Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rounding Up the Rounder

or, Fries Is As Fries Does

by J.T. Dockery
(all snapshots by Carey Gough)

As previously reported, I shook up the Old Kentucky Home reality principle and relocated to Vermont. Not one to stay gone for long, I've been back in the state for a stretch of four months, and soon to make my way back to the northeast, so now seemed a good a time as any to speak here about some of the movements I've been making.

For one thing, I've already been busy blogging my poor little old heart out over at Covertly and By Snatches. In my State of the Union address, I touch upon a lot of what the Doc has been cooking. Rather than repeat statements from that document, I'll just suggest you click that link in the previous sentence, and let me expand further on that information here.

I've somewhat changed my mind about double-posting contemporary comics reviews. What I will do, as I am now, is link to them in context of running my mouth on other topics in this clubhouse. Oh, for one thing, the Stumptown comics festival award that included work of mine, Lies Grown Ups Told Me, did in fact win that award for best anthology.

Recently I've thrown words at Dunja Jankovic, Josh Bayer, R. Clint Colburn, and Max Clotfelter. What started as an odyssey in Transylvania Gentlemen with Tom Neely & Chris Cilla, Geoff Grogan, the fourth installment of the Studygroup 12 anthology, and then morphed into an interview with Julia Gfr├Ârer in a Victorian Squares way, now takes the form it will take for what's left of the foreseeable future.

My original idea to toss contemporary comics reviews in the mix of JSH and I prattling on about whatever popped into our noggins was to break the chains of presenting comics in a comics-centric only context, a manner by which to fight the future, that part of the future which bends towards each subculture that is sinking more and more into isolated rabbit holes, which begets a kind of head up one's own bunghole reality principle, a tendency of the modern age of which this old syncretic boy does not approve. I am interested in everything, and it was my hope to get at other people interested in a wide variety of topics, to possibly get them interested in the new comics I find interesting and not speak to the choir of people who live and breathe comics (but not exclude them either, and, hell, invite them to the party where we talk about beer, bourbon, boxing other things literary). JSH's apparent response to toss in his own meditations on the Dregs of Comicdom into the mix of me investigating the current cream of the avant-garde crop was pitch perfect.

Speaking of being interested in everything, you'd probably take from my State of the Union and these words up until this moment, that I live and breathe comics. But, oh no, this roving reporter has been on many an adventure that don't have jack to do with the fine tradition of sequential art. You can peep a picture of me standing at the gates to the Rosine Cemetery where the final remains of Bill Monroe are at rest in western Kentucky at the State of the Union page. Besides exploring greater Muhlenberg county where a man can see Merle Travis's Nudie's suit and a few other things, I went on a journey with Kentucky born photographer Carey Gough, who currently resides in the UK (that's the United Kingdom not the University of Kentucky) who was back in the states for a spring time visit.

With the Stooges song "Death Trip" in my head, I woke up early the day we were to be headed out to Knoxville, Tennessee to follow the path that led ol' Hank William's last ride, in which he left this mortal coil in the back seat of a Cadillac in nineteen hundred and fifty three. From his last night in a hotel in Knoxville along the old highways to Oak Hill, WV where he was officially pronounced dead. There's a lot of confusion and contradiction in the story of Hank's death, and, with Carey's collection of documents and articles, we became like detectives as much as tourists finding our way, searching for landmarks and clues. We plan on collaborating on a book to document the trip, so I'll just let these words stand for now, use some of Carey's informal digital snapshots to decorate this particular missive (her "real" film photographs will be coming along later), and point you in the direction of Louisville, Kentucky's own Courier-Journal recent article on our Ms. Gough.

It seems strange to me that it's been over five years since I said to Colonel J.S. Holland that in the modern age the lounge act of Cheeseburger & Fries could trasnmutate into a back and forth blog, with each of us contributing, and the banter that the act always practiced before during and between songs could exist as articles. And it was Jeff that gave context to it all with his Transylvania Gentlemen concept. And then it all fucked back in on itself again into this Victorian Sqaures clubhouse, with the Transylvania Gentlemen notion itself transmutating into something that if I was aware of such particulars, I wouldn't be at liberty to speak of such particulars, sir. Then, just to prove when it seems like our patterns are predictable, JSH and I for different reasons spend the past year blogging for free less than ever, and it seems to hit the right note that in that space, Brine Manley (Eggroll to our Cheeseburger & Fries) suddenly starts up his own machine, which has been running in our absence. And suddenly we're both back here, which goes to show that between Creeps Time and the End Times, you just gotta hang onto our coattails.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cheeseburger in Paradise

by J.S. Holland

Sure, sure, everybody goes to Florida now and again, but can you really say you've done Florida when all you've done is visit Disney or get Spring-Break-silly in Ft. Lauderdale? I do love Jacksonville, Ocala and Miami, but for the most part when I say Florida, I especially mean the Gulf Coast - specifically the outlying islands and keys. On my most recent visit, I spent even less time on the mainland than ever before, choosing to seek my fortune on such exotic isles as Perico Island, Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key, Lido Key, Leffis Key, St. Armand's Key, Siesta Key, etc., etc. That's where the real action is, for those who have eyes to see.

