Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Not Just for the Northern Hemisphere (although it's one of my two favorite hemispheres)

"If that water's supposed to be 'non-potable,' why do they carry it around on the back of a big truck?" - Local rube.
Oblivious Hypocrisy
A customer came into the store wherein I am employed and bought a bit more than two dozen postcards. Then, said customer shunned the idea that I would put their purchase in a paper bag -

"We have to save the trees."
Life in the Ancient City
I am hoping, as I grow older in years, that I become wiser with age. I also hope that I will continue to keep abreast of what goes on in the world at large. I mention this because, living in the town in which I do - I find that we have a number of "old" folks whom continue to live within the values and beliefs that were commonplace at the year of their birth.

I was recently asked, point blank, and with no hesitation on behalf of the asker:
"What is it that the black people call themselves now?"

This from a person whose Rolodex of recent cultural touchstones end at Vanna White and 'Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous'

(For the record, my answer was "Uh, people.")

I was also witness to the sad, yet comically uncanny, timing of satellite radio programming immediately upon the outcome of the following event:

An extremely aged person I know recently had a medical procedure. The aftermath of the procedure was facilitated by pain relievers, which, while they may have decreased some osteopathic inflamation - did nothing to affect the loss of memory and functionality in this particular person of well-worn lifespan. A person who prides themselves on their independence and self-supervision, despite their advanced and obviously declining years.

Due to the onset of non-premature ageing, my acquaintance made a mathematical error - not realizing her misfortune until about a half hour after the fact, when the mistake was pointed out by another party.

She was thrown. Not by the mistake itself - that was pushed aside with a "fiddle dee dee," or some other antiquated expression - but rather, by the cause. I could see her face start to wither as she took into account that her senility itself had created an issue; she was, at that very moment, beginning to realize that she was indeed growing old.

A sad, reflective moment to be certain. I felt a bit awkward then, when I silently guffawed at the song-list which permeated the airwaves;

The Beatles "Eleanor Rigby"
followed directly by
The Rolling Stones "Mother's Little Helper"
Three Dog Night's "One (is the loneliest number)."

Radio: Bringing Light-Hearted Humor to Life's Interesting Moments Since 1906.

A Poem(for the life of me I can't think of a decent title...)
Cute girls on skateboards, in my neighborhood.
An old man on a walk - I'd look away if I could.
Yet, they carve trails right toward me,
('cause they're up to no good).
Those cute girls on skateboards, in my neighborhood.

Those cute girls on skateboards, in my neighborhood,
can't roll past my house - the road is all mud.
But, if the ole guv'ment would pay for some pavement,
then perhaps kindly angels would...
send more cute girls on skateboards through my neighborhood.

The Ghost Of Semantics Strikes Again
Y'know, there's not a heck of a lot of difference between the phrases
"Koo Koo Katchoo" and "Goo Goo G'Joob.
My bet is that Mrs. Robinson was the Walrus this entire time.

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Escalator Excavator
escalatorville@yahoo.com for misheard lyrics and such.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Parlour Tricks For Dummies

Overheard (Mom to Daughter) at a local bagel and coffee purveyor:

"You can't turn yourself into a frog, honey - you're not a witch yet."

The Incredible Disparate Hearing Act.
I was at work the other day when a father was trying to describe to his son the Cut Bamboo Xylophone that we sell in the front of the store.

"Well, that's an interesting instrument." the Dad spoke.

What I originally heard however was
"Well, that's a Hipster-magnet"

The sad truth is that both descriptions are correct.

The Great Escape.
I once worked as a "character" at the Old Jail stop on one of of our towns multiple, nightly Ghost tours. My persona was that of a prisoner who had been hung at the gallows on the site 100 years ago, and was rumored to still be present in the building - along with a number of other unfortunate ne'er do wells whom, even in afterlife, were bound to their prison cells.

I was quite good at it, and was able to thoroughly convince tourists and townies alike that there were indeed a few spirits still floating through the old burg.

Then, one night, I was participant in an event that scared me more than any other boogeyman tale I've heard or been involved in.

After the last tour one evening, 'round midnight or thereabouts, I began the process of making sure all exits and entrances were secure, turning off the lights in the second floor of the building. The upstairs cells shut and dark, I'd routinely head down the steps and do the same for the first floor of the building.

It's a creepy kind of place in general, and so I had taken up the habit of whistling to myself to calm my nerves as I did this task. On this particular night, however, I'd no sooner shut the door to the "Jail" portion of the building, when I heard another whistle - the sound coming from directly behind me, no more than a foot or two away from my ears. A different tune than the one I'd been making up, this was no echo. I could feel the breath on the back of my neck.

I started to whistle a bit louder as I headed into the stairwell.

Halfway down the concrete steps, the whistle still behind me - I felt a push upon my back, energy so forceful that I had to steady myself with the handrail. I took a millisecond to catch my wits, and then took the remainder of the steps two at a time, rushing to turn off the lights, shut the doors, and get - the - heck - out - of that building (I would say to get the Hell out of the building, but at the time I thought it best to leave the Hell exactly where it was).

I've had ghostly encounters in this town before and since, but the apparitions I've encountered have usually been fairly solemn and non-aggressive.

Never before had I been mocked or harmed by an otherworldly resident, but that night taught me that there are indeed many different kinds of spirits.
Ones that make their appearance and move along - and those that just want to be left alone in their terror, by any means necessary.

