Thursday, August 22, 2013

You Don't Care -- The Minnesota Barking Ducks

It was sometime a long time ago while I was in college at the University of Minnesota (don’t all these stories take place back then?).  I was hanging out with my buddy and new Blues convert Wad. (See Albert Collins post from May 1, 2012.  Wad was the skeptic in that post).  Wad was the only self nicknamed guy I knew.  His real name was Johnny.  When my other college buddies and I met Johnny for the first time, we all jokingly referred to him as Johnny “The Wad” Holmes.  He thought that was funny and made sure the moniker stuck.

Anyway, Wad and I had just closed the bar someplace on the West Bank and, as always, we went to the one place in all of the Twin Cities where one could count on get something to eat 24-hours a day--White Dog.  Otherwise known as White Castle.

Those who have been to a White Castle need no description.  For those who are not familiar with White Castle, then you must continue reading.

White Castle is a fast-food burger joint and was one of the few places one could find food after Last Call.  Because of this, there was typically a huge “after party” at White Castle.  The place would be packed with some of the strangest characters this side of a Charles Bukowski novel.  We would wait in line for what seemed like hours just to order “sliders with vinyl, death chips and a large battery acid.”

On this particular night when Wad and I showed up at White Dog, it was strangely quiet and empty.  It was just Wad and me, a couple other people, some big galoot sitting by himself and this rolly polly security guard who I’m pretty sure was slightly retarded. 

Suddenly these two clowns enter the place loudly and obnoxiously.  They were clearly beyond wasted.  There was one guy in particular who just wouldn’t shut up and was very irritating.  He was hassling the folks behind the counter and generally making an ass out of himself.  It was uncomfortable for everyone.

Oddly enough, the security guard didn’t do anything.  He was useless.  This loud obnoxious guy caught onto the fact that the security guard wasn’t doing anything so he started to intentionally provoke the guard from across the room.  He called him “fat” and “a retard” and a handful of other insults.  Still the security guard did nothing.  He didn’t get on the phone and call the cops to report this guy or anything.  Wad and I just watched as he begrudgingly took the abuse.  Honestly, he wasn't up to the job of night time security guard.

The drunk asshole got up and started looking for something in his pockets.  Just then I noticed the big galoot, who had been sitting quietly by himself, get up.  He walked up to the counter and asked for a large cup of water.  He took the cup of water, walked towards the drunk asshole and tossed the whole cup in the asshole’s face.  

Before the asshole knew what hit him, the galoot started pushing him around the restaurant.  “I’m sick of you giving that guy shit!” He shouted.  The rolly polly security guard turned his back and walked out into the parking lot.

The big galoot shoved this guy over tables and then onto the floor.  He never punched him, but as the drunk asshole attempted to get back to his feet, the galoot kicked him in the ass and the force of it sent the jerk head first into one of the doors exiting the White Castle.  The clanking of that idiot’s head against the door rattled the whole building.

The big galoot then picked the guy up and tossed him out the door.  Wad and I quickly dumped our trays in the garbage can, got up and went outside to see the rest of the ass whooping.  When we got there, the big galoot had pretty much made his point and was getting ready to bolt before the cops showed up.  Wad and I yelled out to him, “Way to go man!”  He graciously said “thanks” as he ran off into the night.

So even though there was almost no one there, I could still count on White Dog to deliver another interesting evening.

If I recall correctly, I had dragged Wad over to the West Bank to see the fantastic Minnesota Barking Ducks play some Blues.  So, in commemoration of the White Dog beat down, here are the Minnesota Barking Ducks.

Well, for some fucking reason, my uploaded Barking Ducks songs won't show up in Blogger.  Therefore you have to click on the link below.  Thanks.

Friday, August 16, 2013

France -- Frank Zappa

It was the summer of 1987.  My frat brother and Blues brother Kent came up with a great idea.  Let’s get some guys together and road trip to Milwaukee.  Two significant things were going on in Milwaukee that beautiful summer weekend.  Milwaukee’s infamous Summerfest and the Minnesota Twins were in town to play the  Brewers.  This was significant because the Twins were good that year and eventually went on to win the World Series.

A half-dozen of us packed a backpack and we hit the road across the beautiful Wisconsin countryside.  Once in Milwaukee, we all crammed into Kent’s 1972 Buick Skylark and headed for the festival down by Lake Michigan.  As we entered, there was this huge wooden map of the festival grounds.  I couldn’t help but notice all these big red dots all over the map.  Are those all the bathroom locations? I thought to myself.  I checked out the map legend and all those red dots indicated beer tent locations.  I guess we didn’t have to concern ourselves with access to beer.

Anyway, we roamed around the grounds and ended up and far southern end.  In this empty swath of asphalt was a makeshift stage.  It was just a simple platform no more than a foot off the ground.  It was covered with a tent so the band wouldn’t get scorched by the summer sun.  Duck taped to one of the tent poles was a rectangular end of a cardboard box.  Someone had scribbled on the cardboard box with black marker the words, “Blues Stage.”

