Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Did you See that?

I dunno, maybe you need a hardhat to do New York. It’s just so much all at once. The intake is constant. The dodge is constant. Even when you sleep, the sirens of other people’s emergencies claim a hungry place at the table in your head.

I started the day thinking about the word “potluck”. It may be the most gorgeous word in the English language. A rich and oily sound, with a cynical and laughing chip on its shoulder. I want to say it out loud, but I am on the subway looking up at an ad for Cottonelle that says “We shine where the sun don’t.” Next to me is a man with a newspaper. I am sucked into it. He is flipping pages, and I focus where he stops. The headline says “The Young and the Bucharestless.” This is very clever, and I suspect that some junior editor got some mileage out of cooking that up. Put his feet up on the desk for the rest of the day.

I keep blinking as my neighbor turns the pages and I am reminded of being on my back on the floor of the stretching room at the gym last night. I was looking up at the rotating ceiling fan and trying to guess how many blades it had. I began to wonder about how we see things. About the reality of vision. I saw a gray blur against a white ceiling where I know there were actually black blades. Suddenly I realized that when I blinked, the motion froze. If I blinked at the right rate of speed, I could freeze the fan visually and easily count its blades. What could this mean? Do we really only see freeze-frames?

Later, at the office, I look out at the view over Queens and Brooklyn. I see a helicopter buzz the East River. Again, the blades are a blur. Too far away to inventory them by blinkage. But nearby, a giant flagpole bolted to a parapet a few floors below me is strung with a huge American flag that furls and unfurls like summer river water in the thin air. The motion of the flag is so fluid, so not a shuffle of images strung together. Or is it? I try blinking at the flag as I had done to the fan. I create individual still images. Then, I try something different. I close my eyes and try to replay a “video” of the furling and unfurling of the flag. I can’t do it! I can only call up to the mind’s eye still images of the flag at its various moments. What could this mean? Do we not recall motion? Do we retain only the “idea” of motion? Good grief. For all these years, I have lived comfortably in the embrace of an illusion called motion. It doesn’t exist. It’s a device. I guess I always suspected this. In the passenger’s seat of a car, I look at the spokes of the hubcaps of the car we pass. Again the blur, and suddenly, when the speed is just right, the spokes emerge from the blur, and then! And then, they begin to spin in reverse! I can’t even begin to imagine why. I don’t want to know. Please do not tell me. The sidewalks of west 28th Street are alive with the purposeful threading of work. Can we not step out of it? Can we be still and timeless? Can this city ever rest and close its eyes?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Shockingly Well Behaved Bloggers Celebrate a Birthday at Nowhere Bar

Last night, Dr. Jeff turned 30 with the assistance of almost every member of our NYC blog family. There were candled cupcakes and a bacon cake, a piece of which you will see below.

As I looked about the room, I saw a few new faces, but mostly those of the men we have come to know over the past few years. Our little brigade has grown and evolved and owns much common memory. Now, we are known to each other rather deeply. As is the case with any family, there have been great bushels of laughter, a few words that might have been better left unsaid, some romance, some dalliance and some easily forgiven nonsense by the revelries of the moon. We have supported each other in unwarranted ways, and have not written each other off because of imperfect behavior. We have kept secrets, and not kept secrets. We have sometimes embellished the secrets we have not kept. Throughout, we have edited and framed each other brilliantly.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

You Can Teach an old Poi Dog New tricks

Friday night, Joe and C and I went to Bowery Ballroom for the Poi Dog Pondering concert. (Poi Dog is surfing lingo.)

Can it really be more than twelve years since we last saw this impossible-to-categorize band? I was worried that their magic would be tied to youthful exhuberance and that the years would have robbed them of energy, but that is not the case. Wisely seasoned musicians, they are tightly in synch with each other and able to elevate Frank Orrall's compositions to refined jazz that really must be heard live. Their sound is mariachi/gaellic/dance/jazz/world fusion. The redolent wood of Bowery Ballroom wrapped their sound perfectly.

Joe was drinking only fruit juice, for he is carrying our child. C and I don't want the stretch marks.

Abercrombibis Gone Wild!

