Monday, December 31, 2012

Charles Durning and the Good War

I'm a sucker for World War II stories. When Charles Durning died recently, I found out that he was a World War II veteran, which made me like him even more. But he didn't just see action in World War II—he had a Band of Brothers-type experience that took him from D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge. In fact, if you were writing a fiction novel set in World War II and you created a character that experienced what Charles Durning went through, your editor would probably tell you that it seems a little too "fictiony."

Even if you don't know who Charles Durning is, you know who Charles Durning is. He's one of the great all-time "that guy" characters in movies. He played Detective Snyder in The Sting, he played the crooked governor in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, he played the guy who kept hitting on a cross-dressing Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, and he played a memorable cop in Dog Day Afternoon.

He was in the first wave of soldiers landing at Omaha Beach. When the door of the landing craft opened, the guy in front of him went down, and Private Durning jumped over him and sunk to the bottom. As he pulled his gear off under the water, bullets whizzed by him. Here, he tells the story himself in this video clip:

R.I.P. Charles Durning 1923-2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Missives of October

Let's get this party started.

What's at stake for Bob in the Presidential election?

Two main things are at stake for me, Bob: (1) health care and (2) deterrence from lunacy.

Let's address health care first. Romney and his nutty right-wing├ęd friends want to do away with (privatize) all existing social programs—especially Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—and they don't want to allow even a watered-down social program like Obamacare to become fully operational. Ayn Rand and Grover Norquist would be so upset.

I want the federal government to continue these programs, just like I want the government to build highways and regulate businesses and defend our borders. In other words, I'm a commie socialist. If Romney is elected, he and Congress have vowed to repeal and "replace" Obamacare. If Obama is elected, at some point a right-winger will hold up a sign that says, "Government: Keep yore Hands of my Obamacare!"

I no longer want health care to be tied to large businesses. Eventually, I want the government to raise our taxes so that we all have government-controlled health care. That way, I can decide to leave a company to do freelance/contract work without getting crushed by COBRA or some ridiculously expensive private health care plan.

The second issue is deterrence. Romney has expressed a lot of different stands on different issues, so I'm not sure whether he'll be a relative moderate Republican who caters to Big Business or a more radical (severe?) Republican who caters to the Tea Party as well as Big Business. (I don't believe even he knows.) I can assume that at best, he'll be a slightly more competent version of George W. Bush, who was a blight on Amurrica.

We've already been down this path: Bad wars and flawed deregulation -> Increased national debt and financial crises -> Democratic takeover -> Republican obstructionism -> Gridlock > Republicans blame Democrats for not have cleaned up the mess fast enough.

I prefer the Muslum-in-Chef.

What about pensions?

I'm against pensions. Pensions used to be a good thing back in the 40-years-and-gold-watch era when huge corporations were more stable. Pensions don't make sense in a society where people change jobs every few years and bounce around from state to state. And when huge companies like Blockbuster and Circuit City flame out in a few years, any pension plan is going to be lost. And government pensions suck because I don't work for the government.

I want pensions to be replaced by more generous 401(k) plans. Am I saying I don't want to privatize Social Security or Medicare, but I do want to privatize pension/retirement plans? Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.

But wouldn't Romney be more like Reagan than Dubya?

I don't think the powers that be like Romney very much. I think Mitt is taking the same kind of unfair beating in Washington insider circles that Al Gore suffered from in 2000, back when Gore was a robot and Dubya was the kind of guy everyone wanted to drink a beer with. In this election, no one wants to drink a beer with either candidate, really, but Mitt is perceived as the rich asshole who won't get off the cell phone.

Ultimately, I think Romney is going to lose a close election because too many people think he's a dick.

What happened in wiffleball?

We started off the season 0-2 thanks to some erratic pitching on my part, and then we went on a roll with decent pitching and strong hitting. We finished a half game out of first place in a tie for second. We lost the tiebreaker, so we finished as the #3 seed, which meant an opening round one-game playoff against the #6 seed.

With our best pitcher struggling with control, we were down 10-7 with two innings to play, and then we trailed 11-10 in the bottom of the last inning. I led off the inning with a walk, and our pitcher, who felt awful for having pitched so poorly, belted a two-run walk-off homer to redeem himself and put us in the semis.

