Sunday, July 24, 2016

Kinks – "Destroyer" (1981)

You blow it all with paranoia 
You're so insecure, you self-destroyer 

A 2014 study by researchers at Oxford University found that people who smoke marijuana are much more likely to be paranoid than people who don't use the drug.

If you’re skeptical of that finding, here’s a story that might persuade you otherwise.

Earlier this year, police in Rexburg, Idaho, released a recording of a 911 call made by a guy who was driving 20 pounds of marijuana from Las Vegas to Bozeman, Montana.

The dope
The marijuana smuggler called Rexburg police because he and the friend who had accompanied him on the trip were absolutely convinced that they were being followed by undercover police in unmarked cars.  So they called 911 and asked the dispatcher to arrest them because they were tired of the cat-and-mouse game police were playing.

In fact, the two dope-smoking dopes were being followed by civilians driving regular old Chevys and Ford and Toyotas who had no idea that the pair had marijuana in their car.

Here’s how the call began:

Marijuana smuggler: Hi, uh, we’re the two dumb asses that got caught trying to bring some stuff through your border and all your cops are just driving around us like a bunch of jack wagons and I’d just like for you guys to end it.  If you could help me out with that, we would like to just get on with it.

Dispatcher: You got caught doing what?

The dispatcher has no idea what they talking about, of course – at this point, no one has the slightest idea that a car with 20 pounds of marijuana is being driven through Rexburg.

The dopes
Smuggler:  Ahh . . . okay. Um . . . we kind of got spooked here trying to bring some stuff across your Idaho border.

Dispatcher:  OK.

Smuggler:  And, yeah . . . a bunch of your cops driving around in a bunch of civilian cars not wanting to pick us up.  I don’t know what’s the deal.  I was just wondering if you could help us out and just end it.

Dispatcher:  OK.

The dispatcher still has no clue.  After all, the people in the civilian cars aren’t undercover cops on a stakeout.  They’re just ordinary civilians – soccer moms picking up groceries, husbands heading for Home Depot with their “honey-do” lists, or senior citizens heading to the nearest Indian casino to play a little bingo.

Smuggler:  Yeah . . . if you could call one of them.  It’s getting cold out here man.  I just want to get warm and just get on with this whole thing.

Dispatcher: OK.  Where you at right now?

Smuggler:  University Boulevard right next to the gas station and Applebee’s.  All your buddies are around us so if you could help us out that’d be great.

Dispatcher: OK.  Is it just you or is there anybody else with you?

Smuggler: It’s me and my buddy that I brought with me and then we have a dog that we were gonna bring back to its owner but . . .

Dispatcher: Oh, OK.

Smuggler:  She’s a really nice dog.  She’s not mean.  She’s a pitbull.

Dispatcher: Oh . . . cool.

Twenty pounds of marijuana . . . plus a pitbull.  That is cool.

This is a Rexburg police car
Smuggler:  She’s really cold in the car. She could use some food too.

So the mastermind of this operation isn’t a bad guy – he loves dogs, after all.

Dispatcher:  OK.  Hold on just one second, OK?  Stay on the phone with me.

Smuggler:  All right.  Thank you.

While the dispatcher is sending out a call for all units to proceed to the Applebee’s on University Boulevard and pick up two dumbasses with a pit bull and twenty pounds of weed, the smuggler is chewing the fat with his compatriot:

Smuggler (speaking to his friend):  He’s a nice guy.

Maybe the smuggler will give the dispatcher a good rating on Yelp.

Dispatcher:  Do you guys have any guns or weapons or anything on you at all?

Smuggler: Nope we don’t have any of that stuff with us. Just a bunch of snacks and stuff.

Dispatcher:  All right.  I just wanna make sure. They’re just curious.

The dispatcher probably figured these guys were more likely to be packing Cheetos and chocolate-chip cookies than 9mm automatics and AR-15s.  But he had to ask – just to be sure.

These are NOT Rexburg police cars
Smuggler: We tried walking away from the car a couple times and that didn’t work.  We tried waving them down and that didn’t work so I don’t know what’s going on here.

Let me tell you what going on here, guys: NONE OF THOSE PEOPLE IS A POLICE OFFICER, YOU DUMBASSES!

Dispatcher:  OK.  I do have one of my marked units.  He’s on his way over there to meet you.

Smuggler:  All right.  Thank you.

When police arrived at the scene, both men were standing with their hands behind their heads.  There was a dog cage containing twenty pounds of marijuana sitting on the sidewalk.

