Singer/Songwriter Jerry Leger Discusses Bob Dylan

JerryLeger-DrewPerkins (1)

Mike Sauve:    One similarity I see between your best songs and some of my favourite Dylan tunes is they’re often centered, for me anyway, around one nearly perfect verse.  In “Idiot Wind” it’s the opening “They say I shot a man named Gray” story.  In “Highlands” it’s the waitress scene, although that’s like 15 verses long.  In your “East Coast Queen” it’s the culmination of the narrator’s search for the girl:

The boys on the island
The men at the docks
Say, “give her my pleas
If she comes back to me
She’ll get anything she wants

If I miss that part I might as well just lift the needle and start the song over.  But then, like those Dylan songs, a couple smaller planets orbit that one beautiful verse–like asking the doctor “I want to live healthy, is there something that I can use?” When writing a song, are you conscious of having one or two great verses that you then work around, or what?

Jerry Leger:  Well, with that song, it started with the first line, “On the East Coast, she’s living like a Queen by a throne…” then everything was written relating to that character in that environment. A lot of them start off that way, with the first line and that allows me to build a story or idea from that.

MS:  Dylan is the ultimate appropriation artist, so I have limited qualms grabbing his lyrics for my own use.  My fiction is littered with phrases that most would never realize are Dylan lyrics like, “I called out for another plate of food” or “The rising sun returned.” More cryptic tribute than self-benefitting theft, is my argument.  In a recent Exclaim! concert review I mentioned how your song “Isabella” contains the line, “I was young when I left home”, which is the title of an early Dylan track.  This is one overt way you’ve borrowed something from Dylan, can you discuss some less obvious examples?

JL:   Ya, I think that’s the big difference, tribute verses theft, or I guess you could also call it building off an idea instead of tribute. I don’t like when artists just steal a whole idea and don’t leave any imprint of themselves. Ya, I thought it was great you picked up on that line! I just always loved the sound of it and I think Dylan even grabbed it from an earlier tune. I just felt it was a fitting way to begin that particular verse and then the rest of it has nothing to do with that song, it doesn’t lift anything else from it. I did something similar in another tune “John Lewis”. A couple lines are very similar to an old Luke the Drifter (Hank Williams) number called “Make up Your Mind”. Tribute is a fitting word for that. I threw it in the middle of an 8 minute tune for the Hank fans to pick up on! Now I’m giving away all my secrets.

MS:  You’ve been listening to Another Self Portrait.  I think the album’s tone is best exemplified on one of the “Little Sadie”s, when Bob says “Let’s just take this one.” You get the feeling you’re hanging in the studio with Bob.  I love “Spanish is the Loving Tongue”, “Only a Hobo”, “Pretty Saro”, “Wallflower”, and about 14 other treasures. Describe some of your favourite songs on the album?  Why is it interesting to hear them unearthed in 2013?

JL:  I’ve been loving it. It does have this feeling of freedom, of trying any tune that popped in his head and seeing if it worked well enough. “Spanish is the Loving Tongue” is beautiful, there’s something sad and relatable about it. I love the version of “Time Passes Slowly”, “Pretty Saro” has haunting vocals and I really dig the version of “Copper Kettle”.

For me, It’s interesting to hear because there’s no tricks, no bells, a lot of these tunes are sparsely arranged, if arranged at all. It’s a very honest way of putting something down on tape. You feel like you’re in the studio with him because there’s no strange wall between you. I mean, he’s almost always been like that, that’s been a big influence on the way I make records.

MS:  The original Self-Portrait was my dad’s favourite Bob Dylan album. During a 1999 trip to Toronto, he was thrilled to order it from Sam the Record Man back when that was the only way for a Sault Ste. Marie man to locate an unpopular album. I remember listening to it and asking, “This is Bob Dylan?” I hadn’t listened to Nashville Skyline at that point, so the whole crooning thing threw me for a loop.  But I never thought it was a bad album.  At one stage of my life I played the cover of Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” about 500 times in a five month period.  The original Self-Portrait had its warts, was thoroughly shat upon, but what did you think of it?

JL:  Our old bass player, Corey, his Dad used to play it all the time! That’s wild it was your Dad’s favourite. I always liked it. I always felt it was a fun record to listen to and full of surprises. I don’t know, I grew up with a lot of country records, some from the 40’s/50’s period and the rest being from the 60’s and early 70’s when strings and female background singers were key. I thought covers like “I forgot more than you’ll ever know” sounded great and suited Dylan’s voice of that period. I love his version of “Early Morning Rain”. I always heard it as a playful record and a scattered one in a good way.

MS:  You saw Dylan at the Molson Ampitheatre in July, and seemed pretty positive about it.  Maybe you’re just generally more positive than I am, but I’m wondering if doubt or disillusionment crept in at any point?  A few years ago I based my whole vacation life around seeing Dylan.  It’s getting harder for me though.  Maybe I listen to too many bootlegs.

JL:  Well, I know his voice continues to weaken but it’s how he uses it. I felt that particular show he was working with the limitations better than the last couple times I’d seen him. There were some great moments where he was very expressive in the same way he is on record. “Soon After Midnight” knocked me out and “Love Sick” was perfect.

MS:  You participated in a Bob Dylan tribute show on Bob Dylan’s birthday at the El Mo Cambo.  What’s it like playing in front of an audience who might not know much about you, but showed for a night of live Bob Dylan music?  Is it a different kind of pressure or perhaps pleasure vs. performing your own songs?

JL:  Ya, it was fun. I wouldn’t normally do something like that but a good friend was putting it on and knew I was a big Dylan fan, so he asked if I would be part of it. There was no pressure because I wanted to just approach the songs the way I would approach my own, just to not over think it. I didn’t really wanna listen to the album versions to make sure we were getting it note for note. I wanted to just go out and play them.

MS:  In an Exclaim! interview with Rachel Sanders you mentioned looking forward to the day when you make a bad album similar to a bad Bob Dylan album.  That seemed kind of strange to me.  Were you being facetious in that if you have the cache to make a bad album you’ve made it?  Or what exactly?

JL:  Well, sometimes it’s nice to do something that nobody understands but you. Any one of us can go in an opposite direction and there’s something rewarding about that. So, I was sort of half joking about it. One day I could decide to make an album of throat singing and you might not understand it but it wouldn’t be artistically dishonest of me if that’s where my mind’s at.

MS:  What do you think the worst Bob Dylan album is?  For me it’s Down in the Groove because there’s almost nothing to redeem that one.

JL:    Ya, I would say that one and Knocked Out Loaded. There’s a couple great things on it, obviously “Brownsville Girl” but it’s a pretty weak album. I think those are the only two that I never really listen to.

MS:  What was the first Bob Dylan song that really blew you away, and when was that?

