Monthly Archives: November 2011

Dingle All the Way

It looks like we may be returning to Ireland, so it would probably be a good idea to finish the tales of our last trip before a new one begins.  Although we still have some time, our next adventure is scheduled for Christmas 2012.  Next year will be my parents 50th anniversary, so instead of throwing a big party, my sisters and I asked them if they would like a trip to Ireland.  They were thrilled with the idea, and of course we will be tagging along to help them fully enjoy the Emerald Isle.  Looking back at our own trip, the one place I would say should not be missed on a return trip would be Dingle.

Located on the southern part of the east coast in County Kerry, Dingle and the entire Dingle Peninsula face Dingle Bay, leading out into the Atlantic Ocean.  Historically, it is a fishing town, but these days the principal industry is tourism.  It is not a big city like Galway or Dublin, but it is also not as small as Bushmills or Doolin.  With a population of around 2,000 it is almost the perfect size for travelers who want to see the best of Ireland without being overcrowded.

Our view of Dingle Bay from inside our B&B, The Greenmount House in Dingle.

We stayed at a great B&B that was listed as just outside of town called Greenmount House, although their idea of outside of town was just a few stumbling blocks uphill from the main street.  Even at the end of the night with more than just a few pints of Guiness in us, it was still a pleasant walk home.  We arrived in Dingle in the late afternoon and had time for a walk in the cool November air before we headed to Greenmount House.  We staked out possible places for dinner and a night cap, then decided on a nap before our night out.

Much like Chicago in the winter, the sun starts to set around 4:30 on Ireland in November, so by the time we napped and showered, it was already dark as we headed out into the night.  To be honest, I do not remember the name of the resturaunt we stopped at for dinner, but as with most places we ate at it was a warm and friendly spot.  Since we were on the bay, I decided on seafood, a very nice white fish that was indeed fresh and delicious.  Maureen opted for what would become our favorite Irish dish, the Guinness Pie.  After we ate and consumed a couple of pints, we headed out into the night to find a place to rest our traveler’s feet, and we chose a most unopposing little storefront called Dick Mack’s.

Before we departed for Ireland, Maureen had informed me of a therory she had about drinking with locals in Ireland.  Basically, you need to convince the locals of your serious intent as a drinker, and it will usually take two or three pints before they open up to newcomers, so you need to buckle down and order a few pints and wait them out.  This was indeed the case in Dick Mack’s.  Officially, it is a haberdashery, as many pubs in Ireland have dual purpose, but other than the Guinness, there was really nothing very haberdashery about the pub.  At first glance, it looks like the type of place your mother warned you to stay out of, with dirty floors and a side bar made of planks of wood, but we ordered two pints and found a place to sit and talk in the near empty space.

After two rounds, it looked as if we may have failed, as our longest conversation of the night had been with a Porchagese sailor that was mostly conducted in broken Spanish that I could not understand at all.  I suggest we move on, but Maureen insisted we wait them out for one more pint, so we ordered again.  And at that point her theory took hold, and suddenly we were making a whole room full of new and interesting friends.

To call the group at Dick Mack’s an eclectic bunch is a bit of an understatment.  A bit like the Island of Misfit Toys, the crowd that gathered in the back room around a small table near the fireplace gave the appearance of a cross section of lost souls, but were one of the more open and welcoming groups we would meet during our stay.  With names like Paddy and Sean, and an older woman we knew only as The Queen, it would end up being our most authentic night in Ireland.  We sang songs, and listened to people recite poetry, and Paddy played the tin whistle.  That little back room with the fireplace became our home for the rest of the night, except for the occational trip out back to the restroom, or back up to the bar for another pint.  That is until our bartender finally told us we had to leave.

At that point, with more than enough warming fuel in our blood, we probably should have called it a night, but we decided to follow Sean up the road a little.

Next stop, An Droicead Beag.

Our eclectic little group gathers in the back room at Dick Mack's in Dingle.

Black Saturday

This may come as a shock to some, but I am not much of a shopper.  To me, the idea of going to the store without a distinct idea of what you intend to buy, is just crazy.  And getting up at two in the morning to be first in line for a 4 a.m. sale is nuts.  If I am awake at 2 in the morning, it is either because I partied like a rock star, or my bladder woke me up and I had to make the zombie walk down the hall.  Put your money on the second option.

So every year, when that day after Thanksgiving would roll in, and I was still comatose from too much pumpkin pie and stuffing, others would boost our economy.  I know, I know, I hear it every year.  It is the start of the Christmas shopping season, and all the best deals are available.  I get it, I just don’t want to be a part of it.  You see, as strange as this may seem when you consider the size of my family and the job that I do, I don’t really like people.  So being in a crowd I don’t know, and most probably don’t like, with people pushing and grabbing at things I don’t want or need, is not what I would consider a good time.

To me, Black Friday was just a day off of work.  And for many years it was not even that.  Much like Maureen yesterday, Black Friday used to be an all day work event.  It was working a window at the United Center for three shows of “The Greatest Show On Earth.”  It was dealing with people who “thought” they had tickets to the 3:00 show, when they actually had tickets to the earlier showing at 11:00.  Of course it is always the computers fault, and not the operator who ordered the tickets.

For most of my life, the whole concept of Black Friday was not even an afterthought for me.  It was irritating commercial breaks, and filler news stories.  It had absolutely no effect on my life.  That is until last year.

One year ago today, Black Friday became a new type of holiday.  It became my anniversary.  Yesterday morning when we got up, I wished Maureen a Happy Anniversary, and she shook her head and rolled her eyes, convinced that her husband was once again an idiot, and I quickly stopped her and said, “It’s Black Friday.”  We had made so many jokes about it last year, that she instantly understood and smiled, content with the fact that we now will have two anniversaries in most years.

