Hookers Must Wear Shoes

April 12, 2012

The first time I visited the nation’s capitol was with a buddy. His friend’s band had played the night before in Philadelphia and we were still sobering up – a condition we quickly set to rectify with a few pre-gig drinks at a bar in Georgetown – when we arrived in D.C.

The fact that the friend’s band had a tab at the club – The Bayou, I believe – necessitated that we continue to drink. By evening’s end, I was blissfully ignorant of the impending pain I had booked for the following day.

As my buddy and I trekked the twenty-odd blocks back to our hotel in the early morning chill, my only thoughts were for food. And for twenty-odd blocks, there was no food to be found.

There wasn’t a convenience store.

There wasn’t a Waffle House.

Arriving at our hotel, we realized that there was no consensus on what our room number was.

“I know it’s on the third floor,” I said. “If I’m wrong, I’ll go forage for food.”

I was wrong.

I did the honorable (and least intelligent) thing, wandering off into the night in a city where I had never been, squiffy and in search of food. I picked a direction and went with it, but I soon realized that things were looking progressively dodgy with each block I went.

I considered the idea of turning back when I saw it – a gaudy, neon oasis in the form of a ramshackle liquor/convenience store.

I entered, procured goods – an armload of salty, crunchy things and chocolate, caramel items – and got in line. It was a sketchy collection of ne’er-do-wells with darting eyes and, I suspect, concealed weapons.

Feeling a presence, someone else joining the processional march to the register, I turned slightly. There stood a petite, black woman wearing nothing more than a black thong under a see-through, thigh-length plastic raincoat.

She introduced herself as Tweety and a friend, wearing red go-go pants, as Simone. Tweety shattered the vacuous stupor of the crowd as a bunch of boggled-eyed men leered through bleary orbs.

She chattered away as we shuffled along, nearing the counter.

I was up.

The gruff, indifferent clerk who seemed to be wishing for death looked up and over my shoulder. He was staring at Tweety and Simone.

“Uh-uh,” he grunted, shaking his head side to side under a mop of wiry, grey hair. It was obvious that he wasn’t pleased with their presence – competition for dollars, I suppose.

“I told you,” he said firmly. “You can’t be in here…not without shoes.”

I looked down and Tweety was, indeed, barefoot.

Here are four shoe songs…

Kate Bush – The Red Shoes
from The Red Shoes (1993)

Kate Bush was an artist whom I had read about for several years before I actually heard her music. Then, the gloriously hypnotic Running Up That Hill became her lone hit single here in the States and I purchased its parent album The Hounds Of Love.

(which I wore out during the winter of 1985/1986)

I fell hard for the quirky and eclectic singer and worked backward through her weird and wonderful catalog. And, then, I learned of how being a Kate Bush fan required great patience as there would be lengthy waits between the arrival of future albums.

Personally, I lost patience and haven’t given as much attention to her few albums since The Red Shoes, an album that I enjoyed, though it didn’t dazzle me. The title track was one of songs I favored, a frantic tale of a dancer and a pair of enchanted shoes.

Paul Simon – Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes
from Graceland (1986)

Paul Simon had already reached his commercial peak – both with Garfunkel and solo – by the time I truly began listening to music. I knew little of his catalog aside from his more popular hits when Graceland was released.

I had just started college and a musician living a few doors down from me lavished Graceland with praise. It would take a few months, but a raft of rave reviews and a video featuring Chevy Chase led to the album blowing up, making Ladysmith Black Mambazo a household name, and giving Simon’s career a second wind.

Tom Waits – Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)
from Closing Time (1973)

The same dorm mate who sang the praises of Graceland to me was equally smitten with Tom Waits’ Frank’s Wild Years. In the past twenty-five years, I’ve become no more than casually acquainted with the gravelly-voiced troubadour’s work, but I have heard enough to think that Tweety and Simone wouldn’t be miscast in one of his songs.

Robin Zander – Walkin’ Shoes
from Robin Zander (1993)

After a commercial resurgence in the late ’80s, Cheap Trick’s career was in another lull which is why most folks likely never heard lead singer Robin Zander’s self-titled, solo debut from 1993.

That’s unfortunate. Though Robin Zander wasn’t in the same league as classic Cheap Trick albums from the ’70s, it is Robin Zander, the man my buddy The Drunken Frenchman once dubbed the “second best rock singer” (after Eric Burdon).

Blinding Myself With Science*

October 5, 2011

There was a period several years ago when my friend Donzo and I declared our dream of being scientists, vowing to create a ham ray gun which would turn any targeted object into ham.

(maybe I declared it and she humored me)

Surprisingly, I haven’t become a scientist and the ham ray gun never got beyond the conceptual stage (which is good as the military applications of this device are too frightening to imagine).

