Friday, April 29, 2011

Eleven Tips To Keep Your Bartender From Killing You With A Pint Glass

I am lucky enough to have a regular job-type job these days, but I am still working a couple of shifts a week at a very busy bar in Manhattan. People often ask me what's the worst thing about bartending. Is it the late hours? The lack of benefits? The noise level? The total lack of upward mobility?

It is none of those things. Invariably, the worst thing about bartending is dealing with bad customers, and bad customers seem to be a growing segment of the bar patron population. Some bartenders let bad customers get under their skin, and will tell and retell stories of their encounters with said customers; I have learned not to do that. A bartender who dwells on a customer being rude is like a zookeeper dwelling on the monkeys flinging their droppings. If you choose to work with monkeys, you can't really get upset about the things monkeys do; it's the same way with bar customers, who in most cases are like children and animals.

In any case, bad customers can be super annoying, and put us (bartenders) in a mood not unlike that of a preschool teacher at the end of a crazy Friday: harried, tired, ready to snap. So when we get a customer who's considerate and nice and patient, that customer sticks out, and is more likely than not to get a free drink or two before our time together is over.

So here are a few tips on how to be one of those bar customers. I gave myself five minutes to think of everything that gets on my nerves when the bar is stacked up four customers deep and I am operating at top speed, so that when you find yourself on the other end of that situation, you make a friend rather than an enemy. These are in no particular order, and don't really apply to high-end specialty-cocktail kind of places (like where the bartender has a tie tucked between the buttons of his freshly-pressed shirt) or local establishments where voices stay at normal conversation levels and the bartender spends as much time hanging out as he does making drinks. This is for patrons of high-volume bars, clubs and meet markets.

1. Wait your turn, no matter what you're asking for. If I am not looking at you, I am not ready to hear your order. Don't shout it at the side of my head when I'm taking care of someone else; that's like shouting random numbers at someone who's counting. You'll make me forget what I'm already doing and I'll have to go back to the person whose order I'm filling and have them repeat it. That doesn't speed things up, it slows them down. I want to take your money just as much as you want to give it to me, trust me. I see everyone, I know in what order you arrived at the bar, and I will get to you all accordingly.

2. Water counts as a drink. I'm not going to charge you for it, but if I'm slammed and people are waiting, the fact that you "just want a water" doesn't move you to the front of the line. If you want me to put something in a glass, you have to wait your turn like everyone else. (Side note about water: most people who order a glass of water with panic in their eyes and desperation in their voice don't actually drink the water once they get it. Come on, water-orderers: drink the water!)

3. Know what you're ordering before you order. I can't tell you how many times I've had some jackass wave their arms at me like a castaway trying to signal a passing plane while they wait two whole minutes for me to get to them, and then when I take their order they say "Hold on a minute," turn around and start taking the orders of all the people in their group. If you're in such a hurry, maybe while you were waiting you could have used the time to get your ducks in a row for the big moment.  (For bonus points, locate your wallet and confirm that you have the money to pay while you're waiting. Tapping your toe while you wait for an obviously busy bartender and then making them [and the other patrons] wait while you get your act together is poor form.)

4. Don't one-at-a-time me. Ordering a drink, watching me get it, then adding another one, then watching me get it, then adding another drink, then watching me get it, etc. etc., is a massive waste of everyone's time. I can remember and prepare more than one drink at a time, I do this for a living. Tell me all of them up front. (Unless it's more than six drinks. After that, my eyes glaze over.)

5. I am not your dog. Do not wave, whistle, snap your fingers, or shout. Assume that I have been blessed with the gift of sight, and further assume that I am behind this bar in order to earn money. I'm working for tips and I understand perfectly that those tips depend on prompt service. If you're waiting, it's because someone else got here before you. I see you and I'll get there as soon as I can.

6. Your turn does not last forever. You can't order 12 drinks, pay for them, watch me move on to the next person, and then interrupt to order something else like you're still at the front of the line. You have 12 fresh drinks in front of you; this other person has none. I'll come back to you, but handing me money is an internationally understood nonverbal cue to conclude our transaction.

