Music Gone to the Dogs

on Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On Sunday night the George Maurer Trio had another gig at Crossings Gallery & Gift Shop in Zumbrota, MN. We love it there, it's part concert space, part classroom, part art space, part cool stuff store, all housed inside one of the (former) libraries that Andrew Carnegie built between 1883 and 1929. The Zumbrota Carnegie Library was built in 1906 and has the distinction of being the smallest of them all.

Each time we play there we see a lot of the same faces, and some new ones, too. The audiences are enthusiastic and surprisingly not jaded, when you look at some of the other acts who have performed there: Prudence Johnson, John Gorka, Dean Magraw, Michael Johnson and others.

Marie, the owner, used to have a part Chow Chow named Biscuit who would roam the audience during performances, and maybe even make her way to the stage now and again. Biscuit died not too long ago and has been replaced by Odie, an old yellow lab mix that she got from an animal rescue group. Odie is as friendly as Biscuit ever was, and like his predecessor, roams the audience looking for a scratch or a pet. And Odie likes to bark.

Each time the audience applauded, Odie would bark. The louder and more boisterous the applause, the louder and more boisterous the bark. It became a joke from stage as we would bark back at the dog.

When we do trio gigs, we generally close with the old standard Caldonia, which features the lyric:

Caldonia, Caldonia, what makes your big head so hard?

Which I changed to:

Odie, Odie, bark bark bark bark bark bark bark!

During the scat solo, I just started barking, trying to match Odie's pitch and rhythm. Odie obligingly barked back. I started "trading fours" with him, I'd bark, he'd bark back, it was almost like we had rehearsed it somehow. The audience went crazy, laughing, smiling, clapping... it was an amazing moment!

After the concert I gave him a good scratching.

A lot of different people asked if I had planned that, which I hadn't, it just came to me on the spur of the moment. Oh, how I wish I had said that the dog and I had talked it over beforehand!

Car Repair: the Next Generation

on Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My car broke down today. I was sitting at a red light and she just up and quit on me. I remained calm. Hurridly calm. I tried restarting her a bunch of times to no avail, she'd turn and turn but never catch. Finally I tried an old trick I learned driving my mom's Chevy Impala, I floored it as I turned the key and what do you know, she started right up.

I quickly turned into the nearest parking lot at a new bank and went inside to borrow their phone book so I could look up the number for R&L Repair. I went outside and thought, "what the hell, I'll try it -- maybe it was vapor lock." The engine started immediately, but I didn't think I was out of the woods so I decided to drive home using back roads. I made it about a half mile and she died again. I was able to coast into the parking lot of a sports bar and into a space by the road. I walked home.

Birkenstock sandals are not meant to carry a person two miles in 90° heat on hot asphalt and I now have a couple of pretty little blisters forming on the balls of my feet. Son of a fucking bitch.

I got a hold of a friend with a truck and another friend with a towing strap and after a few phone calls I got Hazzy to help me get the car to R&L. Yeah, Hazzy!

If I'm really, really lucky it was vapor lock. It was hot and I had made a short stop before it happened, those are sure-fire ways to make vapor lock happen.

If I'm merely lucky it will be the fuel filter, a quick, easy and relatively inexpensive repair.

If I'm less than lucky (and what I think is most likely) it's the fuel pump, not a difficult repair, but much more expensive than a filter.

And, of course, if I have a cloud of dismal darkness over my head it will be something fatal to the car and I will have to find a new one.

Not bad though, in 28 years of driving that's the first time I've completely broken down.*

*I am not counting the numerous times I've been with someone else when their car broke down, nor am I counting when I ran out of fuel or when my car overheated (god! I miss my Rabbit despite its foibles and quirks!), and it most certainly does not include the infamous van fire.)


on Friday, July 11, 2008

I don't usually get starstruck. I don't care what you've done, where you've been or who you are, we have the same bodily functions and that makes us equals. But in this case I'm letting it happen.

