big Finish
Carla
Play A Train Song
[Skip Litz Story]
Good News Blues>
The Last Laugh> Good News Blues>
You Got To Take Sick And Die
If Tomorrow Never Comes
Ballad Of The Devil’s Backbone Tavern
Hey Hey
Mr. Bojangles
Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance

Set Two:
Statistician’s Blues
Easy Money
D.B. Cooper
[HWA Church]
Alright Guy
Stuck On The Corner
Beer Run>
Age Like Wine> Beer Run
Looking For A Job>
I’m Free
Lonely Girl
Doublewide Blues
Jaded Lover
[Mark Marchetti Story]
Somebody’s Coming
Enjoy Yourself
Can’t Complain
Better Than Ever Blues, Part 2
Free Bird

encore:
Sideshow Blues> *
Working Man’s Blues *
* w/ Jesse Aycock

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In Praise of Velma

tumblr_moqnnePunK1roolboo1_500
http://imgfave.com/pandorasfall

Kate Jackson was my favorite Angel. If that even means anything to you, it should explain some things.  If you can shake the Farrah out of your dreams and get your mind around what I just said, then the next stop is clear, and needs only one word: Velma.

1800478_650642358329836_1837038430_n
https://www.facebook.com/mariedollcosplay
Marie has a ton of Velmas on her page, a real test not to use the word “jinkies” in some really, really inappropriate contexts.

I understood that the stories were about Shaggy and Scooby.  I got that, and I love those guys like brothers.  I can even do a pitch-perfect “Like Zoinks, man!” and swagger like “Rohn Rayne!”  I have to admit that I always had a soft spot in my heart for brainy girls–the girls in the movies who wore glasses because that’s how heavy-handed directors and producers made sure we got that they were the smart girls.  It always bugged me when, at the end, they take off their glasses and we’re supposed to suddenly realize “wow, she’s kind of hot.”

velmaslayer
http://slyoyster.com/cheap-thrills/2009/awesome-illustration-of-zombie-hunting-velma-a-t-shirt/

I’d known she was hot all along, and not just “kind of.”  I thought she was “all kinds of hot.”  Big difference, there.

velma_by_ginabcosplay-d5im5gm.jpeg
http://ginabcosplay.deviantart.com/

I don’t mean to say that Daphne wasn’t lovely, or that she didn’t have a decent intellect–but she tended to need a lot of rescuing, and then there was that business with Fred who, let’s face it, didn’t exactly, uh, (ascot …cough, cough) lean in her direction. Fred made a fool of Daphne, and we can appreciate her misguided loyalty, but that’s not the kind of thing that engenders an enduring respect that, over the years–or episodes–grows into love.  Velma would never have stood for that kind of crap–and that’s the kind of girl I like.  I still remember first grade, when a girl named Millie who lived on my block, with the biggest brown eyes and a shy smile, caught my eye.  I was smitten…until, a few days later, another girl from the neighborhood threw a rock at me and missed.  I laughed in her face and she kicked me in the shin.  Hard enough to draw blood.  For the next two years, until a snotty red-haired Scottish girl moved to town and called me a wanker on her first day on the playground, I lived and breathed Tammi.

ca36a3826708f46c4defcbe3ba4fb181
http://jessasketch.deviantart.com/art/Apocalypse-Velma-205499745
Scooby-Doo-Zombie-01
http://jeffzoet.zenfolio.com/scoobydoo

I’ve been pleased of late to discover that I’m not alone.  Velma has been getting some serious love on the internet for a while now, both from artists and the cos-play community (think sexy halloween for grown-ups, with a sci-fi/fantasy bend, but all year round) .  Travis Pitts’ epically cool rendering of Velma as Buffy-esque Slayer-style heroine was the first image I saw and the inspiration for this entry, but a quick google or two delivered a bonanza of badassery that needed to get out.  Gina B. has her own series over a deviantart.com, which has apparently been downloaded and reposted on at least one out of every 2 geek-infused websites on the net, but my current favorites are from Pittsburgh photographer Jeff Zoet, and how cool is it that these came from Pittsburgh, the greatest city on Earth and the Zombie Capitol of the world?

So cool, baby.  That’s how cool.

And are we surprised that Velma has the axe?  Not when that nancy-pants Fred is huddling behind both the chicks and the hippie–even that hippie happens to be rocking a pump-action shotgun–and Daphne has a cute little crossbow pistol, deadly but delicate. That leaves Velma, already burdened with the intellectual side of things, to do the heavy lifting–or, swinging, as the case may be.  As usual–with apologies to Freud–Velma brings the wood.

scooby-doo-zombies-1-600x337
http://jeffzoet.zenfolio.com/scoobydoo

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A Snowy Sunday Morning

Before you read further and get all indignant, let me remind you I’m a big fan of Jesus–my upbringing in the bosom of the Methodist Church formed the framework for much of my morality–and, of course, my cynicism, my expectations of inevitable hypocracy and, ironically enough, my deeply sentimental conviction that there is good in the world (maybe not a lot, maybe not enough, but enough to be foolishly hopeful.)  The thing I would have liked to hear more about in church was Badass Jesus, Defiant Jesus, Superhero Jesus, Jesus tearing up the temple and putting the crooks on their asses, Jesus the Original Left-Wing Troublemaker,balage_jesus_and_the_money_changers-t1 Jesus sticking it to The Man, Jesus fighting the system like Robin Hood, like the Dukes of Hazard and, ultimately, Jesus taking a metaphorical bullet for talking too much and shaking up the power class, like Bobby Kennedy, MLK, Malcolm X. I’m pretty sure Jesus would have been a cool guy to sit down with, have a beer, and talk about those crazy Occupy kids and our favorite episode of My Name Is Earl–I mean, Jesus was a tradesman, at the end of the day, a carpenter. And a guy like that, you can bet he had a sense of humor.

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Cannibalism at Jamestown

Researchers have found conclusive evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown, the earliest known site of European hubris in North America and, not coincidentally, the place where I was given my first and only tricorne hat. I’d been under the assumption that the flesh-eating Briton thing was understood. Those first colonists pretty much sucked at…um…colonizing.  Their attempts at agriculture were abysmal.  They tended to shoot at the local “savages,” who were, in turn, understandably reluctant to provide a pilgrim-style deus ex machina for the clueless white trespassers. The Virginians were, however, wildly proficient at dying.  They were aces at it, dying like mad.

Now, archeologists have determined that this cannibalism was unquestionably committed by the English settlers, because the meat was boiled down to a tasteless grey clump and served with sodden cabbage and a puddle of “pudding” on the side.

Knowing what we know about English cuisine, a good grilled slice of teenager was likely a welcome departure from all that boiled muck and internal organs.  It’s also possible that the adolescent whose gnawed bones were found, trapped in that tiny fort all winter, was just asking for it, sighing and complaining that nobody could possibly understand how she feels, not ever; leading her to be consumed in the way that grizzly bears sometimes eat people: not because they’re hungry, but…just because they can. Like saying “screw you” but with teeth and claws like pitchforks.

How could the English not be cannibals.  Just look at this guy:

Maybe this isn’t so far beyond the realm of imagination?