Like A Rabbit From A Hat, But Not At All.
A side note to the oldest city's downtown dog walkers; It's great that you put your puppy's waste into a tidy plastic bag, really, I applaud you for the effort (you can't tell because I'm typing, but it sounds like applause, honest).

However, part two of that scenario is supposed to be that you pick up said bag and trash it. As special and wondrous as your pooch may be folks, those aren't lawn decorations.

Nothing Up - Mights Leave.
I said to the young lady, as she was exiting the store, my normal farewell for those who perused without purchase:

"Thanks for stopping in today!"

Replied the gal back to me:

"Oh, yeah - you too."

Finally: for Ocracoke, Atlantic City, Hoboken, Queens, New England, Virginia, and everyone else affected by this weeks horrific storm:

"The aurora is risin' behind us, The pier lights our carnival life on the water."

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Chief Puppeteer, Non-Puppet Division
escalatorville@yahoo.com for love letters and advice.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: More page views than Pliny the Elder's blog (maybe)

I live in a relatively small town. This is sometimes really cool, sometimes not.

Here's one of the cool things:

I can, on occasion, have dinner at a good friends apartment and then, on the walk home, pass by the house of a random stranger having a cookout/chillout in their backyard - and blaring the latest album by said friend on their porch stereo.

Pretty neat, if I do say so myself.

Thoughts of a Simple Man
On the way home from the store one evening, I heard a local band at a local alcoholery play a cover version of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."

Now, if one is a musician in a southern town, and in particular a southern town less than 50 miles from where Lynyrd Skynyrd was born and bred, then you are expected to know at least a song or two by those local boys done good.

Anyhow, in that particular song, there's a vocal part after the line "In Birmingham they love the Governor" wherein original back up singers Clydie King, Merry Clayton, and Sherlie Matthews sing "Boo! Boo! Boo!" to cement the meaning behind the song [Taken from the Wikipedia: "In 1975, (Singer and Writer of the song Ronnie)Van Zant said: "The lyrics about the governor of Alabama were misunderstood. The general public didn't notice the words 'Boo! Boo! Boo!' after that particular line, and the media picked up only on the reference to the people loving the governor...Wallace and I have very little in common," Van Zant said, "I don't like what he says about colored people."].  They sing the line so emphatically and royally that it becomes a  key moment in the tune.

This brings me to my point of frustration, and I'm being nitpicky, for sure, but if I wasn't nitpicky, then I wouldn't write half of the things I do. Y'see, it's that very small but crucial part that cover groups screw up the most. Bands use that minuscule pause in between the words "Governor" and the first "Boo!" to make their presentation either too ornate, too explosive, or too discombobulated  - always. It takes the oomph out of the song.

It was done so perfectly the first time around, why should it be messed with?

Now, if you are in one of those bands that permeates the south and is frequently pestered by obnoxious music fans to cover a Skynyrd tune, please try to avoid showboating it. If your guitar slingers have the chops to pull off a decent version of say "Freebird" or "Gimme Three Steps," then by all means, go ahead.

If yer gonna be extremely flowery about it though, please don't. You can worship Skynyrd, you can cover Skynyrd, you can even mock Skynyrd (heck I doubt they could care less) - BUT - you can never out-do Skynyrd,
and don't you ever forget it.

(This hatches an embryonic scheme in my brain, however. I'd like to see a regional Lynyrd Skynyrd Invitational Tournament - a battle of the bands as it were. Each performer would do one Lynyrd Skynyrd cover, any tune they like, and will all perform on a single night. The winner gets named the best Skynyrd Salute of that year - and maybe a few prizes. If enough folks get behind the idea, we'll see what we can do to get it going. Send me your thoughts/band suggestions/audition videos via a comment on this blog, or to escalatorville@yahoo.com - I'm frikkin' serious.)

Original Gangster?
It happened again. From a block away I could hear the massively loud truck stereo. A roving group of tipsy, would be frat boys from a college without any fraternities tried to clumsily sing along with the track they were blasting. A sloppily chanted "Heey. Heey"  -  a pause, then again - "Heey. Heey."

I could feel the pumped up bass line in my chest as they rolled and rollicked past me. I recognized the faux gangbanger anthem in my head as soon as they drove beside the space in which I strolled.  It was indeed Dion's "Runaround Sue."

Paging Clarence in Bedford Falls
If you ever want to have one of those George Bailey days, wherein you see how the world would look if you never existed -  here's any easy way (because suicide can be messy): leave your house for your daily routine about 5 minutes earlier than usual.

I have done it (I don't know why, I have no reason to get to work any earlier than I actually do - plus, I've timed my morning rituals to be perfectly punctual). In any case, I tried this a few weeks ago and was amazed at how much of the universe is out and about directly before I am. I left my abode literally 5 minutes earlier than usual - nearly got run over by two cars emerging from their respective driveways, got howled at by at least three dogs, and said hello to so many unrecognized joggers that I lost count.

Strange how the world works, especially when it's on a schedule that's not mine.

There is no more Hanging Up, There is only Hanging On.
I overhead half of a cell phone conversation a couple weeks ago, but I think I got the whole story.

"Yeah, you'll have to make a right but then it's just a half block from my house,"
the call receiver spoke.

They continued, " Oh, there you are! Yeah, just drive right up, I can see you from here."

Now in normal communication, with normal people, this is where the conversation via phone would have ended, with the party on the phone hanging up to greet the driver in person. Nope, not in Escalatorville, folks.

"Oh yeah, now just turn into the driveway, you have plenty of room. Perfect!"

And it continued,
"O.K., just drive around to the back of the house and park, I'll meet you there in a moment."

