What is cute: Toddlers
In costume grabbing candy
What is not: Teens, same.

Leftover candy
Tells you much, like that no one
Likes Almond Joy bars.

Hey! Preteen boys that
All dress like ninjas! Kick my
Pumpkin, I kill you.

Nice parents taking
Kids door-to-door for treats; I
Think most may be drunk.

Boy Dressed As Bubble
Wrap! Cool costume! I so hope
You don't suffocate!

The dog looks at the
Candy bowl, then at me, then
Back at candy, lol.



In the winter of 1973, I was almost eleven years old, and lived with my family in rural Wisconsin. I found nothing too much to like about the season as it would drag on into March and sometimes April and the snow piles on the side of the streets would become grey and ugly with road grime. I impatiently waited for the day when the snow would finally melt away for good and I could get my bike out again and be free, to the degree I was allowed, perhaps a half-mile or so.

My brother had joined the junior high basketball team, which meant lots of after-school practices and games played at night, which for me only meant that I had to spend even more time cooped up, this time in my mom's car. He didn't want us to come inside the gym and watch him, so we would wait for him to finish, parked on the street at the side of the tall brown brick school building, running the heater to try to stay warm. I would whine endlessly about this to my mother, crabby, cold, and hungry after my own school day. We would sit there in the dark, the car interior illuminated by an orange-tinted street light, not bright enough to read by, so my books were no good. The sole redeeming perk to this was my being able to commandeer the car radio to WOKY-AM, my favorite Top 40 station out of Milwaukee.

I was totally a sucker for a story song, and there were quite a few on the charts at this time: "The Night That The Lights Went Out In Georgia," "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree," "You're So Vain," "Space Oddity." But one of these story songs blasted through the airwaves, as sharp, cold, and dangerous as the blade of a knife, unlike any other. It was Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side." I would sit in the passenger seat, listening intently to every word, delivered in Reed's flat, nasal monotone, and would be transported into what was surely the strangest, craziest place in the world: New York City. I hoped my mother wasn't paying as much attention to the lyrics as I was, for I suspected that if she did, I'd have to change the station. At my age and being a rather sheltered child, I wasn't quite sure about what all of the lyrics meant, especially about Candy Darling's activity in the second verse, but how bad could it be, if it was played on the radio? Ha. By the time radio programmers figured it out, the song was a hit.

Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says, "Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side"
He said, "Hey honey, take a walk on the wild side"

Candy came from out on the island
In the backroom she was everybody's darlin'
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, "Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side"
He said, "Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side"

And the colored girls go
Doo do doo, doo do doo, doo do doo

Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City's the place where they said
"Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side"
I said, "Hey Joe, take a walk on the wild side"

Sugar plum fairy came and hit the streets
Lookin' for soul food and a place to eat
Went to the Apollo, you should've seen 'em go go go
They said, "Hey sugar, take a walk on the wild side"
I said, "Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side"

Alright, huh

Jackie is just speeding away
Thought she was James Dean for a day
Then I guess she had to crash
Valium would have helped that bash
She said, "Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side"
I said, "Hey honey, take a walk on the wild side"

And the colored girls say
Doo do doo, doo do doo, doo do doo

This is what I think of when Lou Reed is mentioned, even 40-some years later: sitting in the car in the middle of the country in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, in the cold, with the heater blasting, with the radio playing, and my eyes darting over to my mother to see if she was frowning or not, trying to imagine a world I was so far removed from, and hearing somehow the humanity and freedom within Reed's freaky, damaged characters. It is a brilliant piece of urban poetry, set in a cool-as-cool-can-get beat-gen jazz arrangement. A perfect single.

Many years later, I found myself in New York City at Ray Davies' first "Storyteller" shows at the Westbeth Theater. In the seats in front of me were Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, holding hands and smiling.

Lou Reed died today at age 71. RIP.


The world wide interhaps provide us with opportunity.

Here is an hour-long YouTube video of goats yelling.

Goats Yelling Very Loud (One Hour)

Now, what I might do with this is:

1. Access the computer or smartphone of a friend, co-worker, or family member in a secretive manner.

2. Load this video.

3. Set volume to the highest level.

4. Change the device password and run and/or lock it in a room inaccessible to others.

Have fun!


