Big Fish

April 15, 2008

How far is it from a relatively obscure, failed ‘70s feature film by an Oscar-winning director to a thirty-foot, fiberglass catfish? If you said about thirty-five miles, you know too much about how Paloma and I spent our Saturday.

As we’ve been hooked on Netflix because we enjoy movies and…well..trips to the video store require leaving the couch, I’ve been delving into grainy movie memories from my childhood (several of which I’ve mentioned of late). One which I wanted to check out was Sorcerer, a 1977 film directed by William Friedkin (of The Exorcist fame) and starring Roy Scheider, who was fresh off the boat from hunting the shark in Jaws.

I’d been fascinated by the poster for Sorcerer as a kid and the viewer comments on touted it as an underappreciated gem. The story revolves around four dodgy characters from around the globe that end up hiding out in some South American village. Through a chain of events, they become mercenaries, driving two trucks laden with nitroglycerin through the jungle at great peril (Paloma was intrigued by this concept as a potential career opportunity).

Inspired by the viewing of Sorcerer, I decided that we should take a trek of our own, sans nitroglycerin, to a small town in the middle of nowhere where a restaurant boasted their catfish to be the finest in the state. It was the giant fiberglass catfish, perched majestically atop the roof, proclaiming to all passers-by, “Here be catfish!” that captured my imagination. Paloma, ever supportive of my random whims – and won over by my assertion that such a place would certainly have pie – agreed to the venture, so long as I knew where we were going (leading to my declaration, halfway there, that “We should be going west…or maybe south.”).

In the end, the catfish was serviceable, the Mississippi mud pie was, in the words of Paloma, “divine,” the thirty-five foot catfish sign was the most life-like thirty-five foot catfish sign I’ve ever seen, and Sorcerer was gritty, suspenseful, slightly surreal and well worth the walk to the mailbox.

Sniff ‘n’ The Tears – Driver’s Seat
According to All-Music Guide, this London-based band released a trio of albums, but this song was their lone brush with greatness, but it is stellar. This wiry, nimble cut has a slight New Wave feel and a mysterious vibe about it. It seemed to be playing every day at the public pool during the summer of ’79.

Todd Rundgren – Drive
As instrumental as my friend Chris – whom I’ve mentioned in previous entries – was to exposing me to music during my formative years, so was my friend Bosco. However, where Chris had a penchant for the moody and alternative stuff, Bosco was on a decidedly more power-pop bent, turning me on to The Tubes (pre-She’s A Beauty) and The Kinks. He also was a Todd Rundgren fanatic and each new release from Runt was an event. I was always particularly fond of his The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect and Drive was a favorite from that set.

Paul Weller – Driving Nowhere
The Jam is one of Paloma’s favorite bands and they became one of mine after listening to Sound Affects numerous times with her (I can hear her singing That’s Entertainment). She was more enamored with The Style Council than I, but we both love Weller’s solo output (although it’s been difficult to follow at times here in the States).

Steve Earle – Mercenary Song
As a clerk at a record store, I waited on Steve Earle several times. The first time being the strangest and, given his well-documented struggles with addiction, I would imagine was during one of his rougher periods. That aside, he always struck me as genial and well-spoken. I certainly wish him well as I think sometimes the public allows their politics to dismiss the work of one of the more literate songwriters of his generation.