Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sclemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated. We're gonna do it!

We done did it. Milwaukee that is. I've been laid low buy a nasty cold that seems to finally be going away. Traveling will do that to you. So about our adventures. Well, for starters, we missed our flight. How you ask? There were a number of small delays that added up, but the nail in the coffin was the stupid "Park n Fly." I usually park at but I was in a hurry and the entrance for Park n Fly was first. Bad move. USPark, you pull up, get directed where to park, and there's a shuttle ready to pick you up usually before you can get all the luggage out of the car and you get whisked away to the airport. Not PnF. There was a sign directing you to a section waaaaay in the back that had zero empty spots. We drove up and down looking for a spot, finally cramming the car into a spot in the "compact" area. I had to squeeze out the passenger side door since I was too close on the driver's side. We scanned the lot - no shuttles, so we hoofed it to the entrance, and finally board a shuttle. The driver drives around picking more people up. The last was an elderly couple who took their own sweet time getting organized and finally on the shuttle. I wasn't wearing a watch and for some reason clocks are not conspicuoius at Louis Armstrong international. We sprung off the shuttle, flew to the United counter, no line at the self-check-in kiosk! I punch in the flight info... "Too late to board. Please speak to a representative." Wha? I pick up the receiver. As I'm talking to the rep. I notice the tiny clock in the corner of the screen: 2:15. Our flight was at 2:30. I guess we are too late. Our only option was to fly stand-by on the flight at 7:30. We'd also be stand-by on our connecting flight from Chicago. I figured, if we could at least get to Chicago, we could always pick up a rental car and drive the 1-1/2 hr to Milwaukee. My nerves were shot and we had time to kill so we had a beer. After calming down and the beer, we decided to walk around. We still had our bags with us. Walking around took all of 10 min. so we stopped back at the ticket counter. I've never flown stand-by before and had no idea how this worked. Greg on the other had, used to always fly stand-by when his father was a commercial airline pilot. He knew the lingo to use to get the info we wanted. Our flight was 92% full and it "looked good" we could get on. They can't say for sure you can get on but Greg seemed pretty happy with the answer. We decided to check our luggage so we wouldn't have to schlep it around. We might not make it to Milwaukee but our luggage would. Hung out and had coffee at a cafe that said they had free wi-fi but we weren't able to connect. After we were bored of that we went through security. We decided it was time for a second beer... hey, we are on vacation after all. The lounge was packed and the woman behind the bar couldn't chew gum and walk if her life depended on it. Even though it was only around 5:30 I was feeling peckish, so we moved on the the "cafe" where we picked up some dinner and cold Abita beers (at $5 a pop!). As it got closer to 7:30 we sauntered over to the gate and chatted with the ticket agent. We were first on the stand-by list. The last 3 letters of our last name were cut off and he took a guess "Hackenberry?" He was a jovial chap and we chatted for a bit and I told him maybe we should change our name to "Hackenb" since it is so long.

They start boarding the plane. We hear "Hackenbee party please approach the podium"-such the jokester. Finally! We are on the plane! We left behind schedule, about 15 late. When we land in Chicago several hours later, we run though the airport to our connection. Just as we are approaching the gate we heard "Hackenberg, party of two" I yell "we're here!" they scan our boarding pass and we walk through the door. Down the stairs. Across the tarmac. Past a few other commuter planes. Up the stairs. We were only in the air 15 minute but take-off, landing, taxing added about an hour to the trip. I figured out that had we flown in and out of Chicago and drove, we could have slept in an extra hour on the return trip. Why I booked a 6:30 a, return flight is beyond me, must have been $. I won't go into the return flight, exacerbated by nasty weather, but I won't be flying United anytime soon if I can help it. I'm not sure what I did to piss off the travel gods, but my flying mojo this year has not been what it used to be. One last tip on flying- always, always bring something to eat. You never know how long you'll sit on the runway or be circling and there ain't no food on domestic flights no more.

We got in around Midnight. Picked up the rental car. Got lost trying to find the interstate so I followed the signs back to the airport to start over. Pulled over to talk to my cousin on the phone for directions when a sheriff tapped on the window. This would be my first brush with the law on this trip. Finally we were on our way.

Friday was a lovely, sunny day. My cousin Dean, who we were staying with, suggested taking us on a driving tour in his convertible. Grand idea! We followed the shore of Lake Michagan, drove around downtown. We stopped for a beer and snacks at a Mader's, German restaurant downtown. Sadly, Dean says the true German restaurants are disappearing. I guess everyone's too health conscious.

Here's some views of downtown from the pier. I finally got a new camera. I didn't take a lot of sight seeing photos though, because the camera came with a woefully small flash card and I had to use the space for the family reunion.