Donzo and her now-husband did send me a lab coat and a canned ham for my birthday one year.

It’s not like I’ve ever been especially interested in science. Sure, if there’s fire, shiny objects, or extraterrestrials involved…

But I am reminded as I watch an episode of Futurama that Prof. Farnsworth was undoubtedly my favorite character. I find his absent-minded enthusiasm/cynicism infectious and downright delightful.

And Prof. Farnsworth could certainly be a descendant of Doc Brown from the Back To The Future flicks. There are far lesser dreams than to aspire to the heights of either of these great men.

As a child, it was impossible not to be impressed by the nimble mind of The Professor on Gilligan’s Island.

(later, of course, the focus shifted to Mary Ann)

But that’s not the point. Merely typing the names of this trio of visionaries inspires me. No, there is no obvious, apparent reason or need to invent a ham ray gun, but that’s not the point either.

It’s science! And sometimes you simply need to invent because you can (like clonin’ dinosaurs and makin’ Jell-O).

Here are four slightly scientific songs…

Thomas Dolby – I Love You Goodbye
from Astronauts And Heretics (1992)

You expected She Blinded Me With Science, yes? Well, there’s more to Dolby than that one song and I Love You Goodbye is one of my favorite songs of his. It’ll likely surprise you if all you know is the former song.

However, even if the song doesn’t suit this post thematically, Dolby has always struck me as scientist-like. Also, his doppelganger, Food Network personality Alton Brown injects his take on cooking with plenty of science.

Kate Bush – Experiment IV
from The Whole Story (1986)

Like a lot of folks, I discovered Kate Bush in 1985 with her lone American hit, Running Up That Hill, but it was her compilation The Whole Story that was my first purchase a year later. Experiment IV was the obligatory unreleased/new track and it’s quite scientific.

Johnette Napolitano – The Scientist
from Scarred (2007)

If you asked me to list my favorite female rock vocalists of the past twenty-five years, there’d certainly be a place for ex-Concrete Blonde singer Johnette Napolitano. I have a feeling that even I would be surprised at how high I’d have her.

As for The Scientist, it’s a perfect showcase for that voice. Coldplay’s original version made me shrug with indifference, but Johnette’s take on the song is impossible to ignore.

Dot Allison – We’re Only Science
from We Are Science (2002)

Dot Allison first appeared on my radar with her band One Dove in the ’90s. The group only released one, under appreciated album before Allison embarked on a solo career toward the decade’s end.

I interviewed Dot following the release of her second album, We Are Science. Had the idea of the ham ray gun existed at the time, perhaps I would have asked for her thoughts.

That aside, she was a sweetheart and the only downside was that the combination of her Scottish accent and the fact that she spoke in hushed tones made transcribing the tape slightly maddening.

Santa Was A Bit Of A Bastard, Wasn’t He?

December 1, 2010

They’re airing Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer tonight.

Tonight being, as I write this, November 30th.

It doesn’t seem quite right to be watching it before we’ve even reached December, but I have it on nonetheless.

As a child in the ’70s, it seemed as though there was some animated Christmas special on more nights than not during the weeks leading up to that day.

Those specials were the most certain sign that Christmas was close and Rudolph’s saga – narrated in a tour de force performance by Burl Ives – was one of the linchpins of the holiday line-up.

Watching Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer probably thirty-five years after my first viewing of it, Santa’s behavior is a bit distracting to me.

Not ten minutes into the show and Santa is threatening Donner that Rudolph’s future on the sleigh team could be jeopardized because of his peculiar proboscis.

(and, if reindeer could fly, would such animals in the wild dream of being captive and groomed to chauffeur around a fat man?)

It’s the way that Santa makes the threat that is especially disconcerting. It’s offhand and casual. It’s delivered in the manner of someone who is accustomed to making and making good on threats.

Not that Donner offered much support as he quickly heeded the advice of the fat man.

And, seriously, Donner condemned the fruit of his reindeer loins to childhood ridicule the moment he named the tyke Rudolph.

It is pretty hilarious, though, to hear Donner bellow, “No! This is man’s work!” when, stricken with guilt, he heads out to search for runaway Rudolph and the missus wants to join him.

(such a declaration was probably more acceptable in reindeer culture in the ’60s when the program first aired)

But the show is a classic and the stop-motion animation fascinates me as much as it ever did, so…

But, it is December now, so what the hell. Here are four random Christmas songs…

Everything But The Girl – 25th Of December
from Amplified Heart

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night
from Christmas Eve And Other Stories

Kate Bush – Home For Christmas

Shane MacGowan & The Popes – Christmas Lullaby
from Christmas Party