Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bond, Savings Bond

My collecting days are over. Way over. I never really collected anything anyway. I bought a lot of junk, real junk. I liked buying junk. It made me happy. Then it became this giant chain around my neck. All of a sudden I was being forced to justify being surrounded by this junk. I had always thought that wanting something was reason enough to have it. The wheels seem to have come off on that train of thought.

I have managed to rid myself of a lot of the junk, passed it on to other junk lovers, sold it at garage sales, on eBay and now Craig's list. There is still a lot of junk, don't get me wrong. Guitars that I will never really play, books that I probably won't ever read, records that I may never listen to again. All of this junk sits there and sends out an ever weakening signal, pleading with me to pick it up, dust it off and recapture a bit of the spark that went off when we first met.

Yet there is room in my life for one more piece of junk. It's my holy grail of junk, the one thing that ever since it left my life, so many years ago, I have been trying to replace it.

The James Bond Attache Case.

I was one of the lucky ones. I had this toy as a boy. I have never loved any material item more. I played with it constantly, putting together the rifle, setting up the booby traps and basically threating my sister with constant bodily harm. Things took a turn for the better when I found out I could load a pencil into the single shot that was built into the case and shoot it right through sheet rock. Those were the days! Besides the gun, the highlight of the toy was the secret decoder. Sadly, I didn't know one other junior agent with whom I could trade secret messages. Now that I am in my fifties and no longer have this toy it seems as if every other guy I meet is trying to get theirs back as well.

And try is about all we can do.

They are pretty much up on eBay all of the time and if you find one that has all of the pieces (especially the knife and the golf pencil with "007" embossed on the side) you can expect to pay close to a thousand bucks. There is even a cottage industry of repro items for the toy - the bullets, the knife, the handle, the silencer, the money, business cards, instructions and original box can all be purchased as repros to complete your set.

I've come close a few times and I keep waiting for my wife to understand and buy me the damn thing. Sadly, that will never happen. After my little health scare this year I was determined to do a bunch of the things that I have been putting off. So far, I have put off trying to do the things I have been putting off. But something tells me this will be the year of the James Bond Attache.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


My wife has issues with the fact that I enjoy seeing the Mets lose and that the fact that they lost the division on the last day of the season makes me giddy. "How can you take pleasure in other's pain," she asks. Oh, it's easy, believe me.

I have been trying to remember why I became a Mets hater. I grew up in a Mets house and wasn't much of a baseball fan until I was a teenager. It wasn't a very hard choice as to which of the local teams was the better choice. One seemed to win all of the time - or at least had a long winning tradition, while the other just lost. Constantly. The Yankees had legendary names attached to their roster, while the Mets ... didn't. And the colors! Orange and blue. Not for this boy.

Maybe its because I had a couple of guitars stolen from the Shea Stadium parking lot, including my treasured '69 Telecaster. Maybe its because so many Met fans are assholes (excluding my father, father-in-law, brother-in-law and you, of course). Maybe it's just because the Mets suck.

I think it's much tougher for anyone to explain why they are a Mets fan. Outside of some displaced family loyalty, why anyone would choose to follow this miserable excuse for a baseball team is beyond me.

I didn't get to watch the last out of their incredible slide. Too bad. I really wanted to see what kind of hand shake Jose Reyes had ready for that. Then again, he probably didn't realize that there were three outs.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Magic In The Air

I am standing on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, the once and future diamond of the New Jersey coastline and I can literally feel the sands shifting beneath my feet. I don't visit here often, but in the past decade I have traveled here with some regularity. Unfortunately, I never visited during the town's glory days - instead I have only seen the ghosts of it's well-sung past. It has always puzzled me that how a stretch of beautiful ocean front property could fall into such disrepair, especially when it seems as if it would be able generate considerable revenue if kept up.

This year however, change is in the air. The crumbling buildings that gave the area a sense of gloom have been knocked to the ground. New construction is taking place, as are renovations of some classic buildings. The Stone Pony and The Wonder Bar still stand, however the Wonder Bar will close this week, not to return. As far as the Pony, I am not sure of its fate.

