Culture vulture

Fire on the mountain
Every once in a while, say after a couple of six-day work weeks intensified by two or three band practices and complicated by contractual obligations to read a book, listen to several CDs or attend a theatrical or musical performance, Culture Vulture attains a state of bemused oversaturation that is best expressed in the antiquated Victorian term “spent.” A period of renewal becomes necessary.

Fortunately, in spring the possibilities of removing oneself from the mundane universe broaden astronomically, the formerly cold and distant mountains beckon seductively from beneath a blanket of fresh green grasses and newly sprouted leaves, and next thing you know the camping box has been brought down from garage shelf, the folding chairs and tent have been stowed in the trunk of the car, and Culture Vulture and I Daphne St. Brie have quite literally headed for the hills, followed closely in this particular case by our pals Eric and Polly.

Granted, this Easter weekend jaunt was not a very hardcore, back-to-nature expedition; about half the campsites at Gansner Bar Campground were occupied by RVs with satellite-TV dishes surrounded by wiener dogs and children, and there was a flush toilet about a hundred yards from our camp. But even so, the fire pit was fully functional, and I had stuffed a 50-pound potting soil bag with as much dry wood as it would hold, which we supplemented with a bundle of split pine bought from the affable gate keeper, Bill.

There is nothing quite as fine in Culture Vulture’s opinion as sitting comfortably sated from a camp-cooked dinner of fried fish and sautéed asparagus and staring meditatively into a well-tended campfire for a few hours while sipping at an ice-chilled Pale Bock. No episode of South Park or The Osbournes can match the profundity of simply watching the ever-changing dance of flames consuming a pile of wood.

On certain contemplative nights, the campfire tells the best ghost story. As the nearly iridescent orange of the coals is tinted by a shimmering purple aura of combustion, which in turn is accented by the sharp cracks of pockets of superheated sap exploding and dancing skyward in swirls of yellow sparks. The wood, which could have been carved into toys or dishes or furniture, or used to build a house, or pulped to make the paper you are reading, has all of its potentiality released in a rush of heat and beauty, reduced to a pile of dead gray ash and simultaneously elevated to a realm of cosmic metamorphosis. The story ends, but it’s not that scary.

Other blazing escapades
We can’t let another week go by without noting that the best gig of the year thus far was dished up by the Asskickers and the Transexpistols at Duffy’s on April 4. Both bands achieved a state of musical incandescence that made it feel, as my friend Jewel put it, “Like the whole room was filled with electricticity. How do you do that?”

To which Asskickers guitarist Scott Pressman replied, smiling humbly and shaking his head, "I don’t know."