Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Red's Blew Up

We left the V.F.W. Hall right after Bobby Rush started his second set. He was amazingly resourceful, working the same big-booty-blues joke over and over and inside out to maximum effect during the first set, but we wanted to leave on an up beat. Nothing is worse than when the band itself makes you dislike them by running themselves into the ground right in front of you.

We rolled up to Red's Juke Joint at about 1 a.m. to complete and utter howling mayhem. A bunch of dudes loitered out front, cackling and busily selling barbecued chicken off of a massive smoking grill. Inside, the band was just exploding. EVERYBODY was drunk, dancing, waving beer bottles and howling to be heard over grungy blues guitar and thudding rhythms.

You know when you see scenes in movies about rowdy, wild bars where someone gets punched but it turns out alright? This was one of those scenes, only no punching and everyone would have sweated their makeup off. It was dark and the only light came from a reddish bulb in the ceiling. The flash in this picture below betrays the dark red light, but here you go:


Several largeish women cleared space on the dancefloor for what could only be described as an ass-shakin' contest. One threw herself on the ground, crab-style, and vigourously ground her bits on another man's leg in time to the rhythm:


Not to be outdone, her friend hiked her skirt up, clearly exposing a bare rump and shook it like a sack of gelatin to thrilled screams and a LOT of flashbulbs. She cackled madly, as if to say, TOP THAT!

Another friend sure did. She threw herself face-down on the ground, grinding her pelvis hard into the carpet and moving her rear like a massive, stumpy prehensile tail. The camera snapped as she was rolling over to stand up...
...and jump up on the bar, smashing bottles out of her way, and continued grinding her massive prehensile backside into faces and thin air.

EVERYONE in the house shouted and clapped. The second friend turned to Tash and said "Damn. I thought my ass was a good one, too. Do you?" And quick as that, she hiked the skirt again and displayed it.

The atmosphere was just as wild and anarchic as any of the best punk shows I've ever been to, but nobody was trying to prove a damn thing...except that they were having a great time.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Awww, Shut Up! It's the Bobby Rush Show

Even after five beers and a box of crayfish on the lawn in front of Mister Tater’s stunning show, the strain was starting to set in. We had been up since four am, with an equally sleepless night before that. And people that have recently shifted gears into holiday mode have this real tendency to apply the stresses of the workplace to their relaxation. One can spot them a mile off—their pale skin is exposed to suck up as much sunshine as possible, they may be double-fisting drinks, and all the while they seem to be muttering “Must. Have. Fun. Must. Have. Fun…” over and over through their clenched, smiling teeth.

This was totally happening to us, and we had to do something about it. Because although we were determined to have fun, we were equally as determined to penetrate THROUGH that determination and actually have fun for real—not just do some stuff that sounds fun but stress out about it the whole time.

We split off from the pack at Mister Tater’s show and wound up in the parking lot of Clarksdale’s V.F.W. hall. Bobby Rush was playing that night. Neither of us had heard of Bobby Rush before, but the parking lot was packed—we found a place and went right in.

Americans do not talk about racial issues all that much, with good reason. It’s so nuanced and personal and it just messes up the getting-to-know you process so badly that we drop it altogether. But you can’t talk about the blues or appreciating the blues without eventually either obviously ignoring or directly addressing racial issues.

We were two of maybe six total white people at the show. Not only was the crowd primarily black, they were mostly middle-aged and dressed incredibly well. Maybe these people had even better clothes at home than what they were wearing that night, and would be offended if I said it was their best. But every black man in the house had a better suit on than the one I wear to job interviews. All of the white people in attendance looked really shabby by comparison. There was this one super-goofy lady in jeans and a whitish polo shirt stained with barbecue sauce, and all the white folks in the crowd were wearing jeans. I had on the rumpled, bright-yellow Cramps t-shirt I had worn to bed the night before, the one that has more than two holes in the front, right next to the giant grinning skeletal face.

My shirt felt dirtier and brighter yellow as time passed. I felt like such a scrub, like the kid in everybody’s yearbook who wore a Batman t-shirt on school picture day. I am a huge fan of dress-down Friday, and have been known to openly molest the concept of Business Casual, but this situation was real and disrespectful. Finally I broke down and dashed outside to change my shirt in the parking lot, returning in a button-down with a jacket…

Bobby Rush performs a hilarious and nearly raunchy show that is one part blues, one part funk, and several parts burlesque. You might not want to see it twice, but you’ve got to see him once. It seems like his entire set is based on an appreciation for big butts, but he manages the one joke really well.

Here’s some pictures, video to follow (possibly.)




Monday, April 25, 2005

I’ve just returned from a Southern blitzkrieg—Tash and I saw Clarksdale, Mississipi, Vicksburg, Mississipi, New Orleans, Nashville, and Memphis all in a week. We’ve drowned in music and so much greasy food that my teeth feel kind of loose.

Cat Head Music, based in Clarksdale, was sponsoring its annual Juke Joint Blues Festival, featuring a spectacular array of the Delta’s finest local talent. Considering that Ike Turner, Son House, Charley Patton, Muddy Waters, and Robert Johnson all come from Clarksdale, and the legendary crossroads where Robert Johnson traded his soul to the devil is also in Clarksdale, you’d imagine a juke festival of local artists to be a sweat-soaked shouting powerhouse.

We got started Friday afternoon at Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club. Meant to evoke the feeling of a giant juke joint, Freeman’s club feels more like the marketing people at Hooters having a go at Real Authentic American Blues. However, Clarksdale isn’t but so big, and anyplace with a stage in town is going to host some amazing acts. About 30 seconds after walking in the door, we met Puddin’, as seen below:

The man was actually sitting there hustling people at three-card monte, wearing a gold chain and a bunch of giant shiny gold rings. He spoke in a mushy south-mouth that I found difficult to understand and seemed like another language to Tash’s Aussie ears.

