I was buying pine nuts at the Eastern Market Saturday, at one of the bricks-and-mortar stores. I was there relatively early, but by no means break-of-dawn hours, and something seemed to be missing. They’re rearranging the checkout area, but it wasn’t that. The crowds? The store wasn’t overrun, but was plenty busy. The sound system clicked to life with the opening hand claps in “Where Did Our Love Go?” and the woman behind me in line began to sing along with Diana Ross.
Of course. The Motown was missing.
It’s hard to overstate how pervasive Motown music is in Motown. Close to half a century since some of these songs were on the charts, and you still hear them, daily, in an average day’s errands. It’s the preferred Muzak in stores all over the Metro, presumably because in a vast, multiracial, frequently acrimonious place, it’s the one thing everyone can agree on. We all like the Supremes. Everyone knows “Mickey’s Monkey.” It doesn’t matter if you go stag, it doesn’t matter if you go drag, you’re sure to have some fun, I’m telling everyone, most every taxi that you flag is going to a go-go. And when you get there, they’ll be spinning some Stevie Wonder.
I hear Motown in the grocery store, Motown at the gas-station pumps, Motown at fancy-dress affairs, because it’s a way of honoring the city’s history and African American population and pre-riots glory, while still getting even suburban toes tapping. There’s a Motown store in the airport, where you enter the Northwest (now Delta) terminal, and of course it’s always playing Motown. I wonder if the clerks go insane with it after a while, or if it just becomes white noise.
You think about Motown the record label, and the way it has squatted over Motown the city, and it’s no wonder most people elsewhere know little about the depth and breadth of music the city has produced, before and after. I understand why you don’t hear Eminem or Kid Rock at the airport, but couldn’t they throw in some John Lee Hooker or White Stripes? The MC5 didn’t have “motherfucker” in all their lyrics. They play Bob Seger, you say, and yes, they do. But for every Bob Seger song, you’ll hear 25 spins of “Tears of a Clown.”
I love this music as much as anyone, but even I can get a little impatient with it. If you’re going to play it that much, give us some B-sides and deep cuts for variety, if nothing else. And stop playing “Tears of a Clown.” I mean it. That one’s about to join “Respect” and “Dark Side of the Moon” on my If I Never Hear It Again, I’ve Already Heard It Quite Enough, Thank You playlist.
So, it sounds like everyone had a nice holiday. We’re having a heat wave in my part of the world — maybe in yours, too. As during cold snaps, now is the time when general-assignment reporters at newspapers all over the affected area pick up their phones and pretend to be deeply engrossed in productive conversations when their bosses stand at the end of the bullpen with that eenie-meenie-minie-moe look in their eyes. No one wants to do this weather story. A good tornado? Sure, I’ll roll on that in a heartbeat. But the heat-wave story makes you stupider just thinking about it, let alone reporting it. You talk to an indulgent ER doctor at a local hospital, one who is perhaps being hazed by his colleagues. He gives you his expert medical opinion on how one might avoid heat exhaustion: Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If you must go out, make sure to drink plenty of fluids, but not alcohol or caffeine. Really, water is best. Avoid standing in direct sun — seek shade. If you feel dizzy or otherwise impaired, by all means, stop what you’re doing and rehydrate.
On the metro desk of the Nance Times, we tell people that heat waves are an excellent time to exercise strenuously outdoors, right around 4 p.m. Don’t drink water; in fact, high heat is an excellent time to lose that pesky water weight. Have a beer if you’re thirsty. Have five! Then have a long nap on the front lawn, preferably in direct sunlight.
So, some bloggage for an indoors-in-the-AC day? Sure:
When I was growing up, Cracked magazine was the B-team version of Mad. When did they start running stories like this? It’s actually fairly smart.
What do we think of Floyd Landis’ latest spill on Saint Lance? I find it pretty convincing, but you? Maybe not.
If you’re not reading Coozledad when he gets cranky, you should.
Via Hank: One of the Stranger’s better writers goes to see Gallagher’s act in suburban Seattle. Yeah, he’s still alive. No, it ain’t pretty.
Welcome back to the week. Short one. Yay.