Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Alice in Wonderland

The Rockette and I are both from North Dakota, so she was doing some pretty high kicks when she heard the news from Alice. The town, not some lady. She called me on a business trip to tell me the little speck 40 miles west of Fargo actually gave someone famous the keys to the "city" a couple of weeks ago.

Naturally, I assumed it had to be Linda Lavin. No, stow that idea.

Even better, give them to Ann B. Davis. She would bake two cakes for the town - one for if it gave her the keys to the city, and one if it changed its mind, told her to go fuck herself, and go bowling with Sam the butcher instead. The Rockette told me I was way off. It didn't make sense. What other Alice was there?

There's not even a need for keys to Alice. I'm sure all the doors are unlocked anyway. The only things in town are a grain elevator and a bar, but I suppose the keys to a city is still a pretty cool honor. Not to mention much needed publicity for tiny North Dakota towns like Alice, population 60.

I was out of Alice guesses, so The Rockette laid it on me. The keys to the city went to Alice Cooper. Whoa! That sounded crazier than Thompson giving its keys to the Thompson Twins, then screwing up the ceremony by making only two keys.

It's hard to picture old farm folk in overalls and John Deere hats, their eyes smeared with freaky black eye shadow, singing along to Cooper's "Poison" and "School's Out For Summer." I'd have an easier time believing Whitman gave its keys to Slim.

Then I remembered I was a country kid who liked listening to Motley Crue, Poison, KISS, Van Halen, and Firehouse. But I grew up in Bismarck. We couldn't very well give our keys to a jelly donut.

The Rockette told me an Alice city official was a fan and sent an email to Cooper - in Fargo for a concert - to see if he'd accept the keys to their hamlet. Cooper accepted and attracted over 1,000 fans to the ceremony in "downtown" Alice. So I guess Alice's gain was Cooperstown's loss.

This could open the floodgates for other North Dakota villages in need of a little boost to their economy. I'm surprised other towns haven't given this a whirl.

Maybe it's because the towns are named Leonard, Arthur, Harvey, Horace, and Sherwood. Not exactly the biggest names in music right now. Who's Flasher going to give its keys to? Some perv in a trenchcoat?

But some towns' names have musical ties. Taylor shouldn't settle for Taylor Dayne. Instead it should totally cash in on American Idol exposure by giving winner Taylor Hicks the keys to its city. Ray missed the boat on Ray Charles, but maybe Jamie Foxx could swing by and no one would notice.

Dwight might be able to score Yoakam. He'd probably be ready to make a beeline for the North Dakota state line given that The Rockette witnessed the Minneapolis Riverside Perkins refuse him service because they weren't open 24 hours. They wouldn't even give him a muffin to go.

I wonder why Manfred hasn't tried luring Manfred Mann or his Earth Band?

Crosby should give its keys to David Crosby. Sure Stills, Nash and possibly even Young will be all pissy because they weren't included, but Crosby could potentially offer to artificially inseminate the whole town and get that dwindling population thriving again.

I'd advise against St. Michael giving its keys to Michael Jackson for three reasons. First, he ain't no saint. Second, it would be impossible to assemble any Bahrainian boy harems in North Dakota. Third, St. Michael doesn't have a hotel let alone a balcony to dangle big plastic keys to the city from.

One thing's for sure: If Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie is ever invited to Christine, N.D., I highly suggest she make sure that those keys are to the city and not a 1958 Plymouth Fury.

This post is dedicated to author and Spin Magazine writer Chuck Klosterman, a North Dakota farm kid who made it big writing essays about music and his life. I was lucky enough to work with Chuck for a short time at the Fargo Forum, and have always been a fan. I think it's about time Wyndmere changes its name to Chuck and gives him the keys.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Take It Like A Manilow

Sometimes fights are so hyped-up, they earn a nickname like The Thrilla in Manilla or The Rumble in the Jungle.

It's a shame Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali never got a chance to witness The Harm on the Farm. That was the 13-hour bout between my sister Bubbles and I while the referees - our parents - were out of town.

It was 1979. My family lived on a small hobby farm in the Blue Ridge Mountain area of Virginia. They say Virginia is for lovers. Bubbles didn't get the memo on this. She was a fighter.

Granted, half the time I probably deserved to have my ass handed to me. I did enjoy picking on her. But the other half of the time was usually fallout from an argument of taste in entertainment.

Take music. I liked KISS. Bubbles adored Barry Manilow.

