Here’s the great Asheville cover band Pleasure Chest’s opening number from last night’s Chico Feo gig featuring Erich Hubner’s killer surf guitar solo.
An incident that occurred yesterday engendered a frustrating dream last night, or to be more accurate, this morning.
On most weekday afternoons around five o’clock, I walk to Chico Feo for two or three beers. Yesterday was particularly lovely with its offshore breeze and low humidity. I found a seat at the bar and chatted with someone named Thomas about Charles Bukowski. Later, I learned from my friend Jim that the operator of Folly toll booth of the 1920s could refuse entrance to undesirables. Right before leaving, I hung awhile with the swashbuckling twenty-something surf crew, Connor, Nathan, Ike, etc. Eventually, I forked over fifteen bucks to bartender Gavin for three low potency IPAs (tip included) and began my seven-block trek back to East Huron for a chat on the deck with Caroline before she prepared fried chicken, air-fried broccoli, and couscous for dinner.
When walking home, I take various routes, depending on the heat and shade or my mood. Yesterday afternoon, I took East Erie to 4th Street, and as I made the turn, I spotted a couple in their forties playing badminton. She was wearing a knee-length floral dress and giggling girlishly as she retrieved what we vulgarians call the “birdy.”
Lovely, I thought, wholesome.
As I turned right from 4th to Hudson, I encountered eight or so short-term renters who had placed the largest inflatable pool I’d ever seen in the side yard. Three of the young men, in their late twenties or early thirties, splashed around sitting in the pool while three or four women stood over them with their wine. Completing the tableau was a springer spaniel in profile defecating, his head facing the pool.
It was a wonderful sight to see, the cast of characters spaced harmoniously, the modest one-story cream colored clapboard house in the background, the dog triangular. I thought, “Man, Edward Hopper would love this,” and then, “I ought to take a picture,” but I had already passed and knew that if I turned around, the dog likely would have finished its business.
In this age of unlimited photo-shooting, many of us – and I’m including myself here – feel that if we don’t have a photo, it didn’t happen. I remember visiting the Louvre years back and marveling at Japanese tourists viewing masterpieces through the lens of cameras and my ruing their inability to nakedly gaze in appreciation of the art in and of itself. But now here I was approaching the fifth block of Hudson and chiding myself for both not taking the picture and for regretting not taking the picture, which led to more general musings about behavioral oddities in the age of social media.
Fastforward ten hours or so.
I’ve bumped into Bob Dylan on Folly, a younger version than I one I last saw in concert. He’s dressed modestly and is relatively friendly. Afraid of alienating him, I don’t share what a pivotal role he played in my life or ask any of the thousands of questions that have popped up in my now teeming brain.
I’m desperate, though, to take a picture, to prove to the world I was hanging with Bob. He is on Folly for an exhibit of his art, and I ask if I can take a picture of one of his paintings, but he doesn’t answer . I walk away to fiddle with my phone so I can take a photo, but when I come back, he has vanished, replaced by a core of festive people saying, “We heard that Dylan was just here.”
Yes, he had been, and I had been in his presence, sort of, but sort of not, because rather than living the moment, I abstracted the experience by wanting photographic proof, validation for my coolness, hoping that some of his immortality would rub off on me.
 I can’t bring myself to use “shuttlecock” even though “giggling girlishly as she retrieved the shuttlecock” sounds more musical, an improvement over “what we vulgarians call the ‘birdy.’”
 I don’t know if this is related, but Bill Murray was at Chico Feo three weeks ago, and I had no inclination whatsoever to engage him in any way or to take a photo. Also, a couple of Christmases ago, I met Stephen Colbert at a relatively small house party. We conversed about Porter-Gaud, his alma mater and where I used to teach. During the party, only one person asked to have his picture taken with him, which I considered très gauche.
Here’s a snippet of the great Danielle Howle from the May 31 iteration of the Singer Songwriter Soapbox at Chico Feo. She currently has a kickstarter campaign to secure funds to record her 16th studio album. You can contribute here.
A good time was had by all.
The last time I donned the ol’ pith helmet and ventured inside the rich anthropological domain of Folly Beach, SC, was on 17 March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic. Even though it was St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday associated with the consumption of intoxicating spirits, a day when inebriates typically jampack the bars of the so-called Edge of America, only a few foolhardy hedonists stumbled the streets that Saturday, their left hands clutching red cups, their right hands thumbing their noses, as it were, at Dr. Fauci’s fervent pleas to stay indoors to stem the contagion.
Why would I – whom sociologists classify as geriatric, advertisers term a golden ager, and young people consider an old fart – expose myself to possible infection? After all, at 67, I fell into the likely-to-die demographic. Why, you ask?
Because I’m a scientist, damn it; that’s why.
