Jesus. If we’re going to keep doing this, something has to change.

We go to Pittsburgh for fun.

We go to Pittsburgh for art.

We go to Pittsburgh for music.

We go to Pittsburgh for beer.

When friends come out — as Fred and Ethel are in a couple of weeks — we get hotel room in Pittsburgh so we don’t have to screw around with driving back home at the end of the night.

So why in the hell don’t we live in Pittsburgh?

We met a few friends from my paper — along with one alum — at the Sharp Edge in Sewickley tonight. It might be a trivial thing, but if we were living in, say Bellevue or Brighton Heights, the drive home would have been significantly less harrowing. And we could have stayed longer.

We spent a little time this afternoon looking at houses, something we’ve been doing a lot of recently. It seems to be completely stupid to continue paying rent for a crappy apartment that’s 20 miles from town when we could be making a house payment of a similar amount while living a lot closer to where all the fun shit is. Our combined credit score isn’t going to win us any awards, but still … continuing our current situation just gets dumber and dumber every day.


The Indians’ season opener is just a couple of hours away.

Ohio State plays for the men’s basketball national title tonight.

In the greater Pittsburgh area, it’s already 65 degrees under perfectly sunny skies.

Question: Could someone please tell me why in the hell I came to work today?

well. uh. see…

Ahh, the midwinter doldrums. Work is less exciting, not a whole lot of fun outside the office, and potential Uncle Crappy posts get piled up in my brain like the mounds of laundry I have to get around to doing one of these days.

Last week was a little frustrating, because on Monday I had then chance to see A) Dark Star Orchestra at Mr. Small’s, B) what turned out to be a completely hot show by The Codetalkers at a tiny bar in Ellwood City, or C) The One I Didn’t Find Out About Until It Was Too Late: a free show by moe., at the North Hills Border’s store.

I attended none of these.

I was too tired.

I’m also a retard.

The only respites? An awesome day of skiing at Seven Springs on Friday — I finally won a freaking NASTAR medal — and fun shit with The Wife in town over the weekend.

Otherwise … meh.

I’m not going to put together another Clip Show post — one of those where I write short things about random stuff, in order to break the writer’s block or whatever other affliction that’s been bothering me. They’re like cheating … and besides, I’ve already done one of those like three posts ago.

I want to tell you more about the skiing. I want to write something funny about the winter storm we’re supposed to get on Tuesday. I want to write something about what I did wrong in preparing for this year’s FOG weekend and what I want to do to fix it. I also have to get the FOG recap and pix posted on the other web page.

Lots to do. Not much motivation to do it. Any suggestions?

life in the fast lane.

It’s a common premise of this blog that Uncle Crappy is a little slow on the uptake. If you’ve forgotten any of the numerous previous examples, I remind you of the Great Airconditioning Debacle of 2006.

I like technology. I don’t have the money to always keep up with the latest stuff, but I try to keep as current as possible. I made do with an original iMac for years, long after it was really sensible to keep it running. And when we got this eMac a couple of years ago, I thought briefly about updating the internet connection as well.

But I didn’t. And that’s left Uncle Crappy and The Wife as possibly the only people in the United States left with dial-up. It’s never really bothered me too much, especially after we welcomed this computer into our home — it’s always been fast enough that it hadn’t really bothered me too much. The Wife, however, proved to be a bit more visionary, or at least the more impatient of the two of us; she pretty much stopped doing any surfing at home once her newsroom got the Internets, because she realized for the first time how slow our stuff at home was moving.

This is about to change. On Friday, September 29, the cable guy will show up at our home and haul us into the 21st Century: we’re sticking with basic cable, but we’re going to have a cable modem and cable-based telephone service. This change wasn’t really prompted by anything internet related. We actually got tired of giving the phone company — Sprint originally, now Embarq — $50 or $60 a month for a telephone we don’t really use.

Ah, well, there was one computer thing that got me honked off a bit. I was a little irritated when AOL announced that it was going to stop billing its broadband customers — but not its few remaining dial-up users. “So I’m going to continue to pay for the shittiest dial-up service on the planet while the company is giving it away to everyone else? No. I don’t think so.”

So what does this mean? It means I won’t have to wait four or five hours to download a complete show. It means I can take advantage of other music-related stuff, like BitTorrent, for the first time. It means The Wife isn’t going to get pissed at me when I’m on the computer in the mornings but she can’t reach me because I forgot to turn on my cell phone.

