Monday, September 12, 2011

The Story of Disco

Anyone reading the work of New York magazine reporter Dale Soresley knows his strengths: with a biting wit and a penchant for thorough reporting, he is an expert at illuminating aspects of our culture that once huddled in the dark. Beyond that, his reputation among his fellow journalists is that of the great Confessor. Simply put, no one is better at getting people to talk.

For the better part of a decade, Soresley has been compiling an oral history of the disco era, a tome that has become an all-consuming passion. Whenever I or other colleagues would encounter Dale at some event or function, talk would inevitably turn to the music of the mid-to-late 70's, and some previously-unheard-of figure who was instrumental in bringing this music to the masses. Hard as it may be to believe, the years of blindingly difficult work have finally paid off, and Soresley's Sequined Nights, Dusty Days: the Distention and Demise of the Disco Dynasties is set to be released by Random House on November 15.

Here we present a small slice of the story one of disco's unsung heroes: Mark Devlin, former fixture of the dance music scene and current inmate at the Wallkill Correctional Facility in Ulster County, New York.

Marty Crandall, bass player for The Prismatics and Flash!: None of it could have happened without Mark Devlin.

Kate Winterley, promoter: "The Disco Don," that's what they called him, "The Disco Don."

Mark Devlin, Owner, Panama Nights: I, you know, I never wanted to be at the forefront of a vanguard of anything. I mean, look at me, I'm just some fat Jew from Nyack with a bad hip and a mortgage. For Chrissakes, I carry around antacid tablets on me at all times! Look, I've got them right here in my breast pocket! Look at them! But I knew a hot thing when I saw it, and let me tell you, I knew that disco music was the hottest thing around!

Ansel Jones, keyboardist for Irma Witherspoon, 1973-1980: Nobody really knew what he did outside of owning Panama Nights, but he must have had some kind of cash flow because that club made no money before the disco era. There were always rumors that he owned some women's apparel warehouse and treated his employees like garbage, but no one really knew.

Karen Childs, singer: There were other clubs in New York at the time that would play disco music, but it was mostly an after-hours sort of thing. Panama Nights was the first place that really catered to the disco crowd, and I think to Mark Devlin's credit, he saw three steps ahead of the game in that there was a huge untapped market for this music as far as the gay and minority audiences were concerned. That's the other thing about Mark, he was always very open-minded, even at that time.

Devlin: I always said, I don't care what you look like or where you're from, if you want to dance and have a good time at my nightclub, you're welcome. Just don't try any funny business!

Winterley: He's such a kind, funny guy, Mark is. People would always talk and say he was affiliated with Murder Inc. or running arms to secret Israeli paramilitary groups, but I didn't believe it for a second and I still don't today. I remember one time, I had this cat that I absolutely loved named Tinkerbell, and one night he got out, and of course I was distraught, running all over the East Village trying to find him. Finally I gave up all hope and I figured I'd pop over to the Panama for a drink. So I walk in, and there's Tinkerbell sitting on the bar with Mark hand-feeding him corned beef! "Your little boyfriend looked pretty hungry," he tells me. Honestly, just the definition of a mensch.

Ace Franklin, guitarist/producer:
I don't even remember the first time I went to Panama Nights. It just seems like something that was always there when I think about that era. Starting in about '76 I guess was when the scene at that place really started to pick up. And of course, it was October when that Karen Childs single was released, "I Can Come When I Wanna."

We cut it in a pretty run-down studio in Brooklyn with a pet store on one side and a Baptist church on the other. The Baptists would holler and yell while we were recording and some of that made it onto the final pressing, which is where the rumor came from that one of the maraca players got in a knife fight and was murdered during the sessions.

Gerry Murphy, owner, Crosstown Records: We were mostly a soul and R&B label before that 45 came out. I have to admit, I did not want to release it. It was Mark Devlin, that rat bastard, he talked me into it. "Gerry," he said, "The kids love this stuff, I've never seen anything like it." He went on and on about how this was going to be bigger than Elvis and the Beatles and all that. I thought he was selling me a bill of goods on account of his nephew was the drummer or something on the track. But I figured, oh well, the label's broke anyway, I'm filing for Chapter Eleven as soon as the year's out, might as well put the thing out. And of course the record took off, Mark was vindicated beyond his wildest dreams, and he suddenly had a captive market for all the coke he was ferrying into New York through the Bahamas.

