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Yesterday, I did not do a good job of explaining the expression “how you gonna go to school like that?” I just didn’t. But here, in rare from, is Daddy Wrall, whose experience with the guillotine at the UPS store is a classic. You’re selling 11X17 posters, but your guillotine can’t handle them? How you gonna go to school like that UPS store?

Notice that the poster is for our show on Thursday, February 26th in Boston. We’re playing at Oliver’s (Cask ‘n Flagon), which is right next to Fenway Park.

Notice Daddy Wrall’s hat. Stolen from Mom.

Notice Daddy Wrall attempting to load the paper from the wrong side in the hopes that it will decide to fit from that direction.

I would also like to point out that, in classic UPS store fashion, we had a heck of a time printing the posters in the first place, and even after they were printed, it took starting to hang them before we noticed that half of them had odd lines through them. We had to go back to rectify that.

Finally, if any situation is so subpar that you just have to give up, then you can always ask the question of whomever is responsible.

So, UPS store, tell me: how you gonna go to school like that?

Miss Fairchild at Oliver's 2.26.9

alto-saxophone_1_lgSammy Bananas plays a beautiful old saxophone. But it’s not in very good shape. It’s a wonder he can play it all, really, let alone as proficiently as he does.*

*Ornette Coleman, one of my favorite musicians, played a plastic saxophone with a gigantic reed. People said nasty things about his tone**, but really it’s a wonder he could make any sound on that horn. Sam is something like that.

**They were wrong. His tone is phenomenal.

He and I both needed to buy stands for our various woodwind instruments, so we decided to take a little ride down to Rayburn Music. Sam brought his horn to see what it would take to get it playable. I mean playable for a normal human being, not a superman such as himself. He could already play the thing, but it couldn’t hurt to give it some love.

We walked into the store and Sam pointed to the older man who was working on somebody’s sax. He explained that the guy had already worked on the instrument years ago. We waited for the right moment and then Sam reintroduced himself…

“Remember me? You worked on my horn years ago?”

The man had a thick Italian accent: “Yes! Yes! Let’s have a look. When do you need this for? You have school coming up soon?”

“No, sir. I haven’t been in school in a few years now. My band is going on tour soon and I wanted to see if I could get the horn playing better before we do that.”

He opened the saxophone case and took out the florescent light that fits inside the horn. When all of the keys are depressed no light should escape. Sam’s horn looked a fancy lighting fixture in a Middle Eastern restaurant.

“Oh no! This is no good. You can’t play this. How you gonna go to school like that?”

The repair man look disgusted as he repeated, “How you gonna go to school like that?”

Sam tried to explain again that there was no school, but it was to no avail. And it was true, there was no way he could go to school like that.

Whether we’ve discussed it officially or not, that question has grown beyond this specific scenario and can now apply to any situation where something is clearly sub par. For instance, if my car broke down twice a week, smelled bad and generally should be junked, you could ask me, “How you gonna go to school like that?”

If I needed to do a job interview in which I had to present some kind of action plan, but had nothing prepared, not even the vaguest notion as to what I would talk about, let alone a completed paper with relevant steps, the interviewer could ask, “How you gonna go to school like that?”

I would have a few more examples ready, but I think you could have asked me this question a few minutes ago before I started this post.

Yesterday, I found an incredible second wind after I drank a GT’s Kombucha.* Man, I was wired for nearly 6 hours after drinking that thing; it tore me straight out of some kind of haze at work, and into an amazing sense of concentration. As much as I love the stuff, I’m staying away from coffee nowadays. And since I’m simultaneously interested in developing a positive habit, kombucha** seems like a good idea.

*Clicking on that link will take you to a commercial website. For whatever reason, I felt compelled to share that.

**By the way, Dan, it’s KOM-bucha, not KAM-bucha. But I think it’s damn funny that people pronounce that first syllable like the first syllable in camera. Where do you get the ‘a’ sound from the ‘o’? I can’t think of another word where those particular sounds replace one another.

kombucha2

Today I drank the kombucha at noon instead of 6pm, so my day was great. I had abundant energy at work, but tailed off right around the time I got home. For those of you who don’t know about kombucha, allow me to shill a little. According to wikipedia, “Kombucha is the Western name for sweetened tea or tisane that has been fermented using a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a ‘kombucha colony’.” Near as I understand, it’s good for your belly, specifically the good bacteria in there. I’m prone to believing all that, even though I haven’t vetted the stuff all that carefully. Mostly, I like the taste and it seems to give me a nice boost.

Also worth mentioning is that the stuff is like a ticking time bomb. I’ve seen dozens fizz and bubble and explode all over the innocent and guilty alike. So often people think that you should shake it to mix in the cultures, but those folks just end up wearing it. I nearly lost my head one time when I caught Wrall pounding on the bottom of his one day. He ended up opening the bottle in the van, and by some fluke we were all spared a bath. That was an exception, I assure you, Wrall. The point? Don’t turn it upside down.

