Vic Chesnutt – The life you save may be your own
Fate has been good to me
You may not understand how I can be thankful to be where I am
To be where I am.
— Vic Chesnutt, “Ignorant People”
Vic Chesnutt wheels himself into the room, gliding over the wooden floorboards with a sudden whoosh.
“Hey,” he says, stifling a stray yawn under his skewed smile.
It’s a chilly winter afternoon in Athens, Georgia, and Chesnutt is dressed in a plaid cotton shirt and an outsized, garishly dyed fur hat. “It’s fake Russian mink,” he explains. “I got it at Gatwick airport.”
Parking his wheelchair at the end of the long table in the kitchen of the sprawling, partially renovated Victorian he shares with his wife and longtime musical partner, Tina, Chesnutt appears slight but powerfully present. The hat accentuates that, its bluish-purple fuzz around his brow ballooning up to the dimensions of a cartoon character’s head and bringing out the shine in his pastel-blue eyes.
Sometimes, thinking hard, Chesnutt’s eyes turn steely. Sometimes he stretches and stiffens his slender arms and slowly raises himself up from his chair, his rear end hovering just above the seat, as if to curse gravity for a few seconds before succumbing to its pull again.
Anyone who’s seen him in his most familiar guise — onstage, squeezing his guitar and singing his hilarious, heartrending songs with a yip and a drawl — knows he can be utterly charming, if willfully unpredictable, and occasionally irascible as hell. Those who have looked further have seen the scars and the suffering and understood the passion of his poetry.
Some know Chesnutt as a survivor — mostly of himself. The back story goes something like this: In 1983, at the age of 18, he got drunk, wrecked his car and became partially paralyzed. More drinking and bouts of depression followed. But so did a newfound feeling for music. These days, relatively clean and sober, even off cigarettes, he seems more focused than ever before on the business of being alive.
Right now, he’s positively giddy about his new CD, Ghetto Bells — a work that’s distinctly sophisticated in its melodic flourishes, but still manages to represent Chesnutt the songwriter at his iconoclastic best. In total, it’s a sort of southern eccentric’s compendium of short stories that read like displaced classic literature: There’s erupting “Vesuvius” and perilous “Little Caesar”, Roman history and a high-pitched Greek chorus, and most certainly the Bible, but as interpreted by a bona fide atheist. What’s more, it showcases some the finest singing of Chesnutt’s career.
Ghetto Bells also features a heavyweight cast of supporting musicians, who also happen to be friends and fans of Chesnutt. They including genial genius jazz guitarist Bill Frisell; legendary composer, arranger and producer Van Dyke Parks (of Brian Wilson Smile fame) on piano, organ and accordion; and drummer Don Heffington, who’s worked with everyone from Big Joe Turner and Big Mama Thornton to Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris.
It’s the twelfth recording Chesnutt has released since 1990, when Little, produced by Michael Stipe of R.E.M., gave the universe its initial glimpse of Vic’s world in purposefully primitive but strongly evocative songs full of fiercely personal and provocative lyrics — with plenty of exclamation points: “I am intelligent, I am intelligent!/I’m not a victim, I’m not a victim!/I am an atheist, I am an atheist!”
Chesnutt’s earliest and latest works differ in many ways. But they form a fascinating arc that goes back to the beginning of his career. Ghetto Bells — due out March 22 on New West Records — has its roots in the early ’90s, in some of Chesnutt’s first shows outside Athens, when he often traveled to Los Angeles to perform as the opening act for shows at the celebrated McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica.
John Chelew, who produced Ghetto Bells and is known for his work with John Hiatt, Richard Thompson and the Blind Boys of Alabama, was booking McCabe’s then. And Chesnutt’s first label, Texas Hotel, was based in Santa Monica.
“The coolest thing they gave to me as a record label was introducing me to John Chelew,” Chesnutt reflects. “My career was basically launched out of McCabe’s. The first papers that wrote about me were the L.A. Times and the L.A. Reader. And through playing there, I met Victoria Williams, and through Victoria, I met Don Heffington. I also met Van Dyke Parks there, through John. That was when John had the idea to make a record with Don and Van Dyke.”
Memories get murky, especially nearly a decade and a half later. But Chelew, Heffington and Parks all agree that Ghetto Bells had its genesis in the professional and personal relationships they began building with Chesnutt at McCabe’s. And the connection they felt with his self-determined artistry has only gotten stronger in the years since.
