The Weird Bits That Made Me: The Good Rats

Welcome To: The Weird Bits That Made Me, an exploration of the idiosyncratic or obscure pop culture that I was into as a kid. I lived a strange suburban existence, with relatively young and somewhat hip parents and there were some real gems in the offbeat cultural stuff they exposed us to as kids. I thought it would be fun to once a week explore some of that

Where to begin with The Good Rats? I suppose like anything, a basic explanation would do best. The Good Rats are (were?) a band, based out of Long Island, who were active in the late 60’s through the 70’s, recorded several studio albums, and never quite expanded beyond the Tri-State area, though again, my parents, and aunts and uncles, being of the correct age and musical temperament remained dedicated fans for, well, ever.

We spent our childhood listening through Tasty, the band’s third album over and over again, once again, because father picked it up on CD after seeing the guys play in bar one time.

Easily one of the best nights of my life (and probably many people related to me) involved The Good Rats, and that’s the story I want to tell here. Bizarrely and coincidentally, when The Allendale Bar And Grill, the only bar in the town where I grew up started bringing music acts in, they booked The Good Rats, a week before my Uncle Johnny turned 50.

Despite living in Chicago at the time, he insisted that his 50th birthday party be held at The AB & G for the show. We booked the upstairs room for dinner and got joyously drunk and then made our way downstairs to see the band play. Besides my many relatives who made the trek, we were also joined by several of my sister and brother in laws friends who also fell in love with this truly incredible Rock and Roll band.

We Are Very Drunk, and VERY YOUNG In This picture, and I beg everyone’s forgiveness
This is my favorite picture of my sister and me in existence. Including the lovely pictures from her wedding, where we actually look much better

A few months later, the Chris Kunisch owner and manager of The AB&G booked the band again and we all rolled out again. (An aside, The AB&G is currently operating with distanced indoor dining and a tented outdoor space, if you live anywhere near them, PLEASE stop by and grab some food and drink. This place has been around since The Great Depression, is family owned, and wonderful. They are the kind of place that communities desperately need, and also I love the family so very much)

About a year after those two nights, the lead singer, Peppi Marchello passed away, and in tribute, the band put together a showcase at BB King’s in midtown Manhattan, which we also attended. I’m still blown away by how much I love those nights, and how much I love the songs.

I am again blow away by our Youth in this picture. Especially Joe (Far Right). Who looks about 5

I listened to Tasty the other night to get back on my feet with this and the songs are good. They’re damn good.

Also, just as a singer, I’m in awe of Peppi’s voice, and it is an incredible instance of a scene just sticking with people. I wonder if in 20 years my kids and nieces and nephews will excitedly be introducing their friends to Coheed And Cambria or The Dear Hunter with the same fervor as we did The Good Rats.

If you want specific recommendations of where to start (and I really suggest you do): ALL of Tasty, just the whole damn thing, but especially the title track, “Get Back To My Music” and “Song Writer”. Also, “Advertisement In The Voice” and “Yellow Flower” both off of Ratcity In Blue, which are great, “Advertisement” in particular is a remarkable piece of song craft, just a lovely piece of longing and loneliness.

60 Books In 2019 #4: The Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker

My grandpa, Grampy, we called him, passed away this weekend. Which means I’ll always remember The Golem And The Jinni, which I kept thinking, “he’d have loved this book,” as I read through it.

“It was a fine day that we came to this country,” was a favorite saying of Grampy’s, he’d affect a brogue, an accent that never quite suited him the way his natural Manhattan flat vowels and nasally tones did. But he was right, of course. America has been unfathomably good to our family, and frankly, to our people. My background is primarily New York Irish, (not to be confused with Boston or Chicago Irish, the culture is a bit different.) with smatterings of German, British and Jewish.

The children of immigrants, yearning always for both America and home. And The Golem And The Jinni is about that, and so much more. A Golem, a being of clay, created by Jewish mysticism, and Jinni, a demon of fire, from the deserts of Syria, find themselves in the great city of immigrants, New York, and find each other.

