|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Greetings from Schnecksville
My best to Obie and his family today and all the days to come.
I've been going bonkers buying jazz albums lately, so before I get into real, honest-to-god content here, please indulge me in reading a couple small capsule reviews.
Sonny's Crib - Sonny Clark
Stylistically, it's a similar album to John Coltrane's Blue Train, which I've always thought was one of the more overrated classics out there. This album thrives on the comparison though, especially since I came in with nearly no expectations at all. Between this album and the sessions I've got his trio backing Grant Green, it's easy to see why Sonny Clark is one of the all-time underappreciated guys on the keys. He's loose, swings hard, is imaginative without being either trite (Red Garland, at times) or esoteric (Andrew Hill), and could definitely put a good session together on wax. Unlike Horace Silver's session I'll mention below, Clark really gives his horns a chance to shine on this collection of mostly originals. With John Coltrane, (and the under-recorded duo of) Donald Byrd and Curtis Fuller on the front line, this album has a blues pedigree that's always interesting as it's brought to fruition. Sonny Clark leads a first-rate session and (unlike the next album) allows his sidemen a chance to step out and really swing. Recommended.
Blowin' The Blues Away - The Horace Silver Quintet
I'm not sure there's another pianist in the history of jazz more rooted in the hard-swinging blues than Horace Silver, and damn near everything I've heard from his catalog fits that description. This session in particular is interesting as it sounds like a contemporary to Lee Morgan's Sidewinder, whose title track launched a thousand bad imitators. I've always thought Morgan's hit record sounded prefabricated and intentionally pandered to the crowd, but after hearing the title cut on Silver's album, it just sounds like a dumbed down derivative. This album is absolutely what the kids were dancing to in 1959, and it swings like a motherfucker. The only drawbacks I can pull here are that tenorman Junior Cook often sounds a little overmatched, and Horace's comping behind his soloists seems to have an it's-my-album-and-i'm-going-to-make-sure-you-remember-that sort of attitude about it. Otherwise, the All Music Guide says this is "virtually impossible to dislike." Agreed.
Red Garland's Piano - Red Garland
Red is Ahmad Jamal for beginners, and you either get him or you think he's as trite as trite can be. I fall into the former category, and dig this collection of standards such as "Stompin' at the Savoy," "If I Were a Bell," and "But Not For Me." I would guess Garland's detractors would find him saccharine-sweet and kind of a one-note happy blues player, but I like that shit, sue me. This is not an incredibly intricate date, nor is it essential to anyone's collection. But if you're looking for something nice and unchallenging with familiar melodies and an engaging spirit behind it, this is a pretty good date.
So today marks my one-week anniversary in my new apartment, and also my one-week anniversary of having TVG (a.k.a., The Horse Racing Network) on the box.
Predictably, very little time is being spent on other networks. I guess I am to horse racing on TV what your grandma is to The Price Is Right - I just can't get enough. Oddly, I'm not gambling a (considerable) whole lot more, just watching a lot of races.
Now, I know a great many of us who play poker came aboard after watching the unlikely coronation of the Tennessee Schlub (never was a fish like a Tennessee Schlub) on ESPN, but for those for whom poker - specifically online poker - was already a daily addiction, it must have been like manna from the heavens above to have a couple hours a day of television that spoke your language, that had your wheels turning in analysis, encouraged debate and - most importantly - had you feeling like an insider on the cusp of something bigger.
This is me with TVG. Dumb as it sounds, I do want to be personally invested somehow in an $8K claimer at Emerald on a Thursday night. I want to nod and agree with Simon and Matt as they come to a consensus that the bad start in an upcoming filly's last out hides some pretty solid form.
At minimum, if the TV's going to be on anyway, why not have it be speaking my language?
I've pretty much watched it every night (two hours of House last night notwithstanding, and absolutely had it on all day Saturday and Sunday to play the cards at Arlington and Hollywood (don't ask). And even on nights like Wednesdays where racing tends to take a near-nationwide breather, I'll still want to see what's going on at Prairie Meadows.
I heart TVG. They could do a better job of post-race breakdown of the little ones (show the stretch run again, show a move on the backstretch that was key), but it's a tall order to have your announcers prepped for half a dozen tracks times ten races apiece I'd think.
Now that I'm fairly well unpacked and moved in, I've been taking the opportunity to check out the surroundings locally. I'm not that impressed.
First of all, you'd think somehow that having an Italian restaurant 100 yards from my door would be a boon. But it's no smoking, has no bar, does serve liquor, does not carry Soco, and has crappy food.