“I must have been given a tape of Little a year or two before it came out,” Chelew remembers. “And I booked him on the strength of that tape. I had been booking McCabe’s since ’84 and I was starting to get a little bit jaded. I listened to so many demo tapes, and even people who’d already been signed. I’d heard so many singer-songwriters by then — every approach, every age group.
“But when I heard Vic’s tape it completely floored me. I thought, ‘I am hearing storytelling again, finally.’ All these other tapes had nice music and they were playing well and the songs were well-constructed, but I wasn’t drawn in around the campfire. I wasn’t drawn into the story. With Vic, I thought, ‘These songs are amazing.'”
“I met him when I was working with Victoria Williams,” says Heffington. “He used to open for us once in a while and that’s when I started hearing his songs. All the great writers I’ve worked with have a strong point of view, but without trying to define what that is, you just know it’s a Vic song. It’s coming from a place most of us haven’t been.
“It’s a unique slant on the world. He’s survived some things that other people wouldn’t have survived, either physically or emotionally. So, it’s got a real depth. That’s the main thing: a point of view and a spirit to it more than anything else. If you’ve got a unique point of view, you find a unique language to express it, because it hasn’t been expressed before.”
“I don’t remember the first time I saw him, but I know it was at McCabe’s,” Parks says. “My general interest came from my respect for his muse. I just saw him in his writing. I’d like to call him a great southern writer. And the reason I’d like to do that is that it’s such a lofty and coveted position, and he speaks of that. His poetry has intimations of that experience, but he doesn’t rely on any regional perspective in his work. He speaks about the common human tragicomedy and he speaks about universal things and small observations that give pause.
“This is what I like about his work — that it’s close to the chest. The most significant lyric that I ever heard him utter: ‘There is no shelter in the arts.’ [From “Isadora Duncan” on Little.] And this is something that I think has guided the ethic of his work — it’s maverick stuff; it’s unbranded. He has not compromised. There is something about his work that’s risque.”
Frisell, who only recently discovered the magic of Chesnutt’s music, first played guitar behind him early last year at a Hal Willner-produced Randy Newman tribute concert in Los Angeles. Frisell says he became a convert after hearing Chesnutt sing songs such as Newman’s “I Just Want You To Hurt Like I Do”; he promptly “went out and bought a whole bunch of [Vic’s] records and became his biggest fan.
“He’s a really great singer,” says Frisell. “At the Randy Newman tribute, I was hearing him interpret somebody else’s music. So, just as a singer — forget about his writing — he totally just riveted me. It was real tear-jerker stuff. He totally communicated the story and put you in the world of whatever the song was. But then, his own music — that’s where it really gets interesting for me. It is so inspiring because he creates his own world that I’ve never seen before. Every song is like a movie or being in a dream. He really has his own unique world.”
Vic Chesnutt was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1964 and grew up south of Atlanta in rural Zebulon, Georgia. It seems he started writing songs almost as soon as he could talk.
“My people did it,” he says with a shrug. “My mom wrote lyrics. My grandma wrote lyrics. It was just something that people did in my family. But they weren’t professionals. My grandma, Clara Carter, wrote the lyrics to a song about Jacksonville that won a prize in the newspaper back in the 1950s. And Homer Carter, ‘Sleepy,’ my grandpa, wrote a few songs.
“So I knew that people sat around and wrote songs. My mom loved to write poems that rhymed, kind of sing-song things. They were horrible. There was always Jesus in ’em. I never got any kind of literary inspiration from any of them or any high aspirations in terms of what to write about.”
But even at an early age, Chesnutt was already tackling newsworthy subjects and spouting big ideas.
“I wrote a song about Nixon when I was first grade,” Chesnutt says. “It was pro-Nixon,” he quickly adds with a smirk. “It was a topical song about the press and about the press hounding him. And I was saying, ‘Why don’t they just leave him alone?’ I drew a cartoon on my little chalkboard that went along with the song. It was a big camera with a hat on it chasing the president, who was running. This was before Watergate.
“A lot of my early songs were topical or about things I heard my folks talking about. I think I wrote a song about the Vietnam War. My father was too fat and old to go. And he really wanted to go, so I wrote a song about that. You could say that when I was 5, my writing was a lot like Toby Keith’s. But I don’t want to get him kicking my ass, so maybe I shouldn’t.”