Last night, after we left the Poi Dog Pondering concert at Bowery Ballroom (and that will be a separate review), Joey, C and I stopped by The Eagle to attend Habibi, a wandering monthly Middle Eastern dance party attended by a crowd of crazy-handsome guys of that lineage and their friends and admirers. (The word is arabic for "beloved".) The music incited full throttle bacchanalia. The mixed-up cross-cultural styles of dance and clothing produced a euphoric hybrid where you'd see a young A&F clad twink holding his t shirt up like a veil while undulating like his mother against a shirtless bear. This is the sort of thing that might get you hanged in that part of the world. (Click to feel it, and, yes, the boy in a boldly striped underwear danced the night away with his jeans down at his ankles.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Attendance update for GBV

Confirmed among the out-of-towners are bloggers from Boston, from DC, from Chicago, from Albany, from Arizona and even from Oregon! And Salt Lake! And Minnesota! And North Carolina!

And the Bum is coming up from Miami!

And Craig is offering lodging! (See the comments below.)

I am quite sure that all the usual Manhattan suspects will be present (except, sadly, Dr. Jeff who will be in DC that weekend), as will those from the Outer Boroughs, Jersey (including this man whom I have not met) and Philadelphia.This will be great fun. If you, both local and distant, have made concrete plans, show yourselves to me now. I am fond of making lists.


I'm delighted and honored to be the Guest Blogger over at Bilerico!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ingredients for a new Christian church

I suppose it’s time to get down to the business of assembling the ingredients of a new Christian religion. We need one. That’s clear. The Protestant varieties, so refreshing several centuries ago are now stale and disappointing. The Roman Catholic Church, a squandered franchise, has knit its own straight jacket.

What to do. It shouldn’t be that difficult to make a recipe that will bring us back into the presence of the fabulous Jesus. He is really quite accessible and friendly if you are not afraid to enter that part of town in which he lives, where he has dinner with “those kind”, where he speaks out loudly without the benefit of costly amplification. On a hillside. In someone’s boat. Before the furious judges. He’s so easy to find.

I don’t know why I bother with this. It’s not like I personally need a religion. I just can’t shake the task. The errand has fallen to me much against my will. I’d really rather be cruising the Ramble, but let’s have at it.

#1) In this new Christian religion, how you share your penis or vagina with consenting adults or with your left hand is your business. If you’re pretty and you want us to watch, fine, but really, I just wish the whole business of sex would become a great big mainstreamed yawn. Friction based on nerve endings, and sometimes (often, if you’re lucky) an expression of love and devotion. Let’s get over our skin. What’s inside it is so much more important.

#2) Let there be freedom to subscribe to the particulars of God as you see them. You know, he’s really been rather invisible for some time now, so your image of him is as valid as mine. Let us seek to hear his voice together. That is what is meant by “revelation” and is really the only reason for religion. Epiphanies are best had in groups,(so we can blog about it!) so we may honor the memories of our conversion as witnessed and supported by our friends and fellow believers.

#3) Let there be abundant forgiveness. Let us never close the door on anyone. Let us be outraged by sin but let us become irresistible to sinners by dint of the joyful quality of our lives. That wins over the enemy. Make him want what you have in your heart. He knows that killing you is the last way for him to get it.

#4) Let us become disciplined and skilled in the pursuit of happiness and peace. Let’s learn how to shed anxiety and cynicism and mean-spirited behavior.

#5) Let’s each have money or no money, but let our church own absolutely nothing. Let it not even be incorporated. Let it not even be a 501c3 or any kind of a not-for-profit or any kind of a legal entity at all. If you are rich, and you want to build a temple, and you want to invite us into it to celebrate, terrific. If you have a living room and you open your doors to other believers to celebrate together in your home, terrific. If you gather at a bar or at the beach or in a park, or at a nail salon, terrific. Keep this new Christian church free from that millstone of money. If you make a pot of spaghetti and share a meal with other believers in the name of Jesus, terrific, just do not ever take up a collection, for that is the road to disaster. Remember the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes? The crowd was so bent on hearing Jesus preach that they would not leave to go and eat. They kept with him, hungry but fascinated. The disciples, ever fixated with issues of crowd management, felt the need to feed them. They did not go out and try to weasle a donation from a fish market owner or a bakery. They simply started handing out all the resources they had. My reading of this? I really don't think it is a miracle in the strict sense of the word. It's just what happens when people share what they have. You get more from less. During my poor years, my penniless room mates and I made some miraculously excellent soups from the meager leftovers in our fridge. The Roman Catholic Church is all about control. Metering its assets, whether it be gold or grace. What a sad waste of time. In a new Christian church, my hands would hold no money. No fiscal responsibilities. They'd be open to embrace you. You think this is naive? Think again, and review the earliest history of Christianity.

