Saturday, August 27, 2011

"They're Outrageous"

In 1972 I was an 11 year old dreamer with a record player and a firm belief that (a) there were aliens from space and they were smarter than humans and (b) I was a lost alien.
I was beginning to define myself musically and culturally through what I liked to hear, read and wear. In about a year I convinced my parents to let me stay home from church and fry the chicken for lunch. I read anything I could get my hands on (my mom was SO cool - I read Erica Jong!) and wore my cool aunt's sandals and jeans when I was 13.
The album was "Can't Buy a Thrill" and the hit was "Reeling in The Years."
I learned the album by heart, and did the same for all subsequent Dan releases.
There was something subversive in the lyrics that appealed to my off-center sense of humor and the word choices the boys made, the imagery they created, built the world in which I was supposed to live.
I am/was a slinky shadow haunting alleys of rain-dark glass, the female version of Clint Eastwood's spaghetti western no-name loner. When I had a name, I was Josie (Aja, 1977), the raw flame/the live wire; drinking my big black cow and dime dancing with plans for a nap later under some banyan trees.
So for years seeing Donald Fagen and Walter Becker play live was something I desperately wanted to do. And for years they flat would not tour. They didn't like it. Then they broke up. And I listened to their solo stuff and waited.
The 90's saw them together again and they continued to be the soundtrack to my inner self.
And they started touring again. Just the northeast to start, then they stretched out, and in 2011 they played the Wharf Ampitheatre in Orange Beach, AL.

That's Orange Beach. I took that photo behind the famous Flora-Bama bar. The Ampitheatre at the Wharf is seriously in the middle of a stand of pines - you get there by walking across elevated wooden ramps. They span what might be a swamp or mayhap just some low ground that probably has snakes in it but at least we're ten feet above it. I am getting ahead of myself - let me back up.
In April we learn the Dan will be on tour in the South and Orange Beach is the closest spot. My darling husband gets tix and I start dreaming. We left for OB Saturday before the show, had dinner, watched tv and sacked out.
Sunday we had brunch at Cobalt, highly reccomended.
The decor is light, bright, and a little funky. Loved the mermaid!

After brunch we went to the Flora-Bama bar on the Florida-Alabama line. The bar is famous and odd and about half-built. We loved it.
A bolt was loose in the second floor roof piling so Charlie HAD to play with it. I had a cartoon vision of him pulling that one bolt free and the whole place falling down around us. The two of us are seen after the dust clears standing with drinks in hand atop the wreckage, exchanging a glance and shrugging, taking a sip and sauntering off down the beach.

These posters were in nearly every window of the shops at the Wharf. I was so excited that I could hardly stand myself so I can imagine how Charlie felt, walking in the near drizzle with an adult woman who periodically screeched "EEEEEE!"
We very sensibly bought rain ponchos that could have doubled as garbage can liners from a sunglasses store and walked to the venue. My hair began to absorb water and make the ambient humidity in my bubble rise so I put it up in a twist and kept smiling. It was raining, I was in a stand of planted pines in Alabama on a rusted folding chair. BUT Steely Dan would be taking the stage soon and the place sold booze - expensive and limited, but booze.
Then the guys hit the stage - and life was good. They played a lot of old stuff, a lot of my favorites and one of my newer favorites ('Godwhacker,' which appeals to the Roger Zelazny fan in me) and all around us were people as happy to be there as I was. I sang along and noticed that there was a lot of that going on - EVERYONE knew the lyrics. Suddenly I was a loner in a crowd of them - and we were all happy, non-brooding types singing "Boddhisatva - Gonna sell my house in town!"
'Deacon Blues' got a lot from the crowd because of the lyrical reference to Alabama's legendary Crimson Tide football team.
Thirty-nine years after my ears first heard the complexity of Steely Dan I got to see them live surrounded by other people who were as full of Dan-love as I am.
Although this could have happened without him, it would not have been as wonderful, memorable, or happy without my Charlie.
His eyes are the color of Gulf water and he can take the world apart and reassemble it even better if someone would just hand him the correct screwdriver.
And we lived happily ever after:)


  1. Yeah...longtime Dan fan. Our mutt of a dog back in the mid 70's was named...Steely Dan. I still have & continue to play my old albums. Always loved Skunk Baxter's guitar work. Glad you finally got to see them!

  2. How wonderful! There is something utterly magical and unique about seeing live music, especially when the music is particularly meaningful and special. It's one of the great joys of life.

    I'm so happy for you! :)


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