The caller was sentenced to one and a half to eight years in prison for marijuana trafficking (a felony).  That seems a little harsh given how polite the guy sounds on the 911 call.  Of course, it didn’t help his case when he showed up for his sentencing hearing and tested positive for marijuana, cocaine, and oxycodone.  

Here's a local TV news story that includes the 911 call recording:

* * * * *

“Destroyer,” which was released by the Kinks in 1981, is sort of a sequel to the group’s 1970 hit, “Lola.”  

It’s not clear whether protagonist of the song is paranoid because he’s been smoking marijuana or because he’s discovered after taking Lola back to his place that she’s actually a he.

Here’s “Destroyer”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Roxy Music – "In Every Dream Home a Heartache" (1973)

In every dream home
A heartache

You think you’ve got problems?

Well, you don’t – at least not like basketball great Michael Jordan has problems.

Have you ever had to reduce the price of a house you were trying to sell by over $14 million?  Michael Jordan had to do that – and his damn house still won’t sell.

Jordan's home 
Jordan listed his suburban Chicago home for sale in 2012.  The original asking price for the 32,683-square-foot house – which has nine bedrooms, 15 full bathrooms, a pool, a tennis court, an indoor basketball court, a putting green, and garage space for 14 cars – was $29 million.

Four years later, the price is only $14,855,000.  (The digits in that price add up to 23, which was Jordan’s uniform number.)  But it still hasn’t sold.  

Entrance to Jordan's home
I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to drop $14 million on a house, it needs to be somewhere a hell of a lot warmer than Chicago.  And it needs to have a good view of the ocean, or some really big mountains, or a hotel where Virgin Atlantic flight attendants lay over between flights.

And if $14 million is a bit out of your price range, Jordan’s old teammate, Scottie Pippen, is asking only $11.5 million for his Fort Lauderdale home.  It only has six bedrooms and seven full baths, but it’s on the water – there’s plenty of room to park a big-ass yacht if you have one.

Pippin's home (big-ass yacht not included)
Click here to see the listing for Pippen’s house.  It’s 95 days old, so I’m betting Pippen will be cutting the price soon.  (I’d hold out until he drops it to seven figures instead of eight if I were you.)

* * * * *

“In Every Dream Home a Heartache” was released in 1973 on Roxy Music’s second album, For Your Pleasure.

Roxy Music (circa 1973)
Click here if you’d like to read the lyrics to “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” which is partly about real estate and partly about an inflatable sex doll:

Inflatable doll
My role is to serve you . . .
I blew up your body
But you blew my mind!

Brian Ferry sings those lyrics over an unsettling D#-F#-F-G# chord progression, which is repeated over and over and over again.  

Here’s “In Every Dream Home a Heartache”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Original Broadway Cast – "So Long, Goodbye" (1959)

I'm glad to go
I cannot tell a lie

I’m writing this post on “National Selfie Day,” which is appropriate given that that its subject is perhaps the most narcissistic and twee wedding announcement ever written.  

You may think that the New York Times wedding announcements featured in the previous few 2 or 3 lines posts were pretty bad, but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

From the Times account of the June 4, 2016 wedding of Nathaniel Peters and Barbara Jane Sloan, which was titled “The Sound of Music is in His Blood and Now His Heart”:  

When Nathaniel Peters goes for a walk, he often sings aloud, which may be a genetic trait.  His great-grandparents were Maria and Georg von Trapp, who founded the Trapp Family Singers with their children and whose story was the basis for “The Sound of Music.”

The Sloan-Peters announcement
 inspired numerous vitriolic tweets
Mr. Peters, 30, also appears to have inherited Maria von Trapp’s exuberant climb-every-mountain attitude.  “You know that look that a golden lab has when chasing a tennis ball — that’s how Nathaniel chases life,” said Ryan Sayre Patrico, a friend.

Growing up on Martha’s Vineyard, Mr. Peters was bookish and interested in existential questions and distinctive clothing from an early age.  “He’s the kind of person who wants to wear bright orange shoelaces in his very fancy dress shoes,” said Clare Rose, a friend.  “He’s often seen in a bow tie or some kind of hat.”

(Wow.  Those three paragraphs are appallingly over the top, and we’re just getting started.  By the way – what the hell is a “golden lab”?  I’ve heard of yellow Labs — in fact, I own one — and I’ve heard of golden retrievers.  But I’ve never heard of a “golden lab.”)

By the fall of 2013, he was a graduate student in theology at Boston College, fluent in Latin, fond of three-piece suits and living in a house on the edge of campus that was full of people studying religion and philosophy.

The Trapp Family Singers
When asked for words to describe himself and his friends, he replied: “You could try ‘heady.’  On the one hand, we are people who enjoy lots of books and investigating particular questions having to do with the human existence, or God, or the nature of beauty.  But at least three of us are capable of cooking dinner to Taylor Swift and enjoying that, too.”

