(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)


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, 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 time.

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. But the opportunity to witness scantily-clad maidens rasslin' in Jello is not one that comes my way as often as you might think, so of course I was honor-bound to accept and to duly report the evening's proceedings.

Wednesday rolled around. I'd had a good visit with Donnie Fritts earlier in the afternoon. Before adjourning to Virtual Charlie's, my friend Dick O'Steele and I had a bite to eat. Then, because the Jello Rasslin' wouldn't get underway until 10 at least we went to yet another joint called Scores

His impending duties
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."

"Jello Rasslin'?" asks Coop.

"You betcha," I reply.

"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 myself.

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?"

"Yep," he replies.

We head into the night  ##



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