"In a moment?" I wondered to myself, "You are literally three feet from the person you are talking to!"

The caller then went in the front door of their house, and I walked away. As I got a half block beyond, I heard the caller again, distantly, as they exited out the back door -"Oh hey, you're here, I'm glad you made it..."

Call Me Zachary, I write humor (Don't hate the player, hate the game.)
So, I can understand the bumper sticker (slightly) that states

"God is my Co-Pilot,"  because, hey - if you're gonna fly through the air,  you might as well be on the side of the guy that invented sky, right?

However, the other day I saw a bumper sticker that read:

"Jesus Is My Designated Driver"


First of all, you know he was a wine drinker, don't you?
Also, Jesus has never seen a car, so he probably wouldn't know how to turn the engine over, much less be able to navigate.  The GPS would freak him out;  A mysterious, omnipresent voice knowing where one is at any given time, shouting random, various directions and tasks?

Yeah - who'd believe that?

Also, even Jesus is gonna pray that you don't have a stick shift.
(You may have to think on that one for a moment...)

Even sadder than the joke? It's probably been done already.
I want to form a reggae band that does covers of classic country-rock singles. We can call ourselves "the Dread-Necks."

Dancing on the High-Wire of Self Promotion
Nearly forgot to mention that we're doing a live show. Yup - you read that right. 'A Night In Escalatorville' marks it's audience laden debut on Saturday the 27th of October. The show is  a combination of monologues and readings based on stuff n' stories found throughout the 5 year history of this very blog - as well as original songs written and performed by yours truly. We're pleased to be inaugurating the shindig in one of the old city's newest venues -King Hall- taking a place on their monthly schedule betwixt the schlock films and rock shows - groovy!

If you are in the St. Augustine area, check in and check it out. More info's available on our Facebook event page. Just click on 'A Night In Escalatorville'. ----

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Middle Aged Earth Dancer
escalatorville@yahoo.com -send yer band links and rad thinks.

P.S.  Gaaah! Read the reviews.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: It's The Truth, It's Actual - but not entirely Satisfactual.

I fully support the smarter than average practitioners of meditation and malapropism. I am a Yogi Bearer...

Modern Rites Of Passage
As I walked across the parking lot of my nearest convenience mart, I found myself surrounded by a smallish group of local youngsters - all a bit more excited than I'd usually expect them to be on a sojourn for energy drinks and bubble gum.

They buzzed and hummed amongst themselves. Their pockets and purses did the same - as phones called out to them with textual updates, as it turns out, on the nights impending activities.

We entered the shop. I separated myself from the swarm, gathered up the few items that I needed, and headed to the cash register.

I approached warily, noticing that the crowd had grown. Phones had been switched to picture and video modes. The group, at least a dozen strong now, had gathered around a young girl at the clerks counter. She carefully made a selection, had cash at the ready and handed her ID to the stores agent of fiduciary intake.

Cameras clicked. The girls name was chanted with a rejoicing lilt. The procurement followed by a smattering of applause and a few over exuberant cheers.

Then it hit me as to what I'd just witnessed. These kids had organized a flash mob to celebrate this girl as she made her first legal purchase - for a pack of cigarettes.

I wonder how many of her pals will still be around years from now to snap pics and offer congrats on her first round of chemo...

Arts and Social Sciences
Like many communities nowadays, our little burg fosters acclaim for it's many galleries of imaginative expression by sustaining a monthly Art Walk, occurring here on first Fridays. Often folks will get together with family and friends to turn this into a ritual as they 'support' the arts with their eyes - while the fingers that would otherwise be diving into their wallets instead reach for the free wine and hors d'oeurves provided.

[Side note: When I was still a drinker, I fell prey to this behaviour as well, mapping out my stroll by the selection of beverages available. I'd start at the smaller, more independent venues with punch and sangria - working my way to the high end showplaces  offering Merlot, Shiraz, or Champagne alongside the oil paintings and marble sculptures. Heck, the math works even in small quantities;
(1/2 glass of booze) X (7 or 8 galleries) = 1 good, free tipsy tingle.

On my most recent visit to the patronage parade, I got caught behind a family bemoaning the fact that they didn't do this enough. An elder proposed a weekly get together instead.

I couldn't tell if the following phrase was said with anticipation or frustration, when one of the daughters spoke up:

"But it's only First Friday every month!"

(Anticipation? Frustration? Possibly Inebriation - they'd just exited a showcase with works in the upper scale of the monetary spectrum.)

Spaceman vs. Sportsman (or Losing The 'Buzz')
One of the delightful side effects of being a non-drinker is that it's now easier to overhear the claptrap conversations of certain vociferous drunkards. At a pub where The Wobbly Toms were about to play, I heard the felonious argument that Apollo 11 pilot Edwin Aldrin not only failed to go to the moon, but that the 2nd astronaut to plant his feet on the "Luna Punim" was Don (not Ken) Mattingly.

That would have been an impressive accomplishment for the Yankees First Baseman - who was all of 8 years old at the time. I have no doubt however, that he would have been the first Interstellar RBI Champion.

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Margin of Eras
escalatorville@yahoo.com for State Facts and Fake Stats

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Country Feedback

I'd like to start a Nature Re-claimancy organization. Possibly run by the National Parks Department - or whomever wants to pay me enough money to do it.

We'd run it a bit like the Nature Conservancy, but would look at old, vacated buildings in my, and your, neighborhood. With the help of local historical societies - the organization could research structural histories and backgrounds  to determine any momentous chronography inherent in those particular properties. If there's a legend or tale to be told, let 'em stand, work 'em up, and open them as museums to exhibit said structures significance in the biography of it's neighborhood.