JL:  Strangely, it was the version of “Oh, Sister” off the live album, Hard Rain. That was also the first Dylan album I heard. My dad used to play it at home and in the car when I was growing up and for some reason that was the tune that always stood out. I still prefer it to the album version. It just seemed real, gritty, full of life, good and bad.

MS:  That doesn’t seem so strange.  Top Five Dylan recordings the casual fan isn’t aware of?

JL:  I don’t know, it’s hard to tell these days what casual listeners would and wouldn’t know but… “Sign on the Window”, “True Love Tends to Forget”, “Red River Shore”, “Going Going Gone”, “Most of the Time”.  That’s a good start. I love “Heart of Mine” off of Shot of Love as well, a real hidden gem.

MS:  Favourite Dylan album?

JL:  Another Side of Bob Dylan, because it was the record that changed the way I thought about songwriting, about how I wanted to write. I remember taping the LP when I was 15 and listening to it on my walkman in the high school library. I would skip classes and go there to sit and study it.

Get Jerry Leger’s latest album here.  Still not convinced?  Check out this review.

Scholar and Falconry Enthusiast Adrian DeVuono Discusses Bob Dylan


Adrian DeVuono might be the funniest and most intelligent person to come from my hometown of Sault Ste. Marie. Unless that’s astronaut Roberta Bondar, who can be seen at the Thunder Bay Yuk Yuks this Friday through Sunday.  DeVuono is rumoured to have delivered his dissertation while sporting a foam #1 finger. When he goes to a Sault Ste. Marie fine-dining establishment like Wacky Wings he says things like, “I’ll have a large grapefruit juice,” and when the waitress says, “We don’t have grapefruit juice,” he says, “I’ll just have a small.”  He is, to the increasing disdain of his peers, a world traveler.  Above all, he is a Bob Dylan fan.


Mike Sauve:  Every time we talk there seems to be at least one “Wiggle Wiggle” reference or discussion of some abysmal Dylan song or 80s album.  Why do you think bad Bob Dylan music is so much funnier than bad music in general?  I guess one obvious reason is that he’s made so much good music.

Adrian DeVuono:  I think Dylan’s bad music is especially hilarious because, unlike other, lesser artists who simply make bad decisions and carry them out with obnoxious sincerity, Dylan always sounds like he can’t remember who made a decision regarding a song’s lyric or production element, or why that decision was made, even as he’s meandering helplessly through it. That quality, which they called “mystical” in the sixties, in the later years is just a kind of shellshocked confusion. On these awful recordings he sounds like a heavily-medicated Marx Brother or, better yet, Chance the Gardener from “Being There.” He’s completely lost. He just utters these bizarrely cryptic lines (“Wiggle Wiggle ’till you vomit fire”), sounding as if he’s in constant danger of slipping back into the fog of a dental anesthesia while an amateur band herded from the local casino  blissfully and vacantly hammers away at a vaguely “bluesy” chord progression. Listen to “Brownsville Girl”: while Bob is unspooling eleven exhausting minutes of a plot summary of a Western he thinks he remembers seeing, a group of Gladys Knight impersonators starts shrieking out inappropriate responses like a gospel choir moaning in exaggerated sexual distress. It’s almost as if, with every inappropriate “mmmm-hmmmm” and “whrrraaaaoooogh,” Dylan gets startled to the point of distraction (“What the hell was that?”) and loses his place in the story. It’s very funny to hear Dylan so lost, confused, and kind of apathetic, especially after something like “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.”

MS:  While we’re talking humour, one of my favourite things about Bob Dylan is that even if he hadn’t written so many important songs, so many beautiful songs, so many groundbreaking songs, he’d still be adored as one of the great humorists.  In the early 60s he was often compared to Charlie Chaplin, and even in recent years his dancing has been downright hilarious.  Can you discuss Dylan as humorist?

AD:   Dylan’s humour has so many sides, so many modes of expression. Sometimes he’s silly (“The Basement Tapes”) and sometimes he’s giddy (“I Want You”); sometimes its scathing social satire (“The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar”), sometimes it’s derisive put-downs (“Positively 4th Street”) and sometimes it’s theatre of the absurd (Bob Dylan’s Dream). Dylan’s best songs, however, are convulsive and cubist in structure. Here, humour is used as one more prop in Dylan’s bag of lyrical tricks. Even at his most topical, Bob understood how tears of rage, tears of sadness, and tears of laughter are indistinguishable. Listen closely to “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carol,” especially the last verse, and you’ll hear how he constructs it as an elaborate, difficult joke. William Zanzinger’s six-month sentence, within the construction of that song, is played as a cruel prank, a horrible joke — but a joke nonetheless. The way he builds up to that last line, with mawkish, sarcastic rhymes and perfectly-timed delays, shows that he’s arriving at a punchline. Elsewhere, the image of “guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children” comes off as no less absurd than any of the brilliantly arranged comic set-pieces in “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream.” Within the absurdist, cubist universe of his lyrics, no image is stable enough to be confined to a single mode of expression. There’s a current of sneering, derisive, impudent, impish, downright goofy laughter on those early masterpieces. No one comes away without being riffed on. I think he picked this up from Allen Ginsberg who would read “Howl” to college audiences and would have them all howling with laughter. Everyone got mocked. I’m glad Bob rediscovered this skill on his recent albums and I think that’s why they’re so much better than the stuff that preceded them. When he excavated the surrealist side of Americana (particularly on “Love and Theft” and “The Tempest”), he seemed to find rejuvenation from wearing that mischievous mask again. It’s amazing to hear him, in a growling voice, stacking these complex, multifaceted comic images that fuse Mark Twain’s riverboat ribaldry and Guillaume Apollinaire’s cubist verse until he’s rehearsing this hilarious and horrifying apocalyptic vaudeville. It’s open mic night with Stagger Lee! Howlin’ Wolf doing his impression of Benny Goodman! There’s still plenty of laughter for, and at, this brutal world he seems to be saying on his most recent recordings. That’ll be his legacy as a humorist.

MS:  As an academic what do you think of the surge of Bob Dylan studies, Bob Dylan wings being built at all the major institutions, etc.?

AD:  I know it’s inevitable, but it is unsettling all the same. I just hope that students don’t forget what made him so dangerous, what made him such a threat to the very establishments they’ll be publishing papers for and pursuing tenure within, in the first place. I hope, also, they appreciate the irony of studying a poet who railed against these places which sell “roadmaps for the soul.” I take comfort, however, in the fact that his recordings – especially the live ones from 1966 and 1975 – are so volatile, so threatening, so aggressively defiant, that they’ll retain their unsettling power for decades to come.

MS:  Every year there’s some buzz that Dylan should receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, then some grey-bearded defenders of Literature harrumph their way into the conversation and say it should go to someone experimenting with aphonetic clicking sounds as text.  You think he should get it?

