Red tulips and a smile
Laughter, sadness, Dale Smallin:
Earlier this year, Dale Smallin could be seen slowly puffing on a cigarette under the Capitol Park Cafe’s green awning almost every day before enjoying a quick meal. Only a few Sacramentans were familiar with Smallin’s secret: His voice was the bellowing cackle at the beginning of the Surfaris’ song “Wipe Out.” I wrote a story about Smallin’s piece of music history earlier this year (see “An unforgettable laugh,” SN&R Arts&Culture, March 11).
Today, Smallin resides within an inconspicuous health-care center in the central city after suffering a major stroke in April, a month after the story, which was one of my first assignments for SN&R as a newbie intern. The interview was an afternoon lunch date I will never forget, learning about the everyday life of a man who shared stories of rock ’n’ roll and Frank Zappa’s dirty movie productions over a ham grill and fries.
Last week at the health-care center, I visited Smallin. A wrinkled sign-in sheet, complete with curled edges, greets guests. The air was thick, with an aroma that can only be compared to a dusty pharmacy. Residents with slouched shoulders and expressions sat in wheelchairs, peering out from rooms, seemingly curious as to where I was heading.
Down a long hallway, Smallin spends his remaining days and nights in Room 24. A single nail protrudes from a depressing off-white-colored wall, evidence a painting once decorated the now bare space. Lying on his side with stiff limbs, the man I remembered with a youthful grin and grandpalike demeanor is now frail and attached to tubes filled with brown nourishment. He can hear and understand, a nurse explained. I reintroduced myself, and showed him the red tulips I brought to liven up his living quarters. In a thin white gown, Smallin slowly turned and formed a half-smile, followed by happy noises. But the stroke left him unable to communicate. Machines beep and hiss as he lies in bed, slightly grinning.
I find it frustrating that a voice forever ingrained in the minds of so many no longer can form words. Instead, Smallin is confined to this facility, with nurses who seem too busy, or too numb, to concern themselves with a man in pain. Genuinely scared of his groans, I hunted down one nurse, who simply said he makes these noises often and is fine. In the end, she gave him a pain pill sending him off to sleep, which he seemed to appreciate.
It’s just strange. To witness the deterioration of someone who was so young at heart earlier this year, and who has witnessed incredible things in rock ’n’ roll history, is to say the least unsettling. My memories of Smallin won’t be of his moments spent in hospice care, but of the lively man who made my first interview memorable. (Stephanie Rodriguez)
Grinches and grouches:
So the Grouch came to Sacramento to steal Christmas for the third time last week at the Tropicana with his annual How the Grouch Stole Christmas tour, alongside fellow Living Legend Eligh, Rhymesayers heavy hitter Brother Ali, and Panama hip-hop duo Los Rakas.
Scheduled openers Chozin, DJ Wanted, J. Good and Skynet played the role of little Cindy Lou Who and ended up not performing, taken off the bill by those involved with the tour (not the promoter, as some of Wednesday’s ill-informed Twitter feeds might suggest). So the show was opened by Los Rakas, who in turn stole the show from the guy who came to steal Christmas.
Living Legend Eligh took the stage next and double-timed his way through his new GreyCrow album, as well as classic Legends cuts, with a blend of old and new that kept the crowd’s hands up and the merch booth busy.
After Eligh, Brother Ali took the stage like a preacher behind a pulpit, using the crowd as his choir. A crowd that, it was evident, had shown up to see him. Ali spent at least half of his allotted time talking about Jesus, and being overweight and albino at Christmas. Time he could’ve better spent doing more tracks from Shadows on the Sun.
The Grouch rapped up the festivities with Eligh on some fan-favorite G&E tunes before the grand finale which consisted of him, Eligh, Los Rakas and Brother Ali performing the “How the Grouch Stole Christmas” rap. “Everybody say ‘Ho, ho, ho!’” It’s only a logical jump this time of year. (Andrew Bell)