Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Stevie Wonder - "Ribbon In the Sky" (Live)

I'm still seriously considering going as Prince for Halloween, but a Stevie costume is a possibility as well. Big brocade shirt, yarn braids and a pair of sunglasses and you're all set.

But I digress. Stevie's 'Ribbon' has never been a big favorite of mine, it's a bit too firmly centered in his Lite FM collection. THIS version is an entirely different animal. The start is pleasant enough, but at 5:47 or so on the track, Stevie goes off to do a little improv play and what comes out on the tape is as close to the feel of flying as I've ever heard.

When I first heard this track in college, I had just gotten my first off-campus place: a room in a hippie flophouse that kept six or seven people, not including strays. It was far away enough from campus that at the tender age of eighteen, I finally had to learn how to ride a bike to get back and forth. I had just got the apartment and just learned how to stand on the pedals when I was coasting downhill and I had just discovered Stevie and oh my god this will forever be that freedom of space and wind rushing by and that great "skyyyyy fallin'" always equals sweet, exhalted FLIGHT.

Maybe I exaggerate. Give it a listen and let me know.

Buy the amazing Natural Wonder two disc live collection of Stevie from Amazon.
Used, as cheap as ten bucks.


I love when people undertake Quixotic tasks, like the record-a-song-a-week chestnut.
There's something about Playmobil that's relentlessly fascinating to me. Part of it is their vision of a unified, plastic world; part of it is their sheer bizarro belief that what kids really want to play with is an airport security checkpoint (love the reviews on this one), a pair of safe-crackers or a toxic spill cleanup set.

Anyway, since I'm talking Playmobil, here's an odd little story: about a month and a half ago, my girl and I were wandering out to a picnic in Park Slope, Brooklyn. For those of you unacquainted with the place, it's crawling with upper-middle and upper class families; you can't throw a dead cat without hitting a kid (and, not incidentally, likely incurring a lawsuit). Park Slope on garbage pickup day is like an open-air Toys R Us; everybody has stoop sales or just throws their old toys on the side of the road. I amassed a pretty decent collection of throw-em-out material without even trying, but at one stoop sale I found an amazing and now-out-of-production Playmobil figure that was just so... god, I wish I could find a pic online. It was a depressed man inaction figure. It came with an ottoman and a reclining chair and slippers and a BRANDY SNIFTER and a newspaper and a dog and a framed family portrait and a light up fireplace. Still sealed in the box, too. It was a great find, this little sad fellow with his german newspaper and his sere, sterile world. What stymied me was the possibility that any kid ANYWHERE could possibly get a kick out of this thing. Who were these nutjobs marketing this stuff for?

The lady of the house asked two bucks for it and I got her to throw in a clown figurine as well. So, you know, score.

Okay, so I go to the picnic and on the walk back to the train, I pass a big sack of toys on the curb. Me being me, I'm on hands and knees rummaging through it and it's a doozy: pokemon figurines, Dark Horse Star Wars graphic novels, floaty pens... good stuff! Just as I'm amassing a final pile and my girlfriend is giving me the "how many more times are we going to have to do this today?" eye, out comes this kid down the block screaming bloody murder. "DAD! DAD! WHY DID YOU LEAVE THIS OUT HERE! DAD!" Here comes kid and here comes dad and while dad is riffing about responsibility and cleaning up after yourself the kid is staring aghast at his stuff being rummaged by your hipster hobo narrator.

I started apologizing profusely; I didn't realize, I never would've taken it if I had known. The kid is actually pretty cool about it and the father is still going on about how it's the kid's fault for not being responsible with his stuff and I gotta tell you, I feel like I got busted for mugging a nun. Here I am, LITERALLY stealing toys from a kid.

"Hey," I say, "I'm real sorry. Tell you what, would you like this toy?" I pull out the little Playmobil guy. The kid, confused, asks what it is. "Oh," I blurt, "it's a depressed guy. All he does is come home and sit in front of the fireplace and get drunk."

That kids eyes lit up like a christmas tree. "REALLY?"

"Yeah; he also comes with a newspaper."

"Cool! Thanks!"

And let me tell you, the look that I got from the kid's dad as I walked away was worth every penny of that two bucks.

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