Sunday, August 24, 2014

Concert Review: Eddie Money at the Urbana (IL) Sweetcorn Festival - Aug 23, 2014

So what could be more Midwestern than a festival honoring and featuring sweetcorn in August? The annual Urbana Sweetcorn Festival has been going on in Urbana, IL (home to the University of Illinois) for 39 years. Aside from the delectable ears of corn that are available for a nominal price, the streets of downtown Urbana are filled with other summer delicacies, drinks, and music.

The headliner for the 2014 festival was Eddie Money, iconic 1980's rock star. His fairly recent Geico insurance commercial ...

... certainly made me wonder if it would even be worth my while to see him at a free festival. Reviews found on the internet seemed to be one way or another: either he was great or he appeared to be drunk and put on a terrible performance. His voice is pretty obviously shot, and I know there has been criticism in that he doesn't sing enough of the lyrics himself, instead deferring to his adoring crowd. But ... what the heck -- I missed out on seeing Steely Dan at the Illinois State Fair the weekend before, so it was time to hit the free concert!
Money's tour schedule indicates that he plays primarily three types of venues: small clubs/concert halls, casinos throughout the U.S and festivals/fairs. He had what appeared to be a few thousand people listening on a wonderful Midwest August night.
His set started out with a classic, "Baby Hold On." His daughter, Jesse, sings with Money's stage band, and she seemed to do well throughout the evening, especially when featured.
Money covered all of his hits throughout the hour-long set, including "I Wanna Go Back," "Walk on Water" and  "Take Me Home Tonight" (with Jesse doing a fine job with the Ronnie Spector part). He closed out the set with "Think I'm in Love" and his signature hit "Two Tickets to Paradise." The obligatory encore concluded with the hit "Shakin'."
Money is a big supporter of military veterans and is donating proceeds from his new single, One More Soldier Coming Home, to the Fallen Heroes Fund. He came out immediately after the performance to sign Eddie Money items bought at the concert, which largely consisted of tee shirts (some portion of the profits going to support military/veterans causes) that sold for ... $40! During the concert, when speaking about the shirt sales, Money said "Hey -- this is not like the Rolling Stones -- the shirts are $20 ... really $40." I thought he was kidding. Needless to say, I declined.
So the big question: What was the concert really like? Money was having a great time with the crowd and was pretty, for lack of a better word, goofy. I didn't think he was drunk, but got the impression that this was just where he is right now in life. He did, unfortunately, defer waaay too much of the singing to the crowd, especially on the choruses of his big hits. His voice, never one of the great voices of popular music, has diminished over the years, but was certainly better than the way it sounded in that Geico commercial. I guess he enjoyed the campy act he put on in that advertisement. Money's performance on the saxophone and harmonica, however, was really quite good.
So ... if you are a music purist and want to see Eddie Money perform songs just as he recorded them, you will be disappointed. But ... if you are having a good time at a free fair and free concert, you will find that he puts on a pretty decent show. I enjoyed the show, but was glad that I had the proper expectations beforehand.
Rock on, Money Man!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dog Days

Just a quick post so that I can get away from work for at least a few minutes.. August is usually one of the busiest, if not THE busiest, month of work for me. The past few days I have been working to correct some situations that needed correcting and trying to keep my own grumpiness at bay while I deal with others who are clearly showing the fatigue of a nasty four-week period.

The rest of the world has still been going on, right? At certain times of the year, I sometimes wonder if life even exists outside my office!

Speaking of my office ... it is really nice, but looks like total crap since I was never able to move in properly. Additionally, in my department's move to new digs, we found a treasure trove of old files that need to be examined before disposing/shredding them. I guess I will try to do that in the next few weeks.

This is usually the time I get ready to go to Las Vegas to recover, but it looks like Sin City will just have to wait for me this fall. Since I will apparently have jury duty sometime in October, I honestly don't know when my next trip to Las Vegas will be.

I feel the need to play a little poker, so perhaps a weekend trip to Peoria, Joliet, or Hammond is in order.

We are are the dark side of the work week! Yea!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Gathering: Ten Years After

I've written about my father several times over the past eight years. Often, the thought of him came about because of days that were special to him, like Memorial Day,

or perhaps memories of something funny or something special popped up for one reason or another. The memories of ten years ago -- August 17, 2004 -- however, are the kind that stay with us all of our lives.

My father had been in poor health. However, the more disturbing thing was that dementia had already taken hold of his life and had begun to rob him of memories and cause him problems with simple everyday living. He had turned 80 the previous spring. The beginning of the end started when he collapsed at home shortly after having been released from a rehabilitation center.