There’s no fucking way we’re going to stick with AOL after the switch, so we’re both going to have new email addresses. We’re probably going to have a nifty new, unlisted telephone number as well.

It will also mean a few changes for Uncle Crappy: a dedicated domain name, a hosting service and a move away from Blogger are all in the works.

But first, I’m going to enjoy the blissful internet speeds I’ve previously had to drive to work to enjoy. That afternoon, I’m going to find a 300MB Grateful Dead show to download, and just sit here, in this very chair, and watch it go right before my eyes.


When I arrived home from work this evening, I gingerly exited the air-conditioned car, walked through the steaming 88-degree air … and into an air-conditioned house, a blissful 72 degrees inside.

The Wife walked up, gave me a hug and thanked me for insisting on the AC. And though he isn’t sure why, Miles is sooooo happy to be an indoor cat this week.

The beastly heat didn’t really pick up here until Monday, after we had a solid weekend.

Friday afternoon: golf, followed by beef burritos, several beers and Trivial Pursuit on the porch.

Saturday evening: A leisurely dinner — and, um, more beer — on the front patio of the Harris Grill in Shadyside, a place we’ve been meaning to try since it changed from an odd Greek restaurant with a decent beer list to, thanks to an infusion of Big Burrito ex-pats, a fairly hip place with a killer menu and an even better beer list.

The meal was followed by a short walk to Walnut Street and a free show by the Spin Doctors — my first time seeing them since November 1992, when they were dangerously close to becoming a really big deal.

Although the Dead was in the middle of their last consistently great run, there was a lot of discussion back then about what band would step up to be the “next Grateful Dead.” The consensus picks were Phish, Blues Traveler and the Spin Doctors, who took an early lead when they became MTV darlings via the songs “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”

Within a span of about a year, I saw all three bands at the Newport in Columbus, and was most impressed with Blues Traveler at the time. Phish was a little too quirky, and the Spin Doctors seemed a little schizophrenic: the fun poppy songs that made them such a big deal on the radio and MTV clashed with most of the rest of their music, a white-boy funk similar to Royal Crescent Mob.

What I saw back then didn’t translate very well to the paths taken by each band. Spin Doctors barely got through the 1990s, vanished amidst bickering and a weird vocal cord paralysis for Chris Barron; and Blues Traveler looked like they would get huge after “Run Around.” but drugs got one band member and bad health caught up with the rotund John Popper.

And Phish, the one I thought was interesting but too odd to ever amount to more than a novelty, was the one that big enough to attract 80,000 to its annual single-band festivals. So much for Uncle Crappy’s powers of prognostication.

So. We finish up beers and dinner and walked over to Walnut Street. I’m not going to write much about the opening band, Good Brother Earl, because I know just about nothing about them, other than they are local. And that they were good enough to have been the headliners on Saturday. We will see them again.

After some minor clusterfucks with chairs and drinks and cigarettes, we wiggled right up to the front of the stage. Chris Barron doesn’t do as much of his rag-doll dancing as he did in 1992, but he sitll has a loopy, fun stage presence. The set started well, but things got weird about half-way through, when the local sound guys couldn’t control feedback on stage … which caused the band to get pissed. There seemed to be other tensions on stage as well, something a little hard to put a finger on. But they finished up strong and seemed pleased to play a two-song encore before they kicked the shit out of the sound guy.

The lead-in to Saturday evening was a day spent in outdoors stores (Gander Mountain: Fuck That Shit!) and sporting goods stores, assessing what kind of gear we’re going to need for our upcoming vacation. Which, I think, I haven’t yet mentioned. So: On Aug. 16, The Wife and I will drive to a country club for bikers — no, really — and take in the 11th annual Gathering of the Vibes, a three-day orgy of hippie musicdom.

We’ve talked in the past about attending one of those Phish festivals I mentioned previously, or even taking a stab at Bonnaroo, but both seemed a bit, uh, large for our tastes. The Gathering is home to somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 people, and some pretty cool musicians you might have heard of: Ratdog, Mickey and Billy’s Rhythm Devils, Hot Tuna, Donna and the Zen Tricksters, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Yonder Mountian String Band, Keller Williams, Burning Spear, North Mississippi All-Stars, Zero, Assembly of Dust, Rebirth Brass Band, Tea Leaf Green … and about a buttload more.