This is a wonderful book. It’s the closest I’ve seen to American Magical realism in a while. (I always hold up Shoeless Joe and it’s adaptation Field Of Dreams as the best examples.) Chava, the golem, and Ahmad, the Jinni, are magical beings in the very real Manhattan of the 1890’s, Chava making her way as a baker in the Jewish community of the Lower East Side, taken in by a kind retired rabbi and his activist nephew, Ahmad working as a silversmith in the Syrian community, lost in a time and place he finds exasperating and stifling.

In the end both realize there is a great deal of the old that needs to be given up, to make a new home, the knowledge forgone, but the worthwhileness of the new place, freed from old bounds.

It was a fine day we came to this country. Home should never be forgotten though, and I’m grateful to have family that’s centered so much of who we are around that connection to home.

Anyway, this book is awesome.

Up next is Circe by Madeline Miller. I know it was like the book in 2018, so I’m only a little behind on this one. (Seriously, y’all, I’m trying.)

It’s So Nice To Be Back Home Where I Belong

Last weeked was a busy,  fun and exhausting weekend, where I managed to touch base with a bunch of things that make me very happy, but that I’m still kind of recovering from.

First of all, Kristi and I met up at New York Comic Con.

My love for NYCC is real. Despite it’s often unweildy size, ridiculous ticketing policies and overall sense of muchness, I never have a bad time, at this, the first con I ever attended. And although I only touched base for 24 hours this time, it was still incredible.

Aside from taking a picture with Mark Hamill, Kristi and I walked the floor chatted with people at Artist Alley, and generally took part in fun.

I was reminded of what I love about Cons and pretty much immediately registered for another one (I’m finally gonna hit Broadway Con! WOOO!) and spending the evening at dinner with Kristi and Aless and acquaintance who I guess is a friend now Jake, and then at the Geek Girl Brunch After Party (Where Kristi and I were sexually harassed exactly 0 times! SO, improvement over last year’s after party! Which was NOT the Geek Girl Brunch one, I should note!)  I remembered how great the nerd life can be.

Of course getting home at 3 AM and passing out on my couch (though I did eventually make it to my bed) it made getting up the next day to drive up to Allendale and see my family, and head BACK into the city to see Hello Dolly! a little bit tough.

BUT WORTH IT!

I’ve mentioned that talking about Star Wars with my brother one of my favorite things in the world. One of the only things I love more than that is talking musical theater with both my siblings. Discussing Gavin Creel’s perfect crooning of “It Only Takes A Moment”, our excitement at seeing two of the greatest comedians ever performing some of the funniest scenes in the history of the genre (seriously, David Hyde Pierce and Bette Midler’s work in the dinner scene of Act II  is insanely good!) the discussion of how the show will change when the replacements go in. (Bernadette Peters and Victor Garber are ALSO insanely good, but a good deal more dry than Bette and David. It’ll be a very different show, and probably a lot more sarcastic)

But overall, what this year, and specifically these past few months (which have been very stressful, for reasons I don’t want to get into here, suffice to say, day job drama) is that I don’t need to compartmentalize my interests the way I used to.

Which is part of why (also aformentioned day job induced stress) that I’ve cut back here. I have way increased my facebook presence however. So check things out over there.

There are videos of me and Kristi at Comic Con, (and of the aftermath) pictures of the cooking I’ve been doing, places I’ve been visiting, Katie and my weekly videos about Will & Grace, and general musing.

This blog isn’t going anywhere. It means to much to me, and it makes a great hub, but my attention has been elsewhere lately and it feels nice to have let go of it a little bit.

I am going to finish up the trip reports for the Disney Trip, and hey, movie season was quieter this year, but does roll ever on. (Thor and Star Wars and Coco are still coming at the very least.)

 

Back to The Con: New York Comic Con 2016

I haven’t gotten to watch Once Upon A Time yet, so I definitely couldn’t write a recap, so I’m going to talk about New York Comic Con instead!

GET ON BOARD!

Anyway, as I walked into the Javits Center on Thursday, I got a little nervous. Not for any really reason. My costume was great, (I’d already gotten some compliments on line.) I knew I wasn’t going to any panels that day, and I know my way around that building without much trouble.

But, I’ve grown accustomed to smaller cons, with one show floor and a few panel rooms. And NYCC is big, it’s sprawling and crowded and loud and so much fun, but just massive. So I started slow, with a lap around once of my top 10 happiest places, The Artist’s Alley at New York Comic Con.

