Thursday, July 31, 2008


Hola folks,

So I realized I already failed in my attempt to end my blog posts with moments of the day.

To make up, here's a few from the last few days.

1) Attending this afternoon's businessman's special at Progressive Field, my friend and I see a cute dark-haired young woman, clearly Italian, a bartendress, and in need of lots of attention. We begin to create a fictional universe for her that includes being Sal Fasano's daughter, staring in a reality TV program about her family life, trying to flirt with Grady Sizemore enough to get him beat up by her dad, and much more. Of course, we decided her name was Gina. It just fit.

2) Thoroughly convincing myself that sitting in the hot sun for 7/9 of the game (thank you late inning cloud movement) and drinking beer is the same thing as working. I seriously felt like I had been working. I don't know how construction workers do it.

3) Enjoying a nice fun afternoon in my friend and his wife's backyard, watching our dogs run around. Relaxing, and said wife kept coming back to the table with course after course of grilled delicacies. Nice!

Now I'm in for the night, at least till I get hungry and decide cold cuts aren't appealing. Other than that, I'm looking forward to picking up my drycleaning tomorrow, checking out the cool Massachusetts bands at bela dubby tomorrow evening, and the Waterloo Arts Festival all day Saturday, with a Whiskey Daredevils show to close the night. Sunday will be about resting, I imagine.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Favorite Lunch Place

Let me say first that I am super super sad that Dish has seemingly fallen victim to the changing business climate on W 25th, particularly what another nearby business owner has referred to as the bus stop people that never quite get on the bus. The cops never quite get around to helping out with the situation, but all this is beyond the scope of this post.

I used to love going to Dish for a nice lunch on those days I stayed home to work. Since it stopped serving in the restaurant I've been stymied on where to go, and find myself driving over to Melt in Lakewood more often than not.

But this week, this week everything changed. And that's because I went over to Villa y Zapata.

I've been meaning to go over there for quite some time, but either forget or decide to go on Thursday, always remembering at the last minute that it is "Los Villanos" male dance revue night. I'm sure the fellas in "Los Villanos" are quite talented, but I'm not exactly looking to watch guys named "Triple Cream" and "Dr. Thick" or whatever the names are. Something like that, but not exactly. Anyway, you can find out the clever names yourself - there are signs on the table-tops. Or you could experience the dancing yourself.

Anyway, point is I don't go there for the dancing. Ever.

I go there for the crispy quesadillas. They are sooooo good. You should go get one (or five).

So much for best in North America

RTA to boost fares, cut service to reduce red ink

By JAY MILLER (from Crain's Cleveland Business)

1:16 pm, July 18, 2008

Fares will rise and transit service in Cuyahoga County will be cut sharply under a proposal released by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

Without the cuts and fare boost, RTA says it could face a $20 million deficit in 2009, largely because of the rising cost of diesel fuel.

The plan suggests tacking a fuel surcharge of between 25 cents and 50 cents onto fares.

It also eliminates 12 bus lines and 12 neighborhood circulators, and it cuts service on 21 bus routes. RTA also intends to discontinue service on the Waterfront rapid transit line except for rush hours and special events such as Cleveland Browns football games.

Before making a final decision on the cuts, RTA will hold five public meetings during the week of Aug. 4 to hear public comments about the changes. RTA hopes to be able to implement the changes in October.

This is such good news

FBI searches county offices in Cleveland

CLEVELAND (AP) — FBI and IRS agents served at least 10 search warrants Monday at Cuyahoga County offices and homes as part of a public corruption investigation, authorities said.

About 200 FBI agents went to the county administration building in Cleveland. Agents, some brought in from Pittsburgh to help with the searches, also searched the county engineer's office and an information services center.

"This stems from a long-term public corruption investigation," FBI spokesman Scott Wilson said. "The warrants are sealed through the court and basically I cannot comment on anything that's being searched or seized."

The county was cooperating with the investigation, said Administrator James McCafferty.

Staffers at the county's information services center said they were told they could go home because they wouldn't be able to work. About 80 are employed at the center, which does computer work for various county agencies.

McCafferty said agents entering the administration building had a search warrant for County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora's office. Dimora's home also was searched, The Plain Dealer reported on its Web site.

Dimora did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

Come on, Thomas!

After finishing up my last post, I went to my email and read the most recent Cool Cleveland newsletter.

Tucked inside, I see a link saying something about something cool from the folks at Lucky's, with a link that took you to the Vine and Bean's website, which if you recall is the place that had me screaming about my sub-par, $45 breakfast.

This is exactly the kind of bull-shit, lazy criticism I predicted would happen with this place.

"Ooh, Lucky's is good, the owner has a hyped-up rep, so I'm gonna say this place is really cool."

The place is not cool. Exceptionally over-priced food that is prepared elsewhere, with the bare minimum of service.

I expect this crap from the Plain Dealer, but you are supposed to have some credibility, Thomas.

Ingenuity Fest, or Why the Cleveland Foundation Should Seriously Consider Reallocating Their Funds

As promised, here is my post on Ingenuity Fest. As I started thinking this morning about how I wanted to write this, it occurred to me how strange it is that I'm even spending this much time thinking about my own opinion and, even more to the point, why I have a critical perspective that is worth sharing. Honestly, I probably don't (have one worth sharing, that is), but I'm typing away anyway.

When I moved up here late last summer I had missed 2007 Ingenuity Fest by a couple of weeks. At least three of my new colleagues mentioned it to me, how it was a great thing downtown and that it was too bad I missed it and that I should definitely check it out next time.

All this to say, my expectations were high.

When the pre-festival journalistic coverage started to appear, I noted an interesting sub-theme: that folks seemed to be getting impatient with the perceived discrepancy between what was being invested and what the public was taking home (in no small part concerned with who/how many were showing up). Folks were speculating that this was the year that large turnout or something tremendous needed to happen, or the high-dollar donors would turn elsewhere.

I found this tone of coverage unusual and compelling, and it certainly influenced the way I approached the festival when it started.