AD:  No, I don’t think he should get it. To explain why, I’ll paraphrase a terrific argument I read once, though I can’t for the life of me remember where. The author of that piece argued, quite rightly, that Dylan, though deserving of the award, doesn’t need it and we don’t need Dylan to receive it. No one will discover Dylan because of the award; he has all the recognition he needs and requires to transmit his art. He was in a Victoria’s Secret commercial with Adriana Lima, for God’s sake. No one needs a Nobel after that. His genius has been acknowledged worldwide. But there are other brilliant and deserving writers, who are reading their novels or poems to rooms of maybe twenty or thirty people (while Dylan continues playing incomprehensible versions of “Blowing in the Wind” to basketball arena-sized crowds), who do need the Nobel – which immediately guarantees financial stability and a wider audience – in order to continue creating. Yes, the Nobel committee makes indisputably pretentious selections but, for every poet exploring aphonetic clicking, there’s a Jose Saramago or a Kenzaburo Oe whose books start appearing on bookshelves, in deserving translations, outside of their homeland. I’d rather see the attention and cash go to Peter Nadas or Adonis, just for the sake of discovery, rather than pinning one more gold medal on the chest of the man who gave the world “Down in the Groove.”

MS:  Tarantula is not a very good novel, but it does have some funny moments.  From a literary perspective, what do you think of just reading Dylan songs on the page.

AD:  I have trouble with it. The music belonging to those words is too deeply set in my memory for the lyrics themselves to take on any independent rhythm or meaning. I wonder if you can even divorce the two like that. I mean, it’d be like reading a poem in translation – there would always be an element missing. It would be an interesting experiment though: give, say, “Visions of Johanna” to a scholar who has never heard the song and ask for an analysis.

MS:  Do you ever mishear Dylan until you read the lyrics?  For years I thought “Yonder stands your orphan with his gun” was “He understands your orphaned with his gun”, which, to the credit of my subconscious, may be a better line.

AD:  There was a long period of time when, if asked, I couldn’t say with absolute certainty that I recognized more than ten words in “Jokerman” as belonging to the English language. Everyone who has ever wanted to do a bad Dylan impersonation at a party for easy laughs should start here.

MS:  I think you understand that for a serious fan, to see Dylan in recent years is to really hope to hear one or two perfect songs.  I remember you were ecstatic to have heard “Nettie Moore” in 2006, and some other song when you were in Italy, can you talk about that moment when you realize he’s playing the song you came to hear?

AD:  When I saw Dylan in Viareggio, I remember that I had half an hour to get my ass over to the station to catch the last train back to Florence. I decided to stay, as I hadn’t really heard anything memorable up to that point. I was rewarded with an absolutely mesmerizing version of “Not Dark Yet” where Dylan sang the line “sometimes I don’t know why / I should even care” in a soft Dean Martin croon, where he adopted the attitude of what, in Italian, we call a menefreghista – someone who simply doesn’t give a fuck. Suddenly, the song shed the bottomless despair of the studio version and took on this resigned, accepting, satisfied sadness. For six minutes I watched Dylan inhabit the ghost of Roberto Murolo as he transformed “Not Dark Yet” into one of those unbearably light Neapolitan canzone of sweet Mediterranean melancholy. It was a perfect fusion of sound and place. Dylan as early Roman king. I slept in the train station that night on a bench. I have no regrets.

MS:  Top Five Dylan songs the casual listener has never heard?

AD:  To Ramona

One Too Many Mornings (Live 1966)

Romance in Durango

Red River Shore

Highwater (for Charley Patton)

MS:      Favourite Dylan album?

AD:      Blonde on Blonde.

CREEPYPASTA: MLB2K13 and Philip K. Dick’s Black Iron Prison


This is a bit of a different creepypasta in that it involves a sports video game, namely MLB2K13.  It also maybe belongs as much in /lit/ as it does in /x/.  Largely, it is subjective, except for what happened to me at The Rogers Centre recently, which is what made me want to have a record of this instead of just dismissing the whole thing as a bad, if spectacularly-involved drug trip.

Bare with me for a couple paragraphs of background info.  Those familiar with the sci-fi author Philip K. Dick can skip the next bit.

For the past couple months I had gotten really into Dick’s work.  As a teenager I’d read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep because that’s the book Blade Runner is based on.  But I never got beyond that.  A couple years ago I read Valis, which I found fascinating.  Dick was eating amphetamines by the handful and either crazy, paranoid, or possessed of some kind of occult power at that stage in his life.  A couple interesting things happened:  1) A beam of pink light told him his son had a serious heart condition.  He told his wife this, took his son to the doctor, and the putative beam’s prediction was confirmed.  2) He came to believe that time was an illusion.  And that we were all really living in the Roman Empire.  He called the collective illusion we were experiencing “The Black Iron Prison.”

Lately (and as you’ll see, the term ‘lately’ still feels strange for me to use), I’d been getting into the weightier Dick novels, including The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Ubik. Both deal with the idea of a false consciousness perpetrated on mankind.  Three Stigmata is perhaps his greatest novel because it deals with the idea of a contagious malevolent consciousness.  And who needs that right?

Here’s the jacket copy:

Two drugs — One to make your lifetime a trip.  The other to make your trip an eternity…
Hell is a future in space.
A future where at any time you can be deported to colonize alien planets.
Unless you’re spaced out…
The only way to survive on the colony worlds is with Can-D — The drug that blows your mind back home for an hour of total bliss.
On a trip beyond any human experience…
Now Chew-Z is here.  The new narcotic that makes that brief hour an eternity.  Where past, present and future belong to the most diabolical pusher you’ve ever met — Palmer Eldritch.


What made me decide to write my experience as a creepypasta instead of say calling into Coast to Coast AM or emailing Jonathan Lethem or someone involved with Philip K. Dick scholarship is that, in true creepypasta form, it also involves a video game.

Since I’ve gotten older I only have patience for sports video games.  I love watching my stats compile, the more realistic the better.  Nothing worse than some bench player hitting .456 with 52 home runs.

So here’s what happened:  I’m listening to an audiobook of The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, a 900-page distillation of his 9000-word personal cosmology.  A lot of bad craziness mixed in with some small smatterings of philosophical brilliance.  I’m also playing MLB2K13, near the end of my first season in franchise mode with the Toronto Blue Jays, my hometown club.

My roommate comes home and says he’s just bought two packages of 40x salvia at a nearby head shop.  I don’t do drugs much anymore, outside of the odd bowl of marijuana, but I figured anything sold legally at a head shop couldn’t be that potent.  (If you take one thing from this account, know that high-potency Salvia is not to be messed with.)  We both took a small hit from a pipe.  I didn’t feel anything at first, so I made the mistake that would cost me about 15 years of conscious hell.  We packed a bong, and I took a monster hit and held it in for as long as I could.  The controller slid from my hands.  My dog began barking at me.  I felt like I was being ripped off of this planet.  The best description I could give is that I felt like a cartoon character being plucked off of celluloid by an omniscient cartoonist in one of those old meta-Looney Tunes cartoons.

