Vegas matchbooks, part 1

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Over the weekend, I acquired a large bag of matchbooks from casinos and other places in Las Vegas. They’ll be given to my cigar-smoking father-in-law as a holiday gift, but before that happens I’m going to pull a few out and display them in this space. Consider this the Vegas Matchbooks project.

Debbie and Alan, whoever they are, led things off a couple of days ago. But nothing about their wedding favor was connected to Vegas in any way.  Maybe they got married in Vegas, and maybe they didn’t. But the Orleans–as pictured above–is definitely in Vegas, so this will be Part 1 of my project.

I googled The Orleans and was surprised to learn they’re still around. Many of the places represented in the matchbook bag are undoubtedly closed, because Vegas seems to rebuild itself on a regular basis. The Orleans opened in 1996, and because it’s located off the Strip, I’ve never been inside of it. I haven’t been to Vegas in over ten years, but The Orleans would have been there when I last visited. But there’s so much going on along the Strip that I wasn’t inclined to venture off of it.

The most interesting thing I learned about The Orleans is that George Carlin played his last show there, a few days before he died in 2008. I love George Carlin, and wish I could have seen him perform live. He did so many things, from movies to hosting the first episode of Saturday Night Live back in 1975 to giving us the seven words you can’t say on television. The first line of that routine is simply “I love words,” and I agree with him.

The underlying theme of that routine is that the words you can’t say are just words, like any others. But those words went all the way up to the Supreme Court, who determined that the federal government, through the FCC, can censor words when children are likely to be in the audience. I shudder to think what my children would be hearing on the radio nowadays without that ruling. I’m all for liberty, but I also have two kids to raise.

It’s worth noting that Carlin’s last show at The Orleans in 2008 wasn’t billed that way. He was a 71 year-old guy with a history of heart problems, so he wouldn’t be doing comedy forever. But he was going to keep on doing it for as long as he could. That’s how life is. You enjoy it while you can, because nobody really knows when their ride is going to come to an end.

More matchbooks will follow over the coming few days, before I give these things away. I’m trying to show how inspiration comes in a lot of different forms, even if it’s something as mundane as a matchbook.

Don’t carry me too far away

There’s so many things about the world my children are growing up in that are different from the one I grew up in. The internet, cellphones, personal computers, HD television, DVRs, and lots more. But I’m going to focus this on one of the more obscure ones, instead.

What brought this up was the Steve Miller Band’s song “Jet Airliner.” A staple from the 1970s, but one that isn’t relegated to the “oldies” format on the radio, either. One that you can tell the guitar riff as soon as it comes on, and will get drawn in to listen to the whole song, without trying to change to another station, instead. That’s usually how it works for me, anyway.

The final verse of the song, after the solo, states that the singer doesn’t want to get caught up in the “funky shit goin’ down in the city.” Obscenity standards being what they are, radio stations that play this song–then and now–have a decision to make: either play the original and let the shit fall where it may (i.e. pay a fine to the FCC) or play the “radio” version with “funky kicks goin’ down in the city” instead. I sometimes listen to that point (which means listening to the whole song, just about) just to hear what the station decides to do with it. And I’m either impressed when they play the original, or disappointed when they play the sanitized version. It’s just one little word, right? What harm can it do?

Flash forward to 2011. Love the Way You Lie, the recent song that Eminem and Rhianna did together is the first song I can think of. Eminem’s raps have a number of uses of the “f word” and they are not replaced with anything else to make them playable on the radio. Instead, somebody presses the record button over the word, creating a tiny gap where the vocal once was. A rapgap, if you will (and thanks to UrbanDictionary for allowing me to define this word). If you want to hear the original version of the song, obscenity and all, you can download it on iTunes. But no radio station will play the original version on their airwaves because of the hefty fines that would result.

I’m so grateful, with two young daughters who love the hit music on the airwaves, for the FCC and their obscenity fines. So much material still gets through anyway (there are lots of examples but I won’t point any of them out here), but we’re a long way removed from Steve Miller’s isolated funkiness from back in the 1970s. And yes, I realize that the part of me that wants to hear the original version of “Jet Airliner” on the radio and the guy who’s writing this post are completely at odds with each other. Inconsistencies are the stuff of life, sometimes.