Another good haul of thrift strangeness for you! Please to enjoy the Bounty of Odd!

I bet Tom & Dan were really fun at parties, in that horrible "lampshade on the head" kind of way.


Growing up in Wisconsin, I found nothing to celebrate about the Fall. The season to me only meant that the lush, warm, and all-too-short days of summer would come to an abrupt end, the dreary routine of school would begin, and as soon as the leaves turned from autumnal reds and golds to crackly dull brown, the harshness of months of ice and snow and bitter cold would begin. In the Fall of 1973, I was 11 years old -- the age my daughter is now -- and lived in a minuscule farm community of about 300 people. My family had moved there two years prior -- "A temporary move," claimed my father -- and we didn't get out until another 8 years had slowly passed. When you believe that you have no reason to invest in a place, no reason to make connections because you might be leaving "soon," you isolate yourself, and wait.

The sole good thing about Fall, of course, was Halloween, and all the fun of dressing in costume and trying to get as much candy from the neighbors as you could. At 11, I was nearly out of the game. In this tiny town, trick-or-treating past age 12 was considered a total faux pas, and adults wouldn't hesitate to tell teens looking for a spare handful of mini chocolate bars to buzz off. Since we lived in a ranch house "in town" (as opposed to living on a farm "outside of town") the candy opportunities were excellent. You could stop by every single house there was if you wanted to, on foot, so you did, carrying a pillow case or garbage bag to hold the sweet loot.

But before dark settled, there was another task at hand on Halloween: "Trick Or Treat For UNICEF." I can still hear the sing-songy cadence of it..."Trick or Treat for U-NI-CEFFFF..."

From Wikipedia:
Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is a fund-raising program for children sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Started on Halloween 1950  as a local event in Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaUnited States, the program historically involves the distribution of small orange boxes by schools to trick-or-treaters, in which they can solicit small change donations from the houses they visit. Millions of children in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, and Hong Kong participate in Halloween-related fund-raising events for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, and the program has raised over US $188 million worldwide.

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF was invented by Mary Emma Allison, the wife of Presbyterian minister Clyde Allison. In 1949, the Allisons were living in Bridesburg, a neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. When Mrs.Allison saw a UNICEF booth collecting funds to send powdered milk to undernourished children around the world, she thought of getting children to collect donations for UNICEF instead of candy. Rev. Clyde Allison introduced the concept to local Presbyterian churches. On Halloween 1950, the Allisons recruited their own children and their community's to go door-to-door collecting nickels and dimes in decorated milk cartons to aid children in post-World War II Europe. They collected a total of $17 and donated all of it to UNICEF.  

 In 1953, the United States Committee for UNICEF started actively promoting the program. By the 1960s, the concept had expanded throughout the United States, with small orange collection boxes distributed to millions of trick-or-treaters.When UNICEF won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson said in his congratulatory letter: "Your UNICEF Trick or Treat Day has helped turn a holiday too often marred by youthful vandalism into a program of basic training in world citizenship." In 1967, Johnson declared Halloween, October 31, to be 'UNICEF Day' in the United States; by 1969, 3.5 million American children were trick-or-treating for donations.Children (and adults) in the U.S. have collected more than US $170 million for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF.
1970s  Trick or Treat for UNICEF Commercial with Sanmy Davis, Jr.

Like regular trick-or-treating with candy, getting those coins in the little orange boxes was a highly-competitive event with the kids. We'd get the boxes at school, and the child who brought in the most money won some sort of prize while looking like a kind-hearted hero, helping all those poor kids in the Third World and such. Truth be told, plenty if not most of the families in my town in 1973 didn't have too much change to spare at all, including my own, but with the excitement of competition and the holiday, that was pretty well forgotten.

I didn't hesitate to set out with my orange UNICEF box and a big, broad smile as soon as I got off the afternoon school bus, for I knew that all the kids would be doing the same. If you didn't get to a house first with your pitch and someone else did, you'd likely get turned away -- nicely at first ("Oh, I'm sorry, hon, I just gave to Gary want a Tootsie Pop?") and then not-so-nicely ("Don't you kids coordinate this at school? I can't give out money to all of you!") with a definite closing of the front door. I wanted to win the prize and be the UNICEF hero, so I knew that I should go alone, and move fast. I wanted to feel that orange box grow heavy with nickels and dimes and maybe even quarters, and to go home and spread it all out on my bed, counting up the shiny tokens to glorious public recognition.