Downtown Milwaukee

Downtown with art museum in middle

Dean picked us up and we had to hurry back to his place because our cousin Roy had arrived. That night we went to the typical Friday night fish fry. Fried fish and seafood is popular in New Orleans because of the Catholic influence. But down here the fish is catfish. We had some lovely fried cod. Greg was disappointed they didn't have malt vinegar, but they did have Tabasco. I also had the most amazing cole slaw.

Saturday was the family reunion which took up most of the day. After the reunion dinner, a group of us went back to Dean's to hang out, drink and swap stories. That was my mother's father's side of the family. Sunday we visited my mother's mother's side of the family. They were south of Milwaukee in Racine county. It's farm land and beautiful. Rolling hills of corn, big red barns and old farm houses. And some subdivisions that are starting to creep in.

Monday Greg and I played tourist. Well first, back to my second brush with the law. When my mother passed away, I knew of her wish to be cremated. But after that I had no idea. I decided she should join her family in Milwaukee and there were two empty spots in the family plot. Monday morning we had an appointment to meet with the cemetery director to make the arrangements for mom. I had wrapped mom and her wooden urn up carefully with bubble wrap and packed her in my suitcase. I figured it would look suspicious to the screeners, so I taped a copy of the cremation certificate on it. Yes, my bag was searched. Anyway, we were running late, got off the interstate and got turned around. I started down a wide, 4-lane road, and just as I noticed the 25 mph speed limit and hit my brakes - I was doing about 40 - I also noticed the black and white. Damn. Milwaukee's finest pulled me over. He was very stern.
"Margaret (my first name) do you know why I pulled you over?"
"Yes sir, I was going way too fast sir."
"And why was that." I explained why I was going too fast.
"Do you still live in New Orleans Margaret?"
"Yes sir."
"Margaret, do you want want a ticket here."
"No sir, I do not."
He let me, Margaret, off with a warning. A stern warning. He did not crack a smile at all. No "have a nice day" or tip of the cap. "I'm sorry sir. THANK you sir." Now I know why Milwaukeeians are such good, curtious drivers. The cops don't mess around and they are everywhere.

After we handed mom off, we headed back downtown to visit The Spice House and buy some spices we don't get down here. It smelled wonderful and everything is well labeled with extensive notations. We also visited the cheese shop and the sausage shop. Today was also beer day. We drove by one brewery, but it didn't look like it had a pub and we were getting hungry. We found the Water Street Brew Pub. Greg had the "Old World Selection" Fresh Usinger Bratwurst and Stuttgarter Knackwurst are simmered in our brew and spices, charbroiled and served with German potato salad, fresh sauerkraut. I had the "Smoked Sausage Platter" Flavored with our Lager Beer, Usinger smoked beef sausage and smoked link kielbasa are charbroiled and served with red cabbage, freshly sautéed spaetzle. Yum! And we washed it down with house brews of course. We decided was needed to walk around a bit and let lunch settle. Downtown is quite nice. The river runs through the middle of it and the lake is to the east. We strolled along the riverwalk. After a while, we stopped at another brew pub and had a beer. Then we drove out to the award winner microbrewery, Sprecher. No pub but we bought some t-shirts and beer and went back to Dean's to sample.

So that was our trip. Greg held up under repeated family exposure very well. It was good to reconnect with family. We had a rather nice, relaxing time and really enjoyed the mild weather.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My dear public, who clamors for details of the Milwaukee trip... (you know who you are). I'm currently playing post-trip catch-up and will do a proper post this weekend. Until then, I want to share this lovely, and timely, article that appeared in the T-P July 13th - our first full day in Milwaukee, the land of beer, brats and cheese.

And if you enjoyed that article, check out this one, with photos, by NPR.

Enjoy and Ein Prost!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

G and I leave this afternoon for a long weekend in Milwaukee. I'm looking forward to many things... exploring the city of beer, visiting the art museum, (The last time I was there was 1990 before the new expansion designed by Santiago Calatrava and it was a pretty impressive museum then.) drinking beer, eating brats, reconnecting with family, drinking more beer, visiting breweries (G's a home brewer so he's happy about this too), checking out the "beer barons" mansions, eating cheese and washing it down with more beer.

It will also be nice to escape the suffocating heat and humidity (NOLA's high 94 degrees, low of 76 and 72% humidity vs. Milwaukee high of 76 and low of 59 55% humidity. brrrr!) and the depressing newspaper headlines:

"Vitter had five calls with D.C. Madam"
"Police, DA battle over dropped murder case"
"N.O. water hasn’t had fluoride since storm"
"Parent faces accusations in school money theft"
"A federal grand jury looking into a bribery scandal at the Orleans Parish School Board continues"

And that's just the front page. *sigh* No wonder this city is in such a mess. Too many people looking to make gobs of money, illegally, or can't keep their you-know-what in their pants.
William Jefferson is probably relieved all this other news is keeping his name out of the head lines, though his brother is connected to the bribery scandal. Political dynasties, some good, but most not.

