Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Here, There & Everywhere Tour: Abbey Road


Something about that band moves me
by rick olivares

There was a time when I stayed a few blocks away from the John Lennon Memorial in Central Park, Strawberry Fields. I even lit a candle in the nearby driveway of the Dakota where he was shot and killed.

The Beatles were always a favorite of mine. I had all their vinyl albums, saw their films, and I even wore a mop top during my grade school years as a tribute to the Fab Four. The Beatles Jingle Songbook was where I first learned to play the guitar. The Beatles Anthology, both the massive tome and the CD set, remains a favorite and is prominently displayed in my collection.

Going to Liverpool and taking the Beatles Taxi Tour was communing with my first ever favorite band. I came away emotional and like I have been handed old photo albums that contained secrets and anecdotes of people who I only knew from across the miles. It was if I was not meant to see them until such time. You know… like an inheritance.  

I went down Matthew Street not once, not twice but thrice. One for the three full days I was in Liverpool. I would stand in one corner and soak in everything. I’d watch some bands and street performers. This was rock ‘n’ roll nirvana.

Moving over to London, if there was one place I had to go it was Abbey Road. To complete the pilgrimage and cross that pedestrian lane just as the Fab Four did all those years ago. That I did this with one of my best friends in Craig Burrows made it even more special.

I have had all these bands and recording artists I would call favorites through the years and up to today. There are some who I watched not only in the United States but also in the Philippines. One indie outfit that I absolutely love, I even befriended. But at the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I only undertook one pilgrimage and it’s for the Beatles.

And I am a happy happy man. Yeah yeah yeah!


Leaving my mark on that famous Abbey Road Studios wall.


From 12 years ago -- Strawberry Fields at Central Park and below, outside the Dakota where John Lennon was murdered.


Monday, September 29, 2014

The original plan was to watch the Liverpool-Aston Villa match then fly to NYC to watch the Yankees

photo by Elsa/Getty Images

I had a choice this year – either watch Liverpool or the New York Yankees. If you know me well, then you’d know that the Yankees are the first sports team I followed (contrary to popular belief it is not the basketball team of my alma mater simply because as a kid I was weaned on other things). Liverpool is the second but that doesn’t make them an less a favorite for me.

I have seen the Yankees play live for about 100 times with all save one at Yankee Stadium (the other was in Baltimore’s Camden Yards). However, this was Yankees’ captain Derek Jeter’s last season. He is one of my two favorite Yankees with the other being Paul O’Neill.

Liverpool I have seen in the United States, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand but all were exhibition matches. After the past World Cup where England did not go past the group stage, I thought that the Three Lions’ and Liverpool’s own captain, Steven Gerrard, didn’t have a lot of years left. Who knows it this season is his last?

So I kept my options open on where to go – to the United States or England.

I even came up with an audacious plan to catch the Aston Villa match at Anfield on September 13, spend a few days in London then fly off to New York City and catch the Yankees host the Baltimore Orioles.

It came down to where I could get a match ticket for the final home stand against the Baltimore Orioles. It didn’t happen as the prices even on the black market were insane. Furthermore, Liverpool lost to Villa.

So things as always work out in their own time.

Watching this season for the Yankees has been difficult. They started out well but when injuries hit them that was it for them. They have missed the playoffs in back-to-back years. So I keenly followed them day after day and especially how Derek Jeter fared.

My grandfather was the man who turned me into a Yankee fan. He hero was Mickey Mantle and for years I had that spread from an old Life magazine that I inherited from him taped onto the wall of my room. Going to Yankees games was even more special as I always thought about my late grandfather who I dearly loved. “I’m doing this, Lolo,” I always thought to myself.

So from faraway England, I watched as Derek Jeter played his last few games in pinstripes. I know it’s time to go but that doesn’t make it any easier.  The era of the Core Four is over. There are a few links left to the title year of 2009 – Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira, David Robertson, CC Sabathia, and manager Joe Girardi. But as always my support for the New York Yankees will never wane.

Sitting in the living room of a friend’s house as I write this (10:03am Monday September 29), I’m thinking, “At least I got to see two respected captains of their club play – Jeter and Gerrard.”