Of course, I submitted a report of that field work, including video, which you can access here.
Well, 407 long days have elapsed since that death-defying foray onto the potentially contagious sidewalks of FBSC 17 March 2020. Now, with COVID cases waning nationwide (albeit spiking in India and elsewhere abroad) and having received two doses of the Moderna vaccine – the second one a month ago – I decided it was high time to investigate. With Caroline, my invaluable anthropological colleague, erstwhile grief counsellor, and crackerjack photographer at my side, we trekked to Center Street to determine to what degree behaviors have changed since the early days of the pandemic.
We set up base camp at Chico Feo and found that outdoor eatery a-swarm with Friday night foragers, mostly tourists, but a considerable number of local denizens lolled there as well. After one low-impact libation, Caroline and I decided to head straight to Ground Zero, the shitshow known as the Rooftop at Snapper Jack’s, a two-block walk. Before departing however, our sponsors, pictured below, suggested we be on the lookout for topers tippling drinks that Jenny (pictured far right) has dubbed “ho-a-canes” and “bro-nados.”
At the base of the stairs leading to Snapper Jack’s rooftop bar, we encountered our first bachelorette crew, pictured below. They seemed to me, despite the festive pink cowgirl hats, a bit subdued. Caroline and I peppered them with questions. The 23-year-old bride-to-be (second from the left) had found, according to her, the “man of her dreams,” but her companion, the most loquacious of the quartet (far right), said she was patiently waiting for a man who “worshipped the very ground she stood upon” and would settle for nothing less. Upon hearing this, my subconscious selected from its poetic jukebox these lines from Yeats’s “Never Give All the Heart”:
Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss . . .
Anyway, we bade them good fortune, wished the bride-to-be a long happy and fruitful marriage, and climbed the stairs passing through a portal that ferried us to the Jersey shore.
No doubt these images can attest far better than my spendthrift prose.
Ladies and gentlemen, as far as these folks are concerned, the pandemic is kaput.
Dr. Seuss on the Juice
(as performed by Dr. John)
When I read Kafka
I get wasted on Vodka,
Though Mr. William Faulkner
Go better with Johnnie Walker.
Can’t do Proust
With no gin in my juice.
Obviously, Jameson be the choice
When I open up my Joyce.
(Finnegan’s Wake sober
Means a walloping hangover).
Never do Virginia Woolf
Unless the bottle say 100 proof.
Nobel Laureate TS Eliot
Requires an even stronger inebriant.
if you want to stay alive,
Don’t read and drive.
What do you think of when you think of Sweden? Viking ships? Ingmar Bergman? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? The blues?
The blues? What in the hell am I talking about?
I’m talking about Robert Lighthouse – nee Ivan R. Palinic, the Swedish blues guitarist who at the tender age of fourteen heard an Alan Lomax field recording of Muddy Waters – boom – Road to Damascus. Farewell, Nazareth, hail, Dr. Ross, John Lee Hooker, and Jimi Hendrix.
I chatted with Robert in bright sunshine on our dock yesterday before his gig at the Singer/Songwriter’s Soapbox at Chico Feo, the best free music you’ll find in anywhere in what once was called Tri-County Area.
Prompted by my questions, Robert related a CliffNote summary his life: moving to the States at eighteen, playing for tips on DC street corners, getting discovered by Charlie Sayles, the one-eyed harp master (who also got his start in music playing for tips on street corners).
Robert toured Belgium and Holland with Charlie’s band and ended up landing a record deal of his own. His critically acclaimed first album, Drive-Thru Love, available on Smithsonian Folk Ways Recordings, includes both covers and originals. In addition to his second record, Deep Down in the Mud, Robert also appears on the Folkways compilation 1996 album, The Blues You Would Just Hate to Lose, Vol. II. He has shared a stage with Dr. John and opened for Taj Mahal and Johnny Winter, whom Robert describes as a man of few words but many bong hits.
The pianist/blues impresario Gary Erwin (aka Shrimp City Slim) recruited Robert to appear at blues festivals in Camden, Greenwood, and Charleston, and somehow, Robert and my brother Fleming met, and, the rest, as they say, is history.
If you ever get the chance, check him out.
Here’s a clip of his version of the Charlie Patton tune “Rattlesnake Blues.”
And him warming up at Chico Feo last night (8 March 2021)
 That be Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley Counties. The Soapbox runs on Mondays from 6 to 10. Be there are be square.
 How cool to share a label with Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger Leadbelly, and Dave Van Ronk. I made the mistake of clicking on their website and see a Lord Lavender calypso record I can’t live without.
 Robert tells me that his surname, which is Croatian, means fire-starter, as in arsonist, so he anglicized it to “Lighthouse” in the sense of setting a house on fire, not in the sense of guiding sailors safely to shore.