If the structure itself has no historical value - then dismantle it, donating any usable pieces and parts to Habitat For Humanity - then develop the area as a green space or public park.

It's what some folks would call a win-win. On one hand, the remaining structures could become a revenue and job creating portal for the community. On the other, the spaces left by the removed buildings could be populated with trees and other fresh flora that would help to conserve the planet.

Now, who gets this ball rolling? Anyone wanna give me their house?

It's the new "Like"
Overheard, verbatim, while passing through the breezeway of a local bastion of higher education (aka my Alma Mater):

"Your timing back there was perfect. Totally perfect. I mean how perfect was that, that it was so perfect?"

Double Face-Palm Moment of the week:
There are more rooms in my house than I regularly use. Thus, the majority of my "stuff" is relegated to the spaces wherein I take routine repose. Doing some light dust and grime reorganization the other day, I made myself crazy running around trying my damnedest to find the cleaning solution.

It wasn't under the sink, definitely not in the office or the bedroom (those places are filthy!). After 10 minutes of fruitless searching, it made an appearance - outside on a step leading to the backyard - where I'd failed to pick it up after wiping down the porch table.

Then, upon using the reclaimed blue liquid of wonder to cleanse the goop from the inside of the kitchen trash can - I crumpled the paper towel I'd been using and tossed it in the direction of where the kitchen trash can would have been - were it not still in my other hand.

The song says "Everybody plays the fool, sometimes*" - yet there are days when I emulate Cal Ripken Jr. in that regard.

*No, I will not do my Aaron Neville impersonation for you (unless, that is, you ask me to.)

Phone-Phollies (aka "Ba-duhm Tchik")
The newest phone books just arrived in doorways and driveways of homes around town. Delivered, of course, at the height of our recent rain season - so I'm lucky to have grabbed a dry one. As stated in previous Dispatches, I like to peruse the corner top indices of each yearly edition  to see what interesting word combinations develop from the proximity of certain businesses in alphabetic order  (thank you, proto-sinaitics!). Herewith, recent findings:

Abortion - Acupuncturists 
(Yeah we start off risky. Too risky. Write your own caption here, folks, I'll handle the rest)
Advertising - Air 
("Choose Life, Choose Air, Get Some Before It's Gone!")
Airport - Alcoholism 
(Those with a fear of flying often succumb to this combination most aggressively.)
Burglar - Business 
(Often called "Politics.")
Chiropractic - Churches 
(I hold the copyright on Ergonomic Pews.)
Golf - Hair 
(I'm torn between the Nicklaus "Golden Bangs" and the "Fuzzy" Zoeller.)
Junk - Land 
(An inexpensive theme park for sure, but whatever you do: AVOID the 'Tunnel Of Love.')
Oxygen - Party 
(If you've fallen for the Air Advertising, this is the next step.)
Septic - Shipping 
(They did all the contract work for Junk - Land.)
Stair - Storage 
("Yeah, just put those stairs in the little closet under the - Hey! Wait a minute...")
Tree - Trophies 
(Usually this is referred to as "Paper ')
Wood - Zoos 
(I can't see the forest for the Tree-Trophies.)

High Flyers and Low Lifes
There used to be a hawk that lived in my neighborhood, nested atop  an old tree three blocks away, in the parking lot of an architecturally rustic church. I'd see him from the front porch of ye olde casa.  Every now and then, I'd watch the fellow take flight, swoop down with great speed near the swampish riverbanks of the San Sebastian and emerge - ninja-like*, beak full of flesh - be it snake or fish. He'd return to guard his nest and feed the kids.

I think he also scared off the cranes. Every spring to early summer in the years I've been in this home, they arrive to roost - on the posts of disintegrated, century old docks that emerge during the lowest of tides. In the past few years , they've moved their location a little closer to the house, however - and that kind of creeps me out.

Generally, I'm a fan of birds. But cranes just scare the bejesus out of me sometimes. Have you ever seen a crane stalk, attack, and devour a mindless gecko? I have, and it is brutal.  God forbid they should ever form an army set on taking over mankind (Editor's note: Pot Bellied Pigs already have a plan for that).

The Hawk - he kept them away.

I first noticed him during a month when the cranes had indeed visited, getting ever so close to the back gate, which leads direct to the marshy mush.  One day I spotted the hawk at his regular perch - he looked in the direction of my house, and then took off. After a moment of free flight, a hard turn and whoosh right past the backyard - moments later he returned to his throne - something long and wriggly in tow.

And after that - the cranes disappeared. They missed the entire spring this year - and I have enjoyed being able to spy on the hawk during both rainstorms and  sweltering hot days, vigilantly gazing out  from his perch, high aloft- our airborne neighborhood watch.

A couple months ago, however, the Hawk vanished. One day he way floating high above, doing his rounds - and suddenly - gone. I haven't seen him since.

Then, a fortnight back - the cranes returned. They preened on their posts as if they'd never left.  I'm hoping the Hawk comes back as well, just in case those cranes get rowdy. 

*Are there really bird-ninjas? If so, how would you know it?

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Puppeteer/Pussyfootin' Proselytiser
escalatorville@yahoo.com for words and punctuation

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Emphasis On "Might"

Ahh, the burdens of the average American - I recently spent a boring and customer-less hour during a slow day in the retail universe. My beings only brush with emotive excitement - feeling the flow of heated disdain through my noggin upon hearing the overhead radio's reverberation of the Eagles "Peaceful Easy Feeling"

The boredom broken only by this exact in-coming visitor exchange:

Dad: "Son, don't touch stuff."

