Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Column #5: Cozy up to some of our city's real treasures

When I was approached about writing a column, I was confused. I had become used to writing as a journalist, and my impression of most column writing was that most of it wasn't much better than Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes. Would I be expected to write items such as, "What's the deal with e-mail?" ("If I wanted Viagra, I wouldn't buy it from a prince in Nigeria!")

I decided to try writing this column as a look at pop culture as it is experienced in our everyday lives. Anyone can review a new record, and I have, many times. I wanted to try to contribute something a little unique — especially today, when millions of self-appointed critics blog all over themselves, I didn't want to have to write, "So, Letterman's in the news. He has a sex scandal? What's up with that?" Instead, I wanted to try to find a way to talk about, for example, how he has influenced me as a humorist, as a writer and as an aging and now-married man. (That's not what this week's column is about, though.)

Pop culture has always been a subject that I've understood easily, and the only one. Math and science come easily to some, but not for me. However, I once won $15,500 in a morning by answering trivia questions on a TV quiz show. (True story).

I spent most of my 20s failing to succeed as a writer in Hollywood. While there, I worked for several years as a product buyer for a record store. My area was anything that wasn't a CD or vinyl — DVDs, books, magazines, toys, candy — that fit into the pop-culture arena. (Our best-seller was a 2-foot-tall James Brown doll that danced to "I Feel Good." The Master P doll did not sell nearly as well.) That job didn't last, though, because many record stores don't, not anymore.

Having spent a couple of years prior at the University of Louisville, I knew this city well. If Louisville had been part of the movie business, I never would have left — and back then, we didn't have groups like the Louisville Film Society, which have been doing a wonderful job of providing us with many interesting movies that otherwise would never screen here.

I had to chase my dream, so I left. When that didn't work out, I returned to Louisville for some of the reasons that had brought me here originally: an amazing music scene, a fertile theater scene, many great restaurants, and numerous other examples of the kind of inspiring weirdness that has spawned heroes such as Muhammad Ali, Hunter S. Thompson and Warren Oates.

People who live elsewhere are always surprised at how much I brag about Louisville. Sadly, even more surprised are some people who have lived here for much longer than I have. So, please, visit Skull Alley (1017 E. Broadway) on Thursday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. The all-ages venue is hosting my favorite singer/songwriter in the world, Joe Manning — a guy who lives in our city. I love Joe's music so much that I asked him to sing at my wedding. But that's not all. Also performing are one of my other worldwide favorites, Joe O'Connell, who leads an Indiana collective called Elephant Micah; and Spirits of the Red City, a lovely group based in Minneapolis and featuring two erstwhile Louisvillians.

I hope to use this column to get people to think more about how culture affects our lives, and also to encourage people to discover local artists and entertainers who add so much to our lives here. Fourth Street Live will be there tomorrow. If you want more from life, though, come listen to some locally grown music. I guarantee that it will make you cry for the same reasons that Hank Williams makes you cry, or Nina Simone, or Sinatra — the good kind of cry that makes you feel glad to be alive.

c. 2009 Velocity Weekly

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