Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: The Remembrance of Hawaii Because of the Coffee and the Coincidence of Fiona Apple and Art Gallery Dude Through The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Fiona Apple

BENNINGTON -- Art Gallery Dude remembers why he thought of Hawaii yesterday, minutes before a Hawaiian angel Chalked It Up! in Fiddlehead's Graffiti Vault.

The Mahalo Connection began when Hawaiian java arrived for AGD ...

... so he was thinking of how good today's first cup of Volcano Blend would taste when Anela walked into the gallery with a woman who looked like her adoptive mother.

This is Anela's chalky contribution to the Graffiti Vault ...

... excitement consumed her soon as she exited the vault. "I'm coming back here again!"

Exit stage left ...

... Enter stage right ...

"The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do" is Fiona Apple's fourth album that debuted June 19 at No. 3 on the Billboard chart and sold 72,000 copies the first week.

And why not? Fans had to wait 7 years for a new album.

The Idler Wheel wins more battles than it loses.

On one hand Fiona continues to sing from her famed cottage industry of "Woe is me, I have no heart, I hate life, Don't cry for me because I'm just some broken misery chick" -- but don't get AGD wrong, he loves the heavy and vivid lyrics Fiona drops like emotional bombs.

On the other hand, the 2 best songs on the album -- "Anything We Want" and "Hot Knife" -- let her fans see a different side of Fiona, the type of Fiona who sings about the excitement and thrill of courting and kissing and cutting through the cold butter of loneliness.

It's a side of Fiona you hardly ever hear because she'd rather be the broken chick.

"Every Single Night" is the first song, a combination of tribal and tingly, with lyrics such as "that's when the pain comes in like a second skeleton" and "just made a meal for both of us to choke on" and here we go again, Fiona.

But something interesting happens at the 42-second mark, and it explains how the feminine world of music has changed since Fiona's last album "Extraordinary Machine" in 2005.

Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine) and Adele have electrified the world with their golden pipes, so Fiona tries to keep pace with Florenceian chanting from her gutty-wut ...

"Daredevil" is the second song and sounds like something out of the Stonecutters episode of The Simpsons. It has a tiptoe'y feel yet could work for a Tim Burton movie -- a theme throughout The Idler Wheel. Fiona screams about being all the fishes in the sea.

"Valentine" is the third song -- one of the 3 best on The Idler Wheel. It almost seems like a fun and silly song dedicated to Janet. At the same time, Misery Chick emerges early with lines such as "I'm amorous but out of reach, a still life drawing of a peach" and "I'm a tulip in a cup, I stand no chance of growing up" -- but what's cool here is that you hear the piano connection between Fiona and one of her influences, Carole King ...

The other weird thing about Valentine (if you listen toward the end of that Soundcloud embed) is that the "You, You, You, You" is the goofy part of a song AGD wrote and loosely recorded one night two years ago in Morrisville, Bucks County, Pee-Ay.

"That part sounded so familiar," AGD told The Incredible Kulk today, "I remember recording myself singing that song on Audioboo or YouTube and having a good time laughing at how silly I sounded. But at some point I must have deleted those recordings because they are nowhere to be found."

The ex-newspaper editor left his notebook of lyrics in Trenton and fears they're gone.

"If they are lost," he said, "I'll be totally bummed, but I'll have no one to blame but myself."

By the way, some of the best lyrics in Valentine are "I made it to a dinner date, my teardrops seasoned every plate" -- which spawned this Twitter exchange ...

"Jonathan" is the fourth song on The Idler Wheel. Fiona wants Jonathan to go on a choo-choo ride to Coney Island, and the song begins with sounds of wheel and steel. AGD made a short movie of a train ride to Coney Island with a loved one in 2009. It had similar train sounds.

That said, "Jonathan" is one two weak songs on The Idler Wheel.

"Left Alone" is the fifth song and sounds like something you might hear in a summer stock play. In this one Fiona sings "Oh, God, what a good guy" but makes herself unavailable emotionally because her "ills are articulate" and "woes are granular" and "ants weigh more than elephants" and she just wants to be left alone, dammit!

"Werewolf" is the sixth song, and it's a great song that uses beautiful imagery and similies to explain why she drives men off time and again: "I can liken you to a werewolf, the way you left me for dead, but I forgot I provided a full moon /// and I can liken you to a shark, the way you bit off my head, but then again I was waving around a bleeding open wound" ... and it's another example of Fiona's minstrel-cabaret music that could score a Tim Burton flick.

"Periphery" and "Regret" are the seventh and eighth songs and are OK.

