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 - 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 -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 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 for words and punctuation