Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Influence of Les Paul.

On a Summer Monday, back in the early 90's, My cousin Pat, my buddy, Jimbo and I headed for Third Avenue in NYC to catch Les Paul at Fat Tuesdays. We were all in a band together at the time, and were big fans of Les Paul. As we squished into our tight fitting table, I said "Thank God we made it to see Les today. He's getting up there and who knows how much longer he'll be playing guitar." He went on to play for another 15 years or so, and I've had the pleasure of seeing him perform again after that night, and to shake his hand.

He played at Fat Tuesdays and then moved on to the Irridium. He told the story of how he originally got the Monday night gig at Fat Tuesday's. Les called the manager at the time and said "This is Les Paul and I want to play at your club on Monday nights." The manager then informed him that the club was colsed on Monday nights, but he would book him any other night he wanted to play. Les persisited, "I want to play on Monday nights." The manager again protested and Les finally said "You don't understand-I want to play for free on Monday nights." The manager then said "We are now open on Monday nights."

His shows were a mixture of great jazz and jokes, and he was known to make fun of the menu when he played, and it was always a great time, and so many great musicians played with him over the years including Bing Crosby, Chet Atkins, Mary Ford, Brian May and on and on.

Everyone knows about Les Paul's chops, and most know that he was one of the inventors of the modern electric guitar, but perhaps his greatest contribution to the recording industry was his invention of "multi-track" recording. Prior to his engineering work with multiple tracks it was only possible to record two tracks, at most. His invention changed music forever!

I'm sad that Les passed away, but he lived a good, long life and was an inspiration to many.
Les Paul and my Uncle Ren were two of my earliest inspirations when I first picked up the guitar. He will surely be missed.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Zeppelin Hall Restaurant & Biergarten, Jersey City

I'll admit that I don't remember much about my first trip to Zeppelin Hall Beer Garden, 88 Liberty View Drive, Jersey City, NJ, but I do remember the important things: the beer and food. The beer was excellent, the food good.

My friend and I wandered in to Zeppelin Hall about 4:30pm on a Friday afternoon, after getting lost among the new condo construction projects, and finally asking the owner of the Brownstone Diner, located a block West, for directions. The stress of our sojourn through "New Condo Land" made finally finding our beer oasis that much sweeter. We ordered a couple of brews inside the huge hall, and then wandered to the outside beer garden. I started with an old stand by-Smuuttynose IPA, a rich, cloudy, ale with a copper color, thick head, and a nice hoppy flavor. My friend had an Abita Purple Haze, a slightly sweet wheat beer, with a hint of raspberries. They are brewed in New Hampshire and New Orleans, respectively.

My cousins met us soon after and they ordered a Staropramen, an amber-gold pilsner with a hint of honey from the Czech Repuplic, and a Kira Belgian White, a straw colored brew with a hint of bananna, and a crisp, refreshing finish. As we sipped from our half-liter glasses, I remarked how crazy the people were who were drinking the liters. "Man, that guy is going to be tanked later", I said from my high horse (which was quickly losing it's footing). Little did I know that I would be "tanked" in a few hours myeslf (more on that later).

As the beer garden filled with thirsty happy hour fans we decided to order some food. I was very dissapointed that the "Sauerbraten", advertised on the web site, was not on the menu. In fact, I was told, it might not be for a while. So, I settled for buffalo wings (average) and the "Sausage Sampler", which includes three types of sausage from about a list of six. We went with Bratwurst, Kielbasa, and Andouille, which were all very good. The fries were cooked to the perfect crispness.

I washed down the meat massacre with a River Horse Double Wit, which has an almost orange tint, and a nice, frothy head. It had a clove spice to it and a nice peppery finish. And being in Jersey, I figured that I had to have at least one beer that is actually brewed in the Garden State.

The night pretty much deteriorated from that point on. I met an old work friend and met his friends and we had a grand old time at the huge wooden table by the window. By this point, the view of the brand spanking new condos was getting hazy and I knew it was time to go home, but I have a feeling I will be back to my new favorite Biergarten, and will hopefully be eating a big plate of Sauerbraten, and sipping on a nice Leffe Blonde Ale.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Great Crash of June, 2009...

