Who’s Newton Faulkner? A New Old Friend and Favorite…

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The thing I like most about my little cubicle of a home (at work) is the big, black telephone that squats in glorious obsolescence in the corner of my desk. And the thing I like best about that phone is that it NEVER rings. Never. We have evolved into a people of email and IM, thank God, and glory halleluiah. After a career that has included more than one stint in in-bound call centers, I especially appreciate a life where I don’t have to respond to the shrill demands of an irrational appliance.

As a result, I’ve established a long-term and mostly satisfying relationship with Pandora.com (to ornament the sweet, prolonged silence). I started out by asking it to play some Bruce Cockburn for me (Wondering Where the Lions Are? On Pandora!) and then gradually convincing it that there is more to my musical life than the Dave Matthews Band. After several months of negotiating our mutual idea of music-to-code-by, Pandora and I have reached the same companionable state as an old and happily married couple. The world just keeps getting better and better!

It is thanks to Pandora that I was recently introduced to Newton Faulkner, a singer-guitarist from across the pond who sounds more like Crowded House than those kiwi Finn boys ever did even on their best days. This is a good thing, in case you were wondering. I bought Faulkner’s first CD and have nearly worn out its grooves by playing it over and over in my car. I love singing along with the shouty bits.

The boy knows how to rock the Amish beard + ginger dreadlock look too! That’s not a combination you see every day, eh? It helps me overlook that annoying being British thing (for which I don’t have a proper attitude, according to my Beatles-loving family. So sue me).

Just yesterday—yesterday—our boy Newton released the best album since Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (of course, that’s not quite as high praise coming from me as it would be from someone who actually likes the Beatles). I’ve been listening to previews of most of the tracks all week. Am I jazzed for this album?  Oh, hell to the yes!

So, here I am in America with my wallet hanging out, looking for a way to support Newton Faulkner’s career while scoring an entire album of music that feels custom made for me. And? You don’t live in Britain, Kristy. You will have to wait. No soup for you.

Now, it’s not that we’re waiting for a slow boat from Liverpool to deliver a load of physical CDs across the ocean, so that they can be then loaded on a truck to make their slow way across the Colonies so that they can be delivered to Amazon (up the street) so that Amazon can put them on a FedEx truck to Sea-Tac so that they can make a connection at the Dallas airport, before being sent back to the Northwest to be handed over to the Post Office to be delivered to my mailbox. No! All we’re waiting for is Sony to give iTunes the blessing to flip the switch so that Americans can download the album like the rest of the world can (or at least the British Empire portion of it). Can anyone explain to me why this model, based on a trans-oceanic shipping model that’s as antiquated as my telephone, still has to hold sway in a world that has otherwise gone digital? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

So. My friend is a lucky man. He tends to find things that have fallen off of trucks along the Information SuperHighway. And guess what! He found a copy of Newton Faulkner’s brand new album–like a Christmas miracle. So here I am in pop music nirvana because Sugar in the Snow is my new favorite song and BFF.

But.

The only reason I’m enjoying it with a clear conscience is that I have the already pre-ordered the physical CD (complete with liner notes, because, yes, I am just that old-school to require printed visuals), and am just barely ethical enough to believe that artists should be financially supported by appreciative fans. As I would have liked to have done from the outset.

The music industry is kinda stupid. That’s all I’m saying.

And that you should go forth and buy Newton Faulkner’s new album Write It On Your Skin. Wherever you happen to live.

Duck Signs

Duck SignWhen I was a child, a Hollywood film crew came to my Oregon hometown and went to work shooting a movie. We didn’t have a clear idea of what they were doing behind the temporary plywood walls they erected around their set, but one thing was clear, at least as far as my father was concerned: they knew how to viciously fuck up traffic out on Center Street for months on end. He was happy see them go when they finally packed up and went back to California. Center Street traffic immediately returned to normal, and we all soon forgot about the film crew’s extended visit.

Time passed. At least a year anyway; maybe even two. And then one day, out of the blue, we heard that the movie was ready to be released in theaters. And, to my overwhelming disappointment, it was to be released with an “R” rating.

I was, I think, twelve years old that summer—too young to see an “R” rated movie, at least as far as my parents were concerned. But I begged. I thought an exception should be made. This was our hometown movie, after all. Didn’t I also have some sort of proprietary right to see it when it made its local debut?

Incredibly, my parents relented. Not only did they agree to take me, but they agreed that my best friend Hope (who was younger than I was by more than a year) could go too—if, of course, she had her mother’s permission. For Hope, the youngest of six children, getting that consent from her mom was a mere formality. So, on a warm summer night, my Dad and Mom packed the two of us into the family station wagon and we set out for the local drive-in theater. Hope and I had the back seats folded flat in my dad’s old Gran Torino. We had sleeping bags and pillows back there, along with all the popcorn we could eat. We were ready to make a night of it.

Sunset comes pretty late to Oregon in August, so the main feature didn’t really get underway until well after 9:00 pm. The movie was interesting—sort of—but not interesting enough to keep us awake for its entire duration. Hope and I, predictably enough, fell asleep in the back at least thirty, maybe forty-five minutes before the final credits rolled.

My mother was curious to find out what sort of impression my first “R” rated movie made on me. The next day she asked me what I had thought of it. “It was okay,” I assured her. “But there was one thing that had bothered me about it.”

“Oh,” she asked. “What was that?”

“Well,” I said. “You know the Duck Crossing sign on Center Street, right?”

“Sure,” she said. Everyone knew the sign. It was a minor local attraction. I think it was the only one of its kind back in the day because whenever we had visitors from out-of-town, they never failed to notice it, and it never failed to bring a smile to their faces. The only problem was that it stood on the shoulder at the side of the eastbound traffic lanes, but there was no corresponding sign displayed on the westbound side. If you were a duck in my hometown, you could count on getting to the middle of the street safely, but you were taking your life into your hands if you wanted to waddle across the westbound lanes too. That’s just the way it was. I don’t know why; probably no one else does either.

“So there was a scene in the movie where they all climbed into a bus for a trip to the coast, remember?” I said.  “And they showed the bus driving past the duck sign. But they would have been going west to get to the coast. They would have only seen that sign if they were traveling east. There’s no way they could have seen that sign on a trip to the beach. Only on the way back. That bugged me.”

My mother probably wondered what sort of sociopath she was raising at that point. Of all the things that could have disturbed me in that movie—One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—I had decided to fixate on a benign image that had been onscreen for probably a grand total of two seconds. She was undoubtedly concerned about broaching delicate subjects like the movie’s depictions of suicide or prostitution or electro shock therapy with her impressionable 12-year-old youngest child. But all those disturbing images rolled off of my cast iron psyche like water off a duck’s back—it was only a misplaced traffic sign that had disrupted my emotional equilibrium.

In my defense, I had slept through most of the critical scenes of the movie. I don’t think Mom knew that.

Evidently, few people shared my concern about the careless use of the duck sign in Cuckoo’s Nest. The movie won pretty much all of the Oscars that year, despite what I considered an egregious error. Perhaps it’s a good thing that I wasn’t a voting member of the Academy.

Dinner

I’m not saying I did, but if I told you I had a bowl of stale Cheerios and a handful of jalapeno stuffed olives for dinner, would that make me a vegan? Or just pathetic? Where exactly does the boundary of demarcation fall between the two? My friend FirstNations says that a Vegan mistakes animals for people and their eating disorder for a virtue. She has clearly given the matter some thought. I think that any meal consisting of a bowl of stale Cheerios topped off with a handful of jalapeno stuffed olives (jalapeno and garlic stuffed olives, in the name of full and precise disclosure) could in itself be defined as an eating disorder, at least under circumstances that don’t include stranded-at-the-scene-of-a-mountainside-airplane-crash starvation or a razor-wielding sadist in clown makeup (as in, “You vill eat zee Cheerios, ya—or else…” as the razor dances ever closer to your most treasured anatomy).

Okay, yes, I did have a bowl of stale Cheerios and a handful of jalapeno-garlic stuffed olives for dinner. But the milk on the cereal? It skated into the pictures just inches in advance of its use-by date. Because if it hadn’t, I don’t think we’d need to be discussing the narrow border territory between Vegan and Pathetic. That teeter-totter would have slammed down on the Loser side of the equation with a spine jarring “Oof!” Just saying.

I washed it all down with a bottle of Riesling. Clearly the strong bouquet of red wine would have overpowered the meal’s delicate textures and flavors, so I opted for the white stuff in the green bottle. I’m fancy like that.

Stufed Olives Buoy the Spirit