7. Don't ask for a free drink. Not for your birthday, not because you had a bad day, and above all not because you're a female. It's the tackiest thing you can do, especially if I've never seen you before. I don't go all the way till the third date and I don't give away free drinks till the third round. (And then only if you are observant of these guidelines.) If it's your birthday, say so and leave it at that. Everybody knows what that means. (Side note on birthday drinks: the birthday boy or girl gets a free shot, not a free round for their whole party.)

8. Straighten your money out. You would not believe how many people pay with a pile of individually wadded-up singles. Being forced to take the time to flatten and collate them so they'll go in the register makes me wonder if a pint glass would break if I hit it with your head. It never ceases to amaze me how much people who try so hard to let me know they're in a hurry and need what they need RIGHT NOW slow down once it's their turn.

9. Ask a stupid question...  How am I supposed to answer a question like "What do you have?" I'm standing in front of 240 different bottles. Likewise "Do you have cocktails?" The only light in this room is coming through three rows of liquor bottles. Do I have cocktails?!?

10. I'm the bartender, not the concierge. Asking me "Where else is busy tonight?" is like asking a toll booth worker about the traffic up the road. I'm stuck behind this bar. I don't have the faintest idea what's going on anywhere but in this room. I can tell you the names and locations of some other bars I like, no problem. I cannot tell you if they are busy right now, what kind of music they're playing, or the quality of the ladies there.  If you're talking to a bartender on a Tuesday night, you can assume that that bartender spends every Tuesday night behind that bar. That means they never go out on Tuesdays, which means they probably don't know what's going on.

11. Grease the wheels. When you tip the bartender, it's not just for the service you just received; it determines the service you're going to get on the next round. If you stiff me on the first round, you are going to have to wait for the second round -- probably even if no one else is waiting. Also, if something happens -- say you spill your drink, or the busboy clears it while you were outside having a smoke -- I will listen to your story much more charitably if you have been good to me. The best rule of thumb for tipping a bartender is a buck per drink, but if you really want to make a friend, tip big on the first round.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Almost Ruined The Best Wedding Ever

Did I ever tell you about the time I nearly burned down a cabaña in Mexico?

In the summer of 2006, my wife Jen and I joined about 80 other people to celebrate the wedding of our good friends Chris and Sara in Tulum, which is about 60 miles south of Cancun. The assembled throng completely took over one of the beachside resorts, which consisted of a series of standalone cabañas, all overlooking the Caribbean.

Jen and I were excited to return to Tulum; we had spent three weeks in the general vicinity for our belated honeymoon in the summer of 2001, and when we heard that Chris and Sara's wedding would be happening there, we didn't hesitate to RSVP in the affirmative.

I also spotted a personal opportunity, which was to shoot a music video for "The Legend of Enrico Corazon," a traditional Mexican folk song I had written a few years before, largely inspired by that first honeymoon trip. It's a humorous song about "a legendary Latin lover" that had been a hit, insofar as a song whose biggest-ever live audience was probably 50 people, can be a hit. Which is to say, my friends liked it.

There were a few factors that made me feel I had to go forward with the idea. First, I could shoot entirely outdoors in the daytime, which eliminated the need for lighting setups, always the most time-consuming factor in filmmaking; second, since it would be a music video (I already had a great recording of the song, lovingly produced by my friend Larry Heinemann), I would also have no need to record any sound, always the biggest postproduction headache, as a music video is like a silent movie; third, I would have an abundance of friends on hand who I could beg, bribe, or otherwide coerce into appearing in the piece; and fourth, having already spent a good bit of time there, several shooting locations came to mind right away. It felt like the stars were aligning, and that I had to do this project.

Once I enlisted my friend Brian Scott, a gifted physical actor who's spent quite a bit of time banging on tubes in blue grease paint, to play the role of Enrico Corazon, I knew it was on. I spent the entire four-hour flight listing locations and drawing storyboards in a notebook (which I ended up almost totally ignoring when shooting began), and spent the next two days shooting scenes of Brian (as Enrico) silently romancing all the women in the wedding party, one at a time.