Son: "But, I'm only touching things!"

I have been lucky enough to attend hundreds of concerts in my life. I've been fortunate enough to see many of my favorite bands, or members of my favorite bands, doing their thing on-stage in front of a large audience. I think seeing a band in person is an exciting living testament to the power of music.

Of all the great groups I've seen in performance - I believe the one  I've seen more than any other would be those two guys from Brooklyn named John - They Might Be Giants. Over the course of 20 plus years, I have seen them about 7 times. As they say in books and movies, however, you never forget your first:

During my sophomore year of college, I was fortunate enough to find a few folks who, like me, had adopted the quirky and catchy music of TMBG, who'd recently released their biggest LP to date, "a brand new record, for 1990" - it was called 'Flood'.  I didn't take to 'Flood' as much as their first two albums, which I'd memorized by listening to ad nauseum. However, that particular LP broadened their audience throughout high school and college campuses nationwide.

Ross, one of my newest pals in the dorm (who soon become a band mate, roommate, and great friend throughout my remaining college years and beyond), had heard that the musicians would soon be on tour. The closest stop to our adopted St. Augustine? The University of Florida, in Gainesville.

These were the in-between days for concert ticket buying. We didn't have a drugstore or local market with a ticket line to go and stand in overnight - and this was pre-internet, where one has to use their quickest fingers to catch a seat in the 5 or 6 seconds before an auditorium sells out. The purchase of these particular tickets required a borrowed parental credit card, promised cash paybacks from those who wanted a seat, and a long distance phone call to reserve the tickets - which would be picked up at the venue on the day of the show. Ross did a lot of work to corral the half a dozen orders for those in the dorm who really wanted to hear "Birdhouse In Your Soul" in all it's active, in your face glory.

Tickets secured. We anxiously awaited the date of the show.

We were anxious, but less than prepared. Gainesville was (and still is) about 75 miles from St. Augustine. For a group of kids with no car - this would prove a problem. The morning of the show arrived and we had no way to get there (my personal details are fuzzy; did we have a ride that cancelled, or had we just not thought about it?).

We scrambled, running around campus trying to bump into folks we knew that might be able to help us out (yeah, kids - pre-texting and facebook, you actually had to contact people in person). After a hectic little bit of asking, begging, and finagling with our breakfasts nervously semi-digesting betwixt gullet and stomach - we managed to find an acquaintance who would loan out her car for the evening. As I had arranged to be the driver, I made a solemn promise to get the vehicle safely to the concert, and back into it's parking spot by late that evening - also swearing that I would not be drinking or drugging during the journey (not that this was a problem, I wouldn't embrace those vices until my post-grad years).

In order to get to the show by the time we perceived it would start ("Doors Open At 7PM" being one of those wishy-washy phrases that, while indeed true, has no bearing whatsoever on the future timing of event proceedings), we opted to leave around 4:30 in the afternoon. We'd be the first ones to rush our schools dining hall dinner hour before squeezing into the car - hopefully giving us enough time to travel to Gainesville, get our bearings, retrieve the tickets, and wander around a bit before the start of the show.

T'was pretty much a straight shot out to ole U of F - with just a road switch or two along the way - and not much trouble on the territorial roads of central northern Florida. I say 'territorial' because I recall the horror of trying to pass another vehicle on the two lane blacktop - only to have a driver coming in the opposite direction speed up as we approached in his lane. I'm definitely not a lead foot, but having to maneuver a car quickly enough to avoid becoming roadkill for a local who wants to scare the pants off a crew of college punks was a challenge that I accepted with a scream, a curse, and the proverbial "pedal to the metal."

We made it to Gainesville safe and sound, thank you.

After parking the car, we headed to the hall itself, where we planned to get our tickets, in plenty of time - and chill out before seeing the fellows who we were certain would become our new-favorite-band-of-all-time.

Gallantly, we strolled up to the 'Will Call' window - which was shut and locked.

We uttered a collective "Wha???" before minuscule waves of panic set in. The tickets, we knew, had been paid for (Ross' folks credit card statement could verify that tale) - we had managed to wrangle everyone in our group, tested the limits of a borrowed car, and arrived with half an hour to spare before our fun was set to begin. Now, we could not attain the one thing that allowed us entry into the world of sonic wonder that rested beyond the doors of the concert hall.

We knocked. No answer. We knocked again. No answer.  We then ran around inside the building, asking anyone in the vicinity that we could think of (ushers, security, desk clerks, custodians) who we'd have to talk to, or persuade, to open up that damn window and get us our tickets. After what seemed like a long while of frustration after frustration, we strolled outside to get some fresh air.

Releasing ones anger into the wild is apparently a key of some sort.

We re-entered the building to find that the window was now open - a bored college student just like ourselves sat thumbing through a book, looking as if he'd been given the task by Dante himself - Ticket Window Assistant being a job on level three of Hell, apparently.

We approached, gave the name on the tickets, and were handed an envelope that contained those paper passes to the musical land of enchantment.

"Wow," uttered the guy behind the glass - "We've been waiting for y'all to show up."

Flabbergasted but relieved, we raced to the entrance of the hall where, we were sure, They Might Be Giants would take the stage within minutes. We entered a vast room full of sweaty, eager teens and early 20-somethings, crowded elbow to elbow in a very warm 'concert hall' which was simply a converted gym. Staking our claim to whatever parts of the floor our feet could stand in - we waited. Then waited some more. Then waited some more.

