Still Reelin’ And Rockin’

Chuck Berry turned 90 this week.  Perhaps fittingly, one of rock and roll’s few surviving pioneers will be releasing an album of new songs next year.

chuck-berry-duck-walk-hd-wallpaper-1Many people helped American music take an abrupt turn in the early ’50s, from the big band/crooner/torch singer sound to the chaotic rhythms of rock and roll, but Chuck Berry was foremost among them.  Berry helped to define the genre in two key ways — in writing about fast cars, music, and girls, and in producing a guitar-focused sound that made everyone want to move their feet and strum the air.  More than 60 years later, the riffs he produced on Maybelline and Johnny B. Goode remain some of the greatest ever recorded.  And Berry’s showmanship on stage, including his trademark duck walk, helped to define what live rock music should be, too.

When Elvis Presley died almost 40 years ago, I was working for the Ohio State Lantern, which ran a headline referring to Presley, as many did, as the King of Rock and Roll.  Our faculty advisor, Tom Wilson, emerged from his office to vigorously object to that headline, because he thought that title could only be given to Chuck Berry.  Some people in the newsroom argued with Mr. Wilson, but not me.  He was absolutely right.  And Berry’s recordings remain as fresh and catchy today, and as ready to convert a young person to the world of rock and roll, as they were when they first hit the disk jockeys’ turntables so long ago.

One other thing:  it’s nice to be able to write about a music legend who has lived to a ripe old age.  Rock music takes its toll, and many of its best have been felled by drug overdoses, plane crashes, or violent death.  Chuck Berry duck-walked right on past all of that, with his wife of 68 years, Themetta, there beside him.  Two of their children are part of the band that has recorded the new album, too.

On To The Series!

What a year this has been for the Cleveland Indians — and for that matter for Cleveland, period.  After seeing the Cavs end a 52-year drought without a sports championship and shatter every jinx in doing so, and then hosting the Republican Convention without a hitch, the Best Location in the Nation now sees the astonishing Indians hoist the American League pennant and move on to the World Series.

bn-qj049_1019in_gr_20161019190617Well, why not?  In a year when the Indians have overcome injuries to key players that produced a decimated starting pitching staff — and that saw the Tribe experience the first blood-soaked drone injury in recorded MLB history — why wouldn’t you expect, Ryan Merritt, a rookie who has thrown all of 11 innings in the big leagues, and who was predicted to be “shaking in his boots” by a Toronto player, to go out and pitch lights out, like a grizzled veteran?  And why wouldn’t you expect the offense to produce just enough runs to get the game into the fifth inning with a lead?  And why wouldn’t you expect the Indians’ duo of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to once again shut down the Toronto Blue Jays’ powerful lineup and close out another nail-biting win?

Consider the results of AL championship series.  Toronto came in after having battered Texas pitching and romped to a three-game sweep over the Rangers.  The Tribe pitching staff sucked it up and held the Blue Jays scoreless twice — in the opener and the clinching game — and gave up one run, two runs, and five runs in the other three games.  For the math-challenged among us, that’s eight runs in five games.  Miller’s ERA during the series was 0.00.  Allen’s ERA was 0.00.  And the Indians bullpen had one game where it pitched 8 1/3 innings to secure the victory.  It’s got to be one of the most amazing pitching performances in any baseball series in history.  And, it’s got to be one of the most amazing managerial performances in baseball history, too.  Would anyone but Terry Francona have kept his cool, kept his battered team focused, and used his bullpen so deftly?  And, by the way, wasn’t the trade for Andrew Miller the best trade in Cleveland Indians history, without any conceivable argument?

So now the Tribe moves on, with the AL pennant in hand, to face either the Cubs or the Dodgers.  This year, in Cleveland, anything is possible.  I’ll be looking forward to the World Series, and I’ll be thinking one thing:

There are no jinxes!

Weird Car Commercials

If you’ve watched any sports broadcast on TV recently, you’ve undoubtedly noticed two specific commercials that stand apart from the ever-present erectile dysfunction and an-unpronounceable-drug-for-every-condition ads.

matthewIn one of the commercials, Matthew McConaughey gets spruced up, puts on an expensive suit on a dark night, smiles a slight, enigmatic smile, and then falls backward into a pristine pool.  In the other, a prissy, entitled Brit talks about how some people are always able to dodge all of the rules — hey buddy, in this American presidential campaign that hits a little too close to home! — and then visits wheelchair-bound Steven Hawking in his underground Bond villain lair where they talk about the laws of gravity, time, and space.

Curiously, these are car commercials.  McConaughey is peddling Lincoln, and Hawking and his above-of-all friend are hawking (pun intended) Jaguars (which I’d always thought was pronounced Jag-warr, but I now learn from the commercial is pronounced, with an affected British accent, Jag-u-are).  In contrast, say, to the commercials that purportedly astonish slack-jawed “real people” with the sheer number of awards Chevrolet has won in the last two years, the Lincoln and Jaguar ads don’t really tell you anything about the advertised vehicles or even show them very much.  The Lincoln and Jaguar ads are lifestyle ads — the kind that try to convince the credulous that if they just buy the product they’ll get the advertised lifestyle, too.