So to leave on an up note, I quote Homer Simpson: mmmmm..... beeeeeeer....

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Culture and Culcha...

Culture: We've been watching a fascinating series on PBS "SIMON SCHAMA'S POWER OF ART." As it is described on the PBS web site "Series Explores Dramatic Turning Points in Lives of Eight Artists and the Masterpieces That Changed the Way the World Looks at Art." We've seen the episodes about Caravaggio, Bernini and Rembrandt. Watching the first two I thought the host was being dramatic, but once I saw the Rembrandt one, I realized, no it's just the hot tempered Italian artists who were the dramatic ones. The episodes are really well done and I encourage anyone with an interest in art to catch them.

Culcha: There's a new cultural event in New Orleans, I didn't attend it because it started at 7 am but it looks like enough fun I may have to check it out next year. It was "San Fermin in Nueva Orleans" on July 7th, the same day the event occurs in Pamplona, Spain. But instead of real bulls, hoards of people dressed in white ran through the streets of the French Quarter chased by the lovely ladies of the New Orleans Roller Derby, the "Rollerbulls" wielding rubber bats. There was one bull, mounted to a shopping cart. Hard to explain, just check out the pictures: There is also a great video on YouTube, complete with editing bells and whistles and a sound track.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Police concert tapped into some memories that were old and musty. I poked around on this morning looking for former friends with little luck. Classmates was cool when it first came out, and it was free. Now, you have to buy a membership to post anything or see anything, and even though you're paying for the service, you get bombarded by ads! Next I pulled out my yearbooks from junior high. Oh boy... I remember us all thinking we were all that but we were just babies! So many people I haven't thought of in years. And some I thought "who IS that? I don't remember being friends with them." And some I'd rather not be reminded of. I am still in touch with some people from back then, as well as Tanya, my friend since 2nd grade. It is amazing how many people pass through our lives.

It was harder back then to be the world's biggest (insert band name here) fan. You have to work hard to find obscure recordings, magazine interviews and personal tidbits. "I didn't know that about Sting. But did you know Stewart..." Today with the Internet, you just go to the band's web site and/or Myspace page and viola! It's all there for you. I've been boning up on my Police trivia reading interviews on their website. I've been sucked in.

It's time I drag myself away for a while and think about other things. Next weekend Greg and I are going Milwaukee for a family reunion. I get to engulf him with my relatives for a change. I need to buy a new digital camera. I need to find cool thing to do while we are up there. Any suggestions? There's got to be a beer museum, yes? Eat German food is on the list. And visit the art museum. I need to do laundry and pack.

Today it's hot so I'm inside on the computer (duh!) and was playing catch up on some NOLA bloggers. I'd like to point your attention to Maitri's VatulBlog - she's has had some great posts lately. Especially some insightful comments on the whole "below sea level" issue-she's a geologist and knows her stuff and slams a recent editorial proclaiming New Orleans should not be rebuilt.

I'm still giddy from Police overload to really write anything meaningful. babble.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

So right now, two of the the coolest my book... um, the Police, of course, and the hype leading up to "The Simpson's" first full length feature movie. Who care is the movie's any good? The hype is great!

This is me as a Simpson's character - many of you are familiar with my "Christy as a South Park character." So with some Photoshop magic, voila! Moi, as a Simpson character, wearing a Police t-shirt.

You can make your own:

But what is even more brilliant is the turning 7-11s into Kwick-E-Marts!

Monday, July 02, 2007

More Police. A review from the Times Picayune - yes I know I can just link to it but I want to hang on to this. And I thought it was a good review.

By Keith Spera
Music writer

The Police reunion tour stopped at a nearly full New Orleans Arena on Saturday and delivered a tight, 19-song set of nearly two hours that unabashedly pandered to their collective past.

The band neither unveiled new material nor even hinted at their post-Police pursuits. Instead, on a sleek, simple, open stage, they served up one hit after another with more precision and heft than in their heyday.

The Police -- lead singer Sting, easygoing guitarist Andy Summers and mercurial drummer Stewart Copeland -- were never an essential live band. U2 and Bruce Springsteen uplift arena audiences with grand gestures; Metallica and Rage Against the Machine incite them with raw power and energy. Not so the Police. Their strength lay in crafting pristine, enduring pop songs, the earliest of which they infused with lilting reggae chords and punk moxie. With no spectacle, no drama and no emotional peaks and valleys, their reunion show could have been played just as effectively -- if not quite so lucratively -- at Tipitina's.

Chatter and audience interaction were kept to a minimum. Sting made the obligatory Hurricane Katrina reference: "Despite what you've been through, the spirit of this city is not dead. The spirit of this city is alive and kicking." Otherwise, he said little; the other two were mute.

