Sunday, April 28, 2019

goin' down the road feelin' bad (redux)

Early on Saturday afternoon, Mrs. P and I set out to run a few small errands. We pulled out of our driveway, drove down our street, eventually making our way to Church Road, a main thoroughfare in our small, suburban community. Wait. Don't get the impression that Church Road is a bustling freeway with on and off-ramps. It's not even a sleek multi-lane boulevard. Church Road is a winding macadam covered street that twists and turns through several quaint hamlets in Cheltenham Township. In most places, it narrows to a single lane in each direction where passing cars are so close drivers could shake hands if they so desired (and slowed down enough).

My wife maneuvered her car onto Church Road and we headed east. Within a minute of our journey, we found ourselves behind a Porsche 911. Mrs. P pointed out that it was the type that her brother always talked about and, one day, hoped to own. (The closest he came was purchasing one of the German automotive maker's early forays into the burgeoning SUV market. Sometimes the line between "sporty" and "sensible" is a thin one.) No sooner had she delivered this little anecdote, than the Porsche ahead of us slowed to a crawl. It crept along casually. I saw that traffic behind us was beginning to accumulate, as this section of Church Road had a single eastbound lane. Any attempt to skirt around on the shoulder would send a driver rambling across someone's front lawn. Suddenly, the Porsche coasted to a complete stop in front of the driveway access of a house sitting on an elevated plateau of manicured grass about seventy-five feet from the street. The Porsche's hazard lights sprung to life, blinking in a regular pattern in its elegantly-designed taillights.

And it sat.

And sat.

And sat, while traffic behind us stacked up with more and more cars. We could see the silhouette of two people inside the Porsche — a driver and a passenger — but there was minimal movement. After thirty or so seconds, the passenger door swung open and a male leg extended into view. Slowly, the owner of the leg extracted himself from the passenger seat. Once fully out of the car, he leaned his head and shoulders back inside to fumble around with something. Again, he stood up, this time, however, he was holding the long cloth handles of a dark duffel bag. The man stood for few more long seconds and, through a full grin, offered a few more long sentiments of farewell to the driver.

There must have been at least a dozen cars stopped behind us on Church Road. Stuck. Helplessly stuck. This, obviously, was of no concern to the driver of the Porsche or his passenger. He waited until his colleague ascended the driveway and climbed the stone steps to the house. Then — and only then — did he disengage his flashers and pull away from the foot of the driveway...

.... only to pull into the very next driveway a mere ten feet further. The driver threw the Porsche into "PARK" and killed the engine. It may have even been less than ten feet.

This reminded me of a joke I once heard. A very wealthy man solicited an uneducated handyman for a job. "I'll give you twenty dollars to paint my porch out back.," the wealthy man explained. He directed the handyman towards a pail of gray industrial paint and a couple of brushes. The slack-jawed handyman headed into the wealthy man's backyard. Two hours later, the handyman returned for payment. "All finished!," he announced and he accepted two tens from the wealthy man. As he shoved the bills into his shirt pocket, the handyman remarked, "I don't think that's a porch, though. I think it's a Maserati."

Maybe this guy will be in need of a handyman someday.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

the right profile

I'm gonna try to write this without editorializing. I will try to just report the events that happened without commentary. My goal is to allow you — the reader — to draw your own conclusion. This may be difficult, but I will do my best.

My wife and her father recently went to pick up a few things at a store called PJP Marketplace, a branch of which is not too far from our home. According to their website, PJP Marketplace is a local chain of "open to the public" stores that "stocks everything you need to run your foodservice establishment." They sell a wide variety of kitchen-y things from fresh and frozen food to utensils and serving pieces all the way up to commercial scales and equipment. Mrs. P and her father were looking for a large quantity of plastic quart containers in which to store the unnecessarily voluminous amounts of soup that my mother-in-law prepares for the upcoming Passover holiday. (Oops! I think I just editorialized. I'll try to watch myself.) They were also looking to buy similarly packaged disposable foil pans for the same aforementioned (and again questionable) purpose (Ugh! There I go again!)

This particular PJP Marketplace is located in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood just over the suburban boundary of Philadelphia. Most — if not all — of the clientele and employees are Hispanic. That is not an observation. That is a fact. My wife and my father-in-law are both Caucasian. That is also a fact.

After finding a parking spot, they grabbed a shopping cart and entered the store. They made their selections and filled their cart, then headed towards the checkout area near the front of the store. They got into one of the many checkout queues, all of which were surprisingly lengthy. A cashier was setting up behind one of the currently-closed lanes, obviously preparing to open up and relieve some of the congestion. When she finished reconciling the money in her cash register's till, she looked up and scanned the long lines, seemingly perusing her choices for who would be her first customer. She pointed to a man in line behind my wife and father-in-law. He was Hispanic. She motioned the man forward, despite the fact that my wife and father-in-law were next in line. She appeared to look right past — or through — them. (Hmmmm.... that may be borderline editorializing. Strike that from the record, please.) The man walked around my wife and father-in-law and was the first customer in the new checkout line. Mrs. P and her father waited patiently in their own line and, within less than a minute, they were placing their items on the conveyor belt for purchase.

