"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
At some point, not long ago, someone told jet-setting New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman to stop quoting cab drivers in his columns, and he largely has. But sometimes, the urge to explain big, complicated events in faraway lands by going directly to a service industry employee-on-the-street who sounds suspiciously like a fictional character drawn up to introduce a columnist’s argument is too great. And so we we get this, the first paragraph of today’s Friedman column:
When I was in Cairo during the Egyptian uprising, I wanted to change hotels one day to be closer to the action and called the Marriott to see if it had any openings. The young-sounding Egyptian woman who spoke with me from the reservations department offered me a room and then asked: “Do you have a corporate rate?” I said, “I don’t know. I work for The New York Times.” There was a silence on the phone for a few moments, and then she said: “Can I ask you something?” Sure. “Are we going to be O.K.? I’m worried.”
What is your favorite part? The scared foreigner asking the wise millionaire American for his insight and reassurance? The fact that foreign correspondent Thomas Friedman’s method of getting “closer to the action” in the midst of a revolution is by moving to a closer Marriott? (After first “reporting” on the uprising, we must never forget, from Davos, where he was when it began?) To me, the best bit is that Friedman, who practically lives in hotels when he’s not at his hideous mansion, has no clue if he should ask for the corporate rate, I assume because he rarely has to deal with nitty-gritty monetary details like that, thanks to his literally infinite expense account.
All this paragraph is missing is a tortuously mixed metaphor.
Oh, also, Friedman never answers her question! He doesn’t even go back to it at the end or anything.
Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @pareeneMore Alex Pareene.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)