Everything was going great, all things considered. It was easy enough to wrangle people into doing short scenes with Brian, as none of them took more than a few minutes to shoot, but it did require a lot of Brian's time, as he was in nearly every shot. He was a great sport about it, though, and I was getting a lot of great stuff. After two days' shooting, I told Brian I had enough Enrico scenes, but it nagged at me that an entire piece shot in blinding sunlight, particularly when its major theme is the act of love, didn't seem quite right. I needed some more intimate material, something in dimmer light, evocative of the act the song was describing.

Then I had an idea. Chris and Sara had given a little goodie bag to each of the wedding guests that contained a half-dozen votive candles and a little lantern, which was a handy gift because everyone was staying in 12' round cabanas with thatched roofs and no electricity. Wandering around the compound I noticed a lot of those goodie bags laying around untouched, presumably because most of the wedding guests were Burning Man veterans, well accustomed to partying in the dark and equipped with headlamps and flashlights. 

So my idea was to gather up as many of those candles as I could, arrange them sexily in my cabana, and shoot some candlelit bedroom scenes with Brian and whichever of the ladies I could cajole into doing one more scene.  

I saw Brian, my star, early the next morning and told him my idea. He said he was up for it, but that he was going to check out some jungle ruins or a ceñote or something like that (here my memory fails me). I asked him to try to get back to my cabaña around dark, and he said he'd be there.

By this time, I had commandeered two full days of Brian's Caribbean vacation, and did not feel entitled to demand any more of his time -- it's not like I was paying him -- so I did not push him on this point. I feared that with no cell phone service in the region, the generally decadent atmosphere around this wedding (which was glorious; have I emphasized that this wedding was a barrel of laughs from beginning to end? No? It was a barrel of laughs from beginning to end), and his trip inland to a jungle ruin would combine to wreck my little plan, but I didn't feel I had the right to do any more than hope for the best.

As dark fell, I had seen or heard no sign of Brian's return from the jungle or wherever he'd gone. I asked around and someone told me they'd seen him getting in a car to go into town and get dinner. I didn't know if he'd be back to shoot the scene or not, but I went ahead and started arranging and lighting the candles anyway. It took much longer than I expected -- I was probably at it for 90 minutes or so, maybe longer. It was getting hot in there, but my camera tests looked great, but Brian was still nowhere to be found. I knew that although it would be dark for many more hours, my window of opportunity was short, because by about 10pm the party would get cracking in earnest, as it had the previous two nights (have I mentioned that this wedding was super, super fun?), so if he didn't come back soon, it wasn't going to happen. I wiped sweat off my brow (the candles were making it really hot in there) and considered my predicament.

That's when I remembered the mariachis.

I had encountered a mariachi band at an outdoor restaurant about a mile walk down the road from my cabana the day before and quickly offered them $100 to come back the next night and stand behind me and pretend to accompany me while I played guitar and sang my song into the camera. They barely understood what I was asking, thanks to my pitiful Spanish, but I somehow managed to get my point across. Amusingly, they asked no questions whatsoever about me, the video, where it would be shown, or anything else -- once they heard "one hundred dollars" the deal was done, and we agreed to meet at nine o'clock. I felt the video gods were smiling on me.

So now, alone in my cabana, the room ablaze with five or six dozen candles, I faced a dilemma. It was a little after nine. I needed to get myself, my guitar, and my video camera a mile down the road as soon as humanly possible, or lose the opportunity to get the crucial shots of myself leading a mariachi band. At the same time, all these candles had taken over an hour to light, and if I blew them all out now and somehow managed to shepherd Brian into the cabaña for one last scene, it would take me another hour to get them all lit again, an hour I knew Brian would spend (quite justifiably) chomping at the bit to get back to the party.

