Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ghosts Are Real

As you know, Dr. Theresa and I can hardly be bothered to walk up the block to hear music. But this weekend we went all the way to New York City to hear music! That's right, our favorite band The Rock*A*Teens, who were playing their VERY LAST SHOW EVER according to Rock*A*Teens mastermind Chris Lopez, whom we saw in the club (Le Poisson Rouge) when we arrived early - though the next day (about which more later) he seemed more cryptic and less certain when we raked him over the coals about it. We can only hope - the world, I mean! - that the Rock*A*Teens will play again. Our trip began the day before, with drinks precisely at "Megan Abbott Time" - this time with the actual Megan Abbott! Hey, you know how I always wear my glasses way up on the top of my head? Sure, it's probably all you think about! You can see an example in the following photo by Dan Conaway.
Well, I tossed back my head with glee or something and my glasses flew away into a spot from which they were seemingly irretrievable. Megan, a daintily constructed person (I once asked for and received her permission to compare her to a doll in a magazine article) slipped herself behind the banquette in our swank hotel lobby to save them. Later that night, at dinner (about which more later), an efficient and stealthy waiter suddenly appeared behind me with my glasses, which I had lost again in the identical manner. "Sir, your glasses," he said. "A theme!" I thought. "This is hot stuff! The title of my 'blog' 'post' can be 'Sir, Your Glasses.'" And so I jotted in my special book of jottings. BUT IT WAS NOT TO BE. "Ha ha," I thought. "My glasses are always flying off my head. What an intriguing character I am." Dr. Theresa and I were dining at Il Buco Alimentari, a place recommended by John T. Edge. When we arrived, the hostess said, "Oh, you requested the kitchen," and the other hostess said quickly, "No, no, no," which made me suspicious. WHO HAD REQUESTED THE KITCHEN? For we were indeed seated, as if we had requested the kitchen, at a marble counter facing just inches away from where they were cooking the food, a terrific spectacle. The exchange between hostesses made me wonder whether John T. had secretly called ahead to ensure that our dinner would be especially memorable. I have suspected as much of him before! Dr. Theresa had some octopus and then later I had some different kind of octopus. Somehow I thought of Camille's, an old spot in Atlanta, though Camille's was sometimes crummy, especially in its later years, whereas Il Buco Alimentari was glorious, but my octopus made me think of the fra diavolo at Camille's if a mighty, shining archangel had prepared it instead of a human who had given up on life. It was some exquisite octopus there at Il Buco Alimentari is what I'm getting at. And Dr. Theresa said that her own pasta course was like "black pepper and pecorino romano got married and had a beautiful offspring." And there was pork with nectarines and so many other things, things just kept coming, things that could make you cry, a snifter of green chartreuse. And now I'm going to leave the heavenly Il Buco Alimentari to indulge in some memories of shaky old Camille's. Dr. Theresa and I went to Camille's on our third date! Between our first and second date she had gotten seriously ill - not because of our first date, ha ha! I mean, like, she was in the hospital. So on the third date I thought it might do her some good to try to walk to Camille's (she was very weak). It did her no good at all! In fact it did her some harm. Which reminds me of the time long before that when I made my poor sister walk a MILE to Camille's in some uncomfortable shoes which I found out later had caused her feet to bleed like some kind of saint. Good times. Let me explain that at the time, my brother and I were both living in Atlanta, in separate places, and my sister, then a teenager, would sometimes come to visit. So on that trip she and I sat around the apartment and played hangman because I didn't have a car and I forced her to march until her feet bled... and then when it was her turn to stay with my brother, he introduced her to her hero David Byrne! David Byrne shook her hand and she swore never to wash it again. So that was a contrast. Nor did my brother force her to walk until her feet bled. OKAY! Back to the present! The next day Dr. Theresa and I were to meet Megan at the Strand bookstore, where I had never been somehow. Dr. Theresa and I were a little early, so first we ducked into a comic book store around the corner. I got a copy of Seo Kim's book CAT PERSON. It's great! Sitting on a