Sunday, September 30, 2018

praise the lord and pass the ammunition

I did something this year that I have never done before. I went to work on Yom Kippur. And I lived to tell the tale.

I have had a very turbulent relationship with religion my entire life. Growing up, my family was not at all observant. Sure, we knew we were Jews, but we didn't belong to a synagogue. We lived in a predominantly gentile neighborhood and I suffered my share of antisemitic remarks from contemporaries whom I sometimes identified as "friends." I attended a handful of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services with some friends from school who lived in "Jewish" neighborhoods and whose families were members of various synagogues. I figured a day off from school was worth putting on a suit and tie and sitting in a room for hours, full of folks who were chanting in a language I didn't understand. Yom Kippur was the tough one, because not only was I stuck in synagogue until sundown, but it was a fast day, so there would be no break for lunch. While I did go to services with my friends, but not every year. The years I didn't go, I just stayed home from school and watched TV. Even though I wasn't attending services, my mother believed it was better to stay home than go to school and have the non-Jews talk about me.

When I met Mrs. Pincus, I was exposed to a whole undiscovered world of religious observance. Her family was very traditional (not Orthodox, but from my parents' standpoint, they were right out of Fiddler on the Roof.) They belonged to a suburban Philadelphia synagogue and attended services regularly, not just on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. They went on Simchat Torah, Purim and a bunch of other holidays I swear they were making up (like Shemini Atzeret.) Hell, my father-in-law went several mornings a week! In addition, my new in-laws maintained a kosher home and I soon was informed that, after Mrs. Pincus and I married, we would observe kashrut in our home as well. I was okay with the new rules in my life. Actually, I found it fairly interesting, especially from an historical aspect. Judaism offers a lot of detailed explanation as to why things are done and the importance of tradition (just like that song from Fiddler on the Roof. Maybe my parents were right.) Unlike the blind following of some other religions, Judaism gives reasons for rituals. I'm not saying they are always clear and concise reasons, but they are more that just "because I say so."

When our son was ready for school, he was enrolled in Jewish day school and went through twelve years of intense, dual-curriculum study. In those twelve years, he grew into what we call a "mensch." But he also absorbed and processed the knowledge was offered to him and questioned every single concept and idea that didn't sit right. And he questioned a lot of teachers. He was respectful (something he must have gotten from his mother), but he wasn't about to let anyone pull one over on him. When he graduated from high school, he was fluent in Hebrew, fluent in all aspects of Judaism but anxious to shed the Jewish cocoon he'd been living in since he was born. He focused his attention on secular studies in college with his goal being employment in his chosen field of broadcasting. And he ceased attending religious services. I, however, did not. I continued to go to services on Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and the occasional other holiday.... I just wasn't sure why. This feeling wasn't new. This was something I wondered about for years. What was I doing here? Religious services really made no sense to me. I am not particularly spiritual. When I was a kid, I went because my friends went. When I got older, I went because my wife went and I thought it would set a good example for my child. But now — here I was and my son was off doing something decidedly not "services-y." I realized I was doing this solely to please others... and I didn't like that.

A few years ago, my father-in-law, a pious and observant man, was unceremoniously and unfairly ousted from duties that he had voluntarily performed regularly at synagogue for years. Despite having the proverbial rug pulled out from under him, he continued to attend services. I, however, stopped. That was the last straw. The turning point. My epiphany. Although religion never played a strong role in my life, I had respect for those for whom it did. I always felt that religion offered a common bond for its followers and offered comfort and serenity and a sense of being. But after witnessing the vindictive and underhanded nature of the scheme to relieve my father-in-law of his sense of being, I saw religion and its followers in a whole new light, although it was a light that I had always suspected. Religion is about people and control and stature and ranking and classes and bullshit. Mostly bullshit. I have seen the old men that gather at early morning services. I have seen them look scornfully at one another in their little cliques and whisper. I have seen them gather afterwards and analyze the day's proceedings like a post-game show after the Super Bowl. "This one didn't stand up at the right time. That one didn't sing the correct tune for that prayer." That's what they discuss. Not the meaning of the morning's Torah passage, but who was on the wrong page and who came in late.

See? Bullshit.