#6) Let us not care about whether this church has five members or five million members. Jesus is not Mary Kay.

#7) Regarding leadership, let the leaders of the new Christian church announce themselves. If you are a transexual who can play the accordion with your inner thighs and also feel called to the priesthood, go for it. If no one follows you or listens to you or is inspired by you, take the hint. But, if folks do follow you and you become a conduit of the Holy Spirit, why should we restrict your leadership because of your genitals or your age or your color or sexual preferences or your marital status? It seems so obvious to me that real church leaders are discernable by the flock.

Got more? I’m open to suggestions. This is one soup that cannot be spoiled by too many cooks.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

B16 shows his true colors. They are not the rainbow.

(photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

B16 showed his true colors by avoiding any mention of Catholic Fire Chaplain Rev. Mychal F. Judge in the prayer he offered at Ground Zero earlier today. He passed up an ideal opportunity to make a subtle but clear overture to the gay community by honoring that heroic man, a self-admittedly gay (and celibate) priest. Skipping him when he mentioned heroic firemen and policemen is a glaring omission. B16 did not even mention "chaplains" in that list of heroes. Even that would have been overly circumspect, but it would have been something. Father Judge is being considered for sainthood, so don't ask me to believe this was unintentional. If anything, the omission of his name is a strong message that B16 and the Vatican have no intention of advocating for this man's canonization. Rather, they will turn their backs on the possibility, effectively squelching it. Here is the telling section of the text of the prayer B16 delivered at Ground Zero earlier today:

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

Go here for the full text of the prayer.

Don't tell me I'm being cynical or suspicious here, folks. Don't tell me that prayer was spontaneous. It was scripted, and vetted. Don't ask me to believe that B16 was not presented with the possibility of mentioning Father Judge in that prayer and that he did not deliberately choose not to do so. This Pope deliberately chose not to ask God to give eternal light and peace to Father Judge, one of his own priests, and reputed to have been a great one.

Anyone who may have been even mildly impressed with this soft-spoken gentle old visiting pontiff ought to consider the importance of what he would not say. He is a cold-blooded dinosaur.

(Go here for more about Father Mychal Judge.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

That Touch of Mink

This is a terrifically good article (by a Jesuit, naturally) for it ignites the issue entirely.

As you may know, I spent some time in the Vatican, doing papal ceremonies at the invitation of Monsignor Virgilio Noe, (then Papal Master of Ceremony, and now a Cardinal and the Arch Priest of St Peter's Basilica) who seemed to think I had the right style for it. I got to know the two funny old Augustinian monks who ran the "secret" sacristy of the Sistine Chapel. A maze of dusty rooms full of treasures and extravagant papal garb collected through the centuries. I tried on quite a few pairs of papal shoes (none of them fit, to my chagrin) and lots of weighty miters aurefrigiatae and a triple decker tiara (it fit perfectly) and rings with gems as big as hens' eggs. I was in awe of the tradition moving through my fingers more than of the symbolic wealth of the finery.

Once, Msgr. Noe assigned me the task of putting Paul VI's miter on his head and inserting the three jeweled gold stick pins into his pallium just before a papal Mass. When I had the arthritic little Pope all decked out, I stepped back for a moment to check him out for details. He looked at me for the verdict. He seemed a little bit sad about being trapped inside all that tat. I wanted to lean into his ear and whisper "You know my mother always said that a real lady always looks in the mirror before going out and removes one piece of jewelry." Alas, my Italian was not that quick. I gave him a wink of approval and he toddled over to the sedia where he was hoisted aloft and the curtains parted.

The crowd went wild at the sight of him. They always did. Walking in the procession about twenty feet behind him, I used to look at the faces of the faithful. At their tears. They didn't see a little old man dressed up as a "dowdy old woman" (albeit of the "Golden Girls" variety). They saw two thousand years of tradition, and a direct and dazzling line to the Son of God, their savior. If any of them were hungry, they'd have let themselves starve before they'd have pried a diamond off his shoulder.

As cynical as some of you may find me, I was deeply moved by the faces in that cloth-coated crowd and so, I will not begrudge B16 his touch of mink.

Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.

I first read Oscar Wilde's brief preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray when I was in high school. Over the years, I've returned to it several times to see if I still find it as brilliant as I did then. To see if I still agree with it.

It is. I do.

