Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

Here’s a weird confession, and it’s weird not because it’s going to shock anybody or change the history of the world; it’s weird because it’s hardly a confession at all. I really like the songs of KC and the Sunshine Band. I don’t like them so much that I ever bought any of their records, not even so much as a single, but I turn up the volume and sing along whenever one of their songs is played on the radio. I even do the disco-dance finger-pointing thing. It’s muscle memory at this point. Why fight it?

I’ve always known these were kinda cheesy songs, but you know what? They’re easy to dance to, even for a guy with two left feet like me, and girls loved to dance to them, so I got out there on the dance floor and danced my brains out. And now, forty years later (geeze Louise!), I can still get My Darling B to do a fun little disco-like jig in the kitchen when I’m Your Boogie Man comes up in my playlist, and my friends and I do a sing-along when Shake Your Booty comes on the car radio. After all this time, KC still inspires us to have fun. How great is that?

Random bit o’ trivia: When the song Get Down Tonight was popular (1975), the cheerleaders at our high school wanted to sing it at a rally before a game but were forbidden from uttering the line “make a little love.” The line was apparently considered way too scandalous as written, so they left out the word “love” to satisfy whoever was doing the forbidding, which to my mind was way more suggestive.

sunshine | 9:37 am CDT
Category: entertainment, music, play, story time
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Saturday, October 21st, 2017

I’m going to ruin another pop song, buckle up!

The song is Aimie by Pure Prairie League, and before I get started I want to say that I’ve always loved this song, and I mean always, from the very first time I can remember hearing it. I sang along every time it came on the radio, I eagerly awaited the next time I would hear it on the radio, I turned up the volume on the radio every time I heard it, and I’m pretty sure I’ve bought copies in every format since vinyl records.

And I’m probably going to ruin it for you now. I don’t want to ruin it. I didn’t want to ruin it for myself, but I can’t help but think about the meaning behind the words every time I sing it, and I get more uncomfortable with the meaning every time I sing along. My discomfort starts with the very first two lines:

I can see why you think you belong to me
I never tried to make you think or let you see one thing for yourself

The only thing I can make of this is that he (I’m assuming it’s a he because I’m assuming Aimie is a she; I could be wrong, but let’s go with that for now) is a controlling asshole. I mean, there’s not a whole lot to go on here, but there sort of is. He never let her see a single thing for herself? That’s cretinous behavior.

The idea of women as possessions has always made me uncomfortable, too. I mean, I get it that “you belong to me” is sort of like saying “we belong together,” but it’s not, it’s absolutely not at all the same. “We belong together” is a sweet sentiment; “you belong to me” turns a sweet sentiment into a statement that sounds like I hold title to your body and soul. It’s kind of creepy. And I think that’s the meaning of the first line of the song. Why else would Aimie leave him? Oops, spoilers.

But now you’re off with someone else and I’m alone
You see, I thought that I might keep you for my own

The classic “BUT” of pop songs — she was in his life, he didn’t treat her right, she’s seeing someone else and now he’s feeling regret. Is it regret that he treated her wrong, or regret that she’s not with him any longer?

And there’s that creepy idea again of making her into one of his possessions. Not something like, “we could be so good together,” but “I might keep you for my own.” Squick.

Aimie, what you wanna do?
I think I could stay with you
For a while, maybe longer

I love singing along with the chorus of this song, but it’s not exactly the most rock-solid of commitments, is it? “I could stay with you — could happen, maybe, or maybe not. For a while, anyway. Maybe longer than a while. But I’m a guy, and we don’t like to hang around. That’s just how guys are.” I’m digging a lot more out of those lines than maybe the songwriter intended, but it was a common theme in pop songs of the 70s that guys don’t stick around much, so I don’t think I’m reaching here.

Don’t you think the time is right for us to find
All the things we thought weren’t proper could be right in time
And can you see which way we should turn, together or alone
I can never see what’s right and what is wrong

I’m not entirely sure what he’s trying to say here. I’m not even sure he knows what he’s trying to say. He wants to get back together with Aimie; that’s in there for sure. I’m a little bummed that he’s using the “I can never see what’s right and what is wrong” excuse to dodge responsibility for treating her badly. I’m alarmed he’s proposing that she might come to think the way he treated her before they broke up will be “proper,” given a little time. If it was wrong then, why wouldn’t it be wrong a year from now? There’s at least one good reason Aimee broke up with him, is what I’m saying. Probably more than one.

Also, just to be way too nitpicky (and I might as well, since I’m ruining the song already), none of those lines end in words that rhyme.

Now it’s come to what you want, you’ve had your way
And all the things you thought before just faded into gray
And can you see that I don’t know if it’s you or of it’s me
If it’s one of us, I’m sure we both will see

“So you’ve had your little fling; doesn’t that make everything that passed between us all right now?” Um. No? I love this song, but I hate this verse. Maybe it was just a fling, but I feel it’s really quite presumptuous of him to assume that’s all it was. Maybe she’s off with someone else better than him, and she knows it.

I keep fallin’ in and out of love with you,
Fallin’ in and out of love with you
Don’t know what I’m gonna do …

Again, the level of commitment here would not inspire a whole lot of confidence in me, if I were to put myself in Aimie’s shoes.

I haven’t enjoyed ruining this song. I still love singing it — I was singing it in the shower just this morning, but I’m never going to be able to stop thinking the guy in the song was a jerk to Aimie and that she’d be a fool to get together with him again. Stay true to yourself, Aimie!

another song bites the dust | 11:21 am CDT
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Sunday, April 9th, 2017

The Freddie Fender ballad “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” has been playing on a fucking loop in my head for the past 48 hours. I loathe this song in capital letters: LOATHE. I can’t say why; it’s one of those gut reactions that makes me instantly change the radio station. I think I can say with a high degree of confidence that I have loathed this song since it was released in 1975. I would’ve been fifteen years old then, growing up in a tiny rural town that was smack in the middle of Wisconsin. The local radio station played just about anything, but music by the likes of Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and Johnny Cash were featured prominently. I remember hearing “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” and “Wasted Days And Wasted Nights” what seemed like every fucking day, although I’m sure now that’s an exaggeration. Although maybe not.

I have just learned that Freddie Fender was born with the name Baldemar Garza Huerta. That’s about the coolest name I’ve heard in my life. I can’t imagine why he wanted to change it. I want to have a son right now just so I can name him Baldemar. Also, Fender was in a band called Los Super Seven, another very cool name, and another band named Texas Tornados, which is a cool name but not as cool as Los Super Seven.

“Before The Next Teardrop Falls” is stuck in my head because I watched a documentary film about a guy with Aspberger’s who sang through his nose in that atonal way just about all of us do when we want to sing but there are a lot of people around so we try to make it look like we’re not singing by not moving our lips and by looking out the window pretending to be interested in the clouds. This guy wasn’t pretending not to sing, though. That’s just the way he sang. He knew all the words to “Before The Next Teardrop Falls,” even the ones in Spanish, and he sang them with such deep, emotional feeling that I couldn’t help but be touched by it.

I still hate that song, though.

That’s not the only song that’s been stuck in my head this weekend. Another is “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem of France, and it’s because of another film I saw this week (I was at the Wisconsin Film Fest with My Darling B last week, so I saw a lot of films; bear with me) called “Frantz,” about a young French soldier who travels to Germany to meet the family of the German soldier he killed during The Great War. It was “great” in the sense that it was really big, not in the sense that everybody thought it was a lot of fun and we should have another one again as soon as possible, even though we ended up doing just that. This is why choosing the right name is so important. “Baldemar” — good choice. “The Great War” — not such a good choice.

Back to the film: One of the principal characters of the film, a young German woman who was engaged to the German soldier who was shot by the French soldier I mentioned earlier, travels to Paris to find the French soldier because … it’s complicated. Anyway, she’s in a cafe in Paris when a couple of French soldiers come in for coffee and everyone stands up and sings “La Marseillaise” because what else would you do, right?

If you’ve seen “Casablanca,” you saw almost the same scene: Victor Laslo leads the customers of Rick’s Cafe in a rousing verse of “La Marseillaise” to flip the bird at the Germans who are after him. What they didn’t do in “Casablanca” was subtitle the words to the song, I guess because they figured everybody knew what it meant back then. I didn’t, and I never looked it up, either, thinking it was the usual stuff of national anthems: “We’re the best, you guys suck, our country is better than your country.”

But the version of “Frantz” we saw was subtitled, and they went on subtitling the words to the anthem during the cafe scene, so this is the first time I’ve heard it and known what they were singing about:

Arise, children of the fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us, tyranny’s bloody banner is raised,
Do you hear, in the countryside,
The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
They’re coming right into your arms
To cut the throats of your sons, your women!

