Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Rides ... Beneduce Vineyards ... Syria ... STEVIE E!!!!


So there we were, ages 57 and 53, two of the youngest people in the crowd. Aging hipsters surrounded us, a few of them using walkers and canes. Many still wore their hair long hair and their beards thick. Others were dressed in business and retired casual. Up on stage, the opening act, Beth Hart, did her thing with a terrific band backing her. She’s got a great voice and she can move. Her opening blues tune set the theme. She had our attention. Terrific stuff throughout her set, and afterward we all applauded while standing at our seats (which were none too comfortable for fatsos like moi).

The anticipation of The Rides (Stephen Stills, Barry Goldberg and Kenny Wayne Shepherd) was intense, so when the lights finally dimmed, the band was greeted with a standing ovation. They started with the first four tunes on their incredible debut album (CD), all of them fun. When yous look inside the cover, yous’ll notice half the tunes on the album are originals they collaborated on (except for one written by Stephen Stills), the other half are covers.


Ann Marie’s favorite is A Pretty Good Love ... mine was You Don’t Want Lies ... by night’s end, it was Can’t Get Enough of Loving You ... with a Muddy Waters tune, Honey Bee, a close second and an Elmore James tune, Talk To Me Baby, maybe even a closer second/third.

They had played back-to-back nights in New York, so Stephen Stills voice was badly strained through the first half of the concert, especially during You Don’t Want Lies, but he’s Stephen Stills, a legend … you give him a pass … and the truth is, his voice gained strength throughout the night and ultimately led to an incredible ending. There were also surprises for the audience because the ten tunes on their album “isn’t enough for a complete set,” Kenny Wayne Shepherd said. They borrowed from each of their musical catalogues and the result was magical.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd, a Stevie Ray Vaughan devotee, is an incredible guitarist. He’s absolutely electrifying. Barry Goldberg’s solos on the keyboards were amazing as well. Stephen Stills is Stephen Stills … his passion alone drove the concert over the top.

The surprises (no spoilers) had the place jumping ... and when they finished the night with a Neil Young original, “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World” (also on their album), all those aging hipsters and their canes and walkers and long hair and beards rushed the stage and it was one of the most touching scenes we’ve ever witnessed.

I’ve seen Led Zeppelin a couple of times back in the day ... Ten Years After, Sly and the Family Stone, Bruce Springsteen, The Allman Brothers, etc. ... The Rides win the “best ever” concert for this aging dinosaur ... and the Principessa Ann Marie agrees.

Beneduce Vineyards ... looking for a great place to take a date? How about somewhere to take your wife or husband … or maybe have a family get-together … or just a great place to relax? Look no further than Beneduce Vineyards, amici.

It’s an absolutely gorgeous location where you can bring your own food/dinner/snacks, etc. You can purchase a very reasonable wine taste (with cheese and a brief explanation of the wine your tasting), and/or buy a bottle(s) of wine, and go out to the greenhouse to listen to some wonderful music … or you can sit at one of the outdoor tables and eat and drink to your heart’s content.


The cost, yous ask? The cost of a bottle(s) of whichever wine you prefer … that’s it.

I learned about this from a brochure in one of the coffee rooms where I work. A real to life Beneduce himself, Bill, one of the lawyers at the firm where I work, had put up the brochure. I noticed it about a week or two ago. The Principessa Ann Marie and I planned to make a stop at the vineyard during her vacation (which included seeing The Rides in Atlantic City Sunday night) … so we went to the vineyard this past Saturday night and had a great time. Little did we realize they do this every Saturday night … Beneduce Vineyards hosts what they call Group Therapy.


We hope to take one of the vineyard tours down the road, but in the meantime, we’re planning a little get together with some friends and family before the weather cools off. I’m bringing linguini and scungilli (and hot pepper), but I’ll be drinking Beneduce Shotgun Red … we brought home a few bottles of the Shotgun Red and the Riesling … shotgun red for a crime writer is really a no brainer …

Visiting Beneduce Vineyards is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, amici … and Group Therapy a really nice night out.

Beneduce Vineyards
1 Jeremiah Lane
Pittstown, NJ 08867
Phone: (908) 996 – DUCE

To bomb Syria or not to bomb Syria ... I remember being suckered into supporting both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars ... much like my vote for George W. Bush, they were back-to-back mistakes. I remember some of the anti-war sentiment I refused to acknowledge ... “we haven’t learned from Vietnam ... we don’t have enough information ... we can’t police the world ...” and so on.

