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Wednesday
Apr242013

Rodriguez Should Have Been the Next Dylan

He should have been the next Bob Dylan!

But here he is… doing my favorite Bob Dylan song!

 

I saw Rodriguez play last night at the Warfield in San Francisco. SPECTACULAR!

I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all… HOW GOOD COULD HE BE? He’s a 70 year-old man… whose musical career was stabbed in the heart by failure… only to be resurrected 40 years later by the Oscar-winning documentary, Searching For Sugar Man.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that 60 Minutes featured him on the same episode that showcased Adele, the hottest singer on the planet at the time. People tuned in for her… and what they got next was a story so fantastical… it captured the curiosity of America… and finally clued us in on what South Africans had known for decades… Rodriguez was… and is a treasure.

 

Flanked by his daughters, Sixto Rodriguez had to be helped to the center of the stage. He appeared every bit the frail old man of seventy. Dressed in black clothes, black glasses, and a black hat pulled down over his eyes, he looked like he should have been Johnny Cash’s sidekick in a western movie.

Once he got to the microphone… a transformation happened. He took off his jacket. His sleeveless shirt revealed the still powerful-looking arms that only a lifetime of hard labor can forge. He didn’t seem like an old man anymore. His voice had strength and soul. His guitar playing was powerful. (He uses his fingertips… like Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.)

Crucify Your Mind. Sugar Man. Can’t Get Away. The Establishment Blues. He played all the favorites… plus some great covers too. Little Richard’s LucilleBlue Suede ShoesPeggy Lee’s FeverDylan’s Like a Rolling Stone. (All huge crowd pleasers.)

My favorite song of the concert was Like Janis – one of his many Dylan’esque compositions. I sang so loud and proud… that when it was over… a fellow crowd member quizzed me on the lyrics - to make sure she was singing them right. (All those times in the hallway at work, singing along to my iPod, paid off!)

The feel-good moment of the night came early in the show. The crowd erupted at the first few notes of I Wonder. Everyone was so jacked up… singing along… that I got a keen sense of what it must have felt like to be in that South African crowd in the movie… when their Elvis… their Jimi Hendrix… their Jim Morrison… came back to life to sing them the words they’d been singing along to… for years. MAGIC!

“I wonder… how many times you’ve had sex…

and I wonder… do you know who’ll be next?”

As for me… now the morning after… reflecting on a great show… I wonder… how many great songs he WOULD HAVE WRITTEN… had success come forty years earlier… when it should have.

 - johnnypromo

 

Live concert date info:

http://www.rodriguez-music.com/tour-dates/

Buy Rodriguez's music... It's more than worth the money!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/searching-for-sugar-man-original/id538121204

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/cold-fact-bonus-track-version/id283049338

 

Saturday
Apr202013

Go Pro Boxing Videos

Experimenting with the new GoPro camera. I shot my Polk St. Gym boxing class one day, hitting the mitts. Turned out pretty good. The group ranges from beginners to pretty advanced.

 6 groups of 4 boxers each.

Shot at 1080p 60fps.

I converted the H264 to Apple ProRes and eventually output to H264 at 30 fps. Had to downshift to 720p to make it more youtube friendly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday
Oct132012

What do you mean I'm tying my shoes backwards?

I am constantly retying my shoes (like twenty times a day, at least). Synthetic shoelaces have only made the problem worse. Whenever I complain, some advice-giver invariably says, “Why don’t you use a double knot?”
“Because double knots suck, that’s why!” For one, it takes twice as long to tie it. Secondly, I have a short attention span… What was I talking about??? Oh yeah, double knots. They cut off circulation and make your shoes a nightmare to take off. (It’s a 50-50 chance anyway, whether I untie my shoes or just step on the back and pry them off — the commonly used self-inflicted flat-tire method of taking your shoes off. Try that with a double knot.)

All that is true and all that is bullshit! The real reason I avoid the double knot and suffer through endless retying of my shoes is that I have an escalator-phobia. (What?) A long time ago in my youth, I heard about a kid whose shoelaces got stuck in an escalator — he couldn’t kick himself out, because he tied a double knot. (I realize that this incident may be an urban myth, but I heard he lost a foot! I’m not willing to risk it.)