Before I get to that, note to high-dollar donors: you should turn elsewhere.

I went to Ingenuity Fest on two separate days, spending 2-3 hours there each time. The first visit was on Friday night, to the Cool Cleveland party, which didn't exactly exceed expectations. As other bloggers have noted, the food ran out super quick, the beer lines were long, and everything felt cramped. Still, for $16 I wasn't expecting much, and really looked at my purchase of the ticket as a way to support worthwhile community efforts.

After the party ended, we walked around a bit, checking out everything from the robots in the basement of the Halle building to the Revival fair trade store, to the Iraq war protest exhibit, to the cool alley to the Bazaar Bizarre (which, at least on Friday, was the saving grace for me). We tried to check out the rooftop cocktail thing, but were informed it would cost $40 for the two of us and that we would both get two cocktails. I didn't want to spend an hour up there, nor did I want to slam two cocktails, and the lady at the desk was frigid and inflexible: No, sir, you cannot both go upstairs and have one cocktail apiece.

So, my $20 and I went elsewhere. Fortunately (or not), there were innumerable other places to spend money. Actually, everywhere you could spend money. That seems like the one thing that was clear about the festival: folks could set up booths to sell you stuff, whether lemonade or ice cream bars or t-shirts or (delicious) pork sandwiches from Hot Sauce Williams.

To be clear, I'm not complaining about the vendors. That's part and parcel for a festival.

My primary complaint about Ingenuity Fest is that it is a festival in search of a constituency.

I really don't know who is the beneficiary of the festival.

For example, I am highly educated and also quite interested in the arts and particularly the linkage between arts and economic issues. I should be the perfect visitor, yet I came away with incredible feelings of alienation.

There were events allegedly designed to be kid-friendly, but my Sunday visit was with a woman and five kids. These kids are regular kids, but they are also raised in a house-hold that doesn't have television, but instead has a huge dining room table constantly accommodating ongoing art projects. These kids go to chess camp and nature camp and like to construct those elementary engineering models. These kids aren't nintendo junkies or sponge-bob freaks. If there was a type of child that should really dig Ingenuity Fest, it was this group.

Yet they also came away alienated, unable to engage with the kid-friendly events because either there were too many other folks crowded in or because they just couldn't grasp what was going on. For example, there was a cool interactive robot from Case Western (I think) that could talk to kids, but when it was going on there was a crowd of at least 50 people around, not exactly facilitating the kind of one-on-one interaction necessary for any legitimate sense of discovery.

Another "kid-friendly" exhibit was a 3-d mock-up of those old-school labyrinth marble games where you tilt the playing board and try to get the marble to the other end of the maze without it falling in a hole. Many older readers probably recall what I'm talking about ... because you are older. No offense, but I've seen one of those exactly once, at my great-grandmother's house, before she died ... a quarter-century ago.

These kids had no clue what to do, no cultural frame of reference to tell them how to interact, yet because of the crowd and long line of kids waiting, they got exactly one chance to try, one that guaranteed failure and frustration.

In the same building there were a pair of guys set up helping kids make art. Basically the kids picked colors, wheels were spun, those colors were mixed, and a short time later the kid was handed an art project they had made. But not really. Really they had just picked colors. There was hardly any interactive component.

In other words, kids who would ordinarily enjoy any or all of the components of the festival found themselves systematically excluded, not by rude people but by the alienating forces of the exhibits. If anything, the lesson they learned was that science and art was about watching experts do it.

At the same time, I think folks interested in the arts were also let down by the festival organizers. The gallery exhibits were of tremendously poor quality, from the amateur-ish quality of the aforementioned Iraq protest installation to the series of paintings included in the Revival fair trade room, to the ridiculously poor and tasteless "Haunted House" exhibit.

My friend's daughter asked me, in that room, if what we were looking at was art. I thought for a moment, not wanting to be a philistine, before responding: No. This is not art. This is garbage. You can say I don't get it, that I'm out of touch, whatever. You'd be wrong. It was a redundant, non-creative, intellect-free exhibit.

So back to my primary point, that Ingenuity Fest is a festival in search of a core constituency. Who is it for? Not really for folks interested in the arts, not really for kids looking to engage in science and culture, not really for a family-event.

At the same time, I've had the pleasure of checking out the Coventry Festivals and, this weekend look forward to the Waterloo Arts Festival. Both of these festivals are trying to accomplish much less, making do with a tremendously smaller amount of resources, yet people come away more gratified and engaged.

If I had my say, I'd tell the Cleveland Foundation folks to spend their money elsewhere. Ingenuity Fest just isn't getting it done, especially not when you consider the extraordinary amount of money being spent.

What would be cool, though, is to give that guy from the All Go Signs, the guy who was apparently in charge of the alley off Huron, 1/5 of the money James Levin, the current festival director, has been receiving and let him go with it. Walking down that alley, spending time at the various things going on there, I felt something, there was a concise ethos at work. The moment you emerged back into the general festival grounds, though, that moment vanished.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Movie Recommendation #3

I went to see Mongol at the Cedar-Lee yesterday.

You should go see it, too.

It is an absolutely beautiful movie, breath-taking in scope. All the more so once you realize the artistic effort that went into it, spanning numerous countries, ethnicities, and - probably most difficult of all - arts grant funding organizations.

I'm trying very hard to avoid superlatives here, which should tell you something.

If you go, you should probably do it this week or the next, as I doubt it'll be at the theater much longer. And if you do check it out this week or the next, you should also go grab a burger and a beer at the semi-recently reopened Pub on Lee (2191 Lee Road, just a few doors down from the theater). New ownership, new vibe, and a cool ownership team that is really trying to do something. Help them out. I plan to keep doing so.

Tattoo, before and after

Sleek, unadorned forearm:

Also sleek, but adorned forearm:

Thank you, Natalie!

Cleveland Alley: A Photo Essay

What a pretentious blog post title, eh? Seriously, this is just a handful of shots during a recent walk from my creepy cheap parking spot to Ingenuity Fest last weekend.