It was a typical late fall day, already unpretty with the leaves dropped and dead, dull grey skies, and a cruel brisk wind. I borrowed some of my mother's warm driving gloves and took my Panasonic transistor radio along for company. It's like the radio knew I was bummed out about fall, because so many of the pop hits sang to me about sadness, loss, and loneliness: "Photograph," "Half-Breed," "Paper Roses," "Angie," "Midnight Train To Georgia." The WOKY DJs pattered away, regardless of the lyrical content.

My first house was a neighbor that we had only just nodded and waved to, an elderly widow with permed white hair, round and stout and grandmotherly. I was a little nervous as I rang her doorbell as we rarely saw her, and her curtains were always closed. I could hear movement in the house. It seemed to take forever for her to come to the door. I could hear other kids running, shouting "TRICK OR TREAT FOR U-NI-CEFFF!" Come on, lady! Come on!

She answered the door with a smile. She was using a walker, and propped the door open with a corner of it.

"Trick or treat for U-NI-CEFFF!" I sing-songed brightly, giving a winning grin paired with the most sincere eyes I could muster.

"Oh! Yes! It's that time again already! Yes, of course! Won't you come in a minute? I will see what I have in my purse."

Awwww, no, I thought, I don't wanna go in! There's no time! She had already turned towards the interior, leaving me little choice but to enter, closing the door behind me.

As I followed her into the kitchen, my nose wrinkled at the "old" smell throughout the house -- that combination of the musty dust from too many old things and too little fresh air. But I could see that she had already prepared a pumpkin-shaped plastic bowl filled with little bags of candy corn, and that everything was very neat and orderly, if a bit dark. Clomp-ca-clomp-ca-clomp, went the walker, and she began to ask me questions. Lots and lots and lots of questions, about school and my dog and my parents and the weather, in that way that is both terribly sweet and utterly excruciating for children. I was raised to be polite to my elders, and could not bring myself to utter the terse, brusque replies that would get me out the door faster and onto the next house. I couldn't do it, but felt like I had a thousand ants crawling on me, I wanted to bolt so badly. Before I knew it, she had me sitting at her kitchen table and put a plate of oatmeal cookies and a glass of milk in front of me.

"It's so nice of you to stop by. I'm glad to meet the new neighbors!"

Awwwww, man. I weakly smiled and nodded, nodded and smiled, and ate a cookie with one ungloved hand and drank some milk, my radio sitting silent on the Formica table, eyes darting around for a clock. She kept talking and talking and I just couldn't figure my way out. I didn't even know if she remembered why I came to the door, until the doorbell rang again.

"Oh! Oh, yes! UNICEF! Halloween! Ha ha ha! Excuse me, please!"

As she clomped to the front door, I shoved the last bit of cookie in my mouth, put my glove on, grabbed my radio and my orange box, and followed her, hoping I could exit with some kind of grace. To my horror, I saw it was almost dark outside. Almost out of time! UNICEF collections strictly stopped at nighttime.


Aw, dang! It was Carl, who was a year younger than me, and a head taller. He was my sworn enemy ever since he had teased me on the bus, I had turned around and scratched his face up like a wildcat, and he slugged me in the stomach hard enough to take my breath away. I thought I came out better because while I caught my breath in a few minutes, he had to go to school for a week with a messed-up face. Anyway, he was just as determined to win the UNICEF collection prize, and especially to beat me doing it.

"Oh, yes! Lovely! You two wait here one moment!" the old lady told us. "I know my purse is here somewhere!"

I heard my mom bang our screen door, going outside to give our dog Sam his dinner, cheap dry kibble with a gravy made from hot water and bacon drippings. Carl grinned evilly at me and shook his collection box, heavy with coins.

"This is my third box, and you're gonna lose," he whispered at me.

"Who cares? You probably stole it all, Stupid," I spat back.

After another eternity, clomp-ca-clomp-ca-clomp, she returned with a small light blue plastic coin purse, embossed with the name of the only bank in town in gold lettering.

