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His and Hearse

Plus kiss-offs and dirty dogs

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I've always had a problem with vanity plates. Bumper stickers are OK in small doses, but vanity plates? Is your creativity that stifled in day-to-day life that this is your chosen mode of expression? Would a normal old WRK-7837 not tell people as much about you as your vanity plate -- JENZJETTA! -- does?

Saturday, though, I found a place where vanity plates not only make sense, they're almost a requirement -- the Hauntcon's Funeral Car Rally, which was held at the Adam's Mark Hotel. Yes, it seems your One Way Wagon isn't complete without some sort of spooky license plate -- "LASTRYD," "KFNHWLR" "DOOMBUGY," "6FTUNDER," "HAUNTINU" -- to set it off.

Having ridden to the event in a hearse with a collector friend of mine -- not to be outdone, his reads "DEADSLED" -- I noticed that people give you a lot of right-of-way when they see a meat wagon coming. (While making a pit stop Saturday morning, a man came up to us and said "Just making sure you're not here for a pick-up," then nervously laughed and walked away.)

These hearses are serious business to the folks who collect them. Some are kept in immaculate condition, as new-looking as the day they came off the assembly line. Others are as after-market as you can imagine. (Think of taking your last ride in a low-rider hearse hooked up with Pimp My Ride-style hydraulics!)

Of course, you can only check out hearses for so long before you start to feel a little icky, so we walked over to the hotel's ballroom to check out Hauntcon, which was populated by all sorts of blood-spurting mayhem: think remote-control cannibal corpses, spooky rides, and more general gore and fake blood than they used in Bad Boys II.

After getting our fill, we searched in vain for an exit. What we ran into was two more conferences being held in the cavernous Adam's Mark that day. Whether their inclusion was a gaffe of major proportions or downright inspired probably depends on your sense of humor. The first was a prosthetic limb convention. The second? "I Am What I Eat."

Local musicians were in awe of the band Califone when they played The Room last Saturday night. Not for their musicianship, even though the group's "what would happen if a hurricane invaded a music store?" sound gained them plenty of converts. No, it was their tact -- both musical and otherwise -- that astounded. At one point toward the end of the show, a petite young lady made her way to the front of the stage and did a bit of the "swaying fields of wheat" dance that hipsters do when faced with a band sans bass player. After awhile, she tired of this. Actually, it seems she tired of everything, as she took a seat -- right on the stage.Califone singer/keyboardist/noisemaker Tim Rutili looked at the girl, smiled, and then leaned towards her, conspiratorially.

"You're welcome to stay up here for this song, which is kind of ballad-y," Rutili said. "However, I have to warn you that the next song is pretty loud, so you might not want to be right in front of those amps." Of course, everyone up front was standing right in front of said amps, but, as Rutili showed, a little sugar always helps the medicine go down easier.

The newly revived and Patti Lewis-free Humane Society of Charlotte held the first of their Summer Dog Washes on Sunday in front of Talley's Green Grocery. One of the Humane Society volunteers was a man running for some sort of position as a judge (I would have gotten his name, were this a political column. Wait for the punch line, will ya?). After scrubbing a pooch, the man was asked away from the big soapy vats by a lady who wished to speak with him. Now, this is grassroots politics, I thought. Getting down and dirty (or clean, as the case may be) with your constituents. Suitably removed from the suds, the woman spoke. What positions were important to her as a member of the voting public? To hear her speak, it didn't really matter."I'm just making sure you're not an idiot before I decide to vote for you," the woman said.

At the time, I laughed. Now I'm not so sure she wasn't onto something.

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