Whirlygig: 67

Ramonesmania gives shock treatment to Plush, but Mardi Gras wants to be sedated

Blitzkrieg Bop
Friday night, my boyfriend's band was to play at Plush for the Ramones tribute show. I'd been looking forward to it all week, mostly because it meant no longer hearing "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." Even in the car on the way, we listened to a taped version so he could focus on the song. If I heard that song one more time, I was gonna sedate myself.

We picked up Kristine on the way and headed to the club. When we got downtown, Kristine had to stop at an ATM. While waiting, we were treated to a street musician's clarinet solo. Maybe if he'd held the instrument with both hands and stopped jumping around, he'd have hit more of the notes. Maybe not. It was entertaining nonetheless.

Once inside the club, we squeezed into the crowd. Nine bands were set to play — quite a lot for such a small space. But when you're talking about Ramones tunes, there's a fast turnover. We had a while before my boyfriend's band would go on. My agenda was to get a drink, so I made a beeline for the bar. On the way, I ran into Joan, a coworker I'd invited to the show. She and a friend were on their way out as the crowd had exhausted them. I thanked her for coming and would've introduced her to my boyfriend, but he wasn't around. And finding someone there was way too much of a chore.

My worst fear was running into an ex-boyfriend playing in the show. My stomach started churning when I thought of seeing him. It had taken me a lot to get over him and I didn't want to crumble in his presence. For more than one reason, I'd done a great deal of primping. The week before, I'd gotten a much-needed haircut. As a result, I had this Farah Fawcett flyaway going on. Upon first waking up, my hair needed product to keep from taking flight.

Once Kristine and I found her boyfriend and my boyfriend found his band, the four of us went downstairs. We needed to get some oxygen before going back upstairs. As I watched people come and go from downstairs Carol's, I decided it was where the city's well-dressed men hung out. At one point, a vagrant had walked in and was promptly escorted out of the restaurant. This spawned conversation of a recent trip to Columbus where a rowdy drunk was kicked to the curb.

Kristine and her man headed back upstairs and I shortly followed. The Green Room was now playing. After they finished, singer Chris sauntered over, complaining about a mistake they'd made on one of their songs.

"Did you hear that?" he asked. "I should hang myself."

"Yes, you should," Kristine replied. Like an ice cube on the small fire of melodrama, the flame was briefly extinguished. I was certain only the critic noticed the mistake.

Since I couldn't see any of the bands, I just listened. Eventually, I heard the unmistakable voice of the stomach-churning ex. I was suddenly happy to be lost in the crowd.

But I wasn't totally lost as a guy I knew from high school walked up. His looks hadn't changed at all since then. Though the music was loud, we chatted as much as possible. He'd studied philosophy in college but was obviously doing other things than contemplating metaphysics.

"So what did you get your degree in?" I asked.

"Philosophy," he responded. (Uh, oops.) "But I'm a carpenter now."

"Oh, just like Jesus," I said, trying to be witty.

"Yeah, but without the walking on water." I had to give him credit for his sense of humor, especially after my dumb joke.

When my boyfriend's band went on, I started wondering why I'd dated so many musicians — something I've contemplated before. Was I a "serial dater?" What was so attractive about musicians, other than the obvious cliches? Maybe because they were passionate about something I liked.

During their set, the group Buckra arrived. I saw Heather, known as "Heat" to her boyfriend. We'd been comrades when I was dating one of the band, and even though I'm expatriated we're still friends. She complimented me on my hair. Being a curvaceous 5-footer, Heat is no stranger to compliments herself. She recently shared some comments she'd received on her figure: "Girl, is that all you?" and "With a back like that, you must be mixed."

Not an Amazon myself, I remember once being called "shorty." I think the guy was attempting a compliment, but it fell on deaf ears. Complimenting is an art that should be carefully studied. Obviously, some guys never went to class.

It was almost time to leave, but I needed cigarettes. While debating between a final beer and a pack of smokes, someone grabbed my rear. I turned around to find my boyfriend grinning mischievously. It wasn't the first grab of the evening. Luckily, though, he was the only one doing the "complimenting."

On the bar, there was a basket of assorted goodies — lollipops, condoms, a camera. For a mere dollar, the bartender would take your picture. Kristine and I decided to get our picture taken together. The photo turned out to be a tiny sticker. Not sure what I would do with it, I gave it to Kristine's boyfriend. But she took it from him, starting a round of "musical photograph." I ended up with the photo, solving the dispute before we said our good-byes.