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Anfield of Dreams: Match Day (Liverpool vs Everton)




My Anfield of Dreams: Match Day
by rick olivares

It was almost perfect.

Steven Gerrard scored off a set piece in the 65th minute. Liverpool were clearly the superior side. Anfield was rocking; ready to celebrate its first win after absorbing two consecutive losses.

However, with a few minutes left in the match, the Reds mysteriously played a holding pattern; merely defending without pressuring desperate Everton. Adam Lallana was the lone figure in red harassing their blue-shirted cross-street rivals into sending the ball back to goalkeeper Tim Howard for a reset, delaying any last minute thrust.

Then Everton forward Romelu Lukaku was able to push deep into the right side. For the most part of the match, Liverpool’s left back, Alberto Moreno, along with centreback Dejan Lovren, had been able to stymie the Belgian forward but a missed tackle allowed Everton one last dangerous set piece. The cross into the box was long but Everton’s Aiden McGeady was able to track it down and keep the ball alive.

In the past few minutes, Liverpool looked vulnerable on defense as they gave Everton space to fire at goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. The ball found its way to Blues defender and captain Phil Jagielka whose thunderbolt from outside the box punched the back of the net.

Everton’s Steven Naismith ran close to the Kop and punched his fist in the air; a sign of defiance towards Anfield’s most rabid supporters.

One-one.

Several Reds crumpled to the pitch in anguish. Moments later, referee Martin Atkinson blew his whistle to end the first Merseyside Derby and left Liverpool still in search of its third win of the new league season. Liverpool’s last win at home was the season opener to Southampton. Their last win in the league was an away match last August 31 at Tottenham. In six matches, they only accrued seven points.

“Good game; bad result,” pronounced the man who sat behind me. “I hope it didn’t spoil your Anfield experience?”

Honestly?



It put a slight damper on my feelings, but no; it didn’t spoil my experience.

In Liverpool for the first time in my life, the past four days have been nothing short of magical. I have to constantly pinch myself and wonder if it’s a dream. The city that I learned so much about through songs of the Beatles and later on through its football team… well, I was now walking it streets and to borrow the words from the Fab Four’s “Penny Lane,” everything “is in my ears and in my eyes.”

I was staying at the Britannia Adelphi Hotel that is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The hotel is famous for hosting the passengers of the ill-fated Titanic right before it set sail from Liverpool to New York City. The venue is also the site of the annual Beatles convention. And another footnote to the hotel’s history, the late John Lennon’s parents, Alf and Julia met on its steps before walking up to Mount Pleasant to get married on the 3rd of December in 1938.

The Beatles Taxi Tour I took was worth every penny. The Beatles were my first musical heroes and this reconnected me to them. The songs took greater meaning as I saw their childhood homes and the clubs where they first performed either as the Quarrymen or the Beatles.

The Anfield Stadium Tour brought me to every part of the world famous football field that had seen so many historic matches and championships. To sit on the bench inside their dressing room where all its players listened to their managers and laced up their boots for matches, I tried to recreate with my mind’s eye everything I could possibly imagine.

When we hit the pitch, I was overcome with a wave of emotions. “I’m here,” I said aloud.

“Aye,” said Ian our tour guide. He put a hand on my shoulder and said nothing more. Words weren’t enough to describe my feelings. And I am a writer. But he knew what I was feeling.

But that hardly prepared me for Match Day at Anfield. Saturday was the official 223rd fixture between the two teams (the tenants have won 88, the visitors with 66 while 68 of them have ended in a draw). I hardly slept a wink and arrived a good four hours before kick-off. I wanted to soak up the match day atmosphere with the impromptu booths set outside selling a variety of unofficial club merchandise, the fans gathering outside for pictures, for a smoke, for a song, and for camaraderie.

There were many first timers – a group from Denmark, a father and his daughter from South Africa, as well as fans from South Korea and India to name a few.

And me, of course. I held up a sign, “Came from Manila to watch the Cap’n & the Reds play. To see a Balotelli goal, 3 pts. and good memories going away. YNWA!”