In the first semi-final game, we faced a decent team with a pitcher who was the star of his college cricket team in India. I've never seen anyone who can throw a wiffleball that hard. Since he started pitching in his team's fourth game of the year, he had given up only one run all year. He had three pitches: a straight blazing fastball and two slightly less blazing fastballs that broke either inside or outside. He was easily the best wiffleball pitcher any of us had seen, but he pitched on a team with mediocre hitters.

In game 1, our pitcher gave up a few hits but no runs. Their pitcher mowed us all down. I felt helpless. In the first three innings, he walked one hitter, and another hitter managed to pop up to the second baseman, which was a moral victory for us. With two outs in the top of the fourth inning, I guessed right and belted a pitch over the right-field fence for our only hit of the game. We won 1-0.

In game 2, we gave up more runs, but their pitcher's arm was sore. Throwing a wiffleball that hard probably isn't too smart. We trailed 3-1 going in to the bottom of the last inning, but he had stopped throwing his nasty heater. With the bases loaded and me on deck, the batter before me hit a two-run double to tie the score. I thought the pitcher would walk me since he had walked me in every previous at-bat, but he decided to pitch to me—I think he wanted the game to end. I hit a single to send our team into the final for the third straight year.

In the finals—complete with over-the-top announcers, national anthems, fourth-inning stretches, crowds, and at-bat music for each hitter—we lost game 3 in extra innings. I played well, so I blame the loss on my teammates. And I told them that in a contemptuous fit after the game. OK, I lied about that. But not about pension plans. That was true!

DVR Decisions

Now that Sunday night is when networks want to air their best shows, we're faced with an interesting decision. When the boys are in bed and we have only an hour to watch TV and two shows have recorded, which show do we watch? Here are some difficult choices I recall having over the years:

  • The Sopranos vs. Deadwood
  • Game of Thrones vs. Mad Men
  • Breaking Bad vs. Justified
  • Homeland vs. The Walking Dead

The Sopranos always won out, but Deadwood eventually became my favorite rewatchable show of all time. While I loved the first few seasons of Mad Men, the show isn't appealing enough to knock off Game of Thrones. Breaking Bad is a better show than Justified, but you have to be in the right mood. Same with Homeland. Sometimes, watching people impale, slash, behead, and defenestrate zombies is more appealing than watching Clair Danes struggle with a life-long mental breakdown.

I don't have this problem with books, by the way. If Richard Russo, David Sedaris, Nick Nornby, Mark Helprin, and Tobias Wolff all come out with a new book at the same time, I would somehow manage to ignore them all as they clutter my nightstand while watching reruns of Deadwood and The Wire on my iPad.

But what if people discovered a bunch of buried fiction from my favorite dead authors?

  • The Troika Driver and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov
  • The Adventures of Joe Harper by Mark Twain
  • The Sentimental Papers by Charles Dickens 
  • Prouder and More Prejudiced by Jane Austen
  • The Clean Man Without Balls by Ernest Hemingway

I think I'd go with Mark Twain's imaginary new novel.

Mountain Biking

Fall Moab is only a few weeks away, so it's time for me to get back on the mountain bike. There is a new trail section at Tapeworm that includes a pump track section along with a bunch of elevated ladders that I have tentatively named "Sphincter Pucker," "Widow Maker," "Fly or Die," and "Just Do It—No Don't!"

In about three weeks, we'll pull into the parking lot at the bottom of Gold Bar Rim, and the sky will be broad and clear, and everything will be right with the world for a few hours, and then the pressures of work, the duties of family, and the responsibilities of television will fetter us once again like dust in a corn silo. Or something.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thirty Days in the Hole

Every Wednesday evening, on my way back from karate class, I listen to a public radio station that features a segment called The Roadhouse. It's one of the rare times when I actually wish I had a longer drive.

The music consists of any song that could be played in a road house, where someone like Patrick Swayze could be a bouncer who throws you out for hurling a full bottle of beer at the band's cage. When you get revenge in a subsequent fight, you may or may not say something like this to the bouncer, depending on how you behaved in prison and how much you want to reveal about yourself.

If you're anything like me, you've probably stopped reading this post and you've gone out and created an iTunes playlist called "Road House." And if you're like me, you've rolled down the window in your Prius and cranked up the sound, knowing full well that ALL people will dig your music, even if they can only hear the bass.

