“Do the Funky Sidewalk (Snow Dragon)”

What becomes a growing legend most? How about…his own 70’s soul theme song?


Video:@BTVSnowDragon. Song composition, performance, and production: Nate Orshan (AKA Nato)

Snow Who?

@BTVSnowDragon is a made-up character who’s supposed to be one of (or all of?) the many sidewalk plows that are used to keep Burlington (Vermont) safer in winter for pedestrians. Whoever created and keeps this fun and funky character alive is still a mystery.*

The song was actually inspired by another fellow Vermonter, stalwart Twitter user @MeowVT (AKA Kitty), who posted this last summer:

It took me about a nanosecond to reply with something like, “A SONG? Did somebody say, ‘SONG’?!?”. I volunteered, and I encouraged @MeowVT to send lyrics…which, unfortunately, I then ended up not using.**

OK, and you did this…why?

You really have to follow @BTVSnowDragon to get a sense of his fun personality. The person behind Snow Dragon has done a bang-up job bringing this heretofore nonexistent character to life, and I’m sure it’s no easy feat to keep a fictional, online persona going all the time with style and consistency.

Unlike some other famous and mythical Vermont creatures, Snow Dragon is actually a very recent creation. The story is that it all started with Seven Days Digital Media Manager Tyler Machado, who wrote the following in January of 2012 in the midst of covering an interminable mayoral debate on Burlington transportation:

The next day came an unexpected yet fateful answer, a short sentence sure to join the ranks of immortal lines such as, “Watson, come here, I need you”, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”, and “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ means”:

All right, so, truth be told, that was actually Snow Dragon’s second post, as he had written his first tweet the previous day:

But apocryphal or not, Snow Dragon’s birth has been linked to Machado’s tweet, so much so that for most of last year I would have bet money on them being one and the same. I’m fairly confident that’s not the case, but the uncertainty highlights what makes Snow Dragon all the more intriguing: Nobody knows who the heck he is!***

OK, but…a soul song?

The truth is I have a sincere and abiding love of R&B from the 70s, and I’ve wanted to try creating a retro-soul song for a long time.

When I started thinking about a theme for Snow Dragon, I was quickly inspired by Isaac Hayes’ one-of-a-kind “Theme from Shaft”, and that song became a touchstone throughout the writing and production process.**** Among other things, the song gave me the opportunity to try out my best, soulful chest voice.

And what’s “The Funky Sidewalk”?

Essentially, it’s just a play on what some people would say after hearing Snow Dragon visit.

“Why’s the dog barking?”
“Oh, the plow just came by and did the sidewalk.”

But where most of the song might be an Isaac Hayes homage, the “Funky Sidewalk” bridge is a straight-up ripoff tribute to The Godfather of Soul…you know, that part of the song where he’d exhort the crowd to “Do the Mashed Potatoes”, “Do the Popcorn”, “Do the James Brown”, etc.

And here’s your chance to get in on the fun:

Send @BTVSnowDragon a video of you doing “The Funky Sidewalk”!

Snow Dragon wants to do a follow-up video showing people doing their own version of “The Funky Sidewalk”. What would that look like? Here’s a little inspiration thanks to Vermonters @RowGirl2012 and @n8zog:

I was also delighted recently to see WPTZ’s Bridget Shanahan and Tom Messner getting into the spirit of things, asking their viewers to send Snow Dragon their own “Funky Sidewalk” videos. Will they contribute a dancing video of their own?

WPTZ's Bridget Shanahan and Tom Messner talk about 'Do The Funky Sidewalk (Snow Dragon)'

So, hey, funky people near and far: Film yourself doing “The Funky Sidewalk”, then write to SNOWDRAGON {at} GMAIL.COM.

In the end, if “Do the Funky Sidewalk (Snow Dragon)” helps cement Snow Dragon’s fame as an (unofficial) mascot for our Department of Public Works or a quirky (unofficial) representative for Burlington, Vermont, then I can say we did a good job by doin’ the Funky Sidewalk.

Do the Funky Sidewalk (Snow Dragon)

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

Now the blizzard’s on and freezin’ winds blow
(Snow Dragon!)
Comes a mighty sound outside your window
(Snow Dragon!)

When the flakes begins to fly
Snow Dragon’s on your side
Don’t you wanna take a ride?

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

In the Queen City’s cold and stormy hour
(Snow Dragon!)
He pushes through for me and you with power
(Snow Dragon!)

Beams high, blades down low
Goin’ where angels fear to go
Nothin’ more he loves than snow

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

Everybody!…

   Do the Sidewalk
   Do the Sidewalk
   Do the Funky, Funky Sidewalk…

Clearin’ sidewalks like no one else can do now
(Snow Dragon!)
Makin’ sure you can get to work and school now
(Snow Dragon!)

With his blade so well-endowed
The Queen City’s safe for now
So give a wave to our favorite plow

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

…Get your plow on, Snow Dragon…

…”Beep, Beep!” means I love you in Snow Plow…*****

© Copyright 2013 Nate Orshan

* And, no, I’m not Snow Dragon. As of this posting, I still don’t know who their true identity. I think it’s someone who identifies as male…but maybe that’s just more subterfuge to throw me off the trail…

** By the time I sat down to work on the song writing, I had a pretty definite idea of the song’s melody and structure, and, try as I did, I just couldn’t fit Kitty’s lyrics into the form and meter. I did make an attempt to write a different soul tune with them, and, although her lyrics were great, the music itself just didn’t have the same oomph as the current tune. It calls into question whether I’m actually any good at adapting someone else’s lyrics, a hypothesis I should test again…

*** For the record: I’ve never met Snow Dragon and have only communicated with…him?…via email. I’m not Snow Dragon, nor do I play him on TV.