Most cons I’ve gone to have an artist’s alley, usually one lane of the show floor, dedicated to the work of comic book artists, where they can sell their own books, sketches, and more often than not, prints of their fan art. But NYCC dedicates an entire building to artist’s alley and it’s just phenomenal. After that I was fortified and I did my shopping and wandering, went to a DC Meetup, and enjoyed my day.

That night Aless and grabbed dinner, went back to my hotel and watched The Dark Knight and drank wine, which is frankly the best night I’ve had in a while. (And I’ve had some good ones lately!)

Kristi came late on Thursday and Friday morning, decked out in our Star Wars best, we walked to The Javits, waiting in line for two hours, and began our day. I’d warned Kristi about the general overwhelming feeling I’d had, but she took it way more in stride than I did, which helped calm me down. We walked and shopped for most of the day, but did manage to hit both the Vertigo comics panel (where Kristi learned of the magic that is Scott Snyder’s love for comic books.) and the Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary panel, (where we all learned of the magic that is Greg Rucka’s love for Wonder Woman.)

We did some meeting up with the wonderful Lora & Melvin (follow Lora’s Tumblr, y’all! She’s the greatest!)

Kristi and I then went to dinner and hit up Bowlmor lanes for the Sonic Boombox after party, which got a little crazy but was overall fun.

I insisted on an early wake up on Saturday because A) I was NOT waiting outside for 2 hours again, and B) I really wanted to see the Iron Fist panel, so I knew we needed to get checked in for that. We did get in. The rest of the day was fun, we saw the panel for The Great Wall, which looks really interesting, if a little bit odd. (So much focus on Matt Damon, when it seems like the movie isn’t actually about him at all? But whatever, I got to be in a room with a man who I’ve had a crush on since I was 11, so that was pretty cool.) More wandering, more friend meet ups. (Aless wound up working at the con, this is not my story to tell, but it’s riveting!)

Anyway, the most important part, Netflix Present’s Marvel’s Iron Fist, or whatever the unwieldy title of that panel was. Which in reality was, “Let’s talk about Luke Cage for 10 minutes, Iron Fist for like 15, The Punisher for a bit and then BURN THIS CONVENTION TO THE GROUND WITH NEWS ABOUT THE DEFENDERS.”

OK, in reality, I was less excited about Iron Fist than I’ve been about the other Marvel Netflix shows, but now I am very excited about it. The action looks great, Finn Jones’s energy is wonderful, unlike Charlie Cox’s brooding or Kristen Ritter’s saracasm or Mike Colter’s stoicism, Jones is like a spring. Tightly wound, and bouncy. I think it’s going to be great. AND HOLY CRAP THE FIGHTS. We saw two Danny Rand fights and one Colleen Wing fights. All were spectacular. All aboard for March 17. (I will not be watching until the 18th. St. Patrick’s day is not for binging…well, not for binging on television shows.)

But seeing the whole Defenders cast on stage, that made my heart leap. A few things. Charlie Cox is a tiny, adorable man, and Kristen Ritter and Mike Coulter are giants. Finn Jones appears to be normal sized. Also, I do wonder how these four will get together. I mean, if I’m recalling correctly they’re not in the best shape. (I do need to rewatch the shows at a reasonable pace I think…) Matt is currently friendless in Hell’s Kitchen with The Hand about to resurrect his girlfriend to be the ultimate weapon of destruction, Luke is on his way to prison, and Jessica…is actually in OK shape, I mean, for Jessica. She got a new door, and she beat Kilgrave. So, I guess she has it together. Again, for Jessica.

BUT HOW ARE THEY GOING TO DEFEAT SIGOURNEY WEAVER???

Yeah, it’s kind of impossible to describe how it felt when they announced and brought Sigourney Weaver out on stage. People literally began chanting “Holy Shit.” I’m sure there were tears. (I did not cry, as it was not Star Wars related, and we all know that it’s only Star Wars marketing materials that make me cry. Marvel doesn’t quite do it.) And then that was it. They sent us home.

Sunday was a bit calmer. Kristi went home. I went to the Women of Marvel Panel and the Sailor Moon Panel, again, I saw friends, shopped a bit and came home.

