Saturday, April 23, 2005

Philadelphia Story

Yesterday, the Sasquatch and I drove to Philly to hear one of our favorite musicians, Michael Penn. (We also wanted to see the Mutter Museum, a trippy place with a retro feel reminiscent of a wacky old professor's closet of curios. I imagine the Sasquatch will be blogging about that, and he can do greater justice to the mysteries of the museum than I can.) DC to Philly should take, more or less, two - two and a half hours, tops. We aimed to leave the DC burbs, where we both live, around 9:30 in the morning.

Well, scratch that.

Thanks to rainy weather, the already wretched DC rush hour was considerably extended. Despite living only three miles from the Sasquatch, it took me about 40 minutes to reach him (the weather problem was complicated by some sort of "police action" en route, with multiple cars on scene and officers tearing apart some suspect minivan.) By the time I reached the lair of the Sasquatch, it was nearly 10 a.m. and we were ravenous, which necessitated a stop at Mickey D's. Not the healthiest of breakfasts, but we figured it would hold us until a good lunch in Philly.

Yeah. Right.

I'll cut to the chase. Between my need to stop and buy a new pair of socks, thanks to an untimely laundry shrinkage issue (that I didn't notice, oddly, until I'd already left home), the continuing rain, insane amounts of stop-and-start I-95 traffic, and outrageously bad directions from Mapquest that appear to have been divined by a crack-addled ferret, we didn't get into Philly until 3 p.m. What a nightmare!!

By the time we reached downtown, via an eyeopening trek through urban decay, I was working on a massive blood sugar low and we were both pretty hungry. But we wanted to see the dang museum, and we'd made it this far. The Sasquatch was willing to forgo the museum, but generations of pigheaded Irish ancestors wouldn't let me do that. We were there, dammit. We were going. (Actually, I was willing to wait in the car while he visited the museum, if need be, but he noted that the point of this was sharing the experience.)

Parking near the Mutter Museum, once we found it, was problematic. I ended up having a bit of a meltdown (the Sasquatch might upgrade the level of that meltdown to "semi-toxic" from his perspective, poor guy) and he paid $23 for parking. TWENTY-THREE DOLLARS FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF!! City of Brotherly Love, my ass! It makes DC parking look incredibly cheap at $14 for the day. A Twix and a Snickers shared with the bigfoot in the buttondown improved my view of the world, but, in order to see the museum before it closed at 5, we couldn't stop to get any real nutritive lunch. My dumb arthritic back was killing me and even with the short walk to the museum, I was starting to think that death was an okay option.

Despite the logistical hangups, the museum was very, very cool and very, very bizarre. Like I said, the Sasquatch will surely blog a entry about the wonders of the Mutter, but let's just say I think I've seen enough diseased penises and gangrenous limbs for this year. Yes, indeedy, I bagged my limit, Mr. Ranger sir!

At 5, we left Chang & Eng's conjoined livers, and, after popping a few ibuprofen, we headed for The Point in Bryn Mawr, to hear the marvelous Michael Penn. According to Mapquest, it's 8.5 miles from the museum to The Point. Long story short: I hate Philly traffic worse than I hate DC traffic. We arrived at The Point at 6:30.

If you haven't been to The Point and you live near Philly, let me recommend going to hear some music there. What an awesome little place! First off, I'm a freak for the American Arts & Crafts movement, and, between the Dard Hunter-esque font used on their storefront to the Arts & Crafts sconces by the stage and the handful of Mission style chairs scattered amongst the tables, I was feeling pretty happy from a design standpoint. (I'm pathetic, you know - I think I'm the only straight woman in America who's interested in Brad Pitt for his original Craftsman bungalow.) But more happiness was to come.

At the recommendation of a fellow PennList'er, I had mailed a request to The Point for reserved seating. For $10 a head, you can make sure you have a seat for the festivities - and, even better - the money is returned to you in the form of a food voucher (good thing, as I believe I was prepared to chew on The Sasquatch's leg by this point, and he, mine.) I believe I asked for "the best seating for two you have at the time you receive this money order."

Well, I think we did okay.

The friendly woman at the door handed me an envelope with our vouchers and pointed to a cluster of small tables near the stage. (I realized on the way home, she didn't ask me for ID to collect our voucher/tickets - wow, that's now some faith in the customers!) As we wound our way toward our table, I couldn't hold back my amazement. We were literally as close to the stage as you could possibly be. I believe the Sasquatch said, "If we were any closer, he'd be breathing on us." Too damn cool!!

We were seated next to two folks from the PennList - a married couple who seemed very cool and whose posts I enjoy reading. (I was glad to meet someone else who'd witnessed Elvis Costello's "Spinning Songbook" tour!) I think they were pretty darn pleased with the vantage point, too. Right behind us was the extremely nice guy who runs the PennList and does a lot of work on Michael's behalf. He was the best-dressed man in the room and it was really great to finally put a face to the name and the Internet "voice." I also introduced myself to the woman who runs Aimee Mann's mailing list. (Aimee is Michael Penn's wife.) She, too, was very nice - and she's the kind soul who told the list about the reserved seating option. I owe her dinner somewhere!