bench waiting for Megan a few minutes later I was just laughing out loud like a lunatic. Also, I was reading CAT PERSON by Seo Kim. I was delighted to see Jesse Moynihan's FORMING on the shelf in the comic book store, both volumes. But an employee told me that the recent ADVENTURE TIME comics cowritten by Kent Osborne were sold out! He told me they sell the minute they come in - they can't keep them in the shop! Our town does not have a comic book store, so I was sad about that lost opportunity. (Later the Rock*A*Teens bass player Will Joiner showed me a picture his niece had asked him to show me. She's getting ready to start 7th grade and she was all done up in her ADVENTURE TIME finery. He said she had never been so excited as when he told her he was going to meet someone who works on ADVENTURE TIME... which is the same way I feel about the Rock*A*Teens!) Megan met us at the Strand and we went down to the occult section in the basement. Dr. Theresa immediately found me several of the kind of "true ghost story" books I like, including one with a Table of Contents that promised a chapter about "The Terrible Flying Jelly Bags." I don't know what those are yet, and I won't until the books have been delivered, but I thought "The Terrible Flying Jelly Bags" would make a great title for a "blog" "post," surpassing even "Sir, Your Glasses." BUT IT WAS NOT TO BE. Megan was trying to choose between a book by a debunker and a book by a spiritualist medium and I suggested the latter because it would be "crazier." An eavesdropping young man turned to us and in a quietly intense voice said, "Ghosts are real." As I recall it, I replied in a friendly conversational tone, "I know, I've seen 'em!" Minutes later, however, on the street (and several times throughout the remainder of our stay in New York) Megan claimed that I had said, "Of course! I've seen many!" and as I was saying it (according to Megan's version, which she demonstrated to a number of people over the next few days, as I've noted) I made a sweeping, Shakespearean gesture with my right hand. That's what she said! I don't remember it. In any case, I "out-weirded the weirdo" (as Megan put it, to which Dr. Theresa sincerely added, "I am so proud of you"). It is true that the quiet and intense young man, whose eyes glimmered with danger and insanity, was flummoxed, stunned, defeated and silenced by my solicitous response. Eventually, Megan and Dan and Dr. Theresa and I were at the Rock*A*Teens show, and I literally can't remember the last time I was so happy.
For one thing it brought Dr. Theresa and me in an emotional whirlwind back to our early days (we've been married almost 19 years!) when Hogan sang at our wedding reception and Lopez picked up a guitar for one number. For this gig, though, all these years later, a band called Ricer opened, and it was a good sign when the lead singer and guitarist announced that her favorite band was The Rock*A*Teens. Then Ricer blew us all away with crashing relentless deafening sterilizing murderous vibrations that made us feel young again. Megan described their sound as "early metal" - I think. It was impossible to hear! In a good way. "They're like Frank Sinatra!" I screamed in Megan's ear, and I believe she agreed. She got where I was coming from! Maybe. After Ricer, Megan and I went and found a photo booth at the back of the club.
The Rock*A*Teens came on and Dr. Theresa danced, sometimes with Dan and sometimes with the girl from Ricer, and sometimes both, probably. I chipped in. It was mass hysteria! Dr. Theresa screamed herself hoarse. The aftereffects are apparent to this very day! She reached up for the stage and Chris Lopez reached down and grabbed her hand. She later called it her "Courtney Cox moment" - for you youngsters, that's a Springsteen reference. The next day, the bass player Will Joiner told us that the R*A*Ts had played for TWO SOLID HOURS, 23 songs, an incredible length for a set list. Lopez crowd-surfed for the first time ever. "I didn't do it on purpose," he said, sounding apologetic. "I stumbled and somebody grabbed me." This conversation took place at a joint called "The Campbell Apartment," where Megan took us, a rococo little bar in a hidden corner of Grand Central Station. Here's a picture I found of it on the "internet."
You can see the top of the nicely-upholstered couch where Lopez and Dr. Theresa and I were sitting. But you can't see the stone lion with wings (a gryphon?) that watches over everything. The atmosphere was suitably phantasmagoric but some of the fancy drinks were tastier than others and Lopez and Dr. Theresa may have had the right idea when they switched to bourbon on the rocks.
