Here's a more fleshed-out version of a note I just sent to Leah Garchik, the San Francisco Chronicle columnist who covers miscellaneous goings-on around the old town:
Well, what a night at El Rio in the Mission District. It was Kathi Kamen Goldmark's monthly jam with her band, Los Train Wreck, but it became a musical version of Litcrawl, one of the highlights of the annual Litquake festival.
With Kathi's other band, the all-authors Rock Bottom Remainders headed for a gig at the Miami Book Fair this Friday, she had Roy Blount, Jr., in the house; he joined her for Rockin' Dopsie's "Don't Mess with My Toot-Toot," occasionally warbling his "toot-toots" into his mug of beer. Goldmark also introduced her "cousin, visiting from China, Ruth Young Kamen," to sing "My Boyfriend's Back." It was Amy Tan, whose main character in her novel (and opera), The Bonesetter's Daughter, is Ruth Young Kamen. At the mike, Amy said, humbly, "I hope I read English...this is 'bye-bye Bush' song."
With backing by the amazingly versatile Train Wreck, and with backup vocals from Goldmark, along with Katie Guthorn and Charlie Owen of the Soul Delights, Amy was tanfastic. She now has two songs she can do with the Remainders (the other is her classic, dominatrix-geared version of "These Boots Are Made for Walking").
Other writerly types in the crowd: Jane Ganahl, author and co-founder of Litquake; Wendy Merrill (Falling Into Manholes), and Cameron Tuttle (the "Bad Girls" series of guidebooks). And, since I'm working on two books right now, on the Grateful Dead and Quincy Jones (how's that for two different worlds?), I'll count myself, too. I did my usual Elvis ("Love Me") and monthly ripped-from-the-headlines song. Last month, I channeled Doris Day for "Hey, Sarah Sarah." This time, I thought of John Raitt (the late, great Broadway musical star and father of Bonnie) for a celebration, to the tune of "Oklahoma."
Here's the song: Barack Obama! He took care of that ol' John McCain / He just ran and ran, said 'Yes, we can,' and he won from Oregon to Maine! B'rack! Obama! Tuesday night we made some history / Though his name is strange, we wanted change, so we sent Barack to victory! CHORUS: We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand! And when we say, Yo! A yip-aye-yo-ee-yay! We're only sayin' you'll do just find, Barack Obama, Barack Obama, OK!
B'rack! Obama! He fought back McCain and Palin's crap / And the more she spoke, the more we'd joke / Watching Tina Fey get all the laughs! / Barack Obama, just two months before we start anew / With Joe Biden on, and Cheney gone / Best of all, good riddance, W!" Repeat chorus and out ...
So, that's the item. Kathi, by the way, just won a big award from the Women's National Book Association, for her contributions to the literary world (including the Remainders, whose concert appearances have raised nearly $2 million for literacy and educational organizations). Amy delivered the main salute, deftly sneaking in a reference to shopping for dominatrix gear . Maybe Kathi will post some of the remarks in her own alcove here in the Red Room ...
Also, on December 16th, I'll be chatting with the aforementioned Quincy Jones onstage at the Herbst Theater here in SF, as part of the City Arts & Lectures series. The inestimable Mr. Jones has another book (not the one I"m working on) coming out, a scrapbook volume called The Complete Quincy Jones. Come see us! (Info at cityarts.net). Maybe I'll sing a bit of "Barack Obama!"
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