PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

My Musings

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Creep

When I was a youngster, I was informed by random adults that unlike sticks and stones, names would never hurt me.

That turned out not to be the case then and still isn't today. I am somewhat easily wounded, psychologically and emotionally, by words. Mutter under your breath that I am an idiot or a thoughtless jerk and I'm sure to feel aggrieved deep down inside.

But a creep? I'm familiar with creeps, having met several during my still quite young life. Creepy people exude an aura that makes you cringe and want to slink away, backwards, keeping an eye on them lest they grab you from behind. They stand too close to you and touch you on the arm when speaking, even though you barely know them. Who the hell is this creep peeking through my bedroom window? That's the kind of thing you say when you meet a creep. I don't think I've ever been called a creep, until a few days ago.

The circumstances were very much not creepy. I was riding my bicycle to work in broad daylight along the Memorial Drive bike path in Cambridge, MA, doing what we bikers are urged to do by dinging my bell before passing people ambling along mindlessly with ear buds stuffed into their heads. These people are not barred from their careless saunter on the bike path, but they often have no clue that they are on an actual bike path, not a sidewalk, and are startled when you pass them. They jump and they yell at you. "Give me a warning, idiot!" they holler. Of course, you did that, but the earbuds pouring a stream of Taylor Swift into their heads drowned out your bicycle bell.

As I was riding along the other day (pretty slowly – the bike path was packed given the beautiful weather) I encountered a couple crossing Memorial drive coming toward the bike path. Most people are careful when crossing car traffic but have no awareness of bike paths and lanes and step into them blindly. So, I dinged my bell to alert them that they were encountering a bike lane. Upon doing so, a man who was crossing in the opposite direction – away from me – bellowed, "Go to hell, creep!" He continued: "And slow down!" This person had no idea how fast I was going (not very) because before he started to cross Memorial Drive his back was turned to me. He may just have been a rare person ambling sans earbuds and was startled by my bell, which is loud in order to penetrate the sound of Taylor Swift. His rant continued as I kept riding. I was a block and a half away and he had worked himself into a froth, though I don't know exactly what he was saying. Maybe that I was a creep.

Full disclosure, he may have called me a freak, not a creep. Given that I'm neither creepy nor freaky, it really doesn't matter. Either way, this time I wasn't hurt. 

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Yo Adrian!

Belew-and-Harrison

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).

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Bait And Switch

Beck-at-MGM-Fenway-Music-Hall


I would venture to guess (without checking the interweb) that Ticketmaster was established something like 30 years ago. In my not fully informed mind, this was the start of online ticket sales, and I'm sure I was immediately irritated by the fees. Prior to online sales, if you wanted to see the Rolling Stones in Atlanta, you'd have to do what Hache Verde did when he famously tried to awaken our favorite acerbic high school principle at 2 in the morning to head to the Civic Center in Atlanta, GA to buy tickets for a show at Fox Theater.

Fast Forward to early October, 2022. I've obtained tickets for a strange double-bill: 1) Beck; and 2) a Montreal-based band called Arcade Fire. I bought the tickets to see Beck, figuring that, at worst, Arcade Fire would be harmless. Stranger still, I learn that Beck would be first to take the stage.

Shortly after buying these tickets and forking over exhorbitant fees, I encounter a friend – a Canadian friend, truth be told – whose daughter was playing soccer with my daughter, and I ask if he has ever heard of Arcade Fire. His reaction, at first, is to look at me for signs of a punch line. Then, he turns almost angry. "They're one of my favorite artists," he says, incredulous. That's the way Canadians are when you dis their favorite rock bands.

I had never heard of them.

Anyway, it seems I'm going to see this band, but only after the great American (nutty Scientologist, but who cares) Beck does an acoustic set.

So about a month before the show, I get an email from Ticketmaster, my favorite agency that has a monopoly on ticket sales, informing me that Beck will apparently not be playing at the Beck concert. Instead, a Haitian band I'd never heard of would be replacing Beck at the Beck show. Which, it seems, is not the Beck show, but is the Arcade Fire show. But I'm not to worry: "Your tickets are still good!" What a relief!