An aside to the cooks in charge of my meal the other night... That wasn't Prosciutto and why you'd garnish grey meat atop white pasta with fucking hardboiled egg slices is beyond my comprehension. Sure makes something that was marginally unappetizing turn into a downright fearful sort of meal. First thing I did was use my knife to lift the egg off the veal and onto a side plate. Second thing, I pushed the knife and side plate to the far corner of the table and covered the egg with two sugar packets. Then, I flipped the veal upside down, lest I look at even the slightest indentation as to where the egg had been resting previously.
Were I Bob, I would have just sent the dinner back. I was duly grossed out anyway.
I live in the sticks, but despite the lack of true restaurant quantity out here, at least there's more than one Italian joint from which to choose. Sadly, that one is non-smoking with NO bar, but at least the sub/grinder/hoagie/whatever I had was really tasty.
The closest bar is something called "Sliders," which looks pretty damn low-rent from the outside. I'd have to travel another four or five miles to catch my next-nearest bar, so let's just hope they have NFL Sunday Ticket and mildly attractive staff, shall we?
Speaking of restaurants, the one thing I am in love with out here is the NYC style pizza. Yes, it could be (an awful fucking lot) cheaper, but by-the-slice works for me, and I'm a fan of that thin crust, what-Sbarro-is-supposed-to-be-apeing pizza. Seems like there's hundreds upon hundreds of these little joints all over the place, and I haven't had a truly bad slice yet.
So the pizza's good, but I'm a little mixed on the liquor laws out here. Beer can be bought from State stores, but only in 24-packs and kegs. Twelves are non-existent, as (apparently) are 40s and bombers. Sixers are purchaseable only at restaurants that choose to sell via package. Liquor and wine are only available at State stores, but not the same State stores that sell beer.
Got that so far?
There's currently a big scandal brewing in Macungie (that's, uh, Lower Macungie) because a grocery store chain that sells prepared food, and therefore is licensed as a restaurant, got themselves a license to hustle beer and wine. The local council begrudgingly approved the license, because... well, because they have no legal grounds on which to stand to oppose it apparently. Quoting from the Parkland News:
"I realize it's a tough decision because of the high court costs, of what it would take to appeal this," said Don Steffy, of North Whitehall.* "I think [Weis Markets] picked this township for a reason, because we don't have a police force to provide the testimony.** If this does go through... this is just the tip of the iceberg."
"I'm disappointed in (the) vote, but I understand it. I would not want to see my township involved in lengthy court proceedings, wasting taxpayer's money," said Louise Stettler, of Schnecksville.*** "I don't like the fact that a precedent is being set. I don't want to see alcohol in other grocery stores. Most bartenders know their patrons and they are very careful about what they do. I am concerned that a grocery store clerk won't be able to do that."****
*Lives at least 12 miles away from the area in question.
**By "testimony" he means, "sad stories of drinking and driving that somehow solidify the reasoning that you shouldn't sell beer and wine at a place at which you cannot consume it, but should only sell it for take-home use at bars where you can imbibe three to thirty before getting behind the wheel."
***Hi neighbor! Also someone with no reason to ever go to Macungie. It's not exactly on the way to anywhere from Schnecksville.
****Won't somebody please think about the children?
The main point of opposition to selling beer and wine in a grocery store, which is a truly novel idea for this backwards commonwealth, seems to be structured around the three-pronged axis of alcoholic evil. One, that selling in grocery stores (again, where it cannot be directly consumed) will increase drunk driving (um, how?). Two, that selling in grocery stores (where one, presumably, would still need to be 21 to purchase) will increase youth drinking. And three, that selling in grocery stores (where one must be 21 and must take the beer elsewhere first) will increase youth drunk-driving.
I'm shocked the easier leap to make wasn't run up the flagpole of doom. Namely, that selling beer and wine in grocery stores will lead to greater consumption of alcohol because it's simply more fucking convenient than bellying up to a bar to get a sixer.
Goddamn backward-ass state. I will tell you, however, there are two reasons on the alcohol front to love living in Pennsylvania. One is the absolutely tasty and well above-average local brew Yuengling (or, "Lager" - $15.50 a case in bottles for the "Premium"), and two is that I can now throw my beer bottles in the trash when I'm done drinking, they are no longer worth a dime.
Take that Sierra Club!
So I'm having some serious Vegas non-buyer's remorse at this point. I'm all ripped up about not going, even though financially it wouldn't exactly have been a good move. The timing of the move being up in the air prevented me from booking early enough, so I ended up too late and too uncertain to really do it.
So screw you guys, have a good time. Fuckers.
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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