Dr. Theresa showed off her tattoo and Lopez asked whether I had got one to match and I said teasingly, "I don't desecrate my body," to which Lopez replied "THIS body?" gesturing humorously at my body. Which reminds me. We were lucky enough to see Ward McCarthy and his dear wife Ann on this trip, our old friends, and their daughter Lily (I knew her when she was a newborn infant and now she's about to start college!) and Ward and Ann LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME as they did when I first knew them. And Chris Lopez looks EXACTLY THE SAME. Whereas I am a fat guy with a lot of white in his beard. What happened? Ward said he and the family had been rafting in some rapids recently. That's not the Ward I know! As I exclaimed to all present. "Yes, because all we did was sit in a bar and complain," said Ward. "But when I wasn't doing that, I was rafting," he added lyingly. I had reason to think of my fatness as I reclined in a marble bathtub, taking a bubble bath and reading a Travis McGee novel just as John D. MacDonald never intended. A tub so deep I could float in it. I DID float in it! This was the day after the show and I was singing everything to the tune of "Don't Destroy This Night," my favorite Rock*A*Teens song, like, "Let's get a drink/ We can sit and think/ Tub so deep/ It puts me right to sleep/ I'm in the mood/ To take pictures of my food." Such were a mere few of my hilarious parody lyrics basd on gritty real-life experiences. I'm like the Weird Al of the Rock*A*Teens! But - and may Ace Atkins forgive me for saying so - John D. MacDonald writes a lot of prose that should ONLY be read in a bubble bath. "One goodnight in a sad alto echoed in an empty corridor in my mind... I stood on a dream bridge and saw an open boat drift under the bridge on the black tide, full of a lost tumble of dead maidens..." WHAT! COME ON! Travis McGee likes to explain life to the ladies. He likes to tell women what's what. "Baby, nothing is easy... real people walk around in the foggy, foggy dew." Okay, Travis McGee! That little speech runs about a page. (Ha ha, look who's talking!) By page 142 two women have literally purred at him - PURRED AT HIM, NOT METAPHORICALLY - because he's so awesome at giving them a squeeze if you know what I mean. Maybe one woman specifically purring in gratitude for his manliness every 71 pages isn't too many, I don't know, what do you think, don't tell me, I don't care. But he's trying to avenge the death of a pal and get his mitts on some weird gold statues so I'm still reading it so sue me. After drinks with some Rock*A*Teens at Grand Central Station it was off to Laura Lippman and David Simon's place with Dan and Megan for a really special evening of conversation and cheese. I am talking about a cheese called burrata, which I guess I am the last to know about because everybody was looking at it and saying, "Hm, the burrata, oh, the burrata," like it was a normal thing. But it was so much more than a normal thing! Plus Laura had thoughtfully prepared some Southern specialties to make us Southerners (she has Georgia roots of her own!) feel at home. Because guess who else was there? That's right, Roy Blount Jr.! "She introduced us to her donkey," Roy said when I asked him to tell us about the time he met Flannery O'Connor. "Funerals are a good thing to be funny after," he said later, on another subject. At one point Megan said "Everything important looks simple," and I wrote it down because I go around writing down things Megan says. Like, a day or two before that, she said in defense of Frank Sinatra, "He couldn't control his overwhelming emotions, that's the worst you could say about him," and then she laughed really forcefully ("merrily," we decided) at the audacity of her own pronouncement. Ha ha ha! At Le Poisson Rouge I wrote down something Dan said but I'll tell you the truth, I'm not sure I can read it. It's dark in there! It's dark and drunk in there. I think it says, "The promise isn't better than the thing." And I think it had to do with how fantastically he had vowed to dance with Dr. Theresa - a promise he easily kept! I have a lot more material here... I mean a LOT more... a whole riff on SNOWPIERCER for example (I think I call Tilda Swinton the Peter Sellers of our time) but even I have my limits. OR DO I?