Those that could find space on the floor to sit did so. Fans who'd never met were soon introducing themselves to each other, trading stories of their trip to this venue, which albums and bootlegs they owned, how many times they'd seen the band, et cetera. There were even a couple of know-it-all snobs who'd seen the group in Brooklyn during the "early years." Only three albums into what's become a 3-decade long career, and these uber-fans were already reminiscing about the good old days.

After an hour of waiting, the lights dimmed, and we all stood. The whoosh of air that accompanied our rise provided a brief, cooling breeze as we looked to the stage and out walked - the opening act. We hadn't counted on an opening act.

We certainly hadn't counted on this opening act - Carmaig De Forest. A New York folk singer who none of us had heard of. When I say 'none of us' - I don't mean just the gang from St. Augustine. Nobody in the entire crowd had heard of him, and our collective confusion was audible. He then launched into an energetic set which featured quasi-political songs and whimsical numbers such as "Crack Is No Worse Than The Fascist Threat."

Three songs in, he broke a string on his guitar. He then finished the remainder of his set on Ukulele. I kid you not. This was an admirable challenge and he met it royally. Unfortunately, the room full of perspiration drenched kids waiting for a super-groovy hip band wasn't as receptive or appreciative as we probably should have been. [Editor's note: In later years, I came upon a vinyl copy of De Forest's LP 'I Shall Be Released' - which features "Crack..." among many other fine tunes - my turntable has spun it more than a few times...Look him up online, he's got a good rep and a respectable pedigree.]

He finished his set, and wandered off to a smattering of applause. We knew that it would be mere moments before TMBG took the stage and would provide us with the best concert experience we'd ever know.

"Oh intermission, be brief so that we can behold greatness!"

It was not brief. Half an hour passed. 45 minutes passed. We returned, roasted and dripping to the floor. A full hour after De Forest played his last uleklele'd note - the lights again dimmed as an overhead monitor announced the headliner.

They Might Be Giants had finally appeared. We were joyous, and probably a bit delirious from the loss of bodily fluids. I could not hear the entire first song due to the gracious and alleviated cheers from the mass of fandom which rattled the room. The duo performed on various instruments, backed by a reel to reel tape recorder/playback machine (for those of you under the age of 35 - you may need a history lesson). It was fantastic. It was entertaining. It was awesome to see, ten feet from my face - the faces I'd only known through the wacky videos that aired late at night on MTV. They played a bunch of songs from the 'Flood' LP, and a few fun songs from their aforementioned "glory days."

Then, It was over.

We'd been in the sweat box for nearly 4 hours. The band we'd rushed, struggled, and risked our necks to see had played for 60 minutes.

Midnight, in Gainesville. We'd not a lot of cash left, having spent quite a few dollars on band merchandise and gasoline. So, we opted to pile into the borrowed car and head back to the oldest city.

Remember when I wrote that it was a pretty straight shot from St. Augustine to Gainesville? When you are very tired, dehydrated, slightly dejected, and heaped in the darkness of a late-night excursion on poorly lit roads - one wrong turn can turn the world on it's head.

I made a couple wrong turns.

I could have sworn that I'd headed back the exact same way that we'd started out. I remembered landmarks, tunnels, road signs - and yet, somehow misplaced my sense of direction. After two hours of driving - we had ended up on a dirt road, well off the highway, beside a farmers field. Halfway between Gainesville and the Atlantic Ocean, but nearly 40 miles south of where we should have been.

I only know that we were south of where we should have been because of my pal Richard. Frustrated on the side of the road, gravel and dirt intermingling with tall weeds, grass, and whatever creatures lay about in the late, late night - I was lost and livid. Richard, however, had taken up an interest in astronomy as a kid. Luckily, he'd retained a bit of that knowledge, and - based on the stars in the night sky - was able to make suggestions as to what direction we should head.

The fuel gauge needle quickly slanting toward 'E'  - I pointed the car along the roads that were available to us, and eventually we made it back onto the highway. It was 5 AM when I pulled that car into the Flagler College parking lot, running on fumes. The vehicle was as exhausted as the rest of us.

I found a spot and parked. We all exited our TMBG-mobile, returning to our dorm rooms and promising to meet up for breakfast at the dining hall after a few short naps. Some of us met up again, at lunch.

We'd been through an ordeal to get to and from that show. I've never had such a trek to experience a They Might Be Giants concert in the years since. In fact, with the exception of a powerful stomach bug which attacked me in the midst of their Richmond, Virginia gig a year or two later, I've had a wonderful time seeing the band over the years.

I'd even bet that - if you talked to any one of us who'd taken the excursion to Gainesville that night - despite the hindrances we endured, we'd all say:

"Yeah, that was a great show!"

Heh Heh, he said "BackHoe"...
Recently seen between the mud puddles in the Ancient City; a man riding down the street, daughter in his lap with her hands on the wheel - as daddy showed her how to drive... the humongous backhoe loader he was using to assist in road improvement.

The presumptive babies mama stood on a side platform, hanging onto a door railing as they moseyed along their route.

I didn't realize that construction contractors had their own "Take Your Daughter To Work" Day - nor that they began this initiation when the child was less than two years of age.
The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively,  Proprietor/Unsuccessful Ticket-Scalper
escalatorville@yahoo.com for song requests and on-stage shout outs.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: For Folksy Hipsters and Hippie Folksters

I passed by an old apartment that Bess and I had lived in  a number of years ago and noticed the buildings owner - frustrated and on a ladder. He was angrily slicing branches from the top of an over-sprouted palm tree in the front yard.