Black Friday has taken on a whole new meaning for me, but you still wont catch me anywhere near a store or a mall.  It is now the day my life changed, and I married my best friend.  Happy Anniversary, Babe.  Here is to many more great Black Fridays!

Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?

On the way into work the other morning, I decided to give the sound system on the new car a try.  It came with one of those adapters to plug-in an iPod or other such mp3 type device, but since I don’t have one of those, and to be honest, it would be like putting a wrist watch on a pig as the old saying goes, I dug through some CDs that were still piled up in the garage and picked out something to listen to on my drive in to work.  And boy did I pick well.  A two CD set that Maureen and I picked up on our trip to Ireland.  Hey Ho, Let’s Go: The Anthology.  The Ramones put out 14 studio albums over twenty years, and amassed a catalogue of over 170 songs.  This collection reduces it by a third and comes up with 57 songs.  I am going to try to reduce that number yet again.

My Top Ten Favorite Ramones Songs!

10.  Baby, I Love You

Many would say that this song would epitomise all that was wrong with the Phil Spector era in Ramones history.  To them I would say, screw it.  I like the song.  The customary Marky Ramone heavy drum beat combined with a string section on a cover version of the classic Rosette’s tune.  Spector was brought on board to help make the band more commercially successful, and he did just that.  Baby, I Love You was the band’s most successful single, reaching #8 on the UK charts, and End of the Century was the bands highest charting album in both the US and the UK.

9.  Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?

Another Phil Spector inspired song that stretched the standard that was The Ramones, it was also off of the album End of the Century.  The title of the album comes from the lyrics in this song.  But I always had one little problem with the song.  The addition of the synthesizer in the song seems to mimic almost exactly, at least to my untrained ear, the beginning of the song Radio, Radio by Elvis Costello.  Although I could find no reference to the similarity anywhere on the internet.  I suggest giving both a listen.

8.  Pet Sematary

Written for the movie adaptation of the Stephen King novel, Pet Sematary , it was included on The Ramones 1989 release Brain Drain.  Technically, it is the highest charting single for the band, reaching number 4 on the Modern Rock charts, now more commonly referred to as the Alternate Rock charts.  But when you consider that this particular chart didn’t exist until 1988, it is hard to put into perspective just how popular the song was as compared to other Ramones songs.  It did however make one great ending to the movie, and if the remake that has been floating around Hollywood for years ever does get made, they would do well to include this song again.

7.  Pinhead

Inspired by the 1932 movie Freaks, this song coined one of The Ramones more famous chants.  Gabba Gabba, Hey!  From their second album, Leave Home, the song quickly became a concert favorite, with a dancing roadie in a Pinhead mask coming out on stage during the song.  Or at least that is how I remember it way back in 1980 when my friend Jimmy and I saw The Ramones at the College of DuPage.  I am also pretty sure that the song was the inspiration for the current kid’s show Yo Gabba Gabba, but I have no proof of that.

6.  Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

Another movie theme song, but this time for the 1979 film which stared Vince Van Patten and Clint Howard.  I have never seen the movie, and that is probably a good thing, although I would imagine curiosity would eventually get the better of me and I would have to dust off an old VHS machine and watch it.  That is if a copy of the film still exists.  The song was re-mixed and re-released on End of the Century, but the original from the movie soundtrack is considered by most the better rendition.

5.  The KKK Took My Baby Away

From the 1981 album Pleasant Dreams, this song was rumored to be about Joey stealing Johnny’s girlfriend.  The possible implications aside, it is just a classic piece of Ramones.  Heavy drum beats and simple cords played at rocket speed and coming in at just over two and a half minutes.

4.  Bonzo Goes to Bitburg

Originally released in 1985 as a single only in the United Kingdom, the song was later renamed My Brain is Hanging Upside Down and was released on the album Animal Boy.  It was written as a protest to President Reagan’s visit to a military cemetery in Bitburg, West Germany, were 49 known Nazi SS members were buried.  Joey Ramone, whose real name was Jeffry Ross Hyman and of Jewish decent, took offence to the visit as did many Jewish and Veterans groups.  But the song also caused strife within the band, since Johnny was a supporter of  Reagan and a far right conservative.  He was also a collector of Nazi propaganda.

3.  Sheena is a Punk Rocker

This is the song I cut my Ramones teeth on.  From their third album, Rockets to Russia, it tells the story of a young girl who was tired of the disco and turned to Punk Rock.  Nothing deep or meaningful, but full of energy and lots of fun.  As with many of the better Ramones songs, the lyrics are minimized.  What more do you need to know?  “Sheena is a punk rocker now.”

2.  I Wanna Be Sedated

Possibly one of the Ramones best known songs, it appeared on their 1978 release, Road to Ruin.  It was written by Joey as a complaint about how boring life was while on the road touring.  When Maureen and I visited the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago, in one room we watched a recorded interview with Joey shortly before his death from lymphoma.  The interviewer asks him at one point why he always wrote such short songs, and in all seriousness he says he didn’t.  They were actually long songs, but that they just played them really, really fast.  I instantly thought of this song.

1.  Blitzkrieg Bop

Vanessa Williams may have saved the best for last, but that just wasn’t going to fly with The Ramones.  The very first song, on their very first album, it has been called by some, the two minutes that changed the face of music.  The song launched The Ramones career, and set a standard for the band and all of music for the next twenty years.  Blitzkrieg Bop will be found on almost any list of Top Rock songs of all time, and was the song played by Green Day at the 2002 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for The Ramones.

What else is there to say?

Hey Ho!  Let’s Go!