Friday, February 27, 2015

The Bar Project: An Introduction

Bars get a bad reputation.    Think about it.  When has anyone recently admitted that they enjoy going to a bar.  Not a “dive” bar, not a pub, not a club but just a simple bar that serves drinks, has a jukebox and maybe serves chips.  Granted, many of a bad thing has happened at bars.  I recall in law school reading endless cases that involved deaths, destruction, drunk driving and dumb decisions that happened at bars.   Such events often loom large in people’s minds regarding bars. 
However, if one takes the time and look around there are a lot of bars.  Really!  It is like smoking.  Smoking may be condemned and harassed but cigarettes still sell so someone still smoking and people are still going to bars.  It is this realization and my overall curiosity that I decided to write about bars. 
Bars are part of our culture.  In a modern American society that praises cultural significance in almost any matter bar culture is often ignored.  Yet they loom large in everyday life for good and for bad.  They define neighborhoods and have been a focal point in social change.   A wide variety of people enjoy them and to ignore them is to revel in social elitism.  I live in San Diego for some culture stops five miles from the coastline and likeminded enclaves of Prius driving wine drinkers.  There is a lot culture to be discovered and bars are one that deserves a fair observation. 

Lastly, I don’t use the term “dive” bar to describe the bars because it is a weasel word.   “Dive” is just a word you add to justify going to a bar to your friends that look down at any place that serves Budweiser and well drinks for 3 dollars.  When you think about bars don’t want you hurt.  What business in its right mind would want their patrons hurt, keep out people willing to plunk down money for a drink, have a reputation for trouble to scare people away and be rude?  Bars want to stay in business.  Just a few thoughts as I begin to work on writing about bars across San Diego County and beyond.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Don't Be that Guy or Girl Part I

Before I start I would like thank you for stopping by for my new endeavor.  Gone are the 5000 word ramblings and in its place is just me, thoughts with no real agenda except a vain attempt to be a bit humorous and that is stretching it to say the least.    Hench the title Random American Thoughts.  Sit back and enjoy the madness.  

I love to visit coffee shops.  Now they are the lairs of hipsters with full beards and Buddy Holly glasses waxing poetically about their views on oil after a semester of college.   But it is a small price to pay for good Wi-Fi and coffee.  Yet, there is a creature that lurks in every shop with only two restrooms, the restroom door loiter guy or girl.   It never fails that even with a sign that shows the restroom is occupied someone is going to get way too close to the door and wait.    Is there a more pathetic sight than that person just way too close to the door practically ear against listening for any sign the person is finished.  Lord knows I hate the sounds my body makes much less a total stranger who might be having a bad reaction to the vegan food their friend said would help with their toxin levels.  The loiterer tries to avoid eye contact but it usually fails because everyone sitting nearby or walking can tell they need to go to the can in the most urgent manner.  I might have more sympathy but the loiterer usually is the least socially aware person ever to exist.   I imagine they are the types who use to ask the teacher if there was extra credit to be had in poetry class or have coexist stickers on their car.  If you can do one thing in life it is not to be that guy or girl.   

As use to do I leave with a video clip.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Come on down! My grandfather's belief that The Price is Right was rigged

There are game shows and there is The Price is Right (TPIR).  As long as I can remember The Price is Right has been a constant in a TV world that changes every two minutes.  Bob Barker was the best game show host ever, and even though Drew Carey now does the show, a perfect formula can make any competent person seem a fit for hosting The Price is Right.  Even Drew!

It is a pretty cool the types of people who are in the audience today.  The old, young, ethnic, college co eds in tight t-shirts and flip flops, frat boys, military, and occasionally people in nice clothes.  I found a clip of the show from the year I was born 1977 and you can see the contrast in the audience from the TPIR of today .  The prize is probably the best I have ever seen.  All I can say is that in 1977 people were driving in tricked out Dodge vans with mirror ceilings.   Don't believe me watch the clip of the prize offered.  

My memories of The Price is Right is based on my association of visiting my folks home town of San Antonio.  I would stay with my family at my dad's parents' house in a tough area of San Antonio. Add in the heat from visiting San Antonio during the summer and you don't go outside until later or ever if you can avoid it.  My grandparents were TV junkies and the set was on from sunrise until my grandmother got tired of watching which was sometimes as late as 2 in the morning.  