Last year, when I was here to see Bruce Springsteen rehearse the Seeger Sessions Band, I ducked into the old Hojo's for a beer while my sister waited on the general admission line. I don't even know if the place had a name, but it was a pretty sad affair. Now it is a very upscale restaurant, with outdoor seating on the boardwalk. I'm pretty sure the beer cost me a bit more this year, but the upgrade was worth it. There are other new additions to the boardwalk - a few galleries and t-shirt shops. Madam Marie is still standing if you want to get a peak into the future, but for all intents and purposes, things are looking up for Asbury Park.

All things considered it still must take a leap of faith to be among the first to open while the city slowly rebuilds around you. I wish them well. I hope that someday soon I will get a chance to walk down the boardwalk, grab a beer and hear the sounds of rock and roll bands blasting out of the clubs along the strip and perhaps see, feel and hear a few ghosts of the past.

There was no leap of faith in what brought me to Asbury Park on Tuesday night. Once again, for the third tour in a row, I was lucky to get tickets to see Bruce Springsteen warm up his band for the upcoming tour.

What can I say? The band and the Boss sounded great. The new songs are fantastic. There were no major surprises in regards to older songs - he did do "Thundercrack" in the encore and the night before performed "Something In The Night." I thought the pacing was a little off, but that's what these shows are all about.

It has been 34 years since my first Bruce Springsteen concert. That is a lot of water under the bridge. At 58, the days of jumping off the piano and the classic knee slide across the stage are behind him. No matter. There have been a lot of changes along the way and in the past few years I have seem some incredible shows.

Of course I am a die hard, biased fan. Was a time when if you told me that you didn't care for Springsteen I would take it as a personal challenge to show you the error of your ways. Sometimes I made a conversion, sometimes not. Now I just smile and let it pass. Who needs another fool in front of me on line. Like Bruce, there are some things that I am just getting too old to deal with.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Once A King ....

It was a pleasure hanging out with my old friend Mark Gamsjager and his band The Lustre Kings at Matty T's this past Saturday night. It had been way too long since I had seen Mark and it was great to catch up, talk about the kids, and play some rock and roll music.

No matter what you think of Matty T's you have to admit that there is no place else like it - at least not for a few hundred miles. Maybe the vibe comes from the location which can best described as somewhere between desolate and creepy. Certainly the honky tonk hardwood floor and the split rail fence that surrounds it adds a bit of flavor, as does the washtubs behind the bar that hold that evening's beer specials. But it's the mix of people who show up that really make Matty's special. Well maybe not special, but definitely different. Ok, weird - but weird in a good way.

What a mix of people it is! There are the dancers, of course. This is their joint, their dance floor and rightfully so. Even within that group there are different flavors - you have your urban cowboys and cowgirls, doing it right from the heels of their boots to the tops of their Stetson's. Add to that a few biker types, a few soccer moms, a couple of guys who are barely out of their PJs and you have quite an eclectic bunch.

Then you have the folks who come down to see the bands, which in this case were people like my friends and you know what kind of people they are.

But the most confusing group are these younger guys and gals who look like this is the last place on earth they would want to be - yet there they are. Maybe they come for the $2 beers or perhaps they thought that Spike - the mechanical bull - was scheduled for that night. Who knows.

The Blaggards were first up and we did our thing, mostly without incident. I had forgotten to print out set lists and all we had was a printed email of the set. Since we are a bunch of vain bastards and don't wear our glasses on stage, none of us could read it, making for some comical moments. I also forgot to pull the capo off and started a song in the wrong key while the band scrambled - and quite adeptly made the change. The dancers came on and off the dance floor as they always do, depending on the BPM of the song. It's such a strange situation - you don't really want to cater to them, but you feel good when the dance floor is filled - that is until you realize that they are not really listening to the music, but counting the beats, most of them concentrating so hard on the steps and turns that they have this vacant look on their face making you feel as if you are playing to a bunch of carousel ponies spinning around, going up and down.

The Lustre Kings took the stage and rocked. Mark, as always, is a great entertainer and band leader - and a terrific guitar player no matter how he tries to downplay his talents. As always he surrounds himself with terrific musicians and pulls off the very rare feat of sounding both authentically rootsy and modern at the same time. The set included tunes from the band's latest CD including the great title track, "Way Out There."