Devlin: Listen, I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but I know a hit record when I hear it!

Jones: That was the record where it all came together. You had the funk, and you had the soul, but then you had that four-to-the-floor rhythm on there too, and that just put the whole thing over the edge and made the people lose their minds!

Crandall: People would just go absolutely insane when that record came on. It was an orgiastic display like nothing I'd ever seen.

Winterley: Oh God, they would cry, throw up, the works. I witnessed all sorts of ecstatic, painful bodily contortions when that song came on. I mean you had people showing up to the club with canes and hastily improvised whips! We had to call the fire department so many times that they finally stopped even showing up. It was great!

Childs: I knew that we had something huge going before "I Can Come When I Wanna" was even released, but I was not prepared for the reception to that record. I had grown men, gay and straight, throwing themselves at my feet, calling me their "lover bitch." I have no idea how that got started.

Crandall: It was a lyric in the song, right? "Tell me where to make it itch/You can call me lover bitch."

Winterley: Karen claimed for years that the lyric was misheard. It hardly mattered, though. The disco era had begun!

Murphy: Pretty soon I had Mark coming into my office every two weeks with some new act he had pulled up from the depths of obscurity. I had my doubts each and every time, but each and every time we hit a home run.

Peter Crindle, singer for Flash!: The first time I met Mark was at my job at Nussbaum's Deli. He used to get these huge sandwich orders, I mean like a hundred sandwiches, at least twice a week. One day he says to me, "I like the way your nose goes with your face." He invited me to some party at a warehouse in TriBeCa, and I felt pretty weird about the whole thing, but Mr. Nussbaum, he said, "Petey, what are you, a moron? He keeps this place running! Get your skinny ass over there!"

Winterley: I'll never forget when Mark introduced me to Peter Crindle. We were in the middle of this raging party at Richard Berenson's loft and Mark strides up to me with this kid who looks like he just walked off the starting line-up of my father's high school basketball team. We shake hands and he says, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Winterley," totally sincere and everything. I almost died. Two days later Mark had him in the studio.

Crandall: We cut the first Flash! single in about the space of an afternoon. It was "Fire Sale," with "Soap and Water" as the b-side. Mark realized pretty early on that as long as you could grab some musicians from the neighborhood and teach them the basic disco backbeat, you could make hit records for cheap. But he knew the song had to be memorable. I had brought in some little numbers I'd been working on at home, and Mark seized on this phrase I had jotted down, "your love is like a fire sale," just some stupid shit. But he built it up into this crazy production, with sirens and clanging bells and even some fake crackling flame noises way down in the mix. He refuses to take credit for it, but he wrote the hook on that thing, which is all anyone remembers now anyway. He was doing rails of blow at a miraculous rate.

Murphy: "I Can Come When I Wanna" was a smash in all the clubs, but "Fire Sale" was the first track to get radio play. It even cracked the pop charts. It helped that their singer looked like your average all-American guy, even if Mark had him done up in a checker-patterned velour tuxedo half the time.

Crindle: The whole thing was just crazy, and so totally unexpected. We even got to go on "Express 4-5-6"!

Murphy: "Express 4-5-6" was this New York dance program, basically a two-bit "Soul Train." It was hosted by this old fossil, Bensonhurst Freeman. The guy had been around since the jazz era and just kind of hung on. He's still alive to this day! He hosts a radio show where he never plays music and just talks for three hours straight about the drop-outs hanging around in front of the corner store in his neighborhood. Anyway, we went on the show and it was a disaster.

Devlin: It was categorically not a disaster. Gerry thinks it's Pearl Harbor if everything doesn't go exactly as planned.

Crandall: Some fairweather moral crusaders got wind that disco was "gay music" and decided to picket the studio before Flash! went on. They shouted down the producers, the camera operators, everybody. I'm not going to repeat the things they said.

Devlin: "Faggot" and "queer" and every variation you could think of. They poured a can of blue paint on Terry Terrell, the keyboard player. I just missed getting hit in the face with a full beer bottle. It was quite a scene!

