Friday, January 10, 2020

On Neil Peart

I'm stunned, sitting here on that fateful Friday thinking about it, while trying to forget it. I'm broken.

I've seen all the tours since 1983, have all the albums (including Peart's Buddy Rich tribute), and have all the concerts on Blu-Ray.

And yet I'm sitting here, utterly unable to select the right thing to play in tribute.

Maybe, for now, silence is right.

This one hurts.

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January 10 at 4:55 PM · 
It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and band mate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three and a half year battle with brain cancer (Glioblastoma). We ask that friends, fans, and media alike understandably respect the family’s need for privacy and peace at this extremely painful and difficult time. Those wishing to express their condolences can choose a cancer research group or charity of their choice and make a donation in Neil Peart's name.
Rest in peace brother.
Neil Peart September 12, 1952 - January 7, 2020
My friend Jay Roberts wrote:
Once upon a time, there was a rock band. A rock band I liked *very* much. In early 1980, they released a new record.
That record had a song on it. About half-way through it, I thought, 'Are they talking about what I *think* they're talking about?!?' I played it over, and over, and over. Still sing it loud every time I hear it, forty years later.
Those of us who love this kind of music are mourning a brilliant musician with incredible skill - on his instrument, and with his pen. So am I.
But I'm also personally mourning someone who let a scared little 17yr old "agnostic" in a small Southern town know that he wasn't alone when he doubted that stuff. Thanks, Professor. Drumming ain't the only thing you taught.
Amen, Jay (the irony is intentional). Peart's legacy for this Louisiana/Texas boy will always be his lyrics and showing me there are different ways of looking at things.

Coupled to some kick-ass music, of course.
You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose free will

I was at "the Hartford Show" with my buddy Seth in 2002. We had seats behind a big column that restricted our view but hey it was Rush so who cares? I can't say I understood the significance of that concert at the time; why start in Hartford CT? But we were grateful the guys were back.

I understand it now.

Ultimately, the right answer this weekend was to watch the documentary "Rush: Time Stand Still". It confirmed for me that this man gave us far more than we gave back.

I'm just glad I was home alone with the dogs while watching this tonight...

We recognize Peart's brilliance in his percussion talent, a talent that I believe has no peer. There are talented percussion genius in other musical styles, but I suggest Neil Peart was truly the best of all in his combinations of technique, implementation, and character.

But I also suggest that, at least for me, his brilliance would have been generally brushed aside as "overbusy drumming" had it had not been coupled to the brilliance of his lyrics and his offering to us that there's a different way of thinking out there, that you're not alone. His politics, changing as they did over the years, is certainly debateable, especially in today's political climate. But ironically I think that's what he was trying to point out after all.

I'm also looking back and wondering if we - his fans, his agents, his bandmates - asked too much of him. It was clear he did this for his art and had reached his tolerance level of the lifestyle, both physcially and mentally. By the Clockwork Angels tour, a tour which he himself admitted (in "Time Stand Still") was the pinnacle of his career, and he envisioned the end. He was very displeased with being convinced to do R40 yet he persisted, sacrificing himself from a sense of loyalty to his band and all of us.

It's also clear (to me) that he had no inkling of his illness during that tour (2015); in "Time..." he discusses how he just can't be 71 and still performing at the level that he demands of himself. His self-described issues at that time were tendenitis, weariness, and just getting old. So after R40 he gave himself the "free will" to pursue his life as he pleased, writing, riding, whatever.
A lot of times I can slip around and be a guy. And that's all I want from traveling through; I just want to be a guy. And that's life enough for me. - Neil Peart
We knew that was the de facto last tour; we expected we'd not see them at coliseum gigs ever again. But we all continued to hope that we'd see more of their brilliance in some small way. That hope was shattered Friday.

We wake up today and as the alcohol wears off Neil Peart is still gone. I feel bad for him, his family, and his friends/bandmates. I feel grateful for the sacrifice we were given. But mostly I feel bad for us, as we'll not ever again able to experience that muscial talent and genius.

Maybe death is what it took for Neil Peart to finally be in peace.

Thank you, Neil.

