Friday, December 23, 2011

EscalatorYule: Stave 5 - "X" Games, Flavored Nuts, and The Fabbest Christmas Yet

I gotta admit folks, I simply don't get how "Xmas" is taking the Christ out of Christmas. Sure, sure - there's an obvious grammatical difference - but if you actually believe that it's going to change the meaning of the holiday, then you might have other things to worry about.

Look, I'm not the most devout of the folks I know, I've always been of a more spiritual mindset than one felt bound by religious tactility. However, I love Christmas. Keep loving Christmas. Will always love Christmas. I know where it comes from, I know the story behind it, and always acknowledge from whence Christmas got its name. You can't not acknowledge that - no matter how commercial the holiday gets, even when it seems overrun by overnight sales and keeping up with the Joneses - all this flurry and fuss began because we remember the birthday of a man whom did great things and brought joy to many people worldwide. I'm not talking about Santa Claus here.

No matter what your belief in the Jesus story happens to be (and, as we've read "judge not, lest ye be...") - I don't think anyone can ignore where the traditions of the modern holiday originate. Over 2000 years, of course, every story gets mangled, manipulated, expanded, redacted and re-circulated - it becomes an evolving tale.

The use of the letter X in place of the name Christ has it's origins over ten centuries ago. In Greece, X is the symbol for "Chi" - the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. According to Wikipedia (because Encyclopedias, even online ones - are pretty good about knowing stuff):

"Around 1100 the term was written as "Xp̄es mæsse" in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle"

Also, a slightly different version, one of my favorites - "X'temmas" - is popularized around 1551.

All I'm saying is that faith, history, and guidance are not something that can be altered by an advertising sign or cardboard decoration. Everyone knows, even Santa, that of all the traditional celebrations that occur throughout so many different religions and cultures at this time of year - Christmas is the headline grabbing show-stopper. Do we really think that it's origins will be forgotten through an alternate spelling?

Many folks even tend to see the X itself as a symbol of the cross on which the story of Jesus life ends. Doesn't that seem like the perfect way to close a circle?

(And it should give you pause to think about that other group of rebels with supernatural powers - the X-Men...Merry Christmas, comic geek.)

I'm a fan of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker". I think a lot of people are; unless you are one of the unfortunate children whom had to be in the chorus of a play or ballet version of the show - in which case you spent a lot of time backstage being hot in your costume that would almost always get wrinkled by the time to got to have your 30 seconds in the light while dancing across stage during a costume change for Drosselmeyer or something, in which case I feel sympathy for your very soul.

Where was I? Oh yes. The Nutcracker. Man, did that Pyotr know how to write or what? For me, the strength of a song is not only how good the original sounds, but also how malleable the music tends to be. A great song can lend itself to all genres of music. The Nutcracker Suite is proof of this. Even though it was written at a time when there were very few genres to actually lend to.

Thank goodness, technology allows us to examine some of the differences and similarities that make music so cool. This piece has always been a holiday favorite of mine - and I always enjoy finding new versions of bits from Tchakovskys amazing musical. Here are a few:

I want to start with Duke Ellington, not only one of the coolest cats ever to record, but with a great "behind the scenes" promo clip for his record company -

But, you say you're more of a traditionalist? Well, how about a classical version, with visual accompaniment by Walt and Company-

Of course, I'm a fan of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's Christmas pieces (they have a few). I really dig their take on B. Bumble and The Stinger's "Nut Rocker" -

I also enjoy the Brian Setzer Orchestras take on the Les Brown arrangement. All the greatest hits of The Nutcracker rolled into one:

These sweet Nutcracker clips could go on and on, but I know you've got things to do - so here's just one more from the Duke-

That should fill your eyes and ears for the day. Ahhh, but this is the holidays - why not have a little extra? Herewith: we end this installment of EscalatorYule with a hefty dessert of Beatle Christmas Pudding - Bon Appetit!

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively - North Pole A/V Squad
Professor Hinkle - Bad Magician
Burgermeister - Meisterburger

Thursday, December 22, 2011

EscalatorYule: Stave 4 - It Dickens Me To Say It...

"I will honour Christmas in my heart - and try to keep it all the year."

So said Ebeneezer Scrooge, in his posh and Britishly-spelled way. I like to think that I do as well, some years with more "honour" than others - most folks I know are the same way. I, however, also honor Christmas all the year on my clothing.

It gets hot in Florida - a man needs t-shirts. So what if one of mine has a bright carnivorous Santa Claus face chomping on a rack of ribs (And I'm wearing it in July)? If that image offends, I could change into my t-shirt with the picture of a sheep in a yuletide bow, exclaiming "Fleece Navidad!"

Christmas Neckties? Got 'em. Santa Hats? At least 3. Holiday Themed Shoes? Candy Cane Red Velvet-Striped Converse All-Stars Circa 2005.

You'll notice - no socks. I don't need any Christmassy socks with holiday greetings and pictures of presents on 'em. Although I do enjoy socks as a fashion accessory, mainly they are there just to keep my shoes from being too offended by my feet.

Christmas morning, I will be wearing socks (as well as my robe, a pair of flannel holiday boxer shorts, and most likely, one of the aforementioned Santa Hats) as I pop one of my favorite holiday movies into the player.

Most likely, it will be 'It's A Wonderful Life'. I love that movie. It's one of the only films that consistently makes me tear up in certain scenes. It's probably my favorite film of all time: despite the fact that - as one of the world's most famous "Christmas" movies - it's not really about the holiday itself - that's just when the film takes place. The storyline could just have easily been set, with few script changes, in the heat of Summer or in the week after Easter. The point of the film is given point blank, however - "Remember, no man is a failure who has friends"

These Holiday Seasons give us all a reason to find and spend more time with those friends that we love, time is allowed to stop for a while, to let us all re-group - and remind each other that we do, each and every one of us, truly have a wonderful life of our own.

As I said, it's hot in Florida - for all but a few days a year. Thus, we hardly ever get any snow. Yet, around the neighborhood. I've seen a few "snowpeople" mixed in with the holiday decorations. All with the same iconic face. If yer kids ever wonder how those came to be - maybe tell 'em this story:

Noel, The Snowman's Santa Claus (Copyright Fruitless Lust Songs 2005/Escalatorville Tunes 2011)

'Twas getting late on Christmas Eve, when we heard from the great North Pole-
"All the kids were Nice," said St. Nicholas - "Now, I've got too much coal."

"The Elves had worked so very hard, so I've sent 'em on vacation.
There's no need to stoke a fireplace, at their Tropic celebration."

"Now, Wait one minute, old Saint Nick," squeaked a voice with Yuletide style
"I've got pals the whole world through, this could bring them quite a smile!"

He's Noel, the Snowman's Santa Claus - with a very special job to do.
He keeps the Snowfolk smiling bright, so they'll enjoy the holiday too.

Now, every Christmas Eve - Noel drifts across the Milky Way
Giving Snowfolk brighter eyes and grins, to show to you on Christmas Day!

