In my family, we buy a car once every 7 or 8 years, which may be hard to imagine given how pleasant the car-buying experience is. Some people de-stress by doing yoga, or meditating, or engaging in mindfulness, but I prefer to pull into a car dealership in my rusty old Mazda 3 on a Saturday afternoon and let the soothing car buying experience wash over me. The blaring muzak, the smoking grills (who doesn't want to spend an afternoon eating hotdogs at a car dealership?), the helium-balloon archways – these things help to focus my mind and relax me when it's needed most. Alas, all the fun devices that dealerships formerly used to reel in buyers have been stowed away. What used to feel like a carnival now has the ambiance of a wake.
Car buying used to be complicated by the negotiation process, where you haggle over prices, colors, and incentives, but these days there are no cars to buy, so the haggling is over before it has started. Instead, you're told which vehicle you're going to purchase, even though it hasn't been assembled yet let alone shipped from Korea, what features it will have, and how much over MSRP you're going to pay. So much easier and more refreshing than back when MSRP was the most you'd ever pay for a car. Frankly, no one paid MSRP. There were always cash incentives. Back then, after sitting down with a salesman who shamefully compliments your threadbare canvas jacket and gives you the bad news that you're going to be buckling under the weight of backbreaking monthly payments, you say thanks and get to up walk out, whereupon you are tackled by a higher-ranking associate before you can reach the door and are dragged back to learn that the price of the car has suddenly dropped by two grand. This might go on for several tension-relieving hours.
These days, if you stand up and threaten to walk out without signing on the dotted line, a higher-ranking sales associate jumps up and opens the door for you on the way out. "Good luck out there!" they say.
They know you'll be back, and you'll give them a check for $2,000 to reserve a car you have never seen and will never get to drive until you have pilfered money from your children's college fund and are maneuvering your overpriced purchase off the lot.
Stop complaining. You have no one to blame but yourself. You knew last year, when interest rates were low, that you were going to need a car soon, but you let gas prices surge and inflation take root before dragging yourself off to enjoy the car-buying experience. Let that be a lesson to you.
I've seen the rock musician Adrian Belew probably five times now in various bands and musical assemblages – with King Crimson, with his Power Trio, and solo at least once if not a couple of times – but until a few weeks ago I always saw him playing his own music.
But Adrian Belew has participated in so many bands over the years that I should have expected him to show up with a friend in tow and do most of the friend's songs, which happened a couple of weeks ago at the HOB* in Boston, when he showed up with a member of the Talking Heads.
You may point out that Jerry Harrison isn't the main Talking Heads songwriter; however all songs on the album Remain in Light are credited to Talking Heads and Brian Eno, so Harrison gets credit for all of them. And since the name of the tour was "Jerry Harrison & Adrian Belew REMAIN IN LIGHT" I feel confident that a court of law would exonerate me from charges of falsely claiming that the band was playing mostly Jerry Harrison songs.
You're probably wondering if this is the part of my music review when I start writing in flowery and verbose language, highlighting nebulous, esoteric aspects of the concert, casting light on little bits of melodic nuance that would have gone over the head of the average concertgoer. Or, maybe the average person wouldn't have noticed the subtleties I focus on, such as contending that the power and elegance of Adrian Belew's singing was brought into sharp relief when juxtaposed to Harrison's croaking style, because the subtleties really weren't there, and I'm reading way, way too deeply into the music. Maybe I'm just using this concert as a way of calling attention to me instead of the band.
That's not my style.
I will tell you in the most straightforward, easy to understand expository prose that Talking Heads music is still great decades later, and that the musicians assembled played faithful renditions of it, with Harrison and Belew and a backing funk band called Cool Cool Cool generating a big, energetic sound that mimicked the Talking Heads stage act at the height of their popularity. Yeah, sure, it would have been great for it to be an actual Talking Heads show with David Byrne singing, but Adrian Belew can still bring it in his 70s, and not only did he collaborate with Talking Heads in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but he can sound a good deal like David Byrne when he wants to.
I can't talk about this night without mentioning the type of mildly irritating fan you might encounter at a general admission rock concert that makes you wish they would go get another beer and get stymied trying to return . Often it's a large man who needs about a six foot radius around himself at all times to enable him to shake and shimmy and dance the night away, while the rest of us are jammed together like a pack of cigarettes. Then he elbows you in the eye socket and turns to you with his hands raised like it's a stickup to indicate that he didn't mean it. But he goes on needing all that floor space the whole night. In this rather different case, I weaved my way onto the floor after the opener had left and stopped behind a man and his son who were best pals, arms slung over each other's shoulders, high fiving, hugging, and so forth. It was kind of sweet! But after the concert started, the tipsy Dad who was sloshing around his second or third tallboy can of beer kept pulling the teen boy close so that their heads touched and I couldn't see the show, even with my big shoes on. I kept eying vacant floor space so that I might slip away from peculiarly amorous father-son act. You're thinking, what's the big deal? Too many fathers and sons don't show love for each other so why complain about these two being best buds? Trust me, it got weirder and weirder as the man got more and more hammered. Plus, like I said, I couldn't see the show.