(What a remarkable young man: fluent in Latin, fond of three-piece suits, and a serious student of religion and philosophy – but also a regular guy who enjoys listening to Taylor Swift while cooking dinner.)

Barbara Jane Sloan, a fellow graduate student in theology at Boston College who is known as Jane, lived in a house across an open field from Mr. Peters.

The two had met briefly during the summer of 2012 at a mutual friend’s wedding and he remembered her as quiet and thoughtful.  ”There was an introverted loveliness about her,” he said.  By contrast, Jon Petkun, a friend, said Mr. Peters possessed an “ear-piercing loveliness.”

That fall, Ms. Sloan and Mr. Peters got to know each other better.  She wore Warby Parker eyeglasses that were almost identical to his.  She appreciated both liturgical music and Ella Fitzgerald, as he did.

The happy, Warby Parker-wearing couple
Growing up in Carmel, Indiana, she was a bookworm with an early curiosity about God.  “When she was small, she’d say things like, ‘This summer, I’m going to read the Bible,’” said her father, Dan Sloan.

(I used to say things like, “This summer, I’m going to read Finnegan’s Wake,” or “This summer, I’m going to read Remembrance of Things Past.”  I never did, and I’m betting she never read the damn Bible either.)

The two began walking back and forth to each other’s houses for long talks about early Christianity (her specialty) or the pros and cons of joining a religious order.  “Sometimes, I could hear him coming because he would be singing to himself, usually opera,” said Ms. Sloan, 31.

(The couple didn’t just have long talks about Christianity – they had long talks about EARLY Christianity.  And the guy didn’t just sing shoegazing indie songs to himself on his walks – he took preciousness to a whole new level by singing opera to himself on his walks . . . in Italian, no doubt.)

When she visited his house, she generally arrived with an armful of baguettes and pastries, leftovers from the bakery where she worked. “I started referring to her as our ‘friend with breadifits’,” he said.

(Samuel Johnson once opined that puns are the lowest form of humor.  This particular pun that Dr. Johnson was correct.)

He did not own a car, but she did, which also helped forge a bond between them. She often gave him rides to Trader Joe’s for groceries.

“It was always an adventure,” she said. “He’d get in the car and he’d have a CD, or a magazine article he wanted to read to me, or biscuits he baked that morning. I was like ‘Who is this guy?’ I’m a more slow, plodding, contemplative person, and he’s always on the go.”

(Do you know the old Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys song, "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed"?  If not, you can click here to listen to it.)

One day, he borrowed her car and got into a minor accident, which left a bumper dented and a headlight wobbling like a loose tooth.  When she saw the damage, she just laughed and got out some duct tape, which really impressed him. “His words to me were, ‘Mom, she’s being saintly about this’,” said his mother, Elizabeth Peters.

Still, neither thought of becoming more than friends, partly because one or the other was usually dating someone else.  Also, Ms. Sloan said: “It took a while for me to wake up to how great he was.  It took a year of friendship.”

During that year, they created several traditions together.  “Sunday nights were ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Downton Abbey’ or, when those were not on, Shakespeare,” he said.  They formed a group that gathered regularly at his kitchen table to sing in harmony, and he taught her how to cross-country ski on the trails outside the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt.

The Trapp Family Lodge
Eventually, Ms. Sloan said, the two were spending so much time together that she asked him: “‘Is this fair?  We are not too close, right?’  He said, ‘No, we are just two pilgrims along the way, traveling together for a while.’”

Early in the summer of 2014, he invited her and some other friends to his family’s house on Martha’s Vineyard.  “It was a disaster weekend for me,” she said. “My hat blew off while we were sailing.  I lost my sunglasses in the water.  Nathaniel and I went swimming and there was a riptide.”  He ended up carrying her out of the waves.  “I had this moment of, ‘This is really nice!’” she said.  “But at the same time I thought, ‘We have to not be holding on to each other anymore.’”

(Wouldn’t you love to live a life that was so insulted from pain and suffering that losing your sunglasses qualified as a “disaster”?  Hopefully Warby Parker makes sunglasses, too.)

Not long after, she recalled, he asked her: “Remember our conversation about being two pilgrims along the way?  Well, I would like to make a slight amendment. I’d like to take you down to the Public Garden and have a picnic and read from P.G. Wodehouse.”  For once, both were single at the same time.

(I remember the days when a guy would say to a girl he was courting, “I'd like to take you back to my room, get you drunk, and play a little game I like to call ‘Hide the Salami’.”)

