Tag Archives: Little Brother’s

Stephen Colbert called, my husband had already answered

Last week, Stephen Colbert asked Crosby, Stills & Nash why they couldn’t write a “more positive” political song, called something like, say…. “The Surge Is Working.”

In fact, Dan wrote a song by just that title earlier this year. He and his Wahoo bandmates recorded it this weekend. Enjoy:

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Comfest diary

I was 15 or 16 years old the first time that I went to Comfest. It was the Reagan ’80s, in a town perceived to be middling-to-conservative, in a generation that wasn’t supposed to care about anything. And yet here was a place where, for one weekend, you could find all kinds of politics and countercultures and live music and radical buttered corn and people who delighted in being odd. It was beautiful. It still is… now with value-added naked painted breasts!

Last year, Comfest was emotional and strange for me. It was the year when people approached me gingerly to ask me how my husband was doing in the final days before he was to close his business of nearly 20 years. The festival gave him its first “Patron of the Arts” medal for his many years of giving local musicians a stage. I got my brain picked by some gossips and some voyeurs and some armchair concert promoters who figured his club’s closing was always coming because they felt they understood his business better than he did all along. (Truly, he might as well have been working in politics, because there is at least one Bill O’Reilly/Keith Olberman-style pundit of music promotion for every square block of this city.)

But there were also people who came to me with tears in their eyes, sorry for our loss, sorry for the community’s loss and concerned for our family. And then there were a few who came to Dan directly when I was with him to say thank you and I’m sorry, whose faces puzzled as they met Declan and I and realized that Dan wasn’t walking off into some rock-and-roll bachelor’s retirement, but an uncertain future with a wife and two-year-old.

This past year has been hard. We moved to a part of town where we don’t know many people, a few months before the nexus of our social lives was cut away – some elements of our social lives had already peeled off as we eliminated alcohol from our menus and became parents . Dan jokes that we’ve been in the witness relocation program.

Who still calls and who doesn’t has been illuminating, now that there are no gigs or free concert tickets or drinks on the house that may result from friendship with us. Once you get past the sadness of that, it’s kind of liberating. Our lives aren’t any more certain now, but I do think that we’ve become more comfortable with uncertainty.

Comfest has this reunion quality for those of us who have lived in the local counterculture for a long time, and this weekend, it’s reminded me how lucky we are. I’ve watched my son worship and be adored by several of Dan’s closest friends. They are an oddball bunch. Less the cynics and know-it-alls so closely associated with the image the club had than men and women who do T’ai Chi and watch sports and read and play brilliant music and meditate and dance like maniacs and laugh really loud and have a soul love of music and volunteering and Declan. As he splashed through mud puddles and danced, they praised his spirit and his smoochable, nom-able cheeks.

And then there are the new vistas that this blog has opened up for me. On Friday, I found and met Amy of Dooblehvay selling her elegantly crafted and playful wares in the street fair. I also connected with his family for a few sweet moments on the street. They are longtime friends of ours (his wife worked for Dan for many years) and their daughter Sophie is awesomely fun. I love that being online lets us better keep up with their lives.

And while Friday was a little rough on us because Declan didn’t get the nap he clearly needed, we had a few wonderful moments. He sat in his stroller and ate fruit and I sat on the curb facing him as he gesticulated and said “now.. how can I explain the Big Bang? Well…” Later, he nestled his face through tree leaves as he talked to the sweetest grandmother and granddaughter, who were dressed in matching fairy outfits, carrying anti-war canvas bags.

Our arrival yesterday was peculiar, as I found a sharp knife sticking in the ground near the pond that I picked up and gave to a volunteer to dispose of. That alarming discovery was quickly brushed off by a welcome from a large group of young and old people greeting festival-goers with handmade signs that said “Free Hugs,” so Declan and I each took one. This year, there seem to be a few families freestyling the message and spirit of the festival in increasingly adorable ways. (This year, the shirts say “Be the change.”)

A major storm hit by Dan’s third song with his band The Wahoos, but they played right through it, to an enthusiastic group of puddle-splashing dancers. Luckily for Declan, they performed his two space-themed songs first. In the aftermath of the rain, Declan splashed about with a group of fun kids during the Mendelsonics‘ set, and we had to drag him, literally kicking and screaming and unbelievably muddy, back home. And while the time once was that we’d be there until the park closed, moving on to Dan’s club afterwards, it felt good to leave as the drunkenness ramped up and come home to clean up and settle down together.