I couldn't help but chuckle as he cursed through his struggle.

The man sawing through those troublesome limbs was the exact person whom had loudly, viciously, castigated yours truly a half dozen years ago for attempting to prune the very same tree - which was then about 1/3 it's current size.

Time may not heal all wounds - but occasionally allows the brain to think:
"Ha ha! Take that, jackass!"

Overheard in a downtown area store, in the beach burg where I live:

"Daddy," said the innocently inquisitive child, "What's your favorite shell?"

"Oh," responded the petulant paterfamilias,with possibly the worst answer to that question, "They all look the same to me."

One Jack and A Million Flakes
Everyone has a memorable road story. Having driven across this country four times, and up or down both coasts, I've racked up a few. Every so often, I recall one particular trip to the Garden State.

It was mid-winter, and I headed up to New Jersey to visit with an ex-girlfriend. We'd been split for a little while at the time, but remained friends and, as I had been in Richmond, Virginia for the Yuletide holidays that year, a relatively short journey a few states north seemed like a pleasant diversion.

I forget exactly how I'd arrived in Virginia from Florida on that vacation; probably by train, although it's a distinct possibility I made that trek via Ye Olde Grey Hounde. Nonetheless, for the trip to New Jersey, I had borrowed my sister's car; promising, of course, to return it safe, sound, and full of gas (Isn't this the ultimate promise of all car-borrowing tales? There's a similar pledge in a story for the next Dispatch as well).

The vehicle was a Tercel, I think [Erin "Stopsign" Lively - whose nickname is now over 3-dozen years old and is probably growing tiresome to my dear sibling - will correct my faulty memory]. It drove well, and I liked the feel of it. I could handle the highways quite mightily and expeditiously on the swift jaunt up I-95 toward the infamous Jersey Turnpike.

Turnpike. Let's examine that phrasing for a moment, shall we? A combo term springing from the words 'Turn'- meaning a move, or change in position - and 'Pike' - meaning a sharp, pointed weapon, or a voracious fish.

Indeed, due to an obnoxious weather system coupled with directions writ in my own shorthand, a sharp and fishy change was about to occur.

In my defense, I am a fairly decent driver, and a pretty darn good navigator. Alas, serving as a navigator for myself when driving doesn't seem to be a fruitful mix. Oh, I got on the New Jersey Turnpike with ease, but, as with all implications of the following statement - getting yourself off requires concentration and finesse.

I took Exit A, when I should have taken Exit B, maybe transposed an 8 with a 3.
My shorthand kind of sucks.

As soon as I left the off-ramp, I knew something was wrong. The pavement got quite a bit rougher, and I slowed the cars pace. In the not too far distance, I could see industrial machinery, mountains of displaced dirt and gravel. As I rolled through this dusty wasteland, it began to snow.


There were no other passenger vehicles on this road, only monstrous construction and destruction based conveyances.


I gazed out the windshield to see dump trucks, backhoes, bulldozers, excavators, those really big earth movers with tracks that look like the kind used in grain elevators, the -


While my eyes got lost in the world of out sized mechanical mega-transportation - they missed the giant pothole directly in front of me. The Tercel (or whatever it was) bounced into and out of a gargantuan divot with apparent ease. Yet, it didn't feel right. I turned around as soon as I could, and headed back to the highway.

This being the New Jersey Turnpike, I soon came upon a toll booth. I scrounged up enough quarters to make my way through and got the green light from the operator. Alas - as I pulled away, I heard from the front passenger side that awful wha-poop, wha-poop, wha-poop that can only indicate one thing - a flat tire.

Being the dutiful and gracious vehicular operator that I am [at present date; I've a quarter century of driving under my belt - with  a spotless record, if I may brag a bit (further information regarding anything else under my belt will cost you some cash, pal)], I carefully and slowly pulled over to the side of the freeway. It was still snowing like mad. A bit of a blustery blizzard to be honest. Not the kind of weather one really wants to change a tire in, but I've been known to appreciate a challenge. Not all, but some.

Picturing the famous scene from the film 'A Christmas Story' ("Oh Fudge!"), I laughed and convinced myself that I could perform the necessary task without losing any lug nuts or cursing my luck ("Only I didn't say 'fudge.' I said the word. The big one. The queen mother of dirty words. The 'f, dash, dash, dash' word."). Hurriedly, I got out of the car, took the keys to the trunk, and opened it to find the cars jack and 'donut' spare - which had been unused up to that point.

I'd performed the task a time or two before, so I knew pretty much what I was doing. However, the peculiarity of this circumstance - changing a flat on the New Jersey Turnpike, 300 miles from anything familiar, in the middle of a raging snowstorm - made things stressfully humorous. Probably more humorous in retrospect, but I made it a point to clear my head and finish as quickly as possible, lest I start to have a smidgen of a freak out.

Moments later, I was back on the road - a bit hesitant at first, but more confident of reaching my destination than ten minutes before.

After a few more miles, and eventually finding the correct exit, I entered Morristown, New Jersey. It's a nice little town, even when covered in ice and snow. I must admit, when I appeared at the home of my hosts - all I wanted to do was to get out of the car and take a nap.

However, instead of the "Hello'" and "How Are You?" that would usually accompany such an arrival  - my first words as a guest were "How far are we from a good mechanic?"

