Taking Dancing for Granted

I am asked fairly often what I write about, and I can’t let it go as simply “Fridays.” There is love, death, cabbages, kings, my childhood, say, or some broken appendage, chemical dependency, or misanthropy (not to be confused with misogyny, as it has, by certain semiliterate enemies among seditious minorities, oh, I don’t know, women and what have you), rap artists, rock and rollers, ancient Greeks, french toast, classical composers.… And those last five or so have been just in recent weeks. My point, I suppose, is that I have made it difficult to meet the reasonable expectations of readers by being far too generous in subject matter.

I find myself back again, at this moment, in the category of Chemical Dependency and Broken Appendages, as these are subjects I have found myself embroiled in for some three-plus months now with only newly glimpsed images of light at the end of the tunnel. Writing on pain medication for that period of time has produced certain phenomenon, to wit and QED:

Three days ago, my foot was flayed open yet again to retrieve two bolts or screws that held the tibia to the fibula or some such. My anatomy knowledge is vague that far south. I came out of general anesthetic in far more pain than I had been in since the day of the actual break, walking down a flight of stairs. The recovery room staff gave me large doses of serious painkillers, but over 90 days of opiate-family drugs had rendered me nearly impervious to them. A tolerance had been established, and I barked at nurses and medical techs something awful. So badly, in fact, I was compelled to call Ambulatory Surgery Recovery Center’s nurse’s station the next day to apologize. They were gracious.

Meanwhile, working is more important than ever and more difficult. I can hardly attend the clog-dancing get-togethers I so long to, and the act of writing has become something possible only when pain has diminished; that is to say, when I have a skinful of drugs.

“Yeah, whatever. What about Fridays?” you may well ask. ”What’s the best bet for weekend recreation this final week of April?” Well, first, be damned careful and don’t break your bloody foot. But if you can, dance.

I have never danced enough. Mostly because I wasn’t much good at it, but I still wanted a girlfriend in high school. Enter the guitar and joining or forming bands. If I could, I would dance the freaking rites of spring all over town; and as soon as I am able, I will ditch self-consciousness and boogie-oogie-oogie ’til I just can’t boogie no more, possibly celebrating the summer solstice by that time and the transition of crutches, casts, and ortho-boots from ball and chain to memories.

To whirl, strut, cavort expressively and with abandon, with a partner if possible but, in any event, enthusiastically, without consideration for image and or dignity. To throw my arms to the sides and heavenward, reveling in my sheer ability to do so and with gravity as taken for granted or even as ignored as oxygen, age, and the possibility of injury or blackmail.

The last time I danced was, I believe, at the Viejas Casino while I was writing about the Rascals and interviewing them. The song was “Come on Up,” and, refusing to grind out what Billy Crystal calls “The Whiteman Overbite,” I did a combination of the flamenco and tango with a very sporting girlfriend who had, moments earlier, been making out with the Rascals’ sax player. That musician was a young, light-haired (to his waist) sideman with an Italian name I’ve forgotten. It was 1996 or ’97 maybe. Some 12 years ago. Far too long. Other dancing memories consist of one euphoric night at the Electric Theater on Lawrence Avenue in Chicago in 1968. I was 17 and reeling to Traffic’s “Paper Sun” at very high volume. I danced alone.

Speaking of which, I say nothing here of a handful of occasions in front of the stereo surrendering to Robbie Robertson, Keith Richards, Sam Cooke, or Jackie Wilson. Sun-bright mornings, usually, coffee cup in hand and probably spilling; those few and fine mornings God rations out like a short-pouring Chinese-restaurant bartender when it has occurred to me that I am alive despite some notable efforts to be anything but.

I remember, too, dancing the Podo after a high school basketball game. My band was attempting to cover the Animals’ “Bury My Body.” The Podo was an epileptic seizure of a dance which enjoyed brief popularity (two weeks?) in rural Illinois during the mid ’60s. I threw myself into it and onto the gymnasium floor when the power either failed or the plug was pulled by the principal of Grant High. And I remember too (at random now) dancing in my seat at the Del Mar Fair, holding my three-year-old son in my lap while Stevie Ray Vaughan wailed on “Cold Shot” the summer of 1984.

The few memories I have of moving bodily to music (including a lesson at Arthur Murray’s old studio in Hillcrest in ’99) are vivid and pleasant and far and away separated by too much time. Taking the activity of dancing for granted is some kind of sin. I see that now. Who knew? If nothing else, I should try at least to observe it. I recommend this. Call Eveoke Dance Theatre at 619- 238-1153, for example, and see what they’re up to this weekend. Your time will not be wasted. Or call the Hotel Del, ask about ballroom dancing or — more my speed — find the nearest dance floor with a jukebox this Friday night. Patrick’s II comes to mind, between Fourth and Fifth at 428 F Street. They have great live acts nearly every weekend. O’Connell’s on Morena Boulevard in Bay Park is consistently a good bet. Look for a jukebox without Britney Spears or Madonna hogging the numbers. I say this for musically technical reasons and because I don’t like them. If you see a single James Brown selection on any juke machine anywhere, look no further for at least ten minutes. Disco? Techno-house? Can’t help you there.

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Nice column as usual, John. I hope you continue to be on the mend. And I am pleased to see that you still "own" what you do---a rara avis in today's society. That is, when you barked at people at the hospital, you called to apologize later. Some folks would have just shrugged their shoulders and insisted that the pain made them do it.