My grandparents favorite block of TV viewing was from 10 am to noon on CBS.  I always knew what time it was when at 10 am when I could hear Johnny Olsen and after 1985 Rod Roddy start calling people to come on down for The Price is Right.   At 11am I waited for the music to the Young and the Restless to know about the latest from Genoa City.  My last recollection of The Young and The Restless was that Cricket was sexually assaulted and was traumatized.  That story line was from 1989 so I hope they resolved it and they caught the guy.  I digress.  

The only decent pic I can find of "Cricket" or Christine Blair as she is now called on the show.  You know how you get a part on a soap opera?  Have your parents be the show's creators.  Guess who her parents were?  Oh, and if you were interested she was on the show from 83 to 06 and is back on again.  

I was always engaged in watching The Price is Right with my grandparents.   We would yell out the prices and root for the people, but when the show had the Showcase Showdown my grandfather would get upset slightly.  I asked him why and he said the Big Wheel was rigged.   

I have to admit that is a strong charge.  But sometimes I did have to wonder because it seemed that the right people won.  That hot girl from Iowa, the goofy sailor from San Diego, etc.  A few times as I watched the spins with my grandfather he would leave and grumble.  He did this anytime we watched the show over the years on my visits.  I believe he probably held that belief of corruption about The Price is Right up until he died in his sleep in 1999.  

My grandfather would have been disgusted with this guy winning.  I don't blame him, he probably drove his Ferrari to the show.  

I have wondered why he watched the show if he believed it was rigged?  Over the years I talked it over with several people who could care less and they seem to agree on a few reasons.  

1.  He lost the Showcase Showdown in 1976 on a show that hasn't surfaced because Bob Barker doesn't allow shows which gave away fur coats to be aired.

This one is a stretch.  According to my dad the man rarely left the state.  My grandfather was in WWII and made it from Normandy to Austria without a scratch so I guess that was travel enough for him.   Also, there has never been an account from any of my aunts, uncles or my dad that mention trips to California.   He did go to California once for basic training in Sacramento but that is nowhere near Hollywood and the show would not be created until 1956.  The man was good to me but he rarely left the house, watched a lot of TV, smoked Salems for years, and ate a rather strange diet.  There is so much I don't know, but if he was on the show I can safely say he would have told someone.  Hell, he even told me about his French girlfriend during the war.  Rock on granddad!

2.  He bet on the outcome with his friends and owed a bunch of money to the Price is Right bookie.

Okay several problems.  One, he was frugal.  Okay he was cheap.   The man worked as an electrician and later was a manager as a civil servant for Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio.  He made okay money and his expenses dropped as his kids grew up and left.  My dad was the baby of the family so by the time he was a teen they could afford a nicer home but  he never moved.  From 1949 to 1999 he lived in the same house in the Westside of San Antonio in a neighborhood that was deteriorating by the 1960s. (Think East LA but nicer, less gang infested, and none of that Atzlan BS)   His brother moved out of the area to a nice ranch style home in the late 1960s but my granddad stayed.   Going to his house was a trip.  The homes in the Westside  were poorly built and the high water table made the ground unstable.  Some of the homes were uneven including my grandparents.  Further proof of my grandfather's thrift was how they kept a 1975 Ford Monarch in perfect condition until he died.  The AC worked in the car after 20 years!   So would he gamble?  By the time the state lottery was approved in Texas my grandparents seemed to have a cottage industry of buying scratchers and lottery tickets.  He was also a big buyer of saving bonds.  They won some money so I guess it was okay, but losing on bets on the Big Wheel is unlikely. 

3.  My grandfather designed the electronic beeping sound for the Big Wheel and was never paid for his work.

Okay he was an electrician but the man did not use technology.   I doubt he ever used a computer and he died before the Internet has fully managed to disrupt our lives with not sutable for work pictures, clips of kittens and offers of cheap Viagra.   The man worked his 25 years and promptly retired before he was 60.  Now he did retire around 60 but designing the beep sound for the wheel seems unlikely.  One point in his favor was the fact he was an early adapter of cable TV.  He even bought HBO when they showed the same crappy movie 10 times a day.  But my Grandfather as a sound effects developer seems far fetched.  The original sound was an empty coconut sound as this clip shows.  I have to agree the beep is better.

4.  My grandfather was upset with the amount of trophies in his den and had to watch TV with us instead of alone taking his frustration out on the Big Wheel.