One man went up to me to shake my hand.

Later on when I went to Lounge 7 (I was in Anfield on a hospitality package), that same man entered and shook some more people’s hands. I then found out that he was David Johnson who grew up a Liverpool fan, played for Everton and then eventually with the Reds. He is the only man in the history of the two clubs to score against either team.

Experiencing Lounge 7 with its five-course buffet was like fattening me up for the experience. When I finally took my seat (Lower Centenary Stand, Row #4 and seat #0233), I thought I had died and gone to football heaven. I was close to the Kop and a stone’s throw away from the left corner. This is where the team did their warm-ups. And Anfield it seemed was like one big pub with everyone your mate and launching into song after fight song.

This was the sixth time I was watching them team live (all exhibition matches on) and so far, I am 6-0. A few months ago, I saw Steven Gerrard, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Mario Balotelli, Dejan Lovren, Phil Jagielka, Romelu Lukaku, and Tim Howard on television for the World Cup. Now they were playing right in front of me.

I teared up when the 45,000 (save for the section reserved for Everton fans) rose and sang the club’s anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” There is greater meaning over here.

I sang along with the crowd, “Ste Gerrard Gerrard. He’ll bust ‘em from 40 yards. He’s Scouse and he’s f***ing hard. Ste Gerrard Gerrard.” And scant minutes later, the Captain scored from a set piece and it seemed that a win would crown my Liverpool/Anfield experience memorable (and I can now say that I have seen the club on three continents, North America, Asia, and now, Europe).

Jagielka was determined to be the party pooper. Two days earlier, Everton’s captain lamented, “I’ve been desperate to win every time we’ve been to Anfield, we all have been. As far as memories go, I haven’t had the best ones but I want to create some positive ones now.”

And he turned out to be Nostradamus.

Technically, it wasn’t a win for them. But as the fan said, “good game; bad result.” Football, especially a derby, are very unpredictable. And cruel too.

We shook hands and I broadly smiled. He knew how I felt.

All throughout my stay, the people of the city have been very gracious, polite, helpful, and downright hospitable. They are traits Liverpudians are proud of and I have only good words for them and the place. I have no idea if I will be able to return. It sure cost a lot of money to put this together; one I had thought about and planned seemingly forever.

It took a confluence of events and movements for the stars to align – a ticket to a “Class A match,” some money to spend, a break from work, and good sunny weather during a time of the year that is normally cold and sees a lot of rain. Draw or not, these days are some of the best of my life and will be happy thoughts I can return to time and again.

In my Anfield of dreams.





THANK YOU TO BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE PHILIPPINES ASIF AHMAD, MS. NIMII AND ANNE OF STANDARD CHARTERED, AND LIVERPOOL FOOTBALL CLUB. THANK YOU FOR AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Let me take you down: Taking a Beatles Taxi Tour of Liverpool



Let me take you down: Taking a Beatles Taxi Tour of Liverpool
by rick olivares

“Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes…”

Taking the two-hour and a half Daytrippers Beatles Taxi Tour of Liverpool was a treat for the heart, rubber soul, and the senses. When you travel around the streets of Liverpool while Beatles songs are playing, the songs literally come to life. The words take on new meaning as you see the very things that John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote about in their songs.

Their songs, especially the early ones, were their life stories.

I checked out the Beatles Tours of Liverpool and there were several. I was looking at this one tour when the concierge at the Britannia Adelphi Hotel pulled out another flyer and gave a person a call. It was the Daytrippers Beatles Taxi Tour.

I set it for 12:30noon so I had ample time to explore Anfield, my first tour of the day. I was taking the Silver Tour that cost £65 and two and a half hours of tours all over the city. The flyer had a sign that said that if there were five of us, each would end up paying only £9! I prayed I wouldn’t be the only one taking the tour as I could sure save some pounds sterling.

And on time, Dave, my guide arrived at the hotel where I was the only one. The £65 better be worth it, I thought to myself because there were others that were cheaper (because they were in larger groups).

I saw his taxi with caricatures of the Beatles outside. “This is real nice, Dave. Do you mind taking my picture next to your cab?”