I made a snap decision: leave the candles burning, run down the road, shoot the stuff with the mariachis as quickly as possible, hope I'd find Brian down there (this restaurant had become the default meeting spot for the whole wedding party), bring him back to the cabaña, get these last few sexy shots, and get back to the night's planned revelry (have I mentioned that this wedding was the most fun ever?).

I quickly changed clothes and hustled down the road with my guitar and my camera. It was about a 15 minute trip, and I was probably halfway there when I started hearing a voice in my head. The voice was my own, and I couldn't deny it was making a lot of sense:

"Did you really just leave 80 candles burning unattended in a tiny wooden structure with a thatched roof? How stupid are you? What do you think are the odds that the thing is not a smoldering heap of nothing when you get back there? You have done a lot of stupid things, my friend, but you're going to have to change your name after this one..."

On and on, my own chastising voice played in a loop in my head. I considered going back, but by this time I was closer to the restaurant than I was to the cabaña, and I really, really wanted to get this shot with the mariachis, so I decided to press on with the plan, though I was starting to feel some adrenaline.

The mariachis arrived right after I did, and I had my Spanish-speaking friend Ken operate the camera and act as translator. I nervously hurried through two or three takes of the song. After the first take I saw that the shot was way underlit, but the voice reminding me of the candles in the cabaña was echoing in my head like the Tell-Tale Heart-- I was having visions of the whole thing going up like a Roman candle, taking out adjacent cabañas-- and I decided I didn't have time to find a better-lit spot, that I'd try to fix the lighting in post (that's a little filmmaking lingo there), that what I had would have to be good enough.

I ran back to the cabaña as fast as I could (which is not that fast) and breathed probably the biggest sigh of relief of my life when I saw that it was still standing. I opened the door and was hit with a blast of heat -- it was probably 110 degrees in there, thanks to all the candles. Still hoping Brian might make it back, I waited around for a little while, then decided to cut my losses; I shot the empty candlelit room, sweeping the camera over the bed and around the candles, hoping to create some semblance of a sexy vibe. Then I blew out the candles and found everybody at the bar next door, and had a great, great night (have I mentioned that this wedding was the best wedding of all time?). I mentioned nothing to Brian, because I genuinely felt (and still feel) that he did nothing wrong whatsoever; he was on vacation, and he had every right to spend it however he wanted; I felt lucky and grateful that he had given me all the time he'd already given me.

The wedding party broke up a couple of days later, but Jen and I stayed for another week of scuba diving, traveling to a more remote part of the coast. We also shot the rest of the material for the video-- all the shots of me playing the song alone. We would soon come to find out that we brought a very special souvenir back from the trip. That souvenir turned four in February, and if he ever does anything as stupid as leaving 80 candles burning unattended in a highly flammable structure, I will have to do my best to keep a straight face.

Here is the video:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Commercials At The Movies = Waterboarding At The Spa

What movie am I here to see again?

As a special treat for my birthday last week, my friend/supervisor/cubiclemate Chris and I skipped out of work for a few hours and went the catch the matinee of Your Highness. The movie was very funny (despite what the critics are saying) and I liked it a lot, but the experience underscored the reasons why I (and everyone else, it seems) haven't seen a movie in the theater in many months.

In a strategic movie calculated to avoid both crowds and bedbugs (presently the scourge of New York City movie theaters), we chose the Battery Park multiplex, just south of the once and future World Trade Center. When we arrived in the theater to take our seats, we were pleased to see it mostly empty, so we positioned ourselves dead center. Settling in, we noticed that although the usual barrage of commercials was running on the screen, the sound was off. This was a little disconcerting at first, because as we all know these days, before you can watch the movie you have to sit through about 15 minutes of commercials, most of which are imported from TV (enlarged and loudened for a more cinematic shilling experience). Then you have to sit through anywhere from four to 19 trailers for coming attractions. Then, finally, the movie.

So to walk into a quiet theater was a little strange. It was odd, first, to feel self-conscious about speaking, knowing that with no deafening din in the background, everyone in the theater (all three of them) could hear what I was saying.