To arms, citizens!
Form your battalions!
Let’s march, let’s march!
Let an impure blood soak our fields!

The camera kept flitting from the puffed-up French people singing their yoo-rah-rah song to the uncomfortable face of the German woman, who spoke fluent French and knew just what they were saying. And there were a few disgusted-looking women in the crowd who did not stand up and did not sing; I assumed they were mothers of French soldiers who didn’t go for all that yoo-rah-rah crap.

“Kind of a different effect when you know the words to the song, don’t you think?” I whispered to B, who agreed.

While I’m on the musical theme, the last song I want to tell you about isn’t a song at all. It’s a kind of music: jazz, sort of. One of the duds we saw at the film fest was a musical review called “The King Of Jazz,” featuring the Paul Whiteman band. The final number was how they imagined jazz was created: a whole bunch of white people from Russia, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and every other northern European country sang ethnic theme music (“Every laddie has his lassie” for the Irish people, that sort of thing) as they descended into a melting pot. Paul Whiteman gave the pot a stir, the sides of the pot swung open, and for one terrifying moment I thought the musicians and dancers were all going to come out in blackface singing “Mammie”! Instead, they sang what I guessed was supposed to be a jazz number, which was about as jazzy as any song can be when there isn’t a single African-American involved.

musical | 10:11 am CDT
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Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

Weirdest thing that happened to me last weekend: I heard Barry Manilow on the radio. That never happens. Never. I listen to two stations that brag they play the best of the 70s, but they must be using a definition of “the best” that I’m not aware of. Either that, or the people who program their music didn’t do a minute’s research on what was considered the best of the 70s. I’m assuming they didn’t grow up in the 70s either, because if they had done either of those two things, then they would know they’d have to play Barry Manilow every single flippin day. And I know this because I was a teenager in the 70s who listened to a lot of pop music, as teenagers do, and I can tell you I heard Barry Manilow every single flippin day.

Full disclosure: I’m not a Barry Manilow fan. I never bought any of his albums or singles. But neither do I dislike his music. It was fun to listen to, it was easy for me to learn the words to the chorus so I could sing along, and I could even dance to it as much as I could dance to any music (which is to say, not so much dance as rhythmically twitch and jerk, usually in time to the music). I could listen to it again, while on the other hand I’ve had my fill of Peaceful Easy Feeling, or We Are The Champions. I think I’d be all right if I never heard either of those songs ever again. I guess I’d be all right with never hearing Mandy again, but I would get up out of my overstuffed chair and do the mambo if I ever heard Copacabana again. And I wouldn’t care who was watching.

Oh Barry | 1:34 pm CDT
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Monday, May 23rd, 2016

I quite like this one, too.

SHOWTIME! | 7:58 pm CDT
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Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

I just can’t get enough of this video.

WORK! | 1:09 pm CDT
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Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Best Songs Of The Seventies, Part One
(because I’m pretty sure I’m going to think of lots more for a Part Two right after I hit the “post” button)

Bee Gees: crickets. These guys dominated the seventies and eighties. I’ve never been able to figure out why. No one’s ever explained it to me in a way that made sense, either.

Boston: That One Song. You know it. It was on the radio all the time. You can air jam to it so hard! What the hell was it called?

Elton John: Bennie and the Jets. Did you know this song had words to it? Besides “Bennie and the Jets” I mean. No, really! It did! I looked them up a few weeks ago and discovered it’s got two whole verses! I wish we’d had the internet in the seventies so I’d been able to sing more than the chorus. Still, best Elton John song ever.

Hall & Oates: nothing. I have literally no love for any of the songs that Hall & Oats cranked out. I know y’all think they’re the greatest pop duo of the seventies, but everything they did irritates me. And it’s a totally irrational irritation; I can’t explain why I don’t like them, just that they rub me the wrong way. Sorry, Hall & Oates.

Jackson 5: I Want You Back. It’s not as hard as you think to declare this the best of all the music recorded by the Jackson 5. It’s got a great beat, not the least of all because of the heart-pounding bass line, and the melody is catchy as hell. Sometimes I get hung up on the message in the lyrics; after all, “those pretty faces always made you stand out in a crowd” isn’t exactly the most endearing thing you could say to a woman you were trying to woo back into your arms. Still, boss song.

Journey: Any Way You Want It. THAT’S the way you need it. ANY way you want it. DAH duh dah de dum dum dum dum DUM DUM DUM DAHHMMM!

REO Speedwagon: Roll With The Changes. Nothing better. Nope. Not gonna hear it. This is their best tune ever. Don’t care how big a fan you are or what you say about any of their other stuff. This is it. Talk to the hand.

Rod Stewart: Maggie Mae. Duh. I mean, did the guy even record anything else? It’s all Maggie Mae. Be honest. You can do it.

Queen: Somebody To Love. You thought it was going to be We Are The Champions, didn’t you? That song is the most overrated Queen song. Literally anything else they recorded was better than We Are The Champions. Actually, it was a tough call between this and Don’t Stop Me Now, but memories of me singing this at the tops of my lungs in the car tipped the balance. Best Ever.

Simon & Garfunkle: Trying To Keep The Customer Satisfied. Everybody who grew up in the seventies had a copy of the Bridge Over Troubled Water album. Everybody. And this was not only the best song off the album, it was their best song ever. I like everything they ever recorded, except – it has to be said, sorry – El Condor Pasa, and I sing along whenever their tunes are on the radio, because if you don’t show everybody that you know all the words to every Simon & Garfunkle tune, just go home, but this is the song that I crank all the way up to eleven. Try it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Steve Miller: Jungle Love. I remember Steve Miller was on the radio all through the seventies. The man could crank out the pop tunes. This one, though – this one’s got a beat that leaves all the others behind. And it’s got that whistling thing. Whatever that is, it was so much fun to do in the car.

Tony Orlando and Dawn: Who’s In The Strawberry Patch With Sally? I just have to mention this one because it’s so goddamn much fun to sing at parties. Not that I go to a lot of parties these days. Probably because I sing this song. Please invite me to your party so I can sing this song.

favorites | 5:04 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play
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Sunday, September 21st, 2014

I had tickets to see Pomplamoose last week at the High Noon Saloon. Too bad I didn’t get to see them.

Oh, I was there. I got there early. Tickets said the show started at eight, so I was there with my hot date at seven-thirty hoping to score a couple of seats close to the stage. Turns out the High Noon doesn’t do seats close to the stage. They don’t do seats anywhere near the stage. You can stand on the open floor around the stage, or you can try to wrangle a seat in the balcony. We managed to wrangle a seat in the balcony behind some motormouthed dude who apparently paid the fifteen-dollar cover charge so he could spend the whole time yammering to the other people at his table what a great show it was. Or something. I couldn’t make out what he was saying, only that he was making a lot of noise.

To be fair to the motormouth, everybody was making a lot of noise. Here’s a tip: If you want to hear what one of your favorite bands would sound like as background music, go see them at the High Noon Saloon, where the customers pay for tickets to see a band and then stand around jabbering while the band plays. Made my head explode. Twice, because there were two opening acts: John Schroeder, a blues singer who might’ve been pretty good if only I could have heard him over the crowd noise, and Danielle Ate The Sandwich, a kind of folksy singer who might’ve been pretty good if only I could have … oh, you know.

I bugged out before Pomplamoose came on stage, for two good reasons: I didn’t want to get arrested for jumping up on the pool table and yelling, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE WILL YOU DUMBSHITS SHUT THE HELL UP?! And also because it was late. I’m old. I go to bed at ten o’clock. To see my favorite band I’ll make an exception, but not after they keep me waiting for two hours, and not when the crowd is going to keep on gossiping about the dumb shit that happened at work that day. So I didn’t get to see Pomplamoose. Sad face.

Here’s one of my favorite Pomplamoose songs, just so you know why I’m kinda bummed that I didn’t get to see them:

Pomplamoose | 5:06 pm CDT
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Friday, August 29th, 2014

One of my coworkers takes great delight in singing less-than-likeable pop songs from the 70’s. The asshole. I’m a live-and-let-live kind of guy, but I could cheerfully curb-stomp anyone who thinks it’s hilarious to resurrect pop songs that should have remained dead and buried. That’s one breach of etiquette that ought to be punishable with at least a bit of ad hoc facial reconstruction.

And by ‘etiquette,’ I’m being purely rhetorical. I certainly don’t mean that my coworker should be asking permission to drag these musical abominations from the grave. If you’re going to politely ask, “Say, do you mind if I sing the chorus to Seasons In The Sun?” you might as well just sing the fucking song, because either way it’s going to play on a loop in my head the rest of the day.