I’m still processing this experience, still getting my pictures together and really riding high. Whenever I go to a Con, and whenever I see the group of friends I saw this weekend I’m reminded of a few years ago when I first met them and realized that I needed to make some changes in my social life. I realized it was much better to only see my friends sometimes and genuinely feel good about those relationships, than to have something to do every weekend and be miserable. I only hang out with Lora, Melvin, Jessica and Alex a couple of times a year, but it’s always fun, it’s always interesting and I always feel good, if tired at the end of it. This extended into the way I socialize by making sure I spend time with names any readers are no doubt familiar with by now. Proximity and constant contact are no longer necessary to my friendships, just that the time we do get to be together is quality. So I want to thank all those people for that.

I also have some other stuff going on in life right now, that if it works out will probably lead to a cut back here. (It’s good stuff…really good, I promise!)

 

Oh Captain, My Captain

Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter announced yesterday that he’s going to be retiring after this season. This isn’t a huge shock. After he was injured two seasons ago, it’s been hard for him to get back to the unbelievable level that he used to work at.

I don’t talk about sports much here, but while my love for The New York Yankees is just about as deep as my love for any character or book or movie I’ve talked about here, it’s also always felt somehow separate. But to not mark Derek’s announcement, well, I mean, that would be asking far too much of me.

I was in the fourth grade in 1996, when The Yankees had their crazy record breaking World Series Champ seasons. That was Jeter’s rookie season and to me, Jeter has simply defined the Yanks ever since. He’s always been the model of the friendly graceful and restrained outlook that all New York athletes are expected to live up to. Derek didn’t speak out about his teammates, bosses or the incredible shake ups in the Yankee organization during his time. When he was named Captain, Yankee fans, a particularly persnickety bunch when it comes to legacy cheered.

I remember when he hit his 3000th hit, we were having a party at my house, it was my graduation party and my brother left, and drove to Modell’s to buy everyone 3000th hit merchandise. It was great and I kind of love that I was surrounded so thoroughly by the people that I love during this incredibly and historic moment.

My sports fandom is intensely personal and tied in many ways to my family which is one of the reasons I don’t write about it much. Kind of like my Catholicism and my love of Bruce Springsteen, it’s such a huge part of who I am, it just sort of informs how I relate to the world around me and doesn’t much need to be analyzed. Not to say that I follow The Church blindly or that I’d defend say, Nebraska , but when I try to put it in words it all winds up sounding pretty trite.

It’s going to be hard to say good bye to this incredible player, but it’s definitely time to say good bye. Last season was difficult to watch. But there’s no question in any body’s mind that this man is going to the hall of fame.

But of course we still get another season of baseball out of him, so we don’t have to say good bye just yet! Looking forward to it Derek. The fans will miss you for always!

“The City is Everything”

“The City is Everything” – Joan Holloway, Mad Men Season 1, Episode 10 “Long Weekend”

I wrote most of this on Thursday night. It’s more reflective and personal than anything else I’ve ever posted here and the only thing I’m fangirling over is the city that I love. Please indulge me in this.

I watched this episode of Mad Men today as I rode the train home after work. I smiled, so happy to hear that line. I love thinking that, because I agree so whole heartedly with the statement. To me the city is everything. I love New York more than any place in the world.

Yup. Even more than there.

Yup. Even more than there.

A few months ago Chrissy and I were having one of those awesome late night talks that you can only have with your closest friends after midnight and a few drinks. We were talking very seriously about our lives so far and the lives that we wanted to build for ourselves in the next few years. At that point I didn’t know where my life was headed, I’m still not positive, but I was and am sure of one thing, the city will play a huge role in it.

The times in my life when I’ve felt wholely myself and at peace were when the city was an integral part of my life. My summer internship at a department store when I was twenty. I didn’t love the job, but I loved sitting out in Greeley Square and reading Twilight and Gossip Girl. I read The Sun Also Rises and The Bell Jar too that summer but for some reason they didn’t leave quite the same impression. Then about a year and a half later, when I took a semester off from school and worked customer service for an eCommerce site. Then living and working in Brooklyn. Now at my current job, saving to move back in to the city. I never want to be anywhere else.

I see this when I get off the subway every day, and it's amazing.

I see this when I get off the subway every day, and it’s amazing.