As you might imagine, I immediately seek to rectify the situation by telling Ticketmaster that I don't care that my tickets are still good. I don't want them anymore. To which Ticketmaster replies that "we are just the ticket vendor. The promotor is not offering refunds at this time." I then have my battery of lawyers reach out to MGM Fenway, the alleged promotor, to threaten the legal action if I do not get a refund. (In fact, I reach out to the Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts to loudly complain about the bait-and-switch.) The acerbic high school principal, who is to accompany me, is about as interested in seeing Arcade Fire as I am. In other words, he isn't interested at all. I had already challenged him to find a single good song by Arcade Fire, something I could hang my hat on back when the worst of the situation was that we'd see Beck first and then would have to sit through Montreal-infused rock fare. Now a good song was needed just so that the night wouldn't be a total bust.

Meanwhile, I offer up our tickets for sale. Mind you, I had already bought tickets for $56.50, which came with a whopping $25.75 in fees (nearly half the ticket price). Now, by reselling through Ticketmaster, I would incur new fees. Additionally, people buying our tickets would also pay fees. (Yes, it did occur to me during this process that I have had a lifelong career in the wrong industry.) However, I was willing to take a modest loss, so I sought to price my resale tickets below other offers already listed. Alas, the evil promoter, which by now was quaking in its boots, disallowed the reselling of tickets at a price below face value. The best I could do was match what Ticketmaster was selling tickets for. And since there were still plenty of tickets left, only a sell-out would cause someone to buy my tickets.

A week before the concert, my acerbic friend and I were resigned to enduring this show. No doubt, we'd have fun, despite our lack of interest in the music and MGM Fenway's efforts to stymie us on reselling the tickets. Maybe we'd enjoy a drink, and there was still an outside chance that the music would be tolerable. This was something that we joked about relentlessly, as we were pretty sure that the music was not going to be our cup of tea.

When Arcade Fire finally came on and played their first song, Age of Anxiety I, my acerbic friend to turn to me and yelled, "This band is lame!"  But from that point on, the band ripped through the rest of their set, playing an entertaining array of Québécois-infused pop music and ending the show with a superb rendition of the Pixies "Debaser."

The next morning, my wife, who had heard of my Ticketmaster and MGM Fenway complaints many more times than she cared to, asked me how the show was. "Strangely enough," I had to admit, "It was really good."

Never saw the Haitian band. 

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Gimme Good News

Each morning I wake up hoping that when I look at my handheld device I will be treated to some really awesome news. Maybe there's an email asking if I would mind terribly if a highly respected publisher would issue a hardcover edition of a novel I wrote in the 1990s, which they've not actually read but are guessing must be good. Or maybe someone wants me to join their rock band as their drummer, touring with them across the world, but only if i get a legit neck tattoo. (I'll do it!)

Better yet, maybe there is good news from the latest and greatest European war, the one that had been foreshadowed by the American government for weeks ("they are massing troops on the border; now they are bringing in supplies of blood."), news that tells us that the invaders had decided to go home instead of fighting on. Or that that Vladimir Putin, one of the biggest jerks in the 21st century, has been deposed – thrown in jail, made to scrub floors, and forced to write on a chalkboard 50 times "I will not invade a sovereign nation." In a just world, a-holes get their comeuppance and live through decades of having their names peed upon, euphemistically, by "the public at large." Then, after they die and are buried, we pee on their graves too, and not so euphemistically.

Alas, fantasies! The news of the world is generally pretty bad, and no one wants to read my novel or add me to their rock band. Not to mention that all of our hopes and dreams about Russians finally throwing off the yoke of oppression seems unlikely, given that protestors are apparently being given 15-year prison sentences for complaining about the war.

OK – a tiny bit of good news: it does seem that Ukraine has beaten back the invading hordes around Kyiv, taking back territory. Alas, even this has an awful side, as we find the streets of Bucha littered with executed civilians.

Maybe better news tomorrow. 

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Daily Haiku

 

Cats oft’ void their guts.

They cough out fur balls. They puke.  

We tread carefully.  

 

College Tuition

We dig ourselves a deep hole

Need a second job.

 

Now that I’m sixty

People think I’m a wise man

Probably, I’m not

 

I’m in my Fifties

But tomorrow I’m Sixty

Will need a sports car

 

My PCP Says

“Keep doin’ what yer doin’”

Prob’ly I should not

 

It’s St. Patrick’s Day

We eat beef that has been corned

Whatever that means

 

Robots and A.I.

I will make use of these soon

To do my taxes

 

Strange Oscar night end

Pacino failed to mention

Best pic nominees

 

Who’s this Katie Britt?

Scary. Wierd. We could have used

A Trigger Warning

 

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