At work last week, we were about to record a promo for the news, when I felt the familiar floppy whip against my ankles. I stopped, tied my shoes, and bitched about my shoelaces always coming undone. The much-beloved Bay Area TV news anchor and all-around nice-guy, Allen Martin, quipped, “You should try a double knot.” I just looked at him with a semi-evil eye. (I like Allen so I squashed my usual rant.)
Then, something happened that changed my life. Michelle, the 23 year-old production assistant said, “You’re tying your shoes backward.”
“What?” I said. “I have been tying my shoes for almost forty years and have never heard anyone ever say anything about a right and wrong way to tie my shoes.”
“Yeah,” she said, unfazed by my snarky tone. “If you loop it the other way, it won’t come untied as much.”
I looked at Allen, whose curious face indicated that he too was out of the loop on this one. “What do you mean?” I said to her — although it probably came out of my mouth sounding more like Gary Coleman saying, “What’chu talkin bout Willis?”

“After you make the loop,” she said, “wrap the lace around the other way.” Then, she walked me though it. It felt weird, mostly because I had been tying my shoes one-way my entire life. (I felt like a recovering stroke victim relearning the simplest of childhood tasks.) I pulled and prodded to see if the lace would come loose. I couldn’t really tell if it worked, but I committed myself to giving it a try over the next few days. (It did take a while to get used to the new method. I hadn’t felt this awkward tying my shoes since I was a wee-little boy.)

I’ll be damned! On Thursday, October 11th 2012 — at 43 years, 5 months, and 15 days old — I went an entire day without retying my shoes. I couldn’t believe it!
I went online to see if this were some miracle fix, a secret passed on through generations, like the Knights of Templar cautiously guarding the secrets of Christ. But no, IT’S ALL OVER THE PLACE! There’s a video that even explains the whole thing. It’s called a granny knot versus a reefer knot. Apparently, looping it one way pulls the knot apart. When done the other way, motion actually tightens it.

  
I was outraged! Did my parents know about this? My sisters? My kindergarden teacher Mrs. Tinsley? Why wasn’t I told? This is bullshit! Pop and I need to have one of those, “Come to Jesus talks”. I want answers!

The moral of the story is, you can teach an old dog new tricks. I feel like a new man. One of the banes of my existence is gone! Praise the Lord! And, thank you Michelle.

Saturday
Oct062012

The Valentine Dilemma

Excerpt from my new book, available in the Amazon Kindle store:

 

