Monday, April 20, 2009

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc

I'm going to try and be diplomatic about this.

Eric Clapton brought us Badge. And he brought us Layla. And he brought us Cocaine.

That alone -- not to mention all the bad-ass Cream stuff, and Bell Bottom Blues, and Can't Find My Way Home -- should be more than enough to cement him in a place above all judgment by a douche bag like myself.

That would be, unless the 1980's had never happened. And everything since then.

Simply put, there is no rock pioneer on Earth who has taken a larger and deeper plunge into irrelevancy than Eric Clapton.

Oh, sure, the Stones may have embarrassed their legacy more. And the Who may have doublecrossed themselves to the greatest degree. And Elton John and Rod Stewart may have come across as the most half-witted doofuses (sometimes I wonder if those two are the same guys who wrote "Every Picture Tells a Story" and "Honky Chateau"....seriously - is it even possible?)..

But Clapton? Clapton somehow managed to hang onto his completely bad-ass legacy without once leveraging it in any meaningful way in his "adult" career.

I challenge you: Name me ONE Eric Clapton single (not entitled "Tears in Heaven") worth remembering in the 1980's or 1990's. "She's Waiting"? No. "Running On Faith"? Close, but no. "I Can't Stand It"? Give me a break.

((I admit that I had forgotten about "Forever Man." And I admit that I really like that one. But I also admit that it sounds a whole lot more like something that would have been in the background during a car chase on Miami Vice in 1986 than on a rock legend's solo album)).

So, how did I end up at this show?

My best friend and former roommate from college was a big time Clapton disciple, and back then I wasn't the judgmental fuck that I am today.

That's not to say that I wasn't uncomfortable about going to see Eric Clapton. But Jay was in town for a conference, and Eric Clapton happened to be playing in town that same week, so I bit the bullet and made the best of things.

Little did I know what a snoozer this concert would be. Holy fuck. Boring beyond boring.

This was the "Pilgrim" tour, and it was an album probably best remembered for the decidedly adult-contemporary single "My Father's Eyes". I think it was also the opening number for the show - a telling sign of what was to come. The following several songs were of a similar fare - thoughtful but uninspiring (and uninspired) mid-tempo numbers, none of which I can remember particualrly well. (Most likely because I was fuming over the FOURTY-FUCKING-FIVE DOLLAR SEATS -- $45 to sit at the top row of stage right).

I do remember that he did a pretty great version of Cocaine that night, which had most everyone out of their seats for a minute or two. But in order to get there, we had to sit through another dozen mid-life crisis pop songs and that fucking "Wonderful Tonight" piece of dreck, which no one should ever have to listen to again after prom and/or their best friend's wedding.

I have to assume that he played "White Room" or "Sunshine of Your Love" or one of the other undeniable classics from his catalog, and I'm sure that I enjoyed them, or at least gratefully accepted them as a welcome reprieve from the rest of the evening's content.

But it didn't really make much of a difference. This evening was not about good taste or bad taste. It wasn't about my wonderment about how Mr. Clapton filled the MCI Center on the shoulders of such an unexciting album. It wasn't about the cost of the ticket or the warped value of the performance. And it wasn't about the very obvious double standard against the likes of Mr. Clapton while I gladly shelled out mountains of cash to see the Rolling Stones multiple times on each tour in the 1990s.

It was about hanging out with my best friend from college and running out to make last call at Nanny O'Brien's after the show, and perhaps relive a little college glory...which, by that time, felt like much further in our past than three years.

And even further today.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Washington Wizards vs. Seattle Supersonics

Washington Wizards vs. Seattle Supersonics
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc

Growing up as a sports fan in Washington, D.C. in the 1980s, there were some damn good times. The Skins could be counted upon to go to the Super Bowl every few years – and they typically raised a banner when they went. The Orioles won a World Series when I was at that perfect baseball age of 9 years old. And maybe the Capitals were perennial Patrick Division bridesmaids, but they at least were a competitive team full of colorful characters, much like my beloved Skins were.