He put his hand on a woman’s buttock and upper thigh shortly after winning a few “hands” from other club patrons. She turned around to say “Puddin’, what you up to?,” to which he responded, “Naw, baby, I was just checkin’ You ain’t got nothin’ in yo’ pocket…”

A few beers into the afternoon, Puddin’ shared with me that he was no longer able to achieve an erection without pharmacological assistance. I told him that I was sorry to hear that, and he grimaced, going “pshh,” with a dismissive wan of the hand. “Lemme tell you somethin’, son. Man with a hard-on spend money, spend money, spend money. Man without a hard-on got nothin’ to do but make money. So I’m cool.”

This is Mister Tater, the Music Maker.

If Puddin'was difficult to understand, Tater needs freaking subtitles. He sings, dances, plays guitar and bass, a one-man blues explosion. He's never happier that when he's performing, except when people are treating him like a superstar. He's got this inner radiance that shoots right out of his smile, which comes really, really easily. He explained that all of his life-pains, all his frustrations and everything else just flies out of him when he makes his music, and it's what he lives for.

Below is Mister Tater's signature Stage Kick, followed by a shot of him performing live that night.


Thursday, April 14, 2005


It's been a good long while since I posted here--I've been slammed. Between working on a piece for MaisonNeuve and trying to stay afloat at work, pretty much the last thing I've wanted to do is look at the glowing screen any longer than absolutely necessary.

And after slipping in the kitchen last night and breaking my fall with a wine glass, spending the night at Howard University's ER and leaving six hours later without stitches, I am good and god-damned ready for this vacation.

Tash and I are heading to Clarksdale MS and Memphis. We're going to Graceland, Al Green's church, hunting for the perfect fried chicken and checking out the Clarksdale Juke Joint festival. The festival's main attraction is a bus ride among seven country juke joints featuring all the best live local blues music Clarksdale can offer. Considering that Clarksdale once offered up Robert Johnson, I think its best could be pretty good.

That's all. It's gonna be dead on here for ten days or so and hopefully thrilling upon my return. Try and behave yourselves.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Man Eating Camel Attacks Nude Beach

Camel and Appendage

...Okay, not really. Made you look, though. In all reality, Australia's feral camels are rolling into small towns bordering the Gibson Desert and running amok in the search for water. Consider this: Camels can go weeks in the desert without a drink of water. If a camel gets to the point where it goes up into somebody's yard and turns on the faucet, that camel is not playing.

I just hope that nobody decides that the camels need to be culled. And by culled, I mean shot, gutted, and sold for dog food.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

They Are Not Worms, Snakes, Or Sicilians

Caecilians are some of the stranger and more immediately nasty-looking creatures that Ed looks after at the Zoo. Native to waterways in the Amazon basin, caecilians are amphibians that look like the offspring from a drunken one-night stand shared by a snake and an earthworm. They are a greyish tan, with no immediately discernible markings. These creatures would never do it in real life, but they look like the kind of worms that Satan would order to eat Mohammed Atta's eyes in hell for all of eternity--largeish, semi-colorless, and really frisky when excited about food.

Caecilians have very rudimentary eyesight, as it is almost superfluous in their darkened watery world. Their native waterways are so clogged with tannins and decaying biomass that any sort of underwater visibility is nearly impossible. Instead, caecilians have evolved a short tentacle that protrudes from their face and senses touch, scent and taste. This tentacle is derived from eye tissue.

Caecilians are one of they only forms of amphibian to give birth to live young. They gestate for up to seven months and emerge weighing nearly forty percent as much as their mother. According to my shaky math skills, this is the equivalent of a 120 pound woman giving birth to a 48 pound baby.

Instead of feeding from an umbilical cord, fetal caecilians simply eat the lining of their mother's uterus with tiny shovel-like teeth that rock back and forth in their sockets--so as not to slash away at the womb. The caecilian womb has evolved to tolerate this sort of dietary dilettation (or culinary curettage) and easily sloughs off into the baby's mouth and regenerates rapidly between meals.

Once caecilians grow up, they eat termites, crickets, any pretty much any form of protein-rich detritus that might grow in or fall into their habitat. Ed feeds his earthworms. Here's a picture of Ed festooning the tank with a liberal lot of earth worms:


And here are the caecilians consequently going nuts:


Here's a closeup of a caecilian eating:


Two of them got into a pretty exciting little scuffle over a worm:


Ed reached right in and broke it up, though. He said "Yeah, they can bloody each other up pretty bad when they fight like that, and you really don't want that. We used to feed them squid, but they fought too much over it, because it's tough and doesn't rip apart. Worms just rip right away when they get twisted in these critter's mouths."

I asked if they bit people, to which Ed responded, "Yeah. It's a good solid bite. It draws blood, but it's not too bad."

More Snakes to Get Excited About

Yet another connection through the magic of the internet...

Last week a German snake-aficionade message board linked to my post of the snake devouring a wallaby. Somebody saw it, who sent it to a friend who sent it to a friend, and one of the herpetologists from the National Zoo emailed me last week. He had no idea that I lived in DC, much less right down the street. He invited me around to have a look at some of his wards, including this Rainbow Boa.


The Rainbow Boa lives all over South America, from the north on down. This guy is of a variety found in Peru and Brazil.


Rainbow Boas are not called that because they are multicolored like a muscular tube made of Froot Loops. However, the surface of their scales has a sort of prismatic effect when viewed in sunlight. They are like the surface of an oily puddle around the edges. This Boa is not sitting under a blue bulb--his skin is refracting the light and causing him to look blue around the edges.