The anti-war sentiment was right. I was wrong. We as a country were wrong. The same way Iraq didn’t attack America on 9-11, neither did the country of Afghanistan attack America on 9-11. Bombing safe-havens didn’t work when we bombed Cambodian “sanctuaries” during our war of choice with Vietnam. What it did instead was give rise to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge and their cultural revolution (something akin to the Taliban—zealotry). What our bombing of Cambodia did was a lot more damage to Cambodian society than what it was supposed to do—end the North Vietnamese army from using sanctuaries along the border to attack our troops. We created a mess there and have done the very same thing in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the record, we used more bomb tonnage on Cambodia, a neutral country, than we dropped on Japan in all of WWII ... and the result was the Khmer Rouge cultural revolution (i.e., killing fields).

My penance for supporting both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has been to never again even consider voting for either major party. I had been a loyal democrat throughout my voting life. I was a union window cleaner and I believed the Democratic party was there for the little guy, that it protected workers. Obviously, I was wrong about that, too. By the time President Clinton came along, I was no longer willing to accept Democrats acting like Republicans, and his wasting so much time and energy denying his relationship with an intern ended my ability to vote Democrat post-Clinton. Yes, Kenneth Starr was a dick and his persecution over a blow job was absurd ... but so was the leader of the free world having to spend all his energy lying to his wife and the country rather than doing his fucking job.

My bad, voting Republican in 2000 and again in 2004, except my mistake wasn’t voting for a Republican instead of a Democrat, it was voting for either party.

That will never happen again. Ever.

War profiteers from our engagements with Iraq and Afghanistan had their way. They were the usual suspects. Halliburton comes to mind, but there were many more corporations and their investors who reaped the financial rewards of both wars: United Technologies, L-3 Communications, Finmeccanica, EADS, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics, BAE Systems, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.

The average American, especially those actually fighting the wars, gained nothing from our wars of choice. Nor did the citizens of whatever country we were supposedly liberating.

We’ve made a mess of pretty much everything we’ve stuck our noses into over the past 50+ years ... and now we use Drone strikes to create new casualties of war/collateral damage, not to mention yet another generation of foreigners with a very good reason to want to do us harm.

Do we really need to go into Syria? What about Darfur, the Congo, Rwanda, etc.? Why Syria? Is it really because they used chemical weapons? Do none of us remember the last intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction/chemical weapons?

Suddenly Democrats and Republicans are finding enough in common to engage in unilateral wars that profit some at the expense of others. Imagine that? [sarcasm intended]

If for no other reason than the fact those voting for war have to convince us, no matter how they define the unilateral engagement that permits us to fire missiles into another sovereign country, the answer is obvious—no, we shouldn’t start (and it would be us starting it) yet another war.

I can’t help but remember how fast the Noble Prize committee welcomed our first mixed-race president by honoring him with a Nobel Peace Prize nomination 12 days into his presidency. I remember thinking: “The Noble Peace Prize while we were engaged in two wars and maintaining the Guantánamo Bay detention camp.”

And then he won it, the Nobel Peace Prize.

And now we’re looking to bomb Syria … we really have become a joke.

Stevie E! … Way back in the day, although he can’t remember this, Steve Edleblum and I played alongside each other on the offensive line. We were famous for “look out” blocks (i.e., we’d yell to whomever was quarterbacking, “Look out!” on most pass plays). Hey, it was good for the QB’s to grow some thick skin.

Last weekend in Atlantic City, Steve (who is a terrific writer and tells some very humorous stories on his blog, More Glib Than Profound) and I hooked up for one of our walka-talkathons … of course we forgot to take a picture (he was wearing a Moonachie Green Team shirt vs. one of my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills tents) … but we got to chat and yap and eat some Mexican food. Check out his blog because Steve has been a casino dealer (craps, roulette, Pai Gao Poker, Let It Ride, you name it, he’s dealt it) for 30+ years, first in Las Vegas and later in Atlantic City … his stories about the business and the characters that inhabit it is a memoir waiting to be written. You can catch glimpses of it on his blog in the meantime.


Speaking of Kenny Wayne Shepherd …

Stephen Stills …

And Barry Goldberg …