The incredible public outpouring of emotion over the news of his death has been incredible. I think he'd hate it... ;) But here's some of the ones that caught my eye (I hope these links continue to live):

Neil Peart, Rush Drummer Who Set a New Standard for Rock Virtuosity, Dead at 67
by Brian Hiatt

Neil Peart Was an Exceptional Musician Who Influenced Countless Drummers, But His Legacy Can Actually Be Summed Up With 4 Words
by Jeff Haden

The Death of Rock's Master Craftsman
by Damon Linker

RIP Neil Peart, 1952–2020
by Will Collier

The Misfit Awesomeness of Neil Peart and Rush
by Amanda Petrusich

A Homeric Life: Neil Peart (1952-2020)
by Bradley J. Birzer

Why It Hurts When Great Musicians Pass Away
by Brad Shaeffer

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Beer Quotes

Beer Quotes

You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer. - Frank Zappa

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. - Ernest Hemmingway

Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me. - Winston Churchill

He was a wise man who invented beer. - Plato

Time is never wasted when you're wasted all the time. - Catherine Zandonella

A woman drove me to drink and I didn't even have the decency to thank her. - W.C. Fields

Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink. - Lady Astor to Winston Churchill
Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it. - His reply

Sir, you're drunk! - Lady Astor to Winston Churchill
Yes, Madam, I am. But in the morning, I will be sober and you will still be ugly. - His reply

If God had intended us to drink beer, He would have given us stomachs. - David Daye

Work is the curse of the drinking class. - Oscar Wilde

When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading. - Henny Youngman

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. - Benjamin Franklin

If you ever reach total enlightenment while drinking beer, I bet it makes beer shoot out your nose. - Deep Thought, Jack Handy

Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza. - Dave Barry

The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind. - Humphrey Bogart

Why is American beer served cold? So you can tell it from urine. - David Moulton

People who drink light "beer" don't like the taste of beer; they just like to pee a lot. - Capital Brewery, Middleton, WI

Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world. - Kaiser Welhelm

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer. - Homer Simpson

Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer. - Dave Barry

I drink to make other people interesting. - George Jean Nathan

They who drink beer will think beer. - Washington Irving

An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools. - For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemmingway

You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on. - Dean Martin

All right, brain, I don't like you and you don't like me. So let's just do this and I'll get back to killing you with beer. - Homer Simpson

Here's to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.  - Homer Simpson

Saturday, December 28, 2019

On Improving Delivery Infrastructure

You've seen the trucks strung along for miles on the open road. Long lines of 'em bringing goods to the masses. Watching them, I had some thoughts on how to improve things...

  • Reduce conflicts: give them their own lane, accessible only to trucks;
  • Improved eficiency: them to couple together a longer string of trailers, so that only one truck is pulling many trailers;
  • Improve energy generation systems: design them with a hybrid drivetrain system, like maybe the diesel engine actually drives an electrical generator, and the traction motors are instead electric;
  • Improve safety: the driver can manage the energy but instead of rubber on asphalt we could install some kind of rail system to guide the rig to avoid traffic conflicts, the truck/trailers will be steered by these rails;
  • Give the truckers a horn that they can honk at cars at intersections.

I'm shocked no one has ever thought of this before.

Monday, December 2, 2019

On Moving to Natural Gas...

I called our gas company a few years ago about switching from home heating oil. Here's how the conversation went.

<Cheerful voice> "Hello, thank you for calling XXXXXX! How can I help you?"

"Hi, I'd like to switch to natural gas from home heating oil. Can you help me?"

"Yes sir, I'd be glad to! Please give me your address."

"1212 Anywhere Lane, Middletown CT"

"Thank you! Give me a moment here...<tap, tap, tap, tap, tap>...yes sir, I think we can help you! We'd be glad to have you as a customer!"

"Ok, I see you're advertising some specials, price reductions on boilers, etc...?"

"Yes sir! Let me get a total here...please stand by...Ok, we can switch you to natural gas and we'll sign you up, install the equipment, give you a state rebate for the switch, and give you a reduction for your first year's for annual delivery. How does that sound?"

"Excellent! So what's the cost to switch?"

"Ok, sir, stand by by for a moment...<tap, tap, tap, tap, tap>...OK, total initial investment will be $283,432.68."



"Did you say Two Hundred and Eighty Three THOUSAND dollars?? That's a joke, right?"

"Oh no sir! Thing is, we do not have a main going down your street, so we'd have to extend the main to your street. Fortunately, there's one just around the corner, so we'd do all the work, get the permitting, perform the street work, and then once that main is down your street we'd attach your house to it and now you're heating your home with efficient, less expensive natural gas!"

"So I'd have to pay for all the construction cost for installing a main down my street?"