By now you should know that this was right up my alley.  I knew I could count on Kent so we persuaded the rest of the guys to stay and listen.  We just stood there soaking in the warm sun and sipping beer.  We had a good buzz going and these dudes play some mean Blues.  I don’t in anyway recollect who they were, but they were pretty good.  They had a good harmonica player and the guitar player had some good leads.  Not only that, they had a very light hearted nature about them and it was really relaxing and fun.

Eventually their set ended and the gang moved on and continued to tear up Summerfest.  However, the day was not over.  We had a baseball game to go to.

We squished back into Kent’s Skylark and headed for Milwaukee County Stadium.  We took our seats.  Kent, being the only one of us from Wisconsin, was planning on rooting for the Brewers.  Shortly after we took our seats along the third base line, this fellow walks up the steps wearing a T-shirt that said, “Fuck Minnesota.” A fairly classless act by anyone’s standards I would venture to say.  Even our frat brother Kent was put off by it.  So much so that he did an about-face and started rooting for the Twins.  

Unfortunately for this schmuck, his seats were a couple rows ahead of ours.  As the Twins proceeded to trounce the Brewers, we made sure the “Fuck Minnesota” guy knew about it.

As we sauntered back to Kent’s car after a convincing Twins victory, our fellow frat brother Pete declared that we had to come up with some kind legend behind our conquest of Milwaukee.  “We need to come up with a name or something,” he said.  We all started bouncing around ideas.  Pete then declared that we were the “Drunk Minnesota Muthas.”  

OK.  You probably had to be there to truly enjoy it, but my good buddy Jerry and I thought it was one of the funniest things ever.  We giggled like teenage girls for the rest of the night.  We proudly embraced the moniker of Drunk Minnesota Muthas.

Now the song below has almost nothing to do with the story, but my good buddy Jerry requested this story.  Therefore, I thought I would honor him by playing one of his personal favorite Bluesy tunes, “In France” by Frank Zappa.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Jazz Flute -- Ron Burgundy

It was around November of 1992 that I made my first move away from my hometown of Minneapolis to San Diego, California.  I had secured a job at a local independently owned TV station called KTTY.  KTTY was the one of the last of a dying breed--the locally owned independent station.  I didn’t make squat working at KTTY but it was so laid back that it is still one of my favorite jobs.  There was no HR department, the stress level was really low and no one was overworked.  Things were so laid back that the owner and general manager of the station didn’t say a word even if the company lost money in a particular month.  He would just sit in his office smoking a couple packs a day, eating El Pollo Loco chicken and watching his other investments which actually paid dividends.  KTTY was easily the lowest rated TV station in San Diego, but no other station had more fun that we did.

We even had a silly locally produced Friday morning community events program called “What’s up San Diego?”  Even though I was working as the assistant program manager, I was one of the only people in the building who actually knew how to operate a TV camera.  Therefore, I was assigned the position of lead cameraman.  It was there that I met one of the hostesses of the show.  Her name was Lisa.  She was a sort of “roving reporter” for “What’s Up San Diego?”  And not only that, she ended up being the woman who would eventually become my wife.

Lisa and I ended up getting “involved” when we made plans for her to set me up with one of her friends.  Her friend was delinquent that night and as our son would say, “Well, you know.”

On one of our first dates, Lisa and I went down to the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego.  I had been spending a lot of time in the Gaslamp back in those days because of place down there called “Patrick’s II” which is one of best Blues Music venues in Southern California.  However, on this night, Lisa and I would be going to a place around the corner called “Croce’s” owned by the family of the late Jim Croce.  Croce’s was a pretty nice place with a fine dining restaurant on one side and a bar on the other.  Croce’s specialized in a genre of music I knew little about at the time but soon come to appreciate--Latin Jazz.

So anyway, Lisa and I wormed our way to the back of the bar and found a couple seats at this nice big table in the back.  We listened to some awesome jazz, made some jokes and generally enjoyed our private little romantic spot in the back of the bar.  No sooner than we had become secure in our private spot when this trio of older adults came into the bar, walked toward the back and sat right down at the table with Lisa and I.

“What the fuck?” was our mutual reaction.  There were several other places in the bar for these people to sit (or stand for that matter).  What possessed them to intentionally invade the space of what was obviously a romantic rendezvous.  We bitched and moaned for a little bit until Lisa came up with an idea.  She slid her chair closer to mine and then initiated a colossal make-out session.  We had tongues flapping in each other’s mouths.  It should have been enough to make anyone feel compelled to leave the table.  These people were completely unfazed.  It was as if they didn’t see it at all.  They just continued chatting loudly drowning out the music that I was personally enjoying. 

Just like that our romantic night at Croce’s was abruptly cancelled.  Well, not really.  We left and our night continued to be very fun.  

In commemoration of that night at Croce’s, I present the Jazz flute scene from “Anchorman:  The Legend of Ron Burgundy.”