The Ecstasy of Lists

When I was about 19-20 I started a travel fund, saving $5-10 a week in my Tardis bank. I still save money from every paycheck to support daydreams of far-off places. When WPT and I planned our first trip together in 1999, he was unemployed and I was working for a non-profit. That trip happened because friends and friends of friends offered us places to sleep, we ate at gas stations, and we used my credit card. It took us a year to pay off that trip and it was worth every penny. Now, 15 years later, we are still planning trips, sometimes while we are already on one. Each November we find ourselves debating where to go in January, to mark the anniversary of that first trip. One change is that our son, Garnet, is now part of the adventure.

For me, the planning is part of the fun. The two months leading up to the trip I research places to visit, foods to eat, pour over maps, and create lists. So many lists. Things I need to remember to bring, to do, to look up, and to buy. I obsess. I fret. I worry. And I love every minute.

This year we are going to Ireland. This is the trip we started talking about when WPT got sick in 2007. We could have gone once he was well, but we wanted to wait until our son was old enough to go and it not be seven tortuous days for all involved. This is Garnet’s first international trip and our first cold-weather winter destination in over a decade. He is a great traveler, but all-day travel and no sleep can test even the most airport-hardened soul. I’m more worried about cold, damp feet, so socks have appeared and reappeared on my lists. I think about socks more than I should.

As I obsess I will try and distill the useful bits and offer some travel tips in the coming weeks. I will also attempt to justify packing 2-3 weeks before we leave, but this year I promise to remember Garnet’s underwear (it was just that one time I forgot, I swear!).

Vincent D’Onofrio is the Answer

Sometimes Vincent D’Onofrio is the answer.

Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D'Onofrio and Dana Lyn
Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D’Onofrio and Dana Lyn

I find that my mood darkens with the shorter days and often by December I’m rather unpleasant to be around. I’ve learned ways to fight it, which are usually only semi-successful. This year I had not only the lack of light to contend with, but also new triggers brought about by events that happened this time last year and a workload that has been more stressful than usual.

Then last week I saw that Vincent D’Onofrio will be releasing a spoken word punk album in the spring. I fell down one of those internet rabbit holes and learned that he would be performing in NYC in a few days and that tickets were just $20. I’ve had a long-standing fascination with Vincent D’Onofrio. I’m pretty sure I watched every episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent when I was pregnant and, more recently, I was so disturbed after watching Chained that I couldn’t sleep. His monologues in The Pawn Shop Chronicles made the movie. He completely inhabits the characters he plays and exudes an intense undercurrent that is compelling to watch.

I mentioned the performance to my family who encouraged me to go. I hemmed and hawed because of the expense. I wondered about my sanity in wanting to go to NYC for a matter of hours to see Vincent D’Onofrio perform spoken-word punk. And then I remembered that my sanity was already questionable and said, fuck it, and ordered tickets and reserved two seats on Megabus.

View of the Susquehanna River from I-95, on the Megabus
View of the Susquehanna River from I-95, on the Megabus

So on Saturday morning WPT and I headed to White Marsh to catch the bus to NYC. We learned that if there is space you can switch buses for a nominal fee, so we boarded an earlier bus and were on our way north.

Peanut and Avocado sushi
Peanut and Avocado sushi

We were early and decided to walk from the bus stop (at 28th) up to Russian Samovar (52nd) where were we meeting a friend. Along the way we stopped at Sushi Osaka because they have one of my favorite rolls ever – avocado and peanut. This was wise, as the rest of the day would only offer vodka, olives, and fried potato products. I’ve written about the Russian Samovar previously and for many reasons it is my favorite bar. My friend arrived and we graduated from shots to carafes of horseradish vodka.

Russian Samovar
Russian Samovar

Somewhere around 6pm we stumbled into a cab. We assume this is where WPT lost his hat. I’ve learned that any trip to NYC takes a little something. At least this time it wasn’t a phone screen or wallet. We arrived at Joe’s Pub and found our seats. Yet more fried potato products were consumed.

Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D'Onofrio and Dana Lyn
Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D’Onofrio and Dana Lyn

Sitting in the dimly lit theater I realized how light my mood was. A spontaneous trip to NYC with WPT, getting to see a good friend, and now listening Vincent D’Onofrio talk about his imaginary friend and describe a hamster’s world view was exactly what I needed to get past the hump of the darkest days of the year. It wasn’t the answer I expected to find.

Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D'Onofrio and Dana Lyn
Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D’Onofrio and Dana Lyn
Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D'Onofrio and Dana Lyn
Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D’Onofrio and Dana Lyn

After the show was over we had a bit of time before we needed to head over to 34th and 11th to catch the bus back to Baltimore. Our first stop was the Little Lebowski Shop (I needed a new t-shirt; five isn’t enough apparently), then onto Generation Records. We boarded a little before 10:30pm and were soon fast asleep, lulled by the road noise and the fulfillment of a perfect, ridiculous quest.

The Little Lebowski Store, East Village
The Little Lebowski Store, East Village
Washington Square Park, East Village
Washington Square Park, East Village

Los Straitjackets and Deke Dickerson at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia (11/2/14)

Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson
Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson

For a quarter-century, the masked men of Los Straitjackets have cemented their self-proclaimed title as the “world’s leading practitioners of the guitar instrumental” through frequent worldwide touring and more than a dozen albums.

Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson
Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson

While the band arguably led the surf instro-revival that followed director Quentin Tarantino’s PULP FICTION (1994), what has always set Los Straitjackets apart from the pack (beside many killer original tunes) is their eclectic taste and ingenuity. In short, Los Straitjackets are not merely a “surf” band, but rather guitar-driven curators of pop culture in the grand tradition of the Ventures. Indeed, Danny Amis, Eddie Angel, Pete Curry, Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague, and Greg Townson can turn Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” (the love theme from the 1997 movie TITANIC) into a sparkling, “Telstar”-inspired opus as adeptly as they hammer forth classic surf tunes such as “Squad Car”.

Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson
Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson

On occasion, the band has teamed up with various singers (including Exene Cervenka, Nick Lowe, and El Vez) on a track-by-track basis. However, their latest album, Los Straitjackets: Deke Dickerson Sings the Great Instrumental Hits, is the band’s most comprehensive vocal effort to date. Backing surf/garage/hotrod kingpin Dickerson (whose own efforts include the primal garage band Untamed Youth), Los Straitjackets summon hitherto wordless classics like “Walk, Don’t Run”, “Pipeline”, and “Apache”, superimposed by Dickerson’s own self-styled lyrics. The results are remarkably enjoyable for an effort that could have easily sunk to novelty status.

Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson
Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson

On November 2, 2014, both band and singer stopped by Philadelphia’s World Café Live as part of a tour in support of the new record. Neither disappointed. Moreover, Los Straitjackets and Deke Dickerson mined a few garage gems and one-hit wonders that I never thought I’d hear live – the Sonics’ “Have Love, Will Travel”, the Swingin’ Medallions “Double Shot”, and “Red River Rock” by Johnny and the Hurricanes, to name a few – their vitality reflecting the perennial quality of the best rock ‘n’ roll. Dickerson, in top form, delivered a bouncy, ska-lounge rendition of Phyllis Dillon’ cover of “Perfidia”, as well as an amazingly spot-on tribute to the late Steve Wahrer’s 50-grit vocals on the Trashmen’s landmark “Surfin’ Bird”.

Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson
Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson

Both Dickerson and Los Straitjackets also stuck around after the show, to sign autographs and mingle with concert-goers, suggesting a deeply-rooted appreciation of their fans only paralleled by that for the music.

Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson
Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson

More photos here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/leekinginc/sets/72157649241257901/