Chesnutt’s thoughts about music took off in a totally different direction when he started playing guitar and learning tunes by the Beatles and Leonard Cohen.
“When I was a kid, the way I was taught was that songwriting was something you’d just do,” he says. “Like whittling. And maybe you could make some money from it. You’d work on it and then maybe some country star would hear it and record it. But as I got older, I discovered rock ‘n’ roll and I discovered bohemian-type people, and then it wasn’t about making money anymore. It was more like I wasn’t going to sell the little icon I was whittling. It was something for me. That’s what changed in my teenage years.”
He also began to get a strange inkling that songwriting might be able to reach a lot further beyond what he’d been hearing on records. Not only in terms of its content, but also in terms of its structure.
“I thought there was still something not being said, that wasn’t being touched on,” he says. “The missing things were what I wanted to write about. And I found a vocabulary I was comfortable with and excited about. Now I’ve written songs about all kinds of crap.”
The songs on Ghetto Bells, as with all of Chesnutt’s previous discs, range from the brand new to the really old, and are drawn from what he calls his “treasure trove” — a back catalog of compositions he’s never recorded. Chesnutt says he sometimes writes as many as twenty songs in a single week. Right now, he figures he has at least 200 on file.
“Some of those are really horrible,” he qualifies. “A hundred are pretty OK. And maybe 50 of them are good and ready to go on an album. The way I write is kind of like this: I spew and then I edit and edit and edit and edit. So a song that’s been around for ten years has been tweaked a lot lyrically. I don’t ever change the melodies. I just kind of make them up. I started out as a melody guy as a little kid. I was always into little melodies. I’d make ’em up all the time. Many merry melodies.”
Ghetto Bells opens with “Virginia”, a characteristically multilayered Chesnutt song, introduced by Heffington’s brisk, brushing downbeat and Parks’ dramatic, swelling string arrangement. The lyrics might be about the old south — “Uncle Sam’s other province,” as it was once known — a land differentiated from the rest of America by ancient codes of honor. In a chorus that marries the Christian ditty, “Yes, Jesus Loves Me,” with the tale that tells a little girl, “Yes, Virginia, There’s A Santa Claus,” Chesnutt sings darkly of love and death, sacrifice and survival.
Unlike any of his previous albums, the songs on Ghetto Bells weren’t chosen by Chesnutt. He left that to Chelew, finally sending him some 50 demos. The eleven Chelew picked made up a group of songs he expected might work together to capture what he wanted to evoke: “nighttime.” The concept, Chelew says, was a creative reaction to Chesnutt’s last project, Silver Lake, a disc with a bright, polished sound that brought Vic closer to the mainstream.
“It was sort of a daytime record,” Chelew says. “It had songs that a lot of different people could relate to. Vic had been slightly floating under the radar for a few years, and I thought Silver Lake had gotten him back up there in a way.
“But at the same time, some of the weird, dark depth of that campfire music — I didn’t quite hear that. Things had been smoothed out so much that I was missing some of the odd bends and curves and turns of what he does — of his art. I missed some of those sinister bends. And he said he knew exactly what I was seeing. The album we were talking about making would be a nighttime album.”
“Gnats”, which closes Ghetto Bells, is perhaps the best example of that. Double bassist Dominic Genova lays down a languid jazz beat against a tune that sounds vaguely like a carol; Frisell and Heffington swarm around, plinking and buzzing and making noises like strange nocturnal creatures. And in eight short lines, Chesnutt conjures a shadowy grotto of creepy-crawly exotica: “gnats and bats and things with wings,” beasts that might be hidden in the dirt under the porch or with the dust up in the attic. Ranging into a startling, eerie falsetto, he pays homage to fellow poets, calling on Conrad Aiken and twisting Maya Angelou, slyly offering, “I know why the cagey fellow won’t sing.”
Chesnutt’s performing persona is fascinating. It’s clear that his perception of his onstage presence has greatly evolved since he started playing solo around Athens in 1988. So has his idea of what it means to be a singer of his own songs.
“I used to see Vic try to mess shows up,” recalls Chelew. “He would be doing something beautiful and then just purposefully stop. And he would consider that to be an artistic moment. That served him well at first, and then it started to get in his way. And in spite of himself he started to make a turn.”