Then I was in the game.  Or more specifically, I was in the dugout sitting beside Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and the rest of the Blue Jays.  At first I could only move my head in the limited way that the game’s NPCs were animated to do.

“The empire never ended,” manager John Gibbons said to me, which in retrospect, was probably something from the audio book mixing in with my hallucination involving the game.


Then the pixelated reality began to glitch out, and I was no longer staring out at R.A. Dickey on the mound.  My perspective was now the ‘live action’ perspective known as ‘waking reality’.  I was staring at a pathetic wretch about to engage in combat v. a lion.  The team and I were now spectators at the Flavian Ampitheatre, aka The Coliseum.

“You bring this upon us,” Jose Reyes said to me, still speaking broken English despite I guess the empire never having ended and us being back in the 10th century.


Then there was another glitch and we were back at the ballpark.  I’ll speculate that this occurred because my roommate had turned off the game and the audio book.  He later told me that after I collapsed on the floor he decided not to take his hit from the bong, and instead watched over me for about three minutes before I came to and asked what happened.

In those three minutes I lived what felt like 15 years.   The seed had been planted, and despite the game and audiobook turned off, this was the model of consciousness we were stuck in.  My subconscious was left to fill in the blanks.  So we did what I imagined baseball players did.  We showered and ate from a buffet after the game.  We went back to our hotel floor and some of us played cards.  Every once and a while someone would appear grey and inhuman, and I knew they were not real.  Words cannot describe the sinister disappointment I experienced each time this irreality became evident.  The worst part was every once in a while someone would look at me in a strange way, and I knew I appeared grey, inhuman, unreal to them also.

I was a second baseman for no reason I can think of.  We’d take infield practice, but there was always this unsettling vibe that we were in a rote simulation.  That the empire never ended.  That we were in a Black Iron Prison mandated by code.  Some of the players came to resent me the most, because I was the interloper, but they also recognized each other as being sub-real, so let’s just say there was a lot of crankiness and confusion.  Ballplayers, as a lot, are not metaphysicians.

Offseasons came and went.  I engaged with my fictional ballplayer’s family—an attractive blonde wife, two kids.  But all the while I felt an ugliness inside of me, that Palmer Eldritch and I had been fused as one.

We reported for spring training like it was the dream model of hell.  There were glitches galore.  Eventually guys on the team started to retire and were replaced by younger players who seemed equally confused and horrified.  After twelve seasons I retired and started doing play by play analysis for Rogers Sportsnet strangely enough.  Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad, but again I want to stress this underlying dread everyone felt at all times, knowing we weren’t in reality, yet being unable to escape.

Then one day after all those many years my eyes opened and my roommate stood above me, gravely concerned.

“Dude, I was just about to call an ambulance!”

“What happened?”

“You smoked salvia.”


“I have to get to the studio,” I said.

“What studio?  You work at a call centre.”

The consensus reality slowly returned to me.  There were only glimpses of what I experienced in the Black Iron MLB prison at first, but after hours of meditation I was able to recall much of it.

Anyone who’s ever had a bad trip can probably relate on some level to this experience.  And it’s easy to write it off as a hallucination, especially given the aural and visual stimuli of the game and the audio book.

But then a few weeks later, as I was trying to put back the pieces of my sanity, my roommate and I went to a Jays game.  We both have a $100 season’s pass which is an excellent value, but involves sitting in the upper deck.  We were able to sneak down to some field level seats this night however, right by the first baseline.

I saw Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion chatting in the on-deck circle.  Someone behind me yelled out, “Good luck Edwin!” and he glanced in my direction.  A look of pure horror crossed his face.  He tapped Bautista on the shoulder.  Bautista looked at me and they both began shaking their heads.  “No,” I saw Bautista mouth, “No,” and then he walked into the dugout with tears in his eyes.   Mark DeRosa pinch hit for him.

Old man doesn’t know what to expect from Bob Dylan concert, blames Bob Dylan.

I am angry at a man I have never met.  His name is Stephen Wooten.  I’m about to say mean things about him.  So first, let me say a few nice things.  Stevie-bear, that’s a hell of a mustache.  I bet you are a great systems analyst/engineer and a better family man.  The writing in your piece for the Argus Leader is grammatically-correct and largely typo-free.

The charity ends there, for Wooten has written a stereotypically crappy review of a Bob Dylan concert.  This is the type of thing I lose sleep over.  I have already kicked my dog and thrown my trash on a neighbour’s lawn today as an indirect result of Wooten-based rage.

Here is a paragraph-by-paragraph breakdown of why Wootsy is now #1 on my shit-list.

After many weeks of anticipation, I attended the Bob Dylan concert at the Arena on Saturday night. I have been a Dylan fan for many, many years, from his folk days to his early electric, from his protest songs to his country songs and love ballads to his rowdy rock and roll. So I waited for the big night — waited for what should have been a great concert.

Not so angry yet.  He’s establishing that he’s a long-time fan, that’s fine.  He’s establishing his anticipation, great.  Motherfucking should have been a great concert, what the hell do you know Wooten?  Alright, breathe Mike.

Also, it’s funny how he capitalizes the word Arena.  Like it was the name of God.

The concert I attended was not the one I waited for. First of all, the sound system at the Arena is so bad that Dylan often was halfway through a song before I could tell what song he was performing. There was no spotlight on Dylan or the band, so you could not see them well. It might have been different for the first few rows on the floor, but back in row 13, you could not see well at all. It must have been even worse for the people sitting in the seats off the floor. Our chairs on the floor were padded, but they were so close together they made airline seats seem spacious.

My theory:  even with perfect sound you wouldn’t have recognized the songs until the choruses.  There are many rubes like you, and they all express this same complaint with the same degree of earnest outrage.  Guess what, the arrangements have changed a little bit since ’66.  If you listened to anything, anything other than your Greatest Hits CD (you just know this guy still listens to CDs, probably in either a boombox or one of those giant multi-disc changers from the 90s) you’d know that.  Man oh man, the Wootens of the world.

Couldn’t see from 13 rows back?  May I suggest corrective lenses, or stronger ones?

To his credit, Dylan did start on time and didn’t screw around. He played almost two hours straight through. And he does rock. But there was no interaction at all with the audience. And because the sound was so poor, you could not understand what he was singing, so the relationship wasn’t through his poetry either.

My dog was just kicked for a second time.  He is in the corner right now licking at his ribs.  In this paragraph we find Wootsy’s only reference to the music, which he seems to have enjoyed, claiming it “rocked.”