And I’m not talking about mildly annoying songs, or songs that I like in spite of themselves. The kind of songs I’m talking about are vile in their construction, repugnant in their performance, and malicious in the way they infect you. They are musical disease. I’m not kidding. Do you seriously believe Playground In My Mind was recorded for any reason other than to painfully torment you for the rest of your days?

These are the kind of songs that were so long gone that not only had I dared to believe they would never be heard again, I had reached a kind of pop-song Nirvana: I had not thought about them for decades. If only every song by Hall & Oates would vanish so completely. But now there’s this coworker who has to go and dredge them up, one by one, by singing just one or two lines of a chorus, off-key. One pass, and I spend the rest of the afternoon listening to every goddamned saccharine-sweet line, because of course my memory, which can’t be depended on to remember a grocery list with three items on it, can remember every word of every song I heard in the 70s.

dead and buried … and undead | 6:08 am CDT
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Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Word Crimes | 4:26 pm CDT
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Sunday, July 6th, 2014

I have the pop song Afternoon Delight stuck in my head. It ought to be Muskrat Love, the song I was reading about when one of the commenters to the online article noted that it was one of those schmaltzy pop songs they couldn’t help but love, like Afternoon Delight. For some reason, my brain decided to obsess on the latter instead of the former.

I, too, am one of those people who have to shamefacedly admit I love schmaltzy pop songs like Muskrat Love and Afternoon Delight. Even though earworms like these will eventually drive me to sing The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island in self-defense, I am right now tapping my toes and humming along as Afternoon Delight is echoing over and over deep within my cortex.

Footnote: I did not know that Muskrat Love, specifically the version I know by the Captain and Tennille, was a cover of a song called Muskrat Candlelight by Willis Alan Ramsey.

skyrockets in flight | 8:36 am CDT
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Monday, June 9th, 2014

I was listening to tunes while doing some mindless, repetitive paperwork the other day when “Don’t Walk Away” came up as a random pick. My phone’s shuffle option tends to favor modern pop tunes and the Dave Brubeck best-of album I bought a year ago. It almost never plays the one-off tunes in my collection even though it’s supposed to be random, so I practically never hear older songs like “I Want You Back” or “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'” unless I flip through the list and poke it by hand.

That’s one reason I was startled enough to stop what I was doing and sit up in my chair when “Don’t Walk Away” came around on shuffle. Another reason is, the song opens with the raw, ragged voice of Toni Childs all but shouting the title of the song, followed by a brace of trumpets blasting out two quick bars before Childs repeats her demand. It’s an introduction that grabs you by the lapels and holds on.

But the most personal reason I had to stop and listen to “Don’t Walk Away” is that it’s my breakup song, the song that perfectly captured my utter wretchedness at the moment my heart had broken. Those three words and those blaring horns were a top ten hit when I was dumped by the one and only person I couldn’t live without.

After I heard this song on VH1 or MTV or whatever I went straight out to the store, was strangely relieved to find they had a copy of “Reunion” on cassette tape, paid whatever they asked for it, popped it into my player as soon as I got back to my dorm and replayed it so many times I’m surprised to this day that my roomie didn’t strangle me in my sleep. He gave me a pass only because he and everybody else in the whole world could see what a wreck I was.

That summer, Toni Childs barked out the words I needed to hear. I still get the chills listening to this song, same way I get all warm and gooshy inside when I hear Basia Trzetrzelewska, another singer you’ve never heard of, croon “Time and Tide.” What a year that was. What a song.

Don’t Walk Away | 8:42 pm CDT
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Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

The song stuck in my head this morning is the Bobby Goldsboro version of “Watching Scotty Grow.” I loved this song when I was a kid and would crank up the volume whenever I was lucky enough to catch it on the radio. They just didn’t play it often enough for me back then.

As for now, the song is so insipidly sweet that it makes me want to piss granulated sugar. I’ll have to rinse my ears out with the theme song from Gilligan’s Island from now until sundown to start feeling normal again.

earworm | 5:00 am CDT
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Sunday, November 24th, 2013

My brother plays this game with me where he texts me a line from a pop song, sometimes familiar, sometimes obscure, and I try to guess what it is.

He’s much better at this game than I am. The other day he texted, “He says his name is William, but I’m sure he’s Bill or Billy or Mac or Buddy,” while the best I’ve ever been able to do is stump him by quoting the first few lines of Elton John’s Benny and the Jets:

Hey, kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight’s hitting something that’s been known to change the weather
We’ll kill the fatted calf tonight, so stick around
You’re going to hear electric music, solid walls of sound

“I got nothin’,” was his best guess. When I told him it was Benny and the Jets, he said, “I didn’t know that song had words.”

I never knew the words to Bennie and the Jets either until I looked it up on the internet one day and even then they didn’t make sense until I put a recording of the song on a loop and listened to it with the words in front of me. To this day, only the first verse makes any sense to me, by which I mean that I can sort of sing them with the song, not that they make any actual sense. I couldn’t ever manage to make the second verse scan very well at all so I don’t remember what it is even after listening to it a couple hundred times.

Songs Without Words would be the name of my a capella tribute band, made up entirely of singers with awesome voices singing in flawless harmony who would nonetheless know none of the lyrics to the songs they were singing. All the songs would be pop tunes from my youth that I pretended to know the words to but didn’t. I would make my best attempt to write the words down after a single pass over a recording. For instance, here’s what I heard when I listened to Brass In Pocket by The Pretenders just now:

Got brass in pocket
Goat fly dell
I’m gonna use it
Intention
I feel in my tab
Gonna make you, make you, make you notice
Got motion
Listen demotion
Been diving detour leaning
No visa
Just seems so pleasing
Gonna make you, make you, make you notice
Gonna use my arms
Gonna use my legs
Gonna use my style
Gonna use my sad sail
Gonna use my fingers
Gonna use my, my, my imagination
Cause I’m gonna make you see
There’s nobody else here, no one like me
I’m special, so special
I’ve got to have some of your attention
Give it to me
Got rhythm, I can’t miss a beat
I got you, skank, sooo reeks!
Got something, when can I tell
Gonna make you, make you, make you notice
Gonna use my arms
Gonna use my legs
Gonna use my style
Gonna use my sad sail
Gonna use my fingers
Gonna use my, my, my imagination
Cause I’m gonna make you see
There’s nobody else here, no one like me
I’m special, so special
I’ve got to have some of your attention
Give it to me

This is in fact the first time I’ve ever tried to write out the words to Brass In Pocket, and I believe it turned out so well that I’m never going to look up the lyrics on the internet. I’m just going to stay with these for the rest of my life. If you make any attempt to inform me of the actual words I will delete your comment without reading it and never speak to you again.

no words | 3:39 pm CDT
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Sunday, November 10th, 2013

The song stuck in my head all last week was The Bangles’ Manic Monday. Pick just about any one of their songs and I’ll tap my feet or sing along with it, so ordinarily I wouldn’t be bothered if one was stuck in my head for days on end, but Manic Monday is arguably the worst song The Bangles ever recorded. And I will argue the point right here and now. To death. You’re welcome.

What the hell is it about Manic Monday that made it so goddamn popular? The tune’s not especially catchy. Try whistling it. If you’re not bored after the first two lines, you will be by the time you get through the three-note bridge of the song. I’m not saying that every pop song has to be as intricately complex as a Beethoven minuet, but I’d like something a little more imaginative than a tune a chicken could peck out on a toy piano.

Then there are the lyrics. Even in a pop song, they’re supposed to be, well, lyrical.

Six o’clock already, I was just in the middle of a dream

Yeah, I hate it when that happens. Okay, I’m listening. What happened next?

I was kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream

I’m not going to question how you knew it was an Italian stream. In dreams, sometimes you just know you’re in Italy, or the dog you’re talking to is actually your mom, or something really weird. But Valentino? Who dreams about Valentino? How many people these days even know who Valentino is? And Valentino was in movies before they were in color. Well, never mind. Bring on the next line.

But I can’t be late ’cause then I guess I just won’t get paid

What the hell was that? Did you write that on a napkin that was too wet to let you cross it out? That line’s as clunky as a 98 Ford Escort on its last legs! Fifteen-year-olds composing their first poems in the margins of their algebra workbooks write lines that scan better than that!

You guess you just won’t get paid? Why are you guessing? I think it’s a law that they have to pay you. Maybe a couple dollars less, and maybe your boss is going to yell at you, but all the places I’ve worked at had to pay me even when I was late.

And why just? Why won’t you just get paid? That doesn’t make sense. Don’t use “just” when it doesn’t make sense. There’s a special ring in songwriting hell for people who pad lyrics with junk syllables.