Here is the whole of it (minus the two lines about the 19th century, removed by me because you don't need them much today although the construct is terrifically clever and you should seek them out):

The artist is the creator of beautiful things.

To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim.

The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.

The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming.

This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.

They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.

That is all.

The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium. No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.

No artist has ethical sympathies.

An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style. No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.

Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.

Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.

From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician.

From the point of view of feeling, the actor's craft is the type.

All art is at once surface and symbol.

Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Less is More, and Cute

We picked it up yesterday. It had only eleven miles on it when we drove it out of the showroom. I have never had an easier car-buying experience. SmartUSA controls the pricing, so the dealership can't do any haggling. All they did was offer me the extended warranty which I bought and financing which I declined. Anyone getting on the waiting list for one of these can expect to be on hold for a year. Supposedly, I could now flip it on Ebay and make several thousand, but I think I've bonded with it. It's just so cute and it's been many years since I had a convertible. Also, if at any time I decide to change the color of the car, for under a thousand dollars I can buy a complete set of panels to replace all the blue ones. The black sections are the steel safety cell. It received a five star crash test rating so it's not the accordion it seems to be. We asked the dealer about the demographics of the buyers. He said that it emcompasses the full range. College kids who scrape together enough to finance it to the max, as well as doctors who can afford anything but feel strongly about owning a car that makes sense. It is as good with gas as C's Prius, and I'll have an easy time parking it in Manhattan. The inside is surprisingly roomy and we won't mind driving it to Florida.

Anyone want to buy a 1999 Toyota Rav4 LX?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

HK Lounge

Looks like we will have our Friday evening Meet-and-Greet at HK Lounge. No, the HK does not stand for Hong Kong or Harmon Kardon or Hillary Klinton. It stands for Hell's Kitchen, the newest gay-trendy Manhattan neighborhood in which it is located. They will be offering us drink specials for which you will need a password that I will supply. This is a great space and there is an adjacent restaurant owned by the same folks.

Catholic Gay Mexican Jazzy Martini Night?

I don't know the Rev. John P. Duffell, the pastor of this church, but I am guessing that I would find him admirable. Martini night. Doors open to gay membership. Building community among diverse hispanic groups. Jazz Mass. Might be worth paying a visit.

Father Duffell is 64 years old. He sounds "old school" in the very best sense of that phrase. Ever notice how sometimes your grandparents end up being the most non-judgemental, open-minded, inclusive, loving and forgiving people in your life? It's what we all hope for, that when we are each officially and really "old", we will have had the nonsense and blindness burned out of us by our life experience, so that all that is left in our hearts will be the wall-to-wall capacity to love.

And then there is the Pope who celebrates his 81st birthday this week...

I'd be very surprised if Father Duffell ever becomes Monsignor Duffell. Word about the "gay thing" has probably trickled back to the Chancery. You have to be a bit more corporate to get that honorific. He probably couldn't care less. Of course, there is the fact that nothing speaks louder to the Chancery than a pastor's ability to generate parish revenue. But that is probably difficult on 107th Street which is somewhat north of the money. The Columbia students and the immigrants won't be making the collection basket heavy. It will really be up to those dirty second class gay dollars, eagerly accepted by the Chancery.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Startlingly Delightful attendance forecast update

Add CB who writes The Mangina Monologues to the list of those confirmed to attend the Gay Blogger gathering in NYC next month. He will be wearing the North Carolina Minnesota sash. He thinks I have never read his blog, but he's wrong. Just another handsome man who is wrong about something. Sigh.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gay Pride Fort Lauderdale 2008 details

Here are some parting shots before I close the file on this year's Pride celebration.

Can't not include a gratuitous ode to shirtlessness of which there was plenty. (Later that night, at another venue, I got to touch the mohawk of the butch little guy in the center of the pic in the upper right corner.)

There were also plenty of candidates (both gay and/or claiming to be gay-friendly).

It's hard to feel less than festive in a wash of rainbow garb. (Incidentally, I was wearing my "(NSFW)" t shirt, and no less than twenty people asked me what it stood for. Only once did a passing twink point to it and laugh. I'm tellin ya, it's different down here.)

There were several booths offering info about a variety of cosmetic procedures. At this one, you could have your teeth permanently bleached in 15 minutes on the spot for $119. There was a line for this "blue light special".
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department was recruiting and had the good sense to staff their booth with this hot cop. We had a long chat about public sex. He is as smart as he is cute. I didn't ask him is orientation.