Then comes the line that has my other dog currently cowering in fear beneath the bed. If you Google,  “Bob Dylan talk to audience” you will find an estimated fifty million reviews by small-town hack newspaper reporters issuing this lament as informed criticism.  What do you want him to say, “Big shout out to my friends at the fucking Argus Leader, that news organization is really making an impact in the world.  The answer my friends, can more often than not be found in the Argus Leader.”  Or, “Hey the Outback Steakhouse you have here in Argus[1] is way better than the Outback Steakhouse in Garretson[2].”  Bob doesn’t really say much during shows you fools.  When he does it is subtle and hilarious.  Also, Stephen Wooten, Bob Dylan does not want to have a relationship with you. No matter how many discs can be played in your CD player at once, got that?

I have been to many concerts at the Washington Pavilion. This was my first and last concert at the Arena. I longed for the Washington Pavilion.

Sir, no one cares about your regional venue concerns.  But please do not use them in an article that is headlined Bob Dylan Concert Dissapoints Fan or in any way as to convey Bob Dylan = disappointment.

And again with that capitalized Arena.   I notice in the comments it’s always the Arena so maybe these people have some weird, reverential Arena-worship thing happening.

By the end of the night, I was sorry: Sorry that I had spent money on a disappointing concert, sorry that I had missed the master poet and artist Dylan, and sorry that he had missed the opportunity to connect with me. I should have stayed home.

Oh no, Stephen Wooten is experiencing regret.  Worse, Bob Dylan, get this, missed the opportunity to connect with Stephen Wooten.  That should have been the Argus Leader’s headline, 26-point superheader: “Dylan does not connect with fellow great man Wooten.”

Should have stayed home?  Do everyone a favour and always stay home.  And Argus Leader, do everyone a favour also and disband the Argus Leader Opinion Advisory Panel immediately so that nothing like this will ever appear again.

[1] I don’t know if Argus is a place or what and I really don’t care.

[2] Home to Steve “Stache-Man” Wooten.

Toronto Singer/Songwriter Jack Marks discusses Bob Dylan

Mike Sauve:   Your act usually contains several Bob Dylan songs.  At your most engaged you deliver lyrics with a hostile immediacy that may seem familiar to some Dylan fans.  You have a song called Good As I’ve Been To You which is also the title of a 1992 Dylan album of traditional songs.  You have another original song that sounds a lot like Leopard-Skin-Pillbox Hat.  It seems like Dylan is, if not front-and-centre, then at least prominent in what you’re putting across, discuss:

Jack Marks:   Let me start by saying certainly I am a Dylan fan but by no means would I consider myself a Dylan scholar. I remember hearing Masters of War when I was like 15 and thinking how great it was someone could get that much feeling across with just a guitar and some singing – which was all I really had at the time. It also struck me that the character of ones voice could be as or more important than the quality. Not that I consider Dylan’s voice to be of poor quality but there are those who do and who did. What struck me with Dylan was that his poetry was at the forefront of the song where as in many other forms of popular music the rhythm and the melody were at the forefront. As a kid who was interested in writing and that didn’t think too much of his own voice, Dylan seemed like a perfect place to start.

I wouldn’t say that my act contains a bunch of Dylan songs for any particular reason other than that I enjoy playing them and I can remember the words. Any band that is starting out needs material and so when I first was forming a band I would just play the songs I knew the words to. Often songs I had learned for the purpose of busking or otherwise – because I liked the chord structure or the melody or the words. If I play a Dylan song or a Roger Miller song or a John Prine song or a Leonard Cohen song it is usually just because it is one that stuck with me along the way. In saying that, it makes sense to assume that many of the covers I do have influenced my own writing in some way. I’m sure there are many things that I have borrowed that I may not even be conscious of having done so just because all the songs I’ve ever heard are swimming around in my subconscious somewhere. I became aware of that a long time ago.

One of the roadblocks all artist’s face I guess is the feeling that what they are producing isn’t original enough. One of the things that really got me about Dylan particularly was the fact that he was taking a lot of existing chord structures and melodies and re-working them to create new songs. In the same way that Dylan borrowed melodies from an old slave ballad like No More Auction Block for Blowin’ in the Wind and a traditional song like Lord Randall for A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall I began to consider borrowing from Dylan, or anyone else for that matter, as simply carrying on a tradition that they had already started.

One of the first Dylan songs I learned was Song to Woody. I loved the song immediately for the way it celebrated being a travelling musician and how it, in essence, was Dylan’s way of thanking Woody for inspiring him to carry on the tradition Woody had already started. When I soon after discovered that Dylan had borrowed the line “come with the dust and are gone with the wind” from Guthrie – for the song he had written for him – and that he’d borrowed the melody from Guthrie’s own 1913 Massacre I was blown away. It changed the way I thought about songwriting entirely. I became less focused on the idea of creating something that was unequivocally original and began to see song writing as a craft that like any other skill had rules and structures to learn. Rules are often broken in the pursuit of art but it is always helpful to know what the rules are before you set about tearing them down.

Dylan, of course did a lot of groundbreaking in terms of what a song could be, how long a song could be and the content of the lyrics etc. but he also wrote in standard structures. I usually think of this structure – verse / chorus / verse / chorus / bridge / verse / chorus – as the most common structure in popular music (I’m sure others may argue differently, but that is at least my perception). As a form, it isn’t a bad place to start if you have an idea for a song and just want to see if it will go somewhere. Say that doesn’t work, though. Maybe it just doesn’t feel right – it feels stale and used up. You could try a structure that doesn’t have a conventional chorus or verse or bridge at all. Dylan uses forms like this all the time. Instead of having a chorus these songs often have a tag line attached to the end of the verse that creates the poetic refrain eliminating the need for a chorus at all. See Shelter from the Storm and Tangled up in Blue. I always loved Ballad of a Thin Man because it is essentially a song written in this structure and then out of nowhere comes a bridge to keep you hooked for the back half of the song. Visions of Johanna is beautiful in the way the tag line is modified each time revealing the visions’ varied effects. When you hear songs structured like that nowadays I imagine most people associate it with Dylan because he was such a master at it. Of course it was a structure that he’d learned from traditional songs – but try writing a song like that and see if people won’t compare you to Dylan these days.

When I picked up Dylan’s album of traditional arrangements, Good as I Been to You I was staying up north for a few weeks writing a lot of songs. I immediately noticed that the album title was taken from a line in, and not a title of, one of the songs. I thought that the line sounded like a great title for a country song and so I wrote one. The song set up perfectly to be a duet and so I had my friend Stacey Burke come in the studio and perform the female part. It’s because of her that the song is still one of my favorites on my first record.

Mike Sauve:  You do lot of up-tempo Dylan material like Pledging My Time, From a Buick 6 (I’m a big fan of your delivery on “need a steamshovel mama to keep away the dead”) or You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, but as a songwriter who’s written some melancholy numbers like Two of Everything and What Good are Dreams, do you ever think of performing something weepy like Restless Farewell or Girl from the North Country? Or even something from the hospice-toned Time Out of Mind?