...Lenny rolled his eyes, turned to Jimmy, and changed the subject. “We’re running out of time.”
   “Then, let’s just get the bracelets,” Jimmy said.
   “There’s gotta be something cheaper,” Lenny said.
   “The guy said Valentine’s Day is a jewelry holiday.”
   The words ‘valentine’ and ‘jewelry’ piqued Vic’s curiosity. He pretended to read his magazine while he listened. It didn’t take long for him to put two-and-two together. “So…you boys got yourself a couple girlies.”
Lenny cringed. Cool lingo was another one of ‘Vic’s things’. Unlike the fist-bump, Lenny thought that ‘Vic-ism’ was stupid.
   “I remember my first V-Day with the girly,” Vic said.
   “Nobody cares Vic,” Lenny said.
   “Stacy O’Brien,” Vic smiled—he enjoyed the sound of her name.
   Lenny stuck an index-finger in each ear. “We’re not listening to you.”
   “She was hot.”
   “La-la-la-la-la-la…I’m not listening to you-hoo-hoo,” Lenny sang out the words.
   “Whatever you do,” Vic cautioned. “Don’t do what I did.”
   Lenny froze—even with plugged ears, he heard what Vic said.
   After some tense silence, Jimmy asked, “What’d you do, Vic?”
   Vic smiled a wry, knowing smile. He leaned in toward the boys as if he were about to tell them a secret. Jimmy and Lenny leaned in too. Vic let them stew a little. Then, he whispered, “Red panties,” and howled a thundering belly laugh.
   Jimmy blushed. Lenny bit his lip and said, “Valentine’s Day underwear…how very-creepy of you Vic.”
“Come on Jimmy. Let’s ride to Sealfon’s and be done with it,” Lenny said. (The little flip-flopper now seemed ready to kiss-away the bulk of his life-savings.)
   “Hey?” Vic said. “Was the guy at the counter named Sultan?”
   “Yeah,” Jimmy said. “You know him?”
   Lenny winced, sensing a trap.
   “Yeah, he’s captain of the soccer team,” Vic said. “His family owns Sealfon’s…a real smooth-talker too. How much he gonna getcha for? Fifty bucks?” No answer came. “More?”
   Lenny’s face turned beet-red. He gave Vic the evil-eye. “Come on Jimmy. This is just a big joke to him.” Lenny moved toward the door. Jimmy followed.
   “No really…I wanna know,” Vic said to their backs.
   Jimmy whirled around. “Ninety-nine ninety-five,” he blurted out.
   “OUCH!” Vic clutched his heart like he’d just been stabbed. Then, he pulled the imaginary knife from his chest, and pretended to die. Lenny wished he had, for real.
   “See why I didn’t want to ask him for help,” Lenny said. Jimmy nodded. The boys walked away, but halfway down the hall they heard Vic yell, “It’s okay with me if you wanna be...THAT GUY.”
   Lenny stopped short; Jimmy bumped into him from behind. They exchanged whispers. Then, a feeble voice echoed down the hall. “What guy?” It sounded like someone trying not-to-sound scared.
   Vic appeared at the doorway and yanked his hands from his pants-pockets—the white lining stuck up like rabbit ears. “Broke guy who spends all his money on his girly,” Vic said, miming a crying face.
   “Thanks Vic. As usual…you were NO HELP!” Spittle flew from Lenny’s mouth.
   “Jewelry for V-day…impressive,” Vic said. “Can’t wait to see how you top that for her birthday.”
   Lenny let out a rebel yell. He charged his brother, and unleashed a flurry of punches to Vic’s stomach. “WHY-ARE-YOU-TORTURING-US?” Vic absorbed a few blows, laughing. Once he had enough, Vic grabbed his little brother’s wrists. Lenny huffed and puffed, and tried to wriggle free—he was trapped.
   “Whoa-lil’-bro, calm down,” Vic said, letting Lenny go. “I’m just trying to help.”
   “How is being a big fat jerk helping?”
   “I’m just saying,” Vic said. “Spend a hundy on Valentine’s Day…then you gotta spend more than that on her birthday. You don’t want her thinking you’re downgrading your gifts…do ya?”
   Neither boy answered.
   “What you don’t realize lil’ bro,” Vic continued, “It’s not just Christmas, Valentines, and birthdays. Whatever you buy now sets the bar for every other present you’re ever gonna get her. And there are a million gift-giving occasions.”
   “Liiiiiiiike what?” Lenny said, sensing more of Vic’s baloney coming.
   “Like anniversaries.”
   “We’ve been going out…like two weeks,” Lenny shot back. “Why would I be worried about something that’s a year away?”
   “I said anniversaries…plural,” Vic calmly corrected his petulant little brother. “Girls don’t just celebrate anniversaries once a year.”
   Lenny chewed on his lower lip.
   “They don’t?” Jimmy said.
   “No Jimmy…they don’t,” Vic said. “Girlies your age are anniversary crazy. You got your first date… first kiss… first day you met. And they celebrate ‘em every month. That’s a lotta gifts…don’t ya think?”
   The boys looked like someone just stole their baseball card collection. Jimmy crossed his arms and stared at the floor. Lenny plopped down into a kitchen chair, mopey and bitter.
   The room was dead silent, except for the hum of the refrigerator; they all sat there listening to its buzz. Suddenly, raindrops splattered across the kitchen window; in an instant, it was pouring again. Since Lenny was too-stubborn to ask his big brother for help, Jimmy did, “What should we do Vic?”

Book is available for purchase after October 8, 2012.

Monday
May282012

Father's Day

      “You’ve got Father’s day. Mom’s got Mother’s day. Why isn’t there a kid’s day?”

       My dad sat in his chair reading the Sunday paper as I pressed him for an answer. “Because everyday is kid’s day.” He said matter of factly—like water is wet.

       “No it isn’t!” I replied—annoyed at one of those parental phrases meant to justify the unjustifiable. He might as well have just said, “Because I said so.”