This is a Don’t Leave The Campsite kind of deal, so we’re trying to assess the camping gear we have versus what we’re going to need. New tent? Canopy? Propane stove? Air mattresses? Because there is a strict no-glass rule at this place, we’re also scoping out canned beer that will be appropriate; the leader thus far is Dale’s Pale Ale, perhaps supplemented by some Guinness. The countdown is on, and these are important decisions, people.

And we’ll make them, in due time. In the meantime, we’re happy to sit on the porch here in Pgh … with an occasional stroll inside to enjoy the latest object of our affection.

hot. damn hot.

Phil was hot. Our apartment, as of today, is not.

An exceptional weekend in Columbus was highlighted by two things: the Phil and Friends show at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion in the Arena District, and a full day of hanging out with our nephews and niece at the original Uncle Crappy homestead.

I’ve said this before: Phil’s band — whoever its members happen to be on any given tour — is one of the best things going, musicwise. He does an excellent job of finding musicians who are solid enough to listen to his on-stage prompts about where a jam should go but open enough to head out there when its time.

The band we saw this time was identical to the November version, with three exceptions: Rob Baracco on keyboards, New York jazz dude Greg Osby on sax and the amazing Joan Osborne on vocals. Larry Campbell continues to shine, and Barry Sless sat at the pedal steel all night, adding sweet country color.

Check this shit:

Set one: Althea, The Other One, Cold Roses, Cryptical, Cold Roses, Candyman Blues, Candyman, Casey Jones.
Set two: Bird Song, Watchtower, Nobody Girl, China Doll, Nobody Girl, Unbroken Chain, The Wheel, China Cat, I Know You Rider.
Encore: A Little Piece For You.

I think I’ve mentioned this before: love Joan. Hearing her sing Althea was priceless. The homestretch, from “Unbroken Chain” on, was staggering. I guess my only gripe is with the encore, a song Phil wrote with Hunter. Not as bad as, say “Wave to the Wind,” but not the encore I would have picked.

After the show the entire group — Uncle Crappy, The Wife, Fred, Juan and HP — headed to our local White Castle to initiate Fred into one of our favorite late-night rituals. He liked them at the time, but I think he suffered a bit the following day.

And a word about Lifestyle Communities Pavilion: I’ve never been to a better-run venue. Anywhere. It’s the perfect size — capacity of about 4,500 for outdoor shows — beer lines move quick, and they sell White Castles on premises, for crying out loud. Security is totally relaxed. Plenty of bathrooms. Excellent sound. No-hassle parking. We’ll make an effort to see shows there again.

Saturday was driven largely by the whims of two young boys and their baby sister. The nephews are nuts and Miss Mollie is still about the happiest kid I’ve ever seen, even though she didn’t take to her scary-looking uncle. We visited Ohio Stadium, played soccer in the front yard, scribbled up Mom and Dad’s pavers with colored chalk and played a kid’s version of Cranium. And then we collapsed, because we were exhausted. The adults. Not so much the kids.

We endured nasty heat all weekend, but we were sleeping in air conditioning as well. That changed on Sunday, when we returned to an apartment that was around 85 degrees on the inside and getting warmer. Yuck. The cat briefly said hello, and then returned to one of the two places he feels are acceptable when it’s that freaking hot — under the couch or sitting on top of a big plastic cooler we keep handy for beer runs. Monday was worse. Ninety five plus outside and, when I left for work at 2:30 p.m., nearly 90 inside. Miles wasn’t even moving, just trying to sleep on his cooler.

We’ve periodically had discussions about the potential benefits of a window air conditioner, but we’ve never quite gotten miserable enough to actually go and buy one. We saw lots of drawbacks: noise, prodigious use of electricity, the cost, air that’s somehow not as fresh, the fact that a window unit would be sticking out on the front porch of one of our neighbors, who might not take kindly to its presence … you get the idea.

But on Monday, with the fur-covered member of our home unwilling to do much of anything because of the heat, I had a change of heart. The Wife, grudgingly, did as well, especially after she took a walk around our building and found that WE WERE THE ONLY TENANTS WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING.

OK. Enough. She found a 6,000 BTU unit on sale at Home Depot; I picked it up this morning and got it running. Sweet Holy Jesus, is it ever nice. The cat started feeling more perky after it had been running for about an hour. I didn’t start sweating immediately upon completion of my shower.

Life is good.