Tech Trials and Banana Mania

SlurryExcuse me, but as I peck away at these keys I must confess that I do so while suffering the closest thing to a hangover I’ve experienced in several years. Although I still love a good drink, my cocktail shaker languishes in semi-retirement, and my alcohol consumption has plummeted down to near Mormon levels. But last night, Valentines night, a couple of recent developments conspired to knock my wagon off its tracks. Neither of them had anything to do with cupid or a good drink.

Development number one: 4-hour wrangle with technology.

In an effort to master the promise of digital music systems, and to keep up with my pal, Milt, I have recently found myself a reluctant, late-blooming fan of the iPod, iTunes and all things “i”. My efforts are rooted in a foolish lust for an ever-enlarging music collection, a passion that goes damn near back to the wax cylinder era, and has led me of late to patching together chunks of my friends’ mpeg music libraries, digitizing my old vinyl records, downloading store-bought files, and, of course, ripping all my and most of my friends’ CDs into the computer. Not content with a preposterously large music library, I have further embraced a plan to set up the stereo with some kind of device so that I might remotely control the whole shebang using my phone or pad or glasses or sub-cranial implant. Whatever the means, the idea has always been to DJ the entire collection wirelessly while lounging on the sofa with a beer. And to be honest, to impress the crap out of my Luddite friends (there are still a few of them left…you know who you are).

This project might be business as usual, no big deal, for techies and maybe for you, but for me it has been the holy grail – well worth the anticipated acute frustration that I always knew lay ahead if I were ever to move up a notch in my iSkills. Of course, cajoling unyielding electronic gadgets and murky software is a challenge even to tech-savvy persons, but to those of us who labor under an innate aversion to all things tech, such encounters can rile us to road rage levels if not pacified by our spiritual advisor or an urgent visit to the liquor cabinet.

Earlier this week I finally completed the process of whipping my digital music library into shape and getting it onto a server. Yesterday I decided was the day to put the final piece of the puzzle into place: the remote control. That is, as it turns out, an app that resides on one’s phone or pad.  Of course, I was immediately stymied; the OS on my second-hand phone could not support the Remote app. It politely informed me that I would have to upgrade the phone’s OS. Okay, I got right on it, but the cursed phone told me, sorry Charlie, your memory is insufficient. I looked into it and discovered that my phone’s memory was consumed by all my trivial photos, clever videos and narcissistic music clips. So I had to sync, backup and purge all sorts of previously untouchable data from my phone. But another ever-so-earnest voice in my phone alerted me that before I could do that I had to upgrade the ancient iTunes software on my “business” computer where I keep my phone data so the sync would work properly. Okay got that done. The sofa beckoned.

Now I had room in the phone so I could upgrade the OS,  so I could download the app so I could control the software to control the computer which directs the stereo to play the music on the air on the frog on the bump on the log in the hole…. The OS download took about 45 minutes after about two hours of syncing and purging…sounds disgusting. Anyway, got that done.

Progress was gratifying but the new interface of the OS on phone was/is off-putting. I have already butt dialed several friends at socially unacceptable calling times due to my unfamiliarity with the OS’s “chic new look.” What the hell, their inconvenience was a small price to pay for my dream of fully reclined music surfing…but I still had a way to go.

Before proceeding, I tested the ability of the computer to play to the stereo wirelessly and discovered the AirPort Express software in the server computer was out of date and/or needed reconfiguring or re-something since I had recently installed a new router for our home Wi-Fi and in so doing had evidently messed with our electronic Mojo. Jesus! So I had to download new AirPort software, reinstall the damned utility and restart the computer just to be safe. Another twenty minutes. I was good with that.

Ten deep breaths. I ran a little test to see that the audio signal (We’re An American Band, Grand Funk Railroad) from the computer was getting through to the stereo…dead silence, no Mark Farmer to be heard. It took me twenty minutes to figure out that I had set the source selector on the stereo to the wrong input channel for my AirPort. Duh! Okay got that fixed: 5 seconds. “Feeling good, feeling right, it’s Saturday night.”

