Steve Pick did a nice interview-based feature for the St. Louis Magazine blog on Edward Scott Ibur's debut novel Teacher of the Year. The novel will be released at a creative event on Saturday, June 23 at The Duck Room, where bands will cover songs mentioned or thematized in the novel. The man reading the book on tape also will perform snippets of the novel.
Edward -- better-known to most as Ted, though I always liked to refer to him affectionately by his full name -- asked me to contribute to this event, and I signed on under the band name Three Fried Men. I picked three songs that I thought would be fun and easy to sing: "Stuck on You" (Lionel Ritchie), "Our House" (Madness) and "Another Brick in the Wall" (Pink Floyd). Thus far I have Dan Cross, Tim McAvin and Heidi Dean joining me in this version of Three Fried Men. We hope to go on early in an event that starts early, at 7 p.m.
I was really happy to be asked to support this effort. I owe a lot to Edward Ibur, though he probably isn't aware that I remember things that way. In the late 1980s, he was a formative member of an arts collective called Single Point of Light that I co-founded with Sean Hilditch, a transfer student at Washington University from a little town in England called Stratford-on-Avon. Edward, Bob Putnam (then the owner of a bookstore, not a rock club) and Theresa Everline rallied around Sean and myself and we did some pretty cool things together.
One highlight was the event Focus on the Fourth, as in June 4th, 1989, the date of the Tiananmen Square massacre. We put together an amazing lineup that included the likes of Stanley Elkin (R.I.P.), William H. Gass and Gerald Early, and we raised some coin for a Chinese student group that made for us a beautiful thank-you banner in Chinese characters that I cherish to this day. Edward was friendly with Lorin Cuoco, then a reporter for KWMU, and she reported a radio feature. You tend to remember your first appearance on NPR.
Single Point of Light became so good at booking benefits that I started a band, Enormous Richard, to play one of these benefits. The same Steve Pick who previewed Edward's first novel in 2012 for St. Louis Magazine reviewed my first band's first gig in 1989 for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That review gave us the nerve to keep doing it. We eventually ran away from graduate school to keep doing it. Enormous Richard eventually turned into another band, Eleanor Roosevelt, which evolved into a field recording project (Hoobellatoo) that became the passion of my artistic life, the arts organization Poetry Scores.
So I can trace the main creative thing that sustains me today directly back to Edward Ibur. It's entirely possible that my life would be vastly poorer in the creative areas that mean the most to me were it not for him. I am totally looking forward to supporting him as he celebrates the publication of his first novel, which I'm sure is as important to him as Poetry Scores is to me.
Now, I have to tell a story on Edward. I warned him this was coming.
He sent me an advance copy of his novel as a member of the media. The opening of the book really struck me:
Monday, June 2, 2008
"Wow, this is amazing!" Elizabeth announced in a can-you-believe-that voice, the kind she uses when chatting with her mother over coffee. Since she was also flipping through the pages of a magazine while we were having sex, I correctly assumed the amazing had nothing to do with me. For the twenty-third straight year, we celebrated the beginning of summer with afternoon screwing.
When Edward contacted me about his novel, we were nearly twenty years out of touch. This was not the opening of a novel I would have expected from the Edward Ibur I knew! On a personal level, the Edward I knew was frank and funny and fully in touch with the sensual aspects of existence. But he was much more hesitant about going public with such stuff.
It gets funny from here, or it should if I can tell it right.
Edward got caught up, briefly, in Single Point of Light turning into Enormous Richard. I am quite sure it was not brief enough for him. The first version of the band was called "Enormous Richard and the Love Turkeys," and we did a few painfully awkward gigs at a Mexican restaurant, a backyard party in Granite City, and the parking lot of what was supposed to be the World's Largest Tupperware Party that turned out not to be very big.
Our early set list was equal parts blasphemy, political satire, and sexual humor. Once Edward -- The Love Turkeys' bongo player -- began to understand what I was singing in the songs he was bongoing to, he began to get visibly uneasy about "the band". I had been emptying rooms with blasphemous material for years, so I assumed it was the satirical Christian material that was bothering him. But I was wrong.
I remember setting up for the last Love Turkeys gig, before Edward Ibur went one way and Enormous Richard went the other. Edward began to voice the misgivings about material that would soon send him on his way. I recall speaking up for the need to question Christianity like any other dominant cultural paradigm, something like that, but Ted waved me off.
"It's more 'Steady Dick,'" I recall him saying. "Do we have to play 'Steady Dick'?"
"Steady Dick" is an extended pun based on something a bad guy from my high school told me when I bumped into him at a record store one day. This guy said he recently had fathered a child, and though he wasn't too crazy about that, he had endeavored "to give the mother steady dick until the kid is old enough to take care of herself."
However crudely put, for a bad guy this amounted to almost a noble sentiment. It stuck with me, and I got a song out of it.
I recall trying to defend the song for its clever puns, its list of Dicks (Deadeye Dick, Moby Dick, Dick Tracy) but Edward wanted nothing to do with a band that stood forth and sang such overtly sexual material. It was a long, long, long way from the Edward Ibur I knew in The Love Turkeys to something like ...
Since she was also flipping through the pages of a magazine while we were having sex, I correctly assumed the amazing had nothing to do with me. For the twenty-third straight year, we celebrated the beginning of summer with afternoon screwing.
As I told Edward, I deeply admire someone who becomes more daring, less restrained, with age. I deeply admire this guy, and I really look forward to supporting him at his book release party!