August 29, 2010

An Evening With Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:10 pm

A month or so ago, a couple of the Usual Suspects (The Original Bill and Sinister Linda) asked if we would be interested in seeing Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero (a/k/a “Connie Francis”) in concert, as she would be appearing at a nearby venue. I had been a fan of Connie Francis back in the day, as were most peeps, but knowing that she’s even longer in the tooth than I (by damned near a decade), I was sort of “Feh” about the adventure. But, seeing as how our friends were going and Mrs. Parkway wanted to go, I agreed.

On the night of the concert, I was kicking myself in the ass that I agreed to go, but I was looking forward to the pre-show dinner with two of the Usual Suspects. After eating a table full of Pub Grub, drinking a few pints and having more than a few laughs, we were off to the show. Once seated, I checked out the band orchestra and was most impressed. By my count, there were 17 or 18 musicians, including a couple of violinists and even a harpist. There was a drummer and a percussion guy who played, among other things, the tympani drums. The guitar player doubled on mandolin. Lots of brass. A first-class assemblage.

The orchestra opened with a overture of several of Connie’s hits (She’s had a bunch of them), which was most impressive. Connie took the stage and sang a couple opening cover tunes, after which she sang some of her many hits, including her first and possibly most famous one. Many of the songs were paired with a slide show retrospective of her life and career. Between songs, she spoke about her life in New Jersey and the highs and lows of her career, including her four failed marriages.

Following an intermission, she returned to sing several songs she has recorded in foreign languages, including “Mama,” which brought the house down.

I was thoroughly entertained and was pleasantly surprised that she still could lay it in. Sure, her fastball has lost a bit of heat, but no more than would be expected of someone in her early seventies. Only one tune was a bit of a train wreck (“Old Time Rock and Roll”), when she got ahead of the orchestra, but the orchestra leader handled it well – so well that I heard it, but no one else in our group noticed.

The bottom line is that if you grew up listening to Connie Francis’s music (either on your own, or via your parents), you would enjoy seeing her in concert – an American woman with a most impressive musical career.

Sing it out, Connie!

June 13, 2010

Pickin’ in the Pinelands.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 3:43 pm

Last night, I did something I’ve wanted to for quite some time, which was to check out the Albert Music Hall and see if I could do a bit of pickin’ there.

As you can see from the website, the place has become a cultural institution in New Jersey. I had been to the old location many years ago, before it burned down. Back then, I went into the theater to see the show, which I enjoyed very much. However; what intrigued me most about the place was the musical action that was taking place in the parking lot. People playing all sorts of instruments (mostly stringed) clustered in groups and just played and sang for themselves and anyone who felt like watching – and many did.

The spontaneous parking lot “concerts” became part of the tradition, so when the new building was built, a “Pickin’ Shed” and a porch were included for those who show up with instruments and want to play (there are photos on the website).

So, I decided to give it a shot. I put my guitar (not the Gibson) in the trunk and headed over there to see how the pickin’ thing works. When I arrived, there were already about ten people playing in the Pickin’ Shed. Not knowing the “rules” (e.g.Was some minimal level of competence required? Does it cost anything? Do you need someone’s permission?), I asked one of the peeps, “Can anyone play?”

Answer: “Sure.”

With that, I took the guitar from the gig bag, watched people’s hands to see the key of the song everyone was playing and started right in. There were about a half-dozen guitar players, a couple mandolin players, a guy playing the dobro, a guy way older than I playing harmonica and even a guy keeping time with brushes on a share drum. After playing about ten songs, the guy who seemed to be the main guy looked in my direction and said, “The fella over there in the green shirt strumming that guitar… [i.e. me] … Would you like to sing one?”

Of course, I did not refuse. I sang one and then sang another couple tunes over the next few hours. I learned that players and spectators come in and out all night. Later in the evening, an absolutely amazing fiddle player showed up. He was kind of a goofy, happy guy who had no problem doing a bit of a crazy dance while he played. Truth is, I heard him play some serious stuff outside the shed, and I’m convinced that he must be an accomplished violinist who does the “fiddle” thing for shits and giggles.

I closed out the night by moving to the porch to play. It is my impression that the porch is where more serious players seem to congregate. The guy playing banjo was great. I just stayed on the fringe doing my damndest to keep up with the rapid-fire chord changes in bluegrass tunes I had never heard before.

My fingers are sore today, but it was a great way to spend Saturday night. Hell, I may well become one of the “regulars.”

Note: Be sure to click on the Video link on the website for background on the Albert Music Hall. You can also see the video by clicking here.

May 27, 2008

Celebrity Sighting, I think.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 7:39 pm

My mind is still on vacation, as it were, even though today I returned to truckloads of work to do.

With that in mind, I thought I would share something, which, for me, is quite a rarity – namely a celebrity sighting.

As I was walking toward the gate at Fort Myers – Sanibel Airport, I noticed a tall man walking in my direction. He was wearing a blue blazer, tan pants and dress shoes, which is no big deal. But, he was also wearing a close-fitting baseball cap. As we passed each other, it still hadn’t registered. Once he was a dozen paces past me, it came together. It was James Patterson, the gazillion selling author of the “Alex Cross” series and several other page turners.