       He was right of course—but there was something he wasn’t telling me. Every kid’s day is really a kind of father’s day too. And no kid ever had a better strings of kid’s day than I did—with my dad—more than thirty years ago.

 

       I was nine years old in the spring of ’78. We lived in Foster City, California; third grade was winding down and change was brewing in our house. I overheard my parents talking about the unthinkable—we were going to move to some place called New Jersey! But before we would pack up everything and move three thousand miles away, baseball would provide one last spectacular summer for me in California—better than any little boy could have dreamed up.

       I was a Little League Dodger—in Giant’s country. I wore number six, because Steve Garvey was my hero. My dad was the coach. He was thirty years old—blonde and handsome. With his gold sunglasses, long side-burns and a mustache, he looked like an off-duty Highway Patrol officer from the first season of the 70’s TV show CHIPS. (I wish I had a really good photo of him with the glasses to show you, but you’ll just have to trust me.)

 

 

       Dad wasn’t a ‘baseball-man’, but he was an organizational freak-of-nature. He ran his practices like he ran his group of computer programmers at IBM; every activity was meticulously planned down to the minute—that was the secret to his success.

       Like all Little Leagues, we needed money. The fundraiser that year was changed from selling Almond Roca to selling tickets to a Giants-Reds game at Candlestick—they were dollar-fifty nosebleed seats, but the Big Red Machine was still intact. (Pete Rose would later leave Cincinnati after that season.)

       I remember staring at the paper that had the fundraiser’s rules and incentives on it:

  • · Sell 25 tickets: You get a batting glove.
  • · Sell 50 tickets: A Giants baseball cap. 
  • · Sell 75 tickets: A new Rawlings glove.
  • · Sell 100 tickets: 2 box-seats for a Giants-Dodgers game at Dodgers Stadium in LA

      I really wanted that trip to Los Angeles! I made flyers for the game. I remember that I spelled Cincinnati—Cincinati. (then had to add another ‘n’ with a little arrow smushed above and between the other letters.)

       Before I was allowed to leave the hous, my dad made me give my pitch to him first.

       “Hello, my name is John Keenan and I play for the Dodgers. I’m selling tickets to the San Francisco Giants game against the Big-Red Machine.” (My dad added that part. He said I needed to sell Pete Rose and Johnny Bench, not the Giants—even though they were having a good year.) “How many tickets can I mark you down for?” Then, I would flash my ‘cute-little-blonde-kid smile’ and finish off the pitch with, “The Foster City Little League really needs the money.”

       With my dad’s seal of approval, I walked out the first day armed with a secret weapon. Dad printed up little 3x5 order forms with all the key information on it. Most importantly, it had my name and number on it. I started with the neighbors and gradually moved beyond. When someone opened the door, I gave my pitch. Regardless of whether they said yes or no, I handed everyone an order form. To the yes people I said, “In case you want more.” To the no people I said, “In case you change your minds or know anyone else who wants any tickets.” If nobody was home, I just slipped an order form and a flyer under the door. I must have knocked on every door within walking distance of our house.

       Turns out, I was quite the dedicated little salesman. I sold a ton door-to-door and the order form strategy worked like a charm. Pretty soon people were calling me—asking for tickets. With just a couple of days to go, I had sold 96 tickets. I pounded the pavement again. I went to grocery stores, gas stations, any place I could think of—but with little luck. Then, a day before the deadline, the flyers paid off again. A couple of phone orders put me over the top!

       I did it! Two box seats at Dodger Stadium. Round trip airfare. A free night at the Marriot hotel in Los Angeles. The grand prize was mine, but then some dastardly adults tried to ruin everything. It turns out the league never expected anybody to win and didn’t want me to go to Los Angeles.

       Dad took me outside one night for a talk. League officials wanted to buy me out—bribe me not to go. He explained their offer. Four box seats to a game of my choice at Candlestick and a hundred bucks! That was a heck of a lot of money in 1978 for a nine year old kid. I was probably only getting twenty five cents a week in allowance. Dad said it was up to me.

       “I want to go to Dodgers stadium!” I said without hesitation. True to his word, he let my decision stand and saw to it that the league honored its promise.

 

       While we waited for the league to come through with the trip, we still had a season to play. We were a good team, but we caught a bad break in the middle of the season. One of our best players, Darren, was drafted into a higher league. Everybody was bummed out—including Darren. We lost the next game and our prospects for a championship started to look dim.