The folks were out of town and had left us alone to take care of ourselves. Bubbles was only 14 at the time, and I was 9. Normally, they would have gotten a sitter for us, but Bubbles and I talked Mom and Dad into leaving us alone after we had to fend for ourselves anyway during the previous horseshit sitter's stint.

Mom and Dad hadn't even backed out of the driveway when the race started to their bitchin' console stereo. It was a mammoth GE model with a flip-top lid, revealing the Hi-Fi AM-FM radio, turntable and a great 8-track deck.

Mom, a hip white chick, loved cranking The Commodores on it. I didn't mind Lionel Ritchie, but his music didn't make me want to dance on the ceiling. But I did not under any circumstances need to hear Manilow on a louder level.

Bubbles' bedroom was next to mine and all I heard for the previous 14 months from 9 at night until 5 in the morning was Barry Manilow over and over. She had a special turntable that would replay the same record repeatedly, the sound of which could not be smothered by any amount of pillows or blankets. Over time, I knew all the words to every song, but certainly not by choice. After hearing it 937 times, I was well aware who "wrote the songs of love and special things" and I hated that fucker for it.

With Mom and Dad out of the house, it was Bubbles' big chance to really crank "Copacabana." I tried to stop her, because I already knew about Lola and that music and passion were always the fashion and all that other bullshit. But Bubbles held me off with one hand while loading 2 or 3 Manilow albums on the stacking mechanism with the other. Once she had them in place, she sat on the stereo lid and cackled as "Can't Smile Without You" began to play.

I believe I became temporarily insane at this point. I actually tried to knock Bubbles off the stereo lid so I could turn down the volume. When that didn't work, I tried to unplug it. During the scuffle, I bumped the stereo hard enough that it scratched the album.

Needless to say, Bubbles cleaned my clock after this. She pummeled me mercilessly and left me in a blubbering heap on the 4-inch lime green shag carpet as Barry belted out "Looks Like We Made It."

Bubbles left the room to go watch TV in the den. Of course, she left the Manilow records playing to rub a little salt in my wounds, which included several scratches, a snake bite and multiple carpet burns. She figured I was down for the count for at least "Mandy" and "Even Now."

I must have laid on that shag canvas for a few hundred 10-counts. As each Barry song played, kiddie rage was building. By the time "This One's For You" started playing, I pulled myself to my hands and knees. I crawled towards the den, trying to conserve my energy for a counter-attack.

That's when I saw the sight that sent me over the edge. There Bubbles was, enjoying an episode of Knot's Landing. She had not only kicked my ass an hour ago, she now had control of the TV, too. To top it all off, she was sitting in Dad's recliner and was drinking the last Coke, which we had agreed to share earlier.

I did what any self-respecting little brother who had just gotten his ass kicked would have done. I totally sucker punched her. She didn't even see it coming.

I didn't wait to assess the damage. She was a jocky Tomboy at the time and quite a bit bigger than me. I got the hell out of there so A) she wouldn't kick my ass again; and B) so I didn't have to listen to Manilow sing "It's a Miracle."

I grabbed my canteen and a can of Pringles and headed outside. Seconds later, I heard some evil cackling behind me. I turned around and saw Bubbles waving as she turned the deadbolt on the door, locking me out of the house. That was OK. She had the "Bandstand Boogie" blaring and was dancing like those teeny boppers who dry humped Dick Clark every Saturday morning.

Fast forward about seven hours. I was hungry and tired, but she still had the door locked and wouldn't let me in. Four hours later - around 10 PM - it was getting dark and that little bag still hadn't unlocked the door. She taunted me by cranking "Daybreak." I figured she was probably sending me a message about the next time the door would be open.

Instead of begging her to let me in for the 1,000th time, I just started banging on the door. When my hands got tired, I grabbed my football helmet. While pounding on the door with that, I accidentally broke a small window pane in the door.

Bubbles unlocked it one second later and said "Geez, I was unlocking it." I tried to cover up the damage with the front of a Froot Loops box, but let's just say Mom and Dad "followed their nose" to the dinged door about 6 seconds after getting home the next day.

I got my butt whooped by Dad and was grounded for a month. Bubbles got a new Barry Manilow album for her sparkling behavior while the folks were away.

As I laid in bed that night listening to more Manilow from the next room, I finally started to get some inspiration from the music. I secretly wished I could spend a "Weekend in New England" to escape this hell on earth, or at minimum, I would have even settled to be "Somewhere Down the Road."