Songs 9 ("Anything We Want") and 10 ("Hot Knife") are excellent.

In Anything We Want, Fiona sings about being kissed on the neck when she and he can find some time alone ...

"and then
we can
do anything
we want"

... and it's at the 2:35 mark (the 13-second mark of the Soundcloud embed below) where AGD notices a similarity to Billy Joel's "Dont Ask Why" ...

Hot Knife is the best song on The Idler Wheel because 1) it's tribalistic with the Bjork-like "Human Behavior" jungle pounding of the congas, 2) it sounds like Nelly Furtado is singing in the background ...

... and 3) for the first time AGD hears Fiona without that awful baggage of childhood.

"He EXCITES! me" is something you just haven't heard Fiona exclaim, blurt, chant or scream during her first three albums. So for all of her "I'm Broken" mantras, there's a real woman, now in her 30s, begging to love -- and to be loved. It would be wonderful to hear an entire album when Fiona isn't miserable, angry, sullen, sad, raging or mad. 

Seriously, Fiona, think about it. Thanks, kid.

For a ton of reviews of The Idler Wheel click HERE.

AGD gives The Idler Wheel 4.25 chalk marks. He's also written about her HERE.

UPDATE: The " ... you can play UFC rookie" line in Anything We Want is very funny.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Pangaea's Salsa

BENNINGTON -- Stewed tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, chipotle peppers, lime juice, sugar, red wine vinegar, onions.

Pangaea Restaurant grill cook Jason Barry combines those fresh ingredients to make the world's best salsa that bursts first with sweet flavors, turns spicy, and leaves you wanting another mouthful soon as you swallow the last one. This salsa is unbelievably addictive.

"If you send something out," Barry told Art Gallery Dude this morning, "the wait staff will come back and ask 'Can we have an extra side of salsa or guacamole?'

"We've gotten a lot of good reaction."

AGD's reaction is over the top but genuine and sincere.

He ate the flavor-changing salsa for the first time October 13 at Fiddlehead at Four Corners, during a listening party for Trey Anastasio's new "Traveler" CD. Pangaea catered the event and the spread included a boatload of tortilla chips and 2 quarts of salsa.

Barry delivered 2 more quarts of the salsa yesterday, and it is being slaughtered.

Coincidentally, Traveler is playing again even though AGD said THIS the other day.

Part 2 of Pangaea's Salsa will appear soon with a video of Barry making it from scratch and explaining a few of the secrets. AGD will interview Pangaea owner Bill Scully, too.

For more on the world-class restaurant in North Bennington click HERE.

AGD, meanwhile, is taking another dive in to finish what he began.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: The Pen and the Fiona Apple Love Letter to Her Dying Dog and the Infinity of Time and Space and Beauty of the Ink and the Heart and the Passion and the Great Beyond. And the Pen and the Pen and the Pen!

Hand-turned pens available at

BENNINGTON -- Fiona Apple postponed the South American leg of her tour and explained why in a 4-page letter about the love of her life, Janet. Janet is a 13-year-old pit bull that suffers from Addison's Disease, and Janet is going to die any day.

Fiona wrote the letter with pen and paper, unless it was pencil, but who cares if she wrote it in crayon, or blood from her pin-pricked fingertips. The point is that the deepest, most intense female musician on the planet expressed her emotions on pulp.

Seems like a lost art, writing with pen and paper.

A few weeks ago Fiddlehead at Four Corners received 15 pretty sweet hand-turned pens by an artist in Illinois, but Kulk wasn't so sure they would sell because, you know, we're tech-globs who write everything -- this included -- on computers and tablets and phones and never on paper, it seems, and when's the last time you ever sat down to write a through and through Thank You card or poured yourself into a real love letter to the person who makes your heart bounce around the room?

That's what made him appreciate this Thank You card from Jen and Jennifer after he covered their wedding at the Curbside Chapel of Love a few months ago ...

Yes, Kulk wrote those stories on a MacBook Pro. He writes 98 percent of his stuff on digitalia but that doesn't mean he's immune to pen and paper. He hasn't penned a love letter in years and may never write one again, but he rough-drafts many of these vignettes. Here's a bit of his ultra-violent scratchy-scratchy outline during Small Business Saturday ...

Kulk asked a few writers about writing with pen and paper.

Chris Kubasik created "The Booth at the End" -- probably the best Internet "TV" show to date. Season 1 is as good as writing gets, and AGD reviewed the show HERE.

"I use pen and paper for my outlines and such! (I assume that's meaningful!)" Kubasik told Kulk in a Facebook message. He then sent these photos ...

