Sunday, July 15, 2012

Elvis Costello -- "Mystery Dance" (1978)


She thought that I knew
And I thought that she knew
So both of us were willing 
But we didn't know how to do it

"Mystery Dance" moves right along -- it's only one minute, 38 seconds long.

I almost rendered the last two lines as sobothofuswerewillingbutwedidntknowhowtodoit to indicate the breakneck pace at which Elvis Costello sings this song, but I was afraid that doing so would confuse some of my less clever readers.  (You know who you are.)

I recently wrote about taking ballroom dancing lessons when I was in the sixth grade.  These lines from "Mystery Dance" certainly apply to me when I was in the sixth grade, except for the fact that there was no "she," so only one us was willing but didn't know how to do it.


A later verse is also apropos of moi in the sixth grade:

I was down under the covers
In the middle of the night
Tryin' to discover
My left foot from my right

(I'm not sure that Mr. Costello is really talking about feet here.)

You can see those pictures 
In any magazine
But what's the use of looking 
When you don't know what they mean?

My sixth-grade self would certainly not have said "what's the use of looking?" at those pictures, although my sixth-grade self certainly wouldn't have known what they meant. 

"Mystery Dance" came up on my iPod recently as I riding the northern end of the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail, which is a rail trail that doesn't go all the way to either Baltimore or Annapolis.  (The railroad right of way that was converted to the B&A Trail did.)

The northern terminus of the trail is in Glen Burnie, Maryland, a modest Baltimore suburb.  (Extremely modest.)

The trail goes past a local bar that has one characteristic that is very important to me as a potential customer: the beer there is very cheap:


I'm reminded of the time when my daughter Caroline showed me a short story she had entered in a student writing competition at her college.  It was set in northwestern Arkansas, when my mother's family hails from.  In the story, a young soldier who has come home after seeing action in Iraq goes out drinking with a high-school buddy.  The two friends order a pitcher of Yuengling and catch up on what's new since the soldier shipped out.

"Whoa," I said to my daughter.  "These boys wouldn't know Yuengling from a premier grand cru Bordeaux.  You should have them order Coors or Budweiser."  It's not that Yuengling is a fancy beer -- it's an old-fashioned, working-class brew -- but I didn't think it was likely to be available on tap at the bars in that part of the country.  Was I wrong?  

Drink too much of that cheap beer, however, and you might be in the market for the services of another nearby Glen Burnie business:


I like the "7 days a week" statement.  Too few businesses in this country put the customer's needs first.  This guy gets it!

But Glen Burnie's not all about cheap beer and bail bondsmen.  Here's a picture of a sheet-metal sculpture that adorns the rail trail.


Click here to see some of the other works created by the sculptor, Mary Ann Mears.

The rail trail also features something called the "Planet Walk."  (They allow pedestrians as well as bikers to use the trail, which annoys the crap out of me -- especially if its almost impossible to pass the pedestrian easily he or she is towing such a wide load that it makes you want to say, "Hey -- only one person per pair of pants!") 

The Planet Walk begins with a large sculptural representation of the sun and a bunch of boring educational stuff.


As you continue down the trail, you see small metal disks labeled with the names of each planet and how far that planet is from the sun.


The distance separating each of these disks is proportionate to the actual distance between the planets.  For example, the marker for Earth is roughly a tenth of a mile from the sun.  But you have to go about a mile before you get to Saturn.  That's because Saturn is ten times further away from the sun than the earth is.

I turned around shortly after passing Saturn -- well short of URANUS.

(Tell the truth -- you're expecting me to say something tasteless, aren't you?  Believe me, I really want to.)

There's a parking lot just south of Baltimore-Washington International airport that connects to the B&A Trail.  Every few minutes, a plane coming in for a landing flies right over the parking area.


A lot of bikers park in that lot, of course, but there are usually a few families with folding chairs and a cooler fill of cold drinks who set up shop next to the lot so they watch the planes land.  It's pretty interesting to see them get very large and very loud on their approaches to BWI, but one Southwest 737 looks pretty much like the next.  (By the way, 197 out of the 355 domestic flights that depart from BWI every day are Southwest flights.  Another 44 are flights on AirTran, which Southwest just acquired.  Southwest rules BWI!)  

Maybe those families had nothing better to do because they had lost their cable TV and internet access after the derecho storms that had roared through the DMV (the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) the night before.

Click here if you don't know nuthin' about derechos.

Twenty-four hours after the derecho had moved on, a million customers of the area's biggest electric utilities (or 45 % of their entire customer base) were still without electricity, and the utilities were saying it would be a full week before all those people would have juice.  


That's even worse than it sounds, because the temperatures reached 104 the day the storms hit -- the highest temperature ever recorded in the Washington area in June.

We don't have cable or internet, our cell phones work only intermittently (presumably because some cell towers were blown over or are without power), and there are about a million big-ass tree limbs littering my back yard.  But we never lost our power.  I got 99 problems, but electricity ain't one.

(Note: One full week after the storm hit, there were a small number of people in the area who still didn't have electricity.  That day, the high in Washington, DC was 105 degrees.  It actually hit 106 -- which would have tied the all-time record high for Washington -- but it stayed there for only one minute.  It seems that a temperature has to persist for three full minutes before it is official.)

Here's a live performance of "Mystery Dance," which was on Elvis Costello's debut album, My Aim Is True:


Here's a link you can use to order the song from Amazon:

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