What goes on your Road House playlist? You really just need one song. That's right—a one-song playlist. Here's the song:

If you're anything like me, there could be no greater way to express dissatisfaction in life than to shout into a microphone, "Thirty days in the hole! Thirty days in the hole! Thirty days in the hole!"

You probably wonder what kinds of things you can do that will get you thrown in jail for 30 days. Whenever a judge slams his gavel and tells me, "Thirty days," it's usually because I have brawled or violated noise ordinances, or maybe I borrowed a police car to knock down my neighbor's ugly carport. Or sometimes I get a 30-day jail sentence just because I'm wearing my favorite boxer shorts in a 7-11 parking lot and don't want a police officer to put handcuffs on me.

But what about other people? Here's a list of crimes you can commit that will get you thrown in jail for 30 days, courtesy of The Google:
  • Using a webcam to spy on your roommate
  • Animal torture
  • Improper sexual misconduct toward military trainees
  • Planting evidence
  • Collecting rainwater on your property in Oregon
  • Cyberbullying
  • Duct-taping a child to the floor of a day care center
  • Having too much junk in your yard
  • Being accused—wrongly—of throwing hot water at your ex-boyfriend 

Thirty days in the hole! Thirty days in the hole! Thirty days in the hole!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August Burns Red

It has been reported that this web log has not been updated in days. This half-truth is only a click of a Publish button away from becoming an outright lie.

Excellent Idea #1

Form a rock band. Earn money by playing music that people either pay for or convince a library to pay for. If Fred Durst can earn money doing this, anyone can. The key to forming this cash cow is to come up with a good name. And here's where my brilliant idea enters the picture. Start the name with "SRO."

Example: "SRO The Red Stripes"

Why is this such a great idea? Because when the band goes on tour, the venue automatically includes "SRO" on the billboard. Passers-by will say, "Hmm, standing room only. I better go check out that band at the library." And then pretty soon all the libraries in the country will have to carry your CD.

If Led Zeppelin had been called "SRO Led Zeppelin," they never would have been forced to break up.

Wiffleball Update

The season started out with a rematch between last years winner (us!) and the runners-up. The game included all the over-the-top festivities of a finals game, complete with announcers, national anthem, and barbecue. We lost 12-0. I pitched the entire game, giving up all 12 runs in 5 innings of work.

Then we lost the next game 8-5 against the sales guys (After School Special). Again, I pitched. No one likes getting beat in any way by sales guys, but losing that game was especially awful. I was 0-5 at the plate, stranded a bunch of runners, and got shelled for the second game in a row. With 14 teams vying for only 6 playoffs spots, things were looking bleak.

After the 0-2 start, our team is now 7-2.

It goes without saying that I will discuss wiffleball at least one more time.

Mountain Biking Update

The end of Leadville marks the start of Fall Moab preparation. I was trying to think of the last time I went mountain biking, and I'm drawing a blank. It's possible that last year's Fall Moab trip was my most recent MTB experience. If that's the case -- if I have indeed not been on a mountain bike in ten months -- am I still a mountain biker?


I'm an excellent mountain biker! Wow, that was almost too easy to resolve. I really should have expressed that thought in a sonnet, with the first 8 lines covering the question of whether I'm a mountain biker, and then last 6 lines offering the resolution that I am, in fact, a mountain biker. It would have been more poetic that way.

In this sonnet that I might just write, I should mention somewhere that I weigh 190 pounds, and when I put on an XL bike jersey, it stretches so tight over my belly that I fear I might look like Scotty, the fantastic Phillip Seymour Hoffman character in Boogie Nights. Here's Scotty in action:

There are a couple of key differences between Scotty's appearance and mine. For one, Scotty does not look like he could be an elite wiffleball athlete. Second, for someone carrying extra weight, Scotty has disproportionately small man boobs.

Excellent Idea #2

Write a novel about superheroes. One superhero runs fast, one superhero is really strong, and one can swim underwater without coming up for air. Bad guys want to do bad things, and the superheroes need to stop them. Hollywood might just make a movie, and you'll be rich.

1960s Pop Music

In Songbook, Nick Hornby talks about how the British people appreciate pop music for what it is whereas Americans look at pop music as being inferior. I agree. So I've been hunting around for great pop music. I have been shocked (shocked!) and appalled at some of the lyrics I've run in those not-so-innocent 1960s and 1970s. Check out this video:

There is no double entendre in this video. It's single entendre. This raspberry wants to have sexual relations with whomever it is he's singing to.