We ate our paninis while Jim Boggia, a very talented singer-songwriter, played a few songs. We felt guilty dining while he performed. The Sasquatch politely ate between songs - I have to admit to being less couth. Before Boggia began, we both commented to him that we felt bad, eating while he was performing. He laughed and pointed to a stool with an iced chai and a styrofoam cup of salad. "It's okay, " he said, "I have table service." Nice guy. He's got good musical sensibilities - and his interpretation of "Live and Let Die" gave the whole room a smile. It's rare for me to enjoy an opening act as much as I enjoyed his set. (The Beautiful South opening for the Barenaked Ladies and They Might Be Giants opening for themselves are two of the only other occasions that come to mind.) I've been listening to Boggia's stuff for the past month, and I think I'll buy his new cd when I have an income again.

A few minutes after Boggia left the stage, Michael Penn came out and played an absolutely fantastic set of songs both old and new. He's talented, he's funny, and, damn, he was in fine voice. I've never before been to a gig where I was basically sitting right next to the performer. I didn't even want to whisper anything to the Sasquatch between songs because I was afraid of derailing MP's train of thought. It was the most respectful audience I've ever encountered at a gig, too. I think the people there were all such fans and knew how rare it was to have a chance to hear him live, no one wanted to screw with a good thing.

I took a few photos at the gig. There was a polite request for no flash photography, so these guys have a sepia quality to them (actually, sepia is pretty appropriate for MP - it's very "cover of Resigned-ish"). I've never taken indoor pics w/o the flash on this camera, so this was an experiment. (Also, I'm not the world's best photographer, so chalk up the lameness to my lack of skill.)

The Sasquatch enjoys a fine creme soda at The Point. Note that he has streams of track lighting eminating from his head, like a space age saint on an Orthodox icon. Simply amazing.

This is Jim Boggia. And his iced chocolate chai. Both are good. Jim's pic is clearer than those of MP. The sun (what sun there was with the drizzle) was still out and the lighting was generally brighter than for our headliner.

Michael Penn is a compulsive tuner. He described himself as having a "co-dependent relationship with tuning." Hey, no problem here! The music was brilliant, and if constant tuning and fiddling is the key, I'm all for it! Sorry for the diet Pepsi lid in the foreground. This should show you just how close we were, though. (And, hey - I got a free iTunes song on that bottlecap - I'm using it to get a Jim Boggia track today.)

Looks like he's doing "Eentsy Weentsy Spider", doesn't it? He's not, though. I think he's making a wee dig at George Dubya. Something about people "who think they can talk to god." Despite Michael believing he's not good at banter between songs, he was pretty dang good. And he told a story of his television obsession, "The Dog Whisperer" on the National Geographic Channel. I have to check this out after his fairly hilarious story about it (and his theory about applying subtle, but effective canine discipline to the U.S. president.)

I like the fact that this is a little blurry. It's kinda impressionistic. Yeah, that's the ticket. It's not bad photography, it's art!

Here he is, playing one of my all time favorite songs, "Me Around." Oh yeah, most excellent. Wait. I think he's playing "Me Around." Then again, it might have been "High Time." Damn. Doesn't matter. It was all fantastic. He deserves much more attention that he's received. Don't own any of his music? For shame! Go and buy some right now!!

Yep, the show was great. It made dealing with all the traffic and me losing my cool all worth it. We took an alternate route home, down a less-traveled and beautifully clear road. My feet were swollen and I was walking like I was 80 by the time we hit DC, but it didn't matter. I had a good day with my bud and we came as close as we are ever likely to having our own private concert by one of the finest and most underrated musicians around.

I learned a few things, too:

1. Always check that your socks are big enough for your feet before you leave the house.
2. If you have blood sugar problems, stop for lunch at lunchtime, even if you have not reached your travel objective. Otherwise, you may turn into an emotionally overwrought rabid weasel.
3. When behind the wheel of your car, don't start the lines to a classic rhyming poem in the presence of the Sasquatch. It will likely get finished with a new and hilariously pornographic ending that might make you drive off the road.
4. If your abdomen is hideously distended and you doctor tells you not to worry about it, see another doctor, asap. (Ask the Sasquatch about the mega colon at the museum. That's all I'm sayin'...)
5. Never, ever trust Mapquest. It's evil. Potentially Satanic.
6. Know your Fender guitar picks. Apparently, the celluloid ones start to serrate after a while.

I slept until noon today. I feel like an utter slug, but a fairly contented slug.


Brad said...

6. Know your Fender guitar picks. Apparently, the celluloid ones start to serrate after a while.

I think he said it was the new, plastic ones that serrate.

Merujo said...

Oops! My bad. See - even sitting directly in front of him, I wasn't listening as well as I should have been! Looks like I still have some more to learn. :-) Thanks for the correction!

Spencer said...

Generally Philadelphia parking is not nearly that bad - it should have been no more than $15.