St. Nick's barn is stocked up on carrots for Rudolph to eat,
but the nose that glows knows that Snows need noses, to make a happy face complete.

So, if you check each Wintertime, on each Snowy face you'll find-
The happy miles found in the smiles that Noel left behind.

He's Noel, the Snowman's Santa Claus - with a very special job to do.
He keeps the Snowfolk smiling bright, so they'll enjoy the holiday too.


Next time in EscalatorYule, Sweet Nutcrackers and Keeping the X in Christmas

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively - Jingler/Jangler
George Bailey - Advisor/Unofficial Mayor, Bedford Falls
Hermey Elf - Staff Dentist

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

EscalatorYule 2011: Stave Three - Tidbits and Morsels for Christmas Ears

Once, in the mid-1980's - I had the opportunity to meet and talk briefly with Albert Hague. Mr. Hague was a composer and lyricist who had won a Tony for the Gwen Verdon show Redhead in 1959. At the time of our meeting, he was experiencing a bit of renewed notoriety for having played "Professor Shorofsky" in the film and telelvision series Fame. I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Hague after a concert he had given for some local schools in my hometown.

Why bring this up in EscalatorYule, you ask? Well - my love of Holiday music goes way back in my memories, to my earliest days. Part of that love is due to the work of Mr. Hague. In 1966, he was responsible for many of the tunes featured in the original animated film How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Dr. Seuss himself came up with most of the lyrics, Mr. Hague - the music.

So, now - even though our conversation was extremely short, just enough to recognize our mutual appreciation of music - every time I hear someone whistling/humming along to 'Fahoo Foraze' or 'You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch,' I think - "hey , I met that guy!"

It may not be the coolest holiday memory, but it was significant for me - and I've been keeping a whimsical eye on holiday entertainment since.

I've been collecting Christmas Music - via LP, cassette, CD, or (as it happens in this day and age) Internet download - since about the same time in my personal history. In 1987, I compiled a mixed tape of some favorite Holiday songs and made copies to give to friends and family. In the intervening years, I've made nearly two dozen different mixes, each featuring some of the neatest, most interesting, and original versions of both classic tracks and whatever intriguing pieces I can find that many folk may not have already heard. I start putting them together every year about July. My wife has the tolerance of a Saint.

There are tunes that we hear ad nauseum every Yuletide Season on radio, satellite, and on various and sundry "in-store play" compilations that litter the retail market from Thanksgiving through New Years, and for the most part - I try to avoid those. Recently, however, I've heard and re-heard a few songs that I've convinced myself I shouldn't enjoy - and started to actually fancy them, either through interesting re-interpretations or just their likable novelty. A few to reconsider for your Xmas mix:

'Santa Baby' - Eartha Kitt nailed it the first time out in 1953, and it was played into the ground for 30 years thereafter. Then, on the first 'Very Special Christmas' LP, Madonna up and ruined it for the ages. Or at least for me. For a time, it was hard to even listen to the original without being reminded of the sub par material girl rehash. Then, earlier this holiday season, I was surprised to find a newer arrangement that I really kind of like. I was even more surprised when I realized that this new, improved version was done by Taylor Swift.

'Don't Be A Jerk, It's Christmas' - I'm not a Spongebob Squarepants fan, never really have been. However, this original song should definitely be the mantra of the holidays. Good advice all around for surviving the Yule.

All I Want For Christmas Is You" - Yeah, I know - Mariah Carey. Well, while she may have the most famous version of the song - there are plenty of covers around. I'm not a Mariah fan, but the song itself is well written; and a well written song can be decently performed by just about anyone with a modicum of talent. One of the newest versions I've heard (because, believe it or not, Ms. Carey's version is nearly 20 years old) is by a band named This Providence. I haven't heard anything else by that particular group, but I dig their version of what has become a modern addition to the canon of "Classic" holiday tunes.

There's many good ole Christmas songs that get a new treatment every year. Many by bands who either couldn't care about the song and are trying to make a quick holiday buck, or maybe just haven't heard the originals. It's easy enough to ignore the dreck - but some songs just shouldn't be touched.

Case in point: I've yet to hear a version of 'This Christmas' which even comes close to Donny Hathaway's riveting original ("shake a hand, shake a hand, now..."). The same can be said for The Waitresses 'Christmas Wrapping' which both laments some of the trials and tribulations of the season while becoming a traditional classic all it's own. It's had a few covers as well, but nothing beats the original. Plus, it does have a happy ending - with horns!

I continue to seek out new and original songs every year for the holidays, but like to settle in with some time-honored audio as well. I know I have my favorites, I'm sure you do as well. I hope that you'll get to hear them all this season.

More EscalatorYule coming soon!

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, List Checker/Bell Ringer
Yukon Cornelius, Chief Pick-Licker

Monday, December 19, 2011

EscalatorYule 2011: Stave Two.

Santa Claus should never arrive via Fire Truck.

There, I've said it. Someone had to. So often in these modern times, holiday parades and shopping mall arrivals of children's red suited redeemer fail miserably in their presentation of The Man With The Bag. Think on it - every year, this is kid's first real exposure to the figure whom most of the hype of the season is about - at least if you're between the ages of two and twelve.

How cruel is it then, to have a child's memory of the great mans appearance be associated with a vehicle affiliated with screeching sirens, burning destruction, and smoky death? It's especially cruel when, for a kid "going to see Santa" means waiting in a line at the middle of a grotesquely decorated mall, awaiting the opportunity to head up onto a ramshackle platform cobbled together amidst the "Sale Now!"signs and fluorescent "come hither" glow of kitschy/trendy stores and fast food lunch buckets.

He arrives on an emergency vehicle - and sits on a garish throne amid the plastic greenery and over sized glitter balls, all in order to sell eager parents a snapshot of their crying child on a strangers lap.

I get it, I do. Retail establishments host "Santa" in order to bring folks to the stores. It's a decent plot, but is completely lacking in class.

I hate to be one of those "When I was a kid..." guys - but...

When I was a kid - the excursion to visit St. Nick was not just a quick jaunt to the local shopping super center - it was an hours-long Santa Claus Experience.

Yes, of course the retail aspect was still there. It has been since Thomas Nast created the modern image of Father Christmas for Harper's Weekly in 1862. The mythos is grounded in money - but there used to be more to it.

I recall my sister and I heading into downtown Richmond, Virginia to see the store windows, gaily decorated and thematically arranged - usually telling a Holiday story throughout. Sometimes there were animatronic figures, occasinally a massive train set, or a simple yet classy retelling of an age old Christmas fable.

Then, we would enter those heavy doors - and the marvel would begin. As we rode the escalators between the floors of a massive department store (in my childhood, it would have been Thalheimer's - your town may have had a Macy's, Nordstrom's, Goldblatt's, Higbee's, or something equally ethno-pecuniary) - the decorations would slowly come into view. Massive toy replicas dotting each floor, rustic or vintage looking signs pointing "This Way To Santa's Wonderland - - - ->"

Santa was never on the first or second floor, making the search for his territory all the more exciting. The ride on each subsequent, seemingly thinner, older, escalator, another thrilling move in the search. Then, at the top of one of those creaky old moving staircases - we could turn a corner and "Voila!" - you had entered the realm of St. Nick!