I know that there are people who don’t like the city. I understand, at least logically how this can be. New York is loud and crowded and moves at a strange hurry up and wait kind of pace. It smells a little funky and everything is really expensive. But I love it. I feel like in that crowd there’s so much room to be yourself, but not in a free form hippy “We are each of us a special snowflake” kind of way. More like, in a very Woody Allen, perfect, “there are so many people here, at least one of them must be like me,” kind of way. I like who I am in the city.

But then there are nights like tonight. Nights when I get off of the train in the rain and I see the street lights reflecting off of puddles on the main street in my hometown, and I realize how amazing the little place I grew up in is. I read a comment that the guy who owns our local Bar and Grill left on my mom’s facebook thanking her for all of the hard work she does at our church. And I love it here too. Often times when people ask me about living in a tiny town like this one, I simply say, “It was a great place to grow up.” And it really was.

My childhood was marked by playing outside well past dark with my brother and sister, swimming in my friend’s pools, snow days, rec sports (that I was terrible at) and walking to school every day. I still see many of the people I grew up with on a regular basis, because they’re all living at home and we only have one bar in town. (Same one who’s owner likes my mom so much.)

This place. It's awesome and so are the people that own it!

This place. It’s awesome and so are the people that own it!

I’d miss this place so much if I went elsewhere. I missed it so much in college that I came home almost every weekend. But I’ve out grown it, at least for the time being. I’m ready to be in my city every night again.

And I’ll get there soon. I know it. It’s just a matter of hanging on long enough.

A New York State of Mind

Here’s what you missed on…Reenie’s Life!

Yesterday was tough day for me on the bitterness/regret scale.

I had a job interview in New York City. The interview was great, and I really want the job, but every minute that I was in the city I felt like I was being taunted.

“You’re supposed to be here, remember?”

“Remember the subway? You love the subway!”

“You know exactly how many calories are in that latte. Don’t you feel better?”

I didn’t even leave the two block radius that the interview was in, and I still felt that way.

Also, it was the Glee season premier. (Sorry about the liveblogging debacle. It was my mom’s fault, not mine.) See, I watched just about every episode of Glee last year in the bar owned by my Uncle Mark and his partner Richard. (If you haven’t watched Glee, or any awesomely bad TV in gay bar, you should.) So last night as I settled in with my mom and my sister, (and sister’s boyfriend), to watch, I was really missing that part of my life.

And of course a large chunk of the episode was about how New York was beating down and breaking Rachel Berry. But the city remains beautiful, and hopeful, in the sense that she met a new guy, who’s kind of perfect for her, and now Kurt’s there. I’ve seen enough teen dramas to know that they’re going to find Santana working in some dive bar or strip club and the three of them are going to share an apartment. Because Glee is Degrassi with more singing. (I say more, there was still a lot of singing on Degrassi.)

Meanwhile, back in Lima, Mr. Schue got a haircut! And the now national champs New Directions (with Wade/Unique now in the fold) are being kind of douchey. But new member Marley, who’s mother is an obese lunch lady (she and Sam then bonded over being poor), calls them out on it, and also she’s awesome and wears cute newsboy caps.

Also new to the fold (though he’s being a pain about it) is Jake, or as he shall be called, Little Puck. I don’t do this because he’s basically the same character (he is) but because he’s actually Noah Puckerman’s secret little brother. (Secret, as in Noah doesn’t know he exists. Yes, I do think this is stupid. But it’s still better than Puck sleeping with Rachel’s birth mom after she adopts his daughter. Puck always got the stupidest story lines even though he was the best character.)

The music in this episode was fine. “Call Me Maybe” was cute but not as cute as Missy Franklin (nothing is as cute as Missy Franklin doing “Call Me Maybe.”) “New York State of Mind” split between Rachel and Marley was stunning, but I don’t know what planet the Glee writers live on where the song was made famous by Barbara Steisand. Billy Joel wrote and made famous that song. All his songs. Are there any covers of Billy Joel songs that are more famous than the originals? Blane’s song was fun, if completely unrelated to the point he was making about how Kurt should move to New York. And “Chasing Pavement” was a good choice for a closer and having Little Puck stand in the exact same place as Puck did in the pilot was a nice piece of visual symmetry.

Of course I go in to every season of Glee hopeful and excited and wind up beat down and exhausted.

I really miss New York, you guys.