Wednesday, December 30, 2015

So Long 2015

Thursday night people will be drinking champagne, donning funny hats and blowing strange looking horns. Such behavior just about sums up New Year's Eve here in America. In Romania, however, folks dress up like bears. In Rio de Janeiro, there are parties on the beach with offerings honoring the sea goddess. In Scotland people have been known to fling fireballs.

That reminds me- one memorable New Year's Eve, I attended a back yard party in Silver Spring where I was informally deputized as Fire Marshal. The culminating ceremony at midnight involved a flaming croquet ball rollicking  down gutter like structures a la Rube Goldberg, from the first floor deck to a discarded, fuel soaked Christmas tree. I was unceremoniously handed a shovel, and my job was to give that ball a little boost in case it fell short of its mark, which it did not. Due to a generous amount of liberally applied accelerants, the result was spectacular, although the blowback came dangerously close to torching my hair. True story. (And possibly my one and only appearance on YouTube.)

Personally I like an outdoor event involving fire or bear suits to usher in the New Year. Second to the croquet incident, First Night Alexandria can be a low-key cool thing with plenty of live music, but if you want to shake things up the last night of 2015, Trouble Funk at the 9:30 Club will never let you down. Peace and love and all the best for 2016. Let's try and keep it going' one more year.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Throwing Back Christmas

Christmas Eve was once the most magical night of all for me. A live tree suddenly appeared in our otherwise pristine living room.  Candy canes and cookies. Presents. And that stocking thing. How crazy was that? It didn't look like my mother's panty hose, but what the heck- let's call it a stocking if someone is going to fill that thing with candy and toys.

I believed in Santa Claus. I actually heard hooves on the roof when I was four, although by the time I was five, I felt a tiny arrow of doubt pierce my small brain. Wisely I didn't let on to the parents just in case they pulled the plug on all that gift giving stuff.

Back then the TV was a fixed item that stayed put in one room. It was too heavy to move, and you had to plan your life around what show was on. "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" appeared in early December often on my friend Joy's birthday. If she had a party or a sleepover at her house,  everything stopped while we all watched "Rudolph." Now you can catch the whole shootin' match on youtube.

Christmas with the parents continued deep into my adult life, but now that they are gone, we struggle to reinvent tradition. This year my daughter and her boyfriend arrived at 3 a.m. having driven straight through from New Orleans. My grown son, also home, seems to have developed an addiction to the "Andy Griffith Show." He carries his lap top from room to room, and suddenly, instead of making gumbo, I find myself captivated by an impossibly adorable and tiny Ron Howard asking "Why, Pa?"

I am lucky that my children are home, and I remind myself not to dwell on our lack of an "Aunt Bee" around the house. (Never mind those deserted beer bottles popping up like mushrooms everywhere, and that alarming pile of dishes in the sink.)

My parents' house was always neat and tidy. not. But we still watch the old movies and TV shows, and milk them for meaning. Last night my daughter chose "Rudolph." Not a favorite really, but for old times' sake, we pulled the DVD out and preceded to over analyze.  Hmmmmm. Was this just a metaphor for a mixed up little gay deer coming out to his controlling father and mean boy friends?  And after all these years how could I have missed Yukon's sled dogs included a dachshund and some sort of purple poodle?

Nowadays every Christmas is different, and traditions are shaky as we meld our past with the present, all the while making new memories. Hopefully funny ones. And even though this contentious country is supposed to be about freedom of religion, Christmas has always bulldozed its way in, taking no prisoners and leaving many of us feeling like we don't belong. This may be why I take comfort in Rudolph's words when he, Yukon, and Hermey, the dentist-elf stood before the lion king and introduced themselves this way:

"Well, sir. We're just a couple of misfits from Christmas town."

Aren't we all?

Merry Christmas.

P.S. No matter what your tradition,  DC Rocks has misfit options for you: IOTA will be screening old Star Wars movies both this evening and Christmas night, and for the musically inclined head over to JV's for  Dave Chappell tonight, Jr Cline tomorrow and jingle on...