And that's why I went to work this year. I don't care about the tedium of religion. I don't see how standing up or sitting down at any particular time can assure me a free pass to Heaven. I don't think that covering my head while reciting a bunch of words in a language that I don't understand will keep me in the good graces of a "higher being." And don't even get me started on that concept.

I had a pretty productive day at work. And I didn't have to dodge a single lightning bolt.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

hollywood swinging

Last week, as you may recall, I wrote a rambling, near incoherent piece (I know, I know...that describes most of my writing) about the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention (MANC), the annual gathering of all things pop culture from the innocent days of my youth, as well as a contingency of representative celebrities from the same era.

This show marks the first time that I attended one of these shows that I did not purchase a single autographed photo. Instead, I approached each celebrity (with a few exceptions), offered words of praise and presented them with color print of one of eight drawings I did especially for this show. It turns out that — believe it or not — celebrities are people just like you and me. Every one has his or her own unique personality. Some are nice. Some are not. Here are the reactions I got from some of this years' special guests:

Ricou Browning. Sure, the name may not sound familiar, but this guy has had quite a career. Starting out performing  in and producing entertainment at Florida's Weeki Wachee water park, Ricou was recruited to star as the terrifying "Gill Man" in Universal Pictures classic Creature from the Black Lagoon, as well as its two sequels. Ricou, who is now the only living actor to have portrayed one of the Universal Monsters, performed all of the underwater scenes while another actor played the dry-land version of the title character. Ricou was also a stuntman and stunt coordinator for films and television shows, including Gentle Ben, Sea Hunt, The Aquanauts and Flipper, a series he created. He was the second unit director for Thunderball, Caddyshack and one of the Police Academy franchises. He served as director for the family films Hello Down There, Salty and the cult favorite Mr. No Legs. Now 87, the once barrel-chested robust Ricou is a small, gentle man who accepted my rendering of his classic role with grace and heartfelt appreciation. Ricou's daughter, who accompanied her father at the show, expressed equal gratitude.

Diahann Carroll. The Tony Award-winning actress and singer can look back on her career with great pride. She was nominated for an Academy Award for the title role in the 1974 film Claudine. She starred in the groundbreaking television series Julia in the late 1960s, a role for which she earned a Golden Globe. Diahann has worked with Sammy Davis Jr., Paul Newman, James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier and many others, She was married to singer Vic Damone for ten years. When I presented Ms. Carroll, now 83, with a drawing depicting her from an early time in her career, she seemed distracted, commenting that "short hair styles were nice." Otherwise, her reaction was fairly indifferent.

Ed Begley Jr. The lanky blond actor is familiar to most people for his portrayal of "Dr. Victor Ehrlich" in the NBC medical drama St. Elsewhere. Since then, Ed has appeared in dozens of TV series and films, bringing a touch of quirky humor to each role. I approached his table at MANC during a slow period and found the actor sitting alone with his hands folded like a schoolboy. When I handed him a glossy print of his deadpan visage as the aforementioned Dr. Ehrlich, he offered a quiet — nearly whispered — "thank you." Then, when I explained that I did the drawing, his fair eyebrows arched and his pale brow wrinkled. "You're very talented." he continued in a doleful monotone.

Kristy McNichol. Known for her Emmy-winning role as "Buddy" Lawrence on the ABC drama "Family," Kristy drew critical acclaim throughout her career. As one of the most popular teen stars of her era, she appeared in theatrical and television films, as well as a co-starring role on five seasons of the sitcom "Empty Nest," and guest appearances on other episodic television. In 2001, she abruptly announced her retirement from acting, much to the disappointment of her fans. Kristy devoted her new-found time to charity work and teaching acting. At the age of 50, she came out as a lesbian in hopes of showing support to younger people who are bullied because of their sexuality. Kristy was very receptive and warm as I handed her the drawing did. She smiled and laughed when I told her I saw Little Darlings in the theater when it was released in 1980.

