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Something To That Effect

The Cloud Who Wore Red Pants

By Dave Tompkins at 8:39pm ET

“I do not try, gentlemen, to account for that thing—that voice.”
—Randolph Carter





This varsity Miami Bass jacket came from Robert Mooney, a gift for finishing my book. One for my trouble. As you can see, it comes with a spaceship attached to its sleeve.

(I should finish vocoder books more often!)

My mom—who is not acquainted with the finely stitched intricacies of Bass messaging in Miami—said the Skyywalker Records logo looked like Minnie Mouse’s behind.

(Maybe it was the shoes.)

I said, “No, that’s not Minnie Mouse’s behind. That is a dancing Bass cloud wearing red slacks.”

Then we had a laugh about “clouds of butt.” And my grandmother’s red slacks. And the idea of a mouse getting mugged by a cloud. And how the cloud ran off in the mouse’s Bass pants. And how “That’s the mouse’s Bass pants” would replace the cat’s PJs. And how the cat would just give up.

This provided a good distraction, as my mother just had surgery on her rotator cuff, a.k.a. supraspinatus. This translates to “fish banana” in artificial brains struggling with speech recognition.

The double y’s in Skyywalker’s name were on purpose, so George Lucas wouldn’t sue the red cloud pants off Luther Campbell.

In the words of Jeff Spicoli, “Where’d you get that jacket?

Mr. Mooney organized the vocoder party in Raleigh, N.C., which was DJed by Kurtis Blow’s guitar player Davy DMX*, also the producer of  “F-4000.” Professor Griff showed up and slid through the Soul Train gauntlet.

The appearance of Griff inspired a friend to drive home and retrieve his copy of “Bass Mechanic” so we could hear it at the club. And we did, and we freaked, and our faces quaked.

I was reminded of a story MC A.D.E. once told me about doing “Bass Mechanic” on Pele’s ex-wife’s TV show before she was nearly kidnapped, and before A.D.E. performed “Bass Mechanic” in a futbol** stadium in Brazil, wearing a trench coat.

(A.D.E. is from Lauderdale, incidentally.)

I did not see Professor Griff dance a ring of fire to “Bass Mechanic.”

But the face quakers kept coming.

The last time I saw Griff was 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon in Chapel-Hill. Public Enemy had dropped by to rip up the Cat’s Cradle for a matinee while en route to a homecoming  appointment at NC Central. Flavor Flav surfed over the crowd to the stage.

The Reading

The Raleigh vocoder reading took place earlier that day at Quail Ridge Books, across from the intersection where once, many years ago, a Just-Ice song shut down my friend’s Jetta at 3:00 in the morning and we had to call Triple A.

At the reading, some kid asked me about Lil B. (The Lil B song about Sword in the Stone is great.) A retired pilot inquired about voices in the black box.

After the reading, a guy introduced himself as Randolph Carter.

The Randolph Carter?

Randolph Carter was last spotted in an H.P. Lovecraft story in 1919, on a mobile phone, in an ichorous swamp in Gainesville, Florida.*** He was speaking with a colleague who’d gone under a tomb and, amid the “miasmal vapors,” discovered something “utterly beyond thought.”

According to Carter, the voice at the other end of the line was “deep, hollow, gelatinous, unearthly, inhuman, disembodied,” etc.

As fond as I am of the gelatinous voice, there are concerns that pack jam has no interest in leaving me alone.

*During middle school assembly, Principal Alice Litwinchuk made us write down our nicknames and hand them over to the administration. I stole mine from a guy named after a drum machine. People laughed. What is a Davy DMX? Like the time Violet and Lucy coaxed Charlie Brown into admitting he always wanted to be named “Flash.” (Last panel: Violet and Lucy, on the ground laughing in boldface mean: FLASH??? HA! HA!) So I changed my rap name to a tree doctor/storm trash removal service called Davey Tree. Their rival was another crew of tree removers called Asplundh. We had the better looking trucks, though Asplundh had a nastier tree-eating machine.

**We are now tying into current events.

***Lovecraft once walked out on a screening of Tod Browning’s Dracula in Miami.

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