Friday, March 18, 2005

The sweaters of country

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C

Plugging in

We needed something to shill on TV, so the World's Greatest Lovers now have a web site: It ain't much, but it's home.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

What a treat

Tonight, in the middle of their cross-country tour, Madison's great Irish rock band the Kissers played a St. Pat's homecoming show at the High Noon Saloon. That alone would be reason to celebrate, but it seems they have made my song "Susan B. Anthony Dollar Rag" a staple of their repertoire, and frontman Ken Fitzsimmons asked me to come sing it with them. So I did! And what a night. The saloon was as full as I've ever seen it, and the crowd was, appropriately, in a festive mood. It was terrific to catch up with my old friends the Kissers, and I'm so glad to see them doing well.
Blow up your TV

...but, you Madison readers, not till after 9:30 p.m. on Friday, March 18. That's because my honkytonk band, the World's Greatest Lovers, will appear on WB-57's "Nine O'clock News," in an installment of the show's Friday Night Jam series of local live music. We'll be debuting my new song, "What Did Whiskey Ever Do to You."
Overheard at the gym

"[Gleefully] I got divorced on the ides of March! It was a great day for Caesar, and a great day for me!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Movie love

Recently I flipped to Turner Classic Movies to watch Picnic, the 1955 film with William Holden and Kim Novak. I've been curious to see it ever since it was rereleased in 1996 and I caught a preview for it at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. That preview has stayed with me all these years, not least because Morris Stoloff's wonderful song "Moonglow / Theme from Picnic" plays continuously under it. If you don't know the tune, it's a jazzy piano instrumental with an improbably splashy hook, and it's also the most romantic song ever.

I can't precisely remember, but I suspect one reason I did not see the rerelease is that Roger Ebert panned it. In a two-star review in the Chicago Sun-Times, he decried the film's retrograde gender politics and said it lacks self-awareness: "Clunky and awkward, with inane dialogue, it's a movie to show how attitudes have changed." I think it's more than that. It's perhaps not a work of genius, but it's marvelously entertaining.

Set in a small Kansas town on Labor Day weekend, Picnic is about a soulful drifter (Holden) who shows up looking for work. It's funny how, at any particular moment, our reactions can have so much to do with what's happening in our lives: I found myself identifying with Holden who, in his 30s, is literally adrift. He has no family and no career, and his best days as a college football star are long behind him. "There's gotta come a time in a man's life when he quits rollin' around like a pinball," he says at one point. I understand that: at the moment I am lucky to have terrific relationships and satisfying work, but I've done a fair amount of rolling myself, from calling to calling, from bad habit to bad habit.

And is that William Holden something to look at! He spends much of the movie with his shirt off, and hubba. Also lovely is Novak as Madge, a working-class girl who dates the son of the wealthiest man in town. Madge's mother, who runs a boarding house, pushes her to land the rich guy, sort of like in the Reba McEntire song "Fancy." Sad.

There's an arresting moment when everything stops, "Moonglow / Theme from Picnic" starts playing, and Holden and Novak dance slowly. Ebert describes this dismissively as the "famous sexy scene"; I think it's not only sexy, but also gorgeous and heartbreaking in the way many great movie pas de deux are.

The plot of Picnic is archetypal: as in Shane, and Mary Poppins, and Footloose, and the New Testament, a stranger comes to town and shakes everything up. This is evocative. I can think of so many people who briefly came into my life and changed me. Wonder where they all are?

Yes, I'm just a silly guy who cried while watching Picnic in bed on a Sunday afternoon. Is that so wrong? I'm working up "Moonglow / Theme from Picnic" on the accordion.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Signs that make an uptight grammarian smile, pt. 1

Spotted at the east side Cub Foods: Express lane - 15 items or fewer

Monday, March 14, 2005

Ding dong

This New York Times article about delivery guys brought back mostly fond memories of one of my earliest jobs: the summer after my first year in college, I was a pizza delivery boy at a Mr. Gatti's restaurant in Hermitage, Tenn. I learned a few things.
  • The pay is crap. You knew that already, of course, and so did I. But I was still very much living at home, so it didn't matter in the least.
  • The wealthy don't tip. The area had modest old houses, as well as nice new ones occupied by rich people who intended to stay that way, even if it meant stiffing pizza boys. Of course, they were forgetting a useful life lesson: be excellent to the people who handle your food. Not that I did anything inappropriate. I'm just saying.
  • There's not a lot of room for advancement. I pitied a fellow driver named Tim, who it seemed to me tried his hardest to be obsequious to management and thereby open doors. But there just weren't that many doors at Mr. Gatti's, except for the one that led to the dumpsters out back. But even more memorable was my boss, Rick, who liked me because I was a college boy; we frequently talked about books. Rick was in a military reserve unit, which was significant because toward the end of that summer Iraq invaded Kuwait, and President G.H.W. Bush began mobilizing forces in the Persian Gulf region. I was 19 and scared shitless of getting drafted. But when I asked Rick if he worried about being sent to war, he looked around the dismal interior of Mr. Gatti's and replied, "I can't wait."