Okay, I get it.  But I’ve still got a question:  how many people out there really want to be like McConaughey or the Brit who trades witticisms with Hawking in his futuristic bunker?  I guess Lincoln and Jaguar aren’t looking to sell cars to women, for example.  And I doubt that the lifestyles depicted appeal to a huge chunk of the American male population, either.  I, for one, have never aspired to fall backward into a pool while zen-like music plays.  And as much as I admire Steven Hawking’s colossal intellect, I don’t exactly associate him with cars.

Give me the car commercials that feature brightly painted roadsters rolling down a winding, open road on a bright sunny day, whisking through freshly fallen leaves as they round a curve.  Leave the enigmatic smiles and the falling into pools to the erectile dysfunction crowd, will you?

Political Statement

This sign appeared in downtown Columbus a few days ago.  At first I thought it was there for the Columbus Marathon, but it’s been saying “Blah Blah Blah” for days now — and, as the photo above shows, it’s positioned with the Ohio Statehouse in the background.

Could the sign be a political statement?  Hmmm . . . I wonder.

Buckeye Statis

Every four years, since at least the 2000 presidential election, the people of the Buckeye State have braced themselves.  They know that, as residents of a “battleground” state, they are going to be subjected to an onslaught of campaign ads and campaign appearances,  questions from pollsters and reporters who will clog the streets, and the disruption of traffic and everyday life that naturally comes along with regular visits from presidential and vice presidential candidates and their surrogates.

unnamedAnd, as part of that process, every four years politics becomes a much larger part of the daily lives of Ohioans than it would be otherwise.  People talk about the election with their friends, debate the choices, and post yard signs and maybe even attend a rally or volunteer for their candidate.  It’s as if, with the pressure of “battleground” status, Ohioans feel a certain obligation to the rest of the country and think hard about how to cast their vote.  And good-natured discussion with your friends, family, and colleagues about the choices was a big part of the whole decisional process.

This year, though, has a decidedly different feel to it.  There’s not as much activity from the campaigns.  One night last week both President Obama and Donald Trump were in Columbus for speeches, which resurrected some of the hectic feel to which we’ve become accustomed in presidential election years, but it also reinforced how things have changed since 2012, and 2008, and 2004:  in those years, visits from the competing campaigns were virtually a daily occurrence.  This year, not so much.

And this year the vibe of the people of Ohio is different, too.  There are still some true-believer advocates for both candidates in Ohio (although in my neck of the woods you won’t see any pro-Trump signs), but for the most part the population seems to be sad and depressed.  People don’t want to talk about the election, or the candidates, or anything having to do with politics.  The only passion comes when people start talking about how deeply flawed the candidates are, and how rotten the choice is, and how the process really needs to be changed so we don’t end up with such a terrible choice, ever again.  Sometimes this feeling comes out in strong words about what a disaster it would be if one candidate, or the other, were elected — but it is always strong words against a candidate, and never strong words for a candidate.  The only real energy seems to be negative energy.

What does this mean?  It means people talk about the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cleveland Indians even more than they would otherwise.  It means you try to avoid any mention of the election at lunch or at social gatherings, for fear of loosing another eruption of that terrible negative energy.  It means you really don’t want to live in a battleground state anymore, and would rather just forget about the whole thing.

What does it mean about how Ohioans will vote come Election Day?  I don’t know, but I do think I wouldn’t really trust the polls this year.  I think we are dealing with an electorate that is deeply guarded about their feelings and trying to work through a bleak, deep reservoir of disappointment and bile about parties, processes, and candidates.  I’m skeptical about how many Ohioans are sharing their real feelings with pollsters.  Pollsters just remind us about how the system has let us down.  Who really wants to share their true feelings with walking, talking reminders of a failed process?

The Marathon Comes To GV

They’re running the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon this morning.  The course runs down Third Street and the jogs around Schiller Park.  As I can back from my morning walk, the leaders, pictured above, came running past at an amazingly fast clip.

Each mile of the marathon seems to be dedicated to a different patient at the hospital.  We’re located close to Jessica’s mile, at marker 10.  As I write this from my back porch, I can hear loud rock music and the whoops and hollers of supporters as the marathoners stream past.

The Marathon is something of a hassle, because our primary roads are blocked off for much of the day.  But it’s a good cause, and it brings out lots of volunteers and community spirit.  I guess we can put up with the road closures and war-splitting broadcasts of Jump Around to our quiet neighborhood once a year.

Seasons At Schiller

We’ve had a few days where the overnight temperatures have dropped into the 40s.  The leaves on the trees at Schiller Park are just starting to turn, and the mums are in their full glory.  This morning the air was crisp, and it felt invigorating to take some deep breaths as I walked around the park.

If you don’t feel stimulated by autumn in the Midwest, there’s something wrong with you.  It’s the best season of the year.