Stuff That Works — and Stuff That Sticks


Stuff That Works,” part of the title of this post, was borrowed from a Guy Clark song. He’s a songwriter I like a lot (Joe Ely does a nice rendition of “Bluebird,” another great song of his — I wish I could share Toni Price’s sexy version with you in its entirety, but you can find a taste of it here).

Anyway, since I’m preparing for a big move, my preoccupation of late with “stuff” was what brought the song to mind. The chorus goes like this:

Stuff that works, stuff that holds up/The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall / Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel / The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall.

They’re handy lyrics to conjure when you find yourself torn between keeping something or tossing it out. I’ve been grounded in that no-buy zone for the last couple of weeks, shutting myself in and boxing up my belongings. The difficult decision of whether to keep or toss, sometimes, though, can be a no-brainer.

Like the magazine pictured above with the feature story: The Astrology of Crop Circles. Unless you live in Iowa or fly UFOs, why keep it? I guess I was a different person back in 2003.

One of the reasons discarding takes forever is because every so often you’ll come across an item that’s so steeped in memories that you cannot put it down. If you don’t believe me, try going through your old (and I’m dating myself here) 45 rpm record collection, one by one. The music will work wonders on your brain.


What was so special about The Belmonts? I was very young when I bought Come On Little Angel. I played it constantly. Turning the 45 over in my hand brought back memories of the bedroom I shared with my sister, the small turntable with three speeds — 33 rpm, 45 rpm and 78 rpm — that we kept in the corner, all the record jackets of our favorite groups — among them Dion and The Belmonts — that we used to tape to the walls.

But, the fact is, I happened to have met a real Belmont in a Manhattan bar, decades later, one night after work. I was with my cousin and we were on our way home. Before heading for the subway, we decided to stop in this cute little place in midtown for a nightcap. Not until we got inside did we notice the karaoke machine set up in the back.

A brazen performance of “Leader of the Pack” at another midtown bar a year earlier — where my part was to scream Look OUT! Look OUT! Look OUT! Look OUT! — admittedly, like a lunatic and to an audience I’d succeeded in stunning into silenceas my cousin and our coworker followed up with: I felt so helpless what could I do…convinced us not to dip our toes into that end of the pool again.

Seconds after we stepped inside the bar, I experienced one of those across-the-room, smoldering eye-contact moments, the stuff of bodice-rippers — with guess who? The Belmont (in the photo link, he’s the guy on the right). Suffice it to say, he had aged well.

The somewhat unromantic slant to this chance meeting was that The Belmont was now in the karaoke business and owned the wheeled music machine parked in the corner. It was like one of those VH1 “Where Are They Now” episodes which, outside of that bar, would have fallen flat as my old 45.

That is, until he asked me to dance. Microphone in hand, karaoke machine amped up, a swell of orchestra strings poured into the room and enveloped us. He began softly crooning a Frank Sinatra song, The Summer Wind, while gazing at my face. All eyes were on us.

He had an amazing voice. Professional and polished and warm. I was so nonsensically  happy being spun around and sung to, I thought I was in a Fred Astaire movie.

When the song ended, we talked for a while and that was when he told me about his time with The Belmonts. Just to get it out of the way — he also mentioned that he had a wife and kids in Connecticut.

It wasn’t exactly your typical Thursday night in Manhattan — when the bars were filled with married men out on the prowl. But for my cousin and me, it was business as usual, albeit with a dreamy twist. Because the two of us still went home alone.

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