QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Just gimme my goddamn drugs and let me go home. Christ.” – Some harried-looking, short-haired woman in a long line at a neighborhood Alaskan pharmacy.
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Lift Me Up” – Scud Mountain Boys
by Tom Hallett
It’s all so fleeting, so temporary, so UN-permanent, ain’t it? Time ain’t just flyin’ no more, chillun—it’s strapped tightly to a super-fucking-sonic rocket ship barreling straight towards hell and all we can do is hang on for the ride, hopin’ we don’t slip off into everlasting limbo or burn up in the eye of the sun along with all the sheep-brained numbskulls dithering along their own inane paths to nowhere ... it’s enough to raise the hackles on any regular ole barnyard coon dawg, ah tellyew whut ... that and the incessant chirping of delirious, sleep-deprived birds—what the hell kind of bird emits a whistle like this: WHEE-OOO-OOO-OO-OO ...?
The sun never sets here, not really ... I lose days sometimes, once a whole
week. Oh, and the characters flitting in and out, boppin’ through my hazy
vision long enough to share a buzz, a story, or a song—who ARE these people?!
And what are they DOING here? As a recently-returned local, just walking into
a store to buy some smokes can lead to hours of speculation and paranoia. See
... see ... THAT guy, right there. Now, what’s his story? Born and raised
here, a settler, a tourist or a Cheechako??
A few clues right off—he’s wearing an old cannery baseball cap—that
cannery was closed years ago after Japanese businessmen bought up most of the
fishing industry in Alaska and oil spills, over-extensions and pure greed helped
finish it off save for the few hearty souls who still dare those monumental
waves and that hellish wind to roll the dice and see if they can eke out ONE
more year, just one more year, oh yeah then I’ll have the house almost
paid off ... you get the point. Same shit, different realm.
What else? He’s got a huge beard, almost a walrus mustache, a red flannel
shirt over suspenders and a yellowing undershirt, and baggy beachcomber jeans.
Wallet on a chain, foldin’ knife in a leather holster strapped to his
side. He IS kind of clean ... hell, can’t smell him from five feet away—that
might mean he’s an impostor ... but wait! There’s the final clue—he’s
got his pantlegs tucked into a pair of dingy, mud-stained brown rubber boots,
the kind we were forced to wear from around the age of six on up here (I once
teased death as an 8-year-old by getting stuck in the Homer mudflats and there’s
still a shred or two of rotting kid’s boot sucked deep down in the skanky
mire across from Beluga Lake to prove it, I’d bet on it).
no doubt: This dude is a genuine Alaskan. He climbs in an old Ford truck with
a gun rack (loaded—a thirty-ought-six, a shotgun and some monstrous-looking
semi-automatic that’s surely equal to any firepower the Iraqi insurgents
are wielding these days) and a CB antenna, fires up an engine that’s not
seen a muffler since Reagan was in office, and roars down the dusty highway
AWAY from town. That seals it. The real deal.
The 50-something premature grandma dragging three runny-nosed, unkempt, fidgety
little girls behind her, wearin’ stained puke-green stretch pants and
sportin’ a 10-inch beehive hairdo as she’s pullin’ the cheap
shit off the bottom shelf, nervously glancing around as if thinking that she
doesn’t really belong in this gaudy, cheap, superficial supermarket (wrongfully—she’s
THE perfect, backhanded complement to the cheese and faux-welcome the store
fairly exudes ... what the hell happened to family-owned stores with real kachemaks
in the parking lot, anyway? Progress. Pheh! I SPIT on your progress!). Now SHE’S
And she doesn’t look very fucking happy, either. This isn’t what
she bargained for when Carl or Frank or Bob cooed and cajoled until she finally
agreed to move herself, her pregnant 19-year-old daughter, her three granddaughters
and her few worldly possessions 3,000 miles to the top of the planet from a
reasonably comfortable trailer park somewhere in the hellish bowels of Nebraska,
Missouri or Utah. Naw, she’s no genuine Alaskan, but if she sticks with
it, beats the odds, hangs on for another 20 years or so, nobody will care or
know the difference.
Me, I don’t like to go out too much, at least not in public. The yard
is OK, I can see the stars (going FOREVER) and wait for the Northern Lights
to envelop me like an alien sheath and wisk me off to Nirvana ... or the liquor
stores to open, either way. Can’t stand even passing a cop on the street,
though, even if I’m not driving ... don’t know why I always feel
like a criminal when I see them cherries bouncin’ over these shitty Alaskan
roads, but I do. Residuals, they’re fuckers, ain’t they? Sigh. But
PEOPLE ... Christ, they’re looking weirder and weirder every day—is
it just me? No, they’re definitely getting uglier, scarier and more self-absorbed
as the months roll on ... that’s another way to tell a real Alaskan—they’re
not stand-offish, frightened, beaten to a metaphorical bloody pulp by the gee-gaws,
trappings and relentless bombardment of modern day, Lower-48 society and the
violent mentality that mess breeds.