Jack Marks:   I never really think about doing many slow Dylan tunes. We are often playing venues where having a few extra upbeat tunes to keep people dancing at the end of the night is handy. There are hundreds of Dylan songs I like and wouldn’t mind covering but these days I am much more concerned with my own words.

Mike Sauve:   Talk of your history.  I’ve seen YouTube clips of you performing in other countries (Germany), so can we get a ruck-sacking, self-mythologizing troubadour story here, or were you on an international accounting scholarship or something?

Jack Marks:   Ha. Actually, it was a German promoter’s idea. He had become a fan of my music after a friend who’d been passing through the year before had given him a copy of my album. He proposed a way for me to come over and play and I jumped at the opportunity. There was also some interest for me to play in Holland after my first album charted briefly on the Euro americana chart so it soon turned into a tour. I met a lot of great folks over there – played some interesting venues – saw a lot of fantastic architecture. I would love to get back there soon and bring a band next time.

Mike Sauve:   Dave Van Ronk’s mentorship of Bob Dylan is something I find quite touching, did any Toronto musicians mentor you in this fashion?

Jack Marks:   I wouldn’t say that anyone mentored me like Van Ronk mentored Dylan, necessarily. When I got to Toronto on a permanent basis I was already in my mid-twenties so I was already somewhat formed in my opinions about music and had already crafted a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do if given the chance. I was lucky enough to meet a great guy and fellow songwriter named David Baxter who saw some potential in me and eventually offered me the opportunity to make an album. Bax was a mentor and a colleague all at the same time. His experience was invaluable in teaching me something about the business and how records got made and people got paid – but at the same time we were both working on our first solo efforts and plotting to have them heard. It was an important time for both of us I think.

Mike Sauve:   Give me a few words on a Toronto mainstay like John Borra?

Jack Marks:   John was one of the first guys I met after starting to play around the Toronto scene. He is a great guy – a hell of a songwriter – a guy who makes his living through music. I always tell him he does the best Hank Williams in the city.

MS:     Upstart Devin Cuddy?

JM:     Devin is the master of ceremonies. I think he sees himself in some sort of Duke Ellington role down the line now that his hockey career is on the shelf. He plays a mean blues piano and knows more about music than just about anyone I know. I think everyone is looking forward to his first record.

MS:     Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands-type Whitney Rose?

JM:     Whitney is a premium blue chip entertainer. Not only does she have a powerful voice and stage presence but she writes great songs too. On top of that I believe she may have a different dress for each day of the year. Again, everyone is looking forward to her first record.

MS:     Back to Dylan: What’s your favourite Dylan album and why?

JM:     That is a tough one. It is hard to pick a favorite. Right now when I reach for Dylan I guess I usually grab Planet Waves or New Morning. I’m not sure why. Nobody likes folks that play favourites, anyway.

MS:     Most underrated Dylan tune?  (or three or four most underrated if you prefer)

JM:     That is kind of an easy question because he didn’t have many hits so I guess most of them are underrated. How about Love is Just a Four-Letter Word. That was one of the ones where I was thinking, “he didn’t write that, did he?” Plus I don’t think he ever recorded it. Baez must have overcooked it for him. That should qualify as underrated.

MS:     I didn’t get seriously into Dylan until my early 20s.  As a kid I had the Greatest Hits V. 1 and 2 and for youthful stupidity didn’t look beyond that.  It was actually Time Out of Mind that first inspired me to dig deeper.  How did it go for you?

JM:     I guess the first thing I heard – or listened to – was Like a Rolling Stone when I was 14 or 15. My Dad used to play Dylan sometimes in the car when we were on road trips when I was young. He wasn’t a big Dylan fan by any stretch and I think he thought of Dylan as somewhat of a novelty but at the same time he was always into exposing us to different things. From there I took a fairly chronological approach starting from his early folk records on up. I wasn’t really into the later Dylan stuff at all when I was young. I was hooked on the Woody Guthrie / Jimmy Rodgers mythos back then and liked the idea of just a folk guitar and singing – something I could do without a band. I used to dress in pretty raggedy clothes and just tote my acoustic around everywhere. I guess I thought there was something noble in it – standing in front of a bank or a liquor store and hitchhiking around and playing songs. By the time I was 16 I was starting to write some songs tailored after Dylan songs – they weren’t any good – but I was trying. A gal I was seeing around then used to play Desire and Nashville Skyline like they were the only two records that ever existed. I didn’t mind one bit. It was like something that we knew about that nobody else had figured out yet.

MS:     I sometimes hear an early-Dylanesque drawl in your singing voice, particularly on the repeated “hards” in your song So Hard, how intentional is this?

JM:     It is completely intentional but at the same time comes somewhat naturally if that makes any sense. I like to think that I come from the school of songwriting that allows for a certain flexibility of character. When you hear Mick Jagger sing Far Away Eyes, do you ask if he is faking a southern accent? No – you just accept that it is in keeping with the character of the song. When you see early Tom Waits stuff you know that he is putting on a character – but yes – that is the point. That is the school of songwriting I like to think that I come from. If I write a funny country song like Greasy Maggie there is a sort of natural drawl that comes out because that is how I envision the character in the song. If I am singing a song from the point of a down and out drunk who fancies himself a poet that misses his woman like in So Hard my voice takes on something different maybe – something more like a blues or jazz singer. At the same time I try not to ever affect my voice so much that you don’t know it’s me. They are all just kind of versions of me. I have lived lots of different places too in my life and they all serve to add something to the way I talk and write. It comes down to being a fiction writer and an entertainer. My songs are written from experience to a certain extant but are not what I would call confessional. Each one is kind of like a monologue with its own character. Some characters are more closely related to me than others.

Nashville Skyline is an interesting example of your question in relation to Dylan – and this is just an opinion – but on Nashville Skyline it almost seems like his voice is probably closest to his “real singing voice” than the voice he uses on most of his records. Some people would disagree but I think it was just such a departure that people described it as affected. In reality it was the “folk voice” that he had developed early on that was the affected voice. By the time he got around to using his real voice people wouldn’t buy it anymore.

MS:     Some Dylan songs you play live might not even be recognized by younger audience members…another good one might be Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar.  It has a lot of funny lines I could hear you talking out like, “Don’t know what I could say about Claudette/that wouldn’t come back to haunt me/guess I began to give her up/about the time she began to want me.”  Take that Claudette.  Kind of sounds like something from your acerbic Song for Me.

JM:     Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar is a great song. I was first introduced to it off the Biography collection. I remember sitting in my buddy’s Chevy Nova in the parking lot of our high school smoking a joint listening to it and we just kept rewinding the tape and playing it over an over again. We were mostly blown away by how many words he was fitting into a line. I’ve never heard anyone cover it. It would be a pretty bold undertaking.

[At 25 seconds, it sounds like Bob says, “Facebook”]

MS:     You’ve been in the studio recording a third album called Blues Like These, how will it differ from the first two?