Winterley: Somehow they managed to break down the studio doors during the actual performance and throw paint all over the set and make a big show of smashing the Crosstown 45s in full view of the cameras. The show aired live so everyone from Newark to Great South Bay saw it happen. Some poor young thing got up on the bandstand with a sign that said "SODOMITE" and a big arrow pointing at Marty. The audience just kept right on dancing, and pretty soon I realized they thought it was part of the act! It was the saddest thing having to listen to Marty afterward on the payphone with his dad, explaining to him yes things were fine with Stacy and no he wasn't a fag.

Devlin: That week we sold more copies of "Fire Sale" than we had in its entire run up to that point.

Murphy: Listen to me, here I am bitching when really, we had it pretty damn good back then. Better than we were gonna have it, anyway. And that's probably why you detect a hint of, shall we say, a caustic tone: I know about everything that happened later. You have to remember, this is before the bust and the mansion fire and the Noriega thing. So it's easy for me to feel bitter now. But I have to admit, those were the salad days.

Sequined Nights, Dusty Days will be available on Amazon and at all major retailers. Watch for Dale Soresley's feature in the upcoming issue of New York about a continental breakfast based on the life of Katy Perry.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Letters of Albert Einstein

It is natural, in viewing Albert Einstein, that the legendary and nearly mythic figure of the man should eclipse the very human essence of the individual. Beyond being simply iconic, he is one of the few scientific or even scholarly personages that figure so fixedly in the collective consciousness. But Einstein's private correspondence reveals the conflicted, often disturbing world of one of history's great minds. Many of the letters recently uncovered by the Paris Einstein Foundation were stained with tears and rum, the paper scratched and torn sometimes beyond comprehension. Three of the letters are reproduced here unabridged for the first time ever.

A note on reading: Einstein himself was of course blessed with a comically exaggerated German accent, and it does him no small measure of justice to read these letters using just such a voice. Enjoy!

May 26, 1892

Dearest Ilsa,

It is known to all that I am a man of science, and as such, I can say without hyperbole that your milky thighs are certifiably one of the great wonders of our vast universe. Even to glimpse their firm, quaking mass is to call into question the rational and dispassionate cosmos in which I so steadfastly believe. Does their existence not prove the beneficence of some lovely Dionysian God? Indeed: a God with a visage smiling down upon the hour when I was fortuitous enough to glimpse the momentary slipping-down of your bathing trousers and bear witness to the marvelous gams contained therein!

Sadly, though, I must recall myself from such reveries in order that I might apologize for my behavior in front of your aunt and grandmother this weekend past. It was inappropriate for me to call your aunt a "revolting bitch," especially in the presence of one so noble and serene as your sworn guardian and forebear. It is not for me to festoon enlightenment upon those who insist on maintaining such a closed-minded view of the world they live and work in each day. If your aunt, fine and elegant though she may be, insists on calling into question all of my work and the work of those many brilliant men of science who have come before me, based solely on the scant reasoning and base superstitions of a worldview that can barely glimpse two feet in front of it but for the dense fog of idiocy clouding its mind, I suppose I must greet this with patience and good humor, and must resolve to avoid the line of thinking that results in outbursts such as the one you were unfortunate enough to witness.

This evening finds me in low spirits. I fear that my insights into Brownian motion are but the ravings of a madman, and as such have suffered from a desperate bout of indigestion. My room is damp, my neighbors are loudly fornicating, and a cockroach has just now skittered across my hand, chilling me to my very spine. Ahh, what ignorance there is in this world!

Yours always,


January 30, 1900

Herr Lipschutz,

Possessed as I am of a rational, scientific mind, it is puzzling to me that you now insist on payment in full of your loan made to me in September of last year. Have I not paid in each month since then at least three quarters of the agreed-to installments, plus or minus some of the interest? Is this not enough to prove to you that I am a man of my word?

There is no need for me to review with you once more the facts of my predicament: how I, wishing to test the laws of probability governing each sequence of events that occurs in this boundless universe of ours, made a series of "wagers" with myself as to the outcome of a number of horse races taking place outside of Vienna. How I, in a fit of what I in hindsight can only believe was sprightly good fun, decided to place a sum of money on these wagers in an amount equaling roughly forty-eight thousand kronen. How, in the course of things, essentially all of my hypotheses were proven to be incorrect, and I was summarily divested of the funds I had put forth.