Many booths offered free condoms and lube. Bath houses and sex clubs also distribute these. This pervasive and ubiquitous understatement should mean that only an idiot would have unsafe sex, and yet, I still see it all too often.

Panels from the "Quilt" were displayed, and there was this memorial to the recently murdered Michael Brown.

And here is the absolutely delightful Lisa Bowden, Tourism Director for the Town of Provincetown. She's waving to her partner, Regina, whom she sees about as often as I do C, given her work and my winter meanderings.

A very friendly event.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gay Pride Fort Lauderdale 2008

Startlingly delightful attendance forecast

Confirmed are bloggers from Boston, from DC, from Chicago, from Albany, from Arizona and even from Oregon!

I am quite sure that all the usual Manhattan suspects will be present, as will those from the Outer Boroughs, Jersey (including this man whom I have not met) and Philadelphia.This will be great fun. If you, both local and distant, have made concrete plans, show yourselves to me now. I am fond of making lists.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On and on

I’m skating in Birch Park, and I find the road populated with thousands of baby lizards. They complicate my speed, compromised two days ago when I found the road covered with smooth little caterpillars (or are they centipedes?) that appear to be black but on closer inspection are an iridescent dark green. These seem to be making a pointless pilgrimage from one patch of jungle to the other. The baby lizards do not seem to be eating them. They seem to be simply interested in youthful exploration. I dodge both groups with focus and effort that change my routine from pleasure to work. Where are the careless parents of these critters? What lunar coalition prompted this simultaneous reproduction? A large dragonfly swoops down in front of me and matches my speed like a traffic helicopter. I pass three lazy raccoons on their way to a dumpster. They look up at me long enough to realize that I am not a source of food. A shadow on the road lets me know that a hawk is circling overhead. He’s looking for small rodents. We are of no interest to him. Three pelicans glide by like tour buses on their way to the ocean.

Agendae. Purpose. Exultation. Youth. Destiny. Heat. Drive. We are all going some place. We don’t know why. We just do it. We move.

On that road are the squelched remnants of baby lizards and centipedes that met a fast death under the tires of cars or bikes or other skaters. I wonder if they saw the shadow of their demise just a second before it arrived. What did they feel? Deprivation? Chagrin? Regret? Probably nothing. What kind of god governs all of this? Wound up the clock at the beginning of time and said “This is how it will be. Some will die young. A percentage.” A car behind me softly toots its horn and I move to the right and motion it to pass. I am spared death as I have been for so many years. Sometimes medicine or surgery has saved me. Sometimes my own cautiousness. Like when I never went to the Mineshaft when my friends who are no longer with me did. I am still here, examining my face for wrinkles, and wondering how best to play this hand of frayed edges.

So much to live for. Should I make a list? Should I run out into the traffic with my eyes closed just for once? Just to prove to myself that I should be here? That it’s not my own design but my natural place in time and space? Tonight C will call me and tell me how his day went. He will remind me that my flight home is eight days away. I will pin myself to that thought. Bind myself to that moment. That is why I cross the road. Why I do not die.

We use humor to shield ourselves from the darker clouds. A blogger I have never met had an Auden verse on his/her blog. I recite it aloud while skating. I pass a woman with her little dog. She assumes I am talking into an earpiece that talks to a cell phone. I’m delighted to be given techno license to talk to myself.

As the poets have mournfully sung,
Death takes the innocent young,
The rolling in money,
The screamingly funny,
And those who are very well hung.

Oh well.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Szymon Niemiec

I have never known what to make of this guy. I have been getting email from him for years. He seems to be waging a one-man campaign for gay liberation in Poland. Or, is he just an entrepreneur with a personal product? There's something to be said for perdurance. Think of Larry Kramer. Where would we be without his voice? (And if you ever want to read one of the best short stories ever written, get his Mrs. Tefillin.) There are prophets among us. To date, I have shunned that role when it comes to Catholicism, but it dogs me.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The ham way

I was driving along Commercial Boulevard when I saw it. A sadly faded and dusty relic of the old Fort Lauderdale. It is for sale, and it is hard to tell if Hamway Flooring is still in operation within it.

There must have been a time when this glorious facade was part of a thriving business route. Now it is mournfully uncomfortable, surrounded by the likes of these hideous neighbors:

It would make a fine nightclub or restaurant. It wouldn't take much to restore it. New windows. Lighting. Details. A little polish. And of course, a new sign... You're one click away from 1925:

Monday, April 07, 2008

New Colors added

The shirts Tater has designed with C's logo are now available in black and a variety of colors, including this smartly military olive green (sure to harmonize with the foliage on Bear Hill).