He'd be just around a few more corners - and - after a snaking line, which caravan-ed past ornate decor; be it a snowy land of winter fairies, a path through the living plot lines of The Nutcracker, or even a forest filled with life size versions of those creepishly cute Anna Lee dolls - we entered the chamber of the almighty, reindeer wrangling gift giver.

Oh, there was a line - there was always a line - no matter how early our folks brought us to the store (I think those first kids in the queue were probably paid actors, who clocked in every day just to stand at the front of the crowd for a few hours to add to the illusion of anticipation). But, in that line - we'd hear Christmas Carols all around, maybe even be greeted by an Elf with a Candy Cane. If we hit the room at the right time, we might even catch Santa himself arriving via a giant chimney on the stage astride his chair.

All of the sudden, we were in Santa's living room!

There he was - motioning to the Ice Princess who greeted us as the kids directly ahead in line were scrambling to tell Him what they wanted. Then, it was our turn - gliding across the stage, Santa greeted us by name (methinks the tiny microphone worn by the Ice Princess had a part in this) - and gladly welcomed us into his world for a brief moment. He sat there, listening intently to our material wishes, and then - as soon as we'd arrived, a quick smile, twinkle of flashbulbs, and hearty "HO HO HO" would escort us off the stage and into the decorated egress which led us back into the department store, down the garland and holly lined escalators to the ground floor - our flight of fancy taking a halt until the big night when we'd stay up late, but still fall asleep before seeing Santa in our living room.

This was Christmas perfection. We'd met with Santa's minions, held Santa's hand - just days after watching him arrive atop his caribou enhanced sleigh (albeit one powered by hidden motors underneath) during the annual Christmas Parade!

He was real! He was here!

And he never arrived on the back of a Fire Truck.

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively - Admiral of Tinsel
King Moonracer - Ruler, Island Of Misfit Toys

EscalatorYule; Stave the Third, coming soon!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

EscalatorYule 2011: Stave One...

...Escalatorville was dead to begin with.

This part is actually slightly true. I had written a piece to kick off this years EscalatorYule Extravaganza, put down a good 3/4 of it over the weekend and figured, "Hey, I get home from work early on Sunday, I'll just finish it up and put it right on out."

Trust and the Holidays don't always mix well. I'm not used to "backing up" my work to a "disk" or a "file" on the "hard drive" (these are terms I'm not really familiar with. Who am I, Bill Gates?). Instead, I relied on the "Auto-Save" feature on this very website: only to be betrayed like the child whom wishes only for an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle - and ends up with pink rabbit footie pajamas.

That said, I'll attempt to re-write and successfully post, at a later time, what I had initially wanted you to read here today.

In the meanwhile, however, a little seasonal poetic distraction to enthrall and arouse your Jubilation:

First, I must include that I am quite thankful to be a member of a band known as The Wobbly Toms. On our album 'Everybody Happy' - we have a song I wrote entitled 'Where The Hell's My Coffee?". We like to play it a lot, and folks seem to like hearing it when we do. That's pretty cool.

If you'd like, your ears can peruse the original version here.

About a year ago, I decided to re-craft the song for the holiday crowd. Herewith, the lyrics to my "Safe To Sing In Front Of Kids" version:

Where The Heck Is Santa? (copyright 2010/11 - Escalatorville Tunes/Wobbly Songs)

I haven't seen that fat man yet,
To tell him things I'd like to get,
Like black socks and a new drum set!
Where The Heck Is Santa?

I thought I'd find him at the mall
(He'd been there since the First of Fall)
The food court echoes back my call:
"Where The Heck Is Santa!?"

You must be quick, to catch St. Nick
On his supersonic flight
I hope that it's my house he'll pick
As he travels through the night.

I rode up to the cold North Pole,
I found an Elf stuck in the snow,
"That sleigh took off some time ago..."
Where The Heck Is Santa?

You must be quick to catch St. Nick,
On his supersonic flight
I hope that it's my house he'll pick
As he travels through the night.
Who's that superhero
Bending nature's laws?
Who's a pal to everyone?
That's Good Ole Santa Claus!

Now, somewhere out there in the world,
He gives his thick mustache a twirl,
And drops gifts for good Boys and Girls!
Where The Heck Is Santa?

This next one is in a more adult in vein, but I picture it's eventual recording being as heartwarming and beautifully arranged as something by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. If only someone could wake up Fred and get this to him...

The Reindeer's Christmas Party (copyright 2011, Escalatorville Tunes)

Christmas evening at the North Pole.
All the Elves are getting dressed
For the biggest gala of the year,
Where everyone's a special guest!
It's the Reindeer Christmas Party...

Yes, the Reindeer Christmas Party!
The whole workshop's gettin' down!
That pole will be a 'rockin'
When the gang gets back to town!

It's been a long long Christmas, hauling tons of toys.
Time for furry skinned sleigh pullers to act like girls and boys.
At this special Christmas party, they play grown-up Reindeer games.
Dancer, Prancer, Vixen - all start to live up to their names.

Yes, the Reindeer Christmas Party!
The whole workshop's gettin' down!
That pole will be a 'rockin'
When the gang gets back to town!

With tinsel on their antlers, and holly round their hooves,
They'll down a few Oat Sodas after carousing on your roofs!
It's easy to spot Rudolph, his nose rosy and bright -
But after "hay" and eggnog, we're all the same later that night!

Yes, the Reindeer Christmas Party!
The whole workshop's gettin' down!
That pole will be a 'rockin'
When the gang gets back to town!

Oh a Reindeer Christmas Party
Where we all can rest our paws,
And raise a glass of Christmas Spirit
to the best boss, Santa Claus!
At the Reindeer Christmas Party!
-Should be a chart topper sometime in the next quarter-century. Hell, if those damn barking dogs can do it, I think anyone probably can.

Tomorrow evening - Santa and Fire Trucks don't mix...

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively - Head Ornamentalist.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Amped up for the wind down.

I got a notice in the mail the other day, a brochure on pre-paid cremation services. Normally, I'd just throw junk ads into the recycle bin, but I wonder if if it's more apropos to burn this one.

Retail Rehash
The old joke about the town in which we live is that it's a tourist trap for "Newlyweds and Nearly Deads."

Tourists of the geriatric and/or bridal ilk still flock to town, but we find ourselves catering more to those "Romantic Getaway" couples - two night visitors who blow their wads on accommodations, and nothing on merchandise. We have now become a haven for "Weekend Boffing and Window Shopping."

Such was the case with a young couple recently overheard while entering the shop in which I am employed. As the man pointed to a carved wooden dragon statue displayed near the cash register, his gal pal hooted;

"Ugh - that's not real!"

She continued, " It reminds me of dinosaurs - they're not real either!"

The look on his face, and the roll of his eyes, alerted me to the realization that he hadn't entered this relationship for the intellectual stimulation.

