19 December 2011

Big Joe and Phantom 309 - A Christmas Story

Twig Tree c. 1985
So, in sorting through the old photo box I came across a shot of, if not my first twig tree it's pretty darn close. I recognize the apartment as one I lived in back in the 80s during the years out West. The same apartment where I first started listening to Nighthawks at the Diner around Christmas time. (That and Jethro Tull's Aqualung...I don't know, I guess it's the flute. I didn't have much in the way of Christmas music back then.)

Nighthawks at the Diner is one of those albums that never fails to transport me to the same place no matter where I may actually be living. And that place is a crowded, friendly, intimate, somewhat smokey, club/lounge/bar called something like the Bluenote Cafe, that serves after-hours booze in those small stainless steel tea pots and plays host to an eclectic array of musicians and performers.

And while it's never been billed as a Christmas story, the story of Big Joe and Phantom 309 always struck me as one. It's the kind of ghost story you might tell at Christmas. Just listen to the lyrics. It's a story about a guy trying to get back to his home town. He's hitchhiking and gets stuck for a few days at a lonely crossroads. He's cold, wet, and probably pretty miserable but then, out of the dark cold night shines the headlights of a big rig...and it stops. The door opens and the driver, a big friendly man, welcomes this cold, wet guy into his bright, warm cab and they drive through the night sharing stories and cigarettes. And then, well, I don't want to spoil it for you but it all feels pretty darn Christmas-ee to me.



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