Alexa: Write a Blog for me…

I was talking to one of our lunch guests the other day, and he made a quick pronouncement: You LOVE gadgets, don’t you?

It’s true. I always have. Years and years ago, before streaming video, before DVDs, Before Blue-ray and Laserdisk… there were videocassettes. The machines were big boxy things that sat on the shelving system that took up an entire wall and was dedicated to housing your stereo components.

At that time, we had just experienced a small financial windfall and I believed our household HAD to have a VCR (that’s video cassette recorder, for you young scalawags). They were so new that the machine could record only a single program, at a single time. Only the channel you were currently watching. Couldn’t program it to record later – you had to press, simultaneously – the Record and Play buttons.

By the time you had the show’s channel on the TV, waiting for the program to begin so the buttons could be pressed – you might as well have just plopped down on the couch and watched it right then and there.

But it was new tech. A gadget. I’m embarrassed to admit how much we paid for that thing, so I won’t.

Still love the gadgets, though. And thankfully, most of the prices have gone down, comparatively speaking.

Alexa is almost the ultimate gadget for me. I got on board that train when the Echo first came out from Amazon, and now own several. The device is capable of much more than I currently demand of it, but I’m still learning.

One of the things I love is the voice-control of other devices. I can turn on lights from across the room. I can ask Alexa to turn on the TV or turn the volume up or down.

Now, I can even do some of that same stuff in the car. From the parking space behind the store I can turn on the exterior lighting to unload supplies after dark. Listen to the game on the car speakers (a game not available through local radio) on streaming media.

With an AC transformer tucked under the dashboard I can plug in an Echo Dot, set it on the console, and ask Alexa about weather, news headlines, lame jokes, and even turn on the interior lights at the house from the driveway. Music streams through the Trans Am speakers from my Pandora account, and college football from the Sooners Sports Network.

Do I absolutely NEED it? Nah.

But I love gadgets.

Of All the Gin Joints in All the World…

Or in this case, with apologies to Rick in the movie Casablanca: Of all the bookstores in all the towns in all the world, the book walks into mine…

From the First-Time-For-Everything department: among the used books that came in with inventory-adds was a copy of my own book. As it turns out, it is somewhat of a scarce item, these days.

Nils Thor Granlund: The Swedish Showman Who Invented American Entertainment had a tiny press run ten years ago before the title was acquired by McFarland Publishing, which changed the name, among other things. It is still a biography of NTG, an enterprising showman who was once described as the “highest paid entertainer” in the US. He died virtually penniless, despite having discovered and brought to the bright lights some of the top show business people of his time.

Knowing how few copies of the Inlandia Press version exist, it is almost astonishing to have a pristine copy brought into the shop – almost undoubtedly returning to the place where it was purchased (although ten years ago we were in a different location on Main St.). The McFarland publishing contract required the earlier version be pulled from the market, so it is out-of-print, although the McFarland version is still out there.

It’s a bittersweet reunion. The book is an unread copy, without question, which is a little deflating to the old ego. The flip-side is – it is such a nice copy of such a scarce thing, that I’m happy to have it back without it ever having been cracked open!

I glanced inside to remind myself what year it was published (2008), and it surprised me that it was a decade ago. How time flies, these days.

The kicker?

It’s an autographed copy… which certainly devalues an otherwise perfectly-acceptable book.

We’re still serving lunches daily (except Sunday) from 11am to 2pm. Come by and let us serve YOU!

Dashboard Drumming & other Reminiscences.

I was nineteen and an evangelist for Billy Joel, certain that I was the only person in the world who had ever heard of him. I was determined to change that.

Freshly settled into my garage apartment, there was a plant on the windowsill and a chair in the corner. The primary décor though, was that blaster of a stereo. On my own, livin’ large, no Dad-man to TID me. (Turn-it-Down: that was a time before earbuds, you know.)

I suppose Billy Joel’s music must have come to me through the ionosphere or through some cosmic wave-bounces. I don’t know how else I would have heard of him. Oh sure, there was that Piano Man thing on the radio, but had anyone really listened to him? Really Listened? I’d ask, Have you heard of this guy named Billy Joel? Nah. Everyone had heard of Billy Jack, and Billy Bob, and Billy – our local home-town guitar-slinger.

billy-joel-streetlife-seranade_back

Billy Joel, not so much.

In our small town, you could count the number of young singles with their own apartments. I imagine somebody probably did. Like I said. Small town. I had my share of visitors, and – they paid the proselytizer’s price: I was going to make believers out of them with a fairly loud dose of Billy Joel’s album “Streetlife Serenade.”

You gotta hear this! I’d say, lowering the needle onto the record. And the piano started. There weren’t any more new Beatles records, but what came out of the speakers on this album had the Fab-Four’s mix of ballads and rockers and thought-provokers and tear-jerkers. Vocals and instrumentals. Harmonies. Lead guitar solos. Oh, yeah. Piano, too.

Wait, wait, I’d plead, when my guest would begin to fidget. This one other song… you’ve GOT to hear this one! I guess I figured to wear them down into liking it.

And so, that’s how I became the young single guy with his own apartment that no one visited anymore. (Kidding. It was a small town, after all. They just started bringing their own music with them.)

I subsequently ended my career as a Billy Joel Preacher. In truth, either BJ changed, or I did, because none of his later works seemed to knock me back in the way of Streetlife Serenade. He had plenty of big hits in the years to come, but – alas – he was forced to promote them on his own.

I was out on dragging friends in front of my stereo to hear him.

Put the album on this evening (I say that as though I placed a platter on a turntable. Nah. Streamed it. My old vinyl was pretty well worn.)

Turned it up. Then tweaked it up just a little big more, just in time for my air-drumsticks to knock down that roll before the third chorus with the perfect-piercing falsetto from a young Billy Joel.

That probably wasn’t my Dad telling me to turn it down, but I did anyway.

Once that last song was over.

(In case you’d like to hear it:

Ahhh, heck. There I go, getting all Billy Joel evangelistic…)