"Here you go!" she exclaimed.

Plonk plonk, two nickels into Carl's box. Plonk plonk, two nickels into mine.

"ThankyougoodbyehappyHalloween!" Carl blurted, and ran off to the next house, wisely avoiding mine.

Two nickels. I have two lousy nickels! Aw, man.

"Marianne! Dinner's ready!" shouted my mom, seeing me there from our house, carrying Sam's now-empty bowl in her hands.

Aw, nooooooo! I can't show up at school with TEN CENTS!!! But as the streetlights snapped on, Trick or Treat for UNICEF 1973 was over, and there was pot roast to eat, and real trick-or-treating to prepare for. I had to go home.

"I enjoyed our visit, Marianne. Please come by again! Bring these to your can leave the plate at the door later. I just put my candy bowl on the porch for the children tonight; I can't stay up so late these days!" Our elderly neighbor handed me the plate with the rest of the cookies on it, smiling, and I thanked her.

I snapped the radio on, balanced the UNICEF box on top of the cookies, told Sam he was a good boy, and walked into my own warm, bright kitchen that smelled so wonderful.

"How did you do? Did you get lots of donations?" asked my mom as she brought plates to our own Formica table.

"No. I ended up getting stuck the whole time at Mrs. Johnson's house! She just wanted to talk! She sent these cookies for us, though."

"Oh, how nice! I will bake a batch for her later and you can drop them off."

I took the gloves off, sat down at the table, picked up my orange box, and rattled the two lonely coins inside. Rattle rattle rattle. My mom stopped for a moment.

"That was the right thing to do. Thank you."

I looked at her, all flushed from cooking, strands of hair loose around her face, and she was smiling at me. I smiled back, and rattled the box again, in time to "Space Race."

Billy Preston, "Space Race"


Man oh man oh man oh MAN, was I excited for this one! I had last seen my Florida friends Gabe, Diego, and Danny (otherwise known as the very cool garage punk band Jacuzzi Boys) and tour manager/bike maniac Rydel last January and they hadn't been up here since their Funhouse (RIP, dear clown-headed dive) gig two years ago. This time, in support of their new self-titled album on Seattle's own Hardly Art label, we found ourselves in the beautiful historic Neptune Theater, along with King Tuff and Wavves! Slam DUNK!

The day started off with an afternoon visit to the KEXP studios, where "The Boys" (which is how everyone I know in Florida refers to them) had a 4PM live broadcast scheduled. I was so happy to able to come into the studio control room to watch AND got to bring Miss Eleven along so she could give the guys a painting she made for them. She was terribly excited and a little nervous but everyone was so sweet to her and we had the best time. DJ Troy Nelson (of The Young Evils) did the interview section and told us how he attended Full Sail University in Florida but didn't really learn Pro Tools but did learn about Florida lightning storms. Go to KEXP archives to hear and watch the broadcast and see great photos soon! (As always, click on the photos to enlarge and click on the Flickr links for more!)

Jacuzzi Boys KEXP visit Flickr set 10/19/13


What a week this has been -- SO MUCH SONIC AMAZEMENTS! My ears are weeping with joy and and eyes are dust but WHO CARES! ROCK AND/OR ROLL FOREVAHHHHHHH!!!!! Last Friday's show at Chop Suey was a no-brainer for a fun night of punk time with three great bands celebrating talent buyer Jodi Ecklund's birthday. Let's go!

First up, the legend that is Coconut Coolouts! These guys and girl play the coco-coolest covers ever, and include almost everyone I know in Seattle. That's how it goes here, ya know. I need to have a party so I can hire 'em to play it. We could have minibikes and flaming hula-hoops and a beer slip n' slide. AMIRITE? You will notice a young audience member who was coerced into wearing "The Banana Suit." If you know anything about The Banana Suit, you might decline to put it on, so we must honor this girl's bravery.

