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Contemplating the airwaves, the NBA, and what it means to be Welsh at Dylan's

Wednesday, Jun 15 2005
In what is becoming de rigueur in Bay Area radio, 95.7 the Bear is no longer bad country, or, as they called it, "young" country. It has switched its programming overnight and is now called the Max. And the Bone (107.7) is playing "classic rock that rocks," like Nirvana, STP, the Offspring, and Pearl Jam. Oooo-K. At least the station is still playing Def Leppard, which has a new cover of Badfinger's "No Matter What," which is actually pretty fucking amazing.

But back to the Max: I dig it. The programming ranges from Tom Petty to Pablo Cruise to Loverboy to the Psychedelic Furs, which are bands I can normally only hear by jumping station to station from KFOX to KOIT to KFOG to KALX. The Max is saving me the step, and I am grateful.

I soaked this radio stuff up as I drove all over the city looking for a club to shout out to me, "Enter, ye fine-ass bee-yatch! Enter here, and be thee merry!" One and a half hours later and I still hadn't found anywhere to watch the game, the NBA opener or finals or some such thing, the idea being that I should go to a sports bar for some reason. But all that time tooling around had solidified my newfound love for the best radio station we have, Oldies 1510 on the AM dial. Not only does 1510 play stuff like the Walker Brothers, early Bee Gees, and doo-wop, but in the spirit of competition, the station is also forcing KFRC to play something other than the same 20 songs it's been rotating for years. For example, I found out that Elvis actually has other hits besides "Suspicious Minds."

And so it was while listening to the Surfaris' "Surfer Joe" and heading south on Folsom that I found it, the bar for me: Dylan's. I needed a pub-ish joint to soothe me road-weary mind, and Dylan's is indeed pub-ish, with soccer jerseys hanging across the ceiling like semaphores, Guinness on tap, a motley assortment of chairs and benches, and a real live Welsh person tending bar. In fact, this place is an homage to Wales. A mural of famous Welsh people rides high on one wall, even though Tom Jones looks like Tony Danza in it, Shirley Bassey looks like Sally from The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Catherine Zeta-Jones looks like Marilyn Manson.

Over the bar, gilded into the wood, reads the Dylan Thomas phrase: "Do not go gentle into that good night/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light." This was apparently written for his dying father, but this bar is a big supporter of the AIDS ride, and the words take on a new meaning.

"Oh Jesus, no ...," said the woman behind the bar, turning off Pat Benatar's "We Belong" from the jukebox to the cheers of those assembled. Wilco picked up the slack immediately. The bartender was heavyset, somewhat unintelligible, and pleasant -- let's face it, Welsh.

"I know corgis," she said to me, referring to my dog, which I had, I suppose mistakenly, identified as a corgi. "Yes," she continued, "I know my Welsh corgis. That dog is not a corgi."

This babe knew everything Welsh, I was sure of it. The place itself could have been in Swansea, with national flags everywhere. She stood in front of her country's like George C. Scott in Patton.

I felt cozy and good immersed in someone else's culture. Which raises the question, why is it that when smallish countries have national pride it's quaint and endearing, but when I see American nationalism I want to puke?

The other radio station I listen to a lot is the liberal talk radio station Air America. I had it on my Walkman when I sat in a booth by the window, perusing all the ancient weeklies the bar seemed to have saved up over by the back door. The main difference between liberals and conservatives is nationalism. Liberals will say that they love this country, but they wouldn't be caught dead waving a flag. Conservatives say that they love this country and rig up Ol' Glory to the back of their pickups so that it will unfurl with every trip to the Home Depot.

On Air America, some listener was calling host Randi Rhodes "un-American" because she didn't support John Bolton for U.S. ambassador to the U.N. "You can't call me un-American, you're un-American ...." Blah blah ....

The game was on the TV. You know, the game that I was supposed to be watching to make some wise observation about the sporting life for this column. Well, here's my observation: I figured out why I fucking hate sports. It's mininationalism. It's flag-waving and face-painting; it's the fascist idea that winning is everything; it's brainwashed spectators forking money into the mouths of billionaire dickheads.

But I do enjoy the garlic fries.

It was time to switch my Walkman back to the Max. Someone has apparently remixed Ambrosia's 1980 classic "Biggest Part of Me." Why fiddle with perfection? From there it was into Seger's "You'll Accompany Me," and then Jesus Jones' "Right Here, Right Now." Awww, yeah. I made it just loud enough to drown out Pavement or some band like that on the jukebox.

Looking out the window, it was just about dusk, but I wasn't going to rage, rage against the dying of the light. This was my favorite time of day. Dylan Thomas, on the other hand, did eventually drink himself into the light, collapsing at the punk rock Hotel Chelsea in New York.

The Clash came on the Max, but of course not "Janie Jones" or "White Riot," nothing that risky. We're talking "Rock the Casbah." I wanted to go visit Wales someday and made a mental note.

Then I realized that I like the Max and Oldies 1510 for the same reason I hate nationalism. I like variety, diversity, class warfare. OK, maybe not that last part.

"Well, maybe there's a little bit of corgi that I see in her," said the bar lady to my dog, catching her at another angle. I was relieved. I wanted her to be Welsh.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair


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