JM:     For one thing, I am using a new band and a new producer (Aaron Comeau) this time. It has been two years since the last time I made a record so a lot has changed and evolved in that time. The first two albums represented a certain amount of purging of a backlog of material I had written that had never been recorded where as the new album will be comprised mostly of songs written in the past few years. Also, I tried to make the recording process this time around a bit more organic going with more of a live off the floor approach. I think it is going to translate the songs really well.

You can check out Jack’s website here.

Downtown After-hours Club Attracts All Kinds, Including Police – National Post, Toronto Section – 2008/03/28

DJ Booth at the Comfort Zone

I’ve been to The Comfort Zone about 10 times.  There are dealers, junkies and general scumbags just as you’ve read in the news.  One area was always filled with hulking shirtless gay dudes, Russian gangster-looking types or Chinese gangster-types.  Relatively normal people are the slight majority however.  I met a television producer at The Zone once, a real-estate agent, and a couple lawyers.

Other intimate morning promotions like The New Basement are patronized by house aficionados and scenesters, but seem quaint, almost prudish by comparison.  With crowds of up to 300 hardcore partiers stuffed into a dirty little basement from 4 a.m. Sunday morning, till 4 a.m. Monday morning, The Comfort Zone has been in a league of its own since the mid 90’s.  It’s even buzzed about in club scenes like Sydney, London and Miami.  There is no other place like The Comfort Zone in Toronto.

With a second consecutive Sunday morning raid on Easter Sunday, police hope to discourage people from going.  They’d like to close the place down, but currently don’t have legal grounds. Club regulars are confident it will remain open indefinitely.  Some even gloated that the DJ Deko-Ze dropped a hard beat before authorities had even left the building after Sunday’s smaller scale raid during which two men were charged with selling ecstasy, ketamine and GHB.  The previous raid resulted in 33 arrests and the confiscation of $30,000 worth of drugs.

Typically, the College and Spadina venue attracts those who’ve partied all night at a massive club like Guvernment, an all-night gay club or anywhere a DJ spins house music.  People show up between 4 and 8 a.m. on a Sunday.  If a party-person takes ecstasy at 5 a.m., their serotonin-happy brain might consider resting at home far more objectionable than this dank, weirdo pit.

Glance over your shoulder and a 65-year-old Korean woman is energetically bopping to the hard drum and bass beat.  One regular had a severe neurological impairment, he’d sit shirtless in the middle of the dance floor steering his wheelchair to the repetitive beat.

There is a black-light on the dance floor that makes everyone appear somewhat monsterish whether you are on drugs or not.  This creates a sinister element that thrills and disgusts at the same time.  There are gorgeous 19-year-old girls and terrifying old hags who claim they’re 35.  You can spill your guts about your divorce to some kid who listens better than your therapist, or get ripped off by a career hustler.

“It’s the only club I know of that you can attend in pajamas if you want. I’ve done it once, and I give everybody props that I see in sneakers, a tee, and pajama pants. It is after all the ‘Comfort’ Zone. Anything goes, within reason,” said Danny Rosado, an event planner now living in New York.

At 11 a.m. The Silver Dollar opens. Walk up a flight of stairs and show your ID, get searched by a bouncer, then listen to a different DJ, maybe take in a break-dancing competition and pour a little booze on top of your drug buzz.

Rosado points out that DJs like Deko-Ze measure up with talent at the hottest clubs in the world.  “The sound system is incredible. The fact that it’s a basement with low ceilings makes the bass even more powerful, and the tracks that much more intense. It’s very dark with subtle lighting that gets you more in tune with your senses. It’s almost primal when you’re in the zone at Zone.”

“The reason the music appeals is the tactile high MDMA gives you, and to have that subsonic pressure in the air you literally feel it.  It’s like pushing yourself in a womb,” said Scott O’Nanski, a bouncer who’s worked in the industry for over a decade.  “I’d like to say it’s about the music and the scene, but it hasn’t been about that since 1998.  It is about drug use.”

On Facebook many call it their church and consider the police raids a brutal injustice.   Rosado sees something of value in The Zone that he feels hasn’t been recognized.  “The community proves to be beneficial for so many people. For some people like my best friend, his friends from the scene are his family. We are all he has. And some days, with great music and great friends, Comfort Zone can feel like home for some people.  The people that love that place take care of that place and each other.”

Zone rats, as some proudly identify, don’t deny the dangerous and unsavoury elements, but they prefer to focus on the kind-hearted people who discuss Noam Chomsky on couches or the open vibe that allows many new friendships to blossom.

O’Nanski doesn’t buy the “family of music-lovers” line.  “The number of people who aren’t there for drugs is negligible,” he said.  Finding drugs isn’t difficult.  Dealers circle the club asking if you need anything.  Ecstasy costs the uninitiated $15 and could be cut with DXM and other elements far removed from MDMA.

“Anyone with even the most basic observational skills can determine the traffic flow will gravitate towards one individual, and he’s the guy to go to because he has the good stuff at a good price.  You’re looking at a four to six hour high for as low as $10,” said the 34-year-old O’Nanski.

He believes The Comfort Zone appeals to suburbanites and 905’ers like Andrew Fazio because “it’s a subculture, not mainstream and not readily acceptable.  It’s a hedonistic lifestyle people can’t experience in their daily life and it is over the top to the point where people can die.”  He points out that after tripping from midnight to 8 a.m., some who don’t live downtown come down at The Zone to avoid driving home stoned.

Whether Comfort Zone culture intrigues or horrifies you, it’s hard to deny that reckless ingesting of drugs containing unknown chemicals makes The Zone a hazard, especially for new patrons.  O’Nanski is amazed more people haven’t died for this reason, “They don’t know GHB can be concentrated to an extent where you won’t know how potent what you’re taking is.  They don’t know that an E could have chemicals that your liver can’t break down.  They don’t understand the inherent dangers.”

The Confederate Orbs of Ghostly Savannah

I’ve committed the federal crime of harassing an alligator.  I’ve received photographic evidence of the malevolent entity that has afflicted me for the past year or two.  I’ve learned that the phrase “washroom” is not understood in the American south. I’ve participated in a game of “blues bingo” wherein a blues musician extemporizes blues phrases like “B39, I been walkin’ down that line.”  I swam in the ocean for the first time since I was very young.  I was improbably conveyed on something known as a “boogie board.”  I’ve been moved nearly to tears by the effect of Virginia Oaks against the backdrop of 18th-century Savannah architecture.  I’ve drank in a bar where at closing time the bouncer insisted I pour my unfinished drink in a traveller, a convenience that if attempted in my native Toronto, one risks a potential tarring/feathering/tasing for.

My long suffering companion (Hereafter:  LSC) and I got our first taste of Southern Hospitality at a Wild Wing Cafe.  After drinking one of those large margaritas that in Canada would maybe have two shots of tequila but here have between 7 and 12, we met another couple out on the town.  They took us to a bar where we engaged in a spirited game of darts and learned about a beer called Yuengling.

