Eminent Hipsters (9781101638095)

Eminent Hipsters (9781101638095) by Donald Fagen Page B

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Authors: Donald Fagen
then Margaret Cho. There’s also a video pushing a “mixed martial arts” event. Every minute or so in the rotation, there’s a shot of a competitor slamming another man’s red, swollen face down onto the mat with his elbow. This is followed by a picture of some well-shredded, half-naked Chippendale lads in a living room setting, relaxing on leather couches or on a plush carpet, recounting, I imagine, wild anecdotes about the previous night’s performance.
    I’m in town with this band, the Dukes of September Rhythm Revue, which is Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs and me performing a program of moldy old R&B and soul tunes that we like, with some of our own hits thrown in to keep the TV Babies happy. The other players are mostly guys and gals I play with in the Steely Dan band, the group I started with my partner, Walter, which is off the road this year. The Dukes’ first gig of the summer is on June 20, but we got here a couple of days early to do some tech rehearsals and clean up some loose ends at the Fox Theater, where the gig’s going to be.
    Aside from the rehearsals, I never leave the hotel room. Mainly, I’ve been lying in bed and thinking about cigarettes. I quit a couple of months ago and I do feel better except that it’s like I’m always waiting for some square-ass civilian to finish a boring dinner story so I can go outside and have a cigarette, and that the square-ass civilian is now me.
    That’s not really true, about thinking only about smoking. Actually, right now I have a lot to do. It’s my job to rehearse theband and make sure the arrangements get done on time and so forth. Also, I’ve been worrying about the set list, wondering if the sequence of songs is suitably dramatic and if the mix of our hits—McDonald’s, Boz’s, Steely Dan songs, my solo stuff—and cover tunes, many of which are probably unfamiliar to a lot of the TV Babies, is correct. Plus, although the three of us grew up with this mostly black music and feel pretty comfortable with it, I’m always feeling defensive and trying to minimize any perceived minstrelsy about the project. The fact that we’ve got two African American musicians, bassist Freddie Washington and singer Catherine Russell, doesn’t really ease my mind in this regard, since the three principals are all white singers who have been heavily influenced by black style.
    Food is primarily room service, which always involves an awkward phone call with a poor fucker who’s been programmed to respond to everything you say with a perky “Absolutely!” and who’s sworn to repeat your order to you, no matter how simple. Then there’s the dance with the waiter, who’s determined to get that cart in the door without your holding it open, and who also says “Absolutely!” a lot. For some years, it’s been my feeling that the mechanized, brainless routines of many service people must have started with a cult-owned business, perhaps a restaurant chain operated by some sort of dead-eyed Christo-Fascists or Moonies or Orange People. It’s that Sarah Palin talk: “Here’s your prime rib for ya. Absolutely!”
    At night, to get to sleep, I watch pay-per-view movies on the hotel system. The movies are so bad now that I usually pass out just after catching the first glimpse of the flesh-eatingdeath-mist (or whatever), even before the archetypal hero has accepted the Campbellian Call to Adventure.
    Once an insatiable reader, I don’t read so much anymore. I’m now at the age—sixty-four—where so many sad things have happened that I’m too broken and anxious to read. I can still listen to music on the laptop, though, which is how I get to sleep after I’ve run out of pay-per-view movies.
    Back from the show. Basically fine, but we have to change the encore tunes. Mike singing Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour,”

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