One of Kulk's favorite "sports" writers is Jeff MacGregor at ESPN. Two hundred and eighteen of his ideas are HERE, and he wrote a book about NASCAR called "Sunday Money" -- so he must do a lot of pen and paper stuff, right? Wrong.

"Going all the way back to my beginnings, I've never done anything longhand but take my notes. Was always at a keyboard, from the age of 8 or 9 forward, so forty + years. Add to this that my cursive handwriting is not exemplary," MacGregor wrote in a website message. "Worked for a variety of typewriters over the years, portables and business models and still have an Olympus manual office model which I used just last week during the blackout.

"I took up word processing and personal computers in 1987 or 1988. Having said all that, I fill my notebooks by hand with hundreds of pages of observations when working on a story, but rarely do I write anything in them that I'd consider 'writing,' if that makes sense."

Another titan of the pen and paper is Aaron Walther. Kulk remembers with great fondness those nights in Roswell when he and Tophat fueled up for flights to outer space and inked page after page after page after page with sentences in an attempt to write a story.

None of those words would qualify for the Pulitzer, bubba, but those pages exploded like supernovas. They were BOOMING! Those nights weren't about seeking fame and glory but rather sharing friendship through the process of writing.

Other nights Kulk remembers reading through Walther's ink-filled notebooks that were full of bizarro stories and the kind of heartbreaking poems that make you want to pull up a barstool and drown in cheap Kentucky bourbon. Few writers Kulk knows can bleed emotions onto pulp like Aaron Walther even though he admits to writing most of his recent stuff on the bolshy computer, including a new book that should hit the market soon.

Kulk will publish an interview with Walther soon.

If there is a female equivalent to Aaron Walther it's Fiona Apple, one of Kulk's biggest crushes since 1995. He has written about Fiona often. One night circa Winter '97 he was driving into North Bennington, just 'round that bend beyond Bennington College, and "Shadowboxer" comes on the radio, and here we go again. Shadowboxer rips AGD's heart out every time because it reminds him of the one -- "... the way you have no reverence for my concern ... " -- and Kulk was in tears that particular time.

Fiona also penned one of the great lyrics " ... you fondle my trigger then you blame my gun" in the song "Limp" ... On September 25, Kulk wrote about "Fiona Green Apple Face" (HERE). This is what Fiona's Sad and Sullen Green Apple Glass Face of Torment and Timber in Platesville, Vermont" looks like ...

Kulk also wrote a little about Fiona on October 7 (HERE).

And so that's why Kulk appreciated The Atlantic story about Fiona's love letter to Janet, the only true love of her life. Read the piece HERE.

Here's an excerpt from the pen-written letter:

"These are the choices we make, which define us. I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love & friendship. I am the woman who stays home, baking Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend. And helps her be comfortable & comforted & safe & important."

Kulk loves that Fiona uses ampersands. Long ago during those newspaper days in Brattleboro, he wrote an ampersand-filled column in an ode to the Ampsersanders from Townshend.

Here is Fiona Apple's love letter to Janet ...

... & Fiona, if you buy one of Fiddlehead's cool pens, Kulk will give you another for free.

By the way, Kulk was wrong. The hand-turned pens began selling Saturday night when a woman from Bennington bought 2 of them -- and 2 beautiful glass pen holders -- for her daughter, a writer who graduated from Emerson College with an MFA in writing.

Michelle Cheever is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Read her piece in the Huffington Post HERE.

Here are 3 of Art Gallery Dude's favorite Fiona Apple songs ...

UPDATE: Here are Fiona's handwritten lyrics to "Every Single Night" ...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Small Business Saturday


BENNINGTON -- A cutie who looks like Jami Gertz's cousin from Cambridge, New York, took the early lead in Art Gallery Dude's search for the right face to cover "Chalk It Up!" -- a book celebrating New England's coolest new interactive business attraction (HERE).

AGD snapped Alyssa as she chalked it up during Small Business Saturday and then took several more photos to her delight. "You can take as many as you want," she said.

Here is Alyssa in action and then afterward ...

Indeed, Alyssa helped make Small Business Saturday a success.

According to early estimates by AGD, 142 customers roamed the gallery on a day earmarked to promote small business in America.

AGD chronicled the day with photos galore, many of them in the Graffiti Vault.

That's because from now until December 31, Fiddlehead encourages anyone and everyone who wants to be in the book to come to the gallery to Chalk It Up! Then just sign a waiver giving AGD permission to use the photo of your art in a book, which will go into production in early January and released in the first week of February.