After making payment, they gathered up their bagged purchases and made their way to the exit. At the exit, however, a man was stopping each and every customer to carefully and thoroughly check each and every receipt. The man took each receipt and, with a yellow highlighter pen, checked off each item on the paper once he identified it to be paid and in the customer's possession. He also appeared to be giving each customer an accusatory "once over."  When Mrs. P and her father came up to the man with their bag and receipt ready to be reviewed, he smiled and waved them on. "You folks can go ahead." he said, without even taking the receipt from my wife's hand.

That's it. That's my story. Draw your own conclusion.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

about face

In the Fall of 2012, I was.... cajoled?.... persuaded?..... pressured?.... how about "asked" to join Facebook. A friend from my high school days suggested that I create a Facebook page and reconnect with other folks with whom I had lost touch since graduating from high school. My friend had a vivacious, out-going personality, so, for her,  something like Facebook was the natural progression. For me, however.... well, there was a reason that I did not remain in contact with most of my contemporaries from the Class of '79.

By 2012, I was a four-year veteran of the Twitter trenches. I was also five years in to maintaining my illustration blog ( go take a look!). I have been contributing to it regularly, with two or more illustrations per week, including a long run of participation in Illustration Friday, as well as my own brand of slightly off-kilter humor. Plus I was working undercover on Who Does He Play For and the now-defunct This Day in Real Life, a blog that eventually morphed into the blog you are reading right now. So, what did I need Facebook for? 

Alas, I conceded. I started a Facebook page. But not a regular Facebook page — a fan page. It was the most suitable page for Josh Pincus. I could post and post and post and post and never have to see what the kid who sat next to me in second grade had for lunch today or a zillion pictures of a zillion dogs. You see, with a Facebook fan page, there is very little interaction between the "page-or" and the "page-ee," except for the ability for people to "like" posts and leave comments. Otherwise, the only posts I see are my own — and that's just the way I like it.
Click to enlarge

So, on October 18, 2012, the official Josh Pincus Facebook Fan Page was born.... or unleashed, as it may be. I announced the page via my old reliable Twitter account and within a few hours, I had a handful of "likes" on my page. (I believe Mrs. Pincus was the first.) Slowly, I gained a few more "likes" here and there as I posted links to my illustrations and links to my weekly posts on It's Been a Slice. A friend of mine, who works in local radio and is the unofficial mayor of Philadelphia, tweeted about my page to his plethora of followers and I gained a few dozen "likes" almost immediately. Then, I began posting daily celebrity death anniversaries and became diligent to report celebrity deaths almost as they occur. I broke the 200 mark after a while, "Likes" popped up sporadically but then things stalled. And then I would lose a "like" every so often. Not to pat my self on the back, but I'm one guy and Facebook is not my main focus. All of the hype to gain "likes" was done by me and word-of-mouth. I am proud of the fluctuating 253 - 254 "likes" that are displayed on my page. and, yes, I am a little insulted when I lose a "like." (My online pal Dot even made a pointed observation regarding my tracking of "likes.")

Last week, six-plus years since the JPiC Facebook fan page debut, I lost another "like." This week, however, I gained three. And then another, And another. At the end of the weekend, I had gained 20 new "likes." The overwhelming majority of these "likes" were from folks in Indonesia and Egypt and India and a few countries that I didn't know were countries. I can't quite figure out which post was the one that opened the sluice gates for the flood of love for Josh Pincus. Was it the reminder that actress Debralee Scott had passed away 14 years ago or the report that Dan Robbins, the man who invented Paint-By-Numbers had gone to face that great gridded canvas in the sky? I'm not sure, but it was something. And it hasn't stopped! As a matter of fact, when I started writing this, I had 271 "likes." As of right now, I gained four more! 

If you are already a "fan" of my Facebook page, I thank you for your support. If you are not, what are you waiting for? There's fun and death and humor and, if you stick around long enough, I guarantee I will say something that'll offend you.

Unless, of course, you live in Jakarta.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

say your piece and get out

"This post ain't gonna make some people too happy." – JPiC

Considering I am very familiar with their musical catalog, seen them over a dozen times and can name every member of the band – past and present – I would not really consider myself a fan of the Grateful Dead. My wife, however, is a fan. A true fan. A longtime fan. Based on that, I suppose my status could be best summed up as "DeadHead-in-law."