After replacing the tire, which cost about a third of my budget for the trip, I had a really nice visit. A side trip to New York City (including 'Phantom' and a minor celebrity sighting whilst avoiding drifts of snow, both white and yellow), a few peaceful days doing nothing but hanging out in a different place - then it was back to Virginia.

I drove quite cautiously as I made my way out of the state, carefully navigating the highway system until I hit Delaware. Then I had my foot to the floor all the way back to Richmond. Don't tell that to my sister.

Crack A Dial
If you ever want to explore a different culture, while remaining in your favorite spaces, here's a suggestion: change your favorite radio station for a week. Switch to a format you've either avoided or have never explored - I bet within a few days, maybe hours - you'll have developed a bit of understanding into how some of your fellow citizens view the world. It's ear-opening to say the least.
The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Ginger Alien
escalatorville@yahoo.com - where things get writ. where writ things get.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Frustration, Damnation, Observation

Without getting too political about it, or opening up a discourse on recent horrific events impelled by gun violence, I just want to state the following:
The 1st Amendment is my weapon of choice.

A bit of the ole Vroom N' Sputter technique
A motorcycle rider waited at the stoplight, trying to look tough. Eagerly waiting at the red, he revved his engine to every car that crossed his future path, inching further into the intersection with each minor "Whirrh."

The light turned green. Mister Macho stalled out.

The sound of my laughter was muffled by the horn of the vehicle behind his. It's driver not impatient, just in on the joke.
Oh, The Humanity! (or: Clowns Of The Retail Rodeo)
I've been employed in some variation of the "Customer Service" industry for most of my working life - over a quarter century now, beginning as a Bagger for the extraordinarily 1980's named 'SuperFresh' supermarket.

They say that familiarity breeds contempt. I suppose when contempt becomes your familiar, then it's time to consider jumping ship. Or, one could write about those particularly contemptible folks in a "witty" on-line diatribe. Hmm...

A woman walked into the shop where I am currently employed and I nearly complimented her on the hilarious nature of her novelty wig. We see customers come in costumed or made up all the time, occasionally adorned with a spiky or funny colored faux hair piece. Her wig was particularly humorous, but I caught myself before I spoke - she wasn't wearing a wig at all.  Then again, as a scruffy faced gent with an obviously balding pate - I reckon she'd not take seriously any advice I may have on her tonsorial technique.

In a world where people put leashes on their kids and carry their pets around in strollers, it's hard to be surprised by anything the general public can think of as acceptable. One aspect  that does bewilder me is the impossible separation of fact from fiction in what customers think actually exists as a product. Just because it was invented by a prop department for a movie or television show doesn't always mean that the product is readily available. Much less that it would be purchased in a store that mainly sells novelty tchotchkes and keepsakes from a sojourn  to a wayward beach town (Editors Note, Please see"Stabbin' Cabin" reference, two Dispatches back).

It's these same customers that get ticked off when we don't, in fact, have the imaginary product in question.

Well, guess what, tourist? We actually do have them - but they're hidden in a cave under our back room in 'The Secret Stash Of Stock That NO ONE'S ALLOWED TO SELL.'  Y'see - the wizards who made them for us have strictly forbidden us from letting them fall into the hands of Folks. Like. Y-O-U.

Not all of our "guests" are like this, of course. Most, in fact, are fairly easy to deal with. There is, however, a growing percentage of visitors to our fair city (our City Fair?) that forget to pack their brains, manners, and dignity when headed for vacation.

Vacation often brings anonymity. Anonymity, coupled with a few pre-lunch margaritas, often brings selfishness and vindictive insouciance. When everyone else is a temporary stranger  - who gives a care how one behaves?

Vacation often brings the gall to say such things as:

"Well, you know Linda is verrry overweight - but somehow she married well." (Actual Quote, folks,- June 2012)

Vacation brings the parents whom yell at their kids for consistent running, fighting, grabbing, hiding, and shouting. Mom and/or Dad work up a sweat to corral them all, then drag them off for even more ice cream and soda.

Of course, the kids'll return to the store later, finger-funky, sticky-handed, and slobber-mouthed. Gleefully addressed by their parents with the most unheeded warning in all of Retaildom:

"Children, don't touch anything."

Signs I Am Getting Older
In the same week in which I saw a pre-pubescent child wearing a 'Hooters' T-Shirt, I also had to explain to a younger acquaintance that 'Winnie The Pooh' was NOT a scatological reference.

An Amazing One Time Offer
Free Band Name Of This Issue: Robotic Sinatra
(think of all the "hey, didn't this used to be a punk club?" type bars you'll play!)

That Rings A Bell...
So, have you ever been walking or driving along, listening to Bobbie Gentry's 'Ode To Billie Joe', and all of the sudden - you're singing the words to "Harper Valley PTA?" (At least two of you out there just thought "Holy Cow, he's right!")

Turns out, there's a reason for that.

A singer named Margie Singleton commissioned the soon-to-be-famous Tom T. Hall to write a song similar to the smash 'Billie Joe' - which she'd recently covered and had a minor hit with herself.

Driving out through Bellevue Tennesee, he passed by a Harpeth Valley Elementary School - and penned the song. A Nashville secretary named Jeannie C. Riley heard a demo of it, and recorded her own version. Voila!

I just wanted to tell that story because I think it's neat. Even neater is that Gentry's 'Ode To Billie Joe' was initially a B-Side.

On a similar note,  there's this:


The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Semi-Pro Pie Eater
escalatorville@yahoo.com for stuff, things, and things about stuff.