I love it

An Action Figure We Can Believe In.

Yes We Can.

(Check out the guys at Jail Break Toys if you want your own. Mine is currently keeping my Buddy Christ and shreddin' Kurt Cobain (as opposed to cardigan-wearing MTV unplugged Cobain) company on my desk at work.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

laid back

Not a lot to report today, a pretty laid back Sunday.

Slept in, dealt with some emails, took a shower, then took the train downtown to check out Ingenuity Fest again. I had a free weekend pass and felt like doing something, so I did that.

It was sorta lame. Actually, I'm pretty conflicted about Ingenuity Fest. I think I'll blog specifically about that tomorrow.

For now, I'll just say that afterward I walked back to Tower City and caught the 6:30 showing of The Dark Night.

It is really good.

As every other person in the world probably said, it makes me sad (again) that Heath Ledger is dead. He was a talented guy. I remember when I first noticed his talent, back in A Knight's Tale.

After the flick, I came home, fed the dog, and started typing this. Now I'm gonna take her out for a constitutional, throw something in the dvd and fall asleep on my loveseat/nature preserve.

Moment of the day:

Once again, a tie. On my way home, it seemed like Moment #1 had a lock. Moment #1 occurred about 6:15, in the Tower City food court. I was hungry, but not for theater popcorn and candy, and was super bummed to find out that all of the eateries were closed up. All but my new best friends at Shanghai Joe's. As I was resigning myself to the fact that I was gonna have to watch the film hungry, I hear an Asian dude shouting "three dollar box" repeatedly. I follow the call, and find myself in front of their counter, where the dude keeps shouting, an older dude looks on in an approving manner, and a woman shows me what is in each of the boxes like she's Vanna White. Turns out, if you want cheap eats, hit this place right about closing time when they sell off the left-overs at cut rates. I went with a box of sesame chicken, scarfed about 1/3 of it, tossed the rest in the garbage and made it to the flick just in time.

Like I said, I thought that would be the moment of the day, but as I was walking home, walking past Bar Cento toward my apartment building, I see a trio of young thugs riding bikes. This isn't unusual. What was unusual was that two of them were sharing a bright shiny red tandem bike, like vintage style.

When was the last time you saw thugs on a tandem bike?

I mean, thugs are pretty macho. Scratch that, thugs are very concerned with maintaining a macho image. Drive-bys are about as cowardly an act of violence as one can perpetrate, so I don't think we should be confusing bangers and Audie Murphy.

Last I checked, sharing a tandem with your partner in crime was not macho. Sure, it may be functional. It may be cost-effective. It may even be helpful in executing one of the afore-mentioned drive-bys, with one rider peddling/steering and the other focused on the shooting part.

But it is not tough. And as a comedian I once watched once said, there can be no pause in your gangster.

I don't think "pause" was the word he said, but I'm tired and it gets the point across.

And there you have my two moments of the day. Cut-rate food court Chinese appearing out of the ether just when it was most needed and two thugs on a bright and shiny tandem bicycle.

Let's see what tomorrow brings us.


So, folks, how you like that humidity?

Awesome, huh?

No, it isn't awesome.

Not at all.

I went and saw Nina Simone's daughter perform a tribute to her mom at the Beachland, though, and that was most def awesome.

The show itself was short, felt like 50 minutes or so. It could've been longer, though, and it just seemed short, because her daughter, who goes by the stage name Simone, was wonderful and engaging. She played a selection of her favorite Nina songs, which was nice, though only two or three would've made any conventional Nina greatest hits albums. The best known were probably "Do I Move You" and "Feelin' Good." Still, her voice was out-of-this-world, far superior to her mother's, and given her mom's reputation for diva-ish anti-show performances, Second Generation is a superior stage performer, too.

Still, Nina Simone was a very special performer, a necessary artistic voice at a terribly stressful time, and you can't put that aside. Her live performance of "Sunday in Savannah/Why? (The King of Love is Dead)" medley three days after MLK was murdered is still one of the most touching recordings I've ever heard. If you aren't familiar, I strongly suggest you seek it out. Here are the lyrics for the former and the latter. Below are imbedded videos for both. Press play, lean back in your chair, and just listen for a few minutes.

Best Moment of the Day: When Simone starts doing an impromptu reimagining of one her mother's songs, cuing all but the bass and drum to quit, then just the bass. Afterwards, she seems visibly moved herself, coming back to the front of the stage, places the mic back in the stand, and then quietly asks the audience what they thought. They go nuts, of course, and she says, maybe just to herself, "I think mommy would have liked that, too." A more jaded person could probably chalk it up to a staged moment, but I'm pretty jaded already and it felt fully sincere and spontaneous to me. I got goose bumps.

Here's Simone doing one of her mother's biggest hits:

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I came across this interesting article about the recent cocktail convention in New Orleans. I found the classicist vs chef frame a good hook, and it started me thinking about the local cocktail scene. In the city where I previously lived, I had the very good fortune of finding a bartender that was not only friendly, but also dedicated to the history of cocktail making, and confident enough to play around with new ideas and specialty ingredients. Another friend and I had many an excellent drink thanks to this young man.

As for Cleveland, I'll admit, I haven't discovered a very robust scene, but that's also because I haven't looked that hard.

Obviously, Cleveland has Velvet Tango Room, which is lauded as one of the very best cocktail lounges in the country. Its presence alone should qualify our city for mention on any "best cocktail cities" you could find. But... it is hard to find, quite expensive, and really how many times do you get dressed up for drinks? It just isn't a place you can go to all the time, which is why I've found myself wanting other places around town, too. In fact, I've visited only 3-4 times in the last year, but I get the vibe that if one had to choose, it would be more classicist than chef-oriented, but I very well could be wrong on that score.

I've also enjoyed several of the cocktails at Bar Cento, but there the options are fewer and although tasty not made with quite the intensity or je ne sais quoi of VTR. Because I live right nearby and because it is more friendly to my budget, I head over there more often but still not as often as I would like. I would venture to guess the tenders at Bar Cento are more in line with that of the bar chefs mentioned in the WSJ article, though not as far-out as the specific individual mentioned. But, again, I could be wrong. (Here's another good article on the convention - check out in particular the part about molecular mixology.)