Nonetheless, I braved the silence and the judgment of the three other people in the theater and remarked that it was nice to have the sound off. I am very friendly with the Mute button on my universal remote at home, and prefer to sit through commercial breaks in silence (or even better, in conversation with my wife). I mentioned this to Chris, and he agreed, sparking a whole discussion about the pre-movie program, starting with all the commercials before the trailers.

At one time, commercials had an obvious function that everyone understood and agreed to: television was delivered via the airwaves and received via rabbit ears (that's a type of antenna, kids), so nobody paid anything to watch the programming; it would have been impossible to charge for it anyway. However, creating televisions shows is expensive, so TV worked out a great deal with Madison Avenue: we will show your ads on our free airwaves and in exchange you will pay us money, which in turn will pay for the shows that will deliver your ads. (Unfortunately, this bargain didn't last; when pay cable became the norm, the commercials remained, despite the fact that we're all paying our cable providers, who in turn are paying the networks.)

Since we pay to go to movies, no such bargain ever needed to be struck. We pay the money, they show the movie. Economics don't get much simpler.

Advertising first infiltrated the cinema in the form of trailers -- commercials for other movies, shown before the movie. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why that started: the movie theater wants you to come back and spend more money on another movie as soon as possible. But nobody ever minded that, because trailers are entertaining.   

But commercials, if you'll permit me my anti-American liberal weirdo opinion, are not entertaining, they're annoying, and they're even more annoying on a giant screen with THX sound. The commercial with the talking baby that's heavy into day trading is definitely no less creepy, stupid, or unfunny when magnified 20x. (Nor, I should add, does it make me any more interested in day trading.) So it's particularly galling that after paying for the movie we have to sit through ads, and even more galling, the same ads we've all seen a hundred times at home. They don't even bother to adjust the resolution of the ads, so they look pixellated and crappy on the giant screen. If you're going to rape my eyeballs with crass hucksterism, at least have the decency to do it in 1080p.

And a word on the volume. I understand that movies are loud. In most cases (emphatically not including kids' movies) I find it appropriate. Especially with action movies. Big explosions, surround sound, I like it! No problem. It immerses me in the movie just like it's supposed to. Unfortunately, it seems that the movie theaters have taken a cue from TV and decided that the commercials need to be louder than the movie. This approach kind of makes sense (as much as I hate it) on TV, when the commercials are interspersed with the shows; it sort of sits you up in your chair rather than spacing out while you're waiting to find out who's this week's Biggest Loser or whatever. But at the theater, the result is that the presentation gets progressively quieter -- the exact opposite of what basic theater logic would dictate.

Anyway-- then comes the trailers. I like trailers as much as the next guy -- they showed this one in front of Your Highness and it got me excited for what looks like a great movie -- but after five or six of them in a row, when instead of another green "APPROVED FOR ALL AUDIENCES" card, the studio logo comes up and I realize that the actual movie is starting, I always have a couple seconds where, slightly emotionally battered and vaguely disoriented by what by this time has been nearly 30 minutes of 1-3 minute spots, each one demanding your attention more loudly, brightly, and obnoxiously than the last, I have to stop and ask myself: "What movie am I here to see again?" I feel like I just woke up from a coma after an injury sustained in ground combat.

A couple of years ago my wife and son went out of town for a couple of days, so I took the opportunity to go see the new Star Trek movie by myself. I took a lovely walk across the park while listening to my iPod to the theater, and when I got there I almost took my earbuds out, but remembering how annoying I generally find the whole pre-movie program, I instead kept them in, continued enjoying the music I had on, and visored my eyes with my hands until the movie started. I found this to be a much more pleasurable method of moviegoing, though obviously it would be exceedingly rude if you brought a date.

I related this discovery to Chris as well, and we both agreed that the silent ad block we had walked into was a treat. Who enjoys these supersized commercials? I said. And how messed up is it that after paying $12 for the movie, we have to sit through commercials? I was just digging in for another spirited round of this complaint when a group of four very dudey dude-type dudes came in and took seats somewhere behind us.

"Volume!" one of them shouted immediately. "Turn it up! I paid for the commercials too!"