Monday, December 14, 2015

WWW Just Dance

Ah, the Internet. Our world wide web of wonder. Last week, I wanted to see if my daughter had started her day down in New Orleans, and I found myself texting her "Up and at 'em, Atom Ant." This phrase set off a dusty little bell in the back of my brain. That was a cartoon, right? I didn't just make that up, or did I? So what did I do? What every thinking citizen in this bizarre-o brave new world does:

I asked my phone.

Seconds later this image appeared.

(And of course, there's more ant footage on youtube.)

Then there's this little masterpiece of a mash up matching a Bruno Mars song to dance numbers used in old films. The timing is just right, but what struck me most was how much fun and how beautiful people can be at their best, and how music can bring those qualities out in all of us.

Finally the Internet wants me to tell you that this Wednesday evening The Thrillbillys and Ruthie and the Wranglers are on a double bill at Gypsy Sally's. Georgetown's closest thing to an old fashioned bar and dance hall. Excellent musicians and old friends will be celebrating the season as well as Bill Starks' birthday. Many of my readers already know what I'm talking about here, but this kind of show is why I write about local music on the ' net. It'll be a lot more fun if you come, too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Last weekend I was walking down Pennsylvania Avenue pondering how unrecognizable these blocks are in front of the White House. The street doesn't look like a street- it looks like a pedestrian mall, which is exactly what it is now. When I stopped contemplating the surface I was walking on, I looked up to see a burly guy in uniform with a fed up expression on his face, one arm stiffly folded across his chest while his index finger pointed to the left.  I looked at him confused. "Get on the sidewalk," he said. Were cars coming? I looked around. "There's an event going on. Obviously," he snapped. Oh. Okay. There's a party at the White House and instead of funneling guests through the side or god forbid the back entrances where E Street has also been taken from us, we the tax payers are pushed onto “the sidewalk.” The meaning of terrorism for many translates into gruesome and tragic death counts, but for us this week in Washington, it is an ever pervading loss of little freedoms as we walk beneath the half mast flags. 

Photo by Kevin Lamarque

Later that day I went home and rewatched ”Oh, God" which just happened to come up on my Netflix queue. It’s not the best movie in the world although George Burns is priceless. He appears pretty much as himself in the role of God, but in a human form that a simple grocery clerk played by John Denver can understand. (Yes, that John Denver- the singer- not the guy who played Gilligan.) God wanted John Denver's character to get his message out- that we need to stop hurting and killing each other.  "There's been enough of that," he said. God also wanted us to know that organized religions are getting in the way of that goal.  Oh, and that we should take care of the planet. To quote: " Have you ever tried to make a fish from scratch?" This little gem came out in 1977. Maybe Donald Trump needs to put this in his movie queue. It's hard to argue with George Burns.

Or are we collectively just not smart enough to get it?

Today marks another sad event in American history- the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. He was gunned down in front of his apartment building thirty five years ago, walking home from a studio session. I was in college when it happened, and didn't hear the news until I woke up the next day.  I love this short essay remembering the event by our own Bob Boilen, the musical wizard behind the curtain at NPR. As for me, I wished I could go back to sleep, pull the covers over my head and pretend it never happened.  An impulse that has cropped up more times than I can count since 1981. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Abaad Rocks

My internet service has been sketchy for a long time, but last Sunday it went completely kaput. After introducing me to a couple of nice guys in India, Verizon finally sent over a real live person today.  This guy crawled all over the house, inside and out and finally discovered that the phone line had been cut, then taped up by some nimrod. Meantime all week my son has been doing his math homework on his cell phone, and bad girl that I can be, I didn't do my homework at all.

Thank goodness, now that the new line is up, and I'm back in cyber land, my virtual desk is close enough so I can look over John Kelly's shoulder and copy off his paper. Lucky for me, his inspiring Washington Post story about long time DC rocker Abaad Behram is the perfect prelude to this Friday's show at Villain and Saint featuring  Johnny Bombay and the Reactions and Jake Starr and exactly what I wanted to write about.

See you there.