This explanation has merit. My dad's side of the family was big as was my mom's.  My aunts and uncles had a bunch of kids and they lived mostly around San Antonio.  I had 25 cousins I think.   I haven't counted in a while.  Those cousins were put in all sorts of sports and when they won trophies they would give it to my grandparents.  As time went on, the den became a shrine to the huge trophy era of the late 70s to mid 80s.  Some where the size of the one Ralph Macchio fought for in The Karate Kid.

 It was fortunate he lived in Texas instead of California as a minor earthquake would have killed someone with falling trophies. If I can remember everyone would stay in that room and it probably annoyed him.  As time passed he subtly got rid of almost all of the trophies.  No one noticed telling you how much those trophies meant to everyone else. Maybe they took them back, I have no clue.  When he died there were only three three trophies left,  two of which were mine.  One was my trophy for participating in baseball when I was terrible and batted .001, another was a pinewood derby car I made to race in Cub Scouts.  I raced it against against cars made by weekend dads and lost badly, and a bunch of rusted Zippo lighters given to him by uncles and friends.  I guess it proves every man deserves a cave, so having it taken over by out of control grandkids might make anyone mad.  The Big Wheel was his outlet.

Imagine dozens of these things and you get the picture.  

5.  Does it even matter if the Big Wheel was rigged, he watched the damn show!

Can't argue with that point.  The man never missed a show as far as I know.   The Price is Right and The Young and the Restless should have sent letters for their loyal viewing and given them a poorly built 1983 Oldsmobile Cutless with California emission.   You know he was a good man.  Very kind and some times grumpy.  I guess old people can be that way for reasons I hope to find out.  Honestly the wheel could never be rigged.  People can't keep their mouth shut, and it would have been found out after Bob Barker was sued by one his Barker's Beauties back in the early 90s.  Also Congress made rigging game shows illegal.  The FCC even is investigating one right now that was pulled six days before it was to air in 2010.  The Wheel is safe and will be as long as we long to win exercise equipment, trips to countries you don't care about, boats you have never operated in your life, lousy GM cars and designer dresses made for a size 2 model but won by a 300 lb man.

 It would have been cool if my granddad was right.  The man did vote for Carter in 80 and Mondale in 84 so he was one of 3 people in Texas to do so.  Despite this flaw I hope he is at peace and one day wins the Showcase Showdown in the sky.  Come on Down!

In honor of game shows I give you Weird Al and his 1984 parody "I Lost on Jeopardy".

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Songs From Funny to Gay

I was with my good friend Browneyes this weekend and one of the things we did was drive by a house that had a synchronized Christmas light display.  The house was not as spectacular as others on the block (other homes were in the 2 to 4 million range and had brick exteriors a rarity in Southern California and huge doors) but what the house lacked in high end aesthetics it made up for in the display.  The low watt radio station pumped out Christmas music as the lights danced.  Browneyes was fixated on the display and liked the songs and even bought some on Itunes later.

This song was stuck in my head for two days

As we left we started to rank Christmas songs and found it caused some discord and almost devolved into an argument over Christmas songs.  We decided it was futile to move each others' opinion on Christmas songs so we moved on.  For some reason we did agree on a plan for Jewish kids to celebrate Hanukkah. We figured that since they don't do the Santa thing they could get their pictures taken with the Maccabee Brothers in front of a large Menorah.  Now that is capitalism my friends.

Jewish kids should revel in a holiday that celebrates a war victory rather than a fat man giving things away

As a result of the discord we stopped talking about the songs but this does not stop me from forming my own ranks.  I have decided that the songs will be in categories.


"Last Christmas" by Wham.

 No song seems to cause more arguments over its merits than this song.  It has been covered by many artist and is a staple of the season.  Google Last Christmas with the word gay and you will find many pro and con argument over whether the song is about a gay couple.  My ex loved this song and quite a few others.  I guess it is subject to whether you find the works of George Michael pleasing.  Just like the song "YMCA" with it's obvious homoerotic lyrics it is up to you.  My take George Michael wrote the song so nuff said.  You decide.


Tie between "Christmas Shoes" by NEWSONG and "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg

When deciding on sad Christmas songs you have to decide whether your sadness is because you feel bad because you spent close to $2000 on toys for ungrateful kids, in which "Christmas Shoes" fulfills your need for guilt.  Or if your sadness is because you cheated on your long time girlfriend with a waitress at Chili's then "Same Old Lang Syne" is for you.  The biggest difference is that "Shoes" is rather sappy and will rot our your teeth faster than a mouth full of candy canes while "Lang Syne" will just make you drink more and on Christmas day eating at the few open resturants with other lonely people.  It is a hard choice.

