COLUMN EIGHTY-SIX, MARCH 1, 2003
(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)
LETTER FROM NASHVILLE:
LOVE OR SOMETHIN LIKE IT: JELLO RASSLIN' IN MUSCLE SHOALS
Florence, Alabama, December
19, 2002---I'd come down here to Muscle Shoals basically to get ready (or get
ready to get ready) to work on a new CD. Actually I'd come down here to have a
conversation with my friend Dick Cooper and had ended up staying three days. But
it has been a fruitful trip in the sense of lining up allies to help me get
ready to get ready and other things, although I've had to wash by hand the only
underwear I brought, à la Harry Truman, for two nights running...
Coming into town by the
back way from Nashville, I was struck again by the sheer number of Protestant
churches of sundry Sunday denominations one encounters on any trip through the
relatively sparsely populated Bible Belt. I was later to learn from a
semi-informed source that the churches' tax-free status has a lot to do with
that. Before, I'd just figured that maybe the folks here all go to three or four
of them every Sunday, because that would be the only way that a proper-sized
minyan could be assembled at any given tax-free one of them.
Dick and I and my friend
Scott Boyer from the old Capricorn days conspired to get focused on a tune
called Love Or Something Like It that I've lobbing back and forth on my
cerebral astroturf lately. Later that night (Tuesday) we went to hear Scott and
Mitch McGee at a little jernt called Bayou Blue, I sat in and had a wonderful
Met some new friends, as
always in this piece of The South, and remade some old acquaintances who are
tolerant enough of me to pretend I have some celebrated status in this Music
town of all towns, and thus invited me to Jello Wrestling, pronounced "Rasslin,'"
held once weekly at Virtual Charlie's in Sheffield.
I have to digress for a
moment and for the benefit of my European, West Coast and Yankee friends explain
Muscle Shoals. When someone from here talking to someone else from here says
Muscle Shoals, it means Muscle Shoals, and not Florence, Sheffield or Tuscumbia.
But when you're talking about Muscle Shoals in the musical sense, you're talking
about all four towns, all grouped tightly in a little ball on the banks of the
river. So Sheffield is Sheffield, but it's also part of the musicultural
construct we call Muscle Shoals, which is also the name of one of the four
towns. I could go on...they're like boroughs, maybe.
I hadn't ever seen any
Jello Rasslin' before, so when I got invited to this spectacular Wednesday night
here in the Quad Cities (the JayCees' answer to the question of which town is
where) my natural reporter's instincts were somewhat pricked, so to speak. Doug,
the manager of Virtual Charlie's, issued the invitation with a promise of VIP
status. His old lady Nancy, the chief overseer of Jello provision, clinched the
deal by awarding me the honor of choosing the night's flavor.
I chose lime. I didn't want
to risk the possibility of maybe becoming alarmed at the sight of anything
resembling blood, so that pretty much eliminated strawberry.
Wednesday rolled around.
I'd had a good visit with Donnie Fritts earlier in the afternoon.
as Celebrity Oiler at the Jello Rasslin' make him jittery
Sports Grille. I was of
course deeply appreciative of the subtle double entendre of the name, because it
turned out that tonight is Working Women's Wednesday at Scores.
Where those women needing
repairs go in Sheffield must remain a mystery.
In this tightly-packed
fleshpot workingwomen friends Karen and Melissa ran into my Mighty Field of
Vision. Dick bought me a beer
because my impending duties as Celebrity Oiler at the Jello Rasslin' had me
somewhat jittery. Soon the DJ's inevitably heavy hand pushed the lo-eq faders to
the max and I had to bail from this tupperware container of pulsating,
wriggling, thrusting etc. young flesh or risk losing even more low response in
my left ear.
"C'mon, Coop," I
say. "I need to go someplace more dignified."
"You betcha," I
"Oh, Oink," say
Melissa and Karen, so Coop and I leave unfettered.
We get to VC's. By eleven
the place is packin' out. But before the throng arrives, I take some time to
examine the field of battle as it were: Jello Rasslin' at Virtual Charlie's
takes place in a kind of water raft thingy, with inflatable bottom and
sides, about six feet wide by about 12 feet long. Two by four meters for
you Euros. When we first arrive, I am somewhat alarmed by the fact that the
Rasslin' ring has seemingly sprung a leak. Maybe there will be no Jello Rasslin'.
But it turns out that the management is prepared for just this eventuality and
soon the ring is patched, blown up and ready to rumble.
I eye the contestants and
their entourages. Apparently a lot of pre-event touching and feeling and bumping
and grinding and general belt-buckle polishing across trans-sexual lines is de
rigeur, although I gotta say that I didn't see any guys bumping and grinding
and etc. each other, so maybe it's just a boygirl girlgirl thang. Racially
mixed, yes right here in the Deep South, with the average demographic being
college-age and a little, sometimes a lot, beyond.
All the last week I been
workin on this tune called Love or Somethin Like It...and the empathies I
have developed to deal with the inevitable struggle for lyrics are frankly not
those to be brought to a Jello Rasslin' match, and my conscience is letting me
hear about it. I think of my antipathies/ambivalences toward Cosmo girls.
I think about the music.
Here, too, the music is
disco, heavy below 400 and above 16k so what you hear is bass, bass drum and
high hat and nothing between. There is a resonance in the building at about 240
(a B-flat, anyway) that rings longer than the other notes, compressing my
chest...I feel like I've been kidnapped and thrown in the trunk of a rapper's
ride. I'm feeling a little nauseated from it.
Watching the Jello-babes
begin to materialize, I'm starting to feel like a pig. A male show business pig.
As the process drags on without the Rasslin' even started yet, I get to feelin'
guilty, like maybe I'm letting the sisters down by even participating so far as
just to choose tonight's flavor (lime).
I look around again, the
clumsy-so-far words of my tune runnin through my brain. Why am I here? I ask
Hell, why is anybody here?
Maybe they're just out here lookin. Lookin for somethin like love. Gonna take a
lot of Jello to do that, I think.
So I haven't seen Jello
Rasslin' yet. So what?
"Hey, Coop," I
say, "you ready?"
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