Of course, things would change over the years. Redskins ownership has since turned the franchise into a punch line. The Orioles seem further away than ever, now that we have an NL doormat right here in town. And the Caps may be the best team in town, but honestly, I’m way too fucking smart, clean and handsome for hockey culture. That’s just a fact.

And then there were the Bullets.

Now, I know that the Bullets were a good team when I was small. But I can’t honestly remember the team being anything other than sub-average at any moment when I was growing up. The Capital Centre was dark and dingy. The players tended to look a little old and out of shape. And the television broadcasts...Oh, the humanity of watching those terribly-lit games on TV, perhaps most painfully accentuated by the complete and total lack of crowd noise (which only made every single sneaker squeak sound that much louder).

Robin Ficker was pretty much the only thing that team had going for it.

To Abe Pollin’s credit, the man’s decision to fund and build his own kick-ass stadium in downtown D.C. was just about the greatest thing the guy ever did – for the team and for the city of Washington. If you've been living here for less than 20 years, it's hard to fathom just how beat up the majority of Washington used to be; Chinatown was a pretty seedy area before the Verizon Center/MCI Center came to town, and it’s probably safe to say that Metro Center was generally considered the end of the city for a great many visitors.

You can choose to disagree, but you’d be wrong to: The House that Abe Built was THE landmark investment into the future revitalivation of Washington, D.C.

That did not stop his team from sucking. Nor did the supposedly blockbuster acquisition of Fab Five college superstars Chris Webber and Juwan Howard. Nor did the effort to change the team’s name/brand from the Bullets to the Wizards. Or the following additions of names like Mitch Richmond or Rod Strickland (Don’t get me started about that Jordan guy).

Even as the triumvirate of Pollin, Wes Unseld and Susan O'Malley did everything they possibly could to bring Washington basketball into the modern age, the team rarely became more than “competitive”. It was a real shame. After a very public blunder, the management had finally woken up from a decades long slumber but they just couldn’t get their act together.

And what that meant for ticket sales was an all too familiar phenomenon: the seats remained largely empty until a team like the Knicks or the Bulls came to town, at which point the tickets would sell, just so that people could say that they saw Patrick Ewing or Michael Jordan. It was an utterly depressing state of affairs.

With the arrival of our new downtown stadium, however, there was reason to believe that this could all change. You could now travel to games via the Metro rather than trucking it out to Landover. The building had a modern design, with appropriate lighting. There were new concessions, with vastly improved sightlines. And the team looked one hell of a lot better (on paper, at least) than any other Washington basketball team (, Washington **NBA** team) I’d ever seen.

Games were going to FUN, and I was glad to be there as it was happening.

That’s where the irony of this ticket comes in.

Now, for the life of me I cannot remember how I got my hands on this ticket – and I should because this was the first game ever played in the MCI Center. I think I won it in a contest, but I can’t remember at all. Maybe my little brother won them? I seriously can’t believe it, but I simply have no idea how I came into these amazingly kick-ass seats.

I know that I went with my little brother, and I know (via a web search) that the Wizards were sporting a pretty cool line up that season, including Howard, CWebb, 1997 3-Point Champ (and La Salle University standout) Tim Legler and future star BEN FREAKING WALLACE, but for the life of me, the only person on our team that I can vividly remember was God Shammgod. (and that’s just because I loved his name, particularly as sung with the “YouDaManYouDaMan” song that played before all of the home games).

But I do remember seeing the Glove play that night. And I *THINK* I remember Branford Marsallis performing the national anthem. And I do remember President Bill Clinton giving the team his trademark thumbs up after the game from Mr. Pollin’s box seat.

And I remember that the Wizards won.

But that’s it. After all that effort by the ownership and management, all I can remember is that I finally got to see Gary Payton play.

How distasteful.