Song Saves the Day: Dori Freeman’s “I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight”

I was driving along, enjoying Freeman’s new Letters Never Read when her cover of this tune jumped out and spun my head around. Immediately brought back the moment when, the third or fourth time I had listened to the song, I realized it was not merely an excellent hooray-for-the-weekend number, but a more profound reflection on the human condition and the need for release and freedom. And Linda Thompson flat incarnated the number. (Linda and Richard’s son Teddy Thompson plays guitar on this “Bright Lights,” produced the album, too). The Dori Freeman debut slipped past me last year. Now I will have to check it out.

Real Estate Developments I Pass Every Day

I think it was Anthony Bourdain who noted that certain business locations can become, well, cursed. No matter what opens in the space, it quickly goes out of business. This can last for years (maybe even forever), but it can also end.

This one corner spot on Beacon had been a superb convenience store for ages and ages. Then it got kinda outta touch and closed. The location became cursed and about four different operations tried to make it work;. The two I recall were the bad Asian gift shop with a misspelled word in its sign and a store that offered a strange mixture of plants and make-up products and never seemed to have staff that knew nearly enough about either. The spell broke when the space changed direction entirely and became a tres-hip Yoga center that won a Best of Boston award.

Only a block away was a very chic bicycle store that had a cool display of bikes on the roof (I don’t ride myself, so I never went inside), but seemed to do next to no business in the winter. It closed and has been replaced by a crushingly mediocre liquor store (that claims to have gourmet foods and cheese but I sure as hell didn’t see any).

Finally a salute to my late, great friend and editor at the Phoenix and Boston Globe, John Ferguson. The deeply authentic Irish pub where we held his Official Wake has been torn down to make way for another faceless glass tower. Especially sad because it helped me think about him many days when I drove past. He’s been gone for more than 13 years now. He was only 52.

An Inside-Out King Donald Positive

The atmosphere of general sadism that King Donald has officially established has gotten rid of the remnants of a quirk belief that I could not divest until now. I always thought there was something to the argument that if you were going to have a death penalty at all, there should be the possibility that the perps would be killed in the same manner as their victims. Yeah, it increased mindless violence, but there was a rude proper equality to it. Monsters deserved monstrous deaths. (Horror movies I refuse to see kinda wallow in this line of thought.)

Except now the air of brutality and mindless bashing finishes my darkside sympathies. Without a whisper of regret, monsters must be treated with total harshness, but not their own instruments.

Couple Things That Really Improved in My Lifetime

If only to counter general shadows and doubts …

Store-bought food for dogs and cats — dogs especially — now amounts to something they actually enjoy eating and is better for their health (though we have not had pets for decades). Ranch-raised dogs in my youth looked tortured as they fought off starvation by snarfing meat-flavored grains. And I remember vets repeatedly telling us how many cats came in with digestive disaster because they weren’t fed properly. One unfortunate side effect was that our dogs were all terrible dinner-table beggars — amusing on occasion, annoying more of the time.

As a kid in bed, all I had to fight off the most extreme cold of winter was enormous feather quilts. I felt smothered and couldn’t move properly. Then came the miracle of the electric blanket. Wasn’t as heavy, for sure, but felt as natural as sleeping on a hot frying pan. With modern materials, you can enjoy a couple light layers extra that keep you snug as you want. Whew.

R.I.P.: Kate Millett

Cornerstone spirit and thinker. I had puttered around in The Second Sex during my exploration of French lit in high school, but ultimately found it too arty and indirect (the translation seemed terrible, too). Millett’s Sexual Politics came right out and said it. Unless you were a sex-stereotyper yourself, her arguments were undeniable. That my mother had always been a working professional probably helped my understanding. Also had a growing conviction that “the Revolution” was freeing men while leaving women in chains.

R.I.P.: Walter Becker/Steely Dan

Steeky

Becker and Fagen would be first to say Steely Dan were a rock and roll future that never came to pass. The saddest aspect of their shortfall is that the more you had listened to, the more you appreciated what Steely Dan was on about. One of my greatest frustrations as a popular music critic is that I’m not happy with anything I wrote about the Dan. The only outright botch was my misguided rave for Fagen’s Kamakiriad (though it does still have its believers). And I did get it more or less right that Two Against Nature was quite an accomplishment after such a hiatus and was artistic justice. But probably the best I ever did for the band was during my first record-store job in Boston, where I convinced the owners that Aja was not just for hipsters but would be a hit and sure as hell would be more fun to play than the millionth repetition of Saturday Night Fever or (shudder) Dark Side of the Moon.

Anyway, I think this is as good as possible to do with Steely Dan and that, yeah, it does help to be from NY.