Anyway, I had to love Coconut Coolouts extra much for playing Joe "King" Carrasco's "Party Weekend." Swoon. (As always, click on the photos to enlarge and click on the Flickr links for more)

Coconut Coolouts Chop Suey Flickr set 10/18/13

Coconut Coolouts, "Party Weekend," Chop Suey, Seattle 10/18/13

Was I surprised to see TEXAN ROCK LEGENDS ZZ TOP appear onstage next! Especially since it turned out to be my punk palz wimps! Those crazy kids! There was a guitar twirl (sort of) and some "a-how-how-how-how's" and lots of wimps' fine tunes. I thought their beards looked like overgrown merkins, but that's just my problem, probably.

wimps Chop Suey Flickr set 10/18/13

wimps, "Hello Frustration," Chop Suey, Seattle 10/18/13

"Hello Frustration" - wimps, Chop Suey, Seattle, WA. 10/18/13 from Marianne Sp on Vimeo.

The night closed with an ON FIIIIIRE set from the always-delightful Hunx and His Punx, which started as all shows should: with leader Seth Bogart flinging some dude's not-so-tighty-whitey's into the crowd. Hey, those couldn't be any worse than The Banana Suit! I didn't last too long up front with Le Camera with Le Dancers, so you get a video from the bar.

Hunx's latest album is "Street Punk" on Hardly Art and you should buy it.

Hunx and His Punx Chop Suey Flickr set 10/18/13

Hunx and His Punx, Chop Suey, Seattle 10/18/13

Hunx and His Punx, Chop Suey, Seattle, WA. 10/18/13 from Marianne Sp on Vimeo.

Thanks mucho mucho Jodi Ecklund and Kitty Page, and lots of love to Coconut Coolouts, wimps, and Hunx!



adjective, fierc·er, fierc·est.
menacingly wild, savage, or hostile: fierce animals; a fierce look.
violent in forceintensity, etc.: fierce winds.
furiously eager or intense: fierce competition.
Informal. extremely bad or severe: a fierce cold.

I am taking back this fine English word from Tyra Banks and her fashion fold, taking it RIGHT BACK RIGHT NOW because I NEED MEANINGS #1 and #3 to properly describe the deeply kickass show delivered to the fans at The Crocodile last Monday! The triple-bill assault of The Blind Shake, OBN IIIs, and Thee Oh Sees filled the Croc early and kept it slammin' until closing time, and if you weren't there you are a BIG LOSERPANTS! That's OK, don't cry; just catch these guys (and girl) at a venue near you soon! 


I feel pretty sure that you are going to please to enjoy these two videos because they both RULE SO VERY HARD. It just isn't every day that you see...




I'm a pretty reasonable person, overall, and I don't lose my genial comportment over nothing. But HEY, when you cut me off on the road, GUY IN THE F-150, I tend to use the interior of my own vehicle as a safe harbor to hurl fiery invective your way. Sometimes the words I choose are classic, time-tested swears, but sometimes they are not, and never in the presence of the delicate ears of my highly-impressionable spawn. No, I think they should hear more unique lingual assassinations. So, today I have crafted for you twelve insult combos that should serve you well in the future. Please to enjoy, and DRIVE SAFELY!

1. Lizard-humping panty head

2. Fecal-minded goat fondler

3. Toad-eyed sweat sucker

4. Dung-munching drain swirler

5. Numbles-eating koala molester

6. Slurry-drinking sociopath trombonist

7. Dank-souled bean brain

8. Egg-soaked ass handle

9. Slow-witted fish popper

10. Vole-faced toilet hugger

11.  Bloated-ego needle crotch

12. Single-celled Tea Partier


It. Never. ENDS!! The more thrifting I do, the more people seem to be compelled to donate their bizarre stuff for me to smile at. I bring to you again and please to enjoy!

Yes, I laughed and people looked at me and then I kept giggling.


I don't really know what other parents are talking about when they complain that their teenagers never talk to them. The two I have had already are chatty as hell, most especially in the car after the school day is done. Mr15 spends the entire 30 minute car ride home filling my ears with many words about military history, musings on the practical applications of psychology and sociology, and all the reasons he should not have his internet cut off at 11PM on school nights. I listen, mainly, interject my thoughts as appropriate, and attempt to navigate the early rush hour traffic well enough to keep everyone alive for another day. So far, so good.

Today was a little different.

Mr15: I have thought about it, and I think I know what is my most important goal for my life.

Me: Really?? Well, that's a big thing. What is it?