Now I was in business. Almost.

I fired up the new Remote app on the phone, and attempted to “pair” that device with iTunes using a pin number the Remote app had generated for me. Lo and behold, iTunes didn’t accept the number. Now what. This was out of my hands. The damn folks in Cupertino created Remote, they created the iTunes and they created the lousy phone. And it was their son of a bitching number…what could I do? What I could do was start all over again. Lord (or maybe Steve Jobs) knows why, but the second time was the charm.

I sat back on the couch per my old fantasy. I touched the app, touched “90’s music”, selected “You Bowed Down, Roger McGuinn” and boom, the living room was full of his glorious 12-string. Just like that. I forgot about the daunting technical goose chase I had just endured. Click: Brandenburg Concerto. Click: Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw. Click: Sketches of Spain. Click. Click. Click.

I used to dream about the ability to navigate my records so effortlessly. I always loved to spin platters for my friends, and got pretty good at organizing records, visualizing segues, locating grooves, cueing up and all those archaic skills. I was unbelievably stoked. I deserved a drink, which leads me to.

Development Number Two: banana slurries and Ringomania.

My part-time drinking buddy and full-time music appreciation pal, Milt (who is always about a generation ahead of me in things geek) walked in the door with his wife, Chris, just as I was in the throes of musical/technical Nirvana. As it turned out, I was also about halfway through a massive shot of an experimental banana split cocktail, the recipe for which I have been working on for about two years now. Never have got it right.

Milt is a musician, an amateur  ‘mixologist’, and a damn good sport who has happily attended me through many a misguided cocktail epiphany. With Roger’s Rickenbacker jangling the speakers, he and I got to work on some serious banana cocktail R&D while going nuts with the new sonic capabilities. We ended up with a mason jar of a brilliant approximation of the split’s elusive flavor and textural notes.  Attended by visions of accepting an award from the Willamette Valley Bartenders Association for best ‘new classic’ cocktail, we presented the first prototype cocktails to our wives, Chris and Shara. They clearly dug the music but were unimpressed with the towering, Matterhorn-like creations. Upon tasting the offering they delivered a withering critique and suggested that the creation didn’t resemble a banana split, but were more in the banana slurry vein. Milt and I apparently suffer from some kind of dysfunction of the taste buds or receptors deep in the brain, because we thought the slurry quite acceptable. Oh well, the girls moved to Tension Tamer tea. We tackled the Mason jar.

We song-surfed, slurped, and played coffee table games for several hilarious hours. Before the night was out, we had laid the chemical groundwork for the brain fog I am experiencing now. The girls rejection of Milt’s and my earnest mixological efforts notwithstanding, it was a great Valentines night.

It got better.

In the heights of musical/slurry ‘techstasy’ my phone chimed. It was a call from a friend, Steven, who had just discovered, and somehow impossibly finagled, the promotional codes that allowed him – and us, if we were interested – to purchase prime VIP seats for an upcoming concert by Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band in Bend, Oregon. Ringo! One of the fab four right in our neck of the woods! I had seen the mythical group in the heights of hysteria at the Hollywood Bowl back in August of 1965, and yet all these year later, the opportunity to watch fourth of the incredible quartet perform stirred dormant B-mania despite the dulling effects of half a lifetime, and the ravages of the slurry. In a flurry of musical nostalgia triggered by the magical device in hand, the overdose of banana-based stimulants, and the recent Beatles 50th anniversary hoopla, we fumbled our way on-line and into a website selling tickets to see Mr. Starkey – costly tickets I might add. But at this point in the evening no one seemed to care about the money, or even my nifty new gadget. 

It was February fourteenth and now all we needed was love.

Note in Mixology R&D Log – Feb 14, 2014: Banana cocktail produced no noticeable change in female behavior, but presented a  powerful effect on fiduciary restraint.

Note to Ringo Starr: If you read this post, we will be the group, center section/ fifteenth row, Bend, Oregon. You’ll recognize us: grey hair, Beatle haircuts…never mind. We will be the ones with the banana split cocktails.