Sunday, November 29, 2009


They told me turning 30 would be painless, but I spent my birthday weekend nearly puking myself to death. Some said it was food poisoning. Others suggested it was a vicious stomach virus. I think it was my body telling me I'm really, truly, unarguably and irreversibly old.

When I told people how I spent my birthday weekend, they said they were sorry, a natural thing to say to someone who had green stuff coming out of his body for 48 hours. The reality is that my 30th birthday was actually really memorable. My wife took care of me, missing work to rub my back while I threw up and then forcing liquids down my throat to stave off the dehydration that made my joints hurt and my muscles burn.

When my actual birthday came a week ago today, roles reversed in the middle of the night. Suddenly I was the one mixing Gatorade and water for her to drink after violent vomiting session that sounded like someone dumping a bag of ice into the toilet. We holed up in our apartment and watched virtually the entire first season of True Blood. Sure we both had upset stomachs (my first attempt at eating after four days was chicken noodle soup and it felt like someone put a concrete block in my intestines), but it was that fun sort of sick like when you're a kid and get to miss school. Being sick is awful, but having someone to take care of you is amazing.

I don't care who you are, turning 30 makes you introspective. My thoughts turned to the future and the comfort that comes from knowing I have someone to take care of, and someone to take care of me as I "grow old."

That's not to say it isn't shocking to be 30-years old. On Thanksgiving I had a stranger ask my age and for the first time I had to offer that sad, disappointing number. I remember as a kid establishing 30 as the age when people are old. Old school journalists once ended their stories with the number 30. No one is quite sure why, but my best guess is that whoever established the tradition associated the number with the end, with death. I get it to some degree, it's just not the painful experience I was afraid it would be.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

A pitiful video, a gorgeous song

We are planning on seeing Bowerbirds this week at Exit/In. A foretaste:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

2009 Packers

I've seen or listened to every Packers game so far this season. That's no small accomplishment for a Packers fan living in Nashville, where local broadcasts tilt toward the AFC and the pitiful Titans. Catching the Packers on television has meant spending some Sunday afternoons in smokey sports bars with my dear wife. I'm gradually turning her into a Cheesehead, I think.

At just about the midway point in the season, I'm equally frustrated and optimistic about the Packers' chances this season. There are reasons to be concerned. In both of their tell-tale games this season, against the Vikings, they lost and didn't really have a good chance to win either time. In fact, the Packers have only beaten one team with a winning record this season -- the Bears in Week One -- while all three losses have come against teams above .500.

Even in victory, the Packers have looked sloppy, dropped too many passes, given up too many sacks and committed too many penalties. All of that should add up to being pessimistic about the rest of the season but I'm not.

Here's why... the Packers still have a ton of firepower on offense and it hasn't clicked on all cylinders yet. Granted, the offense will never execute up to its capability of the pathetic pass blocking doesn't improve. Even still this seems like a team that could score 30 points per game with its eyes closed, and that hasn't happened just yet.

The defense is better than last season with the switch to the new 3-4 scheme under Dom Capers. While Capers doesn't have all the right personnel to run his scheme yet, I can only assume the unit will improve as the season progresses.

Plus, the schedule is manageable. Tough games against the Bears, Steelers, Cowboys and Ravens remain, but cupcakes like the Buccaneers, Lions are still there as well. And, I'm reminded of last year's NFC champs, the Cardinals, who flew below the radar and then peaked at the right time and ended up in the Super Bowl.

I'm not predicting similar results this season, but the playoffs seem possible, and something tells me the Packers will still be playing when Brett Favre and his Vikings are finished. Just a few wild guesses from a diehard Pack fan.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Avett Brothers

For the second year in a row, I found myself sitting in the uncomfortable wooden pews at the Ryman Auditorium for a Halloween night concert. Last year I saw the Hold Steady open up for Drive By Truckers. The Hold Steady took the stage dressed either as pilgrims or as the founding fathers, I don't really know the difference, and then regaled the historic venue with bar-rock songs about girls, and drugs and depression. It was awesome.

This time around, the main dish was the Avett Brothers, a band I'd seen play twice this year and had paid a total of $0 in entrance fees. I mention this as a precursor to my review of the concert, because this time around I spent an average of $40 to see the Avetts. It's a fact I can't help but assume influences my view of the concert.

More than ten minutes before the band took the stage, a trio of douchey frat guys in front of us asked why we weren't already on our feet cheering. Probably because the concert doesn't start for another ten minutes you secret handshaking white bread piece of crap.

Ten minutes later the band took the stage dressed as the Three Amigos, which meant they coldly refused to incorporate their Asian cellist into their costume ensemble. The cellist was dressed as some sort of Chinese/Mexican Cowboy. It was confusing, and costume-wise, the show was already off to a slow start.

As for the show itself, the Avett Brothers had the crowd wrapped around their pinky fingers, and they knew it. Not many bands in the world can say, "Next we're gonna play..." and no matter what the song is, have the crowd go wild. The Ryman Auditorium was shaking, I'll give them that. And far be it from me to wax poetic about what I'm about to wax poetic about, but there were some interesting moments during the concert when the Avetts would have the entire audience singing along. I say interesting because, from where I saw, those were the only moments when anyone was singing in key.

The charm of the Avett Brothers has always been their gimmicky punk-meets-old country hook, but do these guys really sound like a punk band anymore? On their early stuff, sure, but now they've been major labeled, I'm sure they've had songs on Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill, and they just sound kinda happy (at best) and vanilla (at worst).

Look, I can't question their popularity. I had friends at the concert with much better musical taste than me, and they had the time of their lives. One sat in the first row of the balcony and danced like a blissful crazy lady right in the band's line-of-sight, prompting the bassist to acknowledge her with an awkward head nod at one point. Another came dressed as a "tin girl" which was apparently inspired by one of their songs. There were moments during the set where the wooden floor was literally vibrating, and if you listened closely enough you could hear the pews croak and squeak from all the dancing and jumping. The Hold Steady didn't pull that off, but then the Hold Steady probably didn't appeal as much to the fraternity/sorority crowd, which is a considerable boost to any band's attendance record in a college town like Nashville.

By the time the three-song encore was finished and the Avetts' had completed their two-hour set, I was ready to head home and listen to the Carter Family and the Stooges, and a little old REM. At various points during their set the Avetts tried unsuccessfully to be all three. It didn't matter to the adoring crowd that they came up short, and watching the ga-ga girls reach longingly toward the stage was worth half the price of admission. Don't get me wrong, it was still a fun show, and the Avetts are true pros. I clapped along after every song, partly because I would have been dragged out and stoned by their most rabid fans if I hadn't, but partly because sometimes you have to laugh along, even when you don't get the joke.