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Rollerblading in Gay Paris, Tennessee Williams, Golden Panthers, Electric Smile

roadskater's picture

Now and then...OK every day...I'm transported back to moments...this time standing by the stacks in the library in grad school, reading the diaries of Tennessee Williams.  

I had an assignment to find out where Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill were and what they were doing the night Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman opened on Broadway. (I think that was it, or something close; a great assignment that led me to the microfiche of the New York Times Broadway ads and much more.) Have I written about this lately or just thought of it? Never mind.

Standing by those stacks and reading the background energy, the understatic, the living context of Tennessee Williams was a great moment. To see someone with such a different life, different desires, someone who could be afraid, was at times afraid, breaking out, making a path for so many to follow, it was inspiring. To see someone picking away at the guilt that hung on so many who could instead feel forgiven! Why not? It was just as easy to choose, right? Or choosing absurdity, did existentialism need to be depressing (referring back to Woody's movie balcony scene in Hannah and Her Sisters), and how that fits into Albert Camus, say, The Stranger, or perhaps the story, The Guest. But to pop back out a level as I stood there by the shelves...and before Hannah even existed...

I thought, "Wow, I'm different but I'm sure not as different as this cat on a hot tin roof!" What a time it was with Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman acting live every night in your plays! But his talk of the Golden Panthers (how's that for a football team name; about as good as having Brick be the name of your football hero who's depressed since the loss of Skip) in Italy, or was it Paris, was so interesting to this mostly mountain boy from the Appalachians. No it didn't make me want to change my preferences, but it did show me there were people out there living life and maybe my musical dreams were not so unimportant to keep in the mix with physics and literature...that maybe I could take the summers at least just to play guitar and sing, nothing else.

So it was that reading through roller references, I read this Sweet'n'Sour account of one Eduard Garcia from before Christmas, and while not at all tempted to change my lifestyle, I found this chatty little diary entry inspiring and a symbol of how skating goes with expression, fascination, perhaps ADD as we talk of often, adrenaline addiction and tight colorful outfits so often!

I instantly felt as though I were once again standing by the musty putty colored metal shelves in the buzzing fluorescent lit beige monochrome of the library, met smack on by the spectrastic colexplosion of one of the US of America's finest writers in full bloom about jealousy and heat in the European summer...just as it was gorgeously white outside my grey library in my beloved hills.

No I don't recommend this piece for any grand awards, other than the thank you for writing about your joy award, for being inspired by meeting someone else who was out expressing their joy award, and most of all for taking the trouble to make it open to world for reading award.

I'll be leaving my one little string of Christmas lights up longer because of this, at least in part...my little string of colorful 99 cent lights arranged to hang from the corners of the window in three strands to make a smile in the night...I wonder if anyone driving by knows it? My little spark of life from the skate hovel's overcrowded tinyboxdom.

Thank you. Your Prada black references and red velvet pants, thigh boots and green Polo make me think my little sparkle smile is just great and deserves to smile a bit longer in honor of Williams, Miller and O'Neill, our early tortured heroes of the US of American stage, and of any gaiety and joy in color and light and gliding on wheels. I'll have to find a way to make this carbon neutral perhaps, but for now, I'll unplug a few items inside the house if need be to afford my grin at the world.



timv's picture

Feast of the Epiphones

Not about Golden Panthers, but my current song obsession is The Hold Steady's "Stuck Between Stations," which is set in Minneapolis and includes the line, "He loved the Golden Gophers but he hated all the drawn-out winters."


It mostly pertains to the late poet John Berryman, definitely a contemporary of your guys like Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, and a professor at the U of Minnesota when he took his own life in 1972.


The song sounds something like Born to Run-era Springsteen, if he'd had Joe Strummer and Mick Jones of the Clash on guitars or perhaps Paul Westerberg and the late Bob Stinson of the Replacements. And it hits pretty much all of my buttons.