Naw, the real Alaskans are the ones who smile and step aside when you’ve
got an armful of groceries, the ones who insist on holding the door anywhere
until every last member of your party is inside, even if it’s raining,
the ones who bring deep dish casseroles over when you’re feelin’
crappy, the ones who swear they’ve known you for years even though you
just met a few weeks ago, the ones who don’t weave wildly, careening from
lane to lane on a straight-away highway, no help from drugs or booze needed,
no sirree bob, I’m just plain fucking stupid, and that’s a fact,
Jack. Nope. REAL Alaskans can drive like Jehu, bab-eh. And there’s gettin’
to be fewer an’ fewer of those left these days. Times are a-changin’.
I can smell it. Or should I say, I can’t smell it. Note to self—stay
in the yard.
HALLETT’S TOP FIVE TUNES OF THE WEEK:
1) “Jean Jacket Weather” by Ol’
Yeller: This song reminds me of all the good times I had with Rich Mattson
and all the great bands who played The Turf Club over the first half of this
decade. Without Rich and Rob and Leah Rule, Dave Weigardt, and the whole SPMC
gang, I never would’ve been privy to so much great local music, nor would
I probably ever have sat and softly discussed hangovers with a ratty, road-weary
Ryan Adams in the Turf Green Room, or bought Lucinda Williams a few drinks,
or posed with Alejandro Escovedo or grooved to Sean Na Na or Tulip Sweet or
Jaques Wait as they set out to conquer the rest of the planet. It’s all
of that, as well as how truly inspirational the seasonal changes in Minnesota
are compared to anywhere else in the world I’ve ever been. Plus I just
love the livin’ shit outta Ol’ Yeller. So there.
2) “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” by Elton
John: OK, so yer sick of Sir Elt (AKA REGINALD) and his over-played, drilled-in-yer-fuckin’-head
ouvre. Fine. I’ve been there myself. But I always come back to this one,
and think if you don’t at least feel SOMETHING when he croons the line,
“Thank God my music’s still alive ... “ you probably don’t
have a soul. Scrumptious.
3) “Moon In December” by Spikedriver: Written
by my ol’ Twin Cities musician bud Hazy Dave Hazledine, this one’s
been floating around for some time now, but every time I hear it I’m drawn
into the misty web of Dave’s wistful, melancholy story and the universal
yet almost ethereal characters who populate it. Christ, you must have enough
material for a new album by now, Dave—WHERE IS IT??
“Far, Far Away” by Slade: OK, so they weren’t exactly
the prettiest rock stars in history, and they certainly wouldn’t be on
the guest list for any of them functions you see Coldplay or Ritchie Sambora
twaddling in and out of, but Noddy Holder was one cool motherfucker, sportin’
a top hat (which, I might add, inspired one SLASH to do the same years later),
a razor-toothed howl, and tight red tights. He and the band were part of the
original glam movement and paid college tuition for more than one offspring
of the band Quiet Riot, who took a couple of Slade’s best cuts to the
top of the charts in the Eighties. But I digress—there’s a line
in this song where Noddy growls, “I’ve seen the morning in the mountains
of Alaska, I’ve seen the sun set in the East and the West ...” How
cool, I think, this ruddy-cheeked, tousled mopped English pub rocker immortalizes
the majestic 49th state—the LAST frontier—in solid, head-bangin’
rock forever. This land reaches out beyond its borders, beyond America, beyond
fish and game and nature and sky and mountains and glaciers and volcanos and
directly into the deepest, fondest dreams of the average world citizen, drawing
them in and shaking them about like so many bones in its palm ... blah, blah,
blah ... see, this song IS inspirational.
5) “Blue Sky” by Jessy
Greene: If Jessy Greene doesn’t have one of the most gorgeous,
spine-tingling set of pipes within a thousand miles of Minneapolis, I’ll
eat my leather Crocodile Dundee hat. This song is airy, breezy, open, free,
wild, sensual, honest, longing, unsettling and soothing all at once. How is
this possible? Go check her out live and find out for yourself. An AWESOME summer
That’s it for me this time out, eh. Spin yer dials this way again next
time and don’t forget—make yer own damn news, y’hear?
If you have local music gigs/events/CDs you’d like to see mentioned
in this column, or you have a reasonable explanation for why the Northern Lights
feel like a really good acid trip when they drip and drool around you at 4 a.m.
in broad daylight, send replies to: Tmygunn777@peoplepc.com.