We need a man with some moral authority to step in and stop this madness. Or at least repress it. Mitt Romney might just be the man to restore Christian values to this country. In fact, he is definitely the man for the job, unless it might cost him votes or money, in which case cooler heads will prevail.

Thoughts on the Upcoming Election

If you are a Republican, and if you want Mitt Romney to win, you should just skip to the next section. I have mean things to say about that flibbertigibbet who makes John Kerry look decisively single-minded by comparison. How can a person who considers himself a faithful Mormon take so many different stances on so many different issues? I can only assume Mitt Romney compartmentalizes the worlds of business and politics the same way visitors handle their experiences in Las Vegas. Whatever happens in politics stays in politics.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Mormons, so it hurts to watch Mitt Romney carry on like a soulless robber baron.

Whenever I read about politics, one cloud hangs over practically every topic. Republicans want to win the election by focusing on the economy. To do so, they rely on the fact that Americans will forget that Republicans were in charge when the economy collapsed and ignore the fact that Republicans have done everything in their power to prevent Democrats from turning around the economy. Vote for Republicans! They'll lower the taxes of the wealthy, deregulate Wall Street, and embrace trickle-down! And why will they succeed where George W. Bush failed? Confidence!

Oh, and when did Republicans start believing that it's unpatriotic to pay taxes?

Excellent Idea #3

Borrow money to buy a small but relatively successful company. Give yourself a large salary. Set up a banking account in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands. Lay off a bunch of workers. Funnel money into your offshore account. Declare the business bankrupt. Move on.

Thoughts on the 2012 London Summer Olympics

My five favorite 2012 Olympics moments:

1) The U.S. women's soccer team beat Canada in the semifinals.

That was one of the most exciting sporting events I've ever seen. Loved the bad calls that helped the Americans. Loved the YouTube clip of the Canadian woman stomping on the head of the American. If Canadians ask about the bad calls in a bar, you can just say, "Do you think Tancredi should be able to stomp on Americans' heads without being red-carded?" Canadians will apologize and then say something funny. I really like Canadians. 51st state, baby!

2) Kerri and Misty beat the Chinese in the beach volleyball semifinals.

Kerri and Misty are remarkably clutch. I went out of my way to watch every single one of their matches.

3) Bolt in the 100-meter dash.

I don't really like Bolt that much because he's not an American, and I don't like Jamaicans because they're too uptight about relaxing, but that 100m sprint was something. He would have beat me by a good five yards.

4) U.S. over Spain in men's basketball.

Here are some questions that interest me more than whether this 2012 U.S. team could beat the 1992 Dream Team. How would the 1992 Dream Team have done against this 2012 Spain team? What Olympic year would have provided the best crop of U.S. players? I think 1988 would have been better than 1992. You get Kareem, and Larry and Magic would have been in their primes, though Jordan was still a bit young.

5) The British distance runner slapping his bald head after winning gold.

Charming moment helped by the fact that that little British guy is not a threat to American dominance.

I also thought about adding men's team archery. In the final match to decide who gets gold and who gets silver, the Americans shoot their final arrow and lead by 9. If the Italian shoots anything less than a 9, they lose. If he shoots a 9, they go into extra rounds. If he shoots a 10, they win. Bam, bull's eye. The Italians celebrate. This would have made the above list, but the Italians failed to celebrate their gold medal by raising an American flag.

More later!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

School Facism

There's a story in the news about a 4-year-old girl who apparently was told by a school lunch monitor not to eat the food she brought from home but instead to get chicken nuggets from the cafeteria. A concerned parent notified the right-wing authorities, and the story made its way through the news circuit. I'm sure it ended up in my poor Dad's email Inbox with a headline something like, "OBAMA FORCES WHITE CHRISTIANS TO EAT FRIED CHICKEN."

I'm just guessing.

It's a silly story that reminds me of something that happened to me when I was in fourth or fifth grade. At an elementary school in Papillion, Nebraska, my younger sister Shari and I sat at a table to eat lunch. We all had to wait until the prayer was over before we could start eating. Every day, a nice lunch lady led us all in blessing the food, and then we would open our sack lunch, hoping for a delicious Hostess Fruit Pie instead of lame-ass Twinkies. She had us say one of those recited prayers, like "God is great / God is good / Let us thank Him / For our food."

