Songs, Stories, and Spirits: Big City Blues

Welcome to Songs, Stories, and Spirits. We’ll be jamming unwanted opinions on good music, good stories, and good booze down your ears, eyes, and throats on a weekly basis. We hope you enjoy. And if you don’t, there is a comment section below that we more than welcome you to ignore! Cheers!

Song: “L.A. Looks” by Health

Robert Masiello: Health’s music is typically dark, noisy, powerful, and a little abrasive. This cut off the band’s recent LP is all of those things, but also happens to be catchy as hell. “L.A. Looks” charges out of the gate with screeching synths and a furious beat. It's easily the most "pop" moment in Health’s catalog, but also the most irresistible. The vocals might be a little Chester Bennington-y, but the chorus ("it's not love, but I still want you") is exactly the kind of salacious, no-fucks-given refrain your Friday afternoon needs.

Story: “Parliament Hill” by Alexander Brown

Daniel Ford: From Los Angles to Canada! Alexander Brown, managing editor of Tracer Publishing, published a short story with Writer’s Bone entitled “Toronto, October” in June, and has since become part of our merry band of literary luminaries.   

Brown recently published “Parliament Hill,” which is a “gonzo-ish dark comedy on the relative horrors of this Canadian election.” If anything deserves to be read with a drink in hand, it’s a story about Canadian politics.  

Enjoy the excerpt, published with permission from Brown, and then head over to Tracer to finish the tale.

“Parliament Hill”

The man in the mirror was looking back at him as he rehearsed the lines he knew so well. The practice was a mere formality. But this was his craft. He loved it; he was married to it. It had been predetermined, of course. His fate was never his own. But Jordan could still enjoy himself.

“So I call on you, the Middle Class. Keep rising up! Be heard! Take to the streets! This election is about you, and for too long, the Prime Minister has put himself and the interests of his party ahead of—”

The bus caught a pothole on the Highway of Heroes and he braced himself on the plastic counter of the bathroom. The air was thick with bleach and asparagus-scented urine. He steadied himself and straightened his purple tie. He couldn’t remember the last time he was allowed to wear another colour around his neck. His father had worn the same noose. His father had no choice either.

The man in the mirror was smiling now, studying every inch and curve of his handsome, middle-aged face. His eyes were dark and knowing, his lips forever creased into an empathetic half-smile. Atop his head rested a luscious crop of dark, wavy hair.

“Perfect,” he whispered to no one but the universe.

He adjusted the family noose and stepped back out into a sea of purple.

Read the rest of the story on Tracer Publishing

Spirit: In a Manhattan State of Mind

Daniel: When my grandmother on my father’s side was alive, she’d love to tell me stories about living in New York City during World War II. There’s the one when my grandfather’s father took her out one night while my grandfather was overseas, and then everyone assumed she had a sugar daddy on the side. One of her favorites was the time she told one of her employees that she couldn’t let her take time off to go see Frank Sinatra. The woman threatened to quit, at which point my grandmother begrudgingly acquiesced. I mean, you really can’t argue with Francis Albert Sinatra, right?

My grandmother and her friends also used to bar hop around the city. And it was far classier than the barhopping that I did in Manhattan. The hotels at that time were the best places to drink, so my grandmother and her friends would dress to the nines and dance across the island’s finest establishments.

Fifty years later, my grandmother tapped her foot to my high school jazz band performance of “String of Pearls” or “In the Mood” and reminisced about her New York youth. She’d end up telling all her old stories (despite giving my grandfather a hard time about regaling us with his war stories), and say, “I used to really enjoy a good Manhattan.” I asked my father about it recently and he said, “Yeah, she could knock them down pretty well.”  

Truth be told, I’ve never had a Manhattan. I’m assuming that a drink comprised entirely of whiskey and vermouth can’t be bad. Plus, in the spirit of promoting our neighbor’s to the north, it can also be made with Canadian whiskey (Ha! No, I’m just kidding. Use real American whiskey). This Friday, put on a Glenn Miller album, pour yourself a tall Manhattan, and toast to a more civilized era.