Eventually, I was able to slide to the left so that I didn't have to keep bobbing and weaving like Joe Frazier to see the musicians between the tilted heads of this overly-close pair. Meanwhile, my buddy Tim abandoned the area headed to the back of the venue floor to get away from them. It wasn't just me.
I'll probably keep going to Adrian Belew shows until they don't exist any longer, or I don't exist, which, if you were paying attention to my early blog posts of several years ago, may be a long way off, as I expect to live quite a bit past 100. Just need Adrian Belew to do the same.
*(I don't like to expand the acronym because my friend Todd hates the HOB).
I don't drink a lot of martinis in bars, but when I do, I always order the same thing: dry Grey Goose martini, straight up, with olives. It's a clean, clear, cold drink, with a treat at the end: three pimento-filled olives to chew off a toothpick.
I had the occasion to order this very drink recently at a bar named Audubon, on Beacon Street near Fenway. My old friend Dave with was with me and ordered a dry Ketel One martini with a twist. His son Gus ordered a Cosmo, and I ordered a beer.
The waitress went off and soon returned, saying "I forgot what you ordered." I told her, "Orval." A beer.
But soon I demurred. Why not have a martini, since Dave and Gus were drinking spirits in martini glasses. So I jumped up and found the waitress as she was typing our order: "Actually, I'll have a dry martini, Grey Goose, with olives," I say.
OK, what happens next is the God's honest truth: first, a drink is put before Dave, which is identified as the "Ketel One Martini," but clearly contains olives. Dave, as a non-olive consumer, says something along the lines of "I really don't like olives. I ordered my drink with a twist." So, as any good food establishment will do, they take his drink back. Meanwhile, my drink is put down, and I take a sip: this is a dirty martini, I'm thinking, not a dry martini. Before the waiter can leave, I alert him to this error: I just want a dry martini. Grey Goose. With olives. And then Dave reiterates: And I want a Ketel One martini, straight up, with a lemon twist.
Seems like the waiter understands. Sort of. Soon, he returns and puts down a martini with a very long, twisted lemon rind in front of Dave. Dave takes a sip and declares to me: this is a dirty martini. With a twist. This may be the very first dirty martini with a twist ever made by a "professional" bartender, and it's just befuddling. So, by now we've ordered zero dirty martinis, and have received three of them (assuming that the first martini delivered to Dave, which looked like it had a splash of olive juice in it, was dirty).
Dave decides he'll suffer through his dirty martini with a lemon twist.
It takes a little time for my martini to arrive, maybe another five minutes, and when it does it has olives on the side. Clearly, they are being careful here. But, when I take a sip, it's yet another dirty martini, packed with salty olive water, which to me is borderline gross.
This is not a bar that's just learning the ropes. I've been going to Audubon for decades. It's like we were at a house party where the host makes up a pitcher of dirty martinis and you have no drink option except dirty martinis, or variations on that. ("Would you like your dirty martini with a twist?")
Moral of the story? Stick to beer.
News that China floated a balloon over our great nation to spy on us makes me think that we have become a super paranoid country. Seriously, a balloon? Slowly meandering across the country like a retiree on a pontoon boat?
I thought China had long ago figured out how to send satellites into orbit to spy on us.
Meanwhile, my other country of citizenship (Canada) was apparently asleep when the illegal balloon rocketed across the sky at the speed of, well, a balloon. Canada probably figured that there wasn't much about the north's vast supply of snow that China didn't already know, so just let the portly orb float on by.
Balloon surveillance sounds like nonsense. It's intelligence gathering of yesteryear, or maybe yestercentury. Didn't Benjamin Franklin send balloons into the air in Philadelphia to spy on New Jersey? I think Napoléon used them as well. That the evil balloon was first discovered over Montana makes me wonder if China is spying on our skiers, hoping to gain an edge before the next winter Olympics.
I haven't yet read a word to explain what the real danger was of allowing the puffy floating object to continue on its way, but maybe I'll learn more after the bits and pieces are retrieved from the "relatively shallow waters" of the Atlantic Ocean.
Meanwhile, scientists say that area birds were heard tweeting and cawing in pitches much higher than what is normal for them, after the helium was released from the bubble, causing their bird friends to laugh uncontrollably.
Add "take a hot air balloon ride" to the list of things I must do before I'm shot out of the sky.