April 28, 2009

Germany's Got Talent

I've had occasions when I have to hammer in nails in hard to get to places. This guy's got it figured out.

April 27, 2009

My First Kentucky Derby

I don’t actually remember much about my first Derby experience. What I do remember is that it was the 100th running of the Derby. The year was 1975. It was a record setting crowd at Churchill Downs which still stands today. Oh…and I remember we were in the infield. Today wild thoroughbreds couldn’t drag me to the infield on Derby day.

April 24, 2009

My Old Kentucky Home

"My Old Kentucky Home", written by Stephen Foster, is sung annually at the Kentucky Derby with the accompaniment of the University of Louisville marching band. The tradition began sometime between 1921 and 1930, by which time it was established as the music played while the horses are led to the post.

According to folklore, Foster was inspired to write the song when, while traveling from his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to New Orleans, Louisiana, he stopped in Bardstown, Kentucky to visit his cousins, the Rowan family, and saw their magnificent Federal Hill mansion.

Some of his other well known songs are Camptown Races, Swanee River, and Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair.

Eighteen of Foster's compositions were recorded and released on the "Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster" collection. Among the artists that are featured on the album are John Prine, Alison Krauss, Yo Yo Ma, Roger McGuinn, Mavis Staples and Suzy Bogguss. The album won the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2005.

Foster died a penniless alcoholic at Bellevue Hospital in New York City at age of 37.

The Mint Julep

The Mint Julep has been the traditional drink at the Kentucky Derby for over 100 years. Here is the recipe:

4 fresh mint sprigs
2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp water

Muddle mint leaves, powdered sugar, and water in a collins glass. Fill the glass with shaved or crushed ice and add bourbon. Top with more ice and garnish with a mint sprig.

Take the Mint Julep and pour it down the drain. Think about it…bourbon, sugar, and mint? Ugh, who dreamed up this gross concoction?

Make yourself a bourbon & club soda instead.

Hunter Thompson at The Kentucky Derby

Louisville native, Hunter Thompson, covered the 1970 Kentucky Derby for Scanlon’s Monthly. Titled “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved”, it was Thompson’s first article coined as “Gonzo Journalism”.

“Creeping Jesus, I thought. That screws the press credentials. I had a vision of some nerve-rattling geek all covered with matted hair and string-warts showing up in the press office and demanding 'Scanlan’s' press packet. Well…what the hell? We could always load up on acid and spend the day roaming around the clubhouse grounds with bit sketch pads, laughing hysterically at the natives and swilling mint julep so the cops wouldn’t think we’re abnormal…

“I took the expressway out to the track, driving very fast and jumping the monster car back and forth between lanes, driving with a beer in one hand and my mind so muddled that I almost crushed a Volkswagen full of nuns when I swerved to catch the right exit.”


It’s quite a departure from the style and substance of William Faulkner’s piece fifteen years earlier. Hunter Thompson could have just as well grown up to be a sociopath.

April 23, 2009

Faulkner at The Kentucky Derby

The 135th Kentucky Derby is held on the first Saturday in May which is nine days from today.

In 1955 Sports Illustrated was first published and, wanting their magazine to stand out from the rest of the sports oriented magazines, hired Nobel prize winner William Faulkner to come to Louisville to watch and write about the Derby. What better way was there to set Sports Illustrated apart from the rest of the sports rags?

Faulkner always painted scenes with a broad brush and opened his piece by writing about Daniel Boone’s exploration and opening of Kentucky to people wanting to settle here. He ended his narrative without bothering to mention the name of the horse who won the Derby that year.

“Only a little over two minutes: one simultaneous metallic clash as the gates spring. Though you do not really know what it was you hear: whether it was that metallic crash, or the simultaneous thunder of the hooves in that first leap or the massed voices, the gasp, the exhalation--whatever it was, the clump of horses indistinguishable yet, like a brown wave dotted with the bright silks of the riders like chips flowing toward us along the rail until, approaching, we can begin to distinguish individuals, streaming past us now as individual horses--horses which (including the rider) once stood about eight feet tall and 10 feet long, now look like arrows twice that length and less than half that thickness, shooting past and bunching again as perspective diminishes, then becoming individual horses once more about the turn into the backstretch, streaming on, to bunch for the last time into the homestretch itself, then again individuals, individual horses, the individual horse, the Horse: 2:01 4/5 minutes."

I love Faulkner.

April 22, 2009

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

At work today we had a mandatory safety meeting. I chose to attend the second meeting at one o’clock which was a bad move on my part. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, the meeting was right after I ate lunch, and the room was warm.

The meeting was in the cavernous first floor conference room. I set up the wireless keyboard and mouse on the presenter’s laptop, plugged in the video cable in the floor jack and the back of the laptop, and turned the projector on. I signed into the meeting and took my seat towards the back of the room, which was filling up fast.