Trina Parks. An accomplished singer, dancer and choreographer, statuesque beauty Trina Parks has the distinction of being the first African-American "Bond Girl." Her uncredited portrayal of "Thumper," one of the villainous "Blofeld's" cronies was brief but crucial in the plot of 1971's Diamonds Are Forever and forever tagged her as the answer to a pretty cool piece of pop culture trivia. She was also featured in a few "blaxploitation" movies in the 70s, as well as dancing on several variety shows and specials. I waited patiently while a gaggle of lumbering MANC employees gathered around Ms. Parks's table, arranging themselves and snapping pictures without regard for other convention attendees who were also waiting for the opportunity to speak with the actress. When they finally cleared away, I gave Trina a drawing and her face lit up. She complimented me over and over again. I mentioned to her that my wife and I caught her recent appearance of the revival of To Tell the Truth, where she was presented along with two impostors as the game's objective of choosing who was the "Bond Girl." She told me that she was originally contacted by the show's producers with the premise of having the panel guess who was the first African-American "Bond Girl." She further explained when she arrived for the taping, expecting to find two other black girls, she was told plans had changed and the ethnicity aspect was scrapped. Admittedly, I am not a big fan of the James Bond series. I don't think I ever saw Diamonds are Forever, so I was not familiar with Ms. Parks's role at all. However, she was so sweet and engaging that our little tête-à-tête was an unexpected and welcome high point of the afternoon.

Morgan Fairchild. Born Patsy Ann McClenny in Dallas, Texas, aspiring actress Morgan Fairchild landed her first screen role as a double for Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde. Miss Dunaway could do a lot of things, but she shouldn't drive a stick shift. That's where young Morgan's talents first emerged. She went on to make numerous appearances in episodic television, usually handling the type-cast requirements of a conniving vixen. Morgan was a regular on the nighttime soap operas Flamingo Road, Falcon Crest and Paper Dolls. She made a number of made-for-television and theatrical films, including her poker-faced cameo on Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. She was the epitome of over-the-top 80s glamour. Unfortunately, that look does not bode well in 2018. Morgan was cordial when I greeted her with a drawing. Her hulky assistant, however, seemed a bit over-protective, but Morgan (who was surprisingly much shorter of stature than I expected) daintily shook my hand and demurely thanked me for my artistic efforts.

Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers. The TV power "couple" from ultra-cool detective series Hart to Hart were sequestered in their own, guarded area of the convention floor, curiously treated like royalty. Robert Wagner, now approaching his ninetieth year, was seated behind his table, looking fittingly dashing in an open collar and ascot — begging the question "Does anyone besides fading movie stars wear those things?" I brazenly jockeyed my way past the preoccupied security to the edge of his table as an assistant extended a cautionary arm in my direction. "Mr. Wagner is about to attend a Q & A session," he warned. I explained that I merely wanted to gush a little "fan appreciation" and give him a drawing that I had done. Despite graying temples and few crow's feet, Robert Wagner still displays the rugged good-looks that brought him modest notoriety for over fifty years and 148 IMDB credits. He examined my drawing and scowled. He poked an accusatory finger at his likeness and spat, "You made me look like Kirk Douglas!" I offered an embarrassed grin and replied, "Well, you do look like Kirk Douglas!" What I should have said was: "At least I didn't help Christopher Walken kill my wife."... but I didn't wish to cause a scene. As I turned my attention to Stefanie Power's direction, I saw Mr. Wagner drop my drawing on the floor behind his chair.

Wagner's co-star, the lovely Stefanie Powers certainly lacks the sex appeal she exuded in the single season of the spy series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., but at 75 she looks pretty darn good — kind of like those ladies you see power-walking in the early morning hours around the blacktop track at one of those over-50 gated communities. When I gave Stefanie a duplicate drawing of my Hart to Hart piece, she responded with a polar opposite reaction from her co-star. She literally squealed with delight and showed it around to a group of her travelling companions. She shot me a big smile and thanked me. That made up for Robert Wagner's arrogance.

Tim Reid, Howard Hesseman and Jan Smithers. Three stars of the ensemble cast of the 70s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati were in attendance. Previously-announced and confirmed Loni Anderson had to back out at the last minute. The trio was even further removed from the festivities, as a lengthy queue line was carefully metered for nearly the entire day. Access to their cordoned-off area was tough. However, just as Mrs. Pincus and I had decided to call it a day, I made one last attempt to gain access to the stars of the radio industry sitcom. At this late hour, the line had dissipated and Tim Reid was just sitting at his table fiddling with his phone. I walked up to him, introduced myself and told him I was a fan of all of his work. I quickly scanned his selection of photographs to remind myself of his post-WKRP projects. He chuckled when I told him I even liked his work in the TV mini series of Stephen King's It. I gave him a drawing and he seemed amused as he shook my hand. Tim returned to the pressing matter of his phone as I turned to my right and spotted an ancient-looking bedraggled Howard Hesseman and a frail-looking, gray-tressed Jan Smithers. I felt they didn't need to hear my praise and could do without my silly drawing. I decided I was finished for the day.

