August 25, 2008

Madre di Dios is it hot here! And kinda humid, too. The lovely late-summer days of New England are now just a distant memory, replaced with the reality of 108-degree heat and 70 Mb of work-related e-mails crying for attention. But vacation was swell. Just a few thoughts before getting a head start on my work week:

My retreat at the Maronite Monks of Adoration Most Holy Trinity Monastery was spiritually and emotionally challenging, yet enjoyable. I’ve got some thoughts written down I’ll save for another post, but the hospitality of the monks and the solitude such a peaceful and quiet setting afforded was a delightful change from the noisy life I lead. We had a lovely evening thunderstorm that, in the quiet and darkness of the country setting, took over an hour to come, providing an extended period of time to enjoy the distant lightning and hear the soft rumbles of thunder grow louder as the storm approached. The following night turned chilly enough to leave a light frost across the farmland, providing a lovely hint of the fall to come – something we never experience here in the Valley of the Sun.

The remnant of what was once The Beach Boys – now reduced to lead vocalist Mike Love and original Brian Wilson replacement Bruce Johnston ought to be ashamed of themselves for charging what they do for tickets. Don’t get me wrong – the treasure-trove of Brian-penned hits they’re still able to drag out one after another – enough to fill one and a half hours – was enjoyable to listen to, but Love and Johnston hardly do any of the heavy lifting anymore, leaving that to a group of anonymous musicians that play well enough, but hardly memorable either in terms of musicianship or vocals.

They did a good enough job, I guess, but when you’ve attended more than twenty shows spanning the years between 1975 and 1994 as I have, years filled with great concerts and memories of marvelous performances by band members such as the late Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson, and the now-gone-solo Brian Wilson and Alan Jardine, well, it’s hard to see just how far the mighty have fallen. Of course, one has to keep in mind Love and Johnston are both in their early ’60s, so one can only expect so much. But time has not been kind, and these guys should know when it’s time to hang up the microphones.

Before the show, I got a chance to shake Johnston’s hand and thank him for helping create all that wonderful music. When I introduced him to my friend “Keys” Palma and told him he played keyboards, Bruce replied, “I used to play keyboards, now I just fake it.” He wasn’t kidding…

…But lead guitarist Scott Totten was a keeper, though – ripping off one sensational surf guitar lick after another and supplying tasteful fills Carl would have been proud of.

What made the day truly worthwhile was the afternoon spent relaxing in the sun, surf, and sand of Hampton Beach, shooting the breeze with my good friend “Keys”. The weather was perfect, the water warm and refreshing, and the whole beach atmosphere sheer perfection for a late-summer day.

OK, on to food: I’ve eaten in enough Mexican restaurants to know – the Margaritas chain of restaurants has the best combination of food, salsa, and Cuervo Gold margaritas I’ve ever tasted…

…And the veal cutlet sub sandwiches (sauce only, no cheese) at Wilmington House of Pizza are the best in the area.

Count Newport, Rhode Island as one of The Great White Shank’s favorite places to visit. Like so many other vacation spots along the East Coast, however, there’s been significant development all along the waterfront, and walking amidst all the shops, restaurants and tourist attractions I couldn’t help but think what would happen if a hurricane like the one that ravaged New England seventy years ago took a similar track. I mean, you can’t live your life in fear, but there it’s not just a question of if, but when.

I’m kinda kicking myself for purchasing Netgear equipment for my parents’ wireless network. Sounds like Linksys would have been a better way to go in terms of reliability and stability, but we’ll just have to see how it all goes.

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