The night ended with Mark bringing up guests including a surprise call to the bouncer who sang a couple of Elvis tunes - and did a great job. It was like old times - when Mark was living on Long Island, this was Saturday night - rockin' out at the PI or Costello's, passing around the Gretsch, taking turns at the mic, closing the joint down and heading to the nearest diner for cheeseburgers and french fries with gravy.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Another Summer Gone

Last weekend The Blaggards filled in for our good friends The Lone Sharks at Nick's in Montauk. It was big time fun. The weather was great, if a bit cold, but that didn't stop folks from coming by having a few cocktails and listening to the band. The staff at Nick's could not be any cooler and I think we will be a part of their line up come next summer.

Our summer was mostly spent on the East End this year. We had some great gigs on Shelter Island - the Fireman's annual event, always a treat, and a swinging night at the Dory a few weekend's ago after Joe Lauro's annual Beach Blast. A big highlight for us was being asked to take part in the legendary Barge Party - a floating event for the aquatically inclined. The weather was stunning, the beer plentiful and Mick's boat sea-worthy.

There were a few shows at the Talkhouse this summer and that's always a good time if only to play on that stage aside from the god-awful single-coil buzz. We had a spot after Sonny Landreth which turned out to be a great night due mainly to the incredible support of a few very nice looking fans. We are lucky to have a small, but good-looking fan base.

This weekend we are hooking up with The Lustre Kings for a swingin' Saturday night at Matty T's in Deer Park. It's been a while since I've seen Mark and the boys and I'm really looking forward to hanging out. It's going to be a lot of fun, so come on down if you're in the area.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Elvis, Still Dead

This year August 16th rolled around and if not for a quick late night trip to the store I would have not have heard an Elvis song that day or seen a news report about the 30th anniversary of his passing. The 50s channel on the XM was doing a nice job of playing tribute - the DJ was touching on the King's spiritual side. An alternate take of "Peace In The Valley" was playing when I pulled into the parking lot of the local Stop N Shop.

As I stepped inside the store I couldn't help but notice a large display of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I was never a fan and now they are completely off of my diet radar, but this was no ordinary candy.

It was a special edition Elvis Peanut Butter and Banana version, complete with his portrait on the wrapper.

A special edition candy bar to commemorate his passing.

Of all the Elvis myths/legends I am especially fond of the peanut butter and banana sandwich stories mainly because I actually like them but I thought that this was a little odd. I definitely began to question the Elvis estate and its new owner's intent.

I started to remember the background of the peanut butter and banana sandwich. There is the simple story as told by longtime Graceland cook/housekeeper Pauline Nicholson who claims to have prepared them for Elvis. But Elvis Presley's personal nurse, Marian Cocke, says she never saw him with one in hand and she is backed up by Lisa Marie. From there the tales get bigger - from Elvis wolfing down a dozen or so sandwiches at a time to him dispatching his private jet, the Lisa Marie, off to Denver to pickup a few from a favorite restaurant.

There are variations of the sandwich itself, sometimes with bacon, sometimes with honey. The Denver variant was a full loaf of french bread, deep fried. I prefer the basic two ingredients, on buttered bread pan grilled in a cast iron skillet.

Now I admit that I have had fun with this little slice of the Elvis pie. I have made variations of the sandwich to serve at parties, including peanut butter and banana in puff paistry and bacon wrapped peanut butter and pineapple incorporating some of the Hawaiian aspect as well.

But a candy bar to mark thirty years gone?

Why the hell not? The packaging was actually quite cool - the Reese's trademark orange worked well with the 70's art and image (with 50s and 60s variants) and they have a good contest to support the launch - click here to enter.

What exactly are we suppose to do on this day? If you're not one of the pilgrims holding candles by the gates what is the plan? Take the day off? Not likely. Spend the day listening to Elvis? That could be any day. An All-Elvis movie marathon? Please.

Heat up the skillet and let's get cooking.

There were a few other interesting Elvis events to mark the occaison, the most notable was a newly recorded duet between Lisa Marie and her dad revisiting "In The Ghetto." Early on Lisa made a point of saying this was the kind of thing she just not do, to which we responded "Are you out of your mind?" Your his daughter! This is your legacy. Sheesh. It's about time.