I have already professed my gratitude to your generosity in this matter. Without the benefit of the money you forwarded to me in my time of need, much of my research would have been left in the lurch and potentially abandoned. You are indeed a benefactor of the world of science! It is not to call your magnanimity into question, though, to point out that the interest being charged on this loan is positively usurious! You know that these are lean times for me. I have accepted the lot of the "starving scientist," and it falls upon me to carry that burden, but I do not need you hounding me at every turn over financial matters! In any case, once my current paper is completed, it is assured that I will win scads of prizes and piles of money, and you will have your precious loan repaid, WITH INTEREST I MIGHT ADD, and you will rue the day you defiled my good graces with your oily ways!



February 10, 1908

To My Darling Mother,

I was so delighted upon receipt of your letter last week that I could scarcely speak! One would think that I, dispassionate researcher and scientist, would not be given to such paroxysms of emotion as the one that overtook me when I saw your unmistakable hand impressed upon the seven sheets of double-sided paper that arrived in my post box. I assure you though, it is true!

As always, I found your correspondence to be suffused with such wisdom as to rival the great sages of ancient Greece and Rome! I have long been accustomed to the lion's share of your advice as being characterized by such even-handed erudition, but in this case I feel you have outdone yourself. "A nice brisk walk never hurt anyone, Alby," you write. "Why don't you get out more for Christ's sake?" On the nose as usual!

If there is a passage from this latest (and welcome!) missive with which I could take some slight umbrage, however, it would be the page and a half dedicated to the subject of my darling wife, Mileva. I hardly think your description of her is quite fair, and it strikes me as unseemly of you to make such mockery of her dark features and prominent nose. Can you not see the beauty in her that I do?

It is tedious for you to hear me carry on so! Nonetheless, mama, this is the woman I have chosen to be the mother of my children! Her often short temper has on many occasions been the source of consternation for you, and it pains me to remember the scathing language that passed between the two of you during your last visit. Why can you not accept the woman I love?

I suppose it should not be of any surprise to me that you would feel this way. Although I have never doubted your love, I can call to memory many different occasions in which you, perhaps through no conscious thought of your own actions, have sought to undermine me. I do not like to dwell on these things, but on nights such as these, when the street lamps shine through my window and cast such an eerie light onto my writing desk that they seem to illumine the deeper recesses of my soul, I recall as if it occurred just yesterday the request I made before my eighth birthday for a young boys' chemistry set. "What do you want that for?" is what you said to me. "Why should I walk about the fish market with a scrawny little brat casting spells and potions under my feet?" You did not know, mother, and perhaps could not know, what that was to me!

These and other sad vignettes parade before my mind's eye on this cold night. I can call to mind few instances in which my youthful enthusiasm was met with anything other than a cold stare, a snide remark, sometimes even mocking laughter. Many nights I lay awake, torturing myself in confusion as to why you had chosen to bring me into this world. It is a question I cannot resolve even now. But I know that tonight, as I have drunken, angry sex with the woman you can barely bring yourself to look at, I will have my cosmic revenge. And you will have no choice but to face this reality when we meet you at the hot springs for next summer's holiday!!

With love,


Monday, August 8, 2011

Tough Bar

"I don't know about this," Cal said, his hands tucked firmly into his jacket pockets as he and Doug stood at the threshold of the biker bar.

"Come on, man," Doug said. "I've been wanting to try this place out for months. A real biker bar!"

"Dude, it's just, this whole thing seems way too 'Blue Velvet' for me," Cal said.

Doug had seen this coming, and had prepared a counter-argument.

"Tim and Frank went here last week," Doug said, "and they said it was fine! At least it can't be worse than another night at Twistee's."

This struck a nerve. "All right," Cal said after a moment's consideration. "Let's give it a shot."

The bar seemed calm, even serene. There was no sign of the violence and dystopia that Cal had dreaded. Most of the regulars were content to nurse their beers and smoke resignedly.

"What'll it be, boys?" asked the bartender, a man with a gentle bearing despite his immense size and imposing facial hair.

"I'll have a Schlitz," said Doug, fearlessly.

Cal mulled his options. "Do you guys have Yuengling on tap?"

"Nope, sorry."

A voice reached them from the other end of the bar. "First time here, college boy?"

"Excuse me?" Cal replied.

Cal and Doug could just make the man out in the dim light with which he had cloaked himself. He was grotesque in his elephantism, his girth spread across at least half of the bar and the three bar stools he placed in a row to support himself. His skin was sallow and pasty, shimmering with perspiration where the scarce light chanced upon it. His speech was kept to a minimum, as he was shaken by racking coughs with every few sentences that escaped his mouth.

