*stream of consciousness … 15 minutes.  Will do better next attempt

We stopped at a restaurant called ‘The Zephyr’ to escape the storm.  Some of the yokels who frequent the place were none too pleased at our arrival.  Maybe living this far removed from the city tends to make a person a xenophobe.  I don’t know.  Like the wonk at the university library, we were the only subject they wanted to study that night.  I gave Bill the V sign, a signal that we need to vamoose, and in a hurry.  We have used that umpteen times and it never failed to save our asses.
We made our way through the waiting area, shelves filled with local tchotchkes.  An old fashioned squeeze-type coin purse painted to look like a sphincter with the inscription ‘I got money coming outta my ass!’.

A voice came from the shadow to the right. “This looks like the scalawag who sold me that damn plow in 89”.

“I always preferred rapscallion, if you don’t mind.”

“Damn thing sat out in that quagmire behind the barn until it rusted into nothing.”  As he spoke, the phlegm rattled in his lungs.  He coughed with a heavy rasp.  Rasp.  A good description.  Almost onomatopoeia.

As he stepped from the shadows, i felt the nincompoop.

“Thought you’d blow in off the street and mooch a meal while the storm passed?  If you lollygag long enough, people might buy you dessert, too.”

I had the sudden urge to kowtow to the large man emerging from the shadows.  A juggernaut with a square head navigating the isthmus of a walkway between tables.

“Come into town to hornswoggle more of the locals?”, poking a gherkin of a finger in my face.

Fuck.  We were screwed.  Even if we could eke our way past the walking building in front of us, there was the crowd gathered behind him.  I could hear them talking over the pulse in my ears.  ‘Boy’ had a diphthong I had never heard before.  Primitive … lustful.  They were becoming so excited at what they anticipated that a couple seated in a booth started to canoodle all while keeping a careful watch on the two of us.  Betwixt us and the door was our only hope of salvation.  Roland stood with his arms akimbo waiting for what came next.  What always came next.




Published in: on August 25, 2012 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Music Challenge

You know, I’ve been seeing this a lot, lately.  So i am going to write my own.  I refuse to be constricted to the one per day and probably, knowing me, I will do a few days in one post and never return to finish it.  But here goes.

1: Favorite song.  I know, tough one as everyone says.  It’s a close battle for me.  Through the years that #1 slot changes.  But if i made a top five throughout my life, these two would consistently if not invariably exist on that list.

In the red corner, Alison – Elvis Costello.  This album changed the way i thought about music.  I was in high school listening to pop and top 40 mostly.  This album was my first punk artist.  Someone who wrote angry songs, made social commentary and generally told stories.  And among all these short, fast little angry songs was this beautiful song about a girl Elvis knew at the grocery store.  The album was such an impact on me that I named my first daughter Alison.

In the black and blue corner, Unsatisfied – The Replacements.  The Mats could write any style (and they did) and Westerberg could lay out all of his emotions and it always seemed like we were living parallel lives, thousands of miles away.  His songs were his way of dropping me a letter and letting me know his life was exactly like mine.  “Look me in the eye and tell me, you’re satisfied”.

And the favorite song falls to Elvis and Alison.

2: Least Favorite Song.  Easy.  I hate this song so much I won’t let myself remember the title or the artist.  I can only remember the chorus.  “My name is Michael, I got a nickel, I got a nickel, shiny and new.”  I found that there were lots of songs i never liked but as it turns out it may have been the artist who recorded it.  I never liked Big Yellow Taxi or Friend of the Devil until i heard Counting Crows cover them.  So i try to separate band from song.  (also love John Wesley Harding’s cover of Like a Prayer but tell anyone and I will hunt you).  *last-minute entry in this category.  The Chicken Dance.

3: Song that makes you happy.  Wonderful World – Sam Cooke.  Just a plain classic love song.  Love it.

4: Song that makes you sad.  Ave Maria.  My Aunt Sandy had a wonderful voice.  Powerful.  Beautiful.  We were very fortunate to have her sing at our wedding.  I remember sitting behind the altar listening to her.  The priest kept peering out around a corner to get a look at who was singing.  He was moved by the sounds in his church.  A voice like he had never heard.  I remember him commenting that you can tell she doesn’t smoke.  He was dumbfounded when i told him she smoked two packs a day.  Sadly Sandy died from brain cancer in her 40s.  Whenever I hear Ave Maria, I think of her and i am sad to know I will never hear her sing again.

5: Song that reminds you of someone.  This could take a while.  I always associate songs with people and vice versa.  Maria – Downtown.  Connie – Tainted Love. Randy – Logical Song.  Denver – Carry On my Wayward Son.  Funny thing is I don’t have a song that reminds me of my wife.  But I will have to say that the preceding story will take precedent and cover #4 and #5.

