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33 1/3: Geeks Ahoy! — One Man’s Journey (A Life)

[Editor's Note: In honor of our 33 1/3 salebuy two new (not used or sale) books from Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series, featuring critical writing on seminal albums, and get a third free — we're pleased to feature blog posts from some of the people behind the 33 1/3 series.]

Atomic Books, Baltimore MD

The last stop on my East Coast tour this summer was in Baltimore.

I met Rebecca at the train station. We're used to living in Boston, where you can walk everywhere, so when the lady at the information desk told us we'd need to take a cab the twenty blocks to Atomic Books, we laughed it off. We were Bostonians! 'Course, Baltimore's way hotter, and the black bag that I had overpacked with books and CD's didn't help things any. Neither did our collective lack of navigational skills. Twenty blocks turned into thirty, forty.

We made it, finally, to Atomic Books, this smallish room crammed to the gills with fanzine anthologies, comics and out there film. Both of us felt comfortable there within seconds despite being cranky and soaked in sweat — Rachel, the place's co-owner, exuded this friendly, hospitable vibe that has yet to be equaled in any other city. We looked around the place, and both of us felt it: if we had a place, it would be just like this.

My reading was at Atomic Pop, the trinket/Hello Kitty sister store. After dinner, Rebecca and I bought some beer to drink with Rachel (and co-owner Benn, and Maggie). Thanks, Benn said. You can put that with the beer that's in the cooler in the back.


After my reading and a screening of 'We Jam Econo,' the Atomic folks hooked 'Guitar Hero' up to their projector cart and we drank and hung out and rocked and bullshitted each other for hours afterwards. The hospitality was amazing — the second time that day of if we had a place, it'd be just like this.

Boston Organics

This summer, I stayed with friends in Seattle who subscribe to a service that delivers fresh produce to their house. I found a similar service here in Boston. The small half fruit/half vegetable box keeps me fed for the better part of a week.

I taught myself how to cook a few years back, and haven't really progressed much since — the same four or five dishes time and again. I'm digging the challenge of using whatever's delivered. This weekend, f'r example, I made a nice cauliflower soup and a corn/potato/tomato salad with basil vinagarette — I undercooked the potatoes and stayed up half the night digesting, but whatever. It's great to be cooking out of my comfort zone with fresh, local produce.

Campaign For Real-Time: LA Tracks (1933-1969) (Wonderdrug/Curve Of The Earth Records)

Post-shuffle: the unironic, jubilant integration of disparate styles, lines and words into a diverse whole devoid of seams. Seriously: hints of Fugazi, Timbaland, Bowie, Publics Image and Enemy, Pink Floyd, grime, Elvis Costello (and not as much Pavement as the name would imply). A few years ago this stuff woulda sounded so alien, but handheld devices and the digital age have accelerated/devolved the way we listen to music so much that it's still ahead of the curve, but only like three steps now. The Campaign Real-Time are a bunch of time travelers, replete with an android singer/keyboardist, so they knew it all along and were waiting for us to be (almost) ready.

Enter Naomi: LA, SST And All That by Joe Carducci

Naomi Peterson bumbled her way into the predominantly male mid-eighties SST Records biosphere (including author Joe Carducci, who was running the label at the time) and summarily molded herself into one of the premier photographers of the punk/underground circuit. In 2007, we know how much impact the label's releases — Black Flag, Minutemen, Husker Du, Meat Puppets, etc. etc. — had on 'the scene,' but back then, the risks that the SST folks were taking on an everyday basis were staggering: grinding out sixteen-hour days in cramped, smelly offices for little to no money; bands perpetually touring, carving out a network for all that followed. Peterson and Carducci and the groups weren't doing it for fame or cash — there was no chance of either. Two car garage in the suburbs be damned — broke and unwashed and hungry and happy, because they believed in what they were doing.

Carducci illustrates both day-to-day SST life and goings-on outside the label's sphere, using a mélange of quotes that represents the dual Los Angeles of the eighties: the media perceptions of glitter versus the cold reality of living in a city full of people disappointed in their failures at ___________. Peterson's tragically short life is placed in the context of both the (dual) city and the sometimes mythologized SST canon, with all of its masculine bravado and s/he-said history. Michael Azerrad's excellent Our Band Could Be Your Life covers some of the same bands, but Carducci's account reads like a behind-the-scenes, the perfect voice to eulogize the woman lurking in the shadows, taking great care to document the music (her music).

Ed Hochuli

Football season means I'm always on the lookout for Ed Hochuli, my favorite NFL ref — a moonlighting lawyer who spends so much time in the gym that he looks like a jacked sausage in that zebra shirt of his, calling penalties with perfect trial diction.

Last year I wrote him a letter: your lawyer and ref jobs, I said, are evidence of your Herculean work ethic (to say nothing of the time you spend at the gym). I think you'd be the perfect guy to write the introduction to the book about a punk band whose modest financial lifestyle and hard work helped them achieve their goals.

I didn't think anything would come of it. A few weeks later, though, this letter arrived — on official NFL stationary. Whoah! He'd love to, the letter said, but NFL officials were prohibited by league rules from doing much press.

I asked my editor David Barker if we could run the letter in the front of the book. David said that doing so would probably get The Hawks in trouble, the last thing I wanted. It's probably safe to mention it here, though.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

I'm not sure that writers are ideal candidates for endorsement deals, but I'd happily shill this beer for the rest of my life if I could get it free. Hell, everyone who comes to my house knows how it is already.

Top Chef

Restaurants are intriguing, volatile workplaces that have drama aplenty, so it's no surprise that TV execs saw in them an opportunity for reality television. I checked out Hell's Kitchen and that one with Rocco. Both were sadly lacking. Kitchen placed a bunch of not-ready-for-prime-time cooks in the middle of dinner service with little clue or direction, a perfect stage for chef Gordon Ramsay to throw tantrums and perpetuate the myth of chef-as-dick. Rocco's show followed the opening of a restaurant from the ground up, but there were certain aspects that didn't ring true. The problem customers felt like plants, and new places don't get reviewed that early.

I look forward to Top Chef every Wednesday. The premise isn't as cooked (sorry) as the other two shows — it's little more than a skill competition, but one that thrives on wickedly inventive challenges (how many chefs have ever prepared airline food?). Best of all, the contestants that have gone deep are largely portrayed as humble, likeable folks. The finale is this week (another part of Top Chef's allure is that it's re-broadcast over and over on the day of broadcast, perfect for folks like myself who do restaurant work and get home late).

÷ ÷ ÷

Michael T. Fournier is a Boston-based writer, critic and historian. Continuum Press published his book on the Minutemen's landmark album Double Nickels On The Dime as part of their 33 1/3 series in the spring of 2007. His reading tour made stops at bookstores and rock clubs across United States in June and July. Fournier's writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, Boston Phoenix, Punk Planet, Chunklet, Perfect Sound Forever, Trouser Press, and Pitchfork Media. His fiction has been published by Barrelhouse and Rambuctious Review.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Minutemen: Double Nickels on the... Used Trade Paper $10.50

Michael T. Fournier is the author of The Minutemen: Double Nickels on the Dime (33 1/3 Series)

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