Mr15: The thing that I have to do is to be able to keep an open mind. I want to be able to keep myself as free from bias as possible, and to judge everything that comes to me fairly. That's really, really important to me. I think that's the only way to be able to grow. I have to be honest with myself.

If I could've pulled the car over to hug him, I would have, because I was so very happy and grateful that he figured this out for himself at such a young age. Of course, he is correct -- to keep an open mind, to do the best you can to rid yourself of prejudice and preconceptions, to understand that understanding is how we connect with the world and feel a part of it, which makes us feel whole and alive, puts you well on the road to achieve the peace of mind we all want and to get the most out of each day. Is there anything more important, really, that you would wish for your child? To be able to feel that you have done right by others and yourself gives a strength and confidence that will help carry you over the many disappointments and sorrows that are part of life. To be open is to keep trying. When you keep trying, you become resilient. When you are resilient, you will just keep getting up, no matter what.

Most of us do the exact opposite thing. We are born open to the world and unbiased, but are so quickly taught to judge, and judge harshly. Then as we age, we double down, and our world becomes more and more narrow with each passing year as we forget how to set aside our biases, even if it would strongly be to our benefit. We can't remember how to free ourselves to be able to listen and learn from others. Change becomes threatening, and since the world is in constant change, we end up suspicious and fearful, lost and confused, angry that things aren't the way they were when they were good, back in the day. We mourn for a time when it seemed like we had control over things, when of course, that was always just an illusion. We come to the end of our days, asking "Is that all there is?" and never getting an answer.

I wish my son the best of luck in his quest to remain an open-minded person, for I know it will always be an ongoing challenge, as it is for anyone. far, so good.


The theory has been put forth that Seattle's often wet and gloomy climate forces residents to excel at indoor pursuits, such as coffee brewing, creating global technology geek empires, and musicianship. Never underestimate the will of a soggy guitar player, for he hath faced the Valley Of The Massive Rain Puddles On The Stage, and fears no man. This determined spirit was on fine display last Saturday as a group of local musicians, promotors, and other music biz folks (partnering with Musicares) decided to resurrect the hastily-canceled Reverb Fest (yoink!, went the funding from Seattle Weekly). The re-imagined Macefield Music Festival in Seattle's hip, fish-scented Ballard neighborhood featured a stripped-down but diverse local lineup at the Conor Byrne, The Sunset, and the Tractor Tavern, and looked to be great success. I was only able to attend at the Tractor for a small part of the day's events, but was suitably impressed.


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It is without question the advice given to all who might have any dealings with Ray Davies, the legendary songwriter, author, film director/producer, and former leader of the seminal British rock band The Kinks: Set your table for two guests, rather than to speak. Much of Davies' career has examined flip-sides, coin-tosses, the misfit vs. the common man, the dualities that exist within society and within ourselves. This duality is particularly pronounced in Davies' own character, which may have given him the gift to be able to write so articulately and compassionately about others. The same duality surfaces in less benevolent ways as well, which has cost Davies' dearly in both his personal and professional relationships, and seems to leave him sadly unsettled within himself as well. Throughout Davies' autobiographical "Americana: The Kinks, The Riff, The Road, The Story" (Sterling, $24.95) one is struck how often his choices and perceptions battle each other for control and how this leads to such puzzling contradictory behavior and statements. Davies is a man who seems both tremendously self-aware and stunningly clueless, effortlessly charming and upsettingly cruel, naturally creative and desperate for inspiration, devoted and loyal yet closed-off and indifferent.

Davies uses the over-arching theme of "Brit in America" to frame his stories about his life and career, focusing primarily where his first autobiography, the strange and very clever "X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography," left off in the early-1970s. Rather than a straight chronology, he chooses to punctuate the timeline with the events leading up to his near-fatal shooting in New Orleans in January 2004 and its aftermath. For those readers less familiar with Davies, this may make the book somewhat hard to follow, even though time frames are given at the start of each chapter. Which bodyguard/manager/handler died when? Which wife/girlfriend was left (or left him) to care for their infant daughter(s) alone? Which promotor threatened to end Davies' career for what bad behavior? Yet despite the jagged time shifts of sometimes alarmingly-similar events separated by decades, we see the profound and permanent impact the shooting had on him, how much he needs to tell the story in detail, as is common to victims of random violence and PTSD. The shooting and concurrent breakup of yet another romance takes Davies into a level of vulnerability and self-examination that seems at nearly 10 years later to still haunt him.