We had music of the 80’s today at the store. It was actually a welcome departure from the usual fare, even though I had “Upside Down” in my head for an hour. 

I must have been moving my shoulders in a certain way as I walked through the store, because I estimate it’s impossible to hear that song without having that reaction.

I also walked around mis-quoting a funny scene from Major League II. Yes, that Major League II.* The scene goes something like this:

Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughan, played by Charlie Sheen, is a pitcher who used to scare the bejeezus out of his opponents with the wildness of both his pitches and personality. He threw hard and people were scared of him. By the time we meet our hero in II, he has lost his edge, owing to his wet blanket publicist/girlfriend who is using him for the promise of money. She is transforming him so that he might have a ‘higher class’ image: “wholesome, clean cut, all-American”.

In this scene, he is filming a spot for Right Guard Sportstick. He’s playing croquet wearing exclusively off-white: shoes, pants, shirt, sweater draped over his shoulders.

“When on the croquet lawn, one must be careful not to offend one’s opponent with an onset of unwanted odor,” he says, hitting his ball through the wicket into another player’s ball.

“Oh, bully,” the stuffy gentleman proclaims.

“That’s why I use Right Guard Sportstick. Maximum protection against Odysseus odorifously oflacty emanations.”

“That’s, uh, cut! Let’s just cut that. Um, it’s odiously odiferous olfactory emanations.”

“Right.”

“Odoraforous ofalactory emarinations.”

“Odorferous oflacitnal nominations.”

“Odororforous Ofalactagil emancipations.”

There is a short scene of Vaughan getting lit up on the pitcher’s mound unfortunately interrupting this genius of a scene. Or maybe the interruption is part of the genius, because just when you’ve almost forgotten about the ad, it comes back…

“Take 87!”

“Right Guard Sportstick. Anything less-” he hits the croquet ball “-would be uncivilized.” And he smiles, holds up the deodorant, but it’s upside down.

“Upside down,” the director says, exasperated, and mimes turning it over.

“Upside down.”

*I’m a huge baseball fan, and a fan of Major League, but don’t worry: I agree that this film is terrible. Just awful from start to finish. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever finished it. For whatever reason, though, Wrall took to quoting from it and we’ve stuck with it. He’s not a baseball fan, either, so I can’t explain how he got on to it. We’re considering a full-on review of the film. Only if we can get through it, though…

Now that I just wrote all that, I realized that the clip is probably on youtube. And it is:

That just goes to show you that I can’t be trusted with this internet thing. Hopefully reading all that providing some measure of pleasure. The point is: I was walking around all day saying stuff like: “odorforous. oflactagil. emancipations.” It couldn’t have been more appropriate, because I made a dubious decision recently to begin greeting one of my colleagues by smelling him.

It sounds weird, I know. Hell, it is weird. Most people probably think he started it, because, well, he would start something like that. But, no. It was me. In fact, when I was arriving at work yesterday, he interrupted a conversation to come take a big whiff. Our co-worker, with whom he had been speaking, gave a quizzical look and I had to admit, “I’d question this, but unfortunately, I started it.”

Here’s what happened: The day before the above interaction, I heard a woman complement him on his smell, so I thought I’d see for myself. Any subtle move to smell the man could be taken the wrong way, so I chose a very flamboyant sniff. That went well. Now we’re walking around smelling each other all day. Man, I hope he reads this blog.

In case you are wondering, kombucha smells like vinegar. And we both drink the stuff.

So, I have a blog post in the works* that will discuss my interest in the mundane. It’s called “On Interest in the Mundane”.** For whatever reason, I’m fascinated with the stuff: every day, routine, “boring”***, matter of fact, no big deal stuff. All of our lives are consumed with it: get gas, pay the bills, buy stamps, vacuum the house, brush your teeth. The music is outside of that realm, because it’s a creative process, and even if we are repeating the same task over and over, or playing the same song every day, it’s the first time we’re doing it that time, and for whatever reason, it’s easy to know that when it’s music.

*In this particular case, “in the works” means that I have a note to write it, but have not even started.

**How about that?

***Though, only boring people get bored, right?

I won’t go into full analysis here, because I really want to just tell a quick story from work today. It’s a little embarrassing, but that’s what makes it funny, right? You see work is fairly mundane, too, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy it. In fact, my particular job has become such a hodge podge of mundanity, that it’s no longer truly mundane.

Lately, though, I’ve been doing a lot of the same task over and over, so I keep it interesting by playing with language, and attempts at humor. Tonight was no exception. I was standing in the customer service booth, where we take returns and a woman approached. She had a kind face, so I thought that I was okay to play around, especially when she said this:

“Hi. I’d like to return this cat food. I tried it and it’s just not good.”