Before Little, Chesnutt didn’t plan to be a musician. He moved to Athens in the mid-’80s to go to school. He wrote songs and played guitar, but he wanted to study English and maybe become a serious poet. If it all worked out, he figured he’d teach English and write on the side. But he had a rowdy streak.
“I used to put up poetry posters around town,” Chesnutt recalls, “these flyers with my poems on them. I don’t know why I did that. But it was fun at the time. I’d photocopy them at the place where Vanessa from Pylon worked and she always liked them, so I got encouragement from her from day one. That was huge for me: ‘Vanessa digs my poems, so I’m rockin’, man.’
“There was so much music around and it was so seductive. I went out every night to see bands and then I got roped into playing a gig and it just went from there. I started playing out. And then I quit school. I fell apart in a way — I went down the drain for awhile until I popped up on the other side.
“It was pretty exciting. But it was also pretty typical. There’s nothing really unusual about my story in that way. Come to a college town and start going to college; then get sidetracked by the rock ‘n’ roll and stop going to class; then make a record and have a career. It happens a lot.
“But I didn’t have a grand vision for myself in the music business. I did write my songs and I did have my artistic vision pretty well honed. I was very serious about what I would do and what I wouldn’t do. I was a solo singer and I sang a certain way and I had my deal down.
“At that time, it was very important that I erase the stage. It had to be just a guy with a guitar. It was important to me to be onstage just like I was off stage. That was my purist vision. I wanted to be so small onstage that it was a cool thing — there was no kind of image up there, just me and my songs.
“Imperfection was a very big part of what I was doing. That’s what Little was all about. It was little. That was the title of that album and that’s what I was trying to be, because everybody else was big. I was a little guy with my little songs and my little voice and my little guitar.”
Surely, things changed. Chesnutt made three more albums for Texas Hotel, all of which (along with Little) were remastered and reissued on CD last year by his current label, New West, packaged with bonus tracks and new liner notes.
West Of Rome, again produced by Michael Stipe and originally released in 1992, is a favorite of Vic aficionados. The recording is notable for such Chesnutt gems as “Bug”, “Lucinda Williams”, “Florida” and the title track. It also marks the entry of his wife Tina on electric bass, a role she would fill ever after on tour and on most of Chesnutt’s records (including Ghetto Bells). They were married in 1990; Tina was playing in a “sloppy country band” called the El Caminos when they met.
“After Little came out,” Chesnutt says, “everything changed. I started touring and seeing the world and my whole vision of myself was different. Everything got bigger after that. I forgot who I was or what my music was between the time I finished recording Little and started recording West Of Rome, which is pretty exciting.”
Chesnutt’s 1993 album, Drunk, is an aptly titled chronicle of imbibing and jamming, mostly with Rob Veal of the Dashboard Saviors, who plays bass and drums. Much of it was recorded by Scott Stuckey during a road trip to his family’s farm in South Georgia. Raucous and messy, with rock songs like the opener “Sleeping Man” and the screaming belligerent title track, it also has gentler moments, such as Chesnutt’s lovely rendition of the Stevie Smith poem “One Of Many”, with a scratchy sample of Smith’s voice serving as an introduction.
Chelew remembers that period in 1993 from a weekend at McCabe’s when Chesnutt was playing there on a Saturday night and Allen Ginsberg was playing on the Friday and Sunday before and after.
“So it was like a Vic sandwich with Ginsberg bread,” says Chelew. “Afterwards they were talking and Vic was drinking at the time and telling Allen the whole story of the accident, and Allen paused and looked at him and said, ‘You call your new album Drunk? You are still drinking?’ And he told Vic that the wake-up calls from the universe get louder and louder if you don’t listen. ‘How loud does that wake-up call have to be about alcohol when you can’t walk any longer?’ But he said it in such a cute way and it was actually kind of funny, in a weird way.”
Originally released in 1995, Is The Actor Happy remains a high point in Chesnutt’s catalog — possibly because it’s where, as Chelew defines it, Vic started to make a turn toward performing rather than just writing. Nonetheless, it contains another batch of songs, including “Gravity Of The Situation”, “Onion Soup” and “Free Of Hope”, full of his tilted take on real life. John Keane’s pure production provides a detailed but unfussy backdrop for all the spaces and tensions between the everyday dramas and the delicately building music. In the reissue liner notes, writer Forrest Gander comments that “more than in any previous album, Vic explores the elasticity of silence and the blare of reverb.”