Anyway, all this is prelude to me asking the collective you what your thoughts on the Cleveland cocktail circuit are. Any favorite places? Any alternative interpretations to how I've classified VTR and BC? Anything else remotely related to the topic?

PS - Yesterday's best part of the day. Hmm. Yesterday was kinda crappy. I'll say it is a three-way toss-up between finding a baby gift at Bazaar Bizarre (thanks caseybots), chatting for a few minutes with Thomas Mulready at the Cool Cleveland party, and splitting a pork sandwich from Hot Sauce Williams with my lady friend while popping a squat on the corner of Huron and some alley. We also caught a view of Mayor Jackson being interviewed about 15 feet away. My lasting observation: Jackson's pants are too big for him. Mr. Mayor, with all due respect, if you are going to waste our money, at least siphon off a bit and get yourself a new tailor. There certainly must've been some good options during your taxpayer-funded Parisian jaunt, right?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Tradition

So I was skimming the topics of my last several posts and, well, they are mostly kind of grumpy.

That happens, I suppose, but it doesn't exactly make me happy.

So, borrowing from my lady-friend's dinner-time tradition and from the apparently deleted Happy Scribe blog (Where'd you go, friend?), I'm going to try to include a "best thing of the day" factoid somewhere in every post I do from now on.

Or until I forget to do it.

Or until I think it is stupid.

But for now, I'm gonna do it.

Today's best moment: a tie between the cheerful wave I received from the counter-lady at Just Like Mom's (a tasty little soul food place downtown) and that little peek of light green in my mailbox, indicating a reimbursement check from work had found its way home.

JJ meet J.J.

Stuck in a day of frustrating slow work -- where I was only able to make decent progress on the two things I had scheduled for myself, rather than check either fully off my list -- I headed over to Melt for a late lunch.

Once again I failed to order the basic sandwich, which is superior to all else, and went with the monthly special, which was pretty good. I also had a couple beers, thus ensuring that no post-lunch work would be done.

Instead, a nice early evening nap was in store, and when I rolled over and looked at the clock to see how long it had lasted, it was 815 PM.

I got up, attempted to shake off the yucky "too long nap" feeling, and threw on the nearest t-shirt/walked the dogder/brushed my teeth and went over to the Beachland.

I stopped in at Music Saves to see if they had any of the odd selections on my "CDs to get" list, and snagged a copy of the Royal Bangs "We Breed Champions" album. Then it was over to the tavern to see local act JJ Magazine. They're one of my favorite Clevo bands, and were opening up for some pretty good LA acts, Jeremy Jay and Film School. I was absolutely new to Jeremy Jay, but had met the Film School guys at a Zaireeka listening party last fall and they seemed cool, so I planned to stay the whole time.

The JJ Magazine set was good, you could tell they were comfortable in front of their home town crowd. I think it would be cool to see them play somewhere out of Cleveland, see how the stage banter changed. Last night was one of the guy's birthdays and they celebrated on stage with hats and shout-outs. The hats also contained fun facts about Cleveland, a nod to the city's own birthday (#212) on the same day. Best moment: when a guy bought the band a round of shots, they took them, and all nearly yacked. It took the singer like 3 minutes to get it back together, and when she did, she acknowledge how un-tough the band obviously was. Priceless.

Worst moment: the one when I realized they just finished their last song and either hadn't played "Dinner" or they had and I totally wasn't paying attention.

I also noticed a presence of long pants and thin sweaters. Was that a function of the slightly cooler temps or a new fashion thing I'm un-hip to? Either way, I was happy in my shorts and t-shirt.

After they exited, Jeremy Jay (hence the J.J. in the title) and his back-up band entered. Jay had so much in common with a young (but less out there) David Bowie, it couldn't have been an accident. Very fluid, very gentle, somewhat androgynous - yep, Bowie all over. The band seemed relaxed and professional and happy, a totally different experience compared to the band behind King Kahn night before last -- guess that shows the difference in front man personalities.

In between sets, I went outside to catch some fresh air and bumped into the bass player from Jeremy Jay's band. I told her how I enjoyed the set and we chatted for a few minutes about favorite venues in Austin (she prefers Emos, which I think is second only to The Parish) and where they were off to next. When she said Schuba's in Chicago, it reminded me of many college-era trips up to see Sixteen Horsepower and, after that, the delicious chili. I told her about the chili, and she asked if their was a veggie option. I lied and said not only that, but there was vegan, but regardless, it was too hot for chili. Then somehow we started talking about chili smoothies, which disgusted both of us and we went our separate ways.

Following Jay was Film School, a band that has always struck me as a little bit more emo combination of Failure/Ken Andrews and Blinker the Star. During their live set, that didn't come across as much, but it was still good. I actually left a bit early (AGAIN! I'm so old), but not because I didn't appreciate the band's presence or enthusiasm.

Tonight I think I'll go with a night at home, catch up on netflix. There is an interesting Isreali hip-hop show at the Grog, but I'm probably just gonna save up my energy for tomorrow night (Ingenuity Fest party/Christmas in July in Lakewood) and Nina Simone's daughter @ Beachland on Saturday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

King Kahn/Half Rats

So I followed my own advice last night and headed over to the Grog for the King Kahn and the Shrines/Half Rats/Dimeras show.

Dimeras was a local punk band. They had an OK sound, but I don't see them lasting too long as the two guitarists don't seem to gel that well. One guitarist seemed like a budding showman, at least in the sense he was trying to communicate with the audience. The other one, who seemed either drunk or pretending to be, kept interrupting him with lame "punk" things like, "Fuck this shit, let's just play a song."

I don't see that going over well at the next band practice.