On July 23, 2014, they arrived at the garden carrying a picnic basket and “Something Fresh,” a novel by Wodehouse which he read aloud to her under a willow tree.  “It was the best first date ever,” she said.

(I'd love to hear what her worst first date was like.)

Over the next few days, they continued reading the book together.  Near the conclusion, Mr. Peters said, there is a great description of a kiss.  “We both got impatient so I thumbed to the end of the book, read it and kissed her,” he said.

It wasn’t long before they were musing about marriage, which Mr. Peters imagined would be like “entering into a deep mystery with my best friend.”

Ms. Sloan, who is now a Ph.D. student in theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, said she could never have conjured up a partner who could cook, analyze medieval texts, climb trees and dance as adroitly as Mr. Peters.  “If someone asked me for a list of qualities I would want in an ideal person, my list would fall so short of who Nathaniel is, so far short,” she said.

(The lesson to be learned here is that one should never settle for less than a mate who can cook, analyze medieval texts, climb trees, and dance adroitly.  I would want the other person to speak French without a trace of an accent as well, of course – but that’s just me.)

On May 31, 2015, he proposed in a tiny stone chapel that his great-uncle, Werner von Trapp, built in the woods behind the family lodge.  He asked her to wait outside while he decorated the floor with beeswax candles arranged in the shape of a heart and a cross, which glowed in the dark like a constellation.

“I came in and the first thing I remember is this beautiful smell of beeswax, this lovely, warm smell,” she said. “I gave him a hug for support, like: ‘We both know what’s happening. You can do it!’”

By the time his proposal was over, and she accepted, all of the candles had melted.  “I said, ‘I have a feeling this is what marriage is going to be like,” he said. “We’ve just had this moment of intimacy and now we’re sitting here scraping wax off the floor.’”

(Give him credit for being honest and telling her to be prepared for a husband who’s always going to make her remember those melted candles.)

The bride and groom
On June 4, they were married at Blessed Sacrament Church in Stowe, he in a vintage morning coat and she in a gown that was both subtle and sparkly, like her.  The couple created a 16-page illustrated pamphlet to guide the 172 guests through the carefully curated nuptial Mass, which was led by the Rev. Brian E. Daley, a Roman Catholic priest.  Along with many prayers, blessings and readings, there were 15 different pieces of music performed.  Mr. Peters described the music as: “Joyful, rich, lush. Lush like a forest, not like an alcoholic.”

(A “vintage” morning coat – a new morning coat isn’t ridiculous enough, so naturally he wore a vintage one.  And a “subtle and sparkly” gown that matches the bride’s personality.  You two are soooo special!)

Mr. Patrico, the best man, watched the groom throughout the ceremony.  “He is sitting very erect [sic] in his chair and he’s swerving and bobbing just like a conductor,” he said.  “He picked out all the music and he knows it by heart and it’s the music he chose to express these feelings he has for Jane.  He was crying at the end of every piece.”

(No doubt she was crying at the end of the wedding night.  Rimshot!)

Afterward, there was a reception in the “wedding meadow” outside the family lodge, with views of the Worcester mountains and maple syrup in little leaf-shaped bottles as gifts for guests.

“In the days leading up to the wedding,” the groom said, “I’ve felt like I’m wading into a pool of joy and I don’t know the depth of the joy yet.”

(And I feel like I’ve waded into a pool of horsesh*t, and it’s over my head.)

The couple made a graph of their wedding guests’ professions, for fun and to examine the kind of people with whom they spend time: there were 12 doctors, three astronomers, four computer programmers, 18 Ph.D. students, four Roman Catholic priests, 10 teachers and one private investigator in the crowd.

* * * * *

When I first read this and the other “Vows” columns featured in the last few 2 or 3 lines posts, I was overcome by a powerful urge to wax sarcastic.
But I wasn’t equal to the task.  I’ve used up my entire supply of contempt and scorn without inflicting significant damage on my targets.  

The typical “Vows” column is so over the top that it is far above my poor power to satirize, lampoon, burlesque, and mock it.  It’s a tar baby situation.  The more scorn I heap on these wedding announcements, the more tedious and unfunny my writing became.  No más! 

"I’m glad to go, I cannot tell a lie" . . . it’s time to leave the New York Times “Vows” column behind and move on.

* * * * *

Here’s “So Long, Goodbye” performed by the original cast of the Broadway production of The Sound of Music:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Elephant's Memory – "Don't Put Me On Trial No More" (1969)

I’ll make you feel like a king
Just give me that ring!

This is the third of four consecutive 2 or 3 lines posts about New York Times wedding announcements.  (You’ll be sorry if you miss number four, which will be published in a couple of days.  Believe you me, it’s a doozy.)