The threesome focused on invigorated, occasionally rearranged renditions of beloved anthems and an obscurity or two. Arrangements were strictly limited to guitar, bass, percussion and vocals -- no backing singers, no auxiliary players (alas, the essential piano in "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" was absent).

All three musicians were in fighting shape. Sting strutted in black combat boots; with his chiseled biceps and slender frame, he is an advertisement for the preservative powers of yoga and vegetarianism. He shied away from the highest notes in his old songs, but his voice remains remarkably rich and full.

Summers, at 64 the oldest in the band by a decade, resembled an off-duty insurance salesman in an untucked gray button-down shirt, black slacks and shiny black shoes. In a break with arena-rock convention, he rarely swapped out his guitar. His robust fingerpicking jazzed "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." He inserted bracing electric guitar solos in "Driven to Tears" and elsewhere, and scissors-kicked across the stage as "Can't Stand Losing You" built to a big finish.

Copeland's intense determination faltered only when he tripped while clamoring from his drum kit to a percussion set on an elevated riser. His hustle fleshed out the atmospherics of "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and "Walking in Your Footsteps," both highlights of the set.

The opening "Message in a Bottle" and "Synchronicity II" stuck close to the familiar recorded versions. "When the World Is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around" broke down to brief instrumental passages, a welcome diversion. A meandering "Don't Stand So Close to Me," by contrast, was flaccid. "Roxanne" was the obvious but underwhelming regular set finale. In the encores, a spot-on "King of Pain" and crisp "So Lonely" fared much better.

Save Summers' "South Park" guitar strap and the guy in the 14th row of section 113 snapping pictures with a new iPhone, this could have passed for 1983. But time does not stand still, and neither does pop culture.

Rock 'n' roll thrives on the energy of youth. When a band first taps into that energy -- as did the Police 30 years ago -- it is at its most vital. When that same band's audience can afford $200 tickets and a baby sitter -- and when the merchandise table includes a souvenir "onesy" jumper for babies -- that time has passed.

Saturday's sole emotional payoff was nostalgia. During a final charge through "Next to You," quick-cut images of Sting, Copeland and Summers from the 1980s flashed by on overhead video screens. Otherwise, they preferred to let the songs represent their considerable legacy. And they represented those songs well.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Police rocked!

This reunion tour isn't a stale, rehashing of old songs (well even if it was, it’s still the Police!). Because all three of them have continued to be working musicians, they are not like some bands on reunion tours where the playing and singing are not up to par. They reworked many of their hits, especially the intros, so you had to listen for a few second before picking up on which song it was. I was trying to recall all the songs they played when I discovered the set list in on their web site:

Message In A Bottle
Synchronicity II
Walking On The Moon
Voices Inside My Head
When The World Is Running Down
Don't Stand So Close
Driven To Tears
The Bed's Too Big Without You
Truth Hits Everybody
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Wrapped Around Your Finger
De Do Do Do De Da Da Da
Invisible Sun
Walking In Your Footsteps
Can't Stand Losing You
King of Pain
So Lonely
Every Breath You Take
Next To You

The last 3 songs were the encores. Thank goodness they wrapped it up with "Next to You" since "EBYT" isn't in my top 10. Kristen commented the one song she wished they had played was "Spirits in the Material World." Because it was just the three of them, there was no one to play keyboards. Andy filled in the empty spot on guitar on several songs, though I did miss the keyboard on "ELTSDIM." Both Andy and Sting played the same instrument the whole night—no roadies running out between every song to hand them a new instrument. Sting’s bass looks like the first one he ever owned, with much of the finish worn off. Stewart had not only his sprawling drum kit, but also a whole menagerie of other percussion instruments on a rising platform behind him. At one point he popped up from his drums to dash back to the other stuff when he stumbled. There was a slight gasp from the audience. Stewart, always the comic, stood up, then did a mock fall, flailing his arms in the air before getting back to the task at hand, hardly missing a beat.

Our seats were directly left of the stage. We were pretty high up, but our view was unobstructed and there was also a screen above the stage. I love watching Stewart do his thing, flinging drumsticks everywhere. The guys looked like there were having fun and were very generous with the audience, not pretentious at all. I don’t think I sat still the whole time; a lot of the time it was one big sing-along. The opening band, Fiction Plane, is a 3 piece with Sting’s son on lead vocals and bass. They didn’t suck, but I’m not going to go buy their album either.

Hopefully they will do a DVD of the tour, it wouldn’t surprise me at all. I can’t believe I almost didn’t go. There were quite a number of people with tickets to sell outside, and the two seats in front of us stayed empty the whole night. I would probably be in a deep funk today if I hadn’t gone. If you missed it, you can still buy t-shirts on their website. I want one, but the lines were so long at the show so I’ll just order one. $35 for a t-shirt!?! Yowza!

Oh yeah,I didn't take the photos. They are from Stewart Copeland's website.