"Yes sir! Would you like me to place the order now?"

"Um, no....but if I did, would I get a rebate or cut of the sales for all the other homeowners that then tap into the line I just paid to have installed?"

"No sir, sorry. Are you sure you don't want me to place the installation order now?"

"Um, yes, thanks."

"OK, sir, I understand, but if you change your mind please do call us at 1-800-XXXXXXX! Thanks for calling!"


Friday, March 29, 2019

On Driver's Schools

A buddy asks..."So you've driven 43 (or whatever) race many have you been upside down on?" And I reply, "TWO! What's the other one?"

The other one was...Hallett Motor Speedway.

I did my two driver's schools at Texas World Speedway in 1984 (1985?) so signed got off for the Regional license. But I learned that as long as you're on a Novice Permit they can't block you from a driver's school which is the best frackin' track/butt-time value on the planet...

So I entered the Hallett driver's school that next month. I don't remember the exact name of my instructor for that third school - I wish I did, 'cause I want to have a beer with him - but he knew I was signed off and he was just baby-sitting me and was all about having a good time and pushing me to go faster. At some point he convinced me - either he really believed it, or he thought I'd get the joke - that I could do Turn One (counterclockwise) - at Hallett flat out.

So, of course, being all piss and vineger, after a couple laps I tried Hallett Turn One flat out. Until I got halfway through Turn One, then decided I couldn't do Turn One flat out, and then bailed out, and then realized that wasn't gonna work either.

But yeah, too late. I ended up backwards, driver's door to tire wall at a good clip and the car popped up off the ground and began rotating, along with the view out of the windshield. I see sky, then grass , then sky, then tires, then THUMP I'm on my head. A couple more bumps and it settles down and gets mostly quiet. I'm confused, trying to figure out where I am...

I shake it off and realize the world isn't as I intended. I reach down to grab the lever to release the belts and the very instant after I move that lever I remember I'm upside down and the science of gravity takes over to move my...a-hem, midsection...into the solidity of the steering wheel and I remember getting hit there hurts...trying to scramble sideways out an open window while hoping there's no fire...some guy in whites, out of breath, runs up to me (huffing in between breaths "") while I'm still upside down, asking me if I'm okay...and there's this strange smell of fuel and hypoid gear oil (I still hate the smell of that stuff today...)

I'd just wrecked my ride home.

After some moments of time, which seemed like an hour but were more like 3 minutes, I'm watching some wrecker guys trying to roll over my primary (only) street car off a tire wall while I look up the hill at both my school instructor (on his scooter) and my then-girlfriend who came with me with her hands across her mouth...then I look to my right to some guy standing next to me, looking at my car all up against the tire wall.

I look over and give him the "hey" what's up eyebrow flash. He turns to me, points to the car, and says, "that you?" I look down at my driver's suit, then at the car, and then back at him and respond, cleverly, "yup".

He looks over to the car, then to the tire wall, then back at me, and says, "You know, no matter how far back I move that wall, you guys always seem to find a way to hit it."

Turns out he was the track owner.

I had no response.

Funny part is, if'n I'd not have bailed out in the middle of that turn, I probably actually coulda done Turn One at Hallett flat out...oh, well.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

2007 VIR 13

So here's my account of what happened. It's been 10+ years so who knows how much if this has been embellished but it's a good story, I reserve the right to embellish subject to corrections of fact, of course...anyway...

2007 VIR 13, we're running Pablo Deuce. We're pretty amped after the 24 Hours Nelson Ledges win, I'd won the ARRC the year before, the team was rocking. Team Boss (Knestis) was battling the flu so I was doing 2.5-3 hour stints and running a good pace all day. Think I did something like 6-7 hours of the 13 that year...

We'd worked up a multi-lap lead by the end of the night. As I was closing the event I came up on some clod in a Pontiac Solstice that just was out there with no clue. I'd come rolling up on him in the night like I was beamed down by the Starship Enterprise and pass him, but then he'd "assimilate" my speeds (and headlights) and rocket in front of me on the straights (after all, I had - what? - 100 wheel horsepower?) And then, because he was now in front, he'd park it in the friggin corners and I'd be all over his ass again. I'd eventually get some distance on him but inevitably we'd come up on traffic, I'd get balked, and he'd catch up. Time and time again, lap after lap, we'd have this argument where he'd pass me on the straights and then park me in the corners. I was getting pretty frustrated.