These are the days when you wish your bed was already made

I don’t make my bed unless I’ve got lots of extra time. First I shower, then I make my coffee, then I drink my coffee while I’m catching up on Facebook or watching cat videos, then I get dressed, and so on down the checklist of things I do every morning. Making my bed is the last thing on the list. If I don’t get to it, no biggie.

Anyway, you tell us later in the song that your boyfriend’s not working. Tell that shiftless bastard to make the bed. It’s the least he can do while he’s mooching off you.

Just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
Just another manic Monday

I’m still not getting why it’s manic, other than it’s Monday and you’re making the shift from the weekend to the working week. Elvis Costello did it a lot better, by the way. You’ve got to do it, so you’d better get to it.

Have to catch an early train, got to be to work by nine, and if I had an aeroplane I still couldn’t make it on time

Okay, you’re not making sense again. You woke up at six o’clock. Most people don’t wake up that early unless an alarm goes off. You set an alarm for six, right? This is what you do every day, right? If so, how did you not have enough time to catch the early train? How early does that train have to be? How far away do you live from work that you couldn’t get there in time even if you flew, for shit’s sake?

And “aeroplane?” Are you kidding me? Who says “aeroplane” anymore? You’re padding again. Knock it off.

‘Cause it takes so long just to figure out what I’m going to wear.
Blame it on the train ’cause the boss is already there.

Oh. I’m starting to see now. You’re an employee with a record of attendance issues, aren’t you? “Sorry, boss, I missed the train.” “For the third time this month? Sure you did.”

Just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
Just another manic Monday

Buy some work clothes. Black slacks, white shirts. Wear those every day. Stop thinking about what you’re going to wear and you won’t have to run for the early train any more.

Out of all nights, why did my lover have to pick last night to get down?
Doesn’t it matter that I have to feed the both of us, employment’s down?
He tells me in his bedroom voice, “Come on honey, let’s go make some noise.”

Wait a sec, why does he get to pick? You’re the working girl, you pay the rent, you bring home the bacon. This guy’s got it made! He’s getting all of that and you’re staying up late for him when he wants nookie! Even when he uses a laugh-out-loud line like “let’s go make some noise.” Does a line like that really work? I can’t believe that works.

Just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
Just another manic Monday

Those have got to be the worst rhymes for Monday ever.

Manic Monday | 4:51 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, yet another rant
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Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Funny thing: I’ve been to two beer festivals in two months and at both of them I’ve seen bluegrass bands that made me, and I mean made me tap my feet. Last month it was The Material Guys at the Dilly-Dally, hosted by Karben4. This month, it was Horseshoes & Hand Grenades at the Great Amherst Beer Fest hosted by Central Waters. It gets me to thinking I ought to look for more live performances of bluegrass bands, but then I wonder if it would take the wonder out finding them by accident.

horseshoes & hand grenades | 8:34 am CDT
Category: beer, entertainment, festivals, food & drink, music, play
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Saturday, September 14th, 2013

The song stuck in my head this morning is the saccharin-sweet teen ballad Loving You by Debbie Gibson Minnie Riperton. It’s been playing on a loop for hours. I want to die.

Next-day edit: I eventually got this song out of my head without killing myself, but it came back the next day. Not only that, I had the nagging feeling that I couldn’t blame this song on Debbie Gibson. That bugged me so much I had to ask the Google who sang it. Turns out to be the hit song that crowned the career of Minnie Riperton, a 28-year-old singer who had lapsed into semi-retirement when she was discovered by a recording studio that signed her on to record this and other songs for the record Perfect Angel. So the song that made her a star is the one that makes me want to hang myself. Kinda makes me feel like a grinch.

Wait, it gets better. Three years after she hit it big with that song, she was dead of cancer. And as if that wasn’t enough to make me feel guilty about hating this crappy, crappy song, it’s based on a lullaby she made up to sing her daughter to sleep. There. My total shittiness is now complete.

Kill Me Now | 12:16 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, music, random idiocy
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Sunday, September 8th, 2013

I did not know that I liked Madonna songs until I went to the Dilly Dally last weekend.

The Dilly Dally is a small gathering of microbreweries from the Madison area: Ale Asylum, Bos Meadery, Capital, Next Door, Old Sugar Distillery, One Barrel, Vintage, Yahara and, last but certainly not least, Karben4, the brewery that sponsored the event. Or at least I assume they sponsored the event, because it took place on their lawn. They had a great big tent set up out by the patio, The Tipsy Cow was there to cater the event and there was even a bluegrass band to provide the entertainment.

The first couple of tunes the band played sounded vaguely familiar, but then all bluegrass tunes sound familiar to me because they all sound more or less the same. I’m not saying I think it’s boring music, I’m saying I don’t know enough of it to recognize a tune when it’s played for me, so they all sort of blur together. Besides, there was all that beer to drink, so I wasn’t really paying attention.

After sampling a couple of beers, My Darling B and I ducked inside for a bite to eat, then came back out onto the patio to sit for a bit. The band was twanging away on another tune that sent a bell ringing somewhere in the back of my memory and, as I paid a little more attention to see if I could get the words, it hit me: it was the Madonna tune True Blue! They were covering Madonna tunes! If memory serves, and I don’t think it does very well at this point, the next song was Borderline, and then they did a cover of the Duran Duran song Hungry Like The Wolf. They did it awesomely!

My Darling B and I parked ourselves right in front of the band and stayed there the rest of the afternoon, taking turns getting beer so one of us could hold our spot. The banjo player came over during the break to talk with somebody right behind us and we had to tell them how much we were enjoying them. He stuck around to talk about the other songs they were working on, and then they went into their last set, when they sang Like a Virgin, which has got to be their signature song. Although they finished off with a scorching version of Rocky Top, which turned into a sing-along. Of course.

greatest cover band ever | 1:32 pm CDT
Category: Dilly Dally, entertainment, festivals, music, play
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Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Baby, The Rain Must Fall, the song in which Glenn Yarbrough uses weather as a metaphor to tell his gal why he wants to boink other women, has been playing on a loop in my head ALL FREAKIN’ DAY!

Memory is a cruel thing. In thirty years I probably won’t be able to remember my own damn name, but I’ll bet the nursing home orderlies will all think Baby, The Rain Must Fall is my favorite song, coz why else would I sing the chorus over and over all day long?

this is your brain on drugs | 3:30 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, random idiocy
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Friday, June 28th, 2013

Too good not to share:

Dumb Ways To Die | 9:47 pm CDT
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Monday, May 13th, 2013

Even though I’ve never especially liked David Bowie’s Space Oddity, this cover by ISS commander Chris Hadfield is not only just plain awesome, the production values are going to be hard for anyone else to beat ever:

Hadfield is a Canadian member of the ISS and is playing a Canadian-made Larrivee Parlor guitar – how freakin awesome is it that there’s a guitar on the space station?

ADDED: How Hadfield’s recording of Space Oddity came to be.

Space Oddity | 6:51 pm CDT
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Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

I asked My Darling B to go with me to see The Fountain Big Band Sunday night, but the weather was so warm and sunny that, when she went out in the morning to play in her garden, she couldn’t leave it for anything. She had to keep on playing in the dirt, so I went to The Fountain on my own. Can’t miss that big band sound!

garden vs. big band | 6:23 am CDT
Category: entertainment, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play
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Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

We saw two really good films today, the first one at the beginning of the day and the other one at the end of the day, that sort of bookended the day and made it worth going out for.

And we saw two stinkers. One of them stunk so bad it took under thirty minutes for us to get up and leave. The other one, Comrade Kim Goes Flying, took me a little longer than that to figure out.

I thought at first it must have been a joke. The actors were all so gosh-darned Beaver-Cleaverishly wholesome that I figured it had to be satire. Some of the people in the audience were laughing, but other than sounding weird, I though all the jokes fell flat. I nodded off before I could figure it out.

When I woke up, quite a lot of the dialogue made me think that maybe the movie was a straight-up propaganda piece, although the audience was still laughing. Maybe they thought propaganda was funny in an ironic way, but I still didn’t get it. I nodded off again.

I only stayed with it after that because I figured I’d already stuck it out so far and there wasn’t anything to do in the lobby, but after another fifteen minutes of that awful dialog I felt that staring at the wall would be preferable, so I patted B on the shoulder and said, “I’m out. See you in the lobby after.”

I’d been waiting barely ten minutes when I got a text from B: “Where U at?” I caught up with her as she was coming out of the ladies’ room.

“You couldn’t put up with any more either?” I asked her.

“I was asleep when you poked me,” she admitted. “You woke me up!”

So neither one of us gave Comrade Kim high marks.