"He's new all right," the man said, ignoring Cal. "Better give him the Brown Bag Special, Tommy."

Tommy, for that was the bartender's name, chuckled softly and shook his head. "I dunno, Patrice, he doesn't look like he's got hair enough on his balls to handle a Shirley Temple much less the Brown Bag Special."

"Ain't that the rule?" Patrice was working himself into a huff, punctuated by an abhorrent run of very wet coughing and wheezing. "Ain't that always been the rule that first-timers gotta drink the Brown Bag Special? I swear Tommy, sometimes I don't even know what kinda establishment you're runnin' anymore."

Tommy considered this. He eyed Cal somewhat cagily, then made up his mind. "All right, I guess you got to do it."

"God dammit!" Patrice gleefully pounded the bar in front of him, causing Cal to jump nearly out of his skin and knocking over several tumblers which had luckily been emptied of most of their contents. "I ain't seen a Brown Bag Special been drunk around here in a dog's age!"

Before Cal could give voice to the many questions racing through his mind at that moment, Tommy produced a brown paper grocery bag from a compartment beneath the counter and set about filling it with Bud Light from the bar's tap.

Cal was growing increasingly worried. "Uh, sir? If it's all the same to you we'd be happy to go on our way, we don't have to do this Brown Bag Special at all."

Tommy did not look up from the tap. "Sorry boy. Doesn't seem like you've got much of a choice."

It was then that Cal realized that the bar's exit was barred by two menacing individuals, one of whom was brandishing a pool cue.

Cal tried to protest. "Wait, now just hold on a second..."

"You got to do it boy." Patrice was beside himself with delight. His wheezing had become truly offensive, and flecks of spittle were gathering on his lower lip and chin. "You got to drink the Brown Bag Special."

By now the paper bag was full to the brim with beer. Tommy carried it with no little difficulty to the bar, and placed it before Cal, where it writhed and jiggled, spilling over the top.

"Doug." Cal was fully in disbelief. "Doug, I-"

"Dude. I think you have to drink it." Cal was staring fixedly at the sack of beer, his eyes betraying the zeal of the converted.

"Can't you help me out here, man? Or at're new here, too, shouldn't you have to drink the Brown Bag Special too?"

Doug looked at Tommy, who gravely shook his head no.

"No," said Doug.

Cal could see that he was out of options. He approached the beer bag, leaning his head over the brim and taking little sips.

"Uh-uh," Patrice said. "You can't be doin' that. You got to hug it close up to you, like a lady."

The grocery bag full of beer was extremely damp by this point, so it was with a great deal of disgust that Cal attempted to negotiate the act of lifting it up and bringing it to his lips. He managed it, though, and began now to take full gulps of the brew, pausing to hack up pieces of bag that had peeled off in their saturated state and become lodged in his throat. These he placed on a pile that grew larger with each sip.

After twenty minutes of this, Doug offered some sage advice. "Dude, I think you should just dunk your head in the bag."

Cal was drunk and desperate enough by this point to see the wisdom in Doug's statement. Positioning the bag on his lap, he submerged his head fully into the beer, opening his mouth wide and inhaling the Bud Light in truly awesome quantities. Patrice guffawed and clapped his hands together, shaking the entire bar and sending some glasses and beer bottles crashing to the ground. "Woop!" he shouted.

Cal finally looked up from the bag. His eyes were red and he looked as though he held onto sanity with but a tenuous grasp. "I...I can't..."

A dull tearing sound followed by a splash was heard. The bottom of the bag had fallen open, soaking Cal's lap and the ground beneath him. Cal tried to stand, but slipped on the spilled beer and smashed his lip open on a nearby table.

Tommy was unmoved. "You failed the Brown Bag Challenge," he said.

Patrice was inconsolable. He smashed several ashtrays and was overcome by a coughing jag so monstrous that even Tommy had to look away.

Doug turned Cal over onto his back and could see that he was weeping.

"I just," he blubbered, "I just wanted this place and...and you made me...YOU MADE ME."

"You blew it man," Doug said.

"I need a...I need hospital."

"What you need," said Doug, "is to be a little more open to new experiences."

