“It was like a ferris wheel ride where the operator keeps letting you go around once more.” That’s how J. Kathleen White described Baby Dee’s show on Tuesday at Joe’s Pub. Dee is touring with a cellist (Matthew Robinson) and two guys from Mucca Pazza, the Chicago marching band: a percussionist (Jon Steinmeir) and a bassoonist (Mark Messing), who had also brought his Sousaphone. An ear-splitting fire alarm went off just as Dee was starting her first lovely slug song, “Regifted Light”; we didn’t have to evacuate, and when it stopped, she simply started over. The false alarm would not have bothered a slug. Dee has played Joe’s Pub so many times, she said, that she has gotten used to feeling the subway rumble underneath, and wonders if the people on the train below ever think, hearing music from above, “I could get used to that.”
The instrumentation was more conducive to funny songs than to dirges. Little Annie made an appearance; she and Dee are working on an album together. And, after playing most of the songs on the new CD (“Lullaby Parade” was especially beguiling), as well as "The Early King" and "Teeth Are the Only Bones that Show," Dee got out the Baby Dee Hymnal: she did the Mormon Underwear song, led the congregation in “Pisspot” (to raise our self-esteem), and sang “Jesus Got a Plan for You” (“He’s gonna fry your fat ass in Hell”). She finished with “Tranny Girl,” a song that, when I first heard it, back in the nineties, made me want to dive under the table. When I realized what she was playing, I thought, Oh, no! I’ve invited all these people from the office! But they enjoyed it! Even I enjoyed it—which says at least as much about my evolution as it does about Dee's delivery.
A few days later, Dee and company were on their way to Cleveland to play a house concert, and I was back at my post on Little Kiss Street (formerly K Street), behind yet another black S.U.V., this one presided over by a woman of a certain age who wore a black sweatsuit and a green hairband. She was very bossy, but she lives on the block and she had my interests at heart, so I can’t complain. In front of her was a small white car whose owner had incurred her wrath by not showing up on Monday, thereby complicating our parking maneuvers, the son of a bitch. She showed up on Thursday, though, and we all joined forces against a guy who tried to insinuate himself into our lineup. He had been too close to the fire hydrant, and when the Broom came, he backed all the way up the street and stood in the spot that I had been planning on occupying while the Broom went by (followed closely by a Lay's potato-chip truck in a big fat greasy hurry). The bossy S.U.V. owner and I had no choice but to go into wedge formation and block the guy from taking one of our spots.
“That guy has never parked on this block before,” a man said when eight o'clock came and we all trudged off, having earned our spots until next Monday. "He doesn't know the drill."