Inspired by John Porcellino’s eclectic top-40 mash-ups . . . It was an odd year for me in that I didn’t buy very much music, and while I read a lot of prose fiction, only a few texts made much of an impression. So this is mostly a list of experiences rather than stuff purchased. And it’s mostly stuff that didn’t make it into a full post. Unless it did. Also, these are mostly drawn the second half of the year, since that’s what I can remember. I know I’m forgetting lots even from the last few weeks, but hey ho, here we go:
0. SPANISH TOWN. [Edited to add.]
1. Finding a copy of Emerson LaSalle’s rare spoken-word LP Songs for Swinging Corpses at the Honeymoon Bungalow for a quarter, March 14th. LaSalle self-financed this pressing of his first and last recorded appearance on the Steve Allen show; Allen noodled on the piano while LaSalle read several of his stories, including “Moors of the Moors” and “The Single-Headed Hydra”. LaSalle did not, however, clear the permissions with Allen, who sued LaSalle and had most of the very limited print run destroyed. (“Al Stevens,” an unctuous TV host who is castrated with a gun at knifepoint in LaSalle’s novevlla Babble On, Babylon, is widely assumed to be a stand-in for Allen.) So “collector’s item” doesn’t really begin to describe it; “unholy grail” is a little closer. I can’t decide whether to keep this, give it to Gischler for Christmas, or flip it on eBay.
2. Road trip Contessa and I took to Jackson with J-Rama and Lily, sometime in June, maybe?. Gorjus and Lula were our gracious tour guides and hosts. We stayed at the historic Edison Walthall, which is two, two, two hotels in one! Downstairs: old world charm and elegance; Upstairs: a painstaking reproduction of every hotel I stayed at on vacation with my parents from 1980-1986! One evening found us tossing plastic pigs over and over by a pea-green (also possibly pee-green) pool. Also memorable for a hilarious and then horrifying story about the Giant’s dad recounted by the Giant. This was also the night that we corrected a male prostitute’s grammar outside of Martin’s.
3. Anniversary (11 years!) vacation to Natchez MS, weekend near June 14. Recommended: The Bluff Top Bed and Breakfast. Not recommended: Being heckled by yokels in Vidalia, LA because your wife is much hotter than you. (“You deserve better!” were their exact words to her.)
4. Spending most of the summer writing a scholarly essay on superheroes and science fiction in the work of Randall Kenan. I love my job.
5. The final poolapalooza, last weekend in July. A great send-off for the Apricot Bomb Shelter; I imagine we’ll feel some pangs of longing next summer when we can’t hop in the pool, but hey, we’ve always got the bayou running right by our new house. I admit, though, that our lives will be likely bereft of hula-hooping bikini girls now. Or at least it will seem much more contrived when they do appear.
6. Not being woken up by jake-braking semis on the interstate that runs right by our old house, July 29-present. Oh man it’s so quiet out here except for actual barnyard sounds. Also: Being able to see stars and lots of them. Lately: Ducks taking off and landing in the bayou.
7. The Hold Steady at Chelsea’s, 7/8. Featuring Gorjus! Lula! Dave Ashes! Alex V Cook! Sue! A show so blistering and intense it convinced me that Stay Positive is a transcendent record for months. Then the buzz wore off and I remembered no, it’s actually pretty mediocre for a Hold Steady album. But the purest rock-show adrenaline rush I’ve felt since The Gossip at Spanish Moon a while back. The Hold Steady played the Moon once a couple years back and it was great but you could tell they felt a little lost in the half-filled two-tiered venue. I spent weeks fretting that Chelsea’s would be too small a venue for them, but then I realized that too small is exactly the right size for the Hold Steady—if you’re not getting someone else’s sweat and beer on you, then you’re not getting the full Hold Steady experience. And hey look! I just found the show online! Now I have to go listen to it over and over again. Also of note on this evening: Gorjus drank a Chelsea’s bartender under the table. Literally. And then fell asleep in the back of my car while Lula and I waited in the Taco Bell drive-thru line.
(I used to be pretty indifferent to “Massive Nights” until I realized that it’s basically a Billy Joel song with a broken nose. Also, “Modesto is Not that Sweet” is no one’s favorite Hold Steady song, but listening to it now, I have decided that “I should have kicked it with your cousin when I had the opportunity” is one of the great lyrics of all time.)
8. Sandusky Review 4. The best SR yet? Very possible. I can think of a dozen spin-offs from this issue alone that I’d like to see—perhaps a history of the B-Cups illustrated with album art?
9. Saw an alligator while horseback riding less than a quarter mile from our house, August. I mean a big one. Contessa and I differ on how close it was; I say about 30 yards, she thinks further. She wanted to go on. I counseled waiting until cooler weather arrived.
10. Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Castaways (August/September). I had only read the frequently anthologized excerpts from this before, which were not particularly engaging. The whole (brief) text, though, is bizarre and amazing; of all the first-person narratives about Spanish bureaucrats wandering naked in the New World until their skin peels off and then becoming faith healers among the natives, this is my favorite.
11. The Mountain Goats at the Republic, 11/3. When the Mountain Goats came through Baton Rouge in ‘05 and played the Red Star, they were joined at the end of the main set and for an encore with their openers, the Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers. What had already been a great night of music became a downright rock show; it’s still one of my favorite live music experiences. The newly bulked up Mountain Goats line-up—with Jon Wurster on drums and joined by Kaki King for atmosphere and guitar heroics—recaptured some of that magic on this year’s tour in support of Heretic Pride and the new Black Pear Tree and Satanic Messiah EPs. The Goats on this tour have managed to do that Springsteen thing where even though the structure of the set list is pretty rigid night to night it seems completely spontaneous and freewheeling. I mean, I knew they were going to play “Suedehead,” but it was still awesome, you know? Darneille stood on speakers; he managed to both enthrall and slightly revulse the crowd during a stalker-creepy performance of “Houseguest”; he threatened to play a ten-minute version of “Sep 15 1983.”
12. Dave Ashes’s awesome post-Bama/LSU breakfast, November. A breakfast that dared to ask the question, “Who needs Louie’s, anyway?”
13. Finally finishing higher than third in a friendly poker tournament, November. Admittedly, the third place finisher was too drunk to go home. But finishing in the money is finishing in the money, you know?
14. Painting our living room walls with Contessa, Thanksgiving weekend. We have both loved our new place from the moment we moved in, but we still felt like we were moving in until a couple of weeks ago. Now this place is actually starting to seem like ours.
15. Deciding that Jack Kirby’s Kamandi is better than anything Fourth-World related, December. Seriously. For a while I was thinking of buying the Kamandi Archives, but now I think that defeats the whole purpose of Kamandi, which is at its pulp-trash best in ragged-edged, loose-stapled, time-brittled single issues. Sample tag-line from the issue nearest at hand: “Into the valley of death rode the six hundred BULLDOGS, DYING LIKE MEN!!”
16. Discovering this archive of all the Infocom grey box manuals and “feelies,” last week. Walker Percy once wrote that bourbon did for him what the piece of cake did for Proust. For me it’s the smell of a stack of 5.25” computer disks, happened across at a thrift store or yard sale, and I’m me at 12, playing Zork I on the old Commodore 64 in my red-shag-carpeted bedroom.
The election is too awesome to be ranked with a number ‘mongst these other things. Plus other news that’s not quite internet-ready yet . . .