Well, it happened a few days ago. My almost brand new PC's hard drive completely froze up and I lost about two weeks worth of photos, essays, pics and bookmarks. I also lost a lot of freelance stuff I was working on, which I'm now frantically trying to patch together from the fragments of my disjointed mind. Don't worry, I'll live.

The thing that did strike me as odd on the morning of my first day without a computer, was how blue the sky was, how purple the pansies, and how yellow the sun. It was like a man emerging from a cave after a year-everything burned with new significance.

But in all seriousness, what really bothered me was the fact that I have become so dependent on my computer, the internet-technology in general. I'm not one of those people who walks around almost being hit by a bus because he's texting on his Blackberry, and I consider myself a responsible, courteous, citizen. I like to think that I control my life, but sadly, to some degree, The Technology god rules.

In any case, it was actually kind of nice not being a slave to my computer for a couple of days-
I just whipped out my iPod, texted my agent, and rode off into the sunset...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tivo As Time Machine.

I have a bad habit of recording shows on my DVR and then not watching them for weeks, months, or even a year. I recently went through the list of recordings (half of them shows that I would never watch anyway) and I came across a documentary on Howard Hughes that I taped exactly a year ago. The documentary was fascinating and I learned a lot of things about a subject that I thought I was somewhat of an expert on. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. There was another more disturbing facet of my little screening - the commercials.

It seems that almost every car commercial these days comes with a disclaimer that says something like "If you lose your job, we make the payments for at least nine months", or "Lose your income and we'll take the car back, no questions asked." Most commercials are quite depressing and almost morose these days, but a year ago you would hear pitches like "Indulge yourself-buy a new Hummer-you deserve it." There was one car ad from last year where a guy is in a black BMW or Mercedes with three supermodel type women where he goes out to some really expensive looking club. Now, they show a guy looking sad, but sitting down to a budget family dinner, or they don't show people at all.

Now we have some pretty sad and dire ads sandwiched in between shows that have had their budget cut, at least somewhat, from last year. The saddest commercial of all is the Progressive Insurance spot where the guy had to sell his watch because he's so broke.

I'm not trying to depress anybody, just making an observation, and I hope that I won't be selling my watch a few months from now.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Kids on Leashes!?

I think it was Mark Twain who said, "Children should be kept in a box with air holes until they are 18 years of age." While I always chuckle at that tongue in cheek quote, one thing I most certainly don't approve of is putting children on leases. Now, I know what you're thinking: "What the hell does Nick know? He doesn't even have any kids!" Very true, but I do have 3 wonderful nephews and a niece, who are all very curious and active. True, sometimes I can't keep up with them, and I have to chase them, but I don't think putting them on a leash is the answer.
Besides, somehow the leash would end up comically wrapped around my neck and arms, or in a tree, or something along those lines.

The leash thing seems pretty extreme to me, but then there's the other end of the spectrum: Parents who are too busy texting or chatting to notice that their kids are about to fall down the stairs or run into traffic. A few years back I grabbed a little kid by the collar as he was about to run into traffic in Manhattan. The mother, who was on her cell phone and not paying attention thought I had just grabbed her son for now reason. The guy standing next to me explained to her that I had most likely just saved her son's life. She was a bit nicer to me after that.

Parents, you probably don't want parenting advice from a confirmed bachelor, but I'm offering it anyway-Keep and eye on your kids, and the leashes on the cats or dogs.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's The Blackberries Stupid!

Okay, so everyone is postulating and speculating about the state of the economy and AIG and the stock market, and on and on. There is no doubt that the world is in the midst of a Bastard strength quagmire, conundrum, or what have you, but in this humble journalists opinion, it has more to do with the fact that we are alienating ourselves from each other than with politics or even the economy.

We are all blackberried, facebooked and twittered up the wazoo, but no one is REALLY communicating. Sure, it's all fun and a great distraction, but when 9 out of 10 people in a business meeting are texting their friends instead of paying attention to the new "Business Model", well, Houston, we have a problem. I've seen this first hand, and quite frankly-it makes me ill.

It's been said before, but all this technology isn't really helping us, it's ultimately just making us ruder and more isolated. I for one, go out of my way to bump into people on the street who are too busy texting to pay attention to where they are going. And of course they give me the "deer in the headlights" look when I grab their coat to try to save them from being hit by a cab (that actually happened).

I'll get off my soapbox now, but, perhaps we need to go back to the days where people would actually get on a soapbox and communicate with their fellow man.