The lights were turned down low and the room was getting even warmer from the crowd. The presenter started the safety presentation and it didn’t take long for my lids to start south. I was struggling to stay conscious.

My head snapped up as I heard my snore snap shut. Everyone’s head turned towards me with half smiles on their faces. I feigned a scratch at my chin, checking for drool. It turned out that I was the entertainment portion of the meeting. Thankfully, there was no pop quiz afterward.

April 21, 2009

Weaponized Ice Cream

I had scooped out my small dish of ice cream wife brought home the other day and started scooping hers when I hit a depression and a hemisphere of ice cream sailed through the air and hit the floor. One thousand one…one thousand two… what the hell, I just vacuumed the house Saturday.

Guilt got the better of me and I took the corrupted ice cream myself, at least I think I picked the right dish. By the time I got downstairs I took my best guess. We were watching “24” and my mind was consumed with worry whether Jack Bauer was going to die from exposure to the bio-weapon. Surely the writers wouldn’t kill off Jack Bauer, would they? I handed wife the dish in my left hand, hoping it was the un-weaponized ice cream.

I like “24” but Kiefer Sutherland couldn’t act his way out of a wet paper bag. He can’t even get suffering right. If I had to act like I was infected with bio-weapon
goo, I’d like to think I’d do a better job; chew on furniture and foam at the mouth. Kiefer Sutherland just does his funny blink and sweats fake sweat.

I sneak a peek at wife after she had finished her ice cream. No sweat on her forehead or hand tremors. I guess I gave her the right ice cream. By the same token, there weren’t any floory notes on my palate. I guess we were going to be okay. The same can’t be said for Jack Bauer. At the end of “24” Jack Bauer was reduced to a bug eyed, sweating, and trembling mass of a man who still needs to save the United States of America from certain doom.

Kiefer Sutherland looked like he might have eaten some bad ice cream.

April 17, 2009

April 16, 2009

Thunder Over Louisville

This Saturday is Thunder Over Louisville which is a kick off for the Kentucky Derby festivities where there's not a whole lot of work being done in our fair city for two weeks before the The Horse Race itself. It's free and open to the public which is why you won't see me there. About 500,000 people will gather at the Ohio river on both sides of the shore to watch millions of dollars worth of fireworks go up in smoke. The Zambelli Brothers produce the show.

A few years ago, my wife and I went to the air show which precedes the fireworks. We vamoosed before the fireworks began. Before that, the only time I've seen so many drunk people in the same spot was the night before the Indianapolis 500. We always watch Thunder on TV and, if the wind is right, we can hear it too.

New Radicals

The New Radicals were led by Gregg Alexander who wrote and sang all the songs on their one and only album put out in 1998. When I first bought it I listened to almost nothing else. I think it's one of the best albums I've heard in a long time.

This is "Mother We Just Can't Get Enough".

April 15, 2009

Gomez

Gomez is a band from England who are very popular on both sides of the Atlantic. They're coming to Louisville in May. I might just have to go and see 'em. This is one of my favorites by Gomez titled "See The World".

April 14, 2009

Shawn Mullins

This song should've been all over the radio when it came out but top forty radio stations play nothing that's not at least twenty years old. This is "Beautiful Wreck" by Shawn Mullins.

April 13, 2009

Wheelchair

Last week Tristan was at my wife’s shop and there was an elderly woman in a wheelchair preparing to leave. Tristan walks up to her and starts asking questions.

“What you doin?”
The woman looks at Tristan but doesn’t answer.

“Where you going?”
“I’m going home.”
“A car will hit you!”

Tristan thought she was going to wheel her chair right out onto U.S. 60 to go home. This, of course, makes perfect sense to a three year old boy looking at a chair with wheels on it.

April 7, 2009

Thunderstruck

I never cared too much for heavy metal bands and although I heard AC/DC occasionally on the radio when they were hugely popular, I didn't care for them all that much either. During the heavy metal/head banger era I had practically given up popular music and turned to jazz.

I always thought AC/DC was a band from England but in fact they're from Sydney, Australia. AC/DC formed in 1973 and are still head banging today. The lead guitarist, Angus Young, still wears the school-boy uniform in concert as he always did since the band started. This is "Thunderstruck" from their 1990 album The Razor's Edge performed live in England.

Cult of Murray

I guess Abby was a sophomore at Murray State University when she brought home the cute puppy for us to see. She had named the little guy Murray. Little Murray was not well and we suspected the parvovirus. He wouldn’t eat or drink water and was very lethargic. I suspected he wouldn’t make it through the weekend.

The next morning Abby called me from her basement bedroom to look at him. His lifeless body was lying in the shoe box. Abby, with tears in her eyes, said she didn’t want to be around when I took care of the body.

I took the shoe box out to the edge of the backyard and laid it on the ground between the two wooden crosses supporting the clothes lines. The weird canine irony wasn’t lost on me and, as I recall, the next day was Easter Sunday.