To his credit, the "drunk" guitarist did apologize after the following song, asking the other guitarist to finish what he was saying. Personally, that seemed more like a way to mess with his band-mate rather than a sincere interest in hearing the dude out, but it didn't matter, because at that point the drummer screamed "Don't ever apologize on stage, you fag."

Next. Please.

The next band, Half Rats from Lafayette, Indiana, was really good. They had me grooving mid-way through their set, which was a blend of upbeat Midwestern rock, Buddy Holly/Richie Valens sounds from the 50s and some Laugh-In style 60s froog. Unfortunately they don't have any records out yet and, knowing me, I'll forget about them before I ever see one in the store. Anyway, they all seemed happy to be up there, particularly when the lead dude had his girlfriend on stage signing back-up. Yeah, they made out a bit in between two songs, but it was sorta Indiana sweet.

Another guitarist in the band made me snort with laughter between songs once when he wipes the sweat from his brow and then mutters into his mic, "Boy, it is really cold in here." Two seconds later, "I'm sorry, that's like the worst joke ever."

As you can probably guess, none of his fellow band-mates questioned his sexual orientation.

The headliner, King Kahn and the Shrines, put on a pretty decent show, but not one that really compares to other large-scale, novelty-ish bands. Their music amounts to what I would call r&b that you can mosh to. I like the r&b, even the novelty hook, but the moshing isn't my style.

Plus, by the time their set started, it seems like the entire chapter of Delta Gamma (or some other bleached Case sorority) had showed up in heels and expensive blouses and dates in Abercrombie polos with carefully tilted vintage Cavs hats. I didn't exactly understand. Is King Kahn popular with the frat crowd already? When I was in college, DMB was the frat act du jour, exactly because he was so mainstream and generic (i.e., safe for university greek life conformity). I can't quite place King Kahn in that box.

But I sorta hope he is the top contender for Frat Rocker of the year, because old Kahn is sort of a dick. Actually, not sort of. He definitely came off that way. Between asshole comments about Cleveland and getting bossy with his band because they didn't adapt quickly enough when he changed his mind about which to play (many of the members had to switch instruments), he seemed like an even pettier, more aggressive, more diva-ish version of Jeff Tweedy. That's not a compliment, by the way.

Anyway, once the moshing started, I moved back in the crowd and encountered something I never expected: a half-dozen or so middle-aged guys seriously straight off the golf course, with the polos and docker shorts and such. They all had been enjoying a few and kept calling each other "dork" which somehow was less annoying than the sorority reunion up front and the Beyonce impression on stage.

I ended up leaving about 12:30, and the Shrines probably had another 30-35 minutes to go. I'm sure it was good. I just was too tired to stay any longer.

Weird thing, I'm pretty sure I'll buy the Shrines record next time I hit up Music Saves.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Other non-music shit to do

For those of you not inclined to blow eardrums, there are also a ton of fun things going on between now and Labor Day to consider.

The list below isn't as extensive as my show list, but should help fill the hours when you should be doing something else, something far more productive.

7/24 - Interesting documentary about Cleveland showing in Dively Auditorium @ the Urban Affairs school @ CSU
7/25-27 - Ingenuity Fest AND Christmas in July at Beer Engine in Lakewood
7/28 - free screening of Shock and Awful @ Visible Voice
7/31 - Happy Hour w/ County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones @ Bier Markt
8/1 - Browns Family Night (general admission seats are $5)
8/2 - Waterloo Arts Festival AND Lakewood Art Fst
8/6 - cancer fundraiser @ Bar Cento
8/7 - last Coventry fest of the summer
8/8 - Tremont Artwalk
8/9 - Great Lakes Burning River Fest @ Nautica Entertainment Complex
8/13 - promising poetry reading @ Mac's Backs
8/14-17 - Little Italy Feast of the Assumption
8/23 - St George Shish Kabob fest in Tremont (24th, too) AND Burning River Roller Derby Championship AND Slavic Village Harvest Festival
8/24 - Rockerfeller Park Walk + Roll
8/29-31 - Taste of Cleveland (through Sept 1) and St Cantius Polish Fest in Tremont
8/30 - Last chance of the summer to take the Veteran's Memorial Bridge Tour
9/1 - Peace Party @ Willard Park

music relief

As I mentioned in my last post, there are a number of promising shows coming up. Below is my list of everything I have on my horizon between now and Labor Day.

(Note to readers: if you think I missed anything, leave it in the comments section, along with a little description of why the band you are posting about is awesome, so that the rest of us can get turned on to them, cool?)

I've put down as many links as possible, so give a click to whatever looks interesting or falls on an empty calendar page in your day planner to see what's up.

The ones in BOLD are etched with serious ink in my own personal calender.

Word of warning: take a deep breath before you check out the events of Saturday, August 2nd - the sheer number of options will blow your mind...

7/22 - King Khan & the Shrines @ the Grog
7/23 - Film School/Jeremy Jay/JJ Magazine @ the Beachland OR Scarcity of Tanks/The New Lou Reeds/The Sic Alps @ Pat's in the Flats
7/25 - Extra Medium Pony/Brian Wheat @ Bela Dubby
7/26 - split pea/ce @ the Barking Spider OR Nina Simone's daughter @ Beachland
7/30 - Margo & the Nuclear So-and-Sos @ Beachland
8/1 - Whitey Morgan & the 78s @ the Town Fryer OR The Zookeepers/El Viaje @ bela dubby
8/2 - Matt & Kim/Muttering Retreats/Afternoon Naps @ Grog Shop OR Whiskey Daredevils @ Garage Bar OR Gogol Bordello @ House of Blues OR Weakerthans/State Bird @ Beachland Ballroom OR Mifune @ Brothers Lounge OR an all day/all night free fest @ Beachland Tavern feat. the Hot Rails/Clan of the Cave Bear/To Be a High Powered Executive/Mystery of Two/Celebrity Pilots/Miranda Sound/Thistle/Lost Revival. Pshew. This day is too daunting to even begin figuring out which one I most want to attend.
8/3 - Mates of State @ Grog
8/4 - Harry and the Potters/Math the Band @ Grog
8/6 - Gospel Gossip @ Now That's Class
8/8 - El Vez/Whiskey Daredevils @ Beachland OR Bodies of Water @ Grog OR Coffinberry @ Matinee OR Rachel's Secret Stache/French Horn Rebellion @ Musica (Akron)
8/9 - Mr. Gnome/JJ Magazine/Jakeway/Suede Brothers/Devil Moto @ Beachland (free)
8/13 - Expecting Rain/Dreadful Yawns @ Rock Hall (free)
8/15 - Royal Bangs/Oh No! Oh My! @ Beachland
8/20 - Teeth Mountain @ bela dubby
8/21 - Paleface @ Grog
8/22 - Times New Viking @ Beachland OR Bears @ Grog
8/29 - Silver Jews @ Beachland (I'm gonna be out of town - bummer!)
8/30 - DEVOtional@ Beachland (all day)

