Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Incident in Iowa

Okay I haven't figured out the links on my computer here at work at the Jack in the Box, so if they're no here yet you can just wait, goddammit.

This is my second official blog writing, and no one can tell me, or will tell me, what people write in these things. "Just stuff." Well okay that does sound pretty entrancing, but in my case all I have really is dim memories of the past, along with some not-so-dim fears of the future. So here's a dim memory of the past for you to chew on:

It was I think early 1993, and we were on tour in Iowa. I was listening to a lot of live Osmonds and feeling sorry for myself, dealing with some serious knots in my hair, feeling itchy in my jeans. But we were on tour, rolling in our impossible-to-ignore zebra van, which looked like this here, minus the word "Zebra" on the side and those dorks standing next to it. Ours said "Bernie Hoffman's Animal Kingdom," I think, and we got it from Animal Kingdom on Milwaukee Ave, and the actual Garfield Goose, or one of him, used to ride in it along with the actual Ray Rayner, who was his boss.

We stopped at a normal old gas station on the windswept plain outside Iowa City. While the pump did its thing we all went inside to mill around. Check out the belt buckles and pork rinds. Maybe visit the men's. Well there we were when we noticed this freaky dude reading a Hot Rod magazine and acting squirrelly. He had long hair for a gentleman in his sixties and in addition it was also streaked with green. He had an amazing beaky nose. He looked like Tiny Tim. He WAS Tiny Tim.

"Tiny Tim?!" we said. "Yeees?" said Tiny, waving his hair back from his face like a lady. He kinda seemed like a big witchy lady, and that's how he talked, too. He wasn't making a whole lot of sense. "I live here in Iowa,' he said in his lilty, fluffy, old-man voice. "I'm on tour. Do you fellows know 'Leave it to Beaver?'" Yeah! we said. We know all the shows. "I have Jerry Mathers out in the car," said Tiny. "We're on tour."

What a tour that would be! Tiny could sing and I guess Jerry would act. Or maybe sing. Or maybe Tiny would just hang around on stage. We had so many questions, but Tiny had to go. We never got to meet Mr. Mathers but we did get Tiny's business card, which was just the middle cut out of some condolence Hallmark card with his phone number scribbled on the back.

Well sir, that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Our manager, Mr. Kenn Goodman of Pravda Records, took that card out of our hands the minute we got back. He called Mr. Tim to see if he would like to play with the mighty NDI, or just come over for dinner, but Tiny was on tour in Australia, playing heavy metal songs with some bar band. Well, we reasoned, if he was desperate enough to do that, maybe he would do something with us.

That something turned out to be one of the most brain-challenging records of all time, Tiny Tim with The New Duncan Imperials Live at Martyrs. We assumed Tiny would be playing some awesome hard rock tunes, but when he got off the plane at O'Hare, toothbrush sticking up out of his suitcoat pocket, ukelele in a battered shopping bag, he declared, "Oh, I am done with the loud stuff! The modern stuff! I am now playing the greats, the classics of ought-seven and ought-eight!" What he meant was, songs that not even my Grandma Dick would have heard of, that's how old they were. Songs like "The Spinning Wheel Shall Turn E'er My Love Grows Sweeter" and "Sing, O Spangled Turtledove!" Stuff in keys like G minor. Impossible stuff. If you listen to that record, you will hear a guitarist, me, who is in so far over his head that he is not even playing notes, just keeping time against the strings. I became a rhythm instrument and I wasn't even so good at that. The person who saved the show was Crispy, the fourth Imperial, who actually knew some of these crusty old songs and played along on his squeeze-box. He saved the show!

I wish this story had a tidy nice ending, like something meaningful Tiny said when we said goodbye, or how a label executive heard the record and almost released it in Greece. Nothing like that happened. He just flew back to wherever, I guess Iowa, and we never saw him or talked to him again. Not so much later Tiny died. He was an odd person but who isn't?

Okay that's enough story for now. Go to bed.

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