Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crazy Train

"Bum bump. Bum bump, bum bump, bum bump - eye eye eye...."

Sporting event commercials. A family in an SUV mimics a song as they drive down the highway. Suddenly, the whole group is channeling - air guitars, rhythmic head nodding - who? I've heard the song a thousand times, and never knew where it came from. I text my daughter Katy, who lives with her husband and son in Michigan - what song is that? Crazy Train, she replies. Ozzy Osborne. Oh, that weird guy from the reality show? Yes, Dad.

Downstairs last night, watching Game Seven of the World Series "with" Katy. The game didn't go our way (not much of a Cards fan, even if they are National League like my Rockies) but that didn't keep me from hanging in to the bitter end. I say bitter, but who doesn't enjoy the first frantic minutes of celebration when an especially improbable victory first sinks in. The final out finally made - there is no clock to extinguish in baseball - and the players turn into little kids. Millionaire men hug each other like veterans of a protracted firefight, the obligatory bowling over of the pitcher by the catcher.... Even though I was rooting for Texas, the scene was moving. We text each other about the great baseball, thanks for sharing the evening and...a little over three months from now - Spring Training begins! I wish her a good night, tell her I love her, and begin the nighttime slumber ritual.

I love the twenty-first century. We can become tied together through common experiences we really don't have. Katy's big screen TV is a thousand miles away, yet we are sharing thoughts on a commercial as it's being broadcast. Amazing.

Come on. Really, isn't it? My first encounter with little gadgets was a transistor radio that only got AM. Maybe Red Rubber Ball sounded tinny, but it was portable. A pocket calculator seemed space aged because it could add, subtract, multiply and divide.

I bought a new smartphone yesterday and "endured" all of the hardship of upgraded technology. I plugged it into my computer, downloaded all of the stuff from my last smartphone and never missed a beat. Among the things I downloaded were 878 songs - two versions of Red Rubber Ball - contacts, preferences and all of my apps.

Goofy? Several months ago at work, I called out at a Shell gas station, looking for a suspicious person. Nothing special, just some guy hanging around. My cell phone rang - daughter Beth. Could I pick her up some Gatorade while I was at Shell?

She was calling from her home in Maine, listening to my radio traffic through an iPhone app called "5-0 Radio." We chatted about her law school classes, her husband's job and how pretty Portland is. I promised to visit soon - a plane ride I will earn with half a day's work - and told her I loved her.

Who wouldn't think this stuff is awesome? Last weekend, my in town grandson Cole (son Matt's oldest) sat on my lap at breakfast and played Angry Birds on my phone until it ran out of gas. We compared and contrasted technique (don't let the boomerang bird get too high), offered suggestions.... Had a grandpa/grandson moment. Staring at a telephone.

Almost every day Katy sends me a photo of grandson Graham. "Bing!" and I get good morning greetings. Yesterday, he was sitting in a box. A few weeks ago, it was a short video of him yacking away in his crib. "BabababaBA!" Not days or weeks later, sent in an envelope. Seconds later.

Unless we Skype. Then it's live.

Writing this morning, I booted up Rhapsody music service (ten whole bucks a month) and played "Crazy Train" until I had it down. If I want to buy the clip - $1.29, I can make copies for my car CD player - unless I drive the truck. then I just plug my iPhone into the music deck and stream it down on the 3G network.

Gadgets for gadget's sake? Maybe. Simple-headed gherkin? Probably. But a gherkin is a pickle, and the expression comes from the movie The Great Race. I googled it, to make sure I had the right spelling and the right movie line. I found numerous references, and controversy. Is it simple-headed, or thimble-headed? Crazy stuff, huh?

All aboard the Crazy Train.


  1. Very cool post, Jim. I loved it. I never thought I'd have an iPhone but now that I do, I have to (twist my arm) admit that I love it. And, you know what? I'm ticked off that I didn't know about the newest version that my son was able to purchase because mine doesn't have voice recognition which I think is SO fun. Your grandson would love it! We actually said some not-so-nice words to her voice and she answered, "There's no need to use profanity". We laughed so hard. Sorry, I must sound juvenile, but at my age (born in 1952) I still find this techno stuff unbelievable. Kind of like Star Trek!

  2. You know, we complain about how technology is making us lazy and unsocial, but there are a lot of benefits to the progress we have made. I, too, have texted during football games and reconnected through Facebook (on my phone) and instantly sent pictures to people I love. But really, Jim...You didn't know Ozzy?

  3. It does make it a whole lot easier to be away from you when I can still be "with" you watching games, playing with Graham, needing advice. In the middle of the grocery store, need to vent, call Dad while I peruse the frozen cocktails. I'll never forget to first time I came back to Colorado to visit after we'd moved to Michigan and when I saw you it was just a quick hug, a "how was work, Dad" and that was it. Then it struck us both that it had been two months since we'd seen each other and we had the "oh yeah! hi! *big hug*" moment. Through Skype it felt like it hadn't been that long. It'll never be as good as it was when we lived closer but it's a damn good substitute.

  4. Patti - yeah, I was thinking the same thing (birth class of 1954). All of the Trekkie gadgets are becoming reality. Every update is a learning experience!

    Lisa - I'm always amazed at how much communication all of this technology has engendered. I reconnected with several friends from HS, and two cousins I hadn't seen in 20+ years.

    Katy - Not a perfect substitute, but it is a working solution! I've been amazed at how well these networks can keep us in touch.

    Thanks everyone for reading and commenting!