Nature > Nurture
Some behaviors never change. Not long ago, an older woman came into the store looking to replace a missing necklace.

"My Grandson's coming to visit, and I don't want him to think I lost it."

Also, a newer mom recently sauntered through the store - consistently shushing the infant child in her arms. Then, upon seeing friends on the street outside, cleared her throat to attract their attention.

"WE'RE IN HERE, Y'ALL!" She bellowed at top volume.

"Is that a dagger..." or are you just happy to see me?
I don't think I'm much a fan of the "Emo" genre of popular arts. Hell, I'm not sure I even know what it is. From what I gather, it's a semi-Gothic, angst ridden, "I wear my heart of darkness on my sleeve" type thing.

I bring it up , however, because I saw a gent in a t-shirt which offered the snarky phrase - "Shakespeare doesn't like your Emo poems."

"Really?" I thought.

After all, ole Billy Shakes came up with these lines:

"O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!"

I think he'd be perfectly fine with the plaintive wail of the downtrodden hipster.

"Not your average fish wrapper" is still a fish wrapper...
Given equal importance on the same dates front page, our local "newspaper" featured the following headlines a while back:

"Hernandez Gets 12 Years"
coupled with
"Gazebo Gets Steel Legs"

You can guess which was the more detailed article.

Eurotits and the Ingénue: a story in all parts.
In southern Georgia, there lies an Oasis in the middle of a forest. Not a traditional "Oasis" as portrayed in fantasy novels or the desert based hallucinations from cartoon characters of yore; it's simply a spot of land ensconced among trees where the lovely Bess and I have been know to "vacate" for a day or so every once in a while. There are tiny rooms nestled among the arbors, frequently barefoot staff members, walking paths through the flora, and a serene, open air, freshwater lake.

At the center of the lake is a small floating dock of sorts. It's a nice spot for sunbathing, reading, or just chilling out with fellow visitors. On one of our excursions to this oasis, Bess an I opted to swim out to the dock for a bit of conversation, to soak in a few of the suns rays, and to generally enjoy each others company.

After a brief swim - in the midst of which your author had a slight panic attack, momentarily forgot how to tread water, and feared he might drown - we scrambled up onto the wooden structure, taking proud comfort in the fact that, for a t least a little while, we had the little lakepad to ourselves.

We sat side by side, feet dangling in the water, When not looking at each other, we glimpsed the occasional fish (whom I imagine eyed our heel/toe combination as either weapon or feast). Following a bit of talking and a few kisses, we each staked out our own corner of the dock. Bess doffed her swimsuit to take full advantage of that days solar generosity. Keeping my own swim trunks on, being afflicted with a case of modesty and still a bit unnerved by my assumed near-death experience, I laid back to rest.

A short time later, a blond woman in a canoe paddled up and, with a notably Germanic/Austrian accent, asked to join us on the dock. Through brief conversation we learned that she had indeed come from Europe, was taking a tour through America, and would soon be concluding her extended stay in the forest. Kind and pleasant company is most always welcome in any communal area, so we had no qualms about a new acquaintance sharing our sun, or catching up on the book which she unloaded from the canoe.

Having been on my back, I decided to re-position myself in such a way so that I could converse with Bess and our visitor, while evening out the tan across my dorsal region. as I slowly rolled onto my stomach, I glanced across the planks in time to see our new dock sitter completely remove her top.

Although personally shy in regards to my own epidermis, I'm no stranger to public nudity (aah, those whimsical college parties of yesteryear...). Yet, my psyche was quick to jump to its built in anti-gawking instruction manual [ "A)When speaking, always look a naked woman in the eyes. B)Remember that her eyes are located on her face"].

After a few moments of polite, concentrated, conversation with our fellow guest - whom, forgive my brain, will forever be referred to in my noggin by the nickname 'Eurotits' - she picked up her book, and I resumed roasting my spinal column.

Three mostly bare individuals mid-lake on a floating dock is apparently, the first sign of an outdoor social gathering. That, or the opening scene of a bad horror flick. Within five, perhaps ten, minutes we heard the splish-splash of another couple headed our way.

Accents floating with them across the water gave me the foreknowledge that they might be French. A fact confirmed with a friendly "Bonjour" and some light conversation as they climbed aboard the dock.

Both had long, dark hair. He - a rather average build and average looks, age broaching that late 20's/early 30's timeline. She was about a decade younger - and absolutely gorgeous. An Ingenue with the face of a starlet and the body of a model, yet perfectly proportionate. A faint scent in the air indicated that their swim was post-coital.

These new additions to our now global Radiation Intake Squadron sat on the boards for a few moments and, while I couldn't comprehend the words, I understood their Tete-a-Tete. He wanted to cavort in the water ("L'Eau"), she wished to rest on the dock ("Le Dock"). Each of them proceeded to do just as they indicated - after removing every stitch of fabric from their beings.

Leaving me as the only "clothed" one on our tiny island, they stood completely nude - talking for a few seconds before he took a tall arcing dive into the lake. Perhaps he simply jumped? Or possibly just walked off the dock? I don't rightly know, at this point, he was not the focus of my concentration.

The Ingenue exhaled a sigh and positioned herself in a relaxed recline so that she too could soak up the rays of the late afternoon sun. The three of us remaining on the platform watched as she got comfortable - while my stomach fluttered in the manner it had when, as a juvenile, I'd stumbled upon late night television soft core erotica while attending a sleepover at someone else's house.

Any potential conversation dried up, as Bess began a light snooze and Eurotits became engrossed in her reading. Having never learned any French phrases one could use to talk to a naked Ingenue basking in the glow and glisten of a south Georgia lake - I followed Bess' lead and took a quick nap.

I awoke upon the boyfriend's return, over hearing the robust chatter betwixt the Frenchies. Rolling my head slightly, eyes squinting to assess the situation, I found two reasons to remain with my back to the sky:

1) In that prone position, sitting up directly would have placed my eyes in the immediate vicinity of the Frenchman's, uh, little Frenchman. Now, don't get me wrong - there are plenty of folk who would pay no mind to this scenario (and yes, some who would indeed embrace the idea), and more power to 'em - however, it is personally not in my nature to find enjoyment in arising with the prospect of a penis inn my peripheral.

2) The lovely Bess on her own is far more than sexy enough to stir my libido; though I can be fairly good at harnessing the occasional autonomous physical reaction to such stirring - an issue to which any male called to a chalkboard in from of his 8th grade classroom can attest - the addition of supplemental, attractive, unshy, naked overseas gifts to the eyes of the world, coupled with the sight of my own gorgeous and unclothed spouse - convinced me that uncontrollable embarrassment might be nigh.

Thus, I chose to remain face down on the dock.

Within a few minutes, both the Frenchman and his Ingenue departed, swimming back towards the forest. Soon after, Eurotits also took her leave, paddling back to the Rhine - or wherever. A short bit later, Bess and I headed back to our treehouse, dinner was in the near future.

Back in the cabin, Bess and I dressed for the remainder of the evening, both refreshed from our swim, rested from our naps, and slightly tan all around.