I’ve gotten a lot of cool birthdays presents in my 68 years, but these poems just might be the best.
Cop my cannabis from Canada,
not Cancun, like you might think.
Canonized saints in white lab coats
cure the shit in absinthe, baby.
I can cancel out a credit card
quicker than RD Foxx can say
cock-a-doodle-do, a bone fide
can do type of dude.
Can you dance the cancan, baby?
Like the poster in your apartment?
You know, a little dab’ll do you.
You know that, I know that.
Yes, I can’t take no for an answer.
I been hurt, hurt, hurt, yes I been –
Why can’t you see that I can do?
Can do, babydoll, not a problem.
Gonna pick myself right up off
the canvas of unrequited love,
do the “Shadowbox” with my badself
on a moonless midnight in December.
A can do type of fooooool.
Did I mention my Canadian doobies?
That I’m a Cancer, have eaten a Toucan?
That’s right, baby, big bright beak and all.
Don’t let them tell you irony’s dead. Here I am putting an audience to sleep reading a poem about insomnia.
Alas, the other day a woman, who (perhaps not coincidentally) happened to be an enthusiastic lover and promoter of animal life, perished when she wandered too close to an alligator on Kiawah Island.
Here’s Post and Courier reporter Gregory Yee Gyee’s account of the unfortunate incident, which I have subtitled, “The Report Said.”
[The victim] Covert saw an alligator in a pond behind her friend’s home on Salt Cedar Lane and wanted to get closer, the report said.
The friend told deputies that Covert was on the back steps of her home and eventually moved down toward the pond.
″(She) kept yelling for her friend to get away and saw her friend was about four feet from the edge of the water when the big alligator came up and attacked her friend,” the report said.
The friend’s husband grabbed a shovel while Covert’s friend called 911, the report said. The husband tried to hit the alligator in a bid to make it release Covert, but those efforts were not successful.
The alligator dragged Covert under the water, the report said.
“She stated her friend never screamed,” the report said.
Will this unfortunate incident go viral as a sort of parable for the dangers of violating social distancing during what I have come to call Da Cora?
I’m betting not.
Damn, why didn’t I sell my Boeing stock and reinvest it in some cut-off jean manufacturer?
Anyway, in the USA, divided as it is, we have two opposing factions clashing across social media about how we should handle the contagion, and, not surprisingly, ideas about how to deal with the crisis tend to align themselves to opposite ends of the political spectrum.
On the one hand, we have the left, citizens who believe in science and place human life above economic considerations. They see the denizens of nursing homes as memaws and papaws, not as statistical models who have in many cases outlived the expected average lifespan of 78.54 years.
The left believes opening too soon is ill-advised, that a new wave of contagion will result, which will wreck the economy the other side hopes to rescue by reopening restaurants, barbershops, beauty salons, tattoo parlors, and strip joints.
The left has faith in human rationality, believes that restaurants will remain empty because people won’t feel safe. They believe we all should wear masks, as much to protect others as ourselves. Ideally, some would like social distancing to continue until a vaccination is available.
On the other hand, we have the right, Gadsden-flag-waving, mask-eschewing rugged individualists who don’t want the government treading on them. They cite articles from outlier scientists who claim the infection and death tolls are statistically insignificant, that the way to overcome Da Cora is to have a majority of the population get infected and develop antibodies, which eventually will choke off the virus. Embracing social Darwinism, they argue that young folks (with a few exceptions) tend to suffer only mild symptoms, so let’s get them infected so they can develop antibodies, recover, and go back to serving those beers and inking those biceps, and if the aged and others suffering from pre-existing conditions die, well, that’s too bad – that’s the way that nature works.
Of course, things would be much better if we had adequate testing to determine whom it’s safe to be around and who isn’t, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t. I personally don’t know what ultimately is right. I tend to seek a middle way in life’s dilemmas. Is there one to be found here? Dunno. Maybe?
Anyway, at least in South Carolina, where I live, the Governor is reopening the state. I also read in this morning’s paper that the beaches are letting non-residents back on. Yesterday, here on Folly, restaurants were offering outdoor dining, and when I went for pick-up at Chico Feo, the customers were, unlike at Jake’s, practicing safe social distancing.
At Chico, there were one-way entrances and exits and bottles of hand sanitizer available. Nonresidents were being allowed on the island at seven, but I was safely at home by then and didn’t gander back out to take a peek.
At any rate, I would suggest that if you’re old (like me) and/or suffer from an underlying condition, you might want to postpone that barbed-wire tattoo or foray to the Wild, Wild Joker Club.
But, hey, it’s up to you, dear existentialist.
 Lap dances, I have read, occur much closer than the six feet of separation epidemiologists consider safe.