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You Nuge, You Lose

Winners at the Asian Festival and Italian Festival

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I mean, you gotta go see Ted Nugent, right? He's the original Amboy Duke. He used to run around stage clad in nothing but a loincloth. In the 70s, back before he opened his mouth much, there were rock guitarists, and then there was The Nuge. So yes, I went to see Nugent when he appeared Saturday at the Borders at Morrocroft to greet fans and sign copies of his scholarly new Kill It and Grill It. I wasn't the only one with such an idea. A line snaked through the music department at Borders, with most people holding a copy of his book and some additional paraphernalia, like old Nugent T-shirts and cheap Carvin guitars. But why did they hide Nugent upstairs? Perhaps some of the higher-ups at Borders didn't want Nugent scaring off the normal weekend Borders crowd. Perhaps they thought -- by sheer proximity to Nugent -- that the books already on the shelves would somehow be diminished. Perhaps they were afraid of some of the more hardcore Nugent fans, most of whom looked a little uncomfortable "round all them books," would stage some massive book burning after being egged on by His Nugeness.

All of the above, more than likely. Nugent, despite his brief association with the fey soft rock act Damn Yankees, still spits fire whenever he talks, managing to bring controversy into most any conversation. At regular intervals, Nugent would be talking to one fan and then suddenly begin speaking in a loud voice to all assembled. "I hope none of you guys are using Jap batteries," the Nuge opined. "And if anybody is offended by the term "Jap' -- eat me." Ahhh...so this is why the Nuge wasn't seated downstairs. At one point, a local musician I recognized came up to grab a quick glimpse of Nugent. He pointed, spoke with his friend for a minute or two, laughed a bit, and then split. He, of course, had the right idea. Some people, if you'll pardon the phrase, should be seen and not heard.

The Nuge was noticeably absent at the next event on the day's docket: the Asian Festival being held at Marshall Park. The Asian Festival is always one of the better small festivals in Charlotte, in my opinion. The food is always tasty and relatively affordable, there's origami and lots of other neat stuff to look at, and folks demonstrate martial arts and practice things like Falun Gong. New this year was a beauty contest, the winner to be chosen from representatives from participating communities. Such an array of beautiful Asian women, thought I, must have been God's way of taunting The Nuge, a notorious lover of women (or their bodies, at least). The contest didn't seem to be an attempt to draw curious non-Asians, as the overwhelming majority of attendees seemed to come from the Asian community (except, strangely enough, the martial artists). Of course, this made it all the more enjoyable. It's not a walk in Toyko, mind you, but it is -- in some small way -- immersion into a different culture for a small period of time. One gets to peek behind the curtain and see how other cultures live for a while, and it's refreshing. You learn to see that everybody is alike when you get down to it, and that all sorts of people bringing their own cultures to the collective table is the way to go. Go the other way, and you end up playing guitar solos with guys that used to be in Styx.Third on the day's agenda was my visit to the Ciao, Italia Festival being put on by the Christopher Columbus Club. The folks there, I'd like to think, must be regular readers of this column. Consider: admission was a dollar, and the food was actually from the Italian culture (and affordable!). Beer? You could get an ice cold Peroni for three dollars. There was a free wine tasting, and a creepy "Italian mime clown." There was good music, including the razor sharp Francis "The Voice of Sinatra" Nazzaro. There was ballroom dancing, as well as coffee and desserts. There were no gargantuan inflatable slides or rip-off basketball shooting games, and no five-dollar entrance fees for the privilege of eating some half-ass sausage dog. Yes, there were adult things to do, and not one damn inflatable SpongeBob SquarePants in sight. Ciao Italia, you got me in a stranglehold, baby.

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