He obliged and that was my first picture of the tour.

Dave, a local lad, has been doing these tours for the past seven years of his life. He was a Beatles fan but not the dyed-in-the-wool type as his knowledge was passing. But when he got into this tour business, he really had to brush up on his knowledge about the Fab Four and his hometown.

The first stop was at the University of Liverpool. We parked outside the school and walked in. Next to the University is a building that is now closed down.

Dave pointed to a sign on the wall of one building that had an image of John Lennon. “This is the former Liverpool Maternity Hospital where two of the city’s most famous people were born,” said Dave. “As you can see, John Lennon is obviously one of them.”

Dave went on to talk about John’s birth by his mother Julia and their troubled family. After a few minutes, we started to walk away. Then I stopped in my tracks. “Dave, you said there are two famous Liverpudians born here. Who was the other?”

“Me,” he deadpanned. I had a laugh and took a selfie. Famous people alert!

I knew then it was going to be a great tour.

And it was as he took me to the various homes of the Beatles complete with their back story; the Liverpool Art Institute where Paul McCartney went to school, Penny Lane and breaking it down to the “blue suburban skies” to the corner where the banker parked his motorcar, and the barber shop where the barber showed photographs of “every head he’s had the pleasure to know;” Strawberry Field Orphanage, the site where the Quarrymen played with Paul McCartney trying to upstage John, Eleanor Rigby’s final resting place, and lastly, Matthews Street where the world famous Cavern Club, where the Beatles performed, is located.

Of all the places that we saw today, the one that resonated well with me was the home where John Lennon grew up with his Aunt Mimi. My favorite Beatle is and will always be Paul McCartney but John has a special place in my heart as a music fan. Maybe because he had a more difficult childhood where he learned about tragedy at a very young age. Maybe it was because he wrote from the heart about the things he held dear and near. I knew more about his hardship growing up and the situation he was in. His tragic death all the more made seeing his childhood home and his room from the outside all the more poignant. I said a prayer and offered it to the Man Above for him (the tour was more interesting for me as Dave was hardcore Catholic just like me).

Dave was wonderful as there was really a personal touch to the tour. God knows how many times he has delivered his spiels and anecdotes but he was never bored and was very enthusiastic and passionate. He was not only polite but also very accommodating. He showed me around as one would do a friend.

Closing out the tour, we exchanged low fives.

During our tour, we came across several other tours by his competition. Save for the one tour that is supposed to have received the official blessing out the tourism English Tourism Council, all the other guides were polite. I quickly picked up that the official tour people weren’t too keen on the competition.

And overall, the Daytrippers Beatles Taxi Tour wasn’t simply a tour into the history of the Fab Four’s humble beginnings but also part of the history of Liverpool. And Dave readily shared his knowledge about the city and its people. It might have been pricey but in the end it was worth every penny. To top it all off, Dave dropped me off at Matthew Street where the Cavern Club is located but gave me clear directions on where to go and what to see in the City Square.

I paid the man, shook hands and gave him a manly hug. It seemed the right thing to do. And best of all, we were both smiling.

My introduction to music was the Beatles. I was born at the height of their fame and memorized the lyrics to their songs more easily than I did my school lessons. My love for the band also introduced me to their hometown of Liverpool and I soon became a fan of the team (although it is strange that none of the Fab Four rooted for LFC as Paul was an Evertonian, Ringo an Arsenal fan because of his father while John and George had no time for the game).

I still have all their albums and remain a fan. The Beatles Anthology remains one of my favorite books ever. This tour was something a long time coming.

My first real day in England (I arrived in the evening the day before and only went out for food and stayed inside the hotel) was one of the best of my life. I am not only staying in the hotel that once housed the passengers of the ill-fated cruise of the Titanic but also went on a tour of LFC’s home field, Anfield and the Beatles Taxi Tour.

This was life, sports, and music history right here.

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For more infor on Daytrippers Beatles Taxi Tour, check out their website daytrippertaxitour.com or go to their Facebook Page or call Dave (07711 642 425) or Ricky (07856 318 995)



With Dave, my tour guide.