I didn't care much for this type of prayer for two reasons. First, I was a Mormon, and Mormons know the proper way to pray. Rather than using recited prayers, which the Bible cautions against, Mormons pray from the heart by stringing together cliches. Second, it bothered me that "good" and "food" didn't rhyme properly, which forced me to replace it with "fud."

One day, the lunch lady was disappointed with the fact that a bunch of us weren't praying loudly enough. So she scolded us and made us recite the prayer a second time. She asked something like, "Now I want to hear everyone! Is there anyone here who isn't going to say the prayer?" For some reason, my hand shot up.

The teacher told me to get up, leave my lunch at the table, and go put my nose against the wall in a corner. I remember that the gym was hexagonal, so there was room for me to plant my face snugly between two walls. I was to stay there until I came to my senses or something.

When lunch was over, I felt guilty. I had gotten in trouble. But Shari came up to me and told me she was proud of me for standing up for my beliefs. I had raised my hand mostly to be a smart aleck, but as soon as Shari said that, I internalized a different story. I was a martyr. A religious martyr. I was being persecuted for my religious beliefs. The lunch lady was coming after me because deep down, she resented Mormons for possessing the truth, or something.

The moral of the story is that people are awful and cruel. We murder and lie to each other, we tune out sometimes when loved ones are telling stories, we rape, we tattoo our bodies, we pillage, we conquer, we ignore, we coerce, we impose chicken nuggets on children, we bully. On the other hand, we make some good music -- especially in the 1890s and 1970s -- we tell funny jokes sometimes, we bury our dead and say nice things about them, and we give each other lots and lots and lots of good advice.

It all evens out.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Grand Ideas, Part I

It's Super Bowl Sunday. The house is filled with out-of-town visitors who drove in for the Super Bowl festivities. Stan and Grey are in the guest room. Andy and Laura are in Max's room. Jason is in Luke's room. The boys are sleeping in the shed. Ha! That's a joke. We don't even have a shed. They're here asleep in our bed. I have my laptop, and I am typing. This sentence in fact.

More people are coming later today for the Super Bowl festivities. Of all the people who will be here, there will be one person whose mood will change during and after the game depending on the outcome -- me. Some people, like my brother Mark, will have a rooting interest -- Mark hates New Yorker sports fans, as if Boston sports fans are somehow more tolerable -- so he'll be rooting for the facking Pats.

But everyone's excited about the food and the spectacle. It's Super Bowl weekend! Super Bowl weekend has become a national holiday, even though we don't treat it as such. Who would be upset if we canceled Presidents Day as a holiday and replaced it with Hangover Monday? Exactly. No one. It's a grand idea. Here are some other grand ideas.

The Speedy Barber

You walk into a barber shop and sit down in an open chair. If the hair cut takes no longer than 5 minutes, it costs $20, including tip. Actually, tips aren't even allowed or mentioned, because that implies the importance of qualify of service. For each minute the barber goes past five, he loses a dollar. If it takes 15 minutes to cut your hair, it costs you $5. Again, no tipping. "Here's your 5 bucks, pal, better luck with the calics next time."

There are two other factors. You have ten seconds to describe your desired haircut. If it takes you longer than ten seconds, you're kicked out of the barber shop, and you can't return for at least an hour. Hopefully, you'll have your thoughts together by then, and you can say something like, "Short on the sides, a little longer on top" or "Logan in Big Time Rush" or "Cut it shorter."

Two more things. First, no talking. Headphones are encouraged. Second, no brushing genitals either of the male or female variety against the patient. That's just uncomfortable. In fact, if The Speedy Barber doesn't work out for unforeseen reasons, a secondary idea is The Grindless Barber.

Science Fiction Movie

In a world where human beings are domesticated pets, a young man named Hudson decides to flee into the wilderness. He brings along Fluffy, who was scheduled to be neutered. They meet up with a band of feral humans whose primitive notion of civilization include a caste system, bizarre rituals, and weapons study. Hudson introduces the concept of The Secret, and the battle begins…

The Fifth Quadrant Book

This is a sequel to a book that has not yet been written called The Four Quadrants: Keys to Personal Financial Success. I originally rolled out the idea at a previous Super Bowl party to great acclaim that very nearly included applause. And that was before the Great Recession. If The Four Quadrants had actually been written, it would have covered the four areas to invest your savings: the Safe Zone, the Moderate Zone, the Risk Zone, and the Gambling Zone. The prequel explains how monies are moved from one zone to another as success is achieved and as personal situations require.