Yet "Americana" is not a morose or bitter essay on the seamy sides of America or England, not at all. One of Davies' very finest qualities, and one that he has used to great benefit in his writing, is his sense of humor. When a passage begins to feel weighty, there is a self-effacing moment to lighten the mood. When he begins to bemoan the loss of innocence, cohesive character, and national pride in his British homeland, he tries to think of creative ways to celebrate England while championing its quirks and changes. He is honest about how his initial impressions of America were fueled by Westerns and gangster films, and how much real work went into, with The Kinks, winning over not cowboys or Mafiosos, but college kids, not to mention music business moguls who knew well the reputation the band carried for being irrational -- if also exciting and irresistible -- jerks. There are real triumphs, well-deserved, and costs that most people would find too painful to choose to incur.

Wives, girlfriends, and children don't fare too well in Daviesland, and in "Americana," some of them don't even rate a first name, while some of them are turned into asterisked "composite characters;" odd, in an otherwise-straightforward memoir. Davies' brother and Kinks bandmate Dave Davies is something of a ghost in this book, mentioned most often for his increasing emotional and physical distance and escalating friction with original Kinks drummer Mick Avory. I imagine it sits very poorly with Dave that his older brother has taken to referring to The Kinks constantly throughout this book and in interviews as "my band," and their records as "my records," since Dave was the originator and leader of the band at the beginning of the 1960s. His guitar style was absolutely crucial to the Kinks ever having the chance to stand out from the British Invasion hoards at all. Although it is undeniable that Ray quickly became the lead singer and took over almost all songwriting and production duties for the band as soon as he could, to relegate the rest of the band members to "session man" status with the callous use of a two-letter adjective seems petty.

The disappointments a reader may feel while reading "Americana" perhaps are only reflections of how much one wants to like Ray Davies, for he is likable, smart, funny, and, we should never forget, has written some of the best songs of the 20th Century. The dualities within him rear up so frequently, however, that one begins to wonder if there is a real Ray Davies to know. It appears Davies comes to something of the same conclusion: unable to adjust to settled "normality" after a lifetime spent in planes, theaters, and hotel rooms, he wanders, no longer relating to an England he feels has lost its values nor an America that will always feel too brash, unpredictable, and foreign, unsure of what his life has meant, or will mean after he is gone. The 300-pages of the book go by in a whoosh, and we can feel that time must feel the same for Davies, as the details of tour schedule, a TV appearance, a record being carefully mastered, a car ride with a daughter, a death of a loyal associate, stack and add so quickly.

In the end, "Americana," is a fascinating glimpse into a man defined by his steadfast and stubborn resistance to be named or controlled by anything or be "not like everybody else" to his last breath, even with the weight of regret at times settling uneasily on his chest. Ray Davies' dualities, for better or worse, took him from a dead-end working-class London suburb to travel the entire world, a great accomplishment in itself. He composes music that will live in the hearts of millions, and assuredly long after he is gone, and that made a difference to people. He gives courage and hope to those fans who see him as a voice for those who were outcast, awkward, or loners, and sings to them as a friend would, even if through a pair of headphones thousands of miles away on a record well-loved with pops and crackles. He entertains people, and gives them shows they will never forget. He survived career flops, failed relationships, and even a bullet.

That's pretty cool.

Ray Davies, "Americana" book trailer


If you read this site on da reglur, you know that I really dig going to thrift stores, especially to find weird records and strange knick-knacks to share here. But GUESS WHAT? At the same time, I find great clothes for me and my family, thereby avoiding ridiculously overpriced retail stores, thereby saving lots of money, and thereby have the funds for me to do cool stuff like buy weird records. WIN! I've been so happy with my thrifting that I thought I would share some tips on how to find clothing you will love, thereby saving you money to do cool stuff like travel, save for a special purchase, or pay your phone bill. Please to enjoy!