It was the right thing to do. But then, and I mean this sincerely, you have always had a strong sense of honor.

Again, I enjoyed the verbal foxtrot of this week's column!

Eric -- I have been unable to respond to these things due to technical problems but I want to thank you for always commenting and, of course, being complimentary. Thank you also for defending me to Jennifer Cooke. I DID manage to respond to her myself at the end of the April 9th column beneath her comment.Felt bad about that, I hope I set that right -- at least somewhat. -- Brizz

Hey, I call 'em as I see 'em, Brother John. How many times have you defended me? Many. How could I do less for you?

Please go have one of those carne asada burritos from Alberto's for me, would you? It has been a long time indeed since I lived in San Diego, but those were sure good. Ditto the chicken quesadilla (broiled) at the Old Town Mexican Cafe.

Hope your foot heals up quickly...

My best Po-Do night was in the summer of 1967 in Libertyville Illinois on the dance floor on the second story of a teen-age night club called The Cave while The Syns were playing Bury My Body, which was the one and only Po-Do song. Bob Secketa was there. The girls were beautiful. The Po-Do was sort of a dance but actually more like something that was a dance and a non-dance at the same time. It was magical.

More: You can see John Belushi Po-Do for about one second in Animal House, but he calls it by another, unintelligible name.

Cosmo -- What memories. I remember the Cave well. I used to see The Bryds,yes, Bryds, not Byrds, remember? The Outspoken Blues (we stole their drummer, Jimmy Carboody -- sp?)with Yardog's brother playing blues trumpet and singing lead. Also heard The Shadows of Knight there and other rich kid bands from Arlington Heights. Bob Seckada? The name is tauntingly familiar. Did he go to Carmel? Another egghead? Thanks for tuning in. -- Brizz

John, Egghead? Not hardly. If there was anybody we knew back then who could have stepped right out of a Jack Kerouac novel it was Bob Secketa. I will tell you more about it when I see you next.

Hi Brother John: I don't know how often you check this message board. But remember the time you had some neighbors complaining about your playing music too loud?

You told me you considered lugging an amp up to the roof, plugging in your guitar, and shouting:

"I am the God of Hellfire And I come to bring you....


Who did that tune? Your discussion of bygone music made me think of that. And the Troggs.

Eric -- That was Arthur Brown, a one-hit-wonder as far as I know. The band/act was called "The Crazy World of Arthur Brown" and featured Brown's entrance swinging ala Tarzan from a rope while wearing a helmet with Viking horns soaked in lighter fluid and trailing flame and smoke. The Troggs, of "Wild Thing," and "A Girl Like You," etc. fame, progenitors of goose-step rock featured singer Reg Presley. The guitarist from my San Francisco band in 1970 defected and joined them. He was subsequently stabbed several times by Hell's Angels backstage in Hamburg Germany. He survived to go down in the anals of obscurity opening for puppet shows and Jose Sinatra in the late seventies. The above is almost all true. -- Brizz

Thanks again, Brother John. A fantastic story. And like most things in modern life, if it isn't true, it ought to be!

I was going to ask if you meant that your former guitarist went "down in the anals of obscurity" or "down in the annals of obscurity"? But the former may indeed be what you meant, especially where Jose Sinatra is involved.

I was thinking of you the other evening, when I was listening to a random mix of music from my computer. "Spill the Wine" by War came on. We used to make fun of the song, as you recall. When I first heard it, I didn't recognize Eric Burdon's voice doing the drug-addled proto-white-rap. Compare it to "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" or "House of the Rising Sun." Didn't you interview Burdon once? Or was it Patrick McNee?

Neil Young may have been right.

Funny bit I heard from the comedian Dennis Miller. Many years ago, he was doing Saturday Night Live, and Phil Collins was a musical guest (in the horrific Su-su-sudio phase of his life). Anyway, Collins knocks on Miller's dressing room door. He says he has a friend who wanted to meet Miller.

Eric Clapton walked in.

Miller enthused how much he enjoyed Clapton's work. He told Clapton he particularly enjoyed "Cross Road Blues."

Clapton waited a beat, then said "You could have picked something I wrote."

Hilarity ensued.

Thanks for the reply, John. I still feel great existential angst at the intersection of "Jose Sinatra" and "puppet shows." Brrrr.

Eric -- I interviewed both MacNee (my fist for the Reader in '89) and Burdon. I typed "anals of obscurity" with my mind both relaxed and attentive. -- John

John, I always enjoy the way you craft words. There are always layers, and that is a sign of a truly great writer. "Relaxed and attentive"---that made me choke on my coffee with the Verb that Doth Not Speak It's Name.

Hope you are having a great week. It's always 30 degrees cooler here than in SoCal.

I just found out about your article. The PODO was started by a guy named Al Podobnik who hung out with the Bryds (hence PODO). Jim Carmody left the Outspoken Blues when the band broke up. He was the 'Blues third drummer. What is "Blues Trumpet"? :--) I played cornet, bass guitar and was lead singer. (I also played Tenor Sax.)! The Bryds and Outspoken Blues had a reunion/picnic on July 27th back in the Waukegan area. It was GREAT! 5-1/2 hours of music. It was like a mini-Woodstock! The Bryds and 'Blues performed for the first time in 40 years.
Robert Stanley (Yarddog) has a new, great, blues CD out now (Roadman's Hammer). And, the Outspoken Blues had a CD of their songs recorded back in the 60's just released on a label in Switzerland. Those were great times!!!

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