Snow Globe

January 30, 2010

There’s probably as much snow on the ground tonight as I’ve seen in nearly twenty years. On the eave, it’s still undisturbed, but in the streets below, it’s already been churned into a sloshy mess.

The usual flow of traffic is non-existent, though, and the snow is still falling in the glow of the streetlights, so the landscape might be pristine again come morning.

One news channel is referring to it as “The Snowpocalypse.”

I think we have about three inches of snow.

It’s more like a snow globe.

(of course, since I started writing this twenty-four hours or so ago, we’ve gotten an additional four or five inches of snow – still far short of a “snowpocalypse”)

Snowfalls of this much and sometimes much more were far more frequent for me as a kid in the Midwest. I’ve told tale of the danger, but all things considered, the snow was usually welcome.

There was something quite zen in sprawling out on the bed and staring at the ceiling, listening to music as a heavy snow fell outside. It was a perfect way to waste a Saturday afternoon as a kid. I could stare up and out the window, watching large flakes falling against the sky.

Stare long enough and – with the lack of visual perspective – they would seem to be drifting upward.

I seem to recall a lot of snow on the ground in the first few months of 1984. I was still listening to Top 40 stations, but I had also discovered album rock radio and 97X was providing my first glimpse of the future and an exposure to modern rock.

Here is a quartet of songs I remember from the early weeks of the year Orwell had warned us about…

Van Halen – Jump
from 1984

Jump caused quite a bit of confusion when it hit the airwaves. At school, we asked each other if we’d heard the song in hushed tones as though someone had died. No one had, but the prominent use of synthesizer, especially when coupled with the brief, instrumental title track preceding it, vexed many of my friends.

The sheer exuberance of the song and the fact that it really wasn’t that startling of a departure from the band’s signature sound helped it gain quick acceptance from most fans and earned Van Halen new ones. Jump and 1984 both proved to be mammoth successes.

And a mere twelve months later, there would be no Van Halen as we had always known them.

Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again
from Touch

With the release of Be Yourself Tonight in the spring of 1985, Eurythmics went in the opposite direction that Van Halen had with 1984, adding guitar and a more rock-oriented sound to their dreamy synth-pop.

But, Touch arrived in January, 1984 and was still firmly entrenched in the hypnotic, synthesizer-based groove of Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), the album that had broken the duo in the US the prior summer.

Touch received an earlier release in the UK and had already had several hits before being issued in the US, so I’m sure that I likely heard the lovely, melancholic Here Comes The Rain Again as an import on 97X prior to its becoming a major radio hit.

Icicle Works – Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)
from Icicle Works

Tribal drumming and chiming guitars made Icicle Works’ lone US hit a memorable one-hit wonder that still sounds stellar a quarter century later. The song had been a UK hit the year before (titled Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)) and, like Here Comes The Rain Again , I’m sure I heard the frenetic track as an import on 97X months before it became a hit in the States.

Tony Carey – A Fine, Fine Day
from Some Tough City

Paloma had no idea who Tony Carey was when I played A Fine, Fine Day for her. Though the song did make the Top 40, it apparently didn’t get much/any airplay where she grew up.

It was quite the opposite for me. Carey got a lot of play on radio with I Won’t Be Home Tonight and, under the moniker of Planet P Project, Why Me? during 1983. Both of those songs had a sci-fi bent to them.

A Fine, Fine Day is the tale of an aging mobster (or so it would seem) and, in those snowy, early months of 1984, it seemed as though I couldn’t go very long without hearing it on one of several stations while surfing the dial. Later that year, Carey would return to the sci-fi fare with Planet P Project’s album Pink World and one final radio hit, What I See, before vanishing from the scene.

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Courting Cousin Vicki Could Be Problematic

December 20, 2008

A staple when it came to video rentals for my high school friends and I was National Lampoon’s Vacation which featured Chevy Chase leading his family on a “pilgrimage to see a moose.” It supplied us with an endless supply of lines for the times when we did venture outside the city limits (it also had Christie Brinkley).

One of the many colorful characters in that flick was Cousin Vicki who rocked the ganja, stirred Kool Aid with her hand, and boasted that, regarding her French kissing abilities, “Daddy says I’m the best.”

Several years ago, I realized that the actress who played Cousin Vicki – Jane Krakowski – was now on the show 30 Rock. She hasn’t been taking orders in a drive-thru for the past twenty-five years (her list of credits at The Internet Movie Database is lengthy including several years on Ally McBeal), but I hadn’t seen anything she’d been in.

In my universe, Krakowski had gone from the age of thirteen to late thirties in a flash. What if I’d met her in some bar and shared a few drinks during those years of her career of which I was oblivious?

At some point, our respective professions would become a topic of conversation. I would probably tell her I was a Bedouin because, as Paloma has astutely pointed out, I like to say the word Bedouin.

Jane, having told me she was an actress, might tick off a list of movies in which she had appeared. I would sit there “like a dog that had been shown a card trick” (to quote Bill Hicks) until, finally, she would ask if I’d ever seen National Lampoon’s Vacation. The light bulb would flicker and my mouth would then fall open.

“You’re Cousin Vicki.”

And if such a scenario had ever occurred, would it be possible to date this woman? She’s Cousin Vicki, for God’s sake!

It would lead to me immediately tracking done those high school buddies with whom I had shared the movie years before, most of whom I haven’t spoken with in years.

“Dude, you would not believe it, but I’m dating Cousin Vicki.”

The news would immediately elicit a reference to her French kissing skills.

I think it would be impossible for me to view Krakowski as anyone other than Cousin Vicki. Repeated viewings of Vacation had seared that into my brain years ago.

I’d live in a state of perpetual fear that, if things got serious, I’d end up meeting her family and expect Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie, her father. There would be her youngest sister, Daisy Mabel, who “sings like a bird and eats like a horse” despite being born without a tongue. And would her brother Dale be prospering as an earthworm farmer?

It would, quite simply, be a star-crossed mess which would invariably end in tears. Sometimes the universe gets things right.

I was surprised at how many “Jane” songs I had (as opposed to “cousin” and/or “Vicki” songs), so here’s a handful…

Over The Rhine – Sleep Baby Jane

Icicle Works – Understanding Jane

The Point – Hey Jane

Jon Astley – Jane’s Getting Serious