Two additional guests that cancelled in the eleventh hour were I Dream of Jeannie star Barbara Eden and Hollywood Squares host Peter Marshall. Mr. Marshall had an emergency family commitment to attend to. Ms. Eden, as we were told, was spooked by the on-coming Hurricane Florence. Signs posted around the convention expressed their regrets and pledged a make-up visit in 2019. I sure hope so because I did drawings of them too. I just hope they don't appear in my "Dead Celebrity Spotlight" before I get the opportunity.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

goin' southbound

Looks like we won't be making it to our destination.

Every year, for the past several, Mrs. Pincus and I attend The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention or MANC for those in the know. MANC is a three-day gathering of folks around my age (or older) who need to be reminded of the glory days of their youth. Days filled with simple toys like puzzles and board games and simple entertainment like heroic TV Westerns and gentle family comedies. MANC fills that need in spades. Taking over event facilities at the Delta Hotel in Hunt Valley, Maryland, MANC is jam-packed with vendors offering all sorts of pop culture treasures from the past fifty, sixty... even seventy years. Along with the vendors, MANC plays host to a bevy of celebrities —beloved to me and my peers, but nearly unknown to the members of the generations after mine. Sometimes explaining to younger people who some of these personalities are is not worth the trouble, but their names and shows are instantly recognizable to us "baby boomers." At past conventions, we met Oscar winners Patty Duke and Shirley Jones, TV heartthrobs Ron Ely and Tina Cole, movie stars Robert Loggia and Britt Ekland and many, many more. (I've written about MANC several times... herehere and here, too.)

When my wife and I first attended this convention, it was one of several that I frequented to feed a little hobby that I started nearly twenty-five years ago — collecting autographed pictures. The set up at these conventions and collector shows is a little unnerving and it's one of the negative aspects for Mrs. Pincus. (She finds it a bit on the creepy side.) Celebrities are seated at tables covered with 8 x 10 glossies depicting highlights of their careers. For a nominal fee, fans can spend a few fleeting moments with their "idols" and take home a personally-inscribed souvenir of the encounter. The unwritten rules have changed considerably since I purchased my first autographed photo (for five dollars) of Butch Patrick, little "Eddie" on the 1960s horror send-up The Munsters. Over the years, the prices have escalated at an unreasonable and baseless rate. The celebrities now come complete with a menu of ala carte services on every table, delineating the cost of an autographed photo, an autograph on an item that you brought to the show, a photo of the celebrity, a photo of you with the celebrity or any combination of the above. (Some have even broken it down further, with different prices for black & white glossies or color.) I have amassed quite an array of photos and the fame of these celebrities ranges from Tom Hanks and Gene Kelly to my wife's cousin who is a field reporter for the NBC affiliate in Virginia Beach. (Hey, he's got more Emmy Awards than you do!) I also accumulated quite a few amusing anecdotes (good and not-so-good) about my "brushes with greatness" that I have related for years. I look forward to MANC every year to add to both collections.

However, this past February, I lost my job. Although I was eligible to collect unemployment insurance, Mrs. Pincus and I were justifiably panicked. We immediately cut back on expenses where we could. Luckily, Mrs. Pincus's eBay business was thriving. We were prompted to assess our possessions and begin selling non-essential items. Items that were tucked away in closets or gathering dust in a corner were the first sacrifices. Next was our collection of advertising figurines and plush characters, followed by our Flintstones and Superman collectibles. Then, we made the difficult decision to purge our extensive Disney collection. As discussed earlier on this blog, liquidating a thirty-plus year assemblage of thousands of pieces of Disney memorabilia was a mixed-bag of emotions. At first, I was very discerning about which items I selected to be offered for sale. But as more items sold and more inquiries about the items were received, I gained a new (and surprising) outlook. Now, I was on a mission! Every weekend, Mrs. P and I sat side-by-side at our computers and listed item after item on eBay at a breakneck rate. Seven months later, the shelves are shockingly bare and the "famous" Pincus Disney collection is unrecognizable. Even though I secured new employment in April, we have not ceased our goal of seeing that room empty for the first time in thirty years. Plus, we are having a great time spending time together and seeing what sells.