The wedding announcements that are featured in the “Vows” column in the Times are many things.  Mostly, they are parodies of themselves.  

Let’s begin at the beginning:

Christopher Ahnberg cannot quite put his finger on the moment he started identifying as a feminist.  But his appreciation for women who aren’t the shrinking-violet type goes way back, and for the sake of his future happiness, it should probably go way forward, too.

“Growing up, my favorite shows always had strong female leads, like Kate & Allie,” Mr. Ahnberg said.  “In my fifth-grade yearbook, I wrote down Murphy Brown as my favorite show.  Plus, I grew up with two strong older sisters.  So I never saw women as anything but very strong people.”

(You know, I felt much the same way as Mr. Ahnberg when it came to favoring TV shows with strong, independent female characters – for example, Charlie’s Angels.)

The effect Mr. Ahnberg’s sisters and Candice Bergen had on his views of gender roles may help to explain, at least partly, why he fell in love with Cristen Conger, who is part of a duo of “girls-next-door gender experts” who host . . . “Stuff Mom Never Told You,” a weekly podcast that has attracted a loyal audience, mostly of young women.  

Wacky feminist podcaster Cristen Conger
The show, known as SMNTY to its viewers, trains a clear-eyed focus on subjects like fashion, differences between the sexes, and women in the workplace and beyond.  Titles of recent episodes include “Free the Nipple,” “Period Pride” and “Are Women Bigger Whiners?”

(Can you excuse me for just a moment?  I want to subscribe to that podcast before I forget.)

Click here to hear Ahnberg and Conger talk
about women who don't shave their armpits
Ms. Conger describes herself as a “liberal feminist” — one who believes that women should be free to pursue the lives they want.  The recent dust-up over the somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggestion by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that damnation awaits women who fail to vote for Hillary Clinton caused Ms. Conger more frustration than anything.

“I thought it was completely understandable within the context of history, if politically foolish,” she said.  “What upset me the most was that it only spurred more narrow media coverage of feminists being pitted against feminists.”

(What in the world is this discussion doing in a wedding announcement?)

Mr. Ahnberg, 33, met Ms. Conger, 31, when both were students at the University of Georgia in 2004. But it wasn’t until August 2012, when Ms. Conger was in need of someone to go with her to the wedding of a friend, that they began dating. . . .

[D]espite her status as an emerging feminist voice, Ms. Conger had to concede that mustering up the courage to ask Mr. Ahnberg to be her date was a little unsettling.

“I was nervous because I liked him,” she said. “I tried to play it off as a friend-date, like, ‘I have to go to this wedding; can you come with me?’ But I didn’t tell him I had been counting down the days, that it was really such an event for me.”

Conger shows off her engagement
ring on the Great Wall of China
(I know you’ve been waiting for the romantic stuff – here it comes!)

The evening turned out to be less feminist than fairy tale.

“We had a magical night,” said Ms. Conger, who is tall and slim and has a tendency to wave her hands to make a point. “I bought a new dress and had my hair done, and he showed up all dressed up in a suit and sunglasses, and he looked very studly, and the setting was this beautiful home in Marietta with a beautiful garden.”

(Who knew that studliness was the number-one quality that feminists look for in a man?)

Ms. Conger knew early on that Mr. Ahnberg had a sharp, quick sense of humor.  But it was only after a few dates, when she and Mr. Ahnberg were drinking Bloody Marys during brunch on an Atlanta restaurant’s rooftop patio, that she began to realize he had more to offer her than punch lines and someone to be her plus one at events like her friend’s wedding.

“We started talking about feminism, and it was the first conversation I had ever had with a guy my age about feminism that was in-depth and engaging,” she recalled. “And he was not at all nervous about the term.  I just remember sitting there thinking, ‘This is incredible’.”

(I always figured that trying to get a feminist drunk would not be an effective strategy.  Silly me!)

Mr. Ahnberg says that feminism is a factor for him when voting and when he’s choosing which businesses to support.  His feminist umbrage may be most on display when someone suggests that women cannot be funny.

“I’m always shocked when anybody says that,” he said, and understandably so, when you consider that his partner does what, despite her protestations to the contrary, looks and sounds vaguely like a very good Russell Brand imitation.

Not-so-funnyman Russell Brand
(I’m not sure what Russell Brand has to do with being funny, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.  Do you think that the statement that our blushing bride “does what . . . looks and sounds vaguely like a very good Russell Brand imitation” is really a compliment?  Would you consider it a compliment to say that an amateur singer “sounds vaguely like a very good singer,” or praise a young fiction writer by saying that his writing “reads vaguely like that of a very good writer”?) 