About 45 minutes or so from the end of the race, I thought I had enough distance on him out of Oak Tree (when there actually was an oak tree) and I'd be good for that lap, so I stayed mostly toward the right at the end of the straight to "discourage" him from passing. But he stuffed in a late, really bad pass into the right-hander at Roller Coaster and there he was again. By now I'd just flat had enough: as we came out of the right-hander, he'd gone wide left and I got a bumper on him to his right; he tried to move toward the right for the left-hander down the hill and I just didn't lift, kept my foot in it. I may have even made an ever-so-slightly early turn into the left-hander as he came across me (hard to say, no video, right?) and Mr Big Power Late Braker found himself "PITted" (I called it Tiddly-Winked) off driver's right and out of my life. Buh-bye, see ya.

Next 15 minutes of the race were of no consequence, I did my best to toss in some hot laps to finish the night. We were way ahead, let's bring it home.

Right about then, a small pack of various cars come up on me, and I started pointing them by. Coming out of NASCAR, some idiot Spec Miata driver broadsides the GTI! I'm all like "what the fuck, you idiot!", signal to him he's #1 (a fruitless nighttime gesture) and I just let him by. He slows out of Left Hook so I start to pass him and then he suddenly starts hammering the side of my car through Snake! WHAT THE HELL?? So I just maintain control of Pablo and hammer the throttle for the Esses and this idiot stays even with me and keeps hammering me side-by-side up through the Esses, trying to intentionally knock me off the track! Over a finger?? I'm on driver's left and I'm all like "Ok, you want this sonuvabitch? Let's go!" and we're side-by-side through South Bend where I make him earn it - shoulda put the idiot off the track right then and there - and then we go side-by-side through Oak Tree. I don't know how many dents we put in those cars on that lap but by the time we get down the back straight and to Roller Coaster IT'S FUCKING ON!!! Hog Pen, up the front straight, and by now I'm starting to think this is one seriously psychotic dude but I am NOT going to let this go. I beat him braking into Turn 1 - that's how motivated I was - and then as we go around Turn 2 toward NASCAR I pull over and PARK the car on the straight. And by "park" I mean I STOPPED THE CAR ON THE STRAIGHT driver's right, dead stopped, and this psycho pulls up and stops right behind me.

By now I'm on the radio, a bit rattled, trying to tell our crew guy Bill that there's some psycho motherfucker trying to kill me and someone needs to do something about it RIGHT the FUCK NOW. The response I get is along the lines of...

"Ooookay, Greg. Yeah, no problem. There's only fifteen or so minutes left, just take it easy and bring it home, 'kay?"

And I'm all like, "No, Bill, you don't get it. This guy is trying to DRIVE ME OFF THE TRACK!"

"Oookay, Greg, understand. Just bring it home."

I'm inconsolable. "Bill, you're a fucking idiot. We are STOPPED ON THE TRACK AT TURN TWO AND HE'S BEHIND ME STOPPED TOO."

"Ooookaaayyy, Greg..."


I don't know how long we sat there, seemed like forever but was probably only 30 seconds, but that game of chicken didn't last long before he pulled away from behind me and took off. And as hard as I tried I could not catch that fucking Miata to give him some Pablo Justice - I'd already mentally bought the car - so I stewed for the 15 or whatever minutes it was left in the race. I was ripped.

Race ends and I bring it into the pit lane and stop behind all the other cars lined up and I'm out of control. I start heading for the stewards much like Shuey did after Coulthard wrecked him in the rain. I had no idea who this fucking asshole idiot psycho was, but I was going to TAKE. HIM. DOWN as best I knew how, short of physical violence (it was probably best I didn't visually identify the car). I headed straight for the tower and looked for anyone that looked semi-important and made it abundantly clear we were going to settle this tonight. So while the team was drinking beer and enjoying the victory, I was being all Johnny Letter in the tower...

Stewards did the best they could to calm me down and handed me the forms. I'm still fuming but slowly winding down - but not wound down - as I'm writing up the protest and I hear some stewards the hallway outside the room discussing it. They're trying to figure out which car it was, and which driver it was, and at some point I hear them mutter "car #xx, Charles Espenlaub".

What? Are you fucking kidding me?? At that point I realized it wasn't some idiot psycho, it was a talented psycho, and I began to wonder what in the hell this was all about.

