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The Longing for Lost Toys

July 22nd, 2010 by D.Billy

This little tableau was one of the first photographs that I ever took — maybe around age 12 — with my very first camera, a cheap plastic Vivitar 110:

Skeletor Crew

It shows three Masters of the Universe figures that belonged to my brother and I — Jitsu, Tung Lashor (in the Land Shark) and Battle-Damage Skeletor — lined up against the wood panel & linoleum backdrop of the trailer-with-added-rooms that we grew up in, and I f*cking LOVE IT.

I remember the spot where this photo was taken, and I remember that just down the hall under our bunk beds, and under the desk in my father’s “office” there were plastic tubs and wooden boxes of other action figures and vehicles… Transformers, G.I. Joe, Hot Wheels, Marvel Secret Wars, DC Super Powers, M.A.S.K., M.U.S.C.L.E., Battle Beasts, Centurions, and probably others that I’m forgetting. We also had a giant-sized bin of LEGO blocks, all jumbled in together like an 8-bit plastic gumbo. I can remember the feel of the blocks’ corners and the shooshing, tinkling sound as I rummaged through them looking for just one more clear red dot to cap off the wing of my spaceship.

We still have a few of these things in a closet at my mother’s house. (Or we will until I steal them this summer. Heads up, Mom.) But the bulk of them were given away to our nephews or other kids-of-friends-of-the-family, and from what I hear, many were promptly broken. (*single tear*)

So in pining for my lost clumps of cast plastic and rubber, I decided to fire up the group nostalgia engines. I asked my fellow contributors Jeff, Brad and Cyndi if they had any thoughts along these lines to share, and indeed they did…

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“Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” on Ukulele: Subway Magic

March 24th, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon

I was crossing through the Essex/Delancey subway last night at about 1, coming home from the incredible Cherry Pop Burlesque. One of the performers had done a stunning routine to Lou Reed’s version of “This Magic Moment” from the “Lost Highway” Soundtrack — which I’d never heard before. The routine and the song meshed perfectly in this grinding, menacing, but also sweet experience that had me all fired up and confused, just the way you should be when you see something amazing that you’ve never seen before.

And then I came across this guy playing cover songs on a ukulele:

photo.jpg

He was on the natural stage there on the Uptown side of the F train, playing sweet, melancholy songs greatly aided by all the natural reverb down there.The singer/ukulelist goes by the name “Laustcawz.”He’s got a website here, and this is his theme song.

I got him to do a song just for me so I could share it with all of you:


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J Train is the Soul Train: Thirsty Man Sings “Winner”

January 20th, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon

Have you ever noticed how some people put a pair of headphones in, and it’s like it’s the performance version of Thor’s hammer? Like by putting those buds into their ears, they are suddenly blessed with an incredible singing voice, perfect pitch and total invisibility? Put on some sunglasses and an iPod and all of a sudden nobody is on the train except Simon Cowell and Dr. Dre, and both of them are hiring. It’s kind of like having a low-budget version of Rock Band that only plays R&B.

You never hear anyone singing Coldplay or Dave Matthews, is all I’m saying. I prefer it that way.

And don’t get me wrong here — sure, sometimes the phenomenon is a little annoying. But other times it is completely the most awesome thing that can happen to your whole week, a beautiful, off-kilter accident.

Like this guy that sat across from me on the J Train last weekend singing Chris Brown’s “Winner.” Check this thing out, it’s beautiful. I love how he doesn’t let his performance stop him from pouring himself a little sip of something from his thermos, then gets his soul stole by the music before the cup hits his lips … and caps it all off with a shameless crotch scratch. Also of note is how quickly the guy next to him stops giggling and starts ignoring the whole thing.

Don’t let me spoil it for you, though – check this out for yourself. It’s stuff like this that reminds me that the world is alive and beautiful and full of strange surprises …

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Funky Bald Lady Brings It On the L Train In Front of Bouncy Rides

July 20th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

The five minutes I spent seeing the band below play on the L train platform at Union Square were way better than the hour and a half I spent in the theater watching “Bruno” immediately afterwards.

But this isn’t a film review here – this is exactly why I live in New York. I just spent a little time in Missoula, and while there were plenty of dirty dreadlocks and bongos out in the street out there, there wasn’t NOTHIN’ like this. This was like The Flaming Lips meets Soul Jazz with just a touch of the bear-and-a-BJ clip from the Shining.

I accidentally covered the mike on my phone with my thumb there for about 30 seconds or so. The sound’ll come back, don’t worry:


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Tom Petty Said It and Now I’m Living It

May 25th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

Before I get to the cancer news, let me get something right up front: it has been a spectacular weekend. This weekend was like a commercial for weekends written by writers from the Wonder Years and shot by Robert Altman.

A bunch of my best friends came up to visit this weekend — two guys I’ve known since kindergarten, one guy since the seventh grade, and then my friend Mark Koch who’s been on the scene since ninth grade. He’s the new guy.

It was Mark’s bachelor party weekend. Nobody’s going to make a smash comedy hit out of it, as the whole enterprise was more bourbon and burlesque than blow and strippers. We had dinner at Peter Luger, hiked over the Williamsburg Bridge to have a look at the streetcorner that was the cover of “Paul’s Boutique,” walked the boardwalk from Coney Island to Brighton Beach and saw a hot and hilarious burlesque show at Bar on A.

My roommate and upstairs neighbor kindly gave up their rooms for the cause and let us spread out in the building a little, too.

Not too shabby at all.

