Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The King Of Weird Tuesday 03-23-2010

Did Phil Spector get beat up in prison? Seems like somebody somewhere took a dislike to Phil's sense of humor. He said thewrong thing to the wrong person- and BOOM! Mr. Spector was treated for a bruised nose, a black eye, and a couple a teeth knocked loose. You gotta be careful what you say in jail, and who you say it to. By the way, Phil was freaked out that Charlie Manson wanted to meet him and maybe have him produce Charlie's jail cell album sessions. Some people never give up, do they?

It's amazing how weird this man has become. I mean, he was the father of the "wall of sound" and invented rock and roll production in the 1950's with his brilliant work with the Ronettes. He married Ronnie Spector, divorced her a few years later. What happened? Apparantly he was insane. At least that's what she said. In light of what's happened since, I guess she was right.

That's Ronnie in the middle. (I always had the hots for her when I was young!) Check out the big hair! I understand it's coming back in fashion again, I sure hope so.

I got some emails from some of you yesterday asking me if the story of the Braunsweiger Chronicles was true. I can assure you- every word is true. I really did work for my Uncle Johnny when I was 13 years old in Baltimore, and yes, he did have a fluorescent lighting company, and yes, I did have to eat all those Braunsweiger sandwiches. Ugg! I can still taste the stuff...

The Braunsweiger Chronicles Monday 03-22-2010

I’ve had many jobs in my lifetime, and I’m a firm believer in a good strong work ethic. Maybe it’s my Polish heritage, but I never shirked a day’s work in my life. I couldn’t. I always needed the money. Both my grandfathers were hard workers who believed in the American dream. My mother’s father rose from absolute poverty to wealth in one generation. He started as an apprentice carpenter, and before he retired he had his own construction company. For years, all he ate was a 3-cent lunch of a raw onion and a piece of bread. It must have done wonders for his breath, but my grandmother never complained. He employed many of the Poles who followed him to Baltimore . Why Baltimore after the halls of Ellis Island ? Because they heard there was work there. That’s the same reason I came to California two generations later.

My first job was working for my Uncle Johnny Scrupski. Uncle Johnny was a real piece of work. His favorite saying was, “Are you talkin’ or are you buyin’?” He said it all the time. He loved to argue and often visited our house to discourse with my father on lofty matters. He was loud and he drank. He decided that I should work for him. I was 13 at the time and the last thing I wanted to do was work during summer vacation, but Uncle Johnny’s political power with the family was great, and he managed to sway my parents. He said working would make a man out of me.

Uncle Johnny owned a florescent lighting factory downtown. He had a small warehouse and he assembled large florescent lighting fixtures there. It was tedious work that offered absolutely no mental stimulation. I hated it. He put me on the assembly line and I assembled one after another with mind-numbing monotony. There wasn’t much to assemble. I took a metal casing, screwed in the components by hand, then installed the florescent lighting tubes, and then covered it with a translucent sheet of plastic. That was it. It took about five minutes. They came in six, ten, and twelve-foot lengths. The only color was white.

The atmosphere was oppressive, it was hot and there was no fan, air conditioning, or ventilation of any kind. Upstairs in the storing area it was like a sauna and there were no windows.

But, the worst thing about the job was my Uncle Johnny. Everyday during the lunch break, he made me come into his office so he could lecture me on his philosophy of life. I didn’t get to go out and get a hamburger or a sub with the rest of guys. No, I had to hang with him and he always got the same thing for lunch- Braunschweiger sandwiches, which he bought at the Polish Delicatessen across the street. I had to eat what he ate. I hated Braunschweiger sandwiches! For those of you who don’t know, Braunschweiger is a kind of liver sausage. It was vile. Uncle Johnny liked it on Rye Bread with mustard. He said it would put hair on my balls.

Everyday I complained to my mother that working for Uncle Johnny was something out of Charles Dickens. She said it built character. Between the hair on my balls and all the character I was building, you’d think I’d be happy, but that summer working for Uncle Johnny ranks among the worst of my life.

His “Are you talkin’ or are you buyin’?” personality drove me crazy. He was a greedy old goat who enjoyed confrontations. He drove a Cadillac El Dorado and got a new one every year. He was boastful and vain. His style of dress leaned more to racetrack flash than to the stodgy business suits my father wore. He called everybody “Muvva” or “Muv.” He wore a bad hairpiece and smoked cigars. The man was a classic blowhard. He made working in that factory an ordeal. I ate a lifetime’s worth of Braunschweiger that year, and I’ve never eaten it since. When Uncle Johnny died, they should have put him in a Braunschweiger coffin. I can still taste the hideous stuff. Yuck!

In the end, I think the Braunschweiger killed him, along with all the other rich foods and personal vices he either consumed or let consume him. Uncle Johnny never looked back.

As far as his philosophy of life is concerned, the only bit I remember is “are you talkin’ or are you buyin’?” I guess I was just talkin’, because I sure wasn’t buyin’ any of that crap.

Friday On My Brain Friday 03-19-2010

I saw my grandson Nate yesterday (I see him every Thursday) and he was walking all over the place. He was so proud of himself for being able to walk that he had this incredible grin on his face.

I brought my Voyage-Air Fold-Away Guitar and I played it for him. I'm pretty sure Nate understands that Grampa plays the guitar, because everytime I visit I bring it and make a point a point of playing it for him.

He understands the concept of the strumming the strings. He takes the guitar pick out of my hand and tries to strum the strings himself and he loves the sound of it.

So far, Nate's favorite songs are Ghost Riders In The Sky and Not Fade Away. Whenever I start either one of those songs, Nate starts rocking back and forth big time. If he's standing, he starts a little dance. I know it sounds crazy, but something about the groove makes him start to move. He's clearly enjoys himself. Yesterday he jammed with me for a few seconds playing the Bongos. He loves to bash things. He's got a set of Bongos to bash when he gets the feeling.

At ten months old, Nate is ahead of the game. He's already walking! He's also stringing together sounds and I think he's going to say his first words any time now. I lent Lexi my video camera so she could capture as much on tape as possible. I am loving being a grandfather! It's the best!

I bought him a tiny little San Francisco Giants T Shirt the other day. I can't wait to see it on him. I wonder how old he'll be before I take him to his first ballgame?

My daughter has a birthday this weekend and we are going to take her out to dinner on Saturday. I am so proud of her. She has a great job, a wonderful marriage, and the sweetest son in town! I am truly blessed, wouldn't you say?

Have a great weekend and I'll see you all back here on Monday!