There was really nothing medically that could be done for him. He did not regain consciousness, and what little brain activity he had was likely just random brainwave activity. We all knew what was coming.

A light moment came when someone appeared to talk with my family about organ donation. We were wondering what might potentially be harvested from an 80-year-old man with significant medical issues. When we were told that he would be able to donate his liver to someone in need, several of us started smiling, remembering that my dad had had more than his share of whiskey and beer while we were growing up.

A time was arranged for the family to meet at the hospital as my dad would be taken off the life support system he was on. We were pretty sure that death would come quickly because of his poor health. He was taken off the life-giving machines and the family stood around his hospital bed, arm in arm, crying as we watched my father pass away. Thankfully, as we hoped, death came quickly. I can't even begin to describe how painful those moments were. The words do not exist.

So now, ten years later, the King of Komps and I will go out to the cemetery, maybe with my mother, if she is feeling well enough to do so. The KoK does a great job keeping the grave area looking a way that I am sure my dad would like.

Ten years. Sometimes it seems like so long ago, and sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


I think it was at Trivia Night two weeks ago that I heard this song for the first time. Although this is the less well-known version, it is just kitschy great. Transport yourself back to the 1960's and sing along with this classic. Thank you Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra!

And you might have thought that I only paid attention to pop rock and rock 'n' roll!

Oh yeah -- "Jay-pan flan" = Japan fan!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Quickie Life Update

August is traditionally one of the busiest months for me work-wise. While some of you kiddies might have been playing around or on vacation, I have been fighting the good fight. Things will get even busier next week, but then hopefully begin to calm down as we get closer to Labor Day.

Last week, I made another trip to play poker at Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, IL. Cokeboy99 and I arranged to meet there, so it was nice to feel like, for once, I was not totally one of the outsiders there. Cokeboy had a rough night (including getting one-outed by yours truly!), and mine came crashing to a halt after a marathon session.

I waited well over two hours before I got my first pocket pair! One hand with A-K (no help on the flop, of course, and eventually had to fold when my c-bet didn't chase anyone out) and a whole lot of crapola was all I got. My stack was somewhere in between +$150 and -$150 all night. On the final hand I played, I had A-Q and either raised or called a raise -- I don't recall. The flop was 9-A-Q. Relatively new player at the table (who impressed me as being a poor player) raised $25 and was called by a guy who lost earlier, took a break, then came back and had some success. I bumped it up to $100. The new player called, and the other player pushed all in. Only fearing a set of 9's but with less than $100 in front of me anyway, I of course called, as did the new guy. The guy who pushed all in had J-10 for an open-ended straight draw. I never saw what the new guy had (maybe A-9 or A-x?). The turn was an eight ... and no help on the river for poor lightning, who saw a pot of $500+ slip through his fingers.

My wife and I have recently been playing in a weekly trivia night sponsored by a local bar/pizza place. $1.50 PBR bottles and Miller Lite drafts and half price pizzas make for a great night. The first week we played we won two rounds (getting a $10 gift card for each) and finished a respectable 7th out of 19 teams. Not bad, considering we only had four people and the maximum is eight.

Softball-wise, I am having a great season playing in the senior league, where I am one of the young bucks. Heck, I even pinch run sometimes! My fielding has been the best it has been for many years, and my on base percentage (we count walks in with hits instead of using batting average) is .525 after going 5 for 5 this week. Shazam!

Oh -- and I'll leave with a funny work-related note. Yesterday I was in an important meeting with some work bigwigs -- Police Chief, Vice President, Director of Human Resources. I hadn't silenced my phone, so of course I heard my sound that indicated that two text messages were received. Then, the loud music to indicate an incoming call flooded the conference room. I looked down at my phone to see who was calling me. It was ... Tony Bigcharles! Talk about bad timing!

Time to return to work and earn that money that the fuels my exorbitant lifestyle of PBR and Chinese buffets.

Catch ya on the flip flop!

Friday, August 01, 2014

Crazy Hand to End 2014 PokerStars Canada Cup Main Event

Imagine getting to the final table in a big tournament. As the number of remaining players slowly goes down one by one, you see your payday increasing. But … you also know that you must carefully weigh the size of your stack and its fold equity. Take risks and you might bust out, losing the sweet money that goes to the top finishers. However, let you stack get too low and you become the whipping boy of everyone else at the table, increasing your chances that your big move will be called by a big stack with virtually any two cards, putting your tournament life at risk.