6: Song that reminds you of somewhere.  Lady in Red – Chris DeBurgh.  I went to the Greek isles on my honeymoon.  When we stayed on Santorini we stayed in a villa called Altana.  The owner’s names was Kostas and he had a student named Jacques that worked for him.  His man Friday.  Jacques was French and working there for the summer.  I don’t know if that’s when this song came out but he loved it and played it all of the time.  It would be on when we stopped in for breakfast, when we got in in the afternoon and when we were hanging out in the evening.  Never liked the song but can’t hate it because it reminds us of Jacques, Kostas, Santorini, and Coke and Pepsi.  (Another story … ask me sometime)

7: Song that reminds you of a certain even.  Rock Lobster – The B52s.  What event is that?  Play practice.  If you don’t know, you missed out and I ain’t telling you.

8: Song that you know all the words to.  Can’t answer, i know all the words to many songs.  My wife thinks she knows the words to a lot of songs too but unfortunately, they aren’t always correct.

9: Song that you can dance to. Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers.  Makes me think of my Aunt Sandy and Uncle Donnie playing in the clubs.

10: Song that makes you fall asleep.  Sleepytown – Milkshake.  Never worked on the kids, put me out every time.

11: Song from your favorite band. Unsatisfied – The Replacements.  Since they got screwed in the first category, they get #11.

12: Song from a band you hate.  Anything from Heart.  Never liked them, never liked any song they ever did.  Hope to never have to mention them again.

13: Song that is a guilty pleasure.  Most Adam and the Ants.  Stand and Deliver comes to mind.

14: Song that no one would expect you to love.  That’s How You Know – Amy Adams from Enchanted.  One of my favorite movie scenes when they erupt into song in Central Park like so many musicals.  I was laughing out loud (yes I can still type those three words out longhand, er, long-type?) in the movie theater.

15: Song that describes you. Lonesome Road – James Taylor

“If I had stopped to listen once or twice
If I had closed my mouth and opened my eyes
If I had cooled my head and warmed my heart
I’d not be on this road tonight.”

16: Song that you used to love but now hate. Antmusic – Adam and the Ants

17: Song that you hear often on the radio. Laredo – Band of Horses.

18: Song that you wish you heard on the radio. Anything by Dan Kibler.

19: Song from your favorite album.  So. Central Rain – R.E.M. Another album that changed my world of music.  A little after Elvis in 1979 but no less of an impact.

20: Song that you listen to when you’re angry.  Moving Trucks – Bob Mould.  Usually I play it and that helps with the anger management.

21: Song that you listen to when you’re happy.  Good Company – Queen.  Silly little tune with phenomenal production and performances.  Little known but amazing.

22: Song that you listen to when you’re sad.  Nighttime – Big Star.  Now that Alex is dead, makes me even more sad when I listen to it.  It’s a vicious circle.

23: Song that you want to play at your wedding.  Well funny story is I WANTED Maybe, I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney played at my wedding but the DJs forgot to get their albums out of their buddy’s garage the night before so we had to settle for Love Song – Elton John.  Ask my wife what song we danced to, she won’t remember.

24: Song that you want to play at your funeral.  Adagio for Strings – Samuel Barber

25: Song that makes you laugh – Hello Walls – Faron Young.  One of the 45s from my parents’ collection that my sister and I listened to over and over.  When he sang “Hello, ceiling”, we would be doubled over in laughter.

26: Song that you can play on an instrument.  One that I play very often, a reworked acoustic version of Dreaming – Blondie

27: Song that you wish you could play.  All Chopin preludes.

28: Song that makes you feel guilty.  Be My Downfall – Del Amitri.  There’s a story that I will probably never tell.

29: Song from your childhood.  Two songs from the backseat of my parents car.  It has to be a tie.  Dance to the Music – Sly and the Family Stone and American Pie – Don McLean.  My sister and i knew all of the words and we sang as loud as we could.

30: Your favorite song at this time last year: Alison – Elvis C.

Published in: on May 22, 2011 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Music part 2

I pick up my guitar and play

Just like yesterday

Then I get on my knees and I pray

-Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who

My grandmother kept a drawer of toys and things for us to play with in her house.  One day I discovered an old Hohner harmonica.  I asked her who it belonged to.  She took it from my hand and started playing … and playing … and dancing.  I have no idea what song it was.  I could have been the Star Spangled Banner and I wouldn’t have known, the site of my 70-plus year old grandmother playing and dancing around the kitchen was a total shock.  I can’t think about it without smiling.

I should have known my Dad’s affinity for guitar.  Growing up, there was an old guitar in our attic.  The tailpiece was broken and there was a hole in the body.  We all knew it was my Dad’s but he never spoke of playing.  I bought my first guitar in 1979 and still, my father never mentioned playing.

A few years later, I pulled that old guitar out of the attic.  The harsh environment of our attic had taken its toll.  But I found a luthier who helped restore it.  Patched the hole in the body, attached a new tailpiece (which has subsequently been replaced by an original) and made the guitar playable again.

I never told my Dad what I was doing with his guitar.  I remember showing it to him after it had been restored.  He started playing and it explained all of those Chet Atkins records we had.  The man could play.

My parents did not provide any exposure to classical music.  That honor came from Bugs Bunny and the Warner Brothers cartoons.  But that’s another story.