Except for my back, which now boasted the least regrettable sunburn I ever had.


Thanks for reading!
The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Gadfly

EscalatorYule coming soon - watch this space.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Talk About The Passion

"Calling transit - calling transit..."

Those garbled words coming out of a garbled car stereo speaker were the first time I heard them. That year marked the first time a lot of people heard them. I was ten.

My dad and I were exiting the parking lot of the Carytown plaza in Richmond, Virginia.

"Who is it?" I wanted to know, glaring at the radio dial, tuned to a local college station.

"I don't know," said my Dad "One of those new bands like The Clash or something."

I listened closely to the rest of the song, the jangly guitar, the rocking beat, and "What was he saying?" - greatly enjoying the tune, but also eagerly awaiting its end, so that the DJ would tell me the name of my newest favorite thing.

Radio Free Europe - by R.E.M.

Again, I was ten. These names made no sense to me, but they were unique - and that sound was really cool!

It would be a couple of years before I started buying cassettes of my own, but I still paid attention. This was the early 1980s after all, and I was a radio freak. I listened to most of the local stations; pop, top 40, some R&B, the newly emerging "classic rock" format - and often I would be subversive enough to turn my bedroom radio down really low when I went to bed at night and tune it to the university station. I knew what R.E.M. was up to - and wondered if this "Athens" place was in a different Georgia than I was familiar with.

When the paper route money stated rolling in (I was netting a fortune - about 20 bucks a week), I started collecting tapes. Murmur, Reckoning, Fables Of The Reconstruction, Lifes Rich Pageant - these got me through middle and the first part of high school. I didn't know who The Smiths were, and had barely listened to U2, but I knew R.E.M.

Then, in 1987 - Document.

That was the one that got most of the world interested. Of course, by then, I was an aficionado: "Well, of course 'The One I Love' is a great song, but it's not actually a love song if you pay attention to the lyrics. Also, if you like 'It's The End Of The World And We Know It (And I Feel Fine)' - you should listen to 'Can't Get There From Here'. Oh, and they put out a compilation album earlier this year called Dead Letter Office that's really neat too - Pete Buck wrote the liner notes and everything..."

I didn't drink or do drugs at all in high school. I listened to music.
It was only later in life that I learned to multi-task.

The night of Friday, October 9th, 1987 left me feeling quite inebriated, however. I saw them live for the first time, at William and Mary Hall in Williamsburg. There would be more R.E.M. concerts through the years - all amazing, from Richmond to Tampa to Seattle - but that first one, in '87 left me utterly flabbergasted and eternally inspired.

In '87, I started my first real band.

There were two major influences that led me to pick up a guitar and learn to play; one was my Mom, who also played a bit - the other was R.E.M.

As the years passed, my relationship with my Mother became a bit scatter-shot, while my admiration for R.E.M. was steadfast. I was at the record store the day the albums came out, picking up magazines featuring interviews, and finding friends who would dance along to 'Orange Crush' or 'Near Wild Heaven' at parties.

When my Mom died in 1993, I rode a Greyhound Bus from St. Augustine, Florida to Richmond, Virginia for the funeral. Blocking out the remainder of my fellow passengers, I listened to a cassette I had recorded from my LP of Automatic For The People about 2 dozen times during the trip there and back. I took comfort in the easiness of that record, nothing too flashy, just good, emotional music. It was if my mourning was absorbed within the songs themselves - I would have erupted without that album.

I barely cried at my Mother's memorial service. Upon playing that record again in my apartment a few months later - I bawled my eyes out and my throat sore.

As years went by, I still paid attention. I formed other bands. I worried when Bill Berry got ill and left. I was relieved to see the remaining 3 continue to be vibrant; adding stellar musicians to their live shows and on subsequent albums. As I grew older, their music changed as well. At times, it took some getting used to - variations in relationships always do. Despite the alterations, their new sounds became welcome to my ears and heart.

Some bands are just bands. Some music is just music. Sometimes though, a band's music grabs you in such a way that it becomes a part of your life, a friend that gets you when no one else does, invigorating and molding you into whom you become in life.

I'm a record collector who first heard of the Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Robyn Hitchcock, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Radiohead because of R.E.M.

More importantly, I'm a musician. A singer, songwriter, guitar slinger. Playing music is the thrill of my life - there is no pleasure comparable to channeling ones spirit through song. A small band from Georgia taught me that, and I can never thank them enough.

-Z.F. Lively
The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Find the river, Sweetness follows

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Exit The Dragon Edition

If one should find oneself strolling past an official-looking, yet semi-gruff gent working on the innards of a city parking meter; resist the urge to put on your best Edward G. Robinson impersonation while exclaiming "Ah Ha! So that's how they do it!"

Trust me on this one.

Stories From The Retail Wasteland
A gal in a cobalt colored frock sauntered about the store at which I work, as we listened to the "60's" station on the satellite radio. Mitch Ryder's 'Devil In A Blue Dress' began to egress from the speakers, causing said girl to egress herself from the shop with exuberance.

Admiring some replica oriental coinage for sale, a child in the shop turned to his father-
"Ooh! Can I get some? Then we can go to China and buy things!"

Working in a tourist heavy industry as I do - I often hear these plaintive cries from sons and daughters trying to gain momentary/monetary attention from their vacationing parents. Some pleas sound a little too well-rehearsed (It's a long drive to Florida). My favorite of late:

"But I even washed my hands for in case we get fudge!"

Good Luck, kids.

Semantic Antics
What follows is an actual quote, from a woman whose lack of depth and/or perception provided an odd statement regarding the science of depth perception:

"Horses act that way because they think we're bigger than they are."

I can't recall my exact reaction to that one. I think I probably gave up the look that the Lovely Bess describes thusly:

"You look like you just got your teeth worked on - and then punched."

Paging Edgar Allan...
If you're a cinefile, or just a curiosity seeker, and happen to be near the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle - I recommend perusing the grounds of Lakeview Cemetery. Therein, you can find the concurrent resting places of martial arts superstar Bruce Lee and his son, tragic, cult-classic hero, Brandon.

The graves themselves are relatively easy to find, but, if you are slightly oblique and prone to rambling - as I was during my first visit - you may find yourself with an unexpected guide.

I'd certainly admired, but hadn't ever fixated, on Bruce Lees works - the way some have, and I think I'd watched Brandon's star-making turn in 'The Crow' only once - at our local second run theater - a little while after it's initial release. Despite the films overwhelming popularity at the time, I was not ( and never became) engulfed in the intrigue surrounding the film or the supernatural sheen its story lent to its lead actor.

{Brandon Lee's premature and brutal death during the filming of a role in which his character also dies a premature and brutal death -and is subsequently "resurrected" with the guidance of a mysterious crow, has brought the movie a fair share of its cult and occult following}

Having spent nearly 30 minutes wandering the parameters of that massive boneyard (which, admittedly, does have a time-stealing view) - I had yet to find the sites I sought. I decided that meeting the Lees could wait for another day.

