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'Maters In The Mist

Plus, Dalí and the mayoral sphincter


Last Saturday, I finally made it to the Center City Green Market. I'd been telling myself to go for the longest time, a mandate uttered every time I bought some of those aesthetically-perfect-yet-absolutely-flavorless tomato/tennis balls they sell at your local supermarket.

On Saturday, the Coca-Cola company set up shop right beside the market with a truckload of video games, a basketball goal, and a Dasani misting tent, whose basic purpose was hijacked by some cat-calling construction workers sitting across the street, who seemed to be doing a lot more "heating up" than cooling off.

The market itself was fine, if a little smaller than I expected for a metropolitan area boasting miles and miles of farmland. I filled up a bag with some heirloom tomatoes, took them to the register, and grimaced, waiting for the damage. Total price? About half of what you'd pay for the inferior tomatoes at CorporateMart.

As I left, I walked past the construction workers, who were whistling at a young Halle Berry lookalike walking her child through the misting tent. These guys, unlike yours truly, seemed to be able to judge their tomatoes from afar.

Most people's knowledge of painter Salvador Dalí goes like this: huge Rollie Fingers-like handlebar moustache, painted those melting clocks that you see in all the head shops.Fair enough. Dalí did market the shit out of his work, allegedly even signing works on his deathbed. However, his popular acclaim has often come at the expense of a body of work that no other 20th Century surrealist can touch.

The Public Library's Gallery L is currently running an exhibit on Dalí, one that features prints and woodcuts from Dalí's re-imagining of Dante's Divine Comedy, his take on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and a great selection of Dalí photographs by his friend Philippe Halsman.

Dalí's take on Dante is utterly fascinating, even if you've never read the work in question. Dalí probes his Surrealistic Hell (and what is hell if not surreal?) with fascinating intensity, full of vibrant colors and haunting image after haunting image. By removing himself from the archetypal images of Heaven and Hell we're so often used to seeing, and replacing them with new features of his own invention, we see that Heaven and Hell are what we make it, populated with the totems of our own invention.

That said, if I'm ever chosen to go to either place, I hope I get Dalí's version, full of wondrous sights rendered in startling, Technicolor clarity. You can keep the trippy Alice and Mad Hatter stuff, however. We all got enough of that in college.

Sunday night, the Dempseys played at the Evening Muse. They're a rockabilly band, no relation to the great heavyweight champ, and, having been the house band at Elvis Presley's Memphis (playing two shows a day, five days a week), they're rather tight. As in, Pat McCrory's sphincter tight. To boot, these guys have more gimmicks than Spencer's Gifts. Thought it was cool when Jimi Hendrix played the guitar behind his neck? The Dempseys' manic, Jim Carrey-looking bass player played an entire standup bass behind his neck. The drummer, a dead ringer for the guy who hosts The Planet's Funniest Animals, played drums with a deadpan manner that became comic with all the other hijinx going on around him (he also played bass a number of times, often standing on top of the standup bass and playing through the Carrey doppelganger's arms). The guitarist, a true axe-slinger in the grandest Carl Perkins tradition, simply acted manic, and occasionally touched himself (this event caused me to coin the phrase "reverse stripping," wherein you pay a person to keep their clothes on. See Courtney Love, et. al.)

During a "shout-out" medley of country, rock, and rockabilly guitar greats, the Demps would play about 10 seconds of a song, before a band member would call out another name, leading to another instantly recognizable riff. As the band launched into "Stairway to Heaven," guitarist Brad Birkedahl grabbed a towel, stuffed it down his pants in mock tribute to Page and Plant's famous kingsnakes, withdrew it, wiped his face with it (!) and then threw it at a local photographer. Thankfully, yours truly was using a zoom lens. I always like it when a band tries to involve me and the other audience members in their show, but even I have my limits.

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