This morning, Declan told me that he caught a rainbow between his fingers. (It was the city’s Pride celebratio
n yesterday too, so rainbows have been everywhere.) He put in his hair, then mine, then daddy’s. And it stormed for a few moments this morning, but the sun seems to be out for now, and so, as crispy as we are, we’re getting ready to go for the last day, where we’ll see a little of them, and a lot of her, among other things. If it rains, we’ll probably just get wet.

Dan will be on Curt Schieber’s Invisible Hits Hour on CD101 from the site at 9 p.m. as it closes (Dan’s been his traditional Comfest wrap-up guest for the past few years).

Happy Comfest.

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Fortune cookie “advise”

The other night I got the following, grammatically questionable fortune with my chicken and broccoli: Whoever took our carryout order dumped a bunch of extra fortune cookies into the bag. The next day, Dan put two into the flat of his palm and brought them to me.

“Let’s try it again, maybe today’s fortune will be better,” he said.

I picked one, cracked it open and found this:
Um…. Huh? We both looked at it for a while, trying to determine what letter could have been accidentally dropped or exchanged in “with” to no avail. I can think of word (or expletive) or two that could be placed between “to” and “with,” but otherwise, this exact intention of this fortune eluded us.

Dan was distracted by the boy, and took a few minutes before cracking his open. I went upstairs to my desk nook and did whatever it is I do.

“Trace?” He yelled up the stairs. “Mine doesn’t make any sense either. I really don’t know what they meant by this. Do you have an idea?”

Then he read the following aloud:

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Patron Saint of troubled youth

An observation about Asheville, North Carolina:

“There’s a lot of troubled youth here. I can make money in a place with troubled youth.”

– Line of the weekend by my husband.

I thought he might start packing to go back as soon as we got home, but so far, he seems relaxed.

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Evidence that his daddy worked in the entertainment industry far too long…

As Declan adjusted letter magnets on the refrigerator this evening, he shook his head and muttered to himself, for no discernible reason:

“Jesus, what a business!”

(If you know my husband at all, you know how appropriate – and hilarious – this is.)

P.S. Dan responds to the newspaper and TV news out loud quite often.

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What we do on a Friday night these days

After swimming in the pool with his dad and Giga until he turned blue, Declan went to sleep earlier than ever (and longer than ever) before. Therefore, I finally got a chance to update the Little Brother’s web site while Dan flipped back and forth between an Indians game and a rerun of The Sound of Music.

Our cultural schizophrenia isn’t limited to musicals vs. sporting events around here. I’ve also been collecting space songs lately, because Declan has to be exposed to every musical genre there is or ever has been before he turns three. I made a cosmic playlist that you can listen to:

Launch it.

Of course, I’m sad that I can’t seem to find “Galaxy” by WAR or Mr. Spaceman by the Byrds, but I’ll keep looking…. Any other suggestions for songs that I’ve missed?

P.S. Hilly Kristal passed away this week. He was the proprietor of New York’s CBGBs – which closed after a dispute with its landlord last year.

If you came here looking for random suggestions about things you can do on a Friday or Saturday night, click here.

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“You’re Already Home”

For some reason, this emerged as Declan’s chosen mantra on the final night that Little Brother’s was open. He pointed at several different people, leaned into me and said, “he’s already home, mommy,” nodding, often putting his hand on my cheek and adding, “we’re already home, mommy.”

On Sunday afternoon, my mom and I were part of the wrecking (or, more accurately, preservation) crew at Little Brother’s. She managed to pry out a painting that covered the fireplace – a phoenix with the word Stache’s that painter Dan Work made there years ago. With some help from friends who came by, we also managed to bring down the Elvis, Billie Holliday and Karen Carpenter paintings that used to be the bathroom walls at Stache’s. Not to mention the bird painted on diamond-shaped plywood from the wall next to the sound board that used to cover one of the front windows at the old place. I took enough pictures of the dressing room, which was filled with fairly historic fliers from both clubs, to hopefully reconstruct the room in a photographic collage.

One of Dan’s doormen climbed a ladder and took down the Little Brother’s sign. We loaded it, and some odds and ends, including a life preserver that said “Save our Stache’s (and Little Brother’s)” into the trunk of my car.

Then I went to a friend’s house to pick up Declan.

“Oh mommy!” he said when I walked in the door. “You’re home! You’re really, really home!”

Dan spent a long night and extra day clearing out the place and cleaning. By Tuesday morning, the last few straggling tools were gathered, and the locks on the building were changed.