So maybe it's just me.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Expel The Doors From The Classic Rock Canon!

A couple of weeks ago, they inducted a new crop of classic rockers to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame that included Tom Waits, Neil Diamond, and Alice Cooper. Not the most iconic lot, but I'd say they've all earned it.
But let's face it: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is not infallible; The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame makes mistakes. For every Led Zeppelin or Bob Dylan, there's a Jackson Browne or a  Billy Joel or a Crosby, Stills and Nash. Some art does not stand the test of time, and what seems great or original or interesting today can sometimes seem stupid, weak, and overrated down the road. (I don't really have a problem with Crosby, and Stills is okay from what I can tell, but I cannot stand Nash. He takes all the high parts.)
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a democratic body, voted on by I have no idea who, like Congress. So like Congress, it should be able to make amendments, to repeal bad rulings. I propose that every year when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts its new members, they should also take someone out. My first nominee: The Doors, inducted in 1993.
I first heard the velvety blathering of Jim Morrison when I was 13 or 14, which puts it about 1986 or '87, which if you don't remember was when '60s nostalgia was at its zenith. I was starting to become an active, semi-discerning music listener, my awakening coinciding with the advent of self-described "classic rock radio." This, plus the plundering of my dad's records, formed some musical attachments that I will never shake-- Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones in particular.
I also started listening to the Doors, and I liked them a lot. My dad had the "Morrison Hotel" LP and I liked a couple of the songs a lot, though even then I was appalled by the fact that apart from those two tracks, the rest of the record was unlistenable. Now that I've grown up and I understand how terrible they were, I wonder what it was about them that made me think they were cool, and I think it comes down to two things:
1) The bad-boy status of singer Jim Morrison. I see this guy as a joke now, but as a 13-year-old kid looking for cool role models, Jim fit the bill. He was good-looking, he liked to take a drink, his lyrics were weird, and he had a good scream. I studied the teen-idol preferences of my female friends likes in hopes of one day tricking one into me, and I saw more than a few Jim Morrison posters on their walls. You know the one: black-and-white, Jim shirtless, arms outstretched, ribs showing, wearing beads? (It's not like I dressed up like him. They don't stock leather pants in the boys' department.) 
2) Any postpubescent male human can sing a passable version of a Doors song if they want to. This goes a long way to explaining the band's lasting appeal: Jim Morrison had such a standard-issue, unremarkable voice that he didn't sing so much as draw out his words. The only time his singing was at all compelling was when he was screaming. (Admittedly, you could justifiably say the exact same thing about my voice.)  Any drunken Phi Delt can bellow his way through "Break On Through" and sound just like the record. This also explains the initial appeal of Pearl Jam; the ladies' version is Natalie Merchant/10,000 Maniacs.

But I'm an adult now, and as an adult I can clearly see that Jim Morrison is a total buffoon, almost comically untalented, and part of the second-most monotonous-sounding band ever to gain widespread recognition (the first being the execrable Grateful Dead, who by the way, we'll be expelling next). 
Just think of a Doors song. Forget about the vocals; what's the first thing you think of? That's right, the organ. The intro to "Light My Fire." All of "Strange Days." Ray Manzarek's ever-present Farfisa organ. Ugh, turn it off! I don't know about you, but that sound reminds me of the circus. Is the circus cool? Edgy? Is the circus in any way "rockin'"? I think we can agree that it is not. The guitar (Robbie Krieger) and the drums (John Densmore) are both inoffensive, and generally competent, but I cannot take that organ. (That's what she said!)

Deduct ten more points for not having a bass player. Manzarek played many of the bass parts on Doors records on the organ, but that just means more Manzarek, which is something I cannot support -- partly (but not just) because he has spent the last 40 years talking about his deep relationship with Jim Morrison. For those of you scoring at home, that's roughly 8 times as long as he actually knew Morrison. Enough already! Talk about something else! DO something else! Oh wait, he did: he wrote a novel about a rock singer who faked his own death and came back to visit the organ player from his old band and impart enormous wisdom.