Comrade Kim Goes Flying | 12:02 am CDT
Category: entertainment, festivals, music, play, Wisc Film Fest
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Friday, April 12th, 2013

My one-word review of Gideon’s Army, the second movie we saw at the Wisconsin Film Fest last night, would be: Inspiring. It’s inspiring to know that there are people like public defenders out there, if ‘inspiring’ is the word to describe the way they made me want to get a law degree and fight for the rights of the indigent. I wonder how long it takes to get a law degree?

Gideon’s Army | 11:02 am CDT
Category: entertainment, festivals, music, play, Wisc Film Fest
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Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

brucesIt was the kind of day that a thoughtful man such as myself could only ponder over two martinis. One martini just would not provide enough pondering time.

Which reminds me of a song:


Immanuel Kant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable
Heidigger, Heidigger was a boozing beggar who could think you under the table
David Hume could out-consumer Shopenhauer and Hegel
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine who was just as shloshed as Schlagle

There’s nothing Nietche couldn’t teach you ’bout the raising of the wrist
Socrates himself was permanently pissed

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will, on a half-pint of shandy was particularly ill
Plato, they say, could stick it away, half a crate of whiskey every day
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle, Hobbes was fond of his dram
And Rene Descart was a drunken fart, “I drink, therefore I am!”

Yes, Socrates himself is particularly missed
A lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he’s pissed!

philosophical repose | 9:09 pm CDT
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Monday, April 8th, 2013

I just love these guys.

Goodbye | 7:26 pm CDT
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Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

I remember searching for the perfect words …

Berlin | 9:05 pm CDT
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Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

If I remember rightly, and I’m not saying I do, I think The Fountain used to be a seafood place in a previous life. I’m not sure because I’ve been away from downtown Madison for quite a while now. While I worked on cap square I took a walk down State Street about once a week and knew just about every restaurant, shop and tavern, but it’s been a long time since then and a lot of things have changed. Somebody with a big red crane tore down about half of the 100 Block, for instance. That’s a change that would scramble anybody’s memory.

The Fountain seemed familiar, though. I have a dim memory of eating a sit-down dinner or two in the room where we saw the big band. It’s not a big room. It’s certainly not a room I’d expect to be able to squeeze into if there was a full-sized big band already present, although I’d have to qualify that by saying I’ve been in the presence of a real live big band just once in my whole life. I’m entirely willing to admit that I think they’re big mostly because they got ‘big’ in the name.

The room that they call the upstairs bar has three or four booths against one wall, room for maybe a dozen tables in the middle of the floor, and they’ve managed to park some really teeny two-person tables against the wall between the windows or, in our case, up against one window, a fact I mention only because the windows aren’t insulated, giving me a terrible case of goosebumps the night we were there. Yes, thank you, I’ll have some cheese with my whine.

The band was scheduled to start playing at five, but five came and went and there were still guys lugging big, black instrument cases through the door. They didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry, either. Five clearly meant five-ish.

We passed the time with a couple of beers and, for appetizers, we ordered onion straws. Why do we do this? We know from experience that we shouldn’t. Our bodies aren’t young enough to eat that much deed-fried snack food, but we order it anyway because wow that’s good snack food, especially with dipping sauce. And when you wash it down with beer – *bliss!* Paid for it later, though.

(If you’re really hungry, I recommend the reuben sandwich. I have never before seen corned beef slices so thick on a reuben anywhere. I ate just half of it and was well and truly serensified, even unto the next day.)

The band started playing around five-thirty and just BLEW MY SOCKS OFF! Literally. And then I couldn’t find them, not even wadded up in the toes of my shoes. That shouldn’t even be physically possible, but when a half-dozen saxophones backed up by a half-dozen trombones and an indeterminate number (couldn’t indulge my urge to count; a pillar was in my way) of trumpets start channeling the spirit of Count Basie, socks are gonna fly. I couldn’t find them anywhere. I had to go home sockless.

The first set lasted about an hour and comprised four or five toe-tapping numbers, then the band took a break to grab some beers and reload. “Do you want to stay for the second half?” My Darling B asked. “Hell, yes!” I answered without having to think about it. So we did. When they came back and started playing the second set, they blew my shoes off. Found those under a nearby table, though, so I didn’t have to walk barefoot through the snow to get home.

The Fountain Big Band meets on the last Sunday of every month at The Fountain, 122 State Street. I know that’s where we’ll be four weeks from now.

The Fountain | 6:15 am CDT
Category: booze, daily drivel, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants
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Sunday, March 24th, 2013

We got all kindsa kulcha today.

About a month ago, My Darling B asked me if I wanted to go to the opera. It’s not something she asks me very often – like, never – so I said yes. I couldn’t think of anything else to say. She caught me unprepared.

But that turned out to be a good thing. The show she got tickets for was The Real Divas of Dane County, a reality show/opera mash-up. I’m only passingly familiar with the “Real Housewives” television show, and the only opera I know is what I heard watching Bugs Bunny, but I think they did a fair job.

We got there way too early, though. The last time we went into town for a show at the Overture Center there were huge crowds milling around in the lobby for three different shows and we had one hell of a time grabbing our tickets from the will-call window in time to get to our show. We didn’t want to cut it as fine this time so we left an hour before show time, only to get there and find no other shows going on and virtually nobody in the lobby. After picking up our tickets, we had forty minutes to kill before the show.

So we headed up State Street to see if we could find an open bar where we could sit and sip a cocktail before the show, and it turned out we could: The Fountain had plenty of empty bar stools and a bartender who was more than willing to mix a couple drinks for us. He had an interesting way of mixing a martini: After he chilled the glass with ice water, he poured just a bit of vermouth into the glass, swirled it around enough to coat the insides, dumped the excess down the drain, then filled it up with gin. My dad would’ve loved that, both for the theater of it and the resulting delicious martini.

When we told him we were in town to see a show, he let us know that there would be a big band playing in the upstairs bar later and invited us to stop by if we were staying in town. We hadn’t planned on it, but figured what the hell, we can do things spontaneously once in a while, and came back.

Good thing we did, because The Fountain Big Band is fantastic! If I counted right, there were five sax players, five trombone players, three trumpet players, a piano player, a drummer, a guitar player and a bass player, all jammed into a back corner of a very intimate venue. They all seemed to be professional musicians or professors of music from all over the state, and a few from out of state. They get together at the Fountain on the last Sunday of each month and, without any kind of rehearsal, belt out some of the foot-tappingest big-band music I’ve heard. We enjoyed it so much that we stayed for both the first and last set. And to think we wouldn’t have even heard of it if we hadn’t been too early for the opera.

kulcha | 9:56 pm CDT
Category: booze, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, show | Tags: ,
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Sunday, March 10th, 2013

My Darling B took me to see The Gershwin Songbook at the Overture Center today. Other than a lot of songs by George and Ira, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The show was produced by an acting troupe called Four Seasons Theatre and the advertising didn’t make it clear whether they were going to just sing, put on a play or what.

When we got there, the stage was set with a piano, a drum set and a few other instruments for a quartet that came out shortly to provide the music. The whole troupe came out to sing Strike Up The Band as an introduction, then each person in the troupe took turns singing about two-dozen Gershwin tunes. One of the three founding members of the troupe stepped out from time to time to provide a little color commentary, most of it stuff that I’d never heard before. I didn’t know, for instance, that George Gershwin died so young.

And that was about it: simple and fun. We recognized quite a lot of the tunes but were surprised in the end at how many we had never heard before. B and I are both Gershwin fans and yet somehow neither of us had ever heard of songs like Blah Blah Blah or Vodka before this, making us both feel like Gershwin newbies.

The highlight of the evening for me was when a pair of singers made a guest appearance on stage to perform several numbers from Porgy and Bess. Ariana Douglas opened with a mournful rendition of Summertime, then stepped away while Gregory Brumfield sang a spirited I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin. Then together they sang a version of Bess, You Is My Woman Now that got me all misty-eyed. It’s one of my very favorite love songs, after all, and I’d never seen it performed. That was worth the price of admission all by itself.

Gershwin | 6:38 am CDT
Category: entertainment, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play
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Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

song stuck in my head“I got a song stuck in my head,” My Darling B said the other day.

“Yeah, me too,” I said. “You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine.”

She chuckled at that. “Really?”

“It’ll be okay,” I assured her. “Mine is one you like.”

“Okay,” she said, sounding rather unsure, “if you say so,” and then she started humming Oh, What A Night, arguably the worst pop song ever conceived by the English-speaking people.

“That’s pretty awful,” I said, once she’d unloaded that particularly ugly bit of mental baggage. “Here’s mine, then – ” I started to sing Think Of Me from “Phantom Of The Opera.” She joined in at about the third or fourth word and we howled the rest of it together.

