Thursday, July 25, 2013

La Piazza Gancio Finds His Flow

Several years ago, I wrote about an old friend named Lucky. He has the distinction of being the only person I know to spend twenty-five years with a single employer.

But it hasn’t been easy. Nor is it.

Interacting with twenty-first Americans in the context of retail frequently resembles punishment. One which should be meted out to deserving folk like congressmen, state legislators, city councilmen and garden-variety felons.

Misled by corporate marketing and an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, a public temporarily ignorant of corporate priorities demand that things happen the moment they wish them.

The problem is, unless possessed by multiple personalities, most employees can only be in one place at one time.

Exacerbating the situation is that, like your employer, Lucky's also believes that payroll must be kept to an absolute minimum, lest still-more emaciated corpses pile-up in the executive wing.

Maximum stress, minimum wage. Where do I apply?

One memorable day, Lucky found a “guest” rifling through the contents of the department stockroom. It seems the guest was time-challenged and could not wait for Lucky to finish with his customers.

When confronted, the guest took great exception to Lucky’s contention that the stockroom was off-limits to customers. The guest channeled his howling, righteous indignation and repeatedly attempted to intimidate Lucky by yelling “Are you through? Are you through?”

To his credit, Lucky resisted the urge to escalate the encounter and merely asked the guest if there was anything he could help him with. Frustrated (and perhaps even embarrassed), the guest stalked off.

I regret that Lucky wasn’t more familiar with the films of Groucho Marx, who famously asked in one “Shall I call a cab or would you like to leave in a huff?”

Inspired by this incident and by my own experiences, I wrote this.

It’s dedicated to retail workers everywhere.

Put shoes up
Take shoes down
Carson’s is a circus
And I’m their clown

Please don’t stare
I’m painfully aware
Of just how long
I been there

It makes me ill
I wish I could fix
The fact that I been here
Since eighty-six

Employer’s clueless
The public’s shoeless
I keep thinking
How long I gotta do this?

Beat up beat down
Self-esteem is just a noun
Like the bosses Rolex
I get wound

I caught this chump
In my stockroom
Bitch kept asking
Am I through?

I see his ass
Just one more time
He gonna wish
He stayed in line

The shoes get stocked
I get mocked
Maybe you should know
My Uzi’s cocked

Ask me again
Am I through?
My other gun’s a Glock
It’s loaded too

Employer’s clueless
The public’s shoeless
I keep thinking
How long I gotta do this?

Beat up beat down
Self-esteem is just a noun
Like the bosses Rolex
I get wound

The biggest irony
The seventh circle of hell
Is that fate demands
That I must sell

You the shoes
That walk on me
And kick me
Til I bruise

I’m a slave
You don’t need to behave
It’s the sale
I got to save

You want a better deal?
A bigger coupon?
Then log your sorry ass
On to Groupon

Employer’s clueless
The public’s shoeless
I keep thinking
How long I gotta do this?

Beat up beat down
Self-esteem is just a noun
Like the bosses Rolex
I get wound


  1. Sorry to go off-topic on you, but I have a question for you. A couple of years ago, you wrote a blog entry about your all-time favorite concerts. One of them was The Clash, with Defunkt opening, at the Aragon Brawlroom on August 13, 1982. I was at that show, too, and the reason why I bring this up is because the Clash played two consecutive nights at the Aragon that August, and the opening act for the *other* show was the Elvis Brothers, a Downstate rockabilly/power pop act that's long since broken up. I'm friends with Brad Elvis, the band's drummer, on Facebook, and he kept a copious log of all of his gigs over the years. He insists that his band played the second Clash show at the Aragon, and that it was on August 12. He said that a stagehand told him that the previous night's opening band, the Uptown Horns, had been booed off the stage. The Aragon's online gig list at does list the Uptown Horns as the first night's opening act, but it also says, contra Brad's log, that the first night was August 12 and the second night, with the Elvis Brothers opening, was August 13. The Clash's official website also indicates that the Aragon shows took place on August 12 and 13. Dates aside, I am dead certain that the opening act I saw before the Clash was not the Uptown Horns, but rather Defunkt, a band that played a radically different style; the Uptown Horns were an R&B horn section that toured for years behind various rock and soul acts as a horn section for hire, whereas Defunkt was a jazz/funk act. My question to you is: Do you still have your ticket stub from that Clash/Defunkt show? Or any other proof? It could help clear up two mysteries, one regarding the proper dates of the two Clash shows and the other clarifying the non-Elvis Brothers opening act. Thanks in advance.

  2. Hey. Always happy to respond to a comment--even if it is quote unquote off-topic.

    I'm pretty sure I still have the ticket stub, but ushers at the Aragon would rip tickets in half, which to an anal-retentive like me bordered on malicious destruction of evidence.

    So even if I have it, it may not prove much.

    I can't imagine how the Uptown Horns got brought into this. I distinctly remember Defunkt opening, as I was struck by how wonderfully unique they were.

    I even went out and bought 'Thermoneuclear Sweat' a few days later.

    While they weren't accorded a hero's welcome, they certainly weren't booed off the stage, either. I'm wondering if the roadie was misinformed or perhaps trying to gain a little favor with Mr. Elvis.

    As a Chicago concert-goer, I saw the Elvis Brothers many times. And I can assure you with absolute, unshakeable certainty that they did not open for the Clash August 13th at the Aragon Ballroom.

    If I can find the stub I will post it here.


  3. Deal. Incidentally, my memories are the same as yours with regard to Defunkt. I recall that the crowd reaction to them wasn't hostile, merely lukewarm. And I was very struck by them, both because they were so different from my normal listening fare and because the fact that they were on the bill with the Clash seemed so odd, a la Hendrix and the Monkees or the Who and Herman's Hermits. It wasn't until much later that I learned that Joe Strummer specifically asked the promoter to fix them up with a funk act and with a rockabilly act as their openers on those two nights.

  4. That was an inspired move on Strummer's part.

    It appears my ticket stubs are in storage, which means it could be awhile before they see the light of day here.

    Give it a couple of weeks.