[Mr. Ahnberg’s older sister] said he and Ms. Conger can break out into an improv comedy routine at a moment’s notice.

“They make a comedy routine out of everything they do,” she said. “They could be slicing peppers to make fajitas and all of a sudden they’re breaking into a fajita song, trading verses.”

(Sounds hilarious.  Let’s get back to the romantic stuff.)

During that rooftop brunch with Ms. Conger . . . she was not the only one who felt the stirrings of love that day.

By then, something had occurred to Mr. Ahnberg, who usually carries a warm, wide smile atop an athletic frame.  “I realized I had been an idiot the entire time I had known her,” he said, “because we had been on-and-off friends since college, but she was everything I ever looked for in a woman. I wasn’t going to let her slip away.”

(“I realized I had been an idiot the entire time.”  You certainly won’t get any argument from me on that point.) 

He eventually decided to do what one of Ms. Conger’s feminist icons has famously suggested in song: put a ring on it.

Ms. Conger’s love of Beyoncé is no secret. She has praised the singer on the podcast, and last year, she performed a comedy routine she wrote, “The Gospel According to ‘Yonce,” at Song Missing, an Atlanta literary variety show.  In it, she apologizes in advance to Mr. Ahnberg, who may not be fully aware that she is “beysexual.”

(I wonder if she did that comedy routine in her Russell Brand persona?)

At the Ahnberg-Conger nuptials
Ms. Conger has chosen to keep her own name, but both she and Ms. Ervin agree that it is also possible to find power in a woman who takes her husband’s last name, an issue that has been a hot topic among SMNTY listeners since an episode titled “A Practical Wedding” aired in January.

The wedding expert Meg Keene, who was a guest on the show, insisted that brides should keep their names. 

(I don’t understand why Ms. Keene feels so strongly that married women should stick with their fathers’ last names rather than taking their husbands’ last names.  Either way, the woman ends up with a man’s last name.)

Mr. and Mrs. Conger
For Ms. Conger, deciding which elements of a traditional wedding to keep and which to toss in the name of feminism involved careful consideration.

“Ultimately, we’ve moved away from the wedding-industrial complex to do what honors us,” she said.

But some rituals proved trickier to excise than others.

Accepting an engagement ring, for example, required some soul-searching.  “In its historic sense, the ring signified possession rather than partnership,” she explained. “But I also knew it meant a lot to Chris to make the gesture.  And I know that does harken back to old-school gender norms, but I wasn’t going to trivialize something that was important to him.”

(In other words, Ms. Conger agreed to take possession of a pricey 1930s-vintage art-deco engagement ring just so she wouldn’t hurt Mr. Ahnberg’s feelings.  That’s so sweet!)

* * * * *

The obvious choice of a song to feature in this post is “Single Ladies,” by Beyoncé.  After all, Jay-Z's better half is a special favorite of the bride, and the lyrics to that song are very apropos: “If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it!”

But “Single Ladies” was featured in a previous 2 or 3 lines.  (You can click here if you missed it.)  And 2 or 3 lines has a strict policy of not featuring the same song twice . . . except when it does.

So instead we’re featuring “Don’t Put Me On Trial No More,” by Elephant’s Memory.

Elephant’s Memory was a funky, bluesy New York City band with a horn section – think Electric Flag or Big Brother and the Holding Company.  After contributing a couple of songs to the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack and releasing an eponymous debut album, they became John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s backup band. 

Here’s “Don’t Put Me On Trial No More,” which absolutely kicks ass:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Whiskey Myers – "Shelter from the Rain" (2014)

You broke those chains
Took me in out of the cold . . .
You’re my shelter from the rain

If you ask me, there’s nothing in any newspaper in this country that’s more entertaining than the “Vows” column that appears each Sunday in the New York Times.

 Each “Vows” tells the story how a recently-married couple met, how their relationship progressed and how they arrived at the decision to formalize their union.  But it isn’t your grandfather’s wedding column . . . unless your grandfather was a fan of The Gong Show.  

Host Chuck Barris on the
set of "The Gong Show"
The last 2 or 3 lines quoted extensively from a “Vows” that featured the heartwarming story of how two yoga teachers met and fell in love after the female member of the couple ran over and killed a little girl:

“I got out of the car and this really beautiful little girl with pale skin and blue eyes was laying in the road.  Her eyes were glazed over.  I knew the spirit had left her body.”

Our bride-to-be was devastated, of course, so she started doing yoga everyday.  She and her teacher fell in love and got married in a ceremony that one guest described as “just super-solid and super-honest.”  (The wedding was performed by the brother, who advised the happy couple and everyone else who attended to check each other for ticks nightly to prevent Lyme disease.) 