So, based on our efforts to sell off our Disney collection, I couldn't justify spending money on autographed photos. For whatever reason, the once-prominent collector in me has vanished. Gone. All done. I still want to meet the celebrities. I just don't feel the need to spend upwards of thirty dollars to have them drag a Sharpie across a photograph of a role that made them semi-famous a lifetime ago. Instead, I drew a bunch of portraits of this year's guests and made a plan to distribute them to their subjects, offering a few words of praise and appreciation. I have done this in the past, and sometimes — sometimes — I appealed to the particular celebrity enough that I got an autographed picture in exchange for my portrait. (Cindy Williams, Jay North and Stanley Livingston each complimented my talent.) So, I made my decision to end my collecting of autographed pictures.... unless I can get them free of charge... which I have. And, again, instead of being upset, I found the decision very freeing. The pressure was off. The sort-of guilt I felt in the past over spending hard-earned cash for something that brought brief pleasure and really no actual value was gone. Now I would really enjoy this year's convention in a different way.

Just after I purchased tickets online for MANC, Mrs. Pincus and I decided to stretch out the weekend of the convention into a little vacation. We planned to head further south at the show's conclusion, driving as far as we liked, getting a hotel room for the night and then continuing on the next morning. Our ultimate destination was South of the Border, the kitschy tourist oasis that lights up I-95 in Dillon, South Carolina. While some travelers zoom right past the place, we love it. Sure it's hokey and silly and filled with cheap, useless souvenirs that we never buy. Sure, it proliferates racist stereotypes with its numerous billboards featuring mascot Pedro, a cartoon Mexican of the highest insult. But, we love the nostalgic aspect of a place that really shouldn't exist in this day and age. A place that just seems out of place.

But, alas, our plans for a Southern road trip were dashed by the onslaught of Hurricane Florence, a fluctuating Category 3 storm that couldn't decide on which path to take. National and local weather services painted a bleak scenario, making predictions just short of a tidal wave washing away the entire Eastern United States. It appeared that Wilmington, North Carolina and surrounding areas would be bearing the brunt of Florence's anger. Dillon lies 90 miles west of Wilmington — and seems to be the shortest distance between two points. We didn't wish to be anywhere near the chaos of both the storm and the residents vacating their homes. MANC is held just north of Baltimore, Maryland — well out of the predicted storm zone and would only experience just a little rain. And as they say, "into one's life, a little rain must fall." 

I'm okay with a little rain.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

I've got a little list

I started going to concerts with my son when he was in high school in the early 2000s. Because of our shared love of eclectic bands and music that was decidedly off the mainstream, we frequented venues that were small and intimate. We had no interest in any bands that were booked to fill the large arenas. And never stadiums! Stadiums — as far as we were concerned — were reserved for sporting events, not musical performances. We gravitated towards single room venues that were reminiscent of the dark smoky coffeehouses of the beatnik era, where patrons sat at too-small tables and watched a singer try not to step off of the too-small stage.

Due to the small capacity and close quarters of these places, my son and I were usually in very close proximity to the stage. So close, if fact, that we became pretty adept at reading the set lists that the artists would place around the stage prior to the evening's performance. These little, hand-scribbled agendas served as a reminder to the singer of what songs to sing. Used primarily as a guide, most performers would often stray from the predetermined list, though some would stick to it to the letter. For us, reading these lists was no easy task since — from our vantage point — they were upside down. However, reading them would spoil the spontaneity of the show. But sometimes, we couldn't help ourselves. After the show, my son would stealthily snag one of these set lists. No one looked our way as my boy would carefully remove the thick gaffer's tape that held the list in place during performances.. The more shows we went to, the more his collection expanded. For years, no one seemed to care. Not the band members. Not the owners of the venue. Not the audience members. It was as though he was picking a used tissue off the stage. If someone did notice my son taking a set list, the act was usually regarded with a scowl or a puzzled look that silently questioned, "Why on earth would anyone want one of those?"