Meanwhile, Declan’s continued his monologues about the galaxies as well as random declarations, including “all aboard the choo choo train” and the old standby “just the right SPEED, just the right ANGLE” (which he chanted alone while practicing somersaults on the upstairs futon the other afternoon). Last night, the three of us sat around the dinner table at 6:30, which seemed awfully strangely normal.

In these first couple of days in this new life, the mantra keeps coming, usually while we’re sitting together, reading a book or watching TV: “Mommy, daddy, are you home?”

It’s been exactly what I’ve needed to hear.

Life soundtrack: Chris Smither, Leave the Lights On, “Leave the Light On”
Chris Smither - Leave the Lights On - Leave the Light On

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Clearing out

Its been a week since the final night that Little Brother’s was open. Dan and a few other folks have been busy clearing out the place, which has to be vacated by this weekend. They’ve been organizing a yard sale and silent auction, which has me wondering which things we should keep for Declan‘s teenage bedroom wall.

Those last couple of days were amazing, though. The outpouring of support and thanks for Dan was unbelievable. I posted many of the memories we’ve received through email all over the bar, and people wrote more in a couple of books my mom bought for the occasion, even wrote new ones on bar napkins and stuck them to the wall.

Despite some trickiness surrounding the fireworks, Dan had a great, cathartic set with his band the Wahoos, and Declan helped provide the finale. At the end of their cover of “The Weight” by the band, Declan and I walked in the side door and I put him up on the stage. When the band started playing exit music, Declan started dancing toward his dad, and Dan danced back, finally scooping him up in a hug as the crowd went nuts. That was all it took for Dec to be sold on a brief career in entertainment; he went back out on the stage in front of the crowd several times and danced while people cheered for him. The band started an encore and Declan became more and more distraught as he tried to get Dan’s attention, finally flinging himself back into my arms so I could take him back outside. It took him no time to recompose himself and ask, “more dancing?” But the set was officially over.

Old friends Ned and Roddy Wreckman played a wonderful, fun set that I could hear wafting outside as I settled Declan to sleep in the car, waiting out the Red White and Boom traffic. But the last act didn’t show up and gave no warning that they would bail, so none of the dozens of local musicians in the crowd really had time to work up something to fill the gap. It was disappointing, but a little fitting. The last hour or so that the club was open, the stage was empty. It’s just a reminder that as nourishing and invigorating as music can be, it can also breed dysfunction and a kind of selfishness that most of us, as fans, forgive easily. Dan forgives pretty easily too (many would say too easily for a businessman)

The next day, the Doo Dah’s Unband gathered at Little Brother’s for the last time. Dan walked alongside a coffin scrawled with “Little Brother’s R.I.P.” pounding on a drum inside and carrying a wooden musical note. About halfway through, Declan and I joined him. Lots of people yelled “thank you Dan!” from the street side. Periodically, the Unband would stop and Dan would die in the middle of the road, a group of women keening around him until he was resurrected (they took this so seriously it was hysterical – pictured on the right). At one point, I asked Declan to give his daddy the black musical note before they pulled the shroud over him. Just when it seemed he wasn’t going to do it, he walked over and handed it to him, but damn it all, I couldn’t get my digital camera to shoot quickly enough to catch that moment.

All in all, these were a really happy couple of days, with Dan feeling like Tom Sawyer – a pirate at his own funeral. When people asked how he was, the standard answer was “great today, ask me in a about a week.”

I’ve been through more than my fair share of job losses, including at least one that I had my sense of personal identity all wrapped up in, but that was a breath, compared to Dan’s almost 20 years. I am hopeful that the better part of his history will help him find something else to do that allows him to be himself.

It certainly was surreal on Saturday night as we drove past Downtown and saw all of the traffic on the cap over 670, briefly wondering about the size of the crowd at the club, then remembering that there wasn’t one.

Life soundtrack: Freedy Johnson, Can You Fly, “Tearing Down This Place” Freedy Johnston - Can You Fly - Tearing Down This Place

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There is much to say…

…both good and bad, but it’s just been too wild of a week to find the time to say it. It’s been a week of extraordinary highs and lows.

Aaron Beck wrote a really nice commentary in the Dispatch on the 4th, but it spent most of the week in error-land, so I couldn’t post it sooner:

Little Brother’s Won’t Soon Be Forgotten

There is also a slideshow.

Life soundtrack
: Peggy Lee, The Best of Miss Peggy Lee, “Is That All There Is?”
Peggy Lee - The Best of Miss Peggy Lee - Is That All There Is?

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