That’s a pretty crazy story, but almost every “Vows” tells a pretty crazy story.  For example, here’s the lead from the recent “Vows” about the courtship and wedding of Jennifer Alden and Kirk Spahn:

When Kirk Spahn and Jennifer Alden exchanged marriage vows under towering California redwood trees, Ms. Alden, a former actress who played a bride in the film “Wedding Crashers,” acknowledged the many obstacles she overcame on this journey to the altar.

For starters, there was that troublesome brain tumor.

Christopher Walken and Jennifer Alden
in "The Wedding Crashers"
But no mere brain tumor – no matter how “troublesome” – was going to get Ms. Alden down:

Drawing on her acting career, she started a blog, “Adventures in Brain Surgery,” and posted short videos online about her diagnosis and options.  She included her thoughts on what might happen if she lost the ability to speak, which was a real possibility.  Even as chunks of her honey-blond hair were shorn for her eight-hour operation, her kooky expressions and wide smile prevailed.

In this "Adventures in Brain Surgery" video, which was shot the day before her brain-tumor surgery, Ms. Alden is much more worried about what's going to happen to her hair than she is about the outcome of the operation:

To add insult to injury, Ms. Alden’s husband bailed on her after her surgery:

At the time, Ms. Alden was a newlywed, having married a longtime beau the previous year. But while recovering from her surgery in September 2012 (the tumor proved to be benign), she found herself alone.  By May 2013, her marriage ended, and her sunny demeanor, too, looked to be in danger. 

Did you see how the “Vows” writer snuck in “the tumor proved to be benign”?  

(The story would have been much more compelling if Ms. Alden’s tumor had been malignant, and she had lost the ability to speak, and she had to get married without the chunks of honey-blond hair that had been shorn for her surgery . . . but her fiancé didn’t care about any of that and still reckoned himself as the luckiest man on the face of the earth to be marrying her.)

The plucky Ms. Alden recovered from both her surgery and her divorce and started dating again:

She was scrolling around Facebook in early 2015 when a dark, good-looking man popped up in a list of “people you may know.”  She didn’t think she knew Kirk Spahn, but she wondered if she might want to.

From his profile, she discovered that Mr. Spahn had attended Dartmouth, where Ms. Alden graduated.   He had just moved to Los Angeles, so she messaged him: did they know each other in college?

Ms. Alden and Mr. Spahn
Mr. Spahn, now 39, an accomplished tennis player who had competed for Dartmouth, had no problem recalling her — having harbored a mad crush.  He had saved a photograph of her jumping into an icy New Hampshire pond in a leopard-print bikini. . . .

“You look familiar,” he messaged coolly, feeling anything but.  They exchanged flirty texts over the next week, which led to a dinner date.

You know what they say: there’s no crush like an old crush.  High-school or college crushes can be long-lived and very powerful, and that was the case with Mr. Spahn’s crush on Ms. Alden.  It cast such a spell on Mr. Spahn that it damn near unmanned him:

[W]hen Ms. Alden opened her front door, the gracious, easygoing Mr. Spahn, who counts internationally known businesspeople and world-class athletes among his intimate friends, froze entirely, his nerves a jumble.

Mr. Spahn quickly got over being tongue-tied:

Over dinner, his freeze thawed — only too much so.  Mr. Spahn gushed nonstop on life since college. . . . Ms. Alden, who could barely edge in a word, found Mr. Spahn’s over-the-top enthusiasm about education and sports somewhat charming, but her divorce and a few years on the dating scene made her alert to red flags.  Always direct, she asked if Mr. Spahn perhaps had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

It’s bad when a woman of whom you are enamored asks you on your first date if you have ADHD.  (Better than being asked if you have ED, of course.)

He didn’t, he simply buckled under pressure.  At evening’s end, when Ms. Alden gave him a perfunctory pat on the back, he was well aware he had blown it.

A perfunctory pat on the back is even worse than a perfunctory we’re-just-friends hug.  But Mr. Spahn was not giving up without a fight:

Nevertheless, Mr. Spahn’s competitive spirit was reignited along with his collegiate ardor.  If Ms. Alden had seemed perfect for him at Dartmouth, she was more so now: sweet, smart and, in a city brimming with smoke and mirrors, without pretense.  She was a city mouse who adored nature, an avid skier, and clearly — the ADHD.comment — someone who did not lack candor.

(Candor is a greatly overrated trait in a romantic partner, n'est-ce pas?)