One night, after a raucous show by Austin "bad boys" The Asylum Street Spankers at Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania's now-defunct The Point, my son greedily (or accidentally) grabbed two set lists from the recently-vacated stage. As we rose from our stage-side table, Spankers singer Wammo approached us and politely — almost sheepishly — asked my son to return one of the lists. "We kind of need them from show to show." he explained. I understood. The Spankers were a small,  scrappy, self-reliant, independent band that traveled around in a rickety van, packed with musical instruments and few personal possessions. I suppose they didn't have the luxury of writing out a new set list for each show, the way a Bruce Springsteen or a Bob Dylan might. My son relinquished one of the two identical pages and Wammo thanked him.

Father John Misty's "fake list"
My son continued the practice of sneaking a set list for years and years. He eventually stopped, however, for a couple of reasons. One - he got bored, I guess. He had a several folders stuffed with torn, sticky and folded set lists and it was time to move on to something else. Two - other people, we noticed, picked up on his little hobby. We began to see other audience members making a move toward the stage near the end of a concert, edging closer and closer as the shows drew to a conclusion. This sometimes resulted in a friendly (or not-so-friendly) confrontation over set lists. Other times, roadies would just hand set lists over to the prettiest girl nearest to the stage. Lastly, my son is a DJ on a local Philadelphia radio station. Through his job, he was become friends with some of singers from whom he nicked a set list or two. So, nabbing a torn piece of paper pales in comparison to meeting and interacting with these folks.

Don't take her music charts.
(Photo by E.)
One of those singers with whom my son maintains a friendship is Nicole Atkins. (A quick Nicole Atkins story, then right back to our regularly scheduled blog post.... At the end of June, the residents of the tiny 100 block of Mole Street in Philadelphia held their annual Molestice Festival to welcome the longest day of year with food, drinks, games and live music. This year's headline performer was Nicole Atkins. My son and I gathered, along with hundreds of other folks, at the far end of Mole Street about twenty-five feet — and a sea of people — away from the temporary stage that was set up for the day's performances. Four or five songs into Nicole's set, she approached the microphone and picked my son out of the crowd, pointing to him, waving and offering a friendly "Hi E!" But she wasn't finished. She squinted and announced to the crowd, "I see you brought your dad Josh with you." I was so embarrassed.)

Now... where was I...? Oh, right.... Nicole Atkins, a wonderfully talented singer-songwriter, is currently on tour in Europe with her band. A few days ago, she posted this cautionary statement to Twitter:
It appears that, after all these years, I have been enlightened to two types of lists lying around on a stage after the show is over. It also appears that audience members feel they are entitled to take whatever they wish once the performers have abandoned the stage for the isolated comfort of the "green room." A handful of audience members, I have noticed, now viciously clamber for those set lists (or whatever else they can grab) like vultures fighting over a coyote carcass in the desert,

Back when my son first started collecting set lists, no one — I mean no one — bat an eye when he picked one off the stage. Now, it has become a thing. A real thing with unwritten rules and protocol. Not all artists welcome nor appreciate the taking of set lists. Some are okay with it. Now, I would just ask first.

Or perhaps, if you really want to show your appreciation and support for your favorite singer, buy a t-shirt or other merchandise after the show.

I think Nicole would like that, too.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

come hear uncle john's band

At the end of July, Mrs. Pincus and I went to the three-day XPoNetial Music Festival (remember the story about the ridiculous parking situation?). Besides hearing some great music and eating free ice cream samples, we were able to snag some other free stuff from a variety of vendors who set up informational booths every year. In order to build brand awareness (that there's a marketing term), these businesses and services offer free bag clips, ball-point pens, reusable shopping bags and magnets — all emblazoned with company logos. Among the local businesses are several concert venues offering free tickets to the winners of a lucky spin of a wheel (like those seen at carnivals... but not rigged. At least, I think they're not rigged). One year, I won a pair of admission tickets to see something billed as "Extreme Midget Wrestling," which I attended by myself... on my 53rd birthday, no less. Last year, we won tickets to see Father John Misty. We passed those on to my son and his girlfriend. We also won tickets to a performance by a Philadelphia-based band called Box of Rain, who offer a tribute to beloved hippie jam band, The Grateful Dead. Despite my wife's love for all (most) things Grateful Dead, tribute bands are where she draws the line. With no desire to attend this show, we asked around at the festival if anyone wanted the tickets. We had no takers. Mrs. Pincus posted an offering for the tickets on Facebook and received the internet equivalent of crickets in response. The date of the show came and went and suddenly the tickets transformed into bookmarks.