Published in: on May 28, 2010 at 10:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Music part 1

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile

-American Pie – Don McLean

Recently, I have been in my car on Saturday mornings, early afternoons.  One morning, I could not find a station to hold my interest for even one song.  So I began flipping the dial, station to station, and I found myself on the 70s station.  I forget the song that was playing but I listened.  What happened next was like magic.  In ‘Field of Dreams’, James Earl Jones says “…and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.”  That was me.  I heard the intro to American Top 40.  Casey Kasem, in all his glory, in a show from February 1971.  The singers singing the number jingles.  “Number 40!”  And the bits of music information.  Music was really mysterious then.  You didn’t know much, if anything, about the artists.  You may have never even seen what they look like.  The Midnight Special and Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert were two of the very few places to see anyone playing music.  So those little tid bits Casey would provide were like gold especially if it was about an artist that you liked.

Many of the songs in this episode were unknown to me, either forgotten or never having a long life in music history.  But the memories for me were of riding in the backseat of my parent’s car on Sunday afternoons – my sister and I listening to AM radio.  I knew the words to American Pie before kindergarten, I swear.  Singing ‘Dance to the Music’ and ‘Brandy’ in the backseat, knowing all the harmonies and different parts to sing.  It was a blast.

As kids, we were not allowed to buy many, if any, new albums or records.  Once in a while I could buy a 45.  So as kids, our music exposure was through our parent’s 45s and 78s and albums.  Between my parents, I think they liked most anything.  Our catalog to choose from included Johnny Cash, Faron Young, Loretta Lynn, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Herb Alpert, and Debbie Reynolds.  Also comedy records from Buddy Hackett, Redd Foxx and Jonathan Winters.  Gospel, swing, and the crooners.  Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole.  That exposure definitely had a lasting effect and to this day, I listen to anything.  Here are a few of our favorites from the box of records:

Huggin’ and a Chalkin’ – Hoagie Carmichael

Abba Dabba Honeymoon – Debbie Reynolds

Hello Walls – Faron Young

So until next time, keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars, and keep your radio tuned right where it is.

Published in: on May 28, 2010 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  


Then someone says ‘Santa Claus was here’

One by one by the tree we all appear

Grandmother saves paper to use next year

How wonderful life is on Christmas.

-Merry Christmas Eve – Better Than Ezra

Most of the memories I have of my family in some way relate to food. Directly or indirectly, it seems.  And it really isn’t that surprising, considering both sides of my family hail from Virginia and believed in the virtue of southern hospitality. Some of my friends would ask me how it was possible that my father always seemed to have food at the ready to serve to guests.  One even remarked he was sure that if he stopped by at midnight, my Dad would just be pulling a turkey out of the oven.

Yet, cooking in my family, for the most part, is most fondly remembered for the baking.  My mother, a fair cook on her own, was a very good baker.  I think the first box cake I ever had was after I was married.

My grandmother loved baking as well and excelled at it.  One of the most joyous times in our family would be getting a call around 4:00 in the afternoon telling us that Nanny, my grandmother, was making bread and we should stop by for some rolls for dinner.  I swear I could smell the yeast before we ever got close to her house.  Walking in the door you’d see the table with a big block of butter, strawberry jelly, and apple butter. You had to sit down and eat a few rolls while chatting to the baker while she shuffled her trays in and out of the oven. My cousins or my Uncle Don would inevitably arrive for their allotment as well. It was like happy hour at the pub, but instead of beer, we all held hot buttered rolls.

Nanny died in 1991, and my sister and I have tried to replicate her recipe, which of course was not written down, but instead was created by taste and feel.  We have still not succeeded, but I vividly remember the taste and texture of those rolls, and how they melted on my tongue. And it makes me sad that I will never be able to enjoy them again.

The biggest event of the year was Christmas cookie day – continuous cookie baking from early morning to evening.  While one batch of cookies was being formed and baked, another was being mixed.  Sugar cookies, Snickerdoodles, Sand Tarts, and on and on.  One variety I remember as being very dry — like a shortbread with no flavor. The dough was split, half colored green, the other … red.  Surprise!  We’d use cookie cutters to shape and decorate the cookies, and  I remember using little silver balls for eyes on the reindeer-, snowmen-, and angel-shaped ones. I guess they were a sugar cookie, but they were as hard as could be. It’s a wonder no one broke a tooth. Since these cookies were nobody’s favorite, they were usually the last ones in the tin come January.

Christmas season also brought the Christmas Day dinner. Remember the bit about southern hospitality?  My grandmother didn’t want anyone to be disappointed with their Christmas dinner so we had plenty of options, including a turkey and a ham.  And If that wasn’t enough, we had three cakes:  coconut for my Uncle Don, cherry for my Dad, and chocolate for everyone else.

The best part about the dinner was not the leftovers we’d have for the next week or so, but my grandmother’s homemade TV dinners (that’s what they were called back in the day, you little whippersnappers). She would save trays from store-bought TV dinners and would portion out Christmas dinners into them, wrap them up, and freeze them.  My brother and I would forget about them, but inevitably, one summer day after we’d mow her lawn, Nanny would emerge with a hot shiny tray of Christmas dinner.  As my brother would say, “Christmas in July!” It was always freezer burnt, but it was wonderful!

Published in: on March 19, 2010 at 6:11 pm  Leave a Comment