I heard that there’s some kind of discussion of me in Chuck Klosterman’s new book. Anybody read it? Do he like me?
I wrote all kinds of mean, vindictive shit about rock critics, right after I got clean and was full of rageful energy that I didn’t know what to do with. I regret it. So, I’m cringing.
This here is a link to a recording of Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket, Death Cab for Cutie, and I covering Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.”>
Last night, at an opera house in Seattle, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Death Cab for Cutie, and I rocked a version of Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” together.
Awesome show. We raised $18,000 for 826 Seattle. Daniel Handler is a hell of an accordion player; in addition to “Wolf” we did “Move On” together, the first time I’ve played that tune I think literally since November 1, 2004. Daniel did a fake quiz show onstage in which one of the questions was, What’s Mike Doughty’s favorite David Bowie album? (it’s Hunky Dory). Sara Vowell did a long tale of the history of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” for which Def Cab did periodic musical examples. (very very interesting to me, as I know nothing about it, other than ganking the lyric “His truth is marching on” for my own symbolic purposes) Def Cab did a brief rendition of the “Entertainment Tonight” theme. Dave Eggers, accompanied by Def Cabber Ben, read a long epistle, purported to have been written by a dog named Steve.
Portraits of myself and fellow performers are as follows. Above: Daniel aka Lemony. Below: Dave Eggers; Def Cabbers Ben, Nick, and Jason; Sara Vowell; Def Cabber Chris.
I swore I would not blog. And yet: I blog. You knew it was coming, didn’t you? Didn’t you?
Also: though I’m billed as doing spoken word at this Bumbershoot Dave Eggers/Sara Vowell reading in Seattle on Saturday, I will actually be playing some tunes. Maybe I’ll read an Alan Dugan poem. But mostly: tunes.
Which is how I prounce “PDX,” the airport code for Portland, Oregon, and a common nickname for the town. Other aliases: the City of Roses, and Stumptown. Stumptown?
I type this to you from a coffee place in North Portland, where a gorgeous barista is salsa-dancing to the Ibrahim Ferrer tune “El Cuarto de Tula.” The coffeehouses alone make PDX a stellar town. For one thing: the coffee. Amazing. And all the baristas seem to know how to make that elegant leaf-pattern on the surface of the milk in your cup.
For another thing: the music. Everywhere I’ve been, I hear something beautiful and unfamiliar, and turn to Mike McGonigal, my host, and say, “What’s this? What’s this?” I adore New York, but you don’t get that there. You get a lot of 80s goth stuff, really, which is the chic thing to be playing in your coffeehouse in New York these days.
The day before yesterday we were in a sandwich shop. A patron loped over to the turntable and put on an LP of French girl singers from the 60s. Which is just the hippest thing I’ve ever seen in a sandwich shop. Also, they serve a lentil-bacon soup. Lentilly! Bacony!
Then we went to a place called Voodoo Doughnuts. Another turntable, scratching away in the corner. One of Mike’s roommates told me they hold midnight Swahili classes. Midnight Swahili classes.
Powell’s, the famous gigantic book store downtown on Burnside, did not have the Tigrinyan-to-English dictionary I’m looking for. But they had a full three shelves of books in Esperanto. Three shelves of books in Esperanto.
Mike took me to a strip club called the Magic Gardens. Strip clubs are chic here; it’s not an accident that Portland is the birthplace of the SuicideGirls. Hence, there were heterosexual women among the patrons, drinking PBR and shooting pool. Onstage tattooed ladies writhed to choice indie-rock and oddball 60s selections. Again, I’m turning constantly to McGonigal, “What’s this? What’s this?” I mean, girls stripping to the Gossip, Le Tigre, Iron and Wine. Girls stripping to Iron and Wine.
McGonigal has a distinctive high-pitched laugh I call the McGonigiggle.
Mike lives with a family with two kids; their three year old, Saylor, is obsessed with a DVD of garbage trucks and tractors called “Mighty Machines,” with a fabulous theme song. The other day, he was at the breakfast table, saying over and over again, “Baaaaaacon. BACON! Bacon. BAAAACON! Bacon!”
So I’ve been driving around this magical town. It’s been sunny and gorgeous–McGonigal warns me not to move her ’til I’ve visited in the rainy wintertime. But I’m half-convinced on moving. Really.
I love New York, but–have I done my bid?
The Led Zeppelin tune “When the Levee Breaks”–a song that scared the hell out of me as a twelve year old obsessed with Led Zeppelin IV–is all the more surreal and menacing.
My initial thought, when Katrina was a tropical storm about to brush Miami, was a the player-hater’s notion that I hoped it made the VMAs soggy.
The guys in Galactic have in the past tried to convince me to move to New Orleans. Some of those guys own multiple homes in the Marigny which they’ve fixed up and rent out to people.
Just a couple of days ago I was corresponding on MySpace with a girl named Cree who was telling me where to get Beignets and Cajun food when I came through in a couple weeks for a gig at One-Eyed Jacks.
My cousin Kim, a nurse in Jena, Louisiana, has been sending periodic updates. Katrina didn’t do much to her area, but she tells of thousands of fleeing New Orleansese passing through, looking for food and shelter, streaming into her hospital in search of care. She just heard a rumor at her workplace of another hospital, in New Orleans, being commandeered by an armed mob.