       Suddenly, something incredible happened. Jeff Brodie started hanging around the baseball fields. He had been on my team the previous year, but had decided not to play anymore for some reason he wouldn’t tell us. I first noticed him sitting in the stands during one of our games. He was all by himself.

       After several more sightings, My dad went over and had a long conversation with Jeff. Dad never told me what they talked about, but suffice it to say, he asked him if he wanted to join the team. Jeff said yes and my dad made it happen. At the time, Dad explained that he too had quit playing baseball as a kid and he always regretted it. He said he wanted to spare Jeff from the same mistake. When I asked if perhaps the fact that Jeff was the best hitter on the team last year didn’t play a role in his decision—dad said, in his pithy way, “That’s a bonus!”

 

       I know what you’re thinkingthis is the plot to the Bad News Bears and Jeff Brodie is Kelly Leake. Next thing you’re gonna say is that you brought in a girl pitcher, played by Tatum O’Neal, and she pitched you to the championship game. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true—I swear to God, this really happened!

 

       With Jeff batting fourth, we won the championship—I caught the last out and everybody went crazy! We went out for pizza after the game. The following weekend, we had an official team party at Jeff Brodie’s house—he had a pool. Dad gave out awards to everybody on the team. Jeff got the MVP for saving our season.

 

 

 

       A few weeks later, the parents organized a team picnic and we celebrated again. We even had a mother-son baseball game. I thought it was a crazy idea until I saw them hit—the moms team had at least four ringers on it. They kicked our butt—it was incredible. I still, to this day, can’t believe that the Little League Dodgers won the championship, but lost to our moms.

 

       On Saturday morning August 12, 1978 mom dropped us off at the airport. It was my first plane ride. At LAX dad sprung for a rental car—a Ford Fairmount. On the way to the hotel we ate at a diner—hamburger and fries.

       In the elevator at the hotel, I watched the floor numbers lighting up like an arcade game. I remember thinking how cool it was that our room was so high in the air that we had to take an elevator to get to it.  

       It was more than just a baseball game at Dodgers stadium, it was Hollywood stars night. Billy Crystal, Ron Howard and other big celebrities of the day played a game before the game. Dad pointed out one of his favorite stars—Steve Martin—who was playing rover and entertaining the fans with his ‘wild and crazy guy’ antics.

       Our seats were a dozen or so rows behind the visitor’s dugout; we had a great view into the home team dugout. When the Dodgers took the field I cheered my brains out. Ron Cey, Dusty Baker, and Davey Lopes—they ran out to their positions like an army of marauders storming the beach. “There’s Steve Garvey!” I yelled and pointed. With those huge forearms, he looked like a gladiator—carved from stone.

       Tommy John was the starting pitcher for the Dodgers. (A miracle unto itself, considering a few years earlier he was the guniea pig for the greatest medical advancement in the history of baseball. His name would forever be linked to the career-saving elbow surgery invented by Dr. Frank Jobe.) Bob Knepper pitched for the Giants. Garv took an o’fer, but he saved Bill Russell from an error with one of his signature scoops at first base.

       When I wasn’t cheering, I was chomping. I filled my belly with hot dogs, crackerjack, and soda. On one of his trips back from the vendor, dad surprised me with a Dodger helmet. I put it on my head over my hat and wore it everyday for a week. I’m 43 now and I still have it.

       We saw some homers too. Reggie Smith hit a bomb to centerfield. Unfortunately, the Giants hit two—one by Bill Mad-Dog Madlock—the other by Mike Ivie. The Dodgers lost 3-2 and I fell asleep in the Fairmount on the way back to the hotel.

 

       We flew back to San Francisco in the morning. Mom picked us up at SFO and asked me, “How was the game?”

       “The Dodgers lost, but we had the best time!” I shouted—then I hugged her and told her all about it on the drive home.

 

       In 1978, the Dodgers became the first team in history to draw three million fans—and my dad and I helped put them over the hump. Even now, at 43, I marvel about what a wonderful summer we had. So, with respect to Father’s day, everybody raise a glass—because I would like to propose a toast…

To all those dads out there who take Kid’s Day seriously—like mine—Cheers!