All poker players who have known any degree of tournament success have faced some of these decisions. But what would happen if everyone left at the final table put it all on the line?
Check out the video of the final hand of the 2014 PokerStars Canada Cup Main Event that was recently held in Montreal. The players had been playing at the final table for nine hours.  And then … it was time for everyone’s juices  to really start flowing …

So … what do you think? It certainly made sense for Justin Miller, a small stack with 675,000, to move all in and attempt to pick up the pot with K-Q. Amazingly, Vincent Jacques then went all in for 7,490,000 with … A-10? Really? With two players still having action? However, the capper was Ryan Rivers, who tanked and then also went all in with 8-8 with two people ahead of him already putting it all on the line. It would have been reasonable for Rivers to think that he would move up to a minimum of third place money with a fold since Jacques was in good position to knock out Miller and likely had a better hand as evidenced by his all in shove. Even in the best of circumstances, Rivers was probably going up against two players with over cards. How could he possibly make that call?
Of course, with the other players all in, chip leader Robert Notkin obviously joined the party, calling with the second best starting hand in poker. Thankfully for Notkin, he dodged several land mines and won the hand … and the tournament … in an unbelievable four-way all in poker hand. Does tournament poker get any crazier than this?

This post is sponsored by Spreaditfast

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mr. and Mrs. lightning Go To ‘Vegas (part three) By Mrs. lightning

I never suspected when I asked lightning to let me tell about our vacation, that it would take three installments.  But I know that when a post gets too long, people stop reading.  So in an effort to bore keep you entertained, I thought it best to divide it up.  I should probably have made this a four-part tale, but I have to give lightning a chance to write again. So here is part three, the final chapter.
Monday proved to be rather uneventful, and thus totally pleasant.  I went to the pool in the morning.  Harrah’s has a great lounging pool.  The water is only about 10” deep, and they have lounge chairs place in it.  It was easy to stay cool and get some sun all at the same time.

After the pool, lightning and I went to Ellis Island for lunch. It was pretty good. But lightning seemed to think we were in a hurry to get to my spa appointment. So after eating quickly, and telling the waiter we were in a hurry and needed the check, we got to my appointment about 10 minutes earlier than the 10 minutes early they had told me to check in. I happily went next door to a fabric store for those ten minutes. While I got my mani/pedi, lightning went back to gamble for a couple of hours.

What with laying out, going to the spa, and gambling, we were both pretty exhausted, so a nap was called for.  After a little snooze, we went to dinner at P.F. Chang’s, where we got the dinner for two.  Excellent, of course.  Then we strolled the strip, stopping to take in the Bellagio fountains and the numerous street performers, including a guy dressed up like…wait for it…a penis. I’m not sure what it says about me that it took me a while to recognize what it was.  Of course, like all those other “character” costumes, it was made out of fake fur.  Maybe that’s what threw me off.  Fortunately, the young mother with a 4 or 5 year old was urging her son to get moving, so he swerved off his trajectory toward the penis to get a hug. I can only imagine the conversation that would have ensued if that had happened!

After a couple of hours of walking around, shopping, stopping to play some slots, people watching, etc., we returned to the hotel: me to get my HGTV fix, catch up on work email, and to read; lightning to go back to out to play poker.
Tuesday-our last day.  We slept in (not hard for lightning since he didn’t get back until about 5 am!), then I went to the pool.  Lightning went to play poker, and I was to text him when I was ready to go eat lunch.  While at the pool, my left eye started hurting unbearably.  Both eyes had been red for a couple of days, which I attributed to hotel air.  But this was pain.  Not wanting to disrupt lightning’s poker, I texted him that I was going to Walgreen’s to get some ointment and would be in touch.  So I walked to the Walgreen’s just north of Harrah’s at the Venetian.  I explained to the pharmacist that I thought I had a corneal abrasion (please read that again, it DOES NOT say corn meal, as several of my FB friends misread). She told me that I’d have to see a doctor.  Just my luck, there was a health clinic right in the Walgreen’s.  Also my luck, it was 1:05 and the doctor had just left for a one hour lunch.  Fortunately, she came back early and took a look.  She couldn’t see anything, but said I needed to go to urgent care. So I texted lightning that I was going to walk there.  He asked if I wanted him to get me, but being the poor, kind-hearted, long-suffering soul that I am I told him that it was pointless to ruin both our afternoons, and I’d text him when I was finished.