Earworms: Sometimes you just gotta dig them out and strangle the shit out of them or they’ll ruin your whole day.

earworm | 7:43 am CDT
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Saturday, February 9th, 2013

I like cows. Who doesn’t? Stupid people, that’s who.


i like cows | 9:18 am CDT
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Monday, January 7th, 2013

Strap a GoPro camera on your trombone slide and serenade me.

dizzy | 6:19 am CDT
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Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Alas Dave Brubeck | 9:00 pm CDT
Category: current events, entertainment, music, play | Tags: ,
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Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Your devoted drivelmeister was out way past his bed time last night, boys and girls, and he brings back reports of a rich chocolate treat that is the talk of the town. A brownie, I believe. Or it may have been a goulash. I know a rich chocolate goulash sounds a bit unconventional, so maybe I heard that wrong. I’m a devoted drivelmeister, but I don’t always get the story one hundred percent accurate. This is drivel, after all.

The evening started out at the Cardinal Bar in downtown Madison, where the local band Beat Road Blues was the featured musical entertainment. My Darling B’s coworker, Adam, plays in the band and she’s sort of a groupie, I guess you might say. When he plays in town we usually stop by to give a listen, and last night we even talked Kris and Bryan, a couple of friends into meeting us at the Cardinal for drinks and snacks.

More than a few of B’s coworkers at the DMV turned out to see the band, too, and quite a few stopped by our table to say hi to B who, being in Happy Friday mode, made introductions all around. One of the first to stop by was Michael, who shook my hand and informed me that my wife was “a treat.” I think he meant a treat to have around, or a treat to work with, something like that, but the way he said it, it sort of sounded like he thought she was a glazed pastry, or a candy wrapped in foil. I think he realized almost right away that the compliment didn’t come out exactly the way he wanted it to, because he added, “Like a rich, tasty brownie.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I did what I usually do in that case, which is laugh and wait for somebody else to say something. I’m not very gifted socially.

“Okay, I’ll shut up now,” he said.

When Jim, another one of B’s friends from work stopped by to say hi, we asked him what food B reminded him of. “Seriously?” he asked. And of course at that point we weren’t serious at all, but we wanted an answer anyway. “Okay, I think she like a goulash,” he said, “because it has so much variety.” That’s My Darling B: She’s a tasty chocolate treat! She’s a goulash!

She’s a dancing fool! Jim took B out on the dance floor for the band’s final number, “Mustang Sally,” and they cut a rug, maybe even two rugs. Watching from the sidelines, I can say with confidence that all those dance lessons we took paid off for her that night.

When the band began to pack up we left the Cardinal to head up the street half a block to Plaka Taverna to get a bite to eat. None of us had eaten anything besides the chips they were serving at the Cardinal so we were feeling a little hungry, and Plaka serves the most delicious Greek food: kababs and pitas with hummus and rice wrapped in grape leaves, and you can get combo platters that are perfect for satisfying a growling tummy. The place was crazy busy but we got the last available table and even though the waitress was running her legs off, she was game enough to play along when Kris asked her what food she thought of when she looked at B. “A chewy chocolate-chip cookie?” she guessed. Good answer, because who wouldn’t want to be compared to a chocolate chip cookie?

We weren’t quite ready to go home after we finished noshing at Plaka’s, so we walked back down the block to the Come Back Inn to order a final round and swap a few more stories and bad jokes. Our waitress talked me into ordering a foamy mug of O’Shae’s Irish Stout, and I mention that only to give you a very important heads-up about O’Shae’s Irish Stout: Whatever you do with it, don’t put it in your mouth! If that stuff is real Irish stout from Ireland, then the Irish are pawning their cheapest stuff off on the American market. I’d rather drink Budweiser, and I think you know how I feel about that bilge water.

We had a pretty good time at Come Back Inn, especially the girls. I don’t know what was in their beer but it sure made them giggly. (Okay, I guess the usual stuff in beer would make them do that.) Spoken conversation became impossible after the band started playing in the next room so they started spelling out words in the air with their fingers, and that turned into a game of chrarades, and THEN the giggling got really intense! When their back-and-forth became nothing at all but giggling Bryan and I cut them off and took them home to tuck them in bed.

Up All Night | 9:49 am CDT
Category: beer, daily drivel, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, restaurants | Tags: ,
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Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

This one’s for t-dawg:

 

pie hole | 9:19 pm CDT
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Thursday, October 25th, 2012

If you can hear a whole brass section going DUNNNH DUH-DUH-DUH-DUNNNH! as you gaze at this cinegraph, you must have wasted at least as much of your youth watching Star Trek as I did.

music to my ears | 6:33 pm CDT
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Monday, October 22nd, 2012

image of Art Smart's Dart Mart in Milwaukee WIWe went to Milwaukee to see a taping of one of our favorite radio shows, Says You! and then we almost didn’t make it to the show! It was an evening taping but we left Madison in the morning and got to Milwaukee around noon so we could have a wander around town. Then we went back to our room to clean up and catch a short nap. When we were ready to go, I called for a taxi to pick us up.

The driver called me from the curb outside the door of the inn when he got there and I very nearly didn’t answer because he had a New York phone number, so I assumed he was a telemarketer. I only decided to pick up so I could mess with him.

“Yessss?” I answered.

“Dave?”

That old dodge: Using my first name to get me to stay on the line. “Yessss?”

Pause. “Did you call a cab?”

“Oh! Yes, yes I did! Hang on, we’ll be right down!”

Then, as we stepped out the elevator into the lobby, a couple dressed to nines were looking out the window and saying something like, “I don’t know how he got here so quickly. Maybe it’s not ours.” But they went out anyway and stopped short of getting into the cab when we followed them as closely as a shadow all the way to the curb.

“Did you call a cab, too?” the woman asked me.

“Yes, I did,” I answered as My Darling B stuck her head in the door to make sure it was, in fact, our cab. It was. As I climbed in, B asked the driver to take us to the Helen Bader Theater on the UW-Milwaukee Campus, and then gave him the address: 2419 E. Kenwood Boulevard. “Right, right,” he said, and sped us to a faraway neighborhood of the city.

Let me just interrupt here to remind the reader that the only times we’ve been to Milwaukee before this have been on guided tours, or to pick someone up from the airport. We don’t know any of the streets or neighborhoods, but we assumed our driver did, and when he said, “Right, right,” and nodded, I don’t think we went out on a limb when we assumed he knew exactly where the Helen Bader theater was. Certainly, we expected him to know where the campus of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee was.

So when he dropped us off at the intersection of what looked like a shopping district, we didn’t say, “Where the hell are we?” We assumed he’d dropped us off maybe around the corner from the theater and we only had to walk to the corner and we’d see it. Call me foolishly naive, I deserve it. When we walked down to the corner to get our bearings, though, we discovered that the driver had dropped us off on Kenilworth Street, not Kenwood Boulevard! I ran back to the taxi with B yelling, “Stop him! Stop him!” behind me. Thank dog it took him so long to get his dispatcher on the phone.

On the upside, he didn’t charge us for the ride to the correct address, and we got there in plenty of time.

I was trying to describe Says You! to a friend the other day and rather ironically found myself at a loss for words. Ironic, because Says You! is, as the show’s host, Richard Sher, describes it, a game of words played by two teams. It’s alrways played in five rounds, each with its own peculiar quirk. They played one of my favorite rounds last night, a game I can play without making my brain explode. Richard Sher gives the name of an actor and asks a panelist to guess the movie he’s thinking of. It’s usually an almost unknown actor in a supporting role. With just one name, the guess is at best wild, of course, although sometimes they actually get it on the first try. If so, ten points! If not, another actor’s name gets added to the list, this one a little more well-known than the first.

With the choices narrowed down a bit it’s not a coin toss any more, but still just barely an educated guess. Sometimes Richard will go with the most popular movie featuring the actors in question, sometimes the most recent, but sometimes he’ll go for the obscure title. You never know. The last name added to the list is a giveaway, the name of whoever got star billing, and when it gets that far its announcement is followed by a lot of facepalming and oh-I-shoulda-got-that groaning.

Two of the rounds are Bluffing Rounds: the host gives one team a word so obscure that it sounds as though he made it up on the spot. The words they used the other night, for instance, were “callithump” and “corf.” Don’t ask me what they mean; I forgot already. Each of the team members gets a card, but only one of the cards has the definition of the word on it; the other two cards say, “Please Bluff.” Those two team members try to make up a definition that sounds plausible enough to fool the other team into picking one of the made-up definitions.