I dug the shoebox size grave about four feet deep. Removing the shoe box coffin lid, I double checked to make sure Murray was indeed dead. I didn’t want to bury the poor thing alive. I put the lid back on and put Murray in his final resting place. Before I shoveled in the dirt I said a two word eulogy, “Sorry Murray.” I felt a little silly as I said it; after all, it’s just a dog, right?

I wonder, if in a far off future civilized incarnation of our world, while digging the foundation for a new building, they find the fossilized bones of a puppy between two fossilized wooden crosses. What would they think?

April 6, 2009

Yard Monkeys

I worked under the cloudless sky on our rock bordered landscape gardens. I was grateful for such a nice day after the crappy fall and winter we’ve been through. The night before, after the OJ made her wanna, the weatherman called for a high of seventy today. Hallelujah and pass the pruning shears.

The first order of business was cleaning out the narrow garden strips on either side of the backyard deck. I couldn’t use the rake as the hostas and ferns had their heads already poked up through the ground. Being careful where I stepped, I did the orangutan walk, picking up leaves and twigs as I lumbered along.

I came to this small weedy looking sapling that I had meant to dig out last August while I was putting up the new fence. I think it was a Rose of Sharon tree that had seeded itself there somehow. A Rose of Sharon by any other name would look as ugly. I retrieved from the shed my trusty irrigation shovel with the recently sharpened blade and struck it into the soil eight inches from the base. I could feel the blade hit the tap root and after the eighth strike I felt the root sever and despite hanging on for life I pulled the stubborn little yip out of the ground. The song birds cried my victory.

I heard my wife from the other side of the fence, “Look at all the hawks!” Looking up I saw seven hawks making wide lazy circles, their outstretched wings floating on the rising thermals. Over the past few years it seems there are more and more hawks making a living in our area. It’s a beautiful sight and makes you wish you could fly along with them.

I joined my wife pruning the burning bush next to the driveway. The bush had gotten so out of hand we used the ladder to trim the top part. There was one branch in the middle we couldn’t reach to cut. It looks as though the burning bush has an antenna for carbon dioxide reception. I mowed the lawn and then we cleared the gardens on the south side of the house.

It was a long day outside cleaning up from the very messy winter and everything looked a little better. The next thing is composting, mulching, and fine tuning the irrigation system which will take every bit of a three day weekend.

I woke up Sunday with a very sore back and it’s still sore today. Damn that Rose of Sharon. You’d think with the hours we spend at the gym I wouldn’t feel sore from gardening. Maybe I need to develop an aerobic routine with a shovel.

Watching the news I see that we're getting snow tonight with a low of 32 degrees. Is this rogue winter ever going to end?

April 4, 2009

The Orange Juice Made her Wanna

At the end of the evening "my" chair had slowly inched farther back until, while watching the 11:00 o'clock news, it was in full reclining position. I was going in and out of the late night sleepy twilight zone. Elf ear was lying very still on the couch. I thought she had fallen asleep.

A loud commercial opened my eyes and a woman, after drinking her orange juice, was flitting around her house cleaning her kitchen, choreographed to an idiot pop music background. My thick voice said "So stupid."

A faint sleepy voice from the couch said,
"The orange juice made her wanna."

April 3, 2009

NRBQ

Stands for New Rhythm and Blues Quartet. The band was started by Louisville natives Terry Adams and Steve Ferguson. I used to have their first album, simply titled "NRBQ" put out in 1969. I loved them then and now as they're still performing. Their music covers almost the whole spectrum of genres from Jazz, to pop, to rock, to rockabilly. Their lack of commercial success have led some to say NRBQ stands for No Records Bought in Quantity. They have legiones of fans world wide. This is "Dummy" from the same titled album of 2004.

April 3rd, 1974

I was in a Kroger picking something up, I can’t remember what. There had been tornado watches issued by the weather service earlier in the day. Coming out the skies had a leaden background with rags of clouds in the foreground moving rapidly westward. My eye followed the clouds west and that’s when I saw the top of the tornado, about five miles away, and the occasional electrical flash close to it. It was a very scary sight and I’ll never forget it. I never had dreams of tornados before that day and now I still have the occasional tornado dream.

The F4 tornado formed over Louisville’s airport and touched down at The Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center, and destroyed the horse barns at the center and part of Freedom Hall arena before it crossed I-65, scattering several vehicles. The tornado continued its 22-mile journey northeast destroying over 900 homes, and damaging thousands of others. Cherokee Park, a historic 409-acre municipal park designed by Frederic Law Olmstead had thousands of mature trees destroyed.

Today is the 35th anniversary of the “Super Outbreak” It is the largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period. From April 3 to April 4, 1974, there were 148 tornados confirmed in 13 states, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York; and the Canadian province of Ontario. It extensively damaged approximately 900 square miles along a total combined path length of 2,600 miles.