Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My beloved spouse with her spotted car and Fingers Hilarity (then known as the Baby Dude), summer '03

When my beloved spouse and I started dating in 1997, she had a 1982 Datsun and a bike and I had a bike. She let me borrow the car when I needed it, which was swell, except that people sometimes accosted me -- “What are you doing in Flo’s car?” She had decorated it with black polka dots years before, and all her friends and acquaintances knew it. This went on for years. Sometimes from people that Flo had forgotten ever having met.

“Did you drive to the meeting?”


“Is that your car?”

“Yeah, that’s my car.” (We were married by then -- community property and all that.)

“You bought Flo’s car?!?”

“Flo and I got married!”

“You married Flo?!? Hey -- congratulations!”

The car has received international coverage. Some months after Fingers Hilarity was born, when he was known as the Baby Dude, Flo and the spotted car were featured in a weekly column called “Heap of the Week” in a now-defunct neighborhood newspaper, whence the above picture, by Tony Brouner. And a year or so later, when my friend Carl Wilson and I were arguing about smooth jazz, Carl quoted something I said about the spotted car in a column in the Toronto Globe and Mail. The compliment he paid me made me blush, but that the spotted car made international news made me laugh. (Carl and I had not met in person when he wrote that, but we have a couple of times since, and he has seen the spotted car.)

Several weeks ago it became apparent that the polka-Datsun was on its last wheels, and a few weeks ago we deemed it too unsafe to drive. The transmission is failing, and can go at any time. My beloved spouse found a nonprofit who will take it for parts. But she decided she could not let it go in its current incarnation.

And so before Saturday night’s house concert, we invited our friends to help re-decorate the car. Flo bought spray paint, a friend brought toys and a glue gun, people brought markers. Our good friend and neighbor (who got free tickets to the Rolling Stones tonight for her and her husband) is an artist and art teacher, and she brought over a box full of discarded tennis shoes -- I have no idea where she got them.

And it was a blast.

Someone brought a waffle.

And then came the concert.

Which is another story.

Last Wednesday morning I woke up with a terrible cold and the worst case of laryngitis of my life. I could barely make a sound all day or Thursday, and I barely left bed. By Friday, I was feeling better, could talk a little bit, and went to work. Saturday was not much better.

I ended up singing through an amp, in our small living room, to be heard over the unamplified guitar and stand-up bass and lightly-played drums. It was Bob, the drummer, who had been a voice major in college (and who does not sing in the band) who talked me into using the microphone. “Dude, you can do permanent damage to your voice if you try to sing with laryngitis.” That scared me, and a good thing too, because I would not have been able to project over the band without the amp. I had my pitches and my phrasing, but awful timbre and no projection. Baby that is rock and roll . . .

Fingers Hilarity opened the show, singing an old minstrel song, which my grandpa taught me, “I went to the Animal Fair,” and telling the two jokes he knows. He had a fine time.

We played a dozen songs, 4 from the CD (two of which are available here), three by Robert (the bass player), and five others. On Robert’s songs he played guitar and I played acoustic bass guitar -- I enjoyed that. He writes songs with pep and melody.

We were missing Jen -- she has been in Maine taking care of a sick parent for many months -- she quit her job and rented out her house. But she decided to fly out for a visit. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get a ticket in time for the set, but she made it to the party. We played for about an hour; music was done by 9:00.

We had cleared out our living room and brought in all our chairs. They were filled. I had invited a few different people to play the concert, and my friend Gretta accepted, but on Saturday she cancelled, too busy with a paid composing gig on deadline. It seemed people would have gladly listened to another set, but we hadn’t rehearsed more, and I had no voice.

By the time Jen got there, Robert and Mac (the bowed saw player, low harmony singer, and monologuist) had already left, but Jen and Bob and I played an impromptu short set for about six people. That was a blast too. And I debuted a song I wrote a year ago, for 2005’s “November Solo Album” festival hosted by Douglas Wolk. (Does anybody know whether he plans to host again this year? I need to write him.)

People stayed for hours. The party was lovely. We’ll do it again some time.

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