I said to The Original Bill who was already seated at the gate, “Yo, I think I just walked past James Patterson.”

Bill looked at the people walking away from the direction of the gate and said, “I know who you mean. The blue blazer guy. James Patterson does live in Florida, you know.” (I didn’t know that, or, at least, I didn’t recall that.)

He looked, to me, like his photos on the back of each of his books (with the baseball cap), except he was a big guy. Yeah, I know. Stoopid, to gauge someone’s height and mass based upon a head shot on the back cover of a book.

That’s where this exciting story ends. I am not a person who would chase the guy down and say stuff like, “Yo! You’re James Patterson, right? I’m a big fan. blah, blah, blah, so I never got around until a couple days later even mentioning to Mrs. Parkway (also a Patterson fan) that I believed that I had seen the guy.

The only other airport celebrity sighting I can claim was the time I saw Al *spit* Sharpton at the San Francisco Airport waiting to board the flight to Newark. Unlike, James Patterson (at least, I think it was James Patterson), Sharpton was prancing around the gate area, obviously hoping to be noticed. I noticed him all right, but I wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire.

Did I mention that the “Reverend” Al was flying first-class? I was flying coach, so I had to wait while the “Reverend” lumbered his fat ass on the plane. I couldn’t help but wonder who paid for his ticket.

That’s about it, except to note that I was a bit disappointed that James Patterson (at least, I think it was him) didn’t stop dead in his tracks and say, “Yo, are you Jimbo from Parkway Rest Stop? I’m a big fan blah, blah blah …”

Maybe next year.

Update: I just remembered that I was on a flight to Jacksonville with this guy and blogged about it here. He didn’t recognize me either, but I have better hair.

July 19, 2005

So, That’s Who it Was!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 11:55 pm

This past April I was sitting on the plane waiting for the rest of the passengers to board the flight that would take me to Jacksonville, where I would meet Eric and Mrs. Straight White Guy for the drive to Jekyll Island to attend the Wreckyll in Jekyll Jawja Blogmeet. I noticed a fellow taking a seat a few rows in front of mine. What first caught my attention was his hair, which had been fixed in such a way to make it appear that he had just gotten out of bed. To me, it looked generally messy and randomly spikey. I then saw that he was carrying an obviously well-traveled mandolin case. It was also apparent that he was with three or four other people, at least two of whom were also carrying stringed instrument cases smaller than a guitar.

Being a regular Sherlock Holmes, I concluded that this was a band traveling to or from a gig. I recall that they were all very pleasant, particularly the fellow with the goofy hair. I really didn’t give it any thought after that, at the time being more interested in getting to Jekyll to do a bit of pickin’ of my own.

Well, don’t ya know that a couple days ago I was reading Time Magazine** and I saw a picture of the goofy haired guy who was on the plane (in an article about a CD he made). Turns out that it was this guy! (Lots of sound samples there to enjoy.)

As my buddy Dax would say, “Just Damn!”

September 2, 2003

Learn Something New Every Day Department.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:03 pm

In my post about this weekend’s Labor Day Party I had mentioned Bill, the newest of the Usual Suspects, who supplied the excellent cigars. Over the past few months, I have learned that, in addition to knowing a good cigar when he sees/smells/feels one, Bill is also a good golfer (at least in the view of this mondo-shitty duffer). He is also a motorcycle guy, a merlot drinker (with the occasional “mart”), and a guitar and mandolin player. I have also come to know that, although his horseshoe game still needs some work, he can sing a respectable rendition of Wild Thing by the Troggs. All good stuff.

I seem to recall that, on one occasion, he had mentioned that he was “involved with amateur radio.” I admit it. I sort of let that go in one ear and out the other. Not knowing shit from Shinola about “amateur radio,” I had assumed that being “involved with amateur radio” meant that he had some sort of electronic gadget about the size of a stereo amp that he uses to talk with one or two like-minded people in places with names like Possum Breath, Wyoming. He never mentioned it again, nor did I give it any more thought.

Well, over the weekend, he left a comment on one of my posts, and he included a website URL.

A web site? Bill never said anything about a website.

I figured that it must have been he employer’s website. Being curious, I clicked on it and was surprised to see a picture of Bill on the Home Page, surrounded by an array of scary looking electronic stuff. I navigated through the site to see numerous photos of his “gear,” including pictures of the guts of some of the stuff he has actually built. The site also has a great collection of images of some of his favorite “keys.” (These are the widgets, many of them antiques, that people use to send Morse code.)

I was and am fascinated by it all, even though I don’t have any idea of what any of those electronic boxes are, or what exactly they do. Then again, I have always been fascinated with people who know a whole lot about something that neither I nor most folks (I would bet) know a damned thing about.

When I wrote to tell him that I had no idea that he was this committed to and knowledgeable about something that seems pretty deep to me, Bill summed it up very well in his reply:

“Amateur radio is an obscure hobby in today’s cell phone and internet connected world. To me, its still a thrill setting up a simple wire antenna and sending an RF signal into the air and being able to communicate with another “HAM Operator” on the other side of the world.”


So, in the off chance that you have any interested in “HAM” radio, or what “HAM” radio people like and do, take a look.

If you do pay his site a visit, please tell him that Jim said, “dot, dot, dot, dot……, dot.”

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