Another photo of the happy couple
After the disastrous date with Ms. Alden, he was down but determined to fight his way back. A few days later, he showed up at a party she casually invited him to. To underscore her lack of romantic interest, Ms. Alden pointed out to Mr. Spahn the many single women in attendance.

That’s pretty cold.  I have to admit that I would have written Ms. Alden off and left with my tail between my legs if I had been Mr. Spahn.  But he is made of sterner stuff than I am:

[A]s Ms. Alden set off toward another man who beckoned to her, Mr. Spahn blocked her path. Channeling the “do the opposite” rule made famous by George Costanza from Seinfeld, he decided to do the thing he would never do.

“You put me in the ‘friend zone,’ and I don’t want to be in the ‘friend zone’,” he told her. Then, with one hand on the nape of her neck, he kissed her.  She, too, made a move out of character: she kissed him back.

“His confidence excited me, and the kiss was perfect,” said Ms. Alden, who recalled that the chemistry that was missing in their first encounter had “entirely combusted.”

Mr. Spahn is a very lucky man.  Ms. Alden’s response could just have easily been a knee in the balls and an assault complaint to the nearest policeman.  

They talked until morning, but this time conversation was an easy volley, with Ms. Alden becoming captivated by Mr. Spahn’s warm grin, kind manner, intelligence and passion, and quirky sense of humor.  

Not to mention his very brown eyes:

“We’re both silly but hard-working, and we love life passionately,” Mr. Spahn said.

Mr. Spahn went all out when he decided to pop the question:

Within weeks, Mr. Spahn lobbed a marriage proposal.  Yet it wasn’t until late August at a practice session for the United States Open that a pink diamond ring appeared.  In a well-choreographed prank, Mr. Spahn popped the question, with the help of the tennis luminaries Novak Djokovic and Tommy Haas, to a very surprised Ms. Alden, who was sitting in the referee’s perch in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Popping the question at the U.S. Open
(Does this mean she was actually refereeing at the U.S. Open?  Or just hanging out in the referee’s chair between matches?) 

The wedding itself was just about what you would expect:

On May 7, the couple were married at Nestldown, a private estate in the Santa Cruz Mountains with acres of blooming gardens, California redwoods and koi-filled ponds.  Two hundred guests, some who had flown in from as far as New Zealand, London, Madrid and Dubai, huddled under blankets beneath a threatening sky on the unseasonably chilly afternoon.

Getting hitched in a redwood forest
The groom entered to the accompaniment of “Eye of the Tiger”; “It’s a classic, the one athletes listen to get pumped up,” he said.  Following him were a string of nine groomsmen including [ex-New York Giants linebacker Brandon] Short; [Tommy] Haas; Nirav Tolia, chief executive of [which calls itself “the private social network for your neighborhood”]; and a Saudi prince, whom the groom knows through his leadership work.

(I wonder why the Saudi prince didn’t want his name mentioned?  I’m guessing he and Mr. Spahn are up to some shady stuff.)

The bride, in a sequined Ines Di Santo gown, walked delicately down a steep, slippery path to a lakeside clearing in the well-tended forest where Dr. Joon Yun, a radiologist who became a Universal Life minister for the event, for whom Ms. Alden works at Palo Alto Investors, waited to officiate.  Dr. Yun thanked the couple for letting the guests “crash your wedding.”

In his vows, the groom said, “From the first glimpse of your smile, you were always with me even though you didn’t know it,” which evoked knowing laughter from the crowd.  

(Say what?)

The bride and groom channelling
"Lady and the Tramp"
He thanked Facebook for the algorithm that brought them together.  He said, “Together we will leave the world a better place.”

(Mr. Spahn is even more brown-eyed than I suspected.)

The bride, in turn, called Mr. Spahn her “twin flame,” and with characteristic optimism, said the obstacles that had kept them apart through the years were simply “steppingstones” to being together.

The former tennis star Monica Seles, a friend of the groom, recited a blessing, urging the couple to offer each other “shelter from the rain.”

* * * * *

The Southern-rock group Whiskey Myers got its start when two housemates in Elkhart, Texas (population 1371) began to write songs together.
If you’ve never heard of the band, here’s how their website describes them:

In the end, there may be no better word for Whiskey Myers than authentic.  This music is in their blood, and it flows as naturally from them as a spring feeding a mountain creek. . . . [Y]ou can rest assured that success still won't be changing this band any time soon.  They make music they're proud of that celebrates where they come from and makes people feel good.  As far as they're concerned, that's all the success anyone could ever ask for.

(Damn straight!)

“Shelter from the Rain” was released in 2014 on the third Whiskey Myers album, Early Morning Shakes.

Here’s “Shelter from the Rain”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: