The Early Adventures Of Mr. Fish

It’s my birthday today, so I’m going to indulge myself a little…

The first dream I can remember having was animated.  And when I say animated, it’s the 1950s-1960-style Disney animation, not the more-lifelike-than-reality animation we have today.

It was also the only animated dream I can ever remember having.

Anyway, in the dream, I was a fish. My name, in fact, was Mr. Fish. And I was hanging out with a bunch  of other cartoon animals, all with names as obvious as my own: Mr. Horse, Mr. Cow, Mr. Rabbit, etc. We were all just there, in the animal neighborhood, making friendly conversation, as eponymous cartoon animals tend to do.

Suddenly, however, a monster appeared in our midst. I don’t remember what he looked like, but I remember he was large, scary and hungry. He was determined to eat one of us.

“Don’t eat me,” said Mr. Goat.  “Eat Mr. Horse.”

Don’t eat me,” said Mr. Horse. “Eat Mr. Rabbit instead.”

“Don’t eat me, eat Mr. cow,” said Mr. Rabbit. On and on it went, through all of the animals, with the monster turning his attention to whoever was named next. Finally someone — maybe it was Mr. Pig — said, “Don’t eat me, eat Mr. Fish.”

The monster turned toward me.

“Don’t eat me,” I said … but there was no one else to name. We’d gone through all of the animals, and I was the last one. With a growing sense of terror, I realized that I was doomed.

Fortunately, I woke up at that point, and lived to dream again.

Fortunately for you, this was a one-off, and I won’t be recounting any more dreams in this  blog.

Cheers.

July 1980

Several key events from July of 1980, continuing my 30-years-ago reminiscenses:

• Sometime around the middle of the month, I saw the Doobie Brothers in concert, with my old Mizzou roommate Bob. This was at the Checkerdome, like the earlier Who concert was, and again we had floor seats. From what I remember, it was a great show.

Interestingly, it now appears I’ll be seeing the Doobie Brothers again in a few days — almost exactly 30 years after that Checkerdome show. It’s an interesting question as to whether rock bands should even EXIST for 30 years.

• A day or so after the concert, both I and my brother Jim took trips that would help define the rest of our lives. In his case, he moved away from St. Louis for what turned out to be the last time. Until then he had lived in several places, including Boston and Provincetown. He wasn’t entirely comfortable in St. Louis, I know, and finally he packed up and moved back to P-Town. We were able to spend a lot of time together that spring — we were both helping out in my dad’s business — but those times were coming to an end.

• And I got in a car with my parents and drove to Naperville, Ill., the home of North Central College. After leaving Missouri University in December ’79, I was looking for a smaller school where I could, perhaps, be more be more visible than at a mega-sized university. I swam, that spring, with an AAU team in Clayton, Mo., just to keep in shape; they practiced at Clayton High School, and on the bulletin board of the pool were tacked several college brochures. One of them was NCC. Comparing my times with the school and conference records shown in the brochure, I thought it was someplace I could be reasonably competitive. One thing led to another. I talked on the phone with the coach a time or two, applied and was accepted. That mid-July trip was for the orientation and registration. I met with Dr. Van der Muellen in the economics department. (He thought it a little odd that I said that in addition to an econ major, I might also pursue a sociology minor. He did end up being my favorite econ professor at NCC, though.) I spent the night in one of the dorms — me and mostly a bunch of incoming freshmen. And on the second day, I finally saw the pool. Through the magic of wide-angle photography, it looked much bigger and nicer in the brochure photo than in real life. And I met the coach, who was just as nice in person as on the phone. On the whole, it looked like a school I could like.

• Also that month, I turned 21. But perhaps the less written about the destruction of that day, the better.

No Lines For The Men’s Restroom

About halfway through Lilith Fair last night, my brother Phil and I were estimating the male-to-female ratio of the crowd. I guessed 20:80; he figured it was 10:90. He may have been closer to the right number than I was.

There are advantages for the males in a ratio like that—people-watching is more fun, for example—and of course the whole restroom issue is a no-brainer. The lines for the women’s restrooms at Riverport are always a problem, but last night it looked like it was even worse than usual (mitigated, at least, by the fact that the concert wasn’t a sellout). Of course, for guys, there was no waiting at all.

The men’s restrooms at Riverport have all the urinals in one long room with a couple of huge fans at one end. The fans are so strong that you line up in front of one urinal, and end up peeing in the one next to it. OK, not really, but you get the picture.

