Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Cakewalk

I lean over the counter, in slight hand writing the word "Visitor" in the top left hand corner of sticker after sticker. In the right hand corner, I write the date "12/25/2006". It's Christmas Day. From my scribbling imagination forms an elf carrying a gift, giving the thumbs up. He's got curly hair and pointy ears and doesn't mind hanging out with me all day on this quiet, hollow holiday in the big drafty waiting room of the ER.

Today is the first day that I've noticed that my shiny new computer doesn't have a CD drive. I've spent the first hour of my morning very productively navigating the media player's online radio site for some good Big Band stations, preferably a Big Band Christmas station... still the meantime, on the jukebox in my head, The Ravens' "White Christmas" winds around and around as the rain outside falls down.

I think I may be going into a diabetic coma. The nurses keep coming up to my desk and force feeding me Christmas chocolate. Damn them and their chocolate mousse bonbons.

So, I want to share this with you. I've made a few copies of this out-of-print gem to give to friends this holiday season.

1. White Christmas - Ravens
2. Far Away Christmas Blues -Little Esther Phillips
3. Love For Christmas -Felix Gross
4. Trim Your Tree -Jimmy Butler
5. Wonderful Christmas Night -Dan Grisson
6. Rudoph The Rednose Reindeer -A.B. Green
7. Silent Night -Big Maybelle
8. White Christmas -Charlie Parker
9. Mr. Santa's Boogie -The Marshall Brothers
10. Christmas Blues -Gatemouth Moore
11. Christmas Blues -Washboard Pete
12. Frosty The Snowman -A.B. Green
13. I Want To Spend Christmas With Elvis -Debbie Dabney
14. Santa's Secret -Johnny Guarnieri

Released in 1994 on Savoy Jazz (...where bebop began and the artists still swing...), this little compilation is especially notable for the terribly addictive rendition of White Christmas by the Ravens, Jimmy Butler's gyrating Christmas Shag-a-thon "Trim Your Tree", Big Maybelle's beautifully soulful "Silent Night", and Johnny Guarnieri's hilarious side smile "Santa's Secret".

By the by, the Ralphie count this morning was very, very low. Surprising.

Last year it was so high that I warned all of my friends with small children to buy protective gear (i.e. - helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, full body armour) to avoid forevermore the peril of Christmas morning excitement/present-opening maiming/accidents.

Have a safe holiday, my friends, and take care.
I'll be at the Bottletree tonight for a little after-work/family dinner drink.
I'd love to see your lovely faces.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


He stood behind the microphone, gripping the back of the neck of a cornsilk cabbage patch kid, making her jump and lurch into the mic as if she were singing with him. She was, in least there was a vocal track corresponding to his crude puppeteering of one of my generation's childhood icons. He turned her face slightly towards his. My ears finally tuned in over the hum of the fan and the washing machine. My god, they were performing a duet about abstinence set to the tune of "Summer Nights" with rows of Barbies and Kens singing back up. Was this some sort of bizarre, cappucino ice cream induced dream? I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. Oh EWTN. Oh dear. What programming bliss.

At that moment, I was curled up with Emilybird in a large yellow and white quilt on the couch in the sunroom. I had fallen in and out of conciousness for the last few hours. Those moments awake, I spent flipping through the channels until I could find one with a decently boring narration that might induce me to fall asleep. (i.e. C-span press conference, Discovery Channel doc on The National Mint, anything starring Judith Light)

My lungs have been lined with Pink Panther insulation since last I posted. While the pinkness is super awesome, that pesky tendency to want to breathe is kind of getting on my nerves right now. Good lord, I take enough vitamins to keep my good friend Jaime Voss's extended family (she has like 123 first cousins) in ruddy good health. How did this happen to me? Um...yeah. I work in an emergency room. And lately we've had our lion's share of running, screaming, coughing, snotty-nosed kids. Hurrah. Three times today, I've caught a kid with his/her mouth attached to the cool granite countertop of my desk. Why? Is that really necessary? Is it really that tasty?

Last night, Aisha took some time while decorating the Nick for the annual Christmas Martini Party to tell me a few of her memories of Greg McReynolds. Back before the turn of the century (What?? It's true!), Aisha worked at the Music Hall. One day, soon after she first started, she was talking to Greg about the Ramones. He smiled and suggested that they go visit the Ramones on tour. She said that she laughed at the thought that that could actually happen. Not long after this conversation, Aisha found herself in her pajamas, hanging out with the Ramones, having a slumber party of sorts on tour. And this happened not just once, but twice. Greg was like this. He made little impossible dreams come true for so many of his friends.