Also in 1995, Chesnutt released Nine High A Pallet on Capricorn Records, joining with members of Widespread Panic under the band name Brute. And he had a small role in Billy Bob Thornton’s breakthrough film Sling Blade. In 1996, Columbia records released Sweet Relief II: Gravity Of The Situation — The Songs Of Vic Chesnutt, which featured the likes of Joe Henry and his sister-in-law Madonna singing “Guilty By Association” and Smashing Pumpkins covering “Sad Peter Pan”.
A few months later, Chesnutt made his major-label debut on Capitol with About To Choke. A bit more conventional in approach with a somewhat refined sound, it was variously produced and engineered in several studios, and ultimately mixed by Bob Mould of Husker Du and Sugar fame. As usual, Chesnutt delivered another set of affecting songs, including “Myrtle” and “Degenerate”.
The Salesman And Bernadette followed on Capricorn in 1998. Recorded with the sprawling Nashville collective Lambchop as his orchestra, its array of horns, reeds, vibes and various odd instruments offered Chesnutt plenty of sound to wrap his more assured vocals around. Such poetically subversive songs as “Maiden”, “Until The Led” and “Woodrow Wilson” emerged from the mix.
In 2000, Chesnutt collaborated with Athens cohorts Kelly and Nikki Keneipp on Merriment, a slight but satisfying one-off released by Backburner Records. And in 2001, Spinart issued Left To His Own Devices, a strong collection of four-track demos and outtakes.
Chesnutt surfaced again on New West in 2003 with Silver Lake. It employed a cast of ace studio musicians, including Heffington and guitarist Doug Pettibone, and put hummable charmers such as “Band Camp” and “Girls Say” next to closely observed jewels such as “Styrofoam” and “Wren’s Nest”.
“Every record is a new period in my work,” Chesnutt summarizes. “That’s how I see it. The Texas Hotel batch that was reissued is very much of an era….The Salesman And Bernadette and About To Choke are kind of an era. The songwriting was very similar on those two records. But I’ve always said that each record is a reaction to the one before. And so I always want to do what I didn’t do on the last one, or I want to do what I’ve learned to do since the last one. It’s like, ‘Here’s my new trick.'”
By all accounts, the Ghetto Bells sessions were filled with a rare kind of studio magic. “The universe was helping us with this project,” Chelew claims. Recorded during a single week in a small studio Heffington had fashioned in the guest house behind his Los Feliz home, the recording process developed its own crazy rhythms.
“We started recording and each day we added a person,” says Chelew. “The first day we just had the rhythm section and Vic and Tina. Then Frisell arrived. He was the silent smiling Zen monk, always chuckling and grinning at everybody. Then Van Dyke arrived. He was like a rodeo clown, Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain character. He’s like a little kid. His sensibility is so great.”
“The whole vibe was just so cool,” Frisell says. “I think I was just falling in with whatever it felt like. Nothing was conscious. I was going along with whatever seemed right for the song. With the setup in Heffington’s back yard, my amps were outside in this trailer with wires going into the studio. And Don was joking that the tone was coming from the trailer.
“A lot of the stuff that I saw Van Dyke do was incredible to watch. He was very concerned about having the words. I wrote the chords out for him and he was saying, ‘Who cares about the chords, I want the words.’ You could really see him responding to them with the stuff he was playing — going off on every little bit of what was going on in the story.”
“It was a wonderful experience,” says Parks. “And very blue-collar L.A., to tell you the truth — just what I came here for. I came here for Steinbeck and Saroyan and Ferlinghetti and Twain and Robert Service. I came for Jack London when I came to California. I came for the power of authorship, and you get all those references when you work with Vic. I need all the clues I can get, so I listen to his words. What can I say? I’m a fan.
“I like theater that doesn’t tell you whether to laugh or cry. That is why I think that the work that Vic does is enduring — durable goods. That is why I conned my way in to play some keyboards. And it went from obvious dictation, to Vic’s design, to a totally ad hoc, seat-of-the-pants experience where we got a number going right there in the studio. That takes bravado — either athleticism or foolhardiness. I remember looking at Bill’s face and seeing that he too knew nothing. And that’s when good things happen in the studio — definitely one of those freeze-frame, ruby slipper moments.”