My boyfriend was happy his band had played flawlessly. Another member needed a ride, so with instruments in tow we headed for my car. A group of people passed us on the way, prompting him to joke, "Hi, we're in a band."

"I'm not your groupie," I replied.

I might be a serial-dater, but I'm sticking with my lucky charm.

— Ilsa Venturini

Down on the Bayou
Nothing brightens the dead of winter quite like the appearance of purple, green and gold beads. Granted, the climate in these parts doesn't exactly rival Louisiana, thus making the wearing and the adorning of beads even more of an adventure for anyone who's not a hardcore Cajun fan. Or, in my case, severely bored and looking for adventure anywhere I can find it.

An e-mail came across looking for volunteers to the Mardi Gras celebration in Covington. Even though I wasn't familiar with the people organizing it, I figured it might be fun. I didn't attend last year's comeback event and am not sure why, but the memory of the year that outraged Mainstrasse Village told me Mardi Gras Kentucky style is hot and spicy.

Volunteers had the option of a 5 o'clock or 8 o'clock shift that were each three hours long. The event was being reined in at 11, which I'm sure authorities thought would help keep the event in check. I opted for the 8 o'clock shift and had hopes of seeing the 7:30 parade before I officially went on duty. Debate over how many layers would be needed to stay warm and traffic had me just miss the parade but, based on traffic, I'm not sure it was as big as the one I remembered in 2000.

Parking was $10 in the bank parking lot that was closest to the volunteer meet spot, which I figured was worth it if I was getting inside for free anyway. The wristbands were $10, which probably deterred some potential visitors, particularly when they realized parking and beers would be additional. Who said having fun on the Kentucky Bayou would be cheap?

I found my fellow volunteers easily enough and quickly assessed that I didn't want to be stuck in a booth selling wristbands, even though that was undoubtedly the warmest job being assigned. Action was what I was here to see, so I wasn't shy when the organizer, Ed, asked who wanted to work the main tent entrance. I didn't knock anyone down jumping out of our huddle, but no one argued with me either. Another bold fellow threw in his hand for the entrance job and Ed sorted out the remaining jobs readily.

It seems this gang had experience. Plus they liked to partake as they volunteer. Ed led the way to the refrigerated truck that was sporting multiple kegs of beer, sodas and water bottles for the volunteers to enjoy. I guess it's a form of motivation. Everyone dug in before heading to his or her post.

As we made our way to the tent entrance, the aroma of jambalaya and grilled sausage made me wish food were being offered to us instead of brews. I spotted someone with a plate of steamed crawfish and I longed to be in New Orleans, where great food starts with breakfast at Café Du Monde followed by a lunch of steamed crawfish out of a paper sack purchased at the local flea market. Dinner could be at K-Paul's or Nicola's and then the night would be spent listening to great Jazz.

I was jolted back to reality when I was handed the clicker and told to carefully count the people as they exited the tent. The other volunteer was in charge of counting those entering the tent. This was for the important duty of making sure the tent wasn't overoccupied per fire codes. Counting the exiting crowd was easier, as Robin Lacy and his band, DeZydeco, were taking the stage and drawing people into the tent by drones. The tent was heated and selling beer, too. The portable johns were just a few feet outside the tent and near the food booths, so overall we were kept busy with our clickers as people flowed in and out freely sporting the wristbands.

Of course, it was a perfect people-watching perch and I checked out every person who passed. A whole lot were wearing sweaters and coats along with gloves, as holding cold beer was a frosty proposition. A few brave souls were sporting lots of beads and little else. It's always fun to witness a crazy Mardi Gras diehard who's breathing fire, walking on stilts or just wearing a really impressive hat that lights up. There were more than a few that fell into the diehard category, and it seemed like they were digging the crowd's admiration.

My personal favorite was a small fellow who had a big Dr. Seuss felt hat and was holding up a T-shirt that said something to the effect of "I showed my boobs and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." The boobs were graphically illustrated, but everyone loved him.

A few wanted the lousy T-shirt, but I assure you it was a few instead of the thousands that were in the streets of Covington a couple of years back. Then it was a sea of beads, boobs and wall-to-wall people in the streets, while this year it was sparse on the street.

Our tent counts teetered around 700 and never appeared to be lower than 500. I was thrilled and impressed that Robin Lacy and his band played all night. They tossed beads to an adoring crowd and, as I danced around trying to keep my toes and fingers from going numb, I realized that outside of Robin — who I often catch on stage but don't know personally — I hadn't seen a single person I knew. Who said Cincinnati is a small town?

— Wendy Robinson

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