You've been warned, Bands

My favorite bands are sorta letting me down.

In the past few weeks I've finally gotten around to picking up copies of the most recent releases by some of my most cherished musical groups.

I've been less than impressed.

This particularly means you, My Morning Jacket, and you, Kings of Leon.

WTF, fellas?

In MMJs defense, I'll probably come around to that one after a handful of listens. It just wasn't quite what I was expecting.

But you, KoL, you .... I'm speechless.

Where'd the rock go?

This new one reminds me of how I felt when the last Wilco record came out, an effort critics charitably referred to as "sun-dappled folk rock" and more accurately characterized as "dad rock."

Sure there were some good tracks on it, but none worthy of the 5-star itunes rating I hold so dear.

Kings of Leon - your last couple of records were chock full of 4 and 5 star ratings. I agree, this is an inherently subjective metric, fully dependent upon my own whims at any given moment, but still.

So, as a general message to all the bands I like: Please stop sucking so much. I'm getting old and even less hip than ever before, so it is hard for me to find new groups to dig when the old groups settle into their sonic equivalent of middle-aged paunch.


On other news, there are a TON of good shows coming up in town over the next several weeks. Maybe I'll find something there. You've been warned, Followill brothers.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Noise Update, Pt 2

Cleveland cops are fast!

At least this one time.

The dudes have already been silenced and appear to be grumpily unplugging and packing up.

Had douchebag not been such a bad fellow citizen, they'd probably still be jamming at a somewhat lower decibel level.

I guess they probably feel a lot like I did during college keggers, when the cops showed up to end the party.

As for me, I still feel guilty.

Noise Update

About 20 minutes after I typed the last blog post, the dude at the bookstore decides to tweak the volume knob upwards again.

I look out the window and there is a handful of aging hippies standing about, and it looks like this isn't gonna improve any time soon.

So what do I do?

I play narc and, with the help of google, find the non-emergency Cleveland police number and make the call.

Now I feel sick to my stomach and guilty for being a tattle-tale, but still. I pay money to live here. And I tried to approach them like a person.



So I'm sitting in my apartment today, working, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, music starts BLARING. Like WAAAY louder than the shitty speakers on my macbook pro ever go, louder even than when my upstairs neighbor blasts his awful euro-trance garbage at 10 on a weekend night, getting ready for a night out somewhere unimaginably awful.

For the record, I'm partially deaf in both ears. I have to try hard to hear during regular conversations. There is not even a tiny amount of hyperbole in my description of this volume.

Anyway, I figured maybe it was a new next door neighbor, or even someone with awesome speakers in a car parked right below my window.

As I approached my living room window, I realized it indeed was coming from outside, but was actually from the soon-to-close used bookstore across the street.

Now that dude has never made a peep, even including sometimes when I've asked a direct question, so blaring bad rock music struck me as not quite his style.

Plus, I like him and miss (already) the bookstore, so I wasn't gonna complain. But then it went on and on ... and on.

An hour or so later, I had to go over to the West Side Market, and as I headed over, I went across the street and asked a totally different guy who was standing next to the speaker set-up if he could turn it down. He was also sweating profusely and had a towel draped around the back of his neck.

I couldn't hear his response, but the look on his face told me he didn't say anything nice.

I leaned in, repeated my request (nicely, mind you), and he said the place was going out of business. I don't know if that was an explanation, or just a "fuck you - we are closing and you can't do jack about it." Either way, it wasn't going to matter.

So I sighed and said something along the lines of "Listen, man, I like this place and I like Mike (the owner of the store) and I shopped here all the time, but I live across the street and can't hear myself think with this so loud, so please turn it down."

His response: I will in a little while.

At this point my adrenaline took over, as did my cattiness.

I said, "I came over here as a human because I sympathize with the store's closing, but I could've just called the cops...

He interrupted: "Tell you what, I'll make you a deal....

Me: "No, I don't need any fucking deal. Turn this shit down, now, or I'm going over to the cop down the block at the park.

Him: "I tell you what..."

Me: "No, I'll tell you what, I'm gonna be back in my apartment in 10 minutes. If this shit isn't considerably less loud I'm calling the cops. Then you'll have to turn it down anyway, and it'll cost Mike even more money for the ticket. Don't fuck with me."

I went to the market, got my stuff, walked back and upstairs, sat down at my desk and realized ... it was a lot quieter. Since then, the volume has gone up a couple of times and they've played some questionable George Carlin segments (questionable in that Saturday in Ohio City is far more family-oriented than George Carlin's material), but it hasn't gotten as bad as it was at first. I'm leaving for the east side in a couple hours, so I'll just let it go.

I still feel like a jerk for threatening to call the cops -- Who does that to bookstore fans? -- but still, that sound/guy was out of control! Anybody who reads this blog or knows me knows I'm a big supporter of indie bookstores -- shit, I even wrote a blog post about the store, when I first heard of its demise. Yet there I was, toe to toe with Joe Douchebag, arguing about the noise.

If nothing else, I guess I learned that, despite my efforts to reform it, my temper still pops from time to time when confronted with things like this jackass and his speaker fetish.

Need to work on that.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

How's the tat?