When I was in my record collecting heyday back in high school, I would often be found perusing the "cut-out" bins at the supermarket-sized Peaches Records, a now-defunct retailer near my Northeast Philadelphia home. "Cut Outs," for the uninformed, were records that had been dropped from the label's regular catalog for lagging sales. Their sleeves were punched with a hole or sometimes the cover of the jacket was clipped or notched to prevent the retailers from returning them to the label for reimbursement. These records were sold at a deep discount. I discovered some great finds in the cut-out bins, like the prog-rock classics Fox Trot and Nursery Cryme by Genesis, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, the debut effort by The Alan Parsons Project, Lodger, the final release in David Bowie's Berlin trilogy and Steal Your Face, a live recording by the Grateful Dead and the final release on Grateful Dead Records. I was not familiar with the majority of the Grateful Dead's musical output at the time, but I noticed that Side Three boasted "U.S. Blues" and I remembered that song from The Grateful Dead Movie, which I saw at a midnight showing that I'm still not sure why I attended. So, I bought the album for a mere four dollars, if I remember correctly. I took it home, listened it to once all the way through, listened to "U.S. Blues" a few more times and never played it again. It was boring, filled with seemingly endless meandering guitar sections and an aimless drum solo. At the time of this purchase, I was a fan of Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Queen and other popular "big rock bands." No one I knew was a fan of the Dead, save for a few older cousins who would follow the band to every performance across the country and were often the brunt of whispered disapproval by aunts and uncles. After one album, my Grateful Dead experience was quickly over, as I soon discovered the punk rock and new wave trends that were infiltrating modern music, leaving no room for 60s relics.... like the Grateful Dead.

In early 1982, a young lady came into the restaurant when I worked to earn art school tuition money. Little did I know, that – in two year's time – she would be my wife. Now, she was just a pretty girl with long hair that thought I was the most obnoxious person she ever met. (She actually told me that.) Well, after some lengthy "getting to know each other" time, we began dating. Future Mrs. P and I went to the movies and to dinner for the first month or so of our budding relationship. As nicer weather approached, so did the annual Grateful Dead Spring tour. I was not aware of such a perennial event, but to the DeadHead community, you could set your bong by it. My future spouse bought tickets to both shows scheduled for the Philadelphia Spectrum, one of which I would be attending – whether I liked it or not. I would be seeing my soon-to-be wife in her natural element.

The night of the show, we found our seats at the venue. I had been to the Spectrum – the preeminent concert facility in the city, that also served as the home of the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers – many times before. The place was big and cavernous and more suited to hockey games than concerts. In previous visits, I had never been subjected to a crowd like the crowd at a Grateful Dead concert. The seats were packed with tie-dye clad throwbacks to a time that had – as far as I knew – become extinct decades ago. There were guys with beards like unkempt bird's nests tripping over their own feet as they staggered down the aisles. Young women in long batiked dresses, obviously heeding Scott McKenzie's plea of "be sure to wear flowers in your hair," despite the fact that we were on the opposite coast from San Francisco, swirled and twirled to music only heard in their own ears. The future Mrs. P introduced me to my future brother-in-law. He fit right in with his wild auburn hair, untrimmed beard and colorful T-shirt. The lights soon dimmed. The crowd roared and, after a minute or two of tuning, the band launched into "Jack Straw," their opening song. As the show progressed, I asked future Mrs. P the titles of the songs, since I was unfamiliar with the Grateful Dead canon. She was accommodating, whispering the titles to me so as not to disturb her fellow devotees. Twenty-five minutes later, I asked the name of the song the band was currently playing. Future Mrs. P leaned in and said "Same song." I gulped.

As the years went on, I went to many more Grateful Dead shows, including one where the same guy fell on my lap four times until my brother-in-law literally tossed him down the aisle. There was one where Mrs. P and I sat in seats behind the stage and noticed – halfway through the performance – that the entire section next to ours was asleep. I even saw a few Jerry Garcia solo shows, which were no great departure from a Dead show, right down to the song selection and audience members. Although I saw my fair share of Dead concerts, I still never became a fan. I didn't hate the band, they just never occupied a special place in my heart the way other bands did.

Jerry Garcia, the iconic leader of the Grateful Dead, passed away in 1995, leading most fans to believe that this signified the end of the "golden road" for the band. Sure, they had gone through several keyboardists (as famously parodied in This Is Spinal Tap), but the loss of Jerry had to be the death knell for the Grateful Dead.

It was not.

A three-year hiatus of uncertainty yielded something called "The Other Ones," a reforming of the surviving members of the Grateful Dead doing what they do best – performing Grateful Dead songs. This assemblage morphed into "The Dead," which begat "Furthur." In spite of a grandiose "farewell" tour in 2015, the current incarnation of what was once "The Grateful Dead" still tours and performs regularly as "Dead & Company," comprised of aging original members and supplemental younger blood. Former bass player Phil Lesh tours independently from his one-time band mates, but has no problem including the same songs on his set list.

Although I am not a fan, I recognize this as a poignant epilogue to The Grateful Dead story. Once mighty in their stature as a pioneering, influential and respected contributor to the history of rock music, they have evolved into a cover band – sadly covering themselves.

Honestly, what else are they supposed to do? Although most of the faithful don't seem to mind.