Morrison's lyrics are the band's other big trademark, but take a look at some of them and you will quickly see that they are either a) totally insipid ("Hello, I Love You") b) two or three meaningless lines repeated endlessly ("Break On Through") or c) ultimately meaningless pseudo-intellectual psychodrama ("The End"). Now, one could argue that I'm being harsh and that Morrison is no worse than any of his contemporaries, or any rock lyricist in general, and that would be a valid argument, except for one thing.

When I was in college, there was a CD store -- does that date me? -- that had an extensive bootleg section, and I got some great stuff there. (In particular, an XTC bootleg recorded in 1980 by the BBC that I still feel is my favorite-ever live recording.) One day I bought a Jimi Hendrix disc called "Woke Up This Morning And Found Myself Dead." Its label described the contents as a late-night jam at a club in New York City with Hendrix, guitarist Johnny Winter, and -- guess who! -- Jim Morrison.

The music on this disc turned out to be totally unmemorable in most respects. The "songs" are formless and apparently improvised. Hendrix just solos while the other guitarist (who, as Internet research would reveal years later, is not in fact Johnny Winter) stays on the same chord changes. The sound quality is bad and the mix is worse. It is almost totally uninteresting -- until Jim makes his entrance.

Here it's worth remembering that that poster I referred to earlier, the black-and-white one with the shirtless Morrison staring into the camera, arms outstretched, had a caption: "Jim Morrison: An American Poet." At the time I picked up this CD in that store, I was still more or less pro-Doors and pro-Morrison. (I was still a kid.) Holding that disc in the store, I imagined the possibilities of what a Hendrix/Morrison jam might contain. And my imagination ran wild: transcendent improvisations, Morrison howling brilliant Jungian couplets while Hendrix shreds along, breaking down barriers and creating a whole new template for what Rock can mean. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

After taking the stage with a series of confused, obviously drunken shouts and "Oh yeah bay-bah!"-ing into a dead microphone (my guess is the sound guy saw him coming), Hendrix tells Morrison to sing into his live microphone, and the fun begins.

I'd like to keep this blog family-friendly, so I will not fully transcribe Morrison's totally uncreative, nonmusical hollerings. (You can hear the track in question here. Make sure there are no impressionable ears in the room.) Suffice to say -- spoilier alert! -- he implores the listener to "(blank) her in the (blank)!" Over and over. Apart from the stray "Eat her little (blank)!" these are the only words he says. And he shouts them, off-key, over and over.
I hope you're sitting down for the following disclosure: I am no stranger to coarse language of any type. I have no problem at all with profanity or the description of sex acts, be they deviant, unsanitary, or technically imaginary. I do not offend easily. So this is not about that. Here's what it is about: Presented with an opportunity to jam with Jimi Hendrix -- JIMI HENDRIX, who at the time of the recording was the acknowledged master of his instrument and hottest touring act in the world -- the best the so-called "American Poet" can come up with is to shout an obscenity more tasteless than most, over and over and over again. In the same recording, before Morrison appears, Hendrix plays "Tomorrow Never Knows," a well-known Beatles song. When I bought the disc I remember thinking that Morrison singing that song with Hendrix on guitar would be interesting. But, no: Jim just hollered some obscenities and called it a night. I can't imagine a more spectacular musical failure. I really feel that if more people knew about it, like if it was part of one of those "40 Greatest" VH1 shows, or had been a scene in that Oliver Stone movie that was doomed the moment he didn't cast Jason Patric, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters (whoever they are) would repeal those clowns like Prohibition.

How does this guy not get the part?
If forced to, I guess I can concede they have a couple of tunes that aren't that bad. I still kind of like "When The Music's Over." The ones with piano rather than organ are tolerable. But nobody -- least of all the Doors themselves -- ever pretended the Doors were anything without Jim Morrison. That being the case, if the Doors were on trial for artistic lameness, this recording would be the bloody glove in O.J.'s yard. Intro, body, and conclusion. When the music's over, turn out the light.