The Random Griffith

The piano has been drinking, and I’m doing laundry again

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 18/02/2010

Weird things have been happening lately. Which may be why I haven’t been in this neighborhood for a little while. Yeah, should have blogged about the bicycle incident in the alley the other day, but just wasn’t feeling the proper perspective to put into words what happened. I’m still not sure I can, but here goes.

I was coming back from Temple Coffee on S Street, and after turning on 28th I decided to pedal down the alley in back of the Nazarene Church. I could see this guy on a bicycle coming toward me, and something didn’t look right; he was a bit wobbly. When I got close enough to almost pass and look him in the face, I saw his eyes roll back in his head as he wilted to his right and tumbled onto the ground like a trash bag full of beer cans, and then he started twitching. I threw my bike down and jumped over to help, and a buddy had materialized out of nowhere carrying a gunny sack of cans and bottles. “He’s like this all the time,” the friend, Steve, volunteered.

Both of them were embalmed to the gills. “Should I call an ambulance?” I asked, phone in hand. “Naw, they’re just gonna kick him back out,” Steve answered. “He’s probably racked up $10,000 in ambulance charges in like the last week.” I think I talked Steve, who seemed like George to his pal’s Lemmy, into getting Lemmy into the nearby Sutter emergency room to clean up the nasty pavement abarasion on Lemmy’s forehead, of which Steve was clearing away the coagulating blood using a t-shirt dabbed with hydrogen peroxide. “I carry this first-aid kit in my bag, because my own foot is all messed up,” Steve said.

By this time Lemmy was sitting up and mumbling, and presently he got up and stumbled down the alley toward 28th Street. The bike he’d been riding had a flat front tire, so I got the patch kit and tire pump out of my backpack and fixed his flat. Make sure you take him in to get him checked out, I said. Steve explained that he’d just moved into a house out the 50 Light Rail line near the Butterfield station, and Lemmy was one of his roommates, and that while Steve was accompanying his new roommate out and about, Lemmy had gone into seizures every day.

Sure would be nice if we had some kind of single-payer national health system, wouldn’t it? I mean, some of you may not have compassion for drunken guys falling off of bicycles in alleys, but everyone needs medical attention sometime. And in my current jobless and uninsured state, I’d be every bit as indigent as those guys.

And as for me not knowing what to say about the incident on this blog, I guess it has something to do with seeing someone go into an epileptic seizure: What does one do? Lemmy’s pal Steve stuffed a shirt into his mouth to keep him from biting his tongue, but what else? I felt pretty helpless there. I think I’m gonna go read up on that, perhaps.

Okay, so then, last night around 10, I made a foray down to the local bodega to get a bag of M&M peanuts, which I figured might help me finish something I’d been working on. I was at the counter when a trio of boneheads from the ‘burbs, two guys in their early 20s and a woman the same age, shambled in carrying a six-pack container that held maybe four bottles of partially consumed beers. “Um, we bought these beers here, and the date on them’s like expired,” the lead bonehead tried to explain to the clerk, a middle-aged man whose primary language appeared to be Hindi. “Like we want some fresh beers and stuff, because these are like spoiled.”

The clerk looked utterly mystified. The bonehead continued his shpiel: “Uh, normally, with like Bud or Miller it wouldn’t matter, but these were like Deschutes Ales, and when they go bad they can totally mess you up.”

“Yeah, like I’m kinda getting sick to my stomach and stuff,” the woman, in more sober moments probably a knockout brunette, mumbled, her face scrinching into a sour expression.

Finally, the clerk responded. “Whadda you want me to do?” he asked in heavily accented English. “You drank these beers. Come back tomorrow, explain to store owner what happened.”

“Like, um, we can’t,” the trio’s de-facto spokesbonehead explained. “We live, uh, way out there …” motioning with his right arm toward Folsom, or maybe El Dorado Hills.