Tonight is the memorial service for Greg. His sister and brother will be there. They've never really known their brother, although they lived less that twenty miles from his front door. Tonight, his blood relations will meet his family. Seems strange to say that. But for Greg, his friends were his family. In Aisha's words: Friends are the family that you choose for yourself.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Greg McReynolds

My fingers fumbled with the corners of the plastic radio station banner as I lifted it above my head to stretch it against the wall. In the darkness of the venue, I reached my right hand behind me, to pick up a pair of scissors I had left on the table. Instead of the plastic and metal I was expecting, I felt a warm hand grab mine and pull me with a giggle and a guffaw away from my post. I spun out into the room and found myself dancing in the arms of Greg McReynolds. Glen Phillips was on the stage before us, testing his microphone. He smiled and broke into a song. This is my best memory of Greg. This 6'4" bear of a man, twirling a tall twenty-one year old girl across the dirty floor of the music hall. The pure joy of that moment I could never, ever convey to you.

Greg and I met soon after I moved to Birmingham in January of 2000. I spent a great deal of time at the Five Points Music Hall, promoting and attending shows for the radio station. Greg was the first there to welcome me into the fold. Often as I would walk through the back door of the club, arms full of banners and supplies, I would find myself enveloped in his arms. His hug became the best part of my day.

As the years passed on, Greg continued to work with music. Between projects and tours, Greg would work the door at Zydeco or Workplay. Late night he could be found leaning against the bar at the Nick, telling stories, talking about his latest project, love interest, or adventure.

Greg always turned up in the most unlikely of places. It always seemed to be just when I needed one of his beautiful, fierce hugs and a word of encouragement.

On a particularly miserable day during my week long adventure with Shelly in L.A.(Spring 2001), I found myself escaping teary-eyed and heart-heavy out the back door of the Key Club and straight into Greg McReynold's open arms. I'd no idea that he was even in town. I felt this relief just seeing his smiling, dimpled face. He and Angie and Shelly and I sat later in the evening at the Rainbow Club, just down the street, conversing and laughing over turned out to be one of the most enjoyable nights that I had on my entire trip. He was like that, putting people at ease, making them laugh. He had this warm light in his eyes that resonated from that huge loving heart of his. It was like a beacon. Bringing us all close and making us feel safe and loved.

(greg w/ mike courtesy of Mikey d)

Greg "Tiny" McReynolds passed away on Wednesday, December 13th.

Greggers, you will be missed, my lovely friend, so, so much.

Sara Leah



(message from Tom Bagby of Pacific Stereo)
We're dedicating our debut performance of The Electric Mountain to the memory of Greg. Tell everyone. Let's get shithoused in his honor.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

December Nights

Erin, do you remember standing in that church basement on a Fall's eve, 9 years ago, watching Karin and Linford burn beauty with song. I remember a happy sun painting on the wall behind them. I remember candles on the merch table and a content drive home, full of plans of the following days adventure to Indiana. Still the best road trip of my life.

I'm listening to the Over the Rhine album "The Darkest Night of the Year" right now. A gorgeous collection of hollow holiday tunes...not hollow as in empty, but yes, strangely, to listen to this album, you might as well be sitting in a dark empty room, to the side of Linford at an upright grand with a candle here and there. Karin stands at Linford's elbow, arm rounding the top edge of the piano, chin up, voice beaming, eyes closed. On a cold northern night, lazy drifting snow slowly filling up the landscape, street lights beckoning to each other, "can you still see me?" "are you still there?" "Am I alone?" The glow of the warm voices and candlelight rests weary hearts. This is what I hear.

--- Original Post 12/10/2005

My back to the heavy curtained door, I still felt the cold of winter stretch out it's icy fingers to carress my shoulders as people wandered in and out through the night. The dinner stretched on...through true delightful company and hesitant service. Bottle of wine. Salads. By the time the coffee and desserts came around, the suits, the small family with their over-dressed boy in secret battle-won sneakers and his Shirley Temple in hand, the couples spaced out along the wall, eating their dinner in small bites while clipped with uncomfortable first date conversation...they had all finally departed. We were left alone, with our laughter and stories, bright and beautiful faces... What a merry holiday.


This week:

be there.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Down Broadway, yeah Funky Broadway....

"Hipster Critic's Friend: Have you seen The Raconteurs live?

Indie Critic 1: No...they play at venues that seat more than 152.5 people. I saw The White Stripes in a loft in Brooklyn once. There were four people there. 3 of them had mustaches. The other one was dressed as a Kentucky Fried Chicken. (It may have been a protest)."

-- from Passion of the Weiss's latest article, "The Year in Review: The 7 Albums That Aren't Nearly As Bad As You've Heard"


I stared at my computer for a little while this afternoon, completely befuddled by the date. The 8th? What happened? How did I get it wrong when one of the things I do all day is write those magic numbers "12/08/2006" on the top right hand corner of medical consent forms. It's a mindless task, one that starts so early in the morning that by this afternoon, when I finally sat back and looked at it, it seemed like a foreign language, like a secret code, like a total disappointment.