My eyes headed toward the gate, my footsteps followed. Then, it happened. I heard a berating "Caw! Caw! and glanced upward to see a silky, blue/black bird skim the sky inches above my head. A crow - an honest to goodness crow - the namesake of the younger Lees leash to eternity - had appeared out of nowhere, catching my attention while nearly scraping my scalp. My gaze followed as it sped past me and onward another 20 yards or so before taking it's rest - on the dark granite headstone of Brandon Lee.

Bewildered, I followed the crow to the resting place of "The Crow" - reading the inscriptions at both graves, noting the mementos left by adoring, and still mourning, fans.

I stood in awe for a few moments, until a carload of admirers pulled along the road beside the dual memorial markers. I wanted to share my story with them - but they exited the vehicle with such glee ( as much glee as gothically dressed fanboys can muster), that I thought they would either be too gobsmacked to speak- or would ridicule me for what reads as a fairly unbelievable story.

It wouldn't be the last time I paid a visit to the Lee Family's home of eternal repose, but it certainly provided one of the strangest first impressions I'd ever received - from either the living or the dead.

The List
This edition: 'Average Occurrences Which Brighten The Disposition'
-Finding new remembrances in a film one hasn't seen in years.
("Ah! That's right, She's in this too!")
Realising that, upon returning long overdue borrowed items to a friend, that they have something of yours as well.
(Ah! So that's where that went!)
-Sleeping in on a day off. Then, in mid-afternoon, taking a nap.

The Age Of Embarrassment
I caught a glimpse of my reflection from the corner of my eye, Good thing too, I appeared to have a "booger" lodged in my mustache. I swiped once to remove the thing from my face. No Dice. The mirror still flaunted my entangled nostrillic asteroid. a repeated swipe. It remained. It wouldn't go.

Grasping for a paper towel - I took a closer look. the "booger" had disappeared, replaced in my mustache with an exact replica made of tiny grey and white hairs...

Don't Go There, I Already Went
I had written a piece for the finale wherein I related that "America" was an anagram of "I, Camera." This led to a disjointed ramble about our country's current state, told via various unconnected scribblings and other negligible notations.

It didn't work, came out sounding forced and relatively meaningless. I cashed out my commentary. Rolled away those remarks and burned up the babble. In short - I smoked the marginalia.

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Proprietor, Thinker, Chief Scrawler - Z.F. Lively
Darling Editrix and Advisor - The Lovely Bess
Scooter and Bell Maintenance - Kwan C. Moto
Make-Up Artist and Sartorial Wizardry - Rosa Mungthornes
Email and Whatnot -

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Dispatch From Escalatorville; This Water's On Fire Edition

Working with the public, I've hit upon a Communication Revelation, which may or may not correspond with your own observations, depending on where you're from.

It seems to me that folks from the South and Southwest want immediate responses to questions that require lengthy answers. Meanwhile, Northerners tend to ask questions that are three times longer than any logical response should possibly be.

Something Something Responsibili-huh?
The Gift/Novelty shop in which I spend a decent portion of my waking hours will frequently find itself infested with (Can I get some more reverb in these monitors?): SCHOOL GROUPS.

Kids rush to and fro, cash at the ready, to see what tsouvenirs can bve taken home for the pittance they've saved after purchasing lunch. Lunch consisting, one assumes, of Soda, Fudge, Caramel Apples, and a few packs of sugar.

Most sprint inside, look around a bit, scream their findings in the direction of friends, then
A) Decide they cannot afford the thing they really want, or
B)Try to buy it anyway without realizing that they cannot afford it.

This is where the "Chaperone" is traditionally supposed to step in to solve or soothe matters. In the modern era - 'tradition' sucks the big one.

Current definition of "Chaperone" (According to the Dic(k)tionary of Escalatorville): Indifferent Adult whom stands around smoking/gossiping while expecting respect for unused authority.

On rare occasions a chaperone will actually meander through the shop - sometimes keeping track of the charges in their care when not trying to hit on every fellow tourist or store employee under age 50.

Oft times, these guardians are downright rude. For instance, take the Mother and Father whom looked after their own two progeny as well as one school chum, buying lavishly for their children whilst complaining about the extra one they "got stuck with." (Actual quote, folks - said in front of the bewildered grade-schooler. I'd have cursed out these parental assholes if I hadn't feared retribution toward their suffering surrogate.)

I also witness those that try to be helpful, but just don't care enough to put in a valiant effort. Another real life example:
A child came up to the counter, handler attending, to make a purchase totalling two dollars and thirty five cents. The kid handed me three one dollar bills.
"Now," said the guardian "if you gave him three dollars, but only spent $2.35 - how much change should you get back?"
"Thirty Cents?" asked the enthusiastic child.
"Nope." uttered the chaperone.
"Fifty Cents?" spake innocentia.
"No, try again." said the instantaneously exasperated woman.
"Seventy Five Cents?" chirped the kid, quixotically.

Then came the ignorant adults indignant reply-
"Yeah sure, you got it, whatever."

Finding the shiniest change the cash register coudl muster, I passed it to the kid.

"Here you are," I said directly to the child "Sixty five cents. Thank you for dropping in."

The youngster had to hurry out the door to catch up to their fleeing escort - who'd turned to leave immediately upon my correction. However, here rushed exit and cold stare had combined to stir up one of the years most refreshing breezes to date.

For The Record, They Were Both Wearing "The Pants"
Seen in town - a young, married duo - both with trendy haircuts and bejeweled faces. Her T-Shirt read "Evil, Wicked, Nasty and Mean."
His? "Lamb Of God."

Apparently, he's also hiding a time machine...
I happen to like our current Commander In Chief. Some folks don't- and that's O.K. Without differences of opinion, our country would not have grown into the amazing land that it is today.

However, If you are going to criticize the President, please have a legitimate complaint.

In recent weeks I've heard that Barack Obama is directly responsible for our states sales tax - a concept only moments younger than money itself. I also encountered a regional woman apparently unfamiliar with the redesign of our national currency over the past dozen or so years.
Upon seeing an updated 5-cent piece, shje too blamed Mr. O.

"I didn't even know that was a nickel! He's going to make them all look like European coins."

She left the scene before I could point out that her particular coin was dated four years before He took the Oath Of Office.

Hello Again, Stranger.
While working the overnight shift at a local hotel (a position since vacated in pursuit of more happiness and sanity), I became briefly familiar with odd and strange characters. Sometimes, though, the weirdest encounters happened when approached by people I actually knew.

Once, at 4AM, an ambling figure lurched up the sidewalk of US Highway 1 - his dirtied face recognizable aas he approached the lobby. An acquaintance of mine.

Although not a close friend, I'd spent hours in conversation with this fellow through the years at parties and local watering holes. He'd even once woo'd the Lovely Bess before divine providence pointed us toward each other.

He'd been out of town and out of sorts for a short time, but graciously accepted my hello and handshake, asked for a cheap room. I was happy to oblige.

Waiting for the credit card and computer system to do the waltz of mutual acceptance, I started conversation with the routine "How're Things?"