1. Know your store options. Thrift stores can range in size from huuuuuuge Goodwills to tiny church-lady operations. Any store can have great items, but you really have to get in there and check it out for yourself. Do an online search (or for you Luddites, use the Yellow Pages) and map out the stores in your vicinity. Consider some further afield from major metro areas or college towns, too, because those are more likely to get picked over quickly by pro thrifters and dedicated hipsters. Stores in affluent areas often get high-quality donations, but again you have to deal with the pros grabbing stuff first. So...

2. Go often. I try to visit my favorite thrifters at least once a week, and more if I can. You get to know how often stock is turned over, and have a better chance of finding something if you are there when items are new to the racks. If a store only changes stock out infrequently (seasonally, for instance), that's a good thing to know so you don't waste time going there and seeing the same olive green patchwork dress again. Ewww.

3. Go alone. To be able to get through some of these giant stores with any kind of efficiency, you have to be focused. I find that if I bring Miss Eleven along, even though I enjoy her company immensely, I am slowed down and am likely to leave earlier and look at fewer items with her there. If you are in a serious buy mode, your focus should be singular.

4. Train your eye to spot quality. Pro thrifters all have something in common: they are able to look at a rack of clothing all smashed together and magically pull out the best of the best that's there. How do they do it? Higher-quality clothing often has deeper, richer, brighter or more unique colors or patterns that hold strong through previous ownership -- even the blacks are blacker and the whites are whiter. The fabrics feel better, and the styling is sharper. Eventually, you get a sense for what might be a good item to choose out of the rack while passing by the 95% that you don't want. 

5. Look over potential buy items with a hard, cold stare. Even if the price tag is small, you still don't need to spend a penny on clothes that you don't really need or want. Anything that looks tired and used -- faded, pilled, ripped, broken zipper, misshaped, stained -- forget it. Funky smell? PUT IT DOWN. Sometimes you find new or almost-new items that seem wonderful, but upon further examination are weird and have landed in donations for a reason -- bizarre cut, gross color, short trend life, odd proportion, scratchy fabric. Don't buy anything marginal, because you don't have to. There's plenty of good stuff. Be patient.

6. Avoid shoes in general. I don't recommend buying shoes at thrift stores, because of the fact that the previous owner has already put in a "wear pattern" into the sole that is Not Your Wear Pattern, and that I am unconvinced that shoes can be disinfected to the degree I am comfortable with. Be very picky and look for shoes that were never worn or perhaps only worn once or twice.

7. No underwear, hats, socks, or pantyhose. No, just no. Save a few pennies elsewhere and buy these new. I have only one word to pass on to you regarding the trying on of hats: HEAD LICE.

8. Know what year it is. Fashion is a funny thing that goes in 20-30 year cycles of awesome/less awesome/boring/ugly/not so bad/pretty darn good/awesome. Attempt to find things that are on trend or trending up; generally things 5-15 years old are not your friends. Also, if you have lived long enough to see a fashion trend cycle (or cycle twice), re-buy very sparingly. Eighties-style neon or humongous '90s sweaters look cute on a 20-year-old but just sad on a 50-year-old. Sorry. That said, the right use of vintage pieces is an easy and fun way to show off your own style. You could avoid all this by sticking to well-made classic pieces that never go out of style, of course.

9. Shop out of your department. Do not hesitate to venture over to the boy's or men's clothing section, you women, because you very well might find those "boyfriend jeans" you've been looking for, better t-shirts, or oxford shirts that look great with the sleeves rolled and tails tied. Thrifting is an inexpensive way to try on different looks for very little money.

10. Get over your anxiety that people will look down on you for buying used clothing. You don't want friends who would think like that anyway, right? Well, right?? Saving money is cool!

Just as a small, very modest example, here is what I wore today: a typical weekday outfit for me of a sweater or hoodie, t-shirt, and jeans. It's entirely thrifted, and this is what I paid for it:

Merona (Target) cotton cardigan sweater: $2.99
Beatles Sgt. Pepper t-shirt $1.99
Old Navy "The Sweetheart" bootcut jeans $5.99
Total: $10.97

OK, so this is not runway couture, but for UNDER ELEVEN FRIGGIN' BUCKS, I have clothes that are my style, good quality, practical, and fun to wear. It works. I apologize for the selfie pic, but hey.

Good luck out there, frugal folks, and Goodwill hunting!