Here's a photo journey of Small Business Saturday at Fiddlehead (click to enlarge) ...

This orange from Florida got 1.5 stars out of 5. AGD was not pleased.

Tiramisu joe made AGD feel a little better;
the red curls always begin in a band

Breakfast got 6 stars out of 5

Indeed, no one cooks breakfast like Natasha

It was nippy-cold at 9 in the a.m.;
AGD loves snapping pics of the old marble bank

Just like AGD likes snapping pics of himself and sunbursts

First customers: mom, pop, daughter at the Banned Books shelf

Abby Page, artist ...

... if she's telling the truth, this is her work at;
for more of her gallery click HERE. That is major stuff, kid.

Geordy from Ralph Pucci Gallery
in New York City;
dude is confident, in a good way;
dude is fashionable, in a good way;
and dude carries himself galore

Pownal-Bennington puppy lovers ...

... who are engaged: A. Kieth Ford and Lisa Haner-Ford;
he did the Graffiti words, she drew the big pink heart

Brother and sister Francesca and Gavin will be in the book

Lunch: Turkey Day leftovers;
out-of-this-world stuffing and carrot bread by Nina

"Ruby Was Here" Bratcher ...

... and Shealeen Bratcher ...

... and Billy Bratcher of Bennington, musician;
member of the Starline Rhythm Boys (HERE)
told AGD story of how he knows Trey Anastasio
but declined to record at The Barn (will update soon)

Mount Anthony senior Rebecca Romac ...

... who's also in the early running to cover "Chalk It Up"

By 4 in the p.m. AGD is a little worn out

But Nina's breaded chicken and rice and veggies replenish his energy

Great Scots! Steven and Vicki Bentley (read more below)

6 o'clock

AGD was quite enamored with Steven and Vicki Bentley from Scotland, especially Vicki's thick accent. It was their third trip to Fiddlehead since August. They live in Albany but keep coming back to Vermont, and why not? Vermont's road were built to drive.

Today they drove to Brattleboro and stopped into the gallery on the way home.

Steve chalked the Scottish flag -- which bears St. Andrew's Cross -- and then AGD asked Vicki, who looks like Julianne Moore's cousin from Glasgow, to talk on video to give you a glimpse of her true Scottishness ...

That got AGD thinking about another Scottish lass who he has crushed on for years ...

UPDATE AT 9:09 SUNDAY A.M. -- It seems like AGD is a strong scarf model because this one sold yesterday, a day after this moment ...

UPDATE 2: North Bennington artist Brian Hewitt's sister, Sandra,
showed up yesterday with husband Anthony Bell, a winemaker in Napa;
For AGD's multi-media story on Hewitt click HERE.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Black Friday 2.0

"The aura is different.
They said a new person
is running it and changing it.
They said it seems more inviting
to people driving by,
and to the locals."

BENNINGTON -- That's what Kim just told Art Gallery Dude. And she said it in a sexy-queery Staten Island accent that reminds you so very much of Marisa Tomei. And Kim's frizzed hair and faded jeans and brown weathered boots made you think of Sophie B. Hawkins even though Sophie B was barefoot for a majority of her most famous video.

Somehow, Art Gallery Dude thought, Kim's boots are the type of boots Sophie B would wear. Here's a picture of Sophie B in boots, courtesy of her Facebook page ...

Anyway, Kim owns Nova Mae Cafe just down the street from Fiddlehead at Four Corners, the old marble bank turned art gallery in downtown Bennington. 

Art Gallery Dude told Kim that Nova Mae made him the best panini he ever ate. The best because whoever made that panini that day made it with fresh sourdough.

"You never know what kind of bread you'll get," Kim said.

Art Gallery Dude's lunch one July afternoon: sourdough panini to die for;
for a story of what happened to that Honest Ade click HERE.

Kim raved about the popular Soap Rocks that Fiddlehead sells and how she plans to be back tomorrow to buy a bunch of them. Nova Mae Beback?

Art Gallery Dude told her about the Graffiti Vault, and she made a beeline for it and within seconds she was chalking it up, up and down the thin strips between the main walls. Green chalk, blue chalk, purple chalk, pink, up and down, side to side, zest of life, joie de vivre, you only live once, babe. The married mother hit those walls like tomorrow isn't coming. Green chalk, blue chalk, purple chalk, pink.

The girl went at it.

Here is Sophie B. Hawkins -- and no, don't read between the lines, it's just a great song that Art Gallery Dude has loved since the first time he heard it. #musicalmarrow ...