And To Think I Overheard It On Mulberry Street

March 29, 2009

It wasn’t Mulberry Street, but that thoroughfare as described by Dr. Seuss was a favorite of mine as a child. Marco’s imagination runs wild with zebras and sultans and such on an ordinary walk home from school.

Marco had Mulberry Street. I had The Iguana, a local bar with a quasi-cantina vibe to it and a reliable place to find grist for my imagination, be it the patrons or merely the setting.

The Drunken Frenchman once told me that “if you’re good with your barkeep, you’re good.” Earl was our barkeep and, with him, we couldn’t have been better.

From one night’s worth of notes…

Dave sits nearby, a sodden sort who I’ve noticed has followed my lead and now scribbles into a small notebook. Very well – it keeps him occupied and insures that he will not ask me, yet again, the meaning of the tattoo on my wrist. He’s not good with his barkeep and is nursing a watered-down drink like he intends to still be drinking it when The Rapture arrives.

Elizabeth Shue is sitting alone, sipping a Bud Light. It’s not really Elizabeth Shue but, rather, a reasonable facsimile.

Would Elizabeth Shue drink Bud Light?

There are snatches of conversation everywhere.

“I keep a place in the city, but I’m building a townhouse.”

“I think I’m a nympho.”

“Five grand and they’re all mine.”

Gina Zinnia is several seats down, perched at the corner of the bar; devouring a burrito as though she is performing origami with knives. I know her name because she has announced it in a shrill voice that has surely awakened the dead for George Romero’s next movie.

She has been babbling without pause for forty-five minutes about her opera singer father, a bad flight to Seattle, the time she was lost as a girl scout (I suspect she was abandoned), and numerous other traumas both small and smaller.

Her date sits slack-jawed and inert, certainly wishing for death or another round.

“To make a long story short,” says Gina.

I now know better. Gina Zinnia has never made a long story short. She has, however, made short stories into excruciatingly painful, long epics.

A blonde nearby, a model she claims, is lamenting the fact that she’s not in New York and nothing compares to New York and she should know because she just got back from Paris.

I want to write a blues song and call it This Imperfect World Doesn’t Suit My Perfect Ass.

A smartly dressed young fellow is reeking of cologne. He waves to someone he obviously knows across the bar.

“I’ll be right back,” he says to his companion, as she makes no effort to hold back a yawn.

“No,” she says, “take your time.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?”

He asks the question flirtatiously, but, in perhaps the only moment of honesty that will take place, here, tonight, she replies, “Yeah.”

Yello – Oh Yeah

Roxy Music – Oh Yeah

Bob Geldof – Yeah, Definitely

Cheap Trick – Yeah Yeah

The Pogues – Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

Miles Of Aisles Of Melissa Manchester

March 24, 2009

During the nine months or so that Paloma and I’ve been buying vinyl, I’ve noticed certain things. There will always be some album which I’ve never seen and am thrilled to have found.

The next store I visit, I come across another copy of the new-found treasure (like the Korgis’ Dumb Waiters).

Then, there are the certain artists who I feel pressured to buy. There are so many of their albums in the bins of used record stores, I wonder if anyone held on to a copy (or maybe the previous owner upgraded to CD).

Melissa Manchester is one whom I’ve noticed. I could walk into any of the half dozen or so places where we shop for used vinyl and probably find a copy of damned near every album in her catalog, none costing more than a dollar.

It’s been tempting to make the investment.

I don’t really know a lot of her songs, but the ones I do know are pleasant enough. Of course, the only songs of hers that immediately come to mind are Midnight Blue and You Should Hear How She Talks About You.

(I’ve always thought that Carly Simon would have given the former some cojones)

And speaking of Carly Simon, she too is an act that, like Ms. Manchester, seems to be well represented in used record stores and most of the music she has released could be acquired for less than a pizza from Domino’s.

In Carly’s case, I have a copy of her box set from a decade or so ago – a freebie from her label – which I’ve never explored much beyond the radio hits.

Deep Purple, Boz Scaggs, Kenny Loggins…they’re all there, too.

Most of these artists aren’t ones in which I’ve ever had much interest, at least beyond owning a stray track or two.

Yet I live in fear of them, knowing that one day I may return home from a vinyl-buying venture and, having been unable to resist the inexpensive siren song of some siren’s songs, find myself explaining to Paloma why we now own a dozen albums by Helen Reddy.