Distances are quite deceiving in Las Vegas.  It turns out that the urgent care facility was almost 1 ½ miles away.  By the time I got there, walking in 101 degrees, with a very painful eye, having had nothing to eat all day, and developing a headache to boot, I was pretty disconsolate.  Add in a rather unfriendly staffer at the clinic, and it didn’t take much to have me sitting in the waiting room in tears.  After a wait while they checked to make sure my insurance was good (I had forgotten my card back in Illinois, so called home to have my kids text me a photo of it so I’d have the info!), I was finally called back.  The doctor immediately putting numbing drops in my eye, then a dye.  Blessed relief!  The doctor said I did indeed have “a small scratch” and proceeded to prescribe two kinds of drops—an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory.  During the process, she managed to say about two or three more times that it was “a small scratch”.  She said this in such as way as to imply that I shouldn’t really be in pain. Back in the waiting room I texted lightning to come get me as I was not feeling so great by that point.  While I waited I excitedly realized that I had change in my purse and there was a vending machine in the waiting room.  So I indulged in an ice cream sandwich while I waited.

Lightning finally arrived.  It took a while as he was playing poker at the Mirage  He had to wait for a chance to exit,  walk back to our room at Harrah’s to get the car keys, get the car, then find the urgent care.  Once he got me, we decided to go get some lunch and then try to get the prescriptions filled.  On the way to lunch we had to pull over because I thought I was going to be sick.  False alarm.  On to Del Taco for tacos for lightning and a burger for me.  Back in the car, I warned lightning that I was going to be sick.  We were in multi lanes of traffic, with no shoulder and no businesses.  What’s a girl to do if she doesn’t want to puke in the rental car?  She grabs her readily available cup of water she just finished drinking and uses it.  Let’s just leave it at that.
Back at the room I convinced lightning that I would be fine for the Cirque du Soleil show that night if I just took a nap.  So while he went to get my prescriptions, I got a 20 minute nap, and then showered.  By the time lightning returned, I was feeling almost my old self. lightning quickly showered and we were off to the show.  We saw Mystere, one of several Cirque shows.  We both concluded that it was good, but certainly not worth the ticket price.

After the show we walked around a bit, and then got some dinner.  Finally we went back to the room, where I began to pack in preparation for the next morning, while lightning took off to find another Walgreen’s to get the prescription that the first one couldn’t fill earlier.  After bringing it back to the room and checking on me, he went to get in one last night of gambling.  I finished packing so that it would all be done and I could get an hour or so at the pool in the morning without having to worry about getting ready to go.  The entire time I was muttering about how pissed I was that the last day had turned out this way and that I was turning into my mother.  My mother, bless her, never comes to visit us without a trip to the emergency room.  My mood was definitely not great for someone on vacation!

I don’t remember what time lightning stumbled in—4:00 or 5:00 am I think.  About 8 or so his phone alerted him to a text.  Our flight was delayed 3 hours.  That meant we wouldn’t be getting in and starting our 2+ hour drive home from Midway Airport until late.  Check out time was at 11:00, so we’d be sitting around the airport for about 6 or 7 hours.  Oh joy.
At this point, lightning realized that neither of us had anything we needed to be back for.  So I headed to the pool while he headed to check out staying an extra night.  After confirming with the hotel, the airline, and the car rental agency, lighting texted me to take my time...we weren’t leaving until the next day.  Yippee!  The best part was that it was our anniversary, which we would have spent in the airport and in the air. Now we could relax.
I spent the rest of the day sunning and shopping, while lightning played poker.  That evening we decided to hit up California Pizza Kitchen for dinner.  Then we grabbed a great dessert at Carnegie Deli, walked around a bit more, catching the tail-end of the fire show at the Mirage, and finally back to the room to share our dessert.  It was a totally relaxing day after the fiasco of the day before.

Thursday morning while lightning showered and packed, I went on one last shopping excursion to buy a pair of sandals I’d had my eye on since we arrived on Sunday.  Then off to the airport for an uneventful flight back to Illinois.  We made great time out of the airport, and stopped at Portillo’s for supper.  Then we finally headed on the road to home.  As on the way to Kingman, lightning had great ideas for how I could keep him awake on the drive.  I of course suggested that maybe next time he make it back a little earlier from his poker playing and actually get some sleep.

There you have it: the exciting tale of two middle-aged, middle class, central Illinois folks and their vacation.  Despite a flood and an eye emergency, it was a wonderful, relaxing week.  I got to shop and sun, lightning got to play poker, we got to visit with friends and family, and we both got to enjoy each other’s company. It was everything a vacation should be.