The Ralph Jackson show in Chicago was tonight, the 8th, which is not tomorrow.

As I'm sitting at the ER desk because I'm working a double shift, because I love my bosses, and because by the time of my discovery this afternoon it was too late for me to leave from Birmingham...


Good luck, my friends. I hope the Hideout was packed. I hope Bob Mehr danced. And Emily, I hope to god that you boogalooed your heart out.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Around and Around

In the midst of the 25,000 times that the power went out this evening in Pelham because of the terrible weather, I found myself dancing with Blake and Kristie in their living room on a dark, rather dead end street in Southside, Adam Sears and Daniel beautifully and lopsidedly wagging their head on the couch while watching Krull...

I thought to my little self, I love this moment (which I conveyed on a misfired text message) and I wish that David were here to enjoy this.

I drove home, listening to a mix of Red House Painters songs that another lovely friend named David had given me long ago. As I pulled out onto the Valleydale exit, a streak of lightning hit near the La Quinta Inn and I found myself in darkness and a heavy rainfall. Not a great combination. The road was dark and I kept seeing sparks fly from random business signs as the lights flickered on and off in the distance. I made it home and shall now go to bed,

Around and around
(John Denver)

Time as I've known it, it doesn't take much time to pass by me.
Minutes into days, turn into months, turn into years, they hurry by me.
Still I love to see the sun go down, and the world go around.

Dreams full of promises, hopes for the future, I've had many
Dreams I can't remember now, hopes that I've forgotten, faded memories.
Still I love to see the sun go down, and the world go around.

And I love to see the morning as it steals across the sky.
And I love to remember, and I love to wonder why.
And I hope that I'm around, so I can be there when I die, when I'm gone.

I hope that you will think of me in moments when you're happy, and you're smiling.
And that the thought will comfort you on cold and cloudy days, if you are crying.
And that you'll love to see the sun go down, and the world go around, and around and around.

-covered by Mark Kozelek, Rock'n'Roll Singer

Laying down the gun....

This morning as I mindlessly packed my little bag for work, I pulled the Hope For Agoldensummer album from the towering stack of cds sitting dangerously close to my bed and slipped it into the inside pocket. I had to bring it with me, because everytime I've taken a moment to daydream in these last two days, every minute wonderfully wasted, I hear "Laying Down the Gun" and it has been building and building and building into a frenzied triumphant chorus.

I see my friend Sunni just as she sat on her couch Saturday night, leaning back with Ralph's steel guitar, pushing her golden hair out of her eyes and picking out the all of the tiptoeing, intricate loveliness of every line as we sang the harmonies high and whispered:

"It turns out, instead of blood you've got love songs traveling through your veins. What I found were all the words you ever sang tapped into the bones of your rib cage...."

I think of the first time I saw it performed live, upstairs at the Moonlight, the tense and burning energy turning around the stage. Deb Davis and her xylo. Will Taylor wavering from side to side, cello churning. Claire's eyes are closed. She's sitting straight and tall, her face turned up into the light as she's crying out:

"Instead of stopping our hearts, we play music because we're rock stars.
We come together and we work and we fall apart...."

I listen to the song again and again and it burns brighter every time.

"I play music because I'm in love with silence and sound. Just like a machine I picked my pen...."

And all of the sudden, it stops.


There is a cave up by Garden City that is rumored to have been used as speakeasy during Prohibition. The Welch* brothers told me about it today. They smiled at me, standing to either side of their elderly mother as she was signing her paperwork, and looked up into the flourescent light above my head and then at each other. Jeff* turned to his brother and then to me,"It's still intact. I think least it was when I was younger. You'll have to use a rope to get down into some parts of the cave, but it's worth it....Banger Cave is the name." Interesting. Sounds like an awfully good adventure for the spring. If anyone possesses any additional info about the cave, please let me know. Joe* gave me some general directions.

From Saturday night's Skybucket Workforce Extravaganza

Amber and George the Turtle. BFF.

(from a play-by-play sent to gorjus later that evening)

"...the deadly Connect Four match between George the Turtle and Michael Douglas the B.H. Action Squirrel. A few borrowed Busch Lights into the evening, Travis and I dueled (through our plastic animal counterparts) and sadly, I must say that Travis and Michael Douglas won. After realizing that he had the winning row, Travis promptly jumped to his feet, hoisting Michael Douglas with his wildly wobbling head into the air and raced out the front door and down the street, yelling "We WON! WE won! YAYYYY!!!" all the while."

I, in the mean time, collapsed into the floor, defeated and downtrodden.