"Oh, I'm fine. It's just that..."

Thus began a litany of troubles; he'd come back to town to visit a friend, gotten himself arrested, re-pissed off folks he'd skipped town to avoid in the first place - and had arrived at my hotel after a claimed 2 hour walk, having been kicked out of his second resting place in as many days. Also, he didn't have much money.

I sympathized with him, having been pretty low myself at times (A while back, for a year or so, I carried an old ATM receipt in my wallet, reminding me that I'd once had a bank balance of exactly one dime).

I was able to garner a room at a massive discount, and arranged for a later checkout time.

Speaking to him by name, I handed over his room key. I wished him good night and pointed him toward his room, stating ( if a bit dishonestly) that it was good to see him.

He thanked me, and headed out of the lobby. As he got to the door, he turned, looked me square in the face, then innocently inquired,

"And your name is...?"

Thunderbolt and Lightning (Very, Very Frightening)
Radio stations favored by retail establishments generally play familiar, easy to sing along with tunes. Case in point; Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody"

I think most of the civilized world has heard the song, and are familiar with at least a tidbit of the particular tune.

As it began playing through the overhead speakers, customers began to sway their heads in time, some "conducting" the air, in a quasi-zombie-like fashion. But, no singing. Until, for some reason, they all started in unison.

I would have thought this really neat or really planned - but it was neither. It was creepish.
All started singing along at the line:

"Sometimes I wish I'd never been born at all..."

Just as quickly as they'd started - realizing teh eerieness of the moment - all stopped. People looked around the room wide-eyed at one another and, as collective goose pimples covred summer-clothed skin, half the customers began to slowly, but assuredly, move toward the exits.

Queen continued, unaccompanied, for the remainder of the song.

Consult Your Local Whale Biologist
Perhaps the heat was playing with my eyes.
Or, perhaps the letters on the stores plastic sign were pushed uncomfortably together. That first "E" squinching up too close (giving a backrub?) to the second "B". Nonetheless, I chose to bypass our local grocers whom advertised their "FRESH BLUBBERRY PIES"

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
"I've got fisters on my blingers" write us ->
Proprietor - Z.F. Lively
Time Management Trainee - Ina Baudenauer
Head Of Security - Nunya B. Swacks

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Allegation, Allegory, and Alliteration

Upon viewing a Colonial soldier cavorting down the road with his mistress of historically comparable attire - a Visitor to Our Faire Citie (Americanid Vacatium Spendthrifticus, Circa 1957) loudly remarked:

"There They Go - Pirates!"

The way some of these tourists drink, you'd think they lived here.

A Fairly Fanciful Feat For Even The Fastest Of Fingers
I'd like to see the creation of a "Retro-Phone" App. The App would enable any "smart" device to operate with the same ring sounds, dial tones, and circumnavigation speed of an old Rotary Telephone. The idea may seem whimsical as you're reading this, I know. The day it debuts, however, I bet it cuts Drunk Dialing Your Ex's by at least 30%.

Inconsequential Index, Ingredients:Inane Ideologies, Ironclad Insight

This Dispatch's List: Recent Likes/Dislikes of your humble (ha!) narrator...

Like - Owl Themed Artwork, posters, tattoos, pottery, etc.
Dislike - Actual Owls - they're creepy, man.

Like - Walking into the stores second room to talk to a cute female customer - hey, interaction with potential spenders is part of the job, folks.
Dislike - Her giggles as she walks out, my nose being the first to discover why she was there alone in the first place.

Like - the convenience of the internet for perusing my personal interests and research.
Dislike - the convenience of the internet for everyone else.

Frazzled Fashion (Go Figure!)
Now, I'm no fashionista - but even I gather that the leather jacket - dyed silver- accented by humongous needleworked paisleys - probably didn't debut on the runways of New York or Paris. Yet, its owner pranced around as if she'd stepped directly out of a space portal from whatever alternate universe in which that used to be cool.

The sartorial snob in me has also noted a rising use of the "this fedora makes me sexy" look. Except that, in 4 out of 5 cases, any promised sexiness fails to appear with the addition of said hat. Thus, trendsters, if you see someone on the street really rocking your new style; chances are it's not you.

On a final fashion note - what's this deal with resting ones sunglasses atop the chin, people? Did your forehead start charging rent, or are you trying to give the impression that your own cheeks are staring at your chest?

Again, please regale me with explanation, fad mavens*, the post office keeps stealing my Vogue.

*p.s. "The Fad Mavens" would be a wicked cool name for a rock band. Contact me if you want to use it (genius ain't cheap, my friend).

The DiMucci Dichotomy
Everyone should already know who the singer, Dion, is. Even those not encyclopedic in pop music of the latter half of the 20th century know his biggest hits -

"Runaround Sue"
and "The Wanderer."

What I've always wondered is how ballsy Mister D. has to be, in order to chastise the namesake of the former for espousing the same traits he himself claims to exploit in the latter?

Also, why such a lackluster Christmas album? You could have kept it cool and raw (hey, you're Dion), but you really headed toward Steve and Eydie territory there.

Lively's Limerick Lounge

Wholesome (to be read in a Bronx or Irish dialect, please)
There once was a gal from Calcutta,
Who developed two gallon-sized "udders"
Said she, with a shrug,
"You think these are jugs?
Take a look at the ones on me mother!"

I once played a role rather spritely.
Costume gal gave me tights that fit, (ahem) tightly.
Seems she was obsessed with
What I was possessed with,
Yet was too shy to ask me politely.

The Slippery Slope Of Subliminal Suggestion
The bell tower chimes at my Alma Mater always seem to be ringing when I walk by. Usually, I inwardly giggle (one of those "Jeesh, I can't believe they're playing this" awkward feeling giggles) when I hear the sounds falling out of the towers - for instance, listening to a version of the Carpenter's "We've Only Just Begun" that segues directly into "The Impossible Dream."

Once last Autumn, however, I caught a bit of the players dark humor; rain clouds had closed in around the city, winds were whipping the trees around downtown - as I walked past the school, I couldn't help but hum along to the hilariously sinister tones chortling out-

"Blue Skies, Smilin' at me, Nothing but blue skies..."

Lifetime Lovers, Weekend Warriors
Standing behind a wall in an Orlando warehouse, my feet in sawdust, my finger on a trigger. As the nose of my rifle peaked over a window ledge, my thoughts turned back to the events of the week prior. Bess and I had celebrated our 6th Anniversary in pretty grand style - from string quartets and French Opera lithographs to dinner with loved ones, boomerang overnight road trips to Savannah, overpriced coffee, second winds, and birthday cake - enjoying each others company and sharing cute looks along the way.

Now, here I stood, gun in hand, waiting for the enemy. Paintball novice that I am, I was just happy to be "alive" that far into the round. I caught a flash in the corner of my eye. A green sash atop the targets face mask - Enemy. I turned, fired, and watched with growing pride as my "bullet" went through a window, a hallway, a door frame and -POP- right between the eyes!

Holy Cow, it was thrilling!
Holy Crap! It was Bess.