Tonight we play at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and our special guest will be Doc Severinsen!! We're talking a musical legend here! Before the tonight show he played with Charlie Barnet, the Dorseys and others. While musical director for Johnny Carson's Tonight Show he backed up probably every musical artist I admire: Stevie Wonder, Carole King, B.B. King, Ella Fitzgerald... the list goes on and on. And on!

I want to have my picture taken with him and I want to place a copy on my mother's grave. She would be so proud!

I'm thrilled and I can't wait!


on Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I have recently started reading the news on the St. Paul Pioneer Press web site. I don't know why I picked them over the Minneapolis Tribune, but I did. I also registered so that I could leave my comments about stories. Now I'm not saying that everybody who posts there is an idiot and a racist, but I am shocked at the number of idiot-racists who do post there on a daily basis. Frankly, I didn't know such people lived in Minnesota.

It started with the story of a Somali man who was shot to death outside a hotel in Brooklyn Park at 4:30 in the morning. I've left for jobs at 4:30 AM with George if we had to get to the far side of Wisconsin or we had to drive deep into Iowa, and a couple of those times we've met at a place of business, a cafe or gas station, so my first reaction is to give the guy a benefit of a doubt. The racists, on the other hand follow a twisted path of logic that ends with this guy being a gang-banger who was shot by another and good riddance to him.
  • He was black, therefore a gang-banger
  • It was 4 am and he obviously had no legitimate reason to be there (because he was black and a Somali)
  • It was in Brooklyn Park, which everyone knows is full of ne'er-do-well black people
My sister lives in Brooklyn Park in a curvy-roaded suburban area full of happy, smiling white people. I know the whole city isn't like that and my blood freezes every time I hear of another murder there (three homicides in 2007... three too many), but I simply will not assume the worst. If it comes out that the guy was a gangster and all that, I'll be very happy to say I was wrong.

The worst was a comment about a story of a man in Madison, WI who had been tortured by some drug dealers for money:
...that's what white people get for mixing with africoons...
I fucking couldn't believe my eyes!

Any story that has to do with a Muslim or a person with a Muslim-sounding name is riddled with, "he/she should go back to where they came from," or the one I always get a kick out of, "in 30 years we'll be under Sharia law and you'll be beheaded for being a liberal."

Democrats and liberals of all stripes are "demoncrats" and are mentally unstable. Anyone who protests the war or the war machine is an unwashed, unemployed hippie (woe be to the war protester with a Muslim-sounding name!). A woman who died in a car wreck, leaving three children behind, is labeled as a welfare cheat because her children all have different last names! A black man who holds three full time jobs to support his family is shot outside an after-hours club in St. Paul, well, he never should have been there in the first place (and he was probably affiliated with a gang).

Recently a guy in Lakeville was rousted out of his bed by two cops in his bedroom shining flashlights in his eyes because he left his garage door open and his front door ajar. The cops say that the neighborhood had had a bunch of break-ins recently and they were just checking. The guy is upset and has gone to the city council to ask them to change the policy on how police should behave in such a situation. The commentors blame him for being a liberal, filing a frivolous lawsuit and wasting taxpayer money. Nowhere in the article did it mention anything about a lawsuit, and when I pointed that out I was labeled "clueless."

The icing on the cake were some of the comments about the convicted felon (prostitution) in Little Falls who was shot to death while holding the County Commissioners hostage at gunpoint. He was just a small businessman trying to make it vs. the liberal, nanny government. (Anyone who has ever been to Morrison County would never call it liberal.) Unbelievable.

Oh, and Barrack Obama will bring the nation to it's knees, whether that's the topic of the story or not.

Like putting your tongue on a sore tooth or looking under a bloody band-aid I keep checking back. I guess I want to see just how bad bad can get. Certainly not everyone who posts there is a narrow-minded fool, but there are a lot of them. Some people are actually very thoughtful, informative and caring. I want to be one of them.

But it makes me sad to think that some of my fellow Minnesotans can be so cruel, so intolerant, so shallow. I thought maybe we'd grown beyond that kind of thought, this is the 21st century after all, but I guess I was very, very wrong.