A lot of catching up to do

Last time I wrote here, I'd not quite completed my 52nd transit around the sun. That's no longer the case. I can't think of anything particularly special about a 52nd birthday; it's not divisible by five, there are no changes in legal status or demographic groups, but that's fine. I'm still enjoying birthdays, quite a bit more than I used to in fact, so the 52nd one was definitely one of the good ones.

It helps that Nicole took it upon herself to spoil me enormously. We drove down to New Orleans and, rather than use the time to go drink and party and get crazy (as is my wont), we holed up in a beautiful hotel with the best bathtub I've ever experienced, drank wine, listened to records, and I even wrote a story about snails.

It was all pretty great.

New Orleans has something that every city worth the name ought to have; a downtown grocery store that's open late. The Rouse's (sp.?) was like a mini-Whole Foods with booze that was open until midnight and a block from the hotel. It is exactly what Austin needs if Austin is serious about people living downtown. 11 PM and needing a decent blush, some Spanish ham, and a plate full of cheese? No problem! 

The room was a corner one, overlooking the front door of the hotel. I think the bar at the hotel was a singles bar, in that everyone who went in came out of it single. Couples fighting make for marvelous entertainment, especially when one is soaking in a giant tub next to the window and has a glass of wine in one's hand. It would have been even more poignant had the jazz album we selected not been a mis-filed Emerson, Lake, and Palmer record, but all in all, it was lovely.


I currently have too many hobbies for a lazy SOB like me. Job #2 is kind of on the back burner while I've been playing with the music toys. It's taken months, but I finally got one "song" down that I'm happy with. One. Then again, I guess this stuff is hard for musicians, so for people like me, it's a miracle. I should probably learn more about using the sequencers at my disposal. I'm playing everything but the drum machine live and my sense of rhythm is legendarily poor. 

It's fun, though. Just noodling around and occasionally coming up with something nice is very, very rewarding. Unfortunately, one of my co-workers just sent me this: The NSynth Super open source sound-making-thingie-that-is-definitely-not-a-Kaoscillator. Looks like I'm going to have to learn to solder.

I just re-read The Sandman collection: Brief Lives. This was my entry point into Neil Gaiman and The Sandman. The comic book store next to the Bennigan's where I worked had a big "new storyline" card on the first issue, so it seemed like a good place to jump in. At the time, I had no idea who close to the end it was; the end of the middle section I suppose. 

It's The Sandman at his most emo, a pose that spoke to me at that time. It was all very strange to me as a 20-something, reading a comic book that was very much about the story being told. "Literary" is probably the right word. It didn't follow any of the comic book conventions I recognized, but instead remained true to its own internal logic no matter how surreal (Delirum plays a bigger role in this story than any other). 

It's a very different experience reading it today, knowing all that went on before and happened afterwards. Many of the story beats that seemed out of left field were established as far back as the first issue and some bits didn't pay off until the very end. Mr. Gaiman is, as it turns out, quite good at his job. There are some bits that come off a little too emo or a bit twee, but it's a great standalone story and felt that inevitable Sandman melancholy when I got to the end.

Speaking of revisiting the past, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole on YouTube last night. Watching Cyndi Lauper play the dulcimer is well worth anyone's time.

After that I caught up on the biggest band from my freshman year in college. It was early 1985 and there was only one undisputed champion on KCOU in Columbia, Missouri: The dB's! Oh sure, they played the Smiths and REM and other college bands, but there were no fewer than five songs from the dB's new album "Like This" in heavy rotation. 

Like everyone else at Mizzou, I had a copy of the LP. I had no idea how lucky I was to find it. Here the singer and guitarist, Peter Holsapple, describing the album and the joys of working within the major label distribution system in the New York Times:

"About six weeks before “Like This” was to hit the streets, our big American debut album faced a new and horrendous snag: Bearsville’s distribution by Warner Bros. had come to an end...

So, as the music business punch line goes, “Like This” wasn’t released, it escaped. And then it disappeared. Without the muscle of Warner behind us, the band would find itself doing hastily arranged signings where there were no copies of the record. Promo copies went out to journalists across the country who discovered the new Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes album inside, due to a screw-up at the pressing plant...

There was a single of “Love is for Lovers,” but you couldn’t get it without special ordering. Then you couldn’t get it at all. It made no impact on radio, and the song did not receive a video treatment for the fledgling MTV."

Ugh. One of the most important of records...scratch that, THE most important record of my college years wasn't heard by pretty much anyone outside of Columbia, or so it seemed. I worked at record stores when I got home from college and there was no way to get hold of the album. It was two decades before I was able to get hold of it on CD. 

Give it a listen if you're of a mind. It's one of the finest artifacts of indie college radio from the mid-80s and thanks to almost literally everything going wrong at the time of the release, it remains an underrated gem. 

That's enough and more than for now. Take care,