Archives - January 2003
Snow again.. big wet flakes that made the drive back down from Frederick a bit treacherous but Spottswood and his Obsolete Music Hour brought us back from the King of Obsolete Music safe and sound. Everything from Fletcher Henderson and Jelly Roll Morton to Bukka White, Uncle Dave on Vocalion, and then string bands! And Bluegrass! Neal and I had a ball as usual in Joe Bussard's basement.
All of that of course, a world away from the glorious primal energy of Patti Smith at full steam, belting encores through the 1 am 9:30 club smoke full-tilt rock-and-roll - Jumpin Jack Flash and Gloria - her version - brilliant not only for it's opening line "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine.." and it's fantasy sequence - shifting from a boring party to a dream about a girl (!) leaning on a parking meter outside the window - but for the way she teases you, playing with the van morrison chords and motown motifs "oooh she looks so good/oooooh she looks so fine/and i've got this crazy feeling /.. i'm gonna make her mine" .. until she breaks into the chorus, breaking out the letters - G, L, O, R, I - drawing them out I I I I I I I - until they become nonsense symbols.. and the band churning away beneath it all. Bacchus himself would be blown away..
It was wonderful to see her.. it took her a good 1/2 hour to get warmed up, but once she did (and we stood - as we did for the White Stripes a year ago - within 10 feet of the stage) she was charming and open and joyous. Giving. What impresses me most about her is her organic musicality - her sense that everything out there (although her musical vocabulary doesn't quite stretch back to Uncle Dave or Lonnie Johnson) is worth listening to - integrating smokey robinson and the MC5 and Television to the Rolling Stones and stream of consciousness poetry (that only works out loud). Its theatrical. Its visceral. It's cereberal. And theres not much out there that combines all three at the same time (unless of course you're talking about the RTR, but thats an entirely different plane)..
Anyway. That wore melissa out for most of the weekend.. The only other exciting event was my procurement of new eyeglasses.. but once this blog descends to the level of describing in detail routine doctors appointments (in Van Ness, no less! With chatty but odd receptionists.. and a vaguely attractive but engaged opthamologist..), well..
Oh. And Y Tu.. had less sex in it than the box promised but was enjoyable nonetheless..
Yesterday afternoon, under crisp, cold mid-winter skies, Joe B., Neal and I drove up to Thurmont, Maryland - towards the lonely 100 ft. high AM radio tower - AM 1470 (I think) - that was broadcasting Joe's very own "Country Classics" show at a meager 5,000 watts. It started with Uncle Dave and ended somewhere around Jim and Jesse and that's not a bad span.. He was a bit more haggard than usual - unshaven, eyes a bit bleary, asking - a bit more desperately - if we knew anyone who wanted tapes.. a bit despondent (he's pulling the plug on his website - too expensive, worried about paying taxes on his house for this year, etc.). But Neal and I did what we could to cheer him up, picked up some wonderful stuff we had on order (keeping exact contents under wraps so's it'll be a surprise when it shows up in some mailbox or other).
Been working for hours on a "flip-book" for Cutting's promotional ventures (including a much awaited trip to Austin in February!) and thought I'd catch up on this page.
Last night I took the train down to Federal Triangle, threaded my way through a strange mix of late-leaving federal workers and found an underground entrance to the Ronald Reagan Building - site of a lecture/book-signing by Ms. Joan Didion.. The building was astonishing - polished marble and chrome and glass opening up into expansive atriums.. a lonely food court (it was 6:30 after all). Joan was a bit nervous at first, awkward, but warmed up (in conversation with BookWorld's editor, Michael Dirda) towards the end. She did manage to mention that her favorite book, among her canon, one that's overlooked by most people, is The Last Thing He Wanted, the book I just read and really enjoyed.. That, and her thoughts on the current political situation, were well worth the evening. She was less articulate in person than the precision of her sentences in print led me to expect.. but I suppose thats the nature of revision..
