Dark suit, black shades, a cigarette, a Triumph sportscar, and the Eternal City in all of its baroque theatre. It has been sixty years since La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) changed cinema forever; Italian director Federico Fellini’s fourth film, and the one which would propel him to international celebrity (meanwhile, making leading man Marcello Mastroianni an icon.)
We listened so often we memorized lyrics like the secret readers in Fahrenheit 451, at least the lyrics to the songs Stipe enunciated. Famously elusive, mumbled and indirect, many of his songs were like codes, with meanings no more than roundabout guesses. All that and more came back hearing that snatch of song, and reading Grace Elizabeth Hale’s incredible Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture. In it she not only clearly and thoroughly tells the fascinating story of the Athens scene around University of Georgia that gave rise to R.E.M. and so many other acts, she captures and conveys the liberation, joy and sweetness of youth.
In the fifth smallest county in the United States, and the smallest in Nebraska, there’s a town called Arthur, population 118. Taking Fir Street, you can walk from one end to the other in about ten minutes, passing the bank, post office, and County Treasurer. At the southern end lies the old county courthouse and jail, said to have been the smallest in the United States. At the northern end, there’s a hat shop.