This year, we won more tickets. This time, to shows we will actually attend. In a few weeks, we will see surf guitar legend Dick Dale, who I was shocked to hear he is still alive. I saw Dick Dale almost a decade ago and he looked like he was standing on death's doormat. Hopefully the 81-year old will make it to August 16. We also won tickets to see folk icon Arlo Guthrie in October and crooner Rufus Wainwright in December. In addition, once again, we were blessed with a pair of tickets to see Box of Rain.

Again, we asked around at the festival to try and ... er... unload them. No one appeared interested. Even our friends Cookie and Consuelo politely declined. Surprisingly, Cookie, a veteran of numerous Dead shows and a lover of live music, was just not interested. I guess I understand, though. Tribute bands are a tricky sell. You either like them and appreciate their place in the hierarchy of music or you flat out have no time or patience for them. I find myself in the camp of the latter. (Remember my Queen tribute band experience? I sure do.) 

So, when we got home late Sunday evening, Mrs. P put out a plea on Facebook to take these tickets off our hands. The very next day, she got an inquiry from a friend, a young lady nearly twenty years our junior, but a Dead Head just the same... just a little late to the party. She expressed interest in the tickets with a caveat - she needed a date. A few hours later, she replied with her regrets. She could not find anyone who wished to accompany her to the show. So, Mrs P's Facebook post remained.

Early Saturday morning — the day of the Box of Rain show — Mrs. Pincus got a Facebook message asking if the tickets were still available. Indeed they were. The interested party — Sheila, whom we do not know — said she would love them and asked how she could get them. Mrs. P explained where we live and made it pretty clear to Sheila that she would have to pick them up. Sheila lives in Vineland, New Jersey. Box of Rain's show was at the TLA, a venue on Philadelphia's South Street. Throw our Elkins Park residence into the equation and you have a perfect, totally-inconvenient triangle. Mrs. Pincus told Sheila that the tickets would be in an envelope taped to our front door. As promised, I put the tickets in an envelope, drew some Grateful Dead-ish pictures on the front and taped it to our front door. The rest was up to Sheila.

A few hours later, Mrs. P's Facebook messenger signaled an incoming message. It was from Sheila. She sent this picture of the envelope and a word of thanks. 

Mrs. P acknowledged the message and we thought that would be the end of it. It wasn't.

A few hours later, Sheila sent another picture. It was a stage bathed in trippy purple light with a backdrop of some fractal pattern of something suitably psychedelic. Evidently, she was at the TLA and the stage was set for a night of Grateful Dead tributing. I suppose it was nice that Sheila was keeping us abreast of the evening's activities, but, honestly, if we wanted to know what was going on at the show, we would have gone ourselves. And we obviously weren't interested in doing that. 

Click for video, if you must.
Soon, we got anot her message - this time a short video. Mrs. P politely acknowledged it, something I would not have done, but she is nice and I am not. I figure any acknowledgement will only encourage Sheila to sent more highlights of a show we had no desire to go to, but my wife, as we have already established, is the nicest person who ever lived. Mrs. P replied with an "I'm jealous LOL. Have a good time. Glad you could use the tickets." I would have hit "delete" and moved on, but that's me.

The video was the last message for a while. Later in the evening, Mrs. P received a picture of both sides of a flyer that was handed out at the end of Box of Rain's performance, making patrons aware of another Grateful Dead cosplay event occurring every Sunday at a bar in South Jersey. Guess where we won't be going...

Sheila's messages soon stopped. We were just happy that someone was able to use the tickets and enjoy themselves. But, we really could have done without the play-by-play.

Next time, we'll just be happy with new bookmarks.