Go here to make your selection.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Chute Doggin', Pole Bendin' and Bareback Bronc Ridin'

Today I went to the town of Davie, just a few minutes south of Fort Lauderdale, for the 2008 "Sunshine Stampede" Gay Rodeo. The men were sizzlean and the women were awesome. The favorite event of the day (and a very dangerous one) was the "Wild Drag Race", an event particular to gay rodeos. It involves a team composed of one male, one female, one of either in drag and one very angry steer. The cowgirl holds the rope attached to the steer when it is released from the chute. The team has to get the steer over a line 70 feet from the chute, and the drag has to mount it and ride it back across that line. Not easy.
After so many years rubbing shoulders with urban cowboys, it was a pleasure to be among the real ones.

"Someday Soon" is by Judy Collins.

Make Plans

Here for details
Here for gear

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Gear here

The efficient Tater has established an on-line boutique for the purchase of gear for the MayGay Blogger gathering. These shirts feature the logo designed by the talented C.

This is Tater, modeling one of the creations:

They are available to you at cost. If I get over the big-lazy that has sat down on my head, I will add some to the boutique that will include a black t shirt because that is largely what I wear. It makes packing and unpacking so much easier.

Meanwhile, let's hope that the distracted Little David will get focused on finalizing the details and venues. For more info, you may go to the repository of all things GBV.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Foolish Little Girl

Sometimes you hear a song that you've known for years, and you are overcome by its brilliance.

I'm talking about "Foolish Little Girl" by the Shirelles. That's right: brilliance and Shirelles in the same thought, and all you high-brows can just go click off, or stick around for the justification.

I've done some homework, wondering what on earth a "shirelle" is. The word is a concoction by Florence Greenberg, the bouffanted white lady from Jersey who discovered the girls and combined the name of the lead singer, Shirley Owen, with the name of the group they most admired, the Chantels.

They were just high school girls harmonizing in the school gym. They took it a step further and had written a song, I met him on a Sunday. Knowing that this song wasn't a product of the Brill Building (as was their hit Will You Love Me Tomorrow by Carole King) makes sense. It proves what I suspected. Its genes are urban do wop crossed with southern creole. Oh to have heard those four girls sing it a cappella while skipping rope.

When the girls first toured, their mothers insisted on chaperones. Etta James and Ruth Brown served in that role. Oh to have had those two guiding my impressionable years. (In later years, an unknown Dionne Warwick sometimes substituted for a child-bearing Shirelle.)

The Shirelles' second #1 hit was Soldier Boy, an icky and pandering effort co-written by Mrs. Greenberg for the girls. This song can be neatly contrasted with a song the Shirelles turned down at the time, He's a Rebel, a stunning thing (by The Crystals, 1962) meant to be blasted over one's steering wheel preferably not while stopped at a light and audible to those in adjacent lanes.

One of the original Shirelles died on stage while performing with the group in Atlanta. Oh to die that way. The remaining three suffered the usual malaise of such groups, resulting in a time when there were three groups touring and claiming to be the Shirelles, each containing one original.

But the song in question, Foolish Little Girl is a stand-out. I would have guessed it had been one of the group's earliest products, but it was actually one of their last hits (a semi-hit, really). The explanation for its clean, fresh and primitive simplicity is that they had just acquired a new producer, this song being their first out-of-the-gate together.

The song perfectly blends and balances the antiphonal call-and-response pattern between lead and back-ups and honors the lyrics rather than inflicting them with meaningless frills and shrills as was all too often the case with girl groups (yes, even the Supremes). Shirley Owen's sonambulistic delivery is perfectly suited to this type of obsessive "love". She is a black female Chet Baker with some wistful hints of Irma Thomas. The back-up Shirelles supply a classic role, that of the chorus in Greek tragedy. They are the voice of reason, counseling Shirley (like Dido in Virgil's Aeneid not wishing to lose a man she has toyed with) to come to her senses and to "be quiet".


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Who are the April Fools?

C, an extreme fan of the Project for Public Spaces called this to my attention.

Yes, it's funny, but after reading through a few of them, I felt anger more than amusement. Why can't our candidates compete over issues like these? Why can't the owners of Starbucks and AAA think this way?

We are the April fools for tolerating anything less than livable and humane public spaces.