The woman started in, and the clerk would have none of it. “You! Out there now!” he shouted, pointing at the door. “Now! Out!” The two men by this time had moved over to the beer cooler, where it’s assumed they were rooting around for a sixer of Deschutes with a drinkable sell-by date. The clerk saw them and shifted gears into full-on panicked, shrieking what I’m guessing were vile curses in Hindi as loudly as his lungs would allow.

“You! Leave now too!” he shouted at me, as I was hovering by the frozen pizza case and snickering. “Now!” he said, pointing with his arm fully extended toward the door, his eyes widening.

I left, laughing. I mean, these idiots weren’t even Canadian, and they tried to pull a variation of the Strange Brew mouse in the Elsinore stunt? Morons. You gotta be from Canada, or at least sound like it, to make that one work.

Walking by the Press Club, I got buttonholed by Patrick from the FreeBadge Serenaders, a hokum duo consisting of washboard and banjo, with both players doubling on kazoo. “The first band is almost done,” he said. “I’ll put you on my guest list.”

Never one to turn down an invitation to shuffle my buffaloes to an impolite round of skiffle, or as I was later corrected by his bandmate Gregg, jug band music, I entered the club to witness Ian McGlone’s band on what Patrick had said was its last song. Which, if you’re using a more liberal definition of the word “song,” means “extended medley of ‘Dark Star,’ St. Steven,’ ‘The Eleven,’ ‘Death Don’t Have No Mercy,’ ‘Turn On Your Lovelight,’ ‘Truckin’,’ ‘Box of Rain’ and for good measure ‘Free Bird,’ or its equivalent in original material,” he was quite correct.

I shouldn’t rag on the band, though; I was just grumpy because I’d been torn from my planned routine of finishing a new R&B ballad I’d just penned for the February is Album Writing Month, and they were playing their standard set, which mated ’70s pub rock passion to a Volkswagen microbus drivetrain out of the jam band school of top-ramening. I may not have been feeling it last night, but that was more contingent on my own mood, not their playing.

The FreeBadge Serenaders, however, hit my sweet spot. Something about two guys — one who looks like a handsomer version of Al Franken on banjo and resonator guitar, the other, on the washboard, a Dixie Peach Pomade’d throwback to something out of a Robert Crumb illustration of jug-band legends — that makes me smile from ear to ear. Their repertoire was clever, with songs about recipes for cigarette butt soup, discount jazz and Sacramento, along with a few standards, that really rang true on this Tuesday night. It was an unexpected pleasure. Thanks, guys.

I would have stayed for Seventy, the headliner. I’d just completed song number nine earlier, and was becoming slightly obsessed with working out its kinks and nuances in my head, so I left to do just that. Here are the lyrics:

Something about you baby
You’re sparking a bit of crazy
We got that chemistry
Lit up like a Christmas tree
You hooked me but we’re unsteady
And I’m not sure I’m ready
To ride a roller coaster
Feels like where we’re going

And now we’ve started opening up to each other I want to know
Should I let go and fall into you now
Baby baby baby baby baby

Been down this road before
Picked my face up off the floor
I’ll do it all again
Hoping it turns out differently
Don’t need to lose my center
Another romantic bender
I’d rather keep my head on straight
But sometimes I can’t wait
Oh no

Now we’ve started opening up to each other I want to know
Should I let go and fall into you now
Baby baby baby baby baby
Here we are face to face

When I look in your eyes
I see kaleidoscopic light
I could be hypnotized
Fall into you and I just might
But why do I have my doubts
This thing between us won’t work out
And why do I want you so bad
Baby I don’t know

Ooh and
Now we’ve started opening up to each other I want to know
Should I let go and fall into you now
Should I let go and fall into you now
Baby baby baby baby baby

I’m really not sure where they came from. Not from current experience, really; while I’ve got some nice lady friends, the reality of no romance without finance is ever-present these days, and it’s gonna take a miracle, steady work or both to catapult me back to any kind of lothario status. Not that I ever was one, but from this vantage point, I’m guessing I’m gonna be more of a spectator than a participant as this spring begins to unfold.

Barring the intervention of my cosmic or personal Barry White, of course. —Jackson Griffith


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