I saw my opportunity and responded, “Um… You know it’s for cats right?”

And then there was a ten second awkward silence. For a moment, I considered the possibility that she had actually eaten it. I didn’t think that was possible, really, but it seemed clear that I was making a joke. One of my co-workers laughed a little.

She finally said, “what?”

“Oh. Never mind. I was just making a joke.”

“Oh! I’m so glad you made a joke…”

[Hmm. Where is this going?]

“…My cat through up all over my house! Which is fine. As long as I don’t have company over. Or walk barefoot. I just have to have all the carpets cleaned before my next dinner party.”

I was, indeed, blushing a little. The simple act of writing a credit was no longer mundane, thought. That’s for sure. 

Happily, I had a chance to rectify the situation later. She came to my line while I was cashiering and I apologized for being insensitive.

“No! You weren’t insensitive. I just didn’t get it. I’m just preoccupied. I’m thinking about my patients. I’ve had a long day, and you know, patients come first. You know? It’s all about the patients.”

“Well, just as long as you don’t prescribe that cat food for them!” 

You can imagine how that went over. And now I’m realizing–I hope she’s a vet or something…

I’ve got a few posts in the works with some writing, including more catchphrases, record reviews, and interviews, but I’m hard at work on our, you  know, music, before I head to the day job today, so I’m going to leave you with this video of the band playing “Your Hair” live in Cambridge a couple of weeks ago.

Just a note to Boston folks: we have a huge show coming up at Oliver’s/Cask ‘n Flagon on Thursday, February 26th. We really hope that you’ll figure out a way to be there. It’s our first big show in Boston in a loooong time, since we’ve been hiding out in the woodshed for a while. I’m positive that you will not be disappointed if you see your way down to the venue. More details to follow, but put that in your calendar!

Well, we had a very successful couple of days in Sam’s Brooklyn lair. Let’s recap some of what we accomplished:

1. We fixed the refrigerator.
2. We discovered the pomegranate phone.
3. We explored the In and Outs of Steak and Shake.
4. We put Robert Palmer in another compromising situation.
5. We listened to my rant about Nilsson Schmilsson.

And that’s just what we blogged about. Here are some other tidbits:

Sammy got some new studio foam in the mail, so his vocal booth is now in full effect. I don’t have a photo, but if you can imagine stuffing three queen-sized egg crate mattress pads into one of those little “peanuts” jars that that shoots out a spring painted to look like a snake, and then opening the jar in a small windowless closet in a Brooklyn apartment, then you have an idea of what it looks like. Very post-modern.

In all seriousness, though, we are excited for an opportunity to do some group vocals in there, and maybe some horn recordings. His new studio is coming along, and despite my bragging about the legend he has watching over him, he has yet to move the photograph into the new room. I fear for our music until he has done that.

jbLast night, Wrall and I indulged in one of our favorite things: watching James Brown concert footage. A few years ago, DW picked up a very poor quality bootleg of “The Night James Brown Saved Boston.” That was when, on April 5, 1968, James Brown had a concert at the Boston Garden that was broadcast to televisions across the city via WGBH.* We have always been particularly fond of the 1968-1971 era of James Brown, which spans from “I Got the Feelin'” to the departure of the original JB’s (Bootsy and Catfish and all them.) We were very excited to watch any footage we could of this era, even if that meant watching something that appeared to have been a camcorder-ed television, itself replaying an old VHS tape. Well, Wrall recently got a DVD set that includes this concert in WAY higher fidelity, a documentary about the night, and another concert from 1968.

*I don’t even have to look up the date, because I know it happened the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Between Mayor Kevin Brown’s White’s insistence on police forces NOT cracking down on minor instances of violence and protest in the city in the wake of that tragedy, and James Brown’s concert, which kept attendees and home viewers alike focused on something positive, Boston avoiding the riots that affected so many cities. Mayor White also arranged for the television broadcast at the last minute, which may or may not have stirred considerable controversy with James. I haven’t had an opportunity to watch the accompanying DVD documentary about the night, but I’ll report back when I do.

I won’t go into complete detail about the video now, because I’m planning an entire post dissecting and savoring all of the glorious moments.* What I will say is that we can’t help but be floored by James’ energy, emotion and pinpoint control within his show. He has the band staring at him throughout the show, afraid that he will fine them–or worse–if they miss just one cue. It seems like he’s making it up as he goes along–his dancing is erratic, incredible, and impossible to follow–but I wouldn’t put it past him to have every single movement choreographed down to the exact position of his pinkie finger.

*We’ll discuss such things as the fear in Clyde Stubbefield’s eyes, James’ zippered corduroy vest, and frequent trips offstage to fix his hair. That, and the music.

The man has talent; that can’t be denied. He has also the drive*and creativity to turn that talent into something, and that’s what separates him. We have all heard the stories about his life, and can agree that he probably made some questionable decisions. I’m not here to talk about the man on the level of a man, but on the level of a musical and cultural innovator.