So again sappy.



"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" by Dr. Elmo

This song is one that seemed funny at the time but after one play you wish to destroy the nearest stereo within reach.  This song even inspired a Christmas cartoon of the same name.  To be fair there are a lot of so called funny Christmas songs that are not even funny at all, sarcastic nods to the over commercialization of Christmas which in itself is funny since they are making money off their objection or unintentionally funny.


Tie between "Jingle Bell Rock" by Hall and Oates and "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" by Paul McCartney and Wings.

Now I have to admit that both songs alone are harmless and not funny. I feel bad for putting Hall and Oates in this catagory as I kind of made fun of them in a previous article.  I was reminded they were college friends and have not been subject to crazy allegations of excessive drug use.  Also it was pointed out that "You Make My Dreams" by them is catchy.  All true but it doesn't excuse them for hiring a bad video director. As for Paul McCartney other than his 1973 album Band On the Run it is kind of clear that his songwriting ability went south in comparison to John Lennon.  I put it this way, name one iconic song that Paul wrote after the Beatles and compare it to John's work and you have your answer.  However I give him "Jet" and "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time".    The video is amusing.

Hall and Oates effort

Paul McCartney's effort


"Jesus Christ" by Big Star

It really isn't a true Christmas song in the strict sense of the word but for most of the country that knows little about this band it is a song that shows how good they were.  Big Star is one of those bands that once you find you say why didn't they become more popular.  All things considered they do have a legacy so they are successful.  Other underrated Christmas songs include "Father Christmas" from the Kinks,  or if you miss bubblegum music "My Christmas Card to You" by David Cassidy and the Partridge Family.  But in all seriousness I recommend you check Big Star and enjoy this somewhat Christmas song.


Best Christmas song "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby and Best Performance "Drummer Boy"  duet with Bing Crosby and David Bowie

Bing Crosby was many things, nice father is not one of them if you believe his eldest son's book Going My Own Way.  However you have to admit that "White Christmas" is just a song that everyone knows and can be used for many things.  During the Fall of Siagon the song was played to signal US Personnel and others to get out of Vietnam.  "Drummer Boy" is an old song but his duet with David Bowie in 1976 is just cool.  I give you both songs so you can decide.

Crosby and Bowie

"White Christmas"

I hope you enjoyed my list so I leave you now with the song that got stuck in my head.  Aren't I rotten.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What is Random?

This is my first post. I thank my longtime friend Pam Hermanson Camel for challenging me to write about my obsession with randomness. I start by answering the question, what is random? First there is the dictionary definition (meaning: proceeding, made, or occurring without definite aim, reason, or pattern) and there is my definition. My definition of random are those things that happen to us that either break our concentration during a serious or solemn occasion, (think someone coughing during a test, or if you are into lowbrow humor someone in church passing gas) or events or things however small that somehow impact you or someone else when the reasons given are based on ideal visions of the event. Now the second part of the definition needs some examples and I provide two dissimilar events from history.

November 9, 1620 the Pilgrims (actually they didn't call themselves that but that is another story) running low on beer go ashore on what is now Plymouth Bay leading to the establishment of a colony and eventually the basis for the Thanksgiving Holiday.

January 29, 1979 Brenda Ann Spencer opens fire on a San Diego elementary school killing two people and wounding several others. Her rationale as told to police was that she didn't like Mondays.

Two unrelated events, but caused by something really insignificant. The Pilgrims and their beer emergency led to the establishment of a colony and New England, and became the basis of America’s unique holiday Thanksgiving. The other event, a murder by a 16 year old girl based on her dislike of Mondays, (Yes, I know there was probably something more to it, but really sometimes you have to accept a person’s reason at face value, and a dislike for Monday fits the definition of a random reason.) foreshadowed something more sinister growing in our culture that sadly has become to be seen as normal.

Contrary to popular belief, history is riddled with examples of random ideas, events and things that have caused larger things or events to change our world. To ignore randomness comforts us, because people like to think big things shape us and not little things. Big is often seen as better. Many like to think that Lee Harvey Oswald acted with others; it bothers us that one man with a random grudge could change the world.

Many people hate randomness and the small things, but I love it. I like to have fun with it. I loved TV shows that based their premise on well off white people taking in orphan black kids to raise as their own. Okay, one orphan show had a struggling photographer raising a girl but you get the idea. These things mattered to me, and for others it might be reality TV, music, the Internet or anything but lets not pretend that we were affected in some way.  Accept it. 