There’s always a musical guest to play a song during the introductions, and to provide a musical interlude during the bluffing rounds, to give the panelists enough time to come up with a good bluff. The musical guest was probably the most delightful surprise of the evening: they were The Squeezettes, the power-polka band we just happened to see last month at the Monroe Cheese Fest. I described them then as an all-girl accordion band but there was a guy drumming and another guy playing a sousaphone, so obviously I wasn’t paying close attention. And although there are three women playing accordion, calling them an all-girl accordion band doesn’t do them justice. They describe their style as “power polka,” which comes much closer to capturing the feel of their art. Have you ever thought of “Wooly Booly” as a polka? Me, neither, but to hear them belt it out is to experience a whole new level of polka that I frankly wouldn’t have thought possible. I didn’t hesitate to buy a CD from the guy selling them in the lobby.

There was just one thing, and I mean only one thing, I would have changed about the evening: If I’d known the six people behind us were going to jabber and shout through the whole performance, I would’ve eaten a brick of cheese right before we were ushered in. I’ll have to keep one in my man purse from now on for emergencies.

How to see Milwaukee on just $500 a day – Part 2 | 8:59 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, radio, travel | Tags: , , , , ,
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Friday, October 19th, 2012

I wish I knew some guys I could run in slow motion with.

Permanent Revolution | 5:40 am CDT
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Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Stuck in my head all day:

Call Me Maybe | 9:14 pm CDT
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Sunday, September 16th, 2012

image of trunk full of goodwill donationsWe paid a visit to the Monroe Cheese Fest yesterday, which, if they were honest, they would call the Monroe Standing In Lines Fest. Ten thousand people crowded the city square of Monroe, so there were lines for everything. There were even lines to get in lines. I’m not kidding. To buy cheese curds, or cheesecake on a stick, or a beer – anything – we had to stand in a line to buy tickets for it first. I didn’t find a vendor anywhere that would take my money in exchange for something deep-fried, or cool and refreshing. I should’ve pulled the race card on them. “Oh, I get it: No tickee, no beer, eh? What kind of racist organization is this, anyway?”

Of course, each vendor had their own tickets. We couldn’t buy a whole fistful of tickets, then redeem them anywhere we wanted. Beer tickets would not buy cheese curds, for instance. Luckily for our thirsty selves, the New Glarus beer tent had a crack staff that kept the lines moving pretty fast. I was okay with the tickets-for-beer crap so long as I had a cold cup of beer in my hand.

We were invited to the cheese fest by a couple we know, Bryan and Kris. Bryan grew up in Monroe, so he knew it like the back of his hand and could tell stories about every building in town. He knew, for instance, that we wouldn’t be able to park anywhere near the courthouse square. Taking his advice, we parked on the edge of town and rode in on one of the buses the festival organizers chartered to bring people into town. Bryan suggested we meet in front of Baumgartner’s, a tavern Bryan said anybody would be able to point us toward if we couldn’t find it. Good idea, but as it turned out, we didn’t have to ask. The bus dropped us off right behind Baumgartner’s, so we were right where we wanted to be almost as soon as we stepped off the bus.

Our timing was perfect. Bryan phoned My Darling B just minutes after we arrived and left a voice message for her, saying he was in front of Baumgartner’s waiting for us, but after scanning the twenty or so faces of the people standing outside Baumgartner’s, we were pretty sure he was pulling a Candid Camera stunt on us. “If you’re in front of Baumgartner’s, then you must be cloaked,” I texted to him. I tried calling, but the cumulative weight of ten thousand cell phone users must’ve been overwhelming the one tired cell phone tower near the center of this normally-sleepy berg, because I never connected with him no matter how many times I tried to dial his number, even while he was leaving me more voice messages.

We hooked up eventually. He and Kris were standing on the other side of the road, near the beer tent. How fortuitous. After grabbing a cold one, we set off to tour the vendors set up around the square. That’s when we found out there were an infinite number of lines waiting for tickets, food, tickets, and beer. When we were almost all the way around the square, Bryan volunteered to wait in line for tickets to buy some cheese curds if we would go on to the beer tent and have a freshly-pulled cold beer waiting for him when he caught up with us. We agreed, and on we went.

I caught only the outlines of this plan, however, because while we were working them out I overheard the familiar strains of La Vie En Rose, played by all-girl accordion band, The Squeezettes. I had never been prepared for a version of La Vie En Rose scored for four women on accordions. I’m more accustomed to versions like the one sung by Edith Piaf, although Louis Armstrong can turn out a pretty good rendition, too. Overcome by the, ah, unique rendition by the Squeezettes, I lost track of what was going on around me and almost didn’t notice when the rest of the group moved on to the beer tent.

We ended up at the corner where we started, just as my Auntie Sue and Uncle Jim arrived. There was much hugging and hellos, followed by a trip to the beer tent to make sure everyone had a cool, refreshing drink before we went on to the next thing. The Next Thing was supposed to be listening to a blues band at the stage behind the brewery, but unfortunately it turned out that they were scheduled to appear much later in the day than we thought they were, so we made our way back up to the square and, on the way, happened to meet some people we knew. There was much more hugging and hellos, more cool libations from the beer tent, and shortly afterward we found ourselves in the shade of the buildings along the side of the square, where we passed the rest of the afternoon, shooting the shit while polka bands played old pop tunes. And it was not at all bad way to pass the time, I might add.

We made one side trip to see what the tour of the distillery was like. I have to say that I was disappointed. It wasn’t much of a tour. They herded us into a room, showed us a brief Power Point slide show summarizing the history of the Minhaus Brewery, poured a few drinks, and that was it. There wasn’t even a distillery to look at. They had a mega-still installed in the room, but it looked like it wasn’t hooked up to anything and, if I heard them right, it hadn’t ever been fired up. It was a virgin still. Maybe the tour will be a bit more interesting after they’ve actually distilled something and have a few good stories to share. Couldn’t say.

We packed up and headed out of town kind of early because standing around all day in the sun sipping beer made me a little sleepy. I wanted to get back before it got dark.

Monroe Waiting In Line Festival | 8:55 pm CDT
Category: beer, booze, daily drivel, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play | Tags: , , , ,
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Monday, June 25th, 2012

The song stuck in my head this morning is Oh What A Night.

I have never liked this song. Never. I loathed it the first time I heard it. Loathed. “Hate” is too weak a word to describe my feelings toward this song. Only loathed comes close.

It’s not that there’s nothing redeeming about the song. The tune is really very catchy, and I rather like the vocals. It’s the words I can’t stand. If Elton John had sung it instead of The Four Seasons so I couldn’t understand any of the words no matter how much I wanted to, my feelings toward it would be a lot different. I’d probably like it, maybe even try to sing along. That will never happen, though, because I can hear all of the words. Every. Single. One.

Tim liked the song until I told him what the words were. That night I not only ruined a song for him, I planted in him the same revulsion that I feel for it. He probably even wants to blow his brains out with a bazooka, just like I do, when it gets stuck on a loop in his head.

Oh, what a night! Late December, back in sixty-three
Got a girl to give it up for me
Boinked her brains out, what a night

You know I didn’t even know her name
Who knew the best sex is anonymous?
Pegged her legless, what a night

I felt a rush and a rolling ball of thunder
This part about his orgasm makes me want to chunder
What a night!

When I read that the musical Jersey Boys was coming to Madison this fall, I was going to talk My Darling B into taking me until I heard an advertisement for it on the radio that featured Oh What A Night. Thinking about it now, I don’t know how I expected they wouldn’t include that craptaculous song. I guess I was just hopeful. Too bad. There’s a show I’ll never see.

craptaculous | 8:01 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, show, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Singing along with Manfred Man’s version of Blinded By The Light on the way home from the hardware store:

She was blinded by the light
Wreck up like a douche under the rover of the night
Blinded by the light
Wreck up like a douche under the rover of the night

Some silicone sister with a man of Jemister
Told me I got what it takes
She said, “I’ll turn you all son into something strong
With a teenage coffee break.”

What? That’s not how you sing it?

This is one of the few pop-culture mysteries I haven’t tried to solve by looking it up on the internet. I looked up the words to songs like Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets because I never heard anything that sounded like words in the first place, except for the title. And I looked up the words to songs like Paul Simon’s All Around The World because we just had to know if he was really saying “Well the lights go up and the lights go down, Elvis is a watermelon” (he wasn’t – it was “ever since the watermelon,” of course).

But I’ll never look up the words to Blinded By The Light because the words I learned are the words I want to stay with me the rest of my life. I mean, if “calliope crashed to the ground” isn’t in there, I don’t want to know it. That’s one of the most awesome mental pictures ever.