Pulled off highway 81 this afternoon and followed signs and our stomachs to 'Southern Kitchen' (Route 11, South - New Market, VA) a great down-home diner.. delicious pulled-pork sandwich (with coleslaw on top - who knew?) and cherry pie.. highly recommended. Quite a contrast though to late dinner last night at Luna in Dupont Circle, after Vienna: Lusthaus revisted at the Kennedy Center.. a wonderful, if surreal, dream-based dance/play set in pre-WWI germany. Tremendous acting and dancing (dance, professional dance, is stunning to watch - the complete control and discipline required) and fairly close to approxmimating how dreams actually work (including the explicit eroticism - too many discussions of dreams leave out their sexuality - this play and Mulholland Drive jump to mind as the only things I've seen that are honest about such things..). Luna was great but you aren't going to see pulled-pork on it's menu anytime soon (nor will you see an 'appalachian nomad wrap' -grilled vegetables, mushrooms - on the Southern Kitchen's plates, I suppose.)
We went to Harrisonburg this morning for Melissa's tattoo removal process.. the coffee shop I usually wait in during the procedure (the one with psychedelic colors on the outside) was closed so went across the street to the 'daily grind' (coffee houses have original names, eh? fortunately this one was nothing like the one on Brown Street, Dayton Ohio which I have some feeling is no longer there) and read Edward Abbey (incroyable!!) for about an hour.. Then our usual H'burg routine - the 'emporium' (their word and an apt one) i've been patronizing for years now, always somewhat afraid it won't be there the next time i go back, was still up and running. An ever eclectic mix of items (Rob Zombie bootlegs to Dale Earnhardt memorabilia to old coins and crocks) but the 78s stack was still in the corner and i managed to pick up some decent Roy Acuff and Vernon Dahlhart (under a pseudonym) doing "Roving Gambler".. then off to the mennonite run 'gift and thrift' - a mix of a '10,000 Villages' and a goodwill (albeit one with 'Revelation Seminars' and a fascinating book 'Evangelizing to Neopagan America' (!) on the bookshelves) for cheap woven baskets and handmade rugs and a $1 copy of an e.l. doctorow novel, then other antique stores - more records (Jazz - the Cotton Pickers, Bailes Brothers [on King and Columbia], Sons of the Pioneers..) and a booklet of songs and photos put together by WSM in 1938 to promote Uncle Dave.. oh and movie advertisements (Robert Mitchum, Rita Hayworth, etc.)..
Now back to laying on the living room floor, spinning 78s on the old Symphonic (boy would I love to get a real turntable set up for 'em!), smoking hand-rolled cigarettes.. You've got to do _something_ to get through these cold, grey winter days.. Write stories, I suppose..
Tonight at El Gulfo, the recently re-named and re-decorated Mexican restaurant just up the street I had a revelatory experience - Carne Asada - steak that made me remember, through pure shock of taste, the first time I encountered the simple pleasure of charcoal grilled beef.. It was at Indian Lake, Darin Hull's family cottage.. waves of memories - the warm, shallow, muddy water, cool clammy mud squishing between toes, cute girls across the cove (but always too nervous to speak), burning trash and eating (to me, raised vegetarian) decadently, lighting sparklers in the night air.. playing catch until it was too dark to see the ball - all heavily romanticized midwestern memories i'm sure.. there's a bit too much huck finn in all such recollections.
It's been a long week but I'm looking forward to some good sleep.. Melissa's been feeling much much better lately (hopefully the Menier's will lapse for another 2 or 3 years..) and tommorrow, we'll walk the mall.. Weather a truly london mix of low-40s and rain.. I feel like we're turning a corner of some sort and that spring - with those sweet showers that fall and shoot - is just around the corner.. I tend to lean more towards Chaucerian optimism (so nature pricks them..) than Eliot pessimism (april is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs from the dead earth) when it comes to spring anyway so we'll see what happens.