 I loved the small and random things of my childhood that truly shaped me. It wasn’t my folk’s actions that defined me but rather their lack of actions. Don’t get me wrong, they did a great job in providing for me and my siblings, but my folks were drama free. No abuse, no drinking problems, or other strangeness, rather they loved us, cared for us, protected us and did a great job. They were boring and I love them for that and again thanks Mom and Dad.  I owe you tens of thousands for the food you bought for me.  Let me get rich quick and I promise to make a payment.  Someday.  Oh, let me get back to my topic.

What filled the gap were events from my youth, which I will explore in future posts, where such things as visits to other peoples home.  When my folks visited their peers for whatever reason I often I was expected to behave, fair enough, but also play with the other children.  Yet, I often was scared out of my mind because how do I put this, I found most of them disgusting. I don’t care how young you are, your bedroom shouldn’t smell like urine, sweat and other fluids ever.  What the hell where these kids parents doing.  Okay, rant over and more details in future random posts but still.  Other traumas were as a kid being invited to birthday parties and being disappointed because the kid’s parents thought carrot cake would satisfy a child’s sweet tooth. Another defining event was my next door neighbors who entertained me and my family with cops, open infidelity and other poor behavior.  I could go on, and will in due time.  Lets just say, your environment does matter. 

Other random loves of mine are current events. I love reading and watching current events, but not for the reasons we see or think about. An example is a little noticed story on the Taliban and what people see from the drones and find on Taliban abandoned laptops. I will explore this topic in a later post but from the words of one military official describing the Taliban most are absolute perverts.  Who knew that a group of people who pride themselves on piety and oppression of women would have some interesting personal and Internet viewing habits. 

It’s my love of sensational news events, horrible TV show ideas, pop culture, the cultural ramifications of the 1983 US Festival, Different Strokes, the Cosby Show, Facts of Life, wedding dance songs, and details that are really minor and other things that lead me to study, discuss and hopefully educate everyone on random things and have fun while doing it. However here is what will not be discussed in this blog. Really, you can’t avoid these topics completely but they will be downplayed to a great extent.

The biggest taboo will be Politics. This blog will be for the most part a politics free zone. If a politician is ever discussed it will be in the context of their actions and small or random detail. A made up example will be that politician with a rich background buying food at a McDonald's and only ordering a salad and not fries. I love it when such people who are more accustom to eating sushi decide to try greasy ribs, cheesesteaks or fried Oreos. Entertainment with a capital E.   Will a sex scandal be discussed?  Depends on what it is, how kinky and if the person is interesting at all.  If it involves Guatemalan poolboys then the answer will probably be yes. 

This blog will refrain from overtly personal attacks. I hate it when a writer or a TV personality calls a particular person stupid or questions their intelligence. It speaks to the inability of the writer to articulate a reason for their dislike and shows that the attacker is the one who lacks intelligence. If I don't like a person or think I will tell you why and in detail. You the reader are free to disagree with the reason or reasons, but at least I gave you one. However, if I do make a comment I will try to be humorous, civil or at least short. Lets try one.  OJ Simpson got away with murder and is a horrible person.  Did it work?  You decide. 

Finally, this blog is designed to be fun and get you thinking. I hate sites that seem to take themselves so seriously that they forget that the goal of any writing is to engage the reader and keep them coming back. No one wants to be scolded, to be lectured (unless you like that thing) be insulted, or bored. You want some entertainment. Hopefully I will do that for you.

I love a good story, a good insight, humor and insanity. So you will find stories about Scientology (one of my favorite topics), America, and discussions on politically incorrect subjects like the joys of smoking and drinking. Name one article in the press that has discussed drinking or smoking in a positive light. Yes, it’s unhealthy, but some people enjoy it. Why not talk about it. Why not talk about how stupid the stranger danger thing was in the 1980s. Or as I like to point out, some kids did get kidnapped, but I didn’t and odds are you didn’t either so I guess it really wasn’t as big as deal as you thought. Look I don’t know anything. I really don’t. I am still learning, living and enjoying life. I hope that as we move along that we all have fun, get our juices flowing. Oh, if I don’t anger someone during this process I will know that I have failed. I don’t want to be loved or seen as a messenger. That’s what egotistical people say when they are insecure.  As Groucho Marx said, "I wouldn't want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member."  I want to be just a facilitator in a journey of our experience. In short, I want you to come back. How random of me.