Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)


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Love Or Somethin Like It: Jello Rasslin' in Muscle Shoals

Florence, Alabama, December 19, 2002 - -
I'd come
down here to Muscle Shoals basically to get ready (or get
ready to get ready) to work on a new CD. Actually I'd
come down here to have a conversation with my friend
Dick Cooper and had ended up staying three days. But it
has been a fruitful trip in the sense of lining up
allies to help me get ready to get ready and other
things, although I've had to wash by hand the only
underwear I brought, ala Harry Truman, for two nights

Coming into town by the back way from Nashville, I was
struck again by the sheer number of Protestant churches
of sundry Sunday denominations one encounters on any
trip through the relatively sparsely populated Bible
Belt. I was later to learn from a semi-informed source
that the churches' tax-free status has a lot to do with
Before, I'd just figured that maybe the folks here all
go to three or four of them every Sunday, because that
would be the only way that a proper-sized minyan could
be assembled at any given tax-free one of them.

Dick and I and my friend Scott Boyer from the old
Capricorn days conspired to get focussed on a tune
called Love Or Something Like It that I've lobbing back
and forth on my cerebral astroturf lately. Later
that night (Tuesday) we went to hear Scott and Mitch
McGee at a little jernt called Bayou Blue, I sat in and
had a wonderful time.

Met some new friends, as always in this piece of The
South, and remade some old acquaintances, who are
tolerant enough of me to pretend I have some celebrated
status in this Music town of all towns, and thus invited
me to Jello Wrestling, pronounced "Rasslin'", held once
weekly at Virtual Charlie's in Sheffield.

I have to digress for a moment and for the benefit of my
European, West Coast and Yankee friends explain Muscle
Shoals. When someone from here talking to someone else
from here says Muscle Shoals, it means Muscle Shoals,
and not Florence, Sheffield or Tuscumbia. But when
you're talking about Muscle Shoals in the musical sense,
you're talking about all four towns, all grouped tightly
in a little ball on the banks of the river. So
Sheffield is Sheffield, but it's also part of the
musicultural construct we call Muscle Shoals, which is
also the name of one of the four towns. I could go
on...they're like boroughs, maybe.

I hadn't ever seen any Jello Rasslin' before, so when I
got invited to this spectacular Wednesday night here in
the Quad Cities (the JayCees' answer to the question of
which town is where) my natural reporter's instincts
were somewhat pricked, so to speak. Doug, the manager
of Virtual Charlie's, issued the invitation with a promise
of VIP status. His old lady Nancy, the chief overseer
of Jello provision, clinched the deal by awarding me the
honor of choosing the night's flavor.

I chose lime. I didn't want to risk the possibility of
maybe becoming alarmed at the sight of anything
resembling blood, so that pretty much eliminated

But the opportunity to witness scantily-clad maidens
rasslin' in Jello is not one that comes my way as often
as you might think, so of course I was honor-bound to
accept and to duly report the evening's proceedings.

Wednesday rolled around. I'd had a good visit with
Donnie Fritts earlier in the afternoon.

Before adjourning to Virtual Charlie's, my friend Dick
O'Steele and I had a bite to eat. Then, because the
Jello Rasslin' wouldn't get underway until 10 at least
we went to yet another joint called Scores Sports
Grille. I was of course appreciative of the subtle
double entendre of the name, because it turned out that
tonight is Working Women's Wednesday at Scores.

Where the non-working women go in Sheffield must remain
a mystery.

In this tightly-packed fleshpot I ran into my Mighty
Field of Vision workingwomenfriends Karen and Melissa.
Dick bought me a beer because my impending duties as
Celebrity Oiler at the Jello Rasslin' had me somewhat

Soon the DJ's inevitably heavy hand pushes the lo-eq
faders to the max and I had to bail from this tupperware
container of pulsating, wriggling, thrusting etc. young
flesh or risk losing even more response in my left ear.

"C'mon, Coop," I say. "I need to go someplace more
"Jello Rasslin'?" asks Coop.
"You betcha," I reply.
"Oh, Oink," say Melissa and Karen, so Coop and I leave

We get to VC's. By eleven the place is packin' out.
But before the throng arrives, I take some time to
examine the field of battle as it were:

Jello Rasslin' at Virtual Charlie's takes place in a
kind of water raft thingy, with inflatable bottom and
sides, about six feet wide by about 12 feet long. Two
by four meters for you Euros. When we first arrive, I
am somewhat alarmed by the fact that the Rasslin' ring
has seemingly sprung a leak. Maybe there will be no
Jello Rasslin'. But it turns out that the management is
prepared for just this eventuality and soon the ring is
patched, blown up and ready to rumble.

I eye the contestants and their entourages. Apparently
a lot of pre-event touching and feeling and bumping and
grinding and general belt-buckle polishing across
transsexual lines is de rigeur, although I gotta say
that I didn't see any guys bumping and grinding and etc
each other, so maybe it's just a boygirl girlgirl thang.
Racially mixed, yes right here in the Deep South, with
the average demographic being college-age and a little,
sometimes a lot, beyond.

All the last week I been workin on this tune called Love
or Somethin Like It...and the empathies I have developed
to deal with the inevitable struggle for lyrics are
frankly not those to be brought to a Jello Rasslin'
match, and my conscience is letting me hear about it. I
think of my antipathies/ambivalences toward Cosmo girls.
I think about the music.

Here, too, the music is disco, heavy below 400 and above
16k so what you hear is bass, bass drum and high hat and
nothing between. There is a resonance in the building
at about 240 (a B-flat, anyway) that rings longer than
the other notes, compressing my chest...I feel like I've
been kidnapped and thrown in the trunk of a rapper's
ride. I'm feeling a little nauseated from it.

Watching the Jello-babes begin to materialize, I'm
starting to feel like a pig. A male show business pig.
As the process drags on without the Rasslin' even
started yet, I get to feelin' guilty, like maybe I'm
letting the sisters down by even participating so far as
just to choose tonight's flavor(lime).

I look around again, the clumsy-so-far words of my tune
runnin through my brain. Why am I here? I ask myself.
Hell, why is anybody here? Maybe they're just out here
lookin. Lookin for somethin like love. Gonna take a
lot of Jello to do that, I think.

So I haven't seen Jello Rasslin' yet. So what?

"Hey, Coop," I say, "you ready?"

"Yep," he replies.

We head into the night.