Wavelength! On The Road, And the Radio

Driving, driving, driving. Still can’t recommend Loudon Wainwright’s breathtaking tribute to early 20th c country singer Charlie Poole – whose besotted, road-centric, charm, talent and self-destructiveness make him an earlier, darker analogue for LW3 himself – highly enough. “High, Wide and Handsome” is funny, dark, tuneful and straight from the weird old america that imagines, produces and makes a fortune from, say, the sham-wow. It’s classic, quirky Americana, bristling with banjos, fiddles, horns and wild-eyed musings. “I’m the man who rode the mule around the world!” barely begins to describe it. “I don’t know where I’ll die when I go to. . . ” All that plus also the Roches, the various younger Wainwrights (Rufus, Martha, Lucy Roche) and more.

Caught a station low on the dial somewhere south of Chehalis, a little fuzzy but an endless chain of old rhythm and blues sides. Didn’t recognize the voices or the tunes, but how splendid, and once that fuzzed out the radio picked up another wavelength, this one straight out of Jay Farrar’s 1963 (“….sounds like heaven!”) with “Folsom Prison,” “Hello, Love” and more.

The right-wing Uncle Sam sign south of Centralia (Where’s the Birth Certificate!?!) has gone dark. Whatever it says during the daylight hours, it’s a big dark nothing once the sun sets.

Sarah Palin’s new book, the talk of the uncivilized world on radio. Heard her reflecting on hockey moms and pitbulls on one station, to great cheering from the convention crowd of ’08, and figured I’d stumbled into some right-wing talk zone. Nope, it was a preview for Monday’s “Morning Edition” on NPR.

Passing on the right: a requirement when you have blacked-in windows, apparently.

Stopped in Tacoma to see Randy Cohen, the New York Times’s Ethicist columnist, speak. Great fun from a great (and funny) mind. The last words he uttered, sending me out onto the byways, referred to the NYT headquarters in midtown Manhattan. “The Jew-iest place on earth,” is how he described it. He said it lovingly, with a smile on his face. 

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