Saturday, September 01, 2007

A Fine, Fine Day on the iPod

I've waited for a while for the fine, fine day that Tony Carey's "A Fine, Fine Day" would turn up on iTunes.

Recently I discovered at least a version, though it's a live recording that sounds a little different and more gravelly than the '80s original.

That's a little disappointing, because it's not just the song but also the rendition from its time that makes me like and recall it fondly.

Orwell That Ends Well - I made it through 1984
When it was on the charts or at least on Top 40 radio, I was a young reporter, periodically running the police beat at night. That involved riding a creaking elevator up to the top floor of the parish court house to read the jail log, a public record and sometimes a news source. It was once the way we, and I'm really using the editorial we, learned a first degree murder suspect had been booked.

More often than not it was less interesting, a chronicle of cable TV theft, shoplifting and unauthorized use of movables. I never knew what the hell that last one meant.

When I made those trips, wondering if it would ever end, I'd ride with trustees on cleanup detail. They always wanted to borrow pens and note books and have you make phone calls for them.

I don't know all of the things you can make from a Bic ballpoint but Dirty Harry got out of Alcatraz with a spoon and some dimes, so I always declined.

All of the exposure to the world of crime got me interested in Elmore Leonard novels, though, starting with a paperback reprint of Unknown Man 89, followed quickly by Split Image, Swag, Stick and others.

Fine, Fine Day was the background music, frequently on the radio and a spiritual cousin of Leonard's work, to me at least, with its account of a con returning from a long prison stint.

Stick 'Em Up
I pictured the song's Uncle Sonny--veteran of apparently numerous scams and shady deals--more like a Leonard character than a gangster in a business suit as the song's video did.

He was like numerous Leonard hard-timers including Ernest Stickley from Stick and his buddy Frank Ryan from Swag aka Ryan's Rules, who died in prison between the two novels.

The song celebrates Sonny's release and his celebration by taking a cab ride to Central Park, and that hopeful note kept me going as I adjusted to the routine of reporting and the harshness of the world.

The police beat was part of my assignment for five years. I don't remember the last time I rode that elevator, but it was a fine, fine day.


Charles Gramlich said...

I've still got a bunch of Elmore Leonard books to read. I've even got a western by him around here somewhere, called "Hombre" I think.

Sidney said...

He's got some good Westerns too. 3:10 to Yuma is from his work, and I always kind of liked both the book and the movie of "Valdez is Coming."

I love it when Burt Lancaster in the film says: "Go find Tanner. Tell him Valdez is coming."

That's manly stuff, as Stewart would say.

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