(No, I have no idea what a man of Jemister would be. Somebody from a very exotic country, possibly in the middle east, or perhaps he works for a mysterious government agency.)

blinded | 10:57 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play
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Saturday, April 28th, 2012

As I was scanning the headlines on NPR’s web site, my eyes flitted across a headline that turned the crank on my admittedly already-cranky disposition: Blowin’ In The Wind Still Asks The Hard Questions.” Heavy sigh. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say something like, “Blowin’ In The Wind Asks Needlessly Cryptic Questions That Are Still Confused With Deep, Spiritual Meaning?”

I never got Blowin’ In The Wind. I could see that practically everybody else in the world felt it had the moral, ethical and philosophical qualities of the sermon on the mount, but to me it has always been nothing more than a lot of nonsense questions, strung together and sung to a repetitively simple tune that bored me silly.

I didn’t come to this conclusion quickly. Blowin’ In The Wind was once considered so spiritually significant that the Catholic congregation our family was part of back in the 70s sang it every Sunday during guitar mass, so aside from hearing it overplayed on the radio, I had to sing every line of it once a week in church, as if it were a prayer. Even with all that time to think about it, none of the supposedly deep, inner meaning of Blowin’ In The Wind has ever revealed itself to me.

This is a little maddening because I genuinely like Bob Dylan’s music, an appreciation I got from my Dad, who added quite a few Dylan recordings to the pile of 8-track tapes we kept in the back of the family shop. My favorite was Desire, an album I plugged into the Panasonic tape player and cranked all the way up to ten (this was back before anyone had ELEVEN) so I could hear it through the door of the darkroom when I had to work into the evening. Try overmodulating Bob Dylan on a cheap stereo sometime. You have never heard as many Mondegreens as I’ve heard listening to Black Diamond Bay.

I found a wife, Miranda
She wears a necktie and a Panama hat
Her pisspot shows a trace of
Another time and space
She cooks nothing like Spam

Now there’s a lyric that forces you to ask some hard questions, and I tell you honestly, as well as a little sheepishly, I’ve asked myself over and over again: What the hell does her pisspot have to do with anything? And Spam? Why Spam? In my defense, Dylan’s mumbling style of singing doesn’t make him easy to understand. Also, the water was running.

But even with all the words scrambled, Black Diamond Bay was a million times more enjoyable than Blowin’ In The Wind ever was, and it always will be, especially now that I know the words. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is for me to sing it without regressing to the screwed-up version in my head, though.

blowin’ | 8:38 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, radio, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Friday, April 20th, 2012

We’re Not Broke is a mess of a documentary. I can’t figure out which one of several stories the film’s makers are trying to tell: Multinational corporations don’t pay income taxes, or; multinational corporations are corrupting politics, or; grass-roots organizations are reigning in the corruption of government by multinational corporations.

I think that last one might have been what they were shooting for, the only trouble with that being, it didn’t happen. Occupy Wall Street hardly makes the news anymore as anything but a mob of homeless people, not that that isn’t important, but is it affecting the back-room machinations of multinational corporations? I have to doubt it, even after watching We’re Not Broke. And the flash-mob US Uncut remains largely unknown to mainstream America even while other flash mobs get a million YouTube hits for singing and dancing in food courts across the country. Make a documentary about why that might be and you’d have an interesting story.

We’re Not Broke had one or two good ideas, the best one starting from the idea in the title. Governments aren’t broke. They’re not businesses; they can’t go broke. They can spend more than they take in, and most of the time they do – I’d love to see a documentary that dissects how they get away with that.

Or, I’d love to watch a documentary spotlighting the political drama queens who planted, nurtured and brought to fruition the whole “We’re broke” meme of right-wing government, with special emphasis on where that meme came from and how it was supported by the mainstream media. We’re Not Broke started off going in that direction, but very soon devolved into a series of talking heads bantering about how dangerous these developments are.

Then it forked off in several different directions, illustrating corporate greed with dancing dollar signs and political corruption with a bass-heavy soundtrack. It was an emotional appeal, where I was hoping to find a well thought-out explanation supported by extensive research. If I wanted to watch an emotional appeal, I could turn on Fox News or MSNBC and get it any time, any day. That’s why I don’t watch television news, and that’s why I wouldn’t recommend a documentary like We’re Not Broke.

We’re Not Broke | 10:31 am CDT
Category: entertainment, festivals, music, play, Wisc Film Fest
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Friday, March 30th, 2012

For your listening pleasure this Friday:

start | 6:00 am CDT
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Thursday, March 15th, 2012

A pair of invaders from outer space accidentally blow each other’s heads off.

Just kidding. It’s the swing classic, “Sing Sing Sing,” performed on Tesla coils. I get a great big nerd boner from this, while My Darling B thinks it’s perhaps the most annoying thing she’s ever heard.

sing | 6:22 am CDT
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Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

I didn’t like Jonathan Coulton the first time I saw him in concert at the Majestic in downtown Madison. There. I said it. It was my dark secret, but now it’s out in the open. Unleash your very worst flames in the comments, I deserve them all.

Paul & Storm opened for him and, after a frenetic hour of their wide-open comedy, Coulton shuffled to the front of the stage with the downcast expression of a teenager dragged to his great-aunt’s 93rd birthday party. He kept doing that between songs and I thought, Well, damn, if he doesn’t want to be here, why did he bother coming?

I didn’t like his fans much, either. They wouldn’t shut up. Every one of them knew every word to every song he played that night and sang along with the kind of reckless abandon you don’t normally find outside a karaoke bar.

By the end of the night, though, I was screaming “ALL I WANNA DO IS EAT YOUR BRAINS!” along with the rest of them, and the next morning My Darling B and I sat on the sofa for an hour or more playing “Skullcrusher Mountain” over and over so we could learn the words. “Code Monkey” too.

Since then, he’s been back to Madison twice, and we have more fun at each concert than we did at the last one, although if I had to rate them I’d have to say I enjoyed his appearance at the Barrymore Theater more than any of the others, partly because we had awesome seats just a dozen or so feet from the stage, but mostly because he played a set of songs that were tweeted to him by fans before the show that turned out to be oddly, coherently wistful and sweet, and he seemed to get really into them. And he ended the set by playing “Birdhouse of Your Soul” instead of “Sweet Caroline.”

I’ve been waiting patiently for new music from Coulton. It came out a little while ago, and I finally downloaded it last weekend, playing it over and over while I puttered away with my toys in the basement. And now I can’t get this song out of my head! DAMN YOU JONATHAN COULTON! (And you, too, John Roderick.) It’s the most wonderful earworm I’ve ever experienced, and Coulton’s new album is just packed with jewels like this!

Well played!

P.S. Just what does “even the suit has teeth” mean, anyway?

toothy | 10:07 pm CDT
Category: entertainment, music, play, show | Tags: , ,
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Monday, February 27th, 2012

Just a guy with a ukelele.

Same guy, with a guitar this time. Other guy’s got a uke.

balloon | 6:10 am CDT
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Sunday, February 26th, 2012

To give you an idea what’s been going on along the Lost Continent Railway, here’s an overhead shot of the layout. Compare with April 4, 2011.

In my spare time this weekend, between washing clothes and tending to a plumbing emergency, I laid twenty-four feet of track; made templates to build four of the switches in the middle of the layout; made an adjustment to the road bed that ran a little too close to the track below it, preventing dome cars from passing beneath; tried and failed to figure out why I can’t seem to cut track joiners with my Dremel tool without shattering the cutoff wheel, spraying my face with bits of grit and initiating a cloudburst of cussing; conntected temporary electrical jumpers to the longest stretch of track to run a choo-choo train back and forth just for the hell of it; searched high and low for a piece of crossover track that I know I bought a month or two ago, but never did find it; and soldered, soldered, soldered but never once burned my fingers! It’s one for the record books!

All weekend long I’ve had this song stuck in my head:

I’ve been working on the raillll-road all the live-long day.
I’ve been working on the railroad just to pass the time away.
Can’t you hear the whistle blowing? Rise up so early in the morn.
Can’t you hear the captain shouting, “Dinah, blow your horn!”

Dinah, won’t you blow, Dinah, won’t you blow,
Dinah, won’t you blow your hor-roar-roarn!
Dinah, won’t you blow, Dinah, won’t you blow,
Dinah, won’t you blow your horn!

Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah.
Someone’s in the kitchen, I know-woe-woe-woe.
Someone’s in the kitchen with Die-nah!
Strummin’ on the old banjo.

Come, sing it:
Fee fie fiddle dee eye oh
Fee fie fiddle dee eye oh oh oh oh
Fee fie fiddle dee eye oh
Strummin’ on the old banjo.

I love that song. It’s one of the first songs I can remember my mother singing to me (that, and “Mississippi Mud”) when I was just a pup. I suppose it could be her fault that I’m a train nerd.

dinah | 4:26 pm CDT
Category: entertainment, hobby, LoCo Rwy, music
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