The other room has stalls for sittin’. Last night, while most of the men were in the windblown urinal room, there was a fairly steady stream of women invading the men’s restroom to head for the stalls, rather than waiting in the long lines outside the women’s restroom. I don’t think anyone much cared, and anyway, with a ratio like that, who wants to start a fight?

Lilith Fair

Lilith Fair, the all-women music festival founded in the late 1990s by Sarah McLachlan, returned to St. Louis last night. And just like the first two times it came to town, my brother Phil and I–both big Sarah fans–were in attendance.

In 1997 and 1998 (the festival also toured in 1999, but didn’t come to St. Louis), Lilith Fair brought some great lineups to the main stage here: Tracy Bonham, Paula Cole, Fiona Apple and Mary Chapin Carpenter in 1997; Liz Phair, Des’ree, Bonnie Raitt and Natalie Merchant in 1998, with Sarah McLachlan closing both nights, of course. That ’98 show was amazing; even though I was living for Natalie’s and Sarah’s music in those days, Bonnie Raitt stole the show that night with an absolutely smokin’ set.

After 1999, though, Lilith Fair ceased touring. Too much work to pull it together, and McLachlan was starting to get into other things, like marriage and babies. It seemed the Lilith adventure was over, but we had fun while it lasted.

But in 2010, McLachlan revived it. She finally came out with a new CD, after a seven-year hiatus. And rather than just go out for a solo tour–that would be too easy, I guess–she put together another Lilith Fair tour.

(I know I’m understating the work involved here. At some point in the last couple of days, I read that a touring festival like this takes about two years of planning.)

The festival stopped in St. Louis at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (hereafter known in this blog by its original name, Riverport), just like the previous two visits here. The crowd last night was much, much smaller than before, a sign of the times, I’m afraid.

We arrived in time to see the last half of the set by a Canadian band called Metric. Kind of a hard-edged sound, with a lead singer who looked like she was about 16. Next up were the Court Yard Hounds, which is made up of Martie McGuire and Emily Robinson—two of the three Dixie Chicks—with a backing band. Even though they’re a little more country/bluegrass than my taste, they were excellent—definitely one of the highlights of the evening.

In between songs, Robinson was talking about how cool Lilith Fair is, and remarked, “Where else can you see Mary J. Blige perform right after Emmylou Harris?”

Indeed.

Harris followed the Court Yard Hounds. Phil’s a big fan and has seen her many times, but it was my first. She put on a decent show, but much lower-energy than the previous two acts. Not really my kind of music, though. And neither was Mary J. Blige’s, but in a completely different way. She took the stage with a loud, bombastic opening, and the crowd loved it, with most on their feet through her entire set. Blige surprised me with the U2 song One, followed by an even more surprising cover, Stairway to Heaven. Very interesting.

But the real reason for the night was Sarah McLachlan. She opened with a duet with Emmylou Harris singing Angel. That was followed by Building a Mystery, and an hour-long set drawn almost entirely from her last three albums. Her classic CD Fumbling Towards Ecstasy wasn’t touched until the end of the night. The new material sounds good — she did three songs from the new CD.

It had been a long time since I’d seen her, so I can’t say for sure, but I think her entire band was different. They sounded great, though, able to pull off her sometimes intricate songs with no problem. Sarah herself seemed very happy to be out touring again.

I guess my only complaint about the evening would be the sound setup; the mix for Blige’s set in particular was bass-heavy and bottomed out a lot, and even McLachlan’s mix was a little muddy at times, but then I’m used to absolutely pristine sound from her concerts.

All in all, it was a great night. We saw some great music, heard some people we never would have heard otherwise, and got some ideas for new CDs to buy. And hopefully this was a prelude to another Sarah McLachlan solo tour.

Return of the Air Show

After a five-year absence, Fair St. Louis brought back one of its most popular features this year: the air show over the Mississippi River. The show, which this year was held three times over the holiday weekend, features a variety of military and private aircraft, doing some pretty amazing tricks in front of the Arch grounds. For downtown workers, there’s a bonus: practice for the air show on the last work day before the fair opens. In this case it was Friday, July 2. I happened to have my camera that day, and I took a walk over to the Arch grounds during my lunch hour. Here’s a brief slideshow of some of the highlights.

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