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Amanda could see that Renee was out of sorts. A half-eaten Lean Cuisine was in evidence beside her computer's keyboard, the plastic seal not even all the way ripped off. A pile of paperwork was close to spilling off the edge of her desk; it was unlike Renee not to stay on top of that sort of thing. The newly instituted fruit-smoothie-in-the-morning regimen was not having the desired effect.

Amanda knocked softly on Renee's office door. Renee looked up, smiling weakly. Taking this as the invitation it was, Amanda sat down across from Renee, placing her leather portfolio on her lap and crossing her wrists atop it. She looked at her coworker in what she hoped was a commiserating fashion.

Renee's face said it all: she had been G-chatting with Mark again. Amanda was not surprised, but upset and certainly disappointed. Poor Renee, she and Mark had been together for two years, and it can be hard to break something off just like that. Amanda of all people knew that only too well. And certainly the stress from this latest round of layoffs wasn't doing Renee any favors either. What Renee needed, what they both needed really, was some time away from it all.

Suddenly, it came to her. Of course! Why hadn't she thought of it before?

"Renee," Amanda said. "Vegas."

"Vegas?" Renee replied after a beat.

"Vegas," Amanda said.

Slowly, and with a radiance that was stunning to behold, Renee seemed to wake from a deep stupor. Her soft eyes reemerged to display their shimmering beauty, much as a lone flower unfurls itself to greet the new dawn.

"Vegas," she said. "Vegas."

"Vegas," Amanda confirmed.

The open road was like an elixir to their wearied spirits. They listened to all their favorite songs again, singing along to every lyric and collapsing in laughter. They ate junk food at diners and argued over which of the truckers was the hottest. They rolled down the windows and let the dry desert wind whip their hair to and fro. Renee, overcome by euphoria, stood up and put her head through the sun roof, feeling the night scream past her and paying no heed to Amanda's panicked protests.

"Vegas!" she shouted to the stars. "Vegaaaas!"

When at long last they clapped eyes on the strip itself, it was beyond anything their imaginations could conjure. It was as if they had stepped through an unseen portal in the earth into another, stranger, more beautiful land saturated with bright light, crystal, and gold. Everywhere were signs beckoning them forward, each more uncanny than the last. "'O' at Bellagio," they said, "Criss Angel Believe" and "Lance Burton Appearing Nightly." The blinding beacon shone from the bowels of the Luxor, seemingly as old as time itself.

"Vegas!" said Amanda and Renee. "Woooo!"

There is little that needs to be said about that weekend except that it was the greatest of the two girls' lives. They forgot all about work, family, their love lives and mortgages, threw caution to the wind and had an incredible time. Vegas was like a wonderful drug that hit all of their pleasure centers at once. Time stopped, or better, was forgotten entirely. All that existed was the moment: the moment they first stepped blinking onto the casino floor; the moment Celine Dion sang directly to Renee; the moment they spilled sangrita on the cute waiter; the moment Amanda upended a tray of finger foods outside the casino's restaurant; the moment Renee, compaƱera that she was, held Amanda's hair as she vomited onto the hood of a rental car; the fire.

Back at the office on Monday, both were unable to speak because they were too hungover from all the liquor they had consumed. A passing mail clerk, though, on his way to the lunch break that was his sole island of peace and sanity in an otherwise absurd and horrifying work day, swore he heard a single word pass from Renee's lips before another round of dry-heaving into the Target bag she held beneath her.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Living Legend

“Whoa…oh my, who are you, sister?”

Emma choked on a scream. No sooner had she tacked up the dead rocker’s photo, freshly sliced from the Ultimate Rock Countdown issue of Rolling Stone, than the icon in question began to rub his eyes of sleep and stare at her in a deeply puzzled fashion.


“Can’t seem to get my craniality in order, you dig?”


“Shh shh slow down little lady, this isn’t exactly my proper, er, cup of tea, ah hah. Where have we found ourselves?”

“Um…um um we’re in- at my house…in Plainfield.”

“Oh goodness, Jersey? That’s tough stuff, you know, I can’t really mesh with that in a cosmic sense. It’s dissonant, one could say.”

“Mr. Hendrix, I just want to say, you’re my absolute favorite singer. All the kids in my school listen to, like, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga and all that crap, but like, they don’t know about real music.”

“Did I meet you in Soho? You got groovy hair, it’s all the way down to your face.”

“I have to call Gabi.”

