Sunday, June 22, 2014

Just Do It Again

There's a good reason I can't have a dog.

Four years after my beloved beagle died, people still ask me when I'm getting another dog.

Recently, my aunt sent me an e-mail telling me she knew of a beautiful dog ("very much your kind of dog") for me, a six-year old male springer spaniel (brown and white) named Scout.

"He is housebroken and has a wonderful disposition - would love to accompany you on your morning walk," she wrote using her most convincing words.

I told her what I tell everyone who asks me why I haven't gotten another dog: my lifestyle isn't conducive to being a dog owner anymore. I leave my house and never know when I might be back.

Case in point: today.

I walked out of here around 3:30 to walk three blocks to Steady Sounds to hear live music. The in-store performance was scheduled from 3-5 p.m. so already I knew I was late.

Walking in, I found I'd missed the first musician but Brandon Seabrook was setting up, so I began perusing the bins and chatting with the two people I knew.

The ukulele player did his best to make a case for me getting on Twitter, saying he'd looked for me and couldn't find me and insisting that my pithy writing would garner me scads of followers. Somehow, he wove in Ted Nugent and his millions of followers, but I didn't quite see the connection.

Then the DJ and I discussed the upcoming Neko Case show and debated whether Frday Cheers could ever be sold out. Can you sell out an island?

But when Brandon Seabrook began playing (and making guitar faces of the highest order), there was nothing to do but focus on his incredible shredding - both guitar and banjo- which, while loud and crazy energetic, was also rhythmically melodic, not just noise, so you could hear the music in it.

The crowd wasn't large but it was mostly guys (and I'm guessing, many of them guitarists), all of them staring so intently at Brandon as if they could absorb his technique or intensity through osmosis.

After a disparaging comment about his home, NYC, he mused, "Maybe I should move here. Anyone need a roommate?" Bring it on, man, you'd be a great addition to the scene here.

Once he finished, I agreed to accompany a friend (who, incidentally, was wearing an empty gun holster at his hip and had a cat's tail pinned to his pants) to Tarrant's so he could get a slice of pizza before he passed out.

Paying for the two records I'd found, we walked the three blocks over, talking about how clueless both of us are about all things sports. He aspires to change that while I don't.

Clueless was putting it mildly because we soon found ourselves in the middle of mass red, white and blue hysteria. Tarrant's was barely a block from the street event showing the USA - Portugal soccer game on a giant screen outside and people were flooding the streets to get over there.

Ducking into the takeout back door, my friend ordered his slice of pineapple and mushroom pizza moments before the first clutch of fans burst through the door.

Once he'd procured his slice, we headed back to Steady Sounds with me giving him an earful about why pineapple doesn't belong on pizza. We were eager to leave the soccer world behind and make it back in time to see Wreckless Eric play. The word was he'd be there by 5:30.

He wasn't, so we set up camp on the bench outside at the bus stop and soon attracted a bunch of friends who'd shown up for the show. The running joke was that we were there to confuse bus drivers (who kept pulling over for us) when all we were really doing was loitering with intent (to see Eric).

After a while, a girl who lived over the record shop appeared saying she'd seen the crowd and was wondering what was going on.

When someone told her Wreckless Eric was coming, she doubled over, shrieking, "Get the f*ck out!" She stayed.

Our little crowd began to grow with more Eric fans and we wiled away the time dividing ourselves into two camps: those who can accept pineapple on pizza and those who cannot. We further subdivided on the subject of chicken on pizza (I'm also firmly in the anti-chicken camp).

Music talk revolved around lead singers who leave bands and then make records that sound identical  to the band's. What's the point?

Eventually, a big car with New York license plates pulled up and the man had arrived. A bunch of people rushed to help him unload his equipment while the rest of us headed inside.

Just this morning, I'd read a piece in today's Washington Post about Eric, who's playing the Black Cat tomorrow night in D.C., all about how he's been rediscovered by another generation, partially due to the reissue of some of his '80s and '90s albums. About damn time, kids.

With no fanfare, Eric took up his battered-looking green guitar and announced in his thick Sussex, England accent, "Okay, I'm ready to do this. I guess."

And do it he did, playing songs about fever, about leaving England and "School," about the perils of getting hit at grammar school (and boys warming the toilet seats for other boys).