Monday:   S.O.P. Savannah trolley tour.  Hangovers often produce in me a strange reverie and a heightened emotional state, so it was no surprise that my first view of the historic district surrounding Forsyth Park, where Savannah is most beautiful, moved me near tears.  But maybe they were near-tears of relief, me being the sort who is constantly let down by any kind of vacation investment…as David Foster Wallace wrote in Consider the Lobster:

As I see it, it probably really is good for the soul to be a tourist, even if it’s only once in a while. Not good for the soul in a refreshing or enlivening way, though, but rather in a grim, steely-eyed, let’s-look-honestly-at-the-facts-and-find-some-way-to-deal-with-them way. […] To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all noneconomic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing.

That’s how I usually feel.  But I didn’t feel that way in Savannah.  I felt like I was watching a film by Terrence Malick, listening to Dylan circa 1975; I felt blessed by good fortune.

That night we dined on subs at Jimmie John’s—and seriously, when can Canada get these?  The freshness of their simple subs made all the salt-preserved garbage of Subway seem like some kind of sandwich-in-a-can product.

Monday night:  the ghost trolley tour didn’t disappoint.  Many patrons had Iphone apps with names like “Spectre Detector” to measure electromagnetic anomalies.  Though no base-line was first sought out, any kind of spike was a thrill for these app-enthusiasts.    (And man, did they ever seem to love apps in general.)

But then something legitimately spooked us.  Outside a graveyard filled with victims of the revolutionary war, a blue orb was photographed in my vicinity in five different photos.   Photos taken in opposite directions proved it was not a smudge on the lens.  It did not appear to be an halation, “a halo-shaped exposure-pattern around light sources seen on chemical film…” or as one of Wallace’s characters describes halation in Infinite Jest, “That most angelic of distortions.”

Normally my LSC works hard to dismiss things of this nature before I can get “carried away.”  Her attempts at scepticism aren’t based on the usual blind rationalism however, but out of a serious fear of all things creepy.  Fortunately, I was among many Spectre Detector app owners, for whom the orb pictures justified their $35 tour fee, and saw them burst forth in basically paroxysms.  Pretty cool orbs though, judge for yourself.

The tour then visited The Pirates House, a bar in operation since 1753, and the place where Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island.  I had my picture taken in front of a tunnel that was once used to shanghai soldiers aboard ships.  “Shanghai” meaning, some old dude is buying you drinks, someone hits you from behind, a quick trip through this tunnel later and soon you’re scrubbing floors on a ship bound for China.

Tuesday: a Civil War Walking Tour that really brought to life Shelby Foote’s three volume history of the Civil War I’d began reading in preparation for the trip.  Lesson:  The Civil War is interesting as hell.  If not necessarily so for the LSC, then at least for students of history, both serious students and dilettantish ones like myself.

Also, for non-Americans, I might note that a Confederate flag is not just the signifier of racism ever-present in the stereotype (see for example, the flag hanging in the truck of white rapists in A Time to Kill), but actually represents all sorts of positive tradition and pride[1].  But, I think the perception in the North, is, like, confederate flag = pro slavery, which is true I’m guessing less than 5% of the time.

Then a S.O.P. dolphin tour and S.O.P ocean swim.  All of which should not be denounced as standard or boring but to what lengths would anyone want me to go to describe the feeling of swimming in the ocean, certainly this has been done better in thousands if not millions of places.

So I’ll instead describe the somewhat disappointing Blues and Bingo event we attended.  Looking for a bar playing blues music, I assumed the game of Bingo would be going on separate from the blues performance.  Not so, the musician, a well-known local regarded as a technical whiz, was calling out the Bingo numbers in tandem with standard blues lyrics, “A24, oh my girl walked out the door.”

The LSC was bit by many noseeums and these bites swelled to horrific proportions leading to no small amount of complaining, CVS trips, and angry calls to the previous night’s hotel manager filled with malicious and capricious bed bug accusations & c.

Wednesdsay:  Driving towards South Carolina we stopped at a Wildlife Refuge and took pictures of Alligators and crazy looking birds.  Also the Virginia Oaks were particularly prevalent and beautiful on the 4-mile stretch of drivable preservation.

Thursday:  The second of a couple nights at Hilton Head on an ocean-front resort.  But more like hotel really.  Bad food.  Rental fees for beach chairs.

Friday/Saturday:   Staying two nights in the Mansion on Forsyth Park really put things over the top.  Keller, who owns five-star hotels in all the best cities in America, seems to furnish them as a labour of personal love with little concern for when he’ll earn the money back.  There looked to be about $10 million worth of art on the walls, a pool right out of Beverley Hills that was the nicest I’ve ever swam in, with the whole gorgeous property just oozing Savannah charm.

While staying at this joint we attended a Savannah Sand Gnats game (the A ball affiliate of the New York Mets), went to mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, sat by the pool, and then ended things with the coolest tour of the trip.

Ghosts again but this time on a pub crawl.  At the first bar I ordered a vodka-soda that I swear had 3-5 ounces of alcohol in it.   The host was incredibly charming and funny.  Hit all the right notes.  Didn’t try to get serious till the very end when she talked about ghosts following her home, scratching her, accosting her daughter, etc.

It ended in what I considered comedy of the highest order.  But I was forbidden by the LSC to confirm the accuracy of the perceived comedy with the host.

A woman on the tour with fairly slim shoulders and legs, but a rather protrusive abdomen became very woozy and upset and was pantomiming low-scale possession, so the tour’s host asked her, “You know why it’s affecting you don’t you?”

On previous tours it had been stated that ghosts are fond of pregnant women due to certain hormonal energies the putative ghosts can latch onto.  But the victim of wooziness just looked confused and answered, “No.”

I believe the host was implying pregnancy, but now doubting the nearly-implied pregnancy, she back-pedalled somewhat weakly, “Because you’re special.”

The host probably wouldn’t have speculated in the direction of pregnancy if she’d observed the 8 or so Long Island Ice Teas the wooziness/possession-victim had consumed.  The victim then sort of fell on the stairs and continued lying on the stairs until she was attended to and removed.

It seems like most people in Savannah, excluding the wealthy elites, are employed in either tourism or in the maintenance and restoration of historic sites.  That’s pretty cool.  What really struck me is how those making minimum wage at Sub Shops and so forth really had a positive vibe.  In Toronto, take a good hard look at people behind the counter at a fast food place and you’re going to absorb some sadness/low-scale anger if you’re an empathic person.  Savannah’s minimum wage-earners seemed perfectly content.  There’s perhaps something less materialistic about life in Savannah.   There’s also something nourishing about the history and the proud upkeep of the place.  I wonder if a gas station or supermarket would sponsor me for a Visa?




[1] In addition to perhaps some signifiers of racism I suppose it must be granted.