All of the above took place in about 20 seconds. Within 15 more, I was out too. Blasted in the right eye, paint on my tongue. I ran outside and found my beloved bride, admitting that it was I who had been her assassin. She laughed.

Forgiveness granted, it was War after all, I grabbed a soda and chuckled to myself. Many folks anniversaries end with one partner putting the other to bed, and preparing for the next days routines.

During our celebration, I shot my wife in the face.

She is so cool.

This is the Dispatch from Escalatorville,
Z.F. Lively, formatted to fit your screen

Oh yeah, you don't want to forget this - I am in a band, we are called the Wobbly Toms, we have an album out called 'Everybody Happy! which you can check out and/or purchase here, as well as at our shows. We're playing an acoustic show this coming May the 27th at Ann O'Malleys Pub, St. Augustine. Come on out, you'll like it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Awkward Thought Clearing House

Hi. Welcome back! I'm about 100 days late and a million bucks short with this Dispatch, so let's jump on in...

The ole "Cell Phones as Walkie Talkies" ploy worked well on Bess and I's recent drive back from Virginia. As part of our trip involved the pickup and delivery of another vehicle - our journey involved driving one car up, but driving two back. Using the "speaker phone" option so as not to break laws or kill other road warriors, we were able to sporadically inform each other as to when we were stopping for gas, food, and lodging. More importantly, we could let one another know what cool radio stations we found throughout the ride.

One frequency the wife hipped me too was a small station in the Carolinas playing some mighty fine "mountain" music. Upon the conclusion of a song entitled 'Trail Of Tears' a disc jockey spoke about the sorrows of that lamentable forced relocation which erased not only the lives, but much heritage, of many Native Americans - along the sad path of the songs title. The DJ concluded that "it just seems that every time one people tries to decide what's best for another people, it always ends in tragedy."

He then paused, and informed us that we were listening to the "Good Times Bluegrass Program."

Now sir, please explain how TV went from Black & White to Color...
Overheard in the downtown area, two middle aged men discussing Mega-Sharks and other ancient dinosaurs of historical and sci-fi horror flick fame. One man was happy to explain to the other that-
"The reason those creatures could get so big and still move around is because Gravity was different then."

How to make enemies, part one - create a list.

The List: People who just won't get off my radar, no matter how much I'd like them too:

-Pregnant women who dress not in a style that flatters their burgeoning motherhood, but whom choose to dress in the now ill-fitting and inappropriate Skank-Wear that got them to this position in the first place. (Please note, I DO NOT refer to ALL pregnant women in this manner; the vast majority of them, and women in general, are NOT of the "skank" variety -I merely reference the ones whom are trying to embarrass their own children before they are even born.)

-Prison-eligible Politicians who continuously state that they were "never convicted," yet refuse to announce that they are innocent.

-Men of minuscule penile accomplishment whom make up for this fact by blasting songs they'd never let their parents hear from stereos in cars that they cannot afford.

-Families that smell like burnt ham.

-Persons who refer to the digits at the end of their hands as "Fangers." I suspect they're from the same family as folks who root for local football squad, the Jacksonville "Jag-Wires."

-Tourists happily guiding their aging parents, despite elder hesitations, into decor purchases they know they will someday inherit.

-Whomever thought that the increasingly unnecessary annual delivery of those environmentally unfriendly phone books could be enhanced by wrapping them with individual plastic bags. Seriously, we got three of them this year - and the only people I actually call are already listed in my phone. Get with the 90's, phone book people.

Next up, 'Walkin' On Sunshine'
The song took on an entirely different contextual meaning when- after years of hearing it used by contented political campaigns and uplifting sitcoms - it's chorus blared out, cracking with static, from the antiquated boom box in the homeless shelter parking lot:
"Don't. Stop. Thinkin' About Tomorrow..."

A town running on fumes is still running, right?
Overheard while walking past city offices in the downtown area; two colleagues in nearly matching tailored suits exiting a meeting: "Those are some great questions, I'm glad no one asked them."

How to make enemies, part two - infest the web.
If you're ever watching television and the spiteful vindictive pundits drive you to the point of disbelief wherein you think, "How much more callous could human beings get?" - then I suggest you avoid any Internet message boards. God bless free speech. God help those who make an art of turning it ugly.

"Ich habe eine Krankheit? BulleScheiße! Ich heilte sie mit meinem Gehirn!"
I still work part time at the front desk of a local hotel. Whenever guests from Germany or Austria check in, I sometimes try to eavesdrop on their conversations to see what,if any, of my high school language lessons remain (with much apologies to Frau Hefty that my brain was more sieve than sponge at that point in life). However, listening to a recent conversation, I determined that this practice must stop. It wasn't due to frustration at only recognizing the occasional guttural utterance or crash of consonants that construct their language; my new found disdain for the art of overhearing is rooted in the fact that the phrase that I identified most often in their conversation repeatedly contained the words "Charlie Sheen."

Cue the Rim shot, please.
I had an online conversation in the near past regarding the current state of modern comedy. It's still my belief that no comedian should be content enough in their career to rest on their laurels. Unless that comedian is Oliver Hardy, of course.

"Pool-ogy," or "Fin-eral"?
Some folks are still wondering about the magic, gill-adorned wonder that lived forever in a pond in our backyard, and has made a couple of appearances in past Dispatches for his near death experiences and awkward diet. Well, I'm sad to report that Fish is no longer with us. He was found, in typical "dead fish" pose, one morning earlier this year.

After giving up the ghost (or whatever spirit our water-logged pals have that haunts their dreams and provides impetus for their Merry Fishmas movies), the most stouthearted fish we'd ever seen was removed from his aquatic home and buried in the backyard. No service was held, for how is one to eulogize such an odds-defying creature?

Not that it would have sufficed; for merely one day later, I returned to the burial mound to find that the pounds of dirt which had covered our finful friend had been pushed away - with no trace of Fish, or any fish parts, to be found nearby. One could speculate that he'd been dug up by one of the neighborhood cats, or torn from the earth by an erstwhile hawk circling above. However, I like to think he escaped after catching his breath - and is now terrorizing smaller beings throughout the marsh waters that retreat from our yard towards the San Sebastian River.

Don't page Robin Leach just yet (look him up, youngsters).
I am fortunate enough to play in a pretty cool band. As a band, we are fortunate enough to have recently released an album* and played in a pretty cool festival. Now, despite occasional delusions of grandeur, we are taking it all in stride and for what it is - a great time playing music for great people. However, if you haven't experienced what it's like to have people you've never even met singing along to your words - or to walk into a bar and hear your song playing on the house sound system - I cannot accurately describe the thrill of having even a small bit of localized fame. But, I can totally understand how actual rock stars gain those super-egos that we "real" musicians often hate them for. In the meantime, I'll keep doing what I'm doing, until the Limo gets here.

Thank you, little people.

Z.F. Lively
Chief Escalatorvillian

*Purchase info for 'Everybody Happy!' by The Wobbly Toms will be available soon - write to for further details, or just to harass me for this blatant plug.