*“The hardest working man in show business” doesn’t refer exclusively to his playing 400 shows in 250 days. It’s the fact that was willing to rehearse the band, and keep on them to meet his lofty standards, that he could reach the level of success that he did.

Like most success stories, though, James Brown didn’t have it easy. He came from poverty and crime and had to work against stereotypes and negative public perceptions about what he should be. His ability to surprise people with what he actually was, is something special.

Someone like Justin Timberlake, as much as we love him, should be a success. He’s a talented singer, dancer, comedian, entertainer. He’s good looking. He doesn’t have to battle racism on a daily basis. His career has been nurtured by the best in the business. I’m not saying that he had it handed to him; by all accounts he has worked as hard as anybody*, but with all of his assets, we should expect him to do what he’s done. James comes from a different background, and his ability to rise out of the challenges of his youth only strengthens his story.

*Well, maybe not as hard as James Brown…

Some would argue that James’ background helped his career, perhaps by forcing him to focus ever harder, or by learning how to be tough, play the game, manipulate situations and be the ultimate taskmaster for his band. That may be true, but it oughtn’t detract from the emergence of a remarkable music.

It’s appropriate, and no coincidence that we are watching these tapes again in the wake of an historic week. With the inauguration of President Obama the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day*, we can’t help but think of remarkable drive and talent overcoming mountainous barriers. Obama is in a position, with his intelligence and compassion, the office that he holds, and our hope in him, to do some truly remarkable things.

*I definitely heard it referred to as MLK Day Jr. a couple times; that’s pretty funny.

A friend showed me the 1996 New Yorker interview with Barack and Michelle, and it’s inspiring to see that there is a distinct thread that leads from then until now. Michelle says, “There is a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a political career, although it’s unclear. There is a little tension with that. I’m very wary of politics. I think he’s too much of a good guy for the kind of brutality, the skepticism.” The fact they’ve gone from that to President and First Lady in less than thirteen years is inspiring, scary, amazing, a cornucopia of conflicting adjectives.

I’m not sure how this went from a simple recap post to another misty-eyed moment of mush, but James Brown will do that to you. Barack too. Oh yeah, and stay tuned, because as Maceo says in the Garden video: “Keep in mind: James Brown will be back!”

I can’t tell you why this post is really called Licorice, Nova Scotia, but I can tell you this: Licorice is our once upon a fantastical hometown, before we embraced our Nantucketer-ness. We’ve always had a fascination with Nova Scotia, and licorice, so putting them together as an imaginary origin story for the band was what Daddy W. would call a “no brainer.” 

On Superbowl Weekend* so many years ago, we imagined up Licorice for our fake band Buddy Squirrel & Candy. Today I am reminded of that, and not just because the Superbowl approaches.

*I’ve mentioned this before, and I will mention it again: despite none of us being big football fans, Superbowl weekend, especially Superbowl Sunday, has been very significant in our lives. We had our first rehearsal with Todd and Trick on a Superbowl Sunday, even before we knew that we would have a band called Miss Fairchild. “Vanilla Place” was written on a Superbowl Sunday. Other things too.

I’m reminded of Licorice because of a new device that we all must own. It’s called the Pomegranate Phone and it does things that phones must do and things that we will sometime believe that phones must do. Watch:

Also, just go to the website and play around. You’ll understand why Licorice is so important, and why we’d want to be from there…

[H/T to Andy  Kehler, through Eric Bakovic]

Sammy tweeted that he was doing “the Puffy dance.” In case you’re wondering. There is a good example below (among other things):

I do hope you are all reading Roger Ebert’s blog. It’s like a midnight ramble over there. Check this:

Yes, Steak ‘n Shake is a “fast food” chain–just about the first, I think, except probably for White Castle. Certainly it is the best. How many hamburger chains bring you a glass of water and silverware, and serve you on china? Friends in Los Angeles took me to In-n-Out Burger, and I consumed a drippy, mushy mess on a soft bun, and shook my head sadly. If you are from one of the 19 Stake ‘n Shake states you will know what I mean. At this point I could tell a smutty joke about how the very names of the two chains describe the difference in styles of sexual intercourse between California and the Heartland, but I refrain.

He runs the gamut, from movies to science, with a very lot of personal anecdotes and thoughts. He can also (obviously) be funny.

img_02272The above is from a recent entry about fast food, which is somewhat relevant, as we ate barbeque last night. Sure, barbeque isn’t necessarily fast food, but it sure came fast. Sammy had a pork sandwich with pineapple coleslaw and Wrall had brisket with collards and sweet mash. All in all: very good, if not my thing. It is good to know that the neighborhood has such an offering.

I had to have a Gaffel Kölsch Ale, because I needed something to use my Melvin on…