“No don’t worry about Gabi, Gabi’s on her own trip, dig? See when Gabi and I play music it’s kind of a spiritual thing and sometimes we take it to some far out places and we need a little time to re-tune our energies. Say, who’s that fella on the wall?”

“What? Oh um that’s Kurt Cobain, you probably don’t know about him. He’s my second favorite musician ever.”

“I can groove on that. So listen missy, do you know why is it that I can’t seem to move more very far in one direction or the other?”

“Uh, Mr. Hendrix, I cut you out of a magazine. I’m almost positive you’re two-dimensional.”

“Groovy, groovy. So what does a chick like you like to do in Plainview?”

“Ugh, nothing, Plainview sucks. Mostly just watch a movie or go to Dairy Queen with my friends and make fun of people there.”

“Dairy Queen, that’s a trip, baby. Sometimes, in Seattle and all, I’d get a chili dog down at Dairy Queen, and a root beer float sometimes.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: The Nightmare

The room is slathered in a patina of garish mauve, the walls are seeping. A lava lamp glows upon the dresser.

"Have a seat," says Ben Roethlisberger.

"I've never been here," I respond. Ben roots around in his burlap NFL-issue Steelers satchel; I hear rustling, crinkling.

"Yo Ben." A voice from outside. "The cops are here man and-"

"SHHHHHH." Ben's intonation is soft, yet fills the room and the inside of my frontal lobe. Finally he has the desired item.

"Try them." He has me by the throat.

"No thanks I'm not a fan of cool ranch-MMMPHHHH"


I catch a glimpse of the big game on the hotel TV. The Packers punt and Will.I.Am signals for a fair catch. From my perch in the broadcasters' booth I see Jerry Jones throwing a flag. Then he picks it up, then sits down on the field Indian-style. He seems confused. It is snowing.

Chris Berman and the PC from the Mac commercials are talking to the Cowboys cheerleaders on the sidelines about how Paul Westerberg just died. A thousand puppies roll Betty White down a jagged cliff for a bottle of Miller Lite.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I see you've noticed my books.

Oh yes, a little hobby of mine. You might even say it's grown into a passion. At first it was just, hello, what am I going to do with all these empty shelves? When I bought the stupid condo in the first place, they sold me on those shelves, really they did. Something about a tabula rasa, a gradual accrual, who can remember now, it's been two years for mercy's sake. Suffice it to say I had real hopes for my shelves in the beginning, but after a few months all I'd put up there were some unpacked boxes and a half-read copy of The Help . Languishing, really.

Well! They started to eat at me, these shelves, just nipping away at my psyche. My God, I would say to myself, I mean, look at the things, you could park a city bus in there! I tell you, it must have been some sort of divine kismet when I heard Delilah simply gushing about this fellow she'd hired for her place in the Vineyard, about how she felt energized to be in her space, really living in it, I think is what she said.

So I thought to myself, oh what's the harm in bringing this contractor or specialist or what have you over to see my shelves at least for a consultation. He wasn't asking all that much just to take a look at the dear things, and anyway, I thought, I might be able to pick up some pointers on the cheap. And I tell you, Diane, after half an hour he had changed my entire way of looking at, you know, not just the shelves but the whole condo, what a home meant to me and about me! "These things are a void," he said, which I thought was a little heavy-handed but still I could see where he was coming from. And he said, "But I've got a solution. A book solution!"

That was it, my darling, I was sold on this thing, this whole concept, this slippery slope that I've spiraled into, haha. Pretty soon it was vellum this and anachronistic typeface that, and I was finding myself at places I would have never dreamed I would be setting foot in just a month earlier: rare book auctions, estate sales...he must have dragged me to at least thirty Goodwill stores in April alone, if you can believe that!

There was method to the madness, of course, and he must have explained the whole thing to me fifty times, but again it's a bit hazy. I recall the phrase "welcoming me into my aesthetic comfort zone," and that he kept mentioning Basquiat. The whole thing is based on the map gallery at the Vatican, I remember that much. It's very subtle though, most people can't tell.

I mean, of course I read the things. That is to say, well, some of them are so ancient that they'd just turn to dust in my hands if I so much as thumb through the pages, so I leave those alone, and all those old Russian masterpieces he bought, I don't know, when I think of those miserable winters and all that heavy cream I start to feel dizzy. Oh and I got rid of The Help, too. He made a face when I showed him that one.