My visits to Florida mix business with pleasure to such a high degree that I can no longer discern one from the other, like trying to determine where indigo becomes violet on the spectrum. We're taking our little hillbilly operation into the Sunshine State big time now, and in the words of that great man with green hair, we're gonna take 'em out a whole new door.

But there's a war on, and it's the good Florida vs. the bad Florida. Whose side are you on?

Something about the idle Bonobo-ish nature of Florida living tends to heighten the allegedly natural human trait to gossip. I can't tell you how many times I sat wearing an Arthur Dent placid expression while someone I respect natters on and on and on about so-and-so's love life, such-and-such's police record, and whatshisname's personal problems. If these weren't people I care about and don't wish to royally piss off, I'd put up the international "talk to the hand" sign and politely say, "please, drama queen, I don't need to hear this, it's none of my business."

And the newspapers are just as negative and gossipy. First thing I always do when I hit Interzone soil is get the papers, get the papers. And I'm always amazed at how almost every story on the front pages are bad news, lurid crime reports, and partisan bickering. Here's a clue, Flo-boys: you're a tourist state. Stop scaring the damn tourists. No one cares who shot who in the Embarcadero - save it for the back pages, or better yet, leave it out. I'm not an Eagles fan by any means, but Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry" tells it like it is, and the time for you to shut up and listen is now.

More ominous of all to me is the growing Floridian propensity for aggressive, obnoxious driving, especially on my beloved Longboat Key. Repeatedly I was subjected to angry Type-A personalities laying on the horn, giving me the finger, and flashing their brights in my eyes because I was going the speed limit. The speed limits on the islands are deliberately set to be what some would call agonizingly slow - 20-35 mph, and with darn good reason. You wanna live in paradise, Jack, you follow the rules. Get calm or go home. (This is, of course, a growing disturbing trend nationwide, and I'll be discussing that in more detail in an upcoming post, along with my typically elegant and proactive solution to the problem.)

Last but not least, I must sadly report that another issue near and dear to my heart, that of customer service, is at an all-time low here. My conviction that we are witnessing the end of one era and the birth of a new one is exemplified by the utter dysfunctionality of numerous restaurants and other businesses I frequented. Now that everybody's drinkin' the same Kool-Aid, it's time for an antidote - and we'll discuss that on the blog in the future as well.

But wait, isn't this a post about paradise? Oh yes.

Despite the aforementioned problems, I had the time of my life on the islands last week, and met some wonderful people who know a thing or two about a thing or two. I met all kinds of folks from other states - including Kentucky - many of whom were making their pilgrimmage to the FL Gulf for the very first time and instantly fell in love with the magic that is Pass-A-Grille, Clearwater Beach, Honeymoon Island, etc. We love Florida, and we're going to make it a better place, with or without Florida's help.

Two places that do rate five stars from me: Star Fish Co. in Cortez, and Columbia's at St. Armand's Key. Together as a set, these two places are a testament how to run a mom-and-pop joint and an upscale bistro. Star Fish Co. bombards you with signs as you come in, waggishly reminding you that you are now on Cortez Time, which moves very slow and very mellow-reenie (as a fervent observer of Creeps Time, I am so with them on this.) The service is friendly but the pace is laidback, and as long as you grok that's the rule as you go in, you'll have a fine time. And Columbia's gives the stellar opposite experience: lavish setting and swiftly fastidious personal attention. Cecelia, our lovely server, brought the salad materials quickly to our table and created our salads at tableside, right before our eyes. And the same happened when my date and I ordered a pitcher of Mojito: Cecilia set up a folding table beside us, and went through the process of conjuring up the elixir, muddling the mint and limes, while we watched. Not only was it the best Cuban food I've ever had (Columbia's originated in the historic Ybor district of Tampa) but the service was top-notch and the price jaw-droppingly reasonable. If I lived here year-round, I'd be a regular fixture at Columbia's.

I had some terrific grouper sandwiches too! Yeah, yeah, I know, the Corexit is bad stuff, but even as I don't cut any slack to BP for the ecological catastrophe they've unleashed, neither am I going to let anyone or anything change my lifestyle. If anything, it only magnifies my focus to live it up, and to achieve my goals before this body dissolves.

My quest for the ideal location to open a Tiki Bar - something that's been a back-burner plan for some time now - grows closer to fruition with each visit to Florida. I've also established connections to eventually set up a permanent JSH Outpost here to promote my peculiar little pulp-fiction books, primitive neo-expressionist paintings, and puzzling avant-garde lounge music.

Finally, I had a deep conversation with a cactus on Perico Island, who told me I was destined for greatness. Who am I to argue with a succulent?