Mid-set, a couple of guys went upstairs and came down with their bikes in hand, causing Eric to remark on what a haphazard thing that was. "I know what I'm doing. It just comes across as haphazard sometimes. F*ck it. Because we all need some haps in our hazard."

Talking about his current tour ("I get in my car and drive, get out and play while people stare at me and get back in my car"), he said he'd been through Tennessee and South Carolina and went off on what the food options are on the road, naming a bunch of chains. "People who go to Panera look like Elvis Costello fans," he observed to laughter.

"This is a song about driving around the country at night and it doesn't end properly because I couldn't be bothered," he said.

Sysco trucks are rolling through the night
Delivering the stuff that people like

That's the thing about Wreckless Eric: his songs are smart, cleverly written and almost always full of observations about life. Add in his vibrant guitar and outsider energy and it's easy to imagine what a misfit he must have been from the early days of punk on.

I was out of time
I was out of step...
Everyone says it's a fool's game...
I wouldn't do it differently
I'd just do it again

The crowd of 40 or so - young, old and in-between - stood reverently watching his every move, aware of the fact that we were in the presence of someone who mattered...then and now.

"You've got lives to live, so I won't detain you," he said before the last song, "(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World," his debut single from 1977 and still a damn fine song.

When I was a young boy
my Mama said to me
There's only one girl for you
and she probably lives in Tahiti
I'd go the whole wide world
I'd go the whole wide world just to find her

Granted, Wreckless Eric had arrived late but more than repaid the crowd with a stellar set and a lot of self-deprecating wit.

That said, by the time it ended, I was dizzy with hunger, so rather than head home, I strolled down the street to Saison, knowing it was fried chicken night.

In my musical delirium, I'd somehow forgotten about the soccer game going on, so when I walked into Saison, it was to screaming fans watching the game.

Asking one of them if the stool next to him was free, I sat down and ordered a quarter chicken, dark meat, and began rifling through a 1960s book on the art of photography (the guy next to me warned me that it was boring), finding it fascinating for its pictures of how to photograph a horse, how to shoot a crime scene and how to light a movie set.

Apparently I can't trust a soccer fan's opinion on photography.

When my chicken arrived with potato salad and a cauliflower and cheese medley, I put the book aside and tore into the food while soccer fans went berserk first over a USA goal and then moaned when Portugal scored and the game ended.

Once sated and the game over, I turned to the guy next to me to ask how he'd ended up at Saison tonight. Answer: sheer luck. Out of towners, he and his buddy had stumbled on to it.

The two - one from Albuquerque, the other from Portland) had been at a wedding in Suffolk and were staying the night in Richmond before flying out tomorrow.

Despite having only been in town for an afternoon, Albuquerque was already impressed with what he'd seen in Richmond and wanted me to tell him more.

Rookie mistake asking me to tell you more.

I felt like preconceived notions were being shattered when he expressed surprise that despite Virginia being an ABC state, Saison had such a terrific variety of booze on its back bar.

For all I know, he was surprised I wasn't wearing hoop skirts and calling him "suh."

Kidding. He was pleasant in every way, even raving about the multiple courses of food they'd had as well as the beauty of the city.

He has a second office in Austin but he said it's gotten so expensive there that he's thinking of eliminating it. His initial take on Richmond was that we had all the charm of Austin without the sheer numbers of people or higher cost of living. All true.

By the time we finished chatting, it occurred to me that I had no idea what time it was. Walking home, the sky said post-sunset and once home, the clock said I'd been gone for going on six hours.

And therein lies the problem. What if I'd left for Steady Sounds, expecting to be gone two hours, with plans to walk or feed the dog when I returned?

Given I'd been gone three times that long, I'd either have returned to find a hungry, cranky beagle or one with his legs crossed in agony for needing to pee. I just couldn't do that to him.

And it happens all the time. I leave thinking I'll be home shortly and life intervenes, someone suggests something, I decide to keep going, I run into someone or a thousand other unexpected things lure me away. Because they can.

And I like it that way. No responsibility, nobody needing my attention. Selfish? Lazy? Indulgent?

Now you know why I can't have nice things like dogs.


  1. People who go to Panera look like Elvis Costello FANS.

  2. I wouldn't know. I don't go to Panera or any chains for that matter. Good morning, Paul.

  3. Good morning. Or evening. Well, Mr. Goulden liked it, anyway!

  4. I know, right? Seeing Eric's "She's a good writer!" comment made my week!