November 24, 2003

Hey, Man, This Is Babylon

Filed under: Music — tomemos @ 1:23 am

Done with my paper, and food is tasting sweeter. This isn’t the end of my work for the quarter–it’s not even the end of my work on the paper; this is a first draft–but it’s the bulk of it. It’s also my first completed grad school essay (I’m not counting the nonsense “reaction papers” for my throwaway Teaching of Comp. class), so the professor’s reaction is an important omen.

Thanksgiving break begins at 11:50 on Wednesday, when my Joyce class ends. I’m eating dinner at Julie’s mom’s house this year. Julie will be there too. My great happiness at seeing her can be taken as read. A less obvious detail is that this will by my first time spending a holiday at a girlfriend’s parent’s house. This may not seem like such a milestone, especially since I’ve been to her mom’s house three times already, but if sitcoms and screwball comedies have taught me anything–and in fact they’ve taught me everything–it’s that Thanksgiving Dinner with your girlfriend’s parents always involves a series of disastrous and embarrassing misadventures. Pretty scary, but luckily I’m destined to save the day at the last minute and win her mom’s approval. So that’s what’s in store for me this week; wish me luck. (Confidential to Julie: Do me a favor and put the urn with your great-uncle’s ashes somewhere out of reach.)

I’ve gone ahead and requested my classes for next quarter. I’m going with Victorian Subjects (we’re reading Dickens along with a number of Victorian social and aesthetic critics and wake up) and Emily Dickinson. The rest of my time will be spent teaching snot-nosed undergrads; my fear is mitigated by my sense of raw privilege. I’ll get an office! I’ll share it with a bunch of other TAs, and I’ll only get it for like two hours a week, but nonetheless: my very own office.

Tonight this guy Matt and I went to go see Mike Doughty, formerly lead singer of Soul Coughing, in Los Angeles. (If you’re not familiar with Soul Coughing, then you know what you’re getting for Christmas.) The most distinctive part of the evening was actually the opening act, which was called Drums and Tuba and was just that. Well, there was a guitarist, too; at times he was playing two guitars at once, prompting Matt to exclaim, “He plays two guitars and he’s not even part of the band title!” Anyway, this was without a doubt the best unknown opening act I’ve ever seen. They were undoubtedly experimental, but they knew how to make a good riff. I guess it was sort of a psychedelic jazz fusion sound, although really it escapes any classification that doesn’t involve the word “tuba.” The tuba worked extremely well; it didn’t dominate the act, but it was definitely a vital part of the music. The tuba player also ran a very extensive electronic music-thingy (a MIDI? I don’t know what those look like); at one point he put town the tuba, played a few notes on a trumpet into a mic, and then the electronic thing repeated those notes for the rest of the song while he went back to tuba. A class act all around.

Seeing Doughty was bittersweet, in a word. He hasn’t lost his sense of humor–after finishing his last pre-encore song, he said, “Thanks, LA! You’ve been great! I’m going to go stand over there and pretend the show is over!” And indeed he did just that. And a lot of his solo songs–almost none of which I had heard–were really great. It was just him and a guitar, no band, and so the songs had a very folky quality to them; they tended to be on the introspective side, kind of like “True Dreams of Wichita” (which he played). He ended with a big sing-along of “Jeanine.” So definitely a good show.

But…you know…he needs a band. Specifically, he needs Soul Coughing. Like I said, the music was good, but it wasn’t necessarily the sort of thing you would break a November CD boycott for. There were so many songs where I thought, “Hmmm, this is a pretty good song. It’d be even better if you were a band rocking out rather than just a guy with a guitar.” Come on, Doughty, is this what you want to be doing? When I first saw Soul Coughing live, it was at the Warfield and you played to a near-capacity crowd. During the performance tonight, a member of the audience sneezed, and you said, “Bless you.”

So, this is an open appeal: Soul Coughing, get back together. Do it for me, guys. Do it for my happiness.



  1. Oh, Tom. No one’s going to do anything for your happiness. Especially not Soul Coughing.

    (Also, you knocked that urn into the fireplace last time you visited.)

    Comment by julie — November 24, 2003 @ 11:04 am

  2. Wanna know what’s really weird?
    I actually have a CD by “Drum & Tuba”!
    I bought it for 4$ on the hope that it would actually have some tuba init. Which, yeah, it did.

    The world works in strange ways.

    Comment by Pat — November 24, 2003 @ 3:20 pm

  3. Hear some “Screenwriter’s Blues”, when you can.

    I thought the urn thing was Christmas. Thanksgiving you’ll drop the turkey on the kitchen floor, or let the dog or cat eat it, then have to run out and find a new one and cook it for six hours in twenty minutes. Then everyone will tell Julie’s mom it’s the best they ever had before becoming violently ill, and you’ll almost confess to Julie that you nearly killed her whole family before at the last minute the doctor saves you by informing everyone it was the mushrooms in the stuffing. Hijinks ensue.

    Don’t worry too much. You already remembered her birthday and Valentine’s Day, and i don’t know when you guys’ anniversary is but i have faith you’ll remember that too.


    Comment by Brian — November 25, 2003 @ 10:52 am

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