Here are a few tracks that I do own by some of the acts I’ve noticed with extensive catalogs readily available in used record stores…

Chuck Mangione – Give It All You Got
It is impossible for me to think of Chuck Mangione and not imagine Mick Jagger cranking the music of the flugelhorn player on trans-Atlantic flights with supermodels on a private jet in the late ‘70s.

His music makes me think of shag carpet and the 1980 Winter Olympics for which this song served as the theme (and after two weeks of hearing it on the television broadcasts, I was hearing it in my sleep).

Steve Miller Band – Swingtown
Actually, Steve Miller has already made his way into our vinyl collection (I think we’ve got the greatest hits record and possibly Book Of Dreams).

Even before I was really into music, I knew a lot of Steve Miller songs from his hits in the mid- to late- ‘70s. Fly Like An Eagle, Jet Airliner, and Take The Money And Run were always playing over the public pool’s sound system.

Personally, I much preferred Swingtown which was a staple on the jukebox in the bowling alley where my friends and I killed time before we could drive (and sometimes after).

Gino Vannelli – Wild Horses
I’m well acquainted with Gino’s big hits, I Just Wanna Stop and Living Inside Myself, as they were played often on the local light rock station. My mom was fond of the station and I was indifferent at the time. Once I became interested in music, I wrested control of the car stereo from her in a bloodless coup.

But Wild Horses I quite liked when I heard it on that same light rock station while home from college one spring. Several years later, I’d learn more about Gino than I’d ever imagined I would. Our record store’s receiving clerk (who greatly resembled Mario from the Donkey Kong video game) was a devoted fan of the bare-chested Canadian.

Atlanta Rhythm Section – So Into You
Southern rock has never been a genre of which I’ve been very fond (although I’ve become less resistant the older I’ve gotten). The handful of radio hits I know by Atlanta Rhythm Section are hardly what I’d describe as Southern rock (perhaps the non-hit stuff was more in that vein).

But those hit songs – Alien, Imaginary Lover, Spooky, a couple more – are all wistful and engaging. They sound like a cloudy, autumn day.

A Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

March 23, 2009

(reposted from Saturday, March 21 sans music)

There are no two better days in the sports year – at least here in the States – than the first two days of the NCAA college basketball tournament. There are usually at least a half dozen jaw-dropping moments in the first forty-eight hours.

Most of those moments prove to be quite fleeting and often the key players are soon relegated to fuzzy details – who was that kid that hit that shot when so-and-so upset so-and-so?

As much as the calendar, it is a harbinger of spring.

The tournament has become a bit bittersweet the last several years. It might be a longing for once having the luxury to skip classes and leave the couch only for snacks, glued zombie-eyed to the television for five or six games straight.

It rained a lot during the first two days of the tournament in ’90. It was a cold rain which provided a meteorological argument for not trekking to classes.

I don’t even think I had a shift at the record store.

My school, three years removed from winning the tournament, went out in the first round.

So, I lived vicariously through my brother’s school, Ball State, which was one of that year’s Cinderella teams – a #12 seed which upset two lower-seeded teams and came within minutes of beating a loaded UNLV team to reach the Elite Eight.

I remember speaking with my brother on the phone, not long after Ball State had won their first round game in Salt Lake City. It must have been closing in on midnight which meant we’d both been watching hoops for almost twelve hours.

And, of course, the most memorable run of that tournament was Loyola Marymount, the small school from Los Angeles which was a #11 seed. I’d read a lot about the Lions as they were the highest-scoring team in college basketball history. I don’t think that I’d seen them play.

The team had Bo Kimble who was the leading scorer in the country. His teammate, Hank Gathers, had done the same. The two had been teammates and friends in Philly who had headed west for college.

A week before the tournament, Gathers collapsed and died during a game (he’d had a heart condition).

In an event that has no shortage of sentimental pull, Loyola Marymount was the must-see team for most hoops fans that year. They were like watching a pinball machine and the mastermind behind it all was a coach who quoted Shakespeare to his team.

And in each of their games, basketball fans across the nation knew to expect the right-handed Kimble to shoot his first free throw of the game left-handed as a tribute to Gathers.

It came to an end one game short of the Final Four with Loyola Marymount going out against the eventual champions, UNLV.

And probably most of all, the reason that tournament was so memorable for me is that it was my last as a college student. I’d graduate in December.

I still hadn’t left town when the following season’s tournament was played. I likely watched as much or more of it in ’91, but things had changed.

Unlike twelve months earlier, my life was now on the clock.