The title of this post alludes to a text message I received a little while ago.

As I think I've mentioned in this blog a time or two, I've been pondering with some seriousness the idea of getting a tattoo for a while now.

Today I took the plunge.

Actually, I guess I took the plunge a few weeks ago when I had the consult and made the appointment. Today I just followed through with said plunging.

What I went with was based on Daniel Johnston's semi-famous mural at the record exchange in Austin, TX. I've long enjoyed Johnston's music and appreciated his outsider art, and even had the opportunity to interview him once (in his living room, sharing generic orange soda and menthol cigarettes) for some on-the-side journalism I did to help pay the bills in grad school. That was a morning among mornings in my own mental scrapbook.

Anyway, I had the work done by Natalie at Voodoo Monkey. It was really an enjoyable experience. She's super professional and also super charming, and despite my ordinary low tolerance for pain, it wasn't all that bad. Just sorta irritating, as she described it would be before we got started. Before I knew it, she was through.

I got it on my right inner fore-arm, and it is technically upside-down. Natalie pointed this out when I told her how I wanted the stencil positioned, but I said the tattoo was more for me than for anyone else to check out. So, right now, as I type this, I can look down on it and it looks like a reasonably happy frog looking back at me, though when I walk down the street passers-by see something else entirely different.

I'll post a picture one of these days, but till then, here is a pretty decent mock-up of what I got:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Project Reunion

No, this post is not about some new cable "reality" show about a dramatic, dysfunctional family gathering.

It is actually about a phrase I overheard today.

This morning, riding the train from home in Ohio City to work downtown, I boarded the train behind a couple of nattily-dressed middle-aged African-American gentlemen. As they made their way down the aisle, they came across a few more men of their same age, all equally well-styled.

I watched as hand-shakes and hugs were traded, then made my way past where the group was seated. The ride to the next stop was short, 4 minutes or so, but it was immediately evident that the handful of guys were all happy to see each other, speaking loudly and excitedly and warmly.

One of the men even acknowledged the happiness felt, saying he was really looking forward to seeing them again later in the summer at the annual "project reunion." From the responses, it quickly became clear all these guys grew up in the same housing development and all managed to make it out, to survive the awful problems that can trap good-hearted and well-intentioned folks within the system for years and generations. These guys weren't trapped and, from looks at least, had prospered. Yet they still took the time to reconnect each year, to celebrate their friendship and good fortune and remember their roots.

It was pretty great.

I come from pretty humble roots, too. I didn't grow up in the projects, but I did grow up in a family where the idea of attending college was a wasteful novelty (though I did) and shopping always equated to day-old bread stores and garage sales, clearance sales at department stores when things were flush. Before today, I never really had any sense of regret for losing touch with the guys from my own youth, several of whom also managed to get beyond the situation they were born into, even as most of the dudes I hung out with in elementary and high school are still in the same town, working the shitty jobs their parents did if they are lucky.

I wish we would've kept in touch, but as we all began to experience the first modest moments of personal and professional success, we started to lose touch. Now I wouldn't have a clue how to find them, other than some intrepid "google stalking" or a serendipitous facebook friend request. And when I did find them (or they found me), I wouldn't have any idea what to say.

Maybe some day we'll all be reconnected and be able to share our successes while reminding one another of our own roots in a positive way. I think it would be a beneficial thing, though maybe we all want to put a bit more distance between where we are and where we came from.

I know I do.

Monday, July 14, 2008


See if you can figure out what I'm hinting at here.

This past weekend, which I effectively spent in its entirety on the east side, I hit up Dewey's in Shaker Square for some coffee. They were moderately busy -- not a line out the door, but the folks behind the counter weren't slacking here. I probably had to wait 7-8 minutes before I had my turn to order, and then another 4-5 minutes to get the coffee.

So, in all, not an extraordinary amount of waiting, but enough to have plenty of time to scan about the place as I tried to pass the time without looking impatient.

First thing I noticed was the anti-cell phone button on one of the employee's hats. Then a sign about cell phone usage. I remembered reading a long-ish memo taped somewhere or other in Dewey's on a previous visit that explained in slight detail the manager's position on why using your cell phone and being served coffee were two things that would never occur simultaneously at Dewey's.

It didn't bother me then, and it didn't bother me this weekend. In fact, I appreciate the stand. A friend of mine manages a Starbucks in the financial district in San Francisco and has exhaustively and emotionally lectured me on why talking on your cellphone and placing an order at a cafe is abusive and immoral and I'm pretty well convinced.

Anyway, a few moments later, when it was my turn, I ordered a large coffee to go with the bottle of water I'd snagged from a cooler, and then handed my debit card to the cashier.

I should say I attempted to hand her my debit card, as she shrunk back like it was a poisonous snake, and then informed me that it was against store policy to allow anything other than cash for purchases of less than $5. I wasn't terribly surprised, as I know that the charges on some credit cards cuts out of the owner's profit, but I've been encountering this disclaimer less and less, it seems. Still, I understood and, since I didn't have any cash, I grabbed something from the adjacent cooler of baked goods. At this point I was officially a +$5 sale, and the cashier was now legally allowed to do business me, according to the laws of the owner's domain.

She then went to work on grabbing my coffee, and while I waited, I noticed a new longish memo nearby. This one explained to anyone interested in reading why free music night was no longer going to happen at Dewey's, and cast the blame for cancellation on recent problems with profit margins.

I do not at all fault any store owner for thinking in bottom-line math. It makes perfect sense. That is how they should think.

As a customer, though, I was struck by two thoughts about this store, at about the same time.

1) Boy do these folks have a lot of rules governing how you can purchase items from them. It makes it sort of inconvenient to be a customer here.

2) This is a perfect location for an independent cafe, with all the other nearby Shaker Square businesses, the rapid stop, and the weekly farmers markets. And there doesn't seem to be much by way of competition in the immediate vicinity. How on earth can they be hurting?

Now do you see where I'm going with this?

What if, maybe, by some magic, points #1 and #2 were linked together.