Wasn't too long after that we both got called to the Chief Steward and she was none too pleased with us. The Chief sits us both down side-by-side in folding chairs in the middle of a room and she's got a big frown on her face looking sternly at each of us and wants to know what all the metal-to-metal calls were from all over the track and then she informs me that Espenlaub's team has filed a protest against me. I'm pretty incredulous; what in the hell are they protesting me for? "For knocking their team car off the track", she says.

The Solstice.

I turn to Espenlaub and say, "is that what this is all about??" and he has a sheepish look on his face. I catch the eye of his team manager/owner Randy Hale and then it all makes sense. And it was at that point I realized I'd better keep my god-dammed mouth shut. Chief lets us both know that she's well aware of who we are and that we both have been around long enough to know better, and that if either of us opens our mouth to say anything at that moment it won't be good for either of us. And both of us have enough sense to know that we better just sit there, shut up, nod vigorously up-and down to everything she says, and agree that we both did bad. And then she tells us to shake hands, get over it, and that's exactly what we did.

And as we're walking out of the stewards room, Espenlaub gives me a big smile and says something like "good driving" and I mention I thought he was was some Spec Miata psycho but it was an interesting exchange and Randy Hale mentions something about I would have done good in World Challenge and then we all left to go to our paddock and drink a lot of beer that night.

And in the end, I kinda wish I'd known it was him because that shit could have gone on for several more interesting laps.

And I did apologize to Bill after for the radio comments, but he won't talk to me any more...

Racing. Yay.

Friday, June 8, 2018

On Anthony Bourdain

I will (shamefully) admit that the news three days ago of the suicide of Kate Spade had no affect on me. While I will lament any suicide, I had never heard of Kate Spade, so it simply became part of the regular churning news cycle.

Generally, I don't wax eloquent about celebrity anything, even their deaths. But today is different. I don't fully understand why this one is different, but it is.

Anthony Bourdain was not one of those faceless celebrity names, one we can put aside. Anthony Bourdain was a regular houseguest in my home, a vicarious friend, maybe even a mentor. He was more than a travel show, more than mindless entertainment. In point of fact, while certainly entertaining, Anthony leveraged our short entertainment attention span to actually teach us something about the rest of the world.

Rather than just being bland shows about interesting (or at times shocking) foods, Bourdain's adventures leveraged our entertainment and pseudo-food interests to broaden our horizons to the ecosystems, the geography, and the cultures that spawned those foods. He taught us to take chances to expand our culinary horizons, challenging our little food/culture/geography enclosures, but more importantly he taught us about the rest of the world outside our little boxes.

Unconsciously to us, we actually learned something important from him while we just figured we were being entertained.

Anthony introduced us to new people, new countries, and especially new cultures, consistently challenging our core beliefs and understandings of those cultures, all while we witnessed challenges to his very own beliefs more often than not. We didn’t necessarily agree with his beliefs - and never felt the requirement to - but we sincerely respected them, because we recognized that he sincerely respected our beliefs. We were proud to have him be our statesman, our ambassador, our antithesis of the “Ugly American”.

Thanks to Anthony, I occasionally look for restaurants and items on menus for something new that I’ve never tried before. Contrary to today’s obsession with them, I can directly attribute my initial “bravery” of trying something from a food truck - some old square truck with food! - directly to Anthony Bourdain. He had me try pho - and I liked it. And he had almost – almost! – gotten me to try blood sausage…maybe it’s time.

Anthony also taught us more about the unsavory side of the food preparation industry, far more than we wanted to know. He taught us to be tolerant of an industry seems to be such as easy thing to do, maybe something fun to do, yet we now realize it is neither.

He also, ironically and sadly, ultimately taught us of the demons that can haunt the human condition. “There but by the grace of God…” And his internal conflicts between an obvious love of animals versus a strong appetite for “meat on the stick” was something we can all relate to.

In the end, Anthony Bourdain allowed us to vicariously – and enviously – tag along and see new places, eat new foods, meet new people, sharing a meal in the restaurants and even private homes of the seemingly-mundane but truly spectacular, things and people and places and stuff that we all know deep down we’ll never get to do ourselves. We’ll miss that.

I mourn the untimely death of Anthony Bourdain, but more so I mourn the fate of those of us that have been left behind, those of us that will continue on without him. Because we are all a little bit lesser now. I certainly am.

Words have no truer meaning: Rest In Peace, Anthony Bourdain. I’m glad we knew you; I truly hope your demons have now been exorcised.

And I promise I’ll always remember to “respect the pig”.