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Exclusively Yours

A skinny black Santa, artsy hipsters, and a show without firearms


Christmas, like America, is fascinating. For one thing, what should be the most inclusive of all holidays can turn exclusive pretty quickly.While doing my Christmas rounds last week, I noticed just as many folks being naughty as nice. Want to take a tour of homes all decorated to celebrate the birth of the Christian savior? Why, drop a few dollars in this hat, please. I'm not just talking about the cliched "overcommercialism," either. "Hey, let's have a Christmas party!", someone pipes up. Then, hushed: "Just don't invite the Robinsons, they're always drunk and. . .oh, and the Lynchs, they'll never leave, and. . .". You get the idea. Yep, they say Christmas is a time you spend with people you love. However, shouldn't Christmas be a time you spend with people you don't love, perhaps making amends for arguments and oversights in the past? Isn't this a time to come together, rich and poor, old and young, black and white? Um, can't we all just sing "Kumbayah"? While I'm at it, is there a less politically correct holiday than this one? Consider the wrapping paper they sell at Target and elsewhere, which has black kids scurrying about with a rather skinny Black Santa, and white kids a little further down, cavorting with a (much heftier) white Santa? I mean, who designed this stuff, Trent Lott?

Those people who've lived in Charlotte for a while might remember the old Vision Explosions, wherein local artists would open up the doors of a big loft on Eighth Street, ask for a few bucks donation, serve red wine out of big Kerouacian jugs, and pick git-tars. Well, those days might be gone, if Saturday night was any indication, but not forgotten. The red wine has been replaced with "bring your own" beer, and the music has been axed for a room of spoken word performers. Most of the patrons were of the younger, boho variety. The artwork, as you might imagine, is across the board, and some is rather "in your face." A rather spooky cave was located in the middle of the building, constructed out of brown paper and featuring some maddening electronic parrots, who shrieked constantly and flashed blinking red eyes. Surrounding the cave were photocopies of other, more Hitchcockian birds, and little black, batlike origami birds, which led my friend to comment that someone had forgotten to take down their Halloween decorations. My favorite was a (literal) shrine to jazz icon Charlie Parker. Above the whole Santeria-esque setup was a legend written in chalk, courtesy of jazz bass great Charles Mingus: ""If Charlie Parker were a gunslinger, there'd be a whole lot of dead copycats." Tell it. That kind of spontaneous creativity's the best thing about these kinds of events. Few, if any, prices were listed beside the pieces. Artists chatted about their ideas, and invited your interpretation of their work. Strangers off the street were invited onstage to read if the spirit moved them. It was simply art as expression, and nobody could have given a damn if any art critics showed up. That, my friends, is the art of living.

"Later that evening," as they used to say on Batman, I headed to the stately Double Door Inn for a show by local acts The Aqualads and Lou Ford. The latter hadn't played in town for quite some while, instead touring all over our great land to spread their musical leer. . .er, cheer. Also, I hadn't seen the Aqualads in a long time, and their music always seems to warm a person up, even in the dead of winter. Lead "Lad Jimmy King used to man bass guitar duties for the Ford boys, and it showed, as he gave props to the headliner throughout the evening. The band has grown into a quintet recently, and sound better than ever with their Skynyrd-like three-axe attack. Lou Ford threw some new material into their set of chestnuts, and continue to sound like they're on the cusp of (forgive the horrible music industry term) "breaking through." I'd be lying if I said I wasn't curious about the crowd at the show - inevitably, someone tries to bring in a gun, or taunt the band, or pull some other stupid stunt. Thankfully, nothing happened this time around. Drama was to come Sunday night, when I was awakened by a would-be brawl spilling out of the meat market club across the street from my apartment, all backed by the "boom-chick-boom" of some horrible Christina Aguilera remix. If music indeed soothes the savage beast, what's that say about "ol Christina?

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