Hmm. The market bears what it bears, and maybe a petit dictatorship cum coffee shop isn't the soundest of business plans.

Maybe. But what do I know. I'm an AT&T customer who has to pay hundreds more for an iphone than anyone else as a "reward" of sorts for being a loyal customer for 6 years.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

$45 rant

I went out for breakfast today. It cost me $45. Hence the title of this post.

$45?, you ask. CB, did you take out a small family?

No, hypothetical interviewer, I did not.

Did you go somewhere swanky, like that restaurant at the Intercontinental?

No, I didn't do that, either.

Did you actually order 5 breakfasts for yourself, you disgusting pig?

No, not that.

None of those.

Instead, I decided to take my significant other out for breakfast before she had to go to work. We were on the east side and she suggested the apparently recently opened Vine and Bean, brought to us by the folks that have hosted so many fine brunches at Lucky's in Tremont.

So, yes, $45 for 2 people. Did we gorge? No, not really. I had the waffles, she had the breakfast pie. I had a cup of decaf, she had an Americano. We also got her a piece of bread and some chocolate to take to work with her. And of course a decent tip.

So we didn't scrimp, but we didn't go crazy either. Not $45 crazy, at least.

Let me stress that I'm not cheap. Last night I dropped $135 at Fire on dinner and didn't think a lot about it. Of course, we both had a few drinks, enjoyed a complete three-course feast and left content and sated.

This wasn't the case at Vine and Bean. The food was underwhelming (at best), and it seemed like everything had been pre-prepared and warmed up before serving. The coffee I had tasted burnt and gross, the waffles were pretty good, but the bread (which I sampled) was dry and bland. She was left equally ambivalent about her own.

What bugs me about this the most is that this place is almost certain to get fawned over by every food writer in town, praising the chef's baking skills and the quaint setting of the place. It is one of those places where the critical acclaim was decided the day the plans to open were announced. There are a number of other indie eateries with the same kind of character (though it really is difficult to match her cooking skills) that will never get half as eager an embrace.

And I'm out half a c-note and grumpy for the day.

Rant over. I gotta go do work.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back in the saddle again

I'm baaa-aack.

I can't tell you how normal and refreshing it feels to sit my ass in my regular desk chair and spin about a bit.

Some observations about our fair city since I've been gone:

1) Crime is SO bad here that I found myself becoming paranoid when the three cities I was in over the last couple weeks didn't seem overtly threatening at all.

2) What is up with all the funeral homes in Tremont? Is there a reasonable historical explanation? I know that's the neighborhood where employed Clevelanders go to have their cars stolen today - did it used to be the place where Eastern European Clevelanders went to die in yesteryear? Just wonderin'

That's all for now. I have some serious unpacking and email responding to do, and then some nice summer grilling weather to enjoy.

Oh yeah, and Mac's Backs is having a pretty stellar event tonight I hope to make it eastward in time for.

Glad (mostly) to be back, pals.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


So earlier today, after my arrival at Hopkins, I was walking from my arrival gate to baggage claim and then my car, which was in long-term parking.

All the way from the gate to baggage there was a thick crowd of folks going in every direction. After getting my bags, there was still a presence of strangers walking with and past me as I headed toward the parking area.

About the time I passed short-term parking, though, I realized I was alone. From there, all the way to my car, I was walking solo.

It was really weird, all these hyper-lighted corridors, which I would call antiseptic if they weren't so dingy. Maybe stark is more appropriate. Long halls of moving sidewalks going barely faster than a normal walking pace. A low consistent hum of electricity. Entirely devoid of anything you could relate to as a human.

I felt like I was in some interactive art installation piece, some metaphor about alienation and society and technology.

Then I got outside and it was the most beautiful weather I've experienced since moving here about 11 months ago.

In-and-Out (but no burger)

I started to type out "Hello My Friends", but it felt oh-so-McCainish, so I elected not to do it. At least not to do it without the preceding caveat.

Anyway, here I am, back in Clevo.

For two hours.

Enough time to come home, unpack, repack, shower, and apparently type a quick blog post.

I stupidly turned the AC back on when I got home, though by the time it makes a difference I'll be turning it back off.

Anyhow, I'm outta town till Friday, and only anticipate sporadic internet access, so there probably won't be much from me until next week.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Greetings from Texas

So here I am, killing time in my favorite BCS bar, waiting for the owner/my friend to show up so she can get me into the funky hotel across the street at the reduced band rate. I suppose I can't complain much, it isn't like sitting in the AC, sipping gratis well-drinks while I wait for her to save me a hundred bucks or so is a hardship.

Other than that, things have been good so far. Had a great first afternoon, bar-hopping with one of my best friends. A couple years ago I loaned him $7 grand, which he parlayed into a bigger loan to start his moving business. Now he's a millionaire. We met up at his new office building and, after showing me around, he gave me something to show his gratitude.

It was a t-shirt.

That he proudly said cost $6 bucks.


I mean that in the best possible way, of course.

And he did offer me a job at a salary of twice what I'm making now, which was tempting, though I declined as I don't want to spend the next several years booking cross-country moves for anxiety-ridden, penny pinchers virtually guaranteed to curse my name before the business concluded, regardless of how good or bad things went.

Tuesday I spent exerting more brain power in 6 hours than I have in the previous 6 months. It was fun, but totally draining. My colleague and I picked things up again this morning and blew some more brain cells on advancing our respective careers. After a crappy deli lunch, I went to meet a different colleague, do some more work, then hit up a birthday party at a wine bar for a guy I didn't know and spent the hour cooing over the 4 month old baby of some other couple I don't know. That probably doesn't sound like much fun, but it was nice.

Tomorrow is Day 3 of the mega-work crush with my aforementioned colleague, then 60 hours or so dedicated to hanging out. Probably some lunch at the Dixie Chicken, a little bar-hopping somewhere, then a mellow backyard cookout on the 4th and an early-ass AM plane ride on Saturday.

Not the worst way to spend a working vacation, I suppose.