**** What? You’ve never heard it? Who’s the cat who won’t cop out when there’s danger all about?

***** “Get your plow on” and “Beep means ‘I love you’ in snow plow” are both real Snow Dragonisms, just like his snowplow smiley, “:]”.

“Hoodie-Footie #3”

Just in time for winter*, let your heart and soul get toasty-warm with my newest video, “Hoodie-Footie #3″:”

Why? Well, if my previous attempts at a heartfelt folk-pop number, a 70’s Hall-and-Oates soul wannabe, and a for-real attempt at hip-hop aren’t enough to convince you of the many virtues of Vermont’s own superawesome adult onesie…well, one more song oughta do it…

Hoodie-Footie #3

Hey, you with the sandals and the suntan
Winter’s comin’ and there’s nothin’ better than
A Hoodie-Footie!
A Hoodie-Footie!
When Hoodie-Footie is around,
That is where I will be found:
Hoodie-Footie!

Hey, when you’re cruisin’ down the highway
You look so fine when you’re doing it my way
In a Hoodie!
A Hoodie-Footie!
When Hoodie-Footie is around,
That is where I will be found:
Hoodie-Footie!

Hey, don’t even bother with a sweater
Everybody knows you look much better
In a Hoodie!
A Hoodie-Footie!
When Hoodie-Footie is around,
That is where I will be found:
Hoodie-Footie!

Hey, you with the backpack and the power drink
Time for finals, but you find yourself thinkin’
‘Bout my Hoodie!
A Hoodie-Footie!
When Hoodie-Footie is around,
That is where I will be found:
Hoodie-Footie!

Hey, you wanna keep your loved one warmer
Here’s a suit that’s a real performer
Hoodie-Footie!
A Hoodie-Footie!
When Hoodie-Footie is around,
That is where I will be found:
Hoodie-Footie!

So come on over, but don’t you bother knocking
‘Cuz we’re all zipped up, and everybody’s rocking
In a Hoodie!
A Hoodie-Footie!
From the bottom to the top
All the fun doesn’t stop
From the east to the west
It’s the suit that’s the best
Every day and every night
I’ll be zipped up tight:
Hoodie-Footie!

© Copyright 2010-2012 Nate Orshan

Full disclosure: I am not making money from any of my Hoodie-Footie songs. I used to be a part of PajamaGram parent company Vermont Teddy Bear Company, during which time I wrote these songs (after work) hoping they might prove of some use. Bottom line: All of my Hoodie-Footie songs were basically delightful writing exercises for me.

Having said that…yeah, PajamaGram is a great Vermont company, and nothing would please me more than learning that these songs helped convince some folks to join “Team Hoodie-Footie”. It’s a very warm and very comfy team, yo.

* In the Northern Hemisphere, of course. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s time to enjoy summer.

”Together May We Stay” Live at Rose Street

OK, so this song got me my wife.*

(Note: My introduction’s a little long, so move the video’s time slider to 1:04 if you’d like just to cut to the chase.)

I could (will?) probably write a song or two just about the whole process by which I finally decided to propose to Kit; for the purposes of this story, all you have to know is that she and I had been living together for a year, and I just knew it was time to propose. (I admit that writing a song for her wasn’t the first proposal method that came to mind, but once the idea was in place, I knew what I had to do.)

The problem was logistics. We were living together, and we were both working full-time, so there was no way I could take a few nights to compose this thing with my then-girlfriend in earshot.

K: “What’s that you’re doing? Is that a PROPOSAL SONG?!?”
N: “What gives you THAT idea? It’s, uh…ironic. Yeah. Post-modern.”

No, I had to do it during the day. So I planned for this day in late February when I was sure I could work on the thing all day long in peace, and then, just a few days before, I remembered that, since Kit was a teacher and had February break at the same time, she would be home during the day, not at work.

But I was undeterred. I knew I didn’t want to wait much longer to propose, and I was fairly confident I could pound the thing out in a day. So I rented a rehearsal space** for the day and told Kit nothing, i.e., she thought I was at work.

Luckily, I had a pretty clear idea of the music when I went in, so the hard part –per yoozsh– was words. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being straightforward and writing something as simple as, “I love you, please marry me”…unless you’re me and want to try to write a proposal song without either of those.

So, motivated by true love and an hourly rate for the rehearsal space, I sat all alone in the corner of this big ol’ room where normally Burlington bands like Wide Wail or The Pants might have practiced, and, with my keyboard and guitar at hand, I completed my assignment.

Then, the hard part: Playing it for Kit. I forget how I glossed over the fact that, to her knowledge, I’d schlepped music instruments to work and was now bringing them back home in the evening as if it were an everyday thing, but apparently it didn’t arouse any suspicion. I set everything back up in my office, and then, that evening, asked her to come check out this new song I had just written. I sat at a keyboard, lyric sheet in front of me, and I performed “Together May We Stay” for its most important audience.

If you ask Kit about it, she’ll tell you how, once I stopped playing, she was fairly frozen in place because, well…what if she had just misinterpreted my song and told me, “I do”, and then had to suffer instant mortification as I recoiled, saying, “No no