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Ace, righteous and hip to the tip

The Hamilton bus terminal, where I killed time yesterday while waiting for a friend to sweep me away to the Bob Dylan concert, is not my idea of a woman-friendly hangout. No sooner had I claimed the brightest corner for reading than I was accosted by a man of indeterminate age with one tooth and a dazed expression: “Gotta ask you something,” he began. “Anyone ever tell you you look like Sally Jessy Raphael?”

“That’s a new one,” I said.

“Well, how about Sandy Duncan?”

Perish the thought! I don’t have a clue what Sally Jessy Raphael looks like, but I do remember Sandy Duncan’s toothy grin and ingratiating cuteness. Seeing my eyes narrow, the stranger came to the point. “I’ve had a bad day. Got any spare change?”

I told him I didn’t and went back to my book: Straight from the Fridge, Dad: a Dictionary of Hipster Slang, by Max Decharne, which I’d chosen to create a Dylanish mood. I figured Dylan must own this book, given his vast knowledge of American musical culture. Blues and jazz contribute much of the inventively pungent lingo in Straight from the Fridge, ably assisted by noirish crime novels and teen flicks from Bob’s youth in the 50s. Some expressions that caught my eye:

All sharped up (dressed to kill)

As bare as hell’s backyard

As busy as a one-legged tapdancer

Draw one in the dark (I’d like a black coffee)

Interviewing your brains (thinking)

Moth’s chance in a nudist colony (doomed)

Come apart like a two-bit suitcase (lose it)

Boots laced up tight (a suave customer)

I read on, smiling to myself until I picked up the dark backbeat of all this bird-flipping wit. Cancel someone’s Christmas (kill them). Barbecue stool (electric chair). Necktie party (a lynching). Then it struck me that the price of coolness–as icons of music embody it, not as fashion writers enthuse about it–is an intimate knowledge of danger and despair.

At the far end of the terminal, the one-toothed man lurched up to someone else. My book had a term for folks like him: born under a bad sign. Perhaps I should have walked him over to the coffee shop and bought him a cheeseburger and a coffee. Suppose he’d approached me with a better line: “Anyone ever tell you you look like Helen Mirren?” For his bad taste in celebritities, he got my iceberg act.

I was relieved to hop into my friend’s car, where a Dylan concert CD was playing as we drove off for halibut and chardonnay. I promise to tell you about our evening and the trove of memories it unlocked, but I need a day or two to brain it around. So for now let’s just say Dylan was ace, righteous and hip to the tip. In fact, straight from the fridge.


 Posted by Rona

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