June 8, 2010

For several years, there was a group of us that were together more evenings than not. Sometimes it might only be three or four of us; sometimes there might be as many as a dozen.

Almost all of us – me, The Drunken Frenchman, BK, KB, The Frail Jew, Mustafa, Vegas – had reached a position of tenure in a very large record store. If none of us were rock stars (and none of us were), the popularity of our workplace gave us a bit of celebrity that could make you feel like one.

(our store had a reputation for a staff that was genuinely indifferent, sometimes bizarre, and – on a couple memorable occasions – borderline sociopathic)

The members of our group – no matter what quirks we might have possessed – were relatively benign and we all loved music. There were at least a couple shows each week – a local act, perhaps some friends, or acts on labels either indie or major – that we’d attend.

And we had our regular watering hole, a dark cantina in a triangle of more upscale bars where major players in the local (and national) music world would frequent. We would often close the place doing great damage to our meager funds, except for The Mogul, who was a rising star working for a major record label.

(we actually got our drinks on the cheap from the staff, but we gave the savings back in gratuities – sometimes unitentionally)

Our usual barkeep, a slight, blonde cat who I think had once played in a band, would be playing Elvis Costello or Black Crowes and The Drunken Frenchman would invariably remind us that “Earl knows when I’m here it has to be rock and roll.”

(Earl usually played rock and roll whether the Frenchman was there or not)

There was considerable banter about a usual slate of subjects – movies, women, current events, sports, the next round – but the two subjects that dominated the conversations were harebrained schemes and music.

After several rounds, the discussions invariably got more boisterous and the focus of the mass conversation would splinter, going in several directions and coming at one all at once…

…the Frenchman touting the merits of The Zombies’ drummer Hugh Grundy…

…BK telling of some obscure performance by John Coltrane. “It was ’57, Heidelburg…”

One particular night, the din had reached a drunken crescendo, no one really listening to anyone else.

And, then, it stopped.


I glanced over at The Frail Jew.

He was a singer/songwriter and an articulate guy.

He was also easily rattled. Behind the wheel, he navigated with the self-assured cool of my grandmother and you could literally observe his hairline receding from the stress.

There he sat, hand around a half empty glass, catatonic.

From his trancelike state, he was jarred to speak by the sudden end of the overwhelming barrage of conversation.

And, from his mouth, one word escaped like a burp.


For years to come, when we’d gather, at some point we’d try and decipher this cryptic utterance, but it would remain a mystery; not even The Frail Jew knew what he had meant or why he had said it.

Of course, now I pull up a newsite and I’m deluged with BP, unemployment, tea parties, immigration, aid flotillas to Gaza, Iran, North Korea, Gary Coleman…

And all there is to say is “Ed.”

I believe that we were drinking whiskey on that night in honor of BK’s birthday. So, here is a trio of whiskey songs…

Drive-By Truckers – Women Without Whiskey
from Southern Rock Opera

I’ve never been a big fan of Southern rock. Tom Petty, sure, but most of the acts tagged as such just never really moved me much. Drive-By Truckers are the exception and why shouldn’t they be?

And, if the gloriously ragged Women Without Whiskey is any indication, they’ve certainly managed to run up a bar tab or two.

Thin Lizzy – Whiskey In The Jar
from Dedication: The Very Best Of Thin Lizzy

Someone else who most assuredly accumulated some hefty tabs at his local was the late Phil Lynott. Lynott and Thin Lizzy earned immortality and a spot on every classic rock playlist ’til the end of time here in the States with The Boys Are Back In Town.

Good for them, but, personally, I’d be contented enough if I never heard the song again.

I’m full.

But, Whiskey In The Jar is another matter – the outlaw’s saga, Lynott’s charisma, “musha ring dum a doo dum a da,” and Eric Bell’s solo…

Willie Nelson – Whiskey River
from Essential Willie Nelson

There needs to be a Willie Nelson fantasy resort. Who wouldn’t pay good money to spend a week living like Willie?

Paloma’s mom has a picture of her and Willie from the years that she worked for a record label. Sometimes Paloma will speak of her mother and beam as she asks, “Isn’t my mom cool?

Yes, sweetness, she is.

Amish In The Airport, Failed Card Cheats, And My Imaginary Mail-Order Bride

July 11, 2009

Not long ago, I made an airport run to pick-up Paloma. As much as I loathe flying, I love airports.

Part of the allure of airports to me is the sense of possibility. One minute you’re here and, in a given amount of time, you can be somewhere else – possibly somewhere far, far away. It’s why I used to always keep my passport on hand.

However, it is the sheer human circus and the kinetic energy contained at airports which is also very appealing. This was immediately apparent as I sat near the baggage claim, trying to discern the difference, if any, between the flight designation “landed” and “arrived.” (although, it would seem impossible, as well as undesirable, to land before arriving).

A small group, seemingly a family, passed my position. They appeared to be Amish.

I mean, based on what I’d seen in the movie Witness, they certainly fit the description. The women wore simple, ankle-length frocks and bonnets. The lone man, an older fellow, was sporting suspenders, a straw hat and wore his facial hair in the style of a beard sans moustache. He certainly looked like a Jedidiah or Ezekiel.

Of course, when I think of the Amish, I think of churning butter, pies, and raising the occasional barn. I do not think air travel.

Something else that caught my attention was the rather uncomfortable-looking footwear I repeatedly saw rather stylish women wearing. Snowshoes could be all the rage for all I know (although, I’d like to think I’d notice), but these women were wearing what I would describe as wooden shoes.

Wooden shoes? Is this something that the Dutch are behind? Do they hate Americans because we are free and, to retaliate, have chosen to dupe women into wearing ill-fitting footwear, leading them to be irritable and, thus, creating friction between the sexes and undermining our way of life?

My observations were leaving me with far more questions than insights.

Suddenly, a dodgy, little fellow sat down next to me. His twitchy demeanor, bushy moustache, and shifty eyes made me think that he would cheat at cards (and not well, at that). He quickly struck up a conversation that I really didn’t want to have, finally inquiring as to whether I was waiting for someone.

“My mail-order bride is arriving,” I told him.

“Mail-order bride?” The dodgy, unsuccessful card cheat had the nifty habit of repeating, as a question, almost everything I said. Perhaps he was a failed Jeopardy contestant.

“Yeah. She’s coming here from Macadamia.”


“You’ve heard of Macadamian nuts?”


“Her homeland is where 98% of all Macadamian nuts are grown,” I said.

“Aren’t Macadamian nuts from Hawaii?”

“Those are Hawaiian Macadamian nuts. Big difference.”

“Have you ever met her?” my new friend asked.


“Your mail-order bride?”

“Paloma? No. We’ve exchanged a lot of e-mails, though, and I know she likes butter.”

“Butter?” He furrowed his brow. “Ever seen her picture?”


His expression grew more quizzical. “Well, how will you know her?”

“She’ll be wearing the native, ceremonial headdress of her country.”

Paloma arrived and we greeted each other with a hug. We walked off, holding hands, quite possibly leaving the failed card cheat under the impression that somewhere there is a distant land called Macadamia whose women like butter and a baseball cap with a cartoon monkey is considered ornate head ware.

Drive-By Truckers – Shut Up And Get On The Plane
from Southern Rock Opera

Nanci Griffith – Outbound Plane
from The MCA Years: A Retrospective

Peter, Paul And Mary – Leaving On A Jet Plane
from The Best of Peter, Paul and Mary: Ten Years Together

M.I.A. – Paper Planes
from Kala