I haven’t laughed that hard in a long, long time. And at points I had my hands over my incision, afraid I was literally going to bust a stitch.

Instead I just stretched. Stretched and healed. I haven’t felt this good in a really, really long time.

So here’s the doctor’s news from the other day:

I’m healing up fine, textbook perfection, basically. The CT/PET scans showed one questionable lymph node up in my throat, but he jabbed around in there with his fingers pretty hard and said “whatever, I’m not feeling anything in there, so let’s forget about that one for now.”

There’s these markers in the blood that cancerous tumors give off — they differ by the type of tumor. But for simplicity’s sake here, let’s collectively call them Carl.

Normal levels of Carl in a healthy adult male might be between 0-5. My Carl quotient was burying the needle at 1,250 before surgery. So they drew blood from me a week after surgery, and whatever my Carl levels were, that’s the baseline right there.

Say I’ve got a Carl of 100 a week after surgery. Then a week later, my doctor expects me to have half as much Carl — a level of 50. A week later, Carl’s supposed to be down to 25. Eventually, those levels will bottom out and kinda flatline. And if Carl flatlines at a level that’s higher than normal, we start chemotherapy.

Awesome. Really, that makes sense to me — it’s careful and cautious, and following the results scientifically. What I wanted was for my doctor to clap and dust his hands off, then say, “that’s it, you’re done!”

But that’s not gonna happen for a good while yet. As a wise man named Tom Petty once said, “the waiting is the hardest part.”

Archives Posts

Performing With the BTK Band at Stonewall Inn on Wednesday March 4th

February 28th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

I’ll be telling a story onstage at the legendary Stonewall Inn next Wednesday night, if any of you are so inclined. This is perfect, actually — I have a big show coming up in late March, and this should be a perfect short-term deadline to write the story, test it out, and generally get my shit together.

The show is with Peter Aguero’s BTK band. I know Peter from The Moth and other live story shows in New York — here’s a bit of copy about him and the band:
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20 Easy Steps to Wellness – Now With Extra Danzig

January 26th, 2009 by D.Billy

So, I have a cold. Or something. And it effing SUCKS.

I’m on day 5 (or so) of this weird illness that appears to be using a random symptom generator each morning. Today, I practically need to take direct snorts of menthol or pepper spray or sulfuric acid just to smell or taste anything, and it feels like I’m sucking in a quarter pound of sand every time I open my mouth to take a breath, only to erupt in a wheezy coughing jag when all I wanted was some sweet, sweet oxygen.
But lucky me, formerly-DC-but-now-LA-based artist — and apparently very funny dude — Zach Storm has my remedy. In 20 easy steps, Zach has the cure for the common whatever, and I love him for it. Here we go:

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Reverend Al Sharpton Hates Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band

November 14th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

During the time that I was in Royal Quiet Deluxe (chicken band), I was invited to a large dinner with the Reverend Al Sharpton. Everyone had to go around the table and describe who they were and what they did. I was neither an accomplished member of the community in Norfolk, nor was I African-American. Everyone else at the table was both. I just kinda ran with a description of the band.

It did not go well. At all. In fact, the evening rippled throughout my life for about ten years, causing tremendous embarassment in a comic book store this summer.

Here’s a video of me telling the story on stage at The Moth:

I think I’ve just about milked this chicken band thing for all it’s worth now …

You can see the companion to this story here:

Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band

A story by The Moth’s Jim O’Grady here:

Jim O’Grady on “Respect”

And a story by The Moth’s Juliet here:

Juliet Tells the Tale of ‘Mannequin Dan’

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Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band: Now the Story is Told on Video

November 3rd, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Today is national fix-the-country day, and it’s gonna be a long one. No matter what side you’re on, you’re probably sick of the campaigning by now. As a little distraction from all the election-related news you’re sure to be drowning in, I thought I’d post a video of me telling the story of Royal Quiet Deluxe, (chicken band) at The Moth.

By way of comparison, you can read a written version of the story here.

The story links to one of our recordings, made with a primitive drum machine, delay/loop pedal, and my tireless prattling.

The following track, though, is a different sort of sound collage. We recorded it on the front porch of Tim’s parent’s place out in Botetourt County, VA, one hot summer evening. You can hear crickets and locusts in the background, something I think is pretty cool. I am playing the typewriter as percussion here, Tim is playing guitar, and the chickens are pecking and vocalizing. Tim mixed in a recording about Exotic Newcastle Disease in Southern California that was recorded over the telephone many years later, and presto — you have:

Exotic Newcastle Disease, by Royal Quiet Deluxe

There’s one more story in this saga. I’ve told it onstage at a Moth event recently, and I’m waiting to get ahold of the video so I can crunch it and post it here — and I’m working on the text version for those of you that want the full-on boxed-set experience. Suffice it to say that while the Internet has helped me find a whole new audience for this band that I never thought existed, I am 100 percent positive that the Reverend Al Sharpton still thinks the whole concept of Royal Quiet Deluxe is the stupidest thing he’s ever heard.

You can see a story by The Moth’s Jim O’Grady here:

Jim O’Grady on “Respect”

And a story by The Moth’s Juliet here:

Juliet Tells the Tale of ‘Mannequin Dan’

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Bang Your Head and Brush Your Teeth : Muppets Go Metal

August 21st, 2008 by D.Billy

There’s just something beautiful about the cultural dissonance created when something saccharine and innocent meets something…well… not.

Case in point – these stellar YouTube mashups, which pair old Muppet Show and Sesame Street footage with death metal songs:

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