It starts out:

There are nights when I think that Sal Paradise was right
Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together

Sucking off each other at the demonstrations
Making sure their makeup's straight
Crushing one another with colossal expectations
Dependent, undisciplined, sleeping late

She was a really cool kisser and she wasn't all that strict of a Christian
She was a damn good dancer but she wasn't all that great of a girlfriend
He likes the warm feeling but he's tired of all the dehydration
Most nights are crystal clear but tonight it's like he's stuck between stations
On the radio

I can certainly relate to the "dependent, undisciplined, sleeping late" part these days.


Another great and quite pertinent pair of lines:

He said I surrounded myself with doctors and deep thinkers
But big heads and soft bodies make for lousy lovers

Re the song link, I recently discovered mp3 blog aggregator sites like elbo.ws and The Hype Machine. The free tracks available don't quite match the coverage of Napster in its original glory, but it wasn't hard to find plenty of new and interesting stuff to listen to. We'll see how long that lasts.


And your mention of an "epiphany" got me looking at webpages with old Epiphone electric guitars, which I've grown quite fond of lately. My first electric was a very low-end Gibson, made even less expensive because a fireman had been clumsy with it when the Moore Music store burned to the ground circa 1974. So it was quite literally a fire-sale bargain. Otherwise I almost certainly would have ended up with a 1970's Epiphone like one of these:





The earlier made-in-US models are more valued by collectors these days, but the Japanese-built ones were what a lot of my peers got. Some time later, I was kicking around with some friends in a practice studio and would up playing someone's Epiphone Crestwood and it was a great player, a total rock-and-roll machine. Seeing those pictures really brings back to me how good it felt and how easy it was to play.


And my memory is a bit fuzzy twenty-some years hence, but I think that guitar belonged to singer/songwriter Lynn Blakey, who used to run with the same crowd. The connection here is that "stuck between stations/on the radio" is pretty clearly a reference to the legendary Minneapolis song, "Left of the Dial," by the aforementioned Replacements, which was actually written about Lynn. I knew the song very well at the time, but hadn't yet learned that it was about someone I knew. It turned out that Lynn and Paul Westerberg had met on the road sometime eariler, while she was touring as an adjunct member of the Winston-Salem band Let's Active. (Lynn's based in the Triangle area these days, and is part of the excellent trio Tres Chicas.)


Unrelated to any of that, but my first guitar of any sort was a nylon-string Harmony, a moderately crappy little plywood box. But it's been good to me and I still have it. Here's a Harmony that's way cooler than mine, and I mention this mostly because I love the advice found in "Suggestions for the care and use of... Your Harmony Guitar" on that page, which might be pretty good advice for all of us:

For Best Results and Greatest Enjoyment, Play A Little Each Day.
Proficiency in playing comes from earnest practice. You will be delighted with your accomplishments if you practice just a few minutes each day. Don't be discouraged if at first you feel you are not making progress - it's just a matter of keeping at it.

And also not all that related, but interesting to me at least: It appears that most of those limited-edition First Act GarageMaster guitars that were given away with new Volkswagen cars last fall, and promoted in TV commercials with John Mayer, Slash, and Nigel Tufnel, are winding up on eBay. They remind me a bit of those old solid-body Epiphones and I might have to get one.


Another interesting coincidence: I started writing this reply yesterday (which started out much, much longer and even weirder than this heavily-trimmed version) and then I just saw The Hold Steady playing "Stuck Between Stations" on Letterman's show tonight, not much more than an hour ago. And Epiphone gear was everywhere. And I guess bandleader Craig Finn really likes his new guitar:

I have this new guitar, an Epiphone Casino. I've never had a hollow body before and I've had to modify it a little bit because it was doing weird things when I would let go of it, but it's brand new, and it's my favorite thing ever.

I might be drifting into A Beautiful Mind territory at this point (without the benefit of John Nash's quasar-bright genius, unfortunately) but I'm seeing a really odd number of strange connections--such as your new post mentioning Paul Marchese, when I've just put down a paper related to my graduate research by one Anthony Marchese, also from the Empire State area, who name-checks both The Replacements and (Greensboro native) Ben Folds on his personal page. Maybe I should go and get some sleep or something.

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