It’s getting dark when Chesnutt decides it’s time to quit the kitchen. His niece Liz Durrett, who started singing with Vic on the West Of Rome album and also appears on Ghetto Bells, lives next door these days; she’s sitting on the back porch, having a drink with Tina. And that’s where Vic wants to be now.
Out under the sloping tin roof of the porch, the afterglow of the sunset is lighting the clear winter sky, and impossibly deep shimmers of purple and orange streak the horizon. Conversations flow in quiet fits and starts, abruptly broken up by the yelps of Liz’s two big dogs wilding in the yard.
It’s a splendid Athens evening, full with the kind of palpable southern atmosphere that permeates Chesnutt’s music. Most of Ghetto Bells evokes echoes of that in some way or another. But the song that completely captures that mood is called “Rambunctious Cloud”, a title fitting of Vic at times.
The lyrics are simple, almost like pure reportage, except for the poetic placement of the words: “Sunday, church is letting out/The rain comes from rambunctious cloud.”
Two verses end like that, images of an ordinary day, interrupted by a thunderstorm. Then, without warning, Frisell’s keening, soulful guitar and Park’s winsome, puffing accordion develop a sharper edge, expanding into a middle eight that soars into a flight of fancy, with Chesnutt resonantly crooning his way through a fit of pique:
The same water that the dinosaurs drank
Is the same water that the Persian fleets sank in
The very water that moistened the primordial ooze
Is now hammering on my metal porch roof
Profound stuff — but balanced by a mischievous sense of the human comedy. And it rouses the imagination, calling to mind the way James Agee, writing his middle-of-the-night “A Country Letter” (in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men), was stirred by the substance of an oil lamp to consider the universe and be reminded of “creatures and things once alive.”
The title Ghetto Bells was chosen by Chelew, because, he says (quoting Lou Reed), “Once you’ve got a great title for a song, the rest of it is almost done; you just have to write a song that’s as good as the title.
“And so I was thinking, we need to make an album that’s as good as the title, Ghetto Bells. I just thought that was the greatest name I’d ever heard. That’s all I kept thinking of. This dark thing — poverty of the soul — and then bells ring or light shines on this dark place. Some kind of an interior drama that you dream that goes on in the subconscious that involves all of these characters and ideas and emotions and love and despair and loneliness and redemption.
“In a way, Vic’s songs sound like they could be old folk songs, old traditional songs. He taps something so deep, so dark, so ancient. And you can’t put your finger on it. It’s like when you wake up from a deep sleep and you’ve had the most amazing dream of your life, and then the phone rings and it’s just gone. Just like that.”
But there’s another story behind the title.
Anyone who has followed Chesnutt’s career may have noticed that the credits on his recordings have always contained the line: “All songs written by Vic Chesnutt published by Ghetto Bells Music (BMI).”
“Should I tell the story?” Vic wonders, tapping his fingers on the arms of his wheelchair. “Yeah, tell it,” says Tina, and then she decides she should start it off. “Bell’s Food Stores were all over Athens. And you could tell someone what part of town you were in by saying, ‘I’m near the uptown Bell’s,’ or in our case, ‘I’m near the ghetto Bell’s.'”
“I loved it,” says Vic. “It was nasty, but it was cheap, and I always shopped there. But it went out of business right as I was making Little. They said they were closing it down because too many people were shoplifting there. And I felt bad, because I shoplifted like crazy — so I named my publishing company after it in tribute. I even lived in the parking lot for three months around 1987 because I didn’t have a house. I lived in my van and Ghetto Bell’s was like my home. I used the pay phone as my office. I told people the number and they would call me there.”
“Things have changed around Athens since then,” says Tina. “Well, some things have changed a lot and some things haven’t changed at all. Seriously, I’m always surprised that we’re still here. In the music world and just in general. I was never planning ahead. I never thought about being around in the future.”
“Yeah, right,” says Vic. “Just like the homeless guy who’s on the corner every day for years and then finally you say, ‘There’s that guy.’ So suddenly he’s famous. Everybody in town knows him. But he’s just been standing on the corner for fifteen years. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing — standing on the corner for fifteen years. And now everybody knows me.”
Bob Townsend lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he writes about beer and food and music and movies. When in Athens, he likes to drink Maker’s Mark and Blenheim’s Ginger Ale, the specialty of the house at the Manhattan Cafe.