The Fifth Quadrant, which is possibly the greatest title of a book ever written and would likely sell itself even if it had nothing in it but photographs of domesticated humans, is about a new kind of investment. Admit it. You're interested.

Super Bowl Prediction

It's foolish to predict the score of this particular game. The odds are roughly even. One team has about a 52% chance of winning, and I don't even know which team that is. Probably New England. It's going to come down to luck and a few key plays is my startling guess. I'm more interested in predicting what type of Super Bowl game it will be.

There are four types of Super Bowl games. (Note that I originally wrote "seven types," but I hear Wendy grinding coffee so I better cut it down.

1. Sloppy early, then high scoring. Last team with the ball wins.

2. One team dominates early, fails to take advantage, and falls apart.

3. Blowout.

4. A terrible officiating crew costs one team the game.

It's not going to be a "3" game because these teams don't panic. It's not going to be a "4" game because Seattle isn't playing. That leaves either "1" or "2" (unless you factor in the missing 5-7 scenarios). I'm going with 2. In fact, I even know which team is going to jump out early. The Giants. I think Eli is going to have a confused look on his face for much of the second half.

New England 38, New York 22.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hot Time in the Old Town

Last night, Wendy and I went to dinner at a fancy downtown restaurant, and then we went to the symphony. First, I'll discuss the dinner.

The Dinner

Now that's good technical writing, that heading. We ate at a fancy French restaurant. I do not remember the name of it. I am not a foodie. Wendy is. Wendy is not a miser. I am.

What I should do in these situations is swing by Taco Bell on the way and eat three bean & cheese burritos. Then I would let Wendy do all the fine dining, and I would nibble on her food and order my own dessert. Perfect. Instead, I play the game and tell myself that it's okay to throw away money because there's plenty more where that came from.

I ordered the Beef Bourguignon because it has the word "beef" in it and "bourguignon" sounds like something I might not eschew. That's $32 for the entree. While I was spending a full week of my former self's lifeguard's salary on a meal, I also ordered a side of butternut squash for $9 and a glass (specifically, a third of a glass) of red wine for $14. The wine was a cabernet sauvignon that tastes slightly better or slightly worse than any glass of take-it-or-leave-it wine I drink at home.

The squash was the best part of the meal. The Beef Bourguignon tasted like pot roast. I like pot roast just fine, but what I really needed for $32 was not pot roast. Wendy ordered kobe beef, which was roll-your-eyes-back delicious, well worth the $39. She gave me about half of the kobe beef and ate most of the butternut squash (glazed with black truffles) in return.

We didn't have time for the $9 desserts because we had to make it to the symphony.

The Symphony

I'm on fire, transition-wise. The program had three parts, for lack of a better word. There is probably a better word, but I don't know it. First, a new composition from a contemporary 30-year-old composer who is apparently heavily influenced by Philip Glass. I did not like this new composition because the sound of it was not pleasing to the ear. In fact, I had a difficult time distinguishing the orchestral tuning from the actual piece.

People clapped when it was done. I clapped as well. What, do you think I'm a snob? This composer did his best, and even though his discordant mess was drab and messy, I gingerly patted three fingers against the center of my palm.

Next, a piece by Schubert. I was pleasantly surprised that it sounded good, like much of the classical music that one hears when flipping the radio station or watching Saturday morning cartoons. Unfortunately, I cannot offer a full critique of Schubert's piece because I fell asleep, despite slamming down a cup of coffee just before the event and scalding my tongue.

After the intermission was Chopin. That's why I set up the night in town. That's right, I arranged it. You probably thought Wendy was dragging me along, but no -- it was I, Bob the Chopin lover, who ordered said tickets. Wendy just made the ill-fated restaurant reservation.

The sound of the orchestra warming up and tuning their instruments before an anticipated concert is thrilling. I love the tingle. And then they played utterly beautiful music. Inspirational. Awesome. Rapturous. When it was over, I offered no polite applause. I stood up, clapped wildly, and shouted, "Rock on, bitches!"

Seriously, the audience gave a 5-minute standing ovation that led to an encore. The encore piano solo wasn't at all like watching waves crash against a rocky beach. No, it was more like snow falling on a cottage. That's exactly what it was. It was snow falling against a candle-lit cottage.