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Whirlygig: 85: Out on the Town

Northside Fourth of July parade generates lots of fireworks ... and applause

By Brandon Brady · July 9th, 2003 · Whirlygig
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Perfect Endings

Lately I've taken to the idea that endings should be short and sweet.

For instance, I like to end my e-mails with "Ciao!" My phone conversations are typically cellular and, since the minutes are golden, it seems fitting to keep the chatter to a minimum.

Since the temperature and humidity are rising, I also prefer to stand in the shade and keep exposure to the sun brief. My favorite parts of the day are early in the morning and late evening when the breeze is easy and the air is lighter. It rather reminds me of my preference for dating as well.

You see, I have an allergy to beginnings and endings when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex. I find it particularly tiresome to go through the opening introductions that begin with where you live, what you do and how many siblings you have.

Granted, it's good information to have on the person you might potentially be sharing hours swapping body fluids in the not-too-distant future. Just in case he ends up hospitalized or your mother questions you the next time you see her, it's nice to spout a few résumé pointers. But let's face it: There comes a point when it would be nice to forward ahead of the first date.

Therefore we could skip right to the entrées and the gist of how we feel on the more important subjects like sex, drugs and Rock & Roll. You know, the fun stuff we're all dying to discuss but are too politically correct to bring up.

My tall, dark, handsome gallery fellow and I have been experiencing the first stage of dating with a nice lunch midweek at Encore Café on Tylersville Road. Then, keeping in the Sturkey tradition, we dined the following Wednesday night at Sturkey's in Wyoming. It seemed all rather suburban and polite with our napkins in our laps and all, though I caught myself wanting to say something shocking just to see if he'd choke on his delightful glass of cabernet with his medium rare filet.

I don't know what gets into me at times, though I can remember my grandfather hiding in dark corners and scaring my innocent sister and me. When we screamed, Grandma would yell at Grandpa and he'd laugh gleefully. He was ornery, and I guess I am too, as my date seemed genuinely scared when I told a story about how I know that I'm not a lesbian. Maybe this should have been saved for later in the dating cycle. But, hey, at least I know I'm a flaming heterosexual.

As the waiter pours the last of the wine on our Sunday night date at LiCaDi's on Erie Avenue, my urge was to make the conversation soar with a spicy question like "Tell me how you feel about bondage."

I refrained, figuring I'd be safer with dessert since we hadn't bridged the familiarity gap just yet. I ordered the peach cobbler à la mode and disappointed my date unknowingly. He told he was going to suggest Graeter's Ice Cream on Hyde Park Square. Oops!

I must admit that would have been fine with me as well. All I was really looking for was a sweet ending to the painful awkwardness of two people searching for common ground on which to forge ahead into the never-never land of future dining experiences. Can we just cut to the chase? Or at least the gooey middle where you grab me from behind and I act surprised?

On second thought, give me the peach cobbler to go. We can see if Sex and the City will liven up this date, because we're stuck in first gear on our own.

-- Wendy Robinson

The Fourth Before the Storm

Saturday at noon was the Northside Fourth of July Parade. I neglected to get in touch with my neighborhood friends as I wasn't sure if they'd recovered from Friday night's debauchery. It was just an assumption I had. So I walked down Chase Avenue alone and on the way passed two fellows.

The first kept turning his head away and I started to think he just didn't want to make eye contact. When I got closer he said, "You are so beautiful." It was flattering as hell, and all I could muster was a giggle.

The second guy saw the huge bottle of water I was carrying and asked if I'd share my water with him. I stood there for a second, wondering if I should, then realized he was kidding.

I found a good spot on the library lawn under the shade of a tree. The parade was half an hour late starting, so I got my camera ready to take pictures of any friends who happened to be in it. A couple with a pug wearing a patriotic handkerchief around his neck sat nearby. I snapped a photo of the snorting little dog and realized that was the end of my roll.

Oh well, so much for that.

Pretty soon, the shade receded and I began to feel the sun on my back. All I needed was another sunburn. I drove to Chicago a few weeks ago to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. There was no air conditioning in my car, so with windows down, the sun seared my left arm. I watched uncomfortably as the skin peeled continuously for an entire week.

The spaces around me were filling up with people. It was a great mix. I found myself with a group of Comet regulars. I spotted Steve Schmoll, formerly of Lazy, and Robbie D, presently of Montclaire. Then my friends Heather and Dylan (of Buckra) walked past with their rottweiler Lucy. It was nice to see so many friendly faces, but I was either invisible or incognito due to my relatively new haircut.

Finally the parade started. Local politicians smiled and their supporters shouted slogans and candy was thrown out for the kids. One of the highlights was the Ali's Boutique crew, with Leslie and Company zooming around on their Vespas. Also memorable were the lawn chair ladies who, with handkerchiefs tied around their heads and Rosie the Riveter T-shirts, danced in a circle with their lawn chairs.

The Comet crew I was sitting with found something to clap at with everyone in the parade. When two hunky shirtless men with wings on walked by, they shouted, "Wings! Yea!"

When bubbles poured out of a car driving past, it was "Bubbles!" and the clapping would commence.

When the Aiken High School marching band went past, it sent a wave of excitement through the crowd. They put on a full show and everyone stood up to watch. There's nothing like the sounds of a marching band. I couldn't help but feel awe (and pity) for the guys with the drums strapped to their chests.

A tall man wearing a black shirt and boombox on his shoulder led a group of paraders in interesting get-ups. It took me a while to recognize Brian, the owner of Avant Garage. Maybe it was the fisherman's hat with the windsock on top or the white leather shoes that threw me off.

It was the best parade Northside's thrown yet. It made me proud to be from the neighborhood. Well, I could do without the crime, but definitely not the people. And it seemed like everyone turned out that day.

Festivities followed at the park at Hamilton and Blue Rock, with a tall sprinkler and a water balloon toss, which my boyfriend and I participated in. When I tried to nail him with a balloon, I only succeeded in bouncing it off his stomach and slightly pissing him off.

After all the outdoor fun, we felt like a little cooling off at the Northside Tavern. My friends Kristine, Chip and Ros had gotten a head start. Ros is our British friend who was briefly engaged to Kristine. As soon as she saw me, she got me in her clutches, telling me all about Ros' drunken fun the night before. Ha! I knew there had been debauchery! Apparently he couldn't remember whom he took back to his hotel room or if they had sex or not. When I sat beside him at the table, he was nursing his hangover with a beer.

"I heard you had a good time last night," I started.

He rolled his eyes. "Don't remind me," he said in his British accent.

I couldn't help but laugh. I was glad he got a little action, even though he was paying for the drinking part.

Also at the table was a musician who'd appeared in the local Hedwig and the Angry Inch production and Mike, former owner of the vegetarian restaurant Ulysses. Mike seemed awfully interested in talking to me. He also had entrancing jewel-like blue eyes. When he told me about his two kids, I wasn't sure where he was going with the conversation.

I found out later, after some very unsubtle whispering with my friend Kristine, that he thought I was a "knock-out." Geez, what pheromones was I giving off that day? And where could I get more?

Ros and I have become closer since the last time he visited. Basically that means we can throw matches and other trash at each other and not offend the other. He doesn't look like your traditional Brit. Born in South Africa, currently living in London, he's half-Greek with dark features and is only slightly taller than me.

To celebrate his visit and subject him to a traditional American custom, we had a grill-out that evening. After the food, we all took turns playing one-on-one whiffleball. My friend Kristine did the best she could in her high heels. Most of the time was spent retrieving the ball from the neighbor's yard. The thunderstorm even waited until we were safely inside.

Ros was in awe of the explosions. Not the fireworks, but the lightning.

"You should move to America," I said. "Our storms are better."

-- Ilsa Venturini

That's the Night the Lights Went Out in Newport

The summer thunderstorms that rolled through July 4 ruined a lot of plans for people. As I was driving through Newport at 9:30 p.m. to get to the newly renamed Yorkshire Club above York St. Cafe, I noticed there was a power outage. It was scary how completely dark the streets are at night when there are no lights on at all. It was hard to see where I was driving, even though I had my car headlights on.

Buckra was supposed to have a CD release party that night at the Yorkshire Club, but the event was cancelled after the lights failed to come back on by 10:30. It wasn't all that bad for me. Since Budweiser sponsored the show, the bartenders let people have free Bud or Bud Light until they cancelled the show.

Saturday night Jess and I decided to go to the music and art showcase ArtWorks was throwing down at the Southgate House in Newport. Since I wasn't able to enjoy myself as much as I wanted to the night before, I convinced Jess to have dinner at York St. Café before the show. I also wanted to go there because my last two dinners in the place were ruined by bad dates.

Sometime during the last 10 years since high school, Jess has switched from a Milwaukee's Best guzzling wild girl to a very sophisticated wine connoisseur. She ordered us a bottle of great white wine to start with.

I ordered the wild mushroom ravioli for an entrée, and she ordered the salmon. When our entrées came out, Jess had a worried look on her face. She just said she was surprised that her fish came with such a heavy sauce. When I asked her what was wrong with that, she told me about a book she had just read that told the dirty little secrets of the best chefs in the country.

One of those little secrets was using a heavy sauce to cover up the taste of fish that might have been a little past its prime. I told her that I'd gotten the salmon at York St. many times in the past and it always had the same sauce on it. This seemed to reassure her a bit. Needless to say, I didn't mention to her about the power outage the night before. It might have sent her over the edge.

Near the end of our meal, a waitress for the large table next to ours walked up to me and asked me to come over to his table and show my T-shirt to them. It turns out that the table had been having a heated discussion about George Bush for about an hour, and I was wearing a black T-shirt my friend Serenity sold me for $10 that had the words "I Still Hate George Bush" silk-screened on the front. When I walked over one of the women at the table got up and gave me a big hug, and said, "Thank you."

There was a band setting up with two acoustic guitars, electric bass, drums and a congo drum set when we finally arrived at the Southgate House and walked down to the ballroom. I looked at Jess and said "Jam band," and we quickly walked out and headed to the upstairs parlor. I swear that jam bands actually make me nauseous.

Kubota was finishing up their set of Heavy Metal Rock when we made it upstairs. Jess and I both got a kick out of the flute solos and the double bass drum kit.

When they were done, the bartender in the back was talking about the band that had played before Kubota called Daisy Cutters. We were both in tears when he was describing the band as having "two guitars, drums, bass, weed whacker, lead singer wearing a strap-on and a guy dancing in a chicken suit."

Thee Shams played when the jam band finally finished up. The sound was much better than when we saw them at Northside Tavern last time. Plus the crowd had more room to dance. Especially the fortysomething blonde wearing a pink flower-print dress who was dancing like it was 1969 all over again.

During the night I realized that wearing a T-shirt with the words "I Still Hate George Bush" is the easiest way to meet liberal-minded women. I had three more women at the Southgate House who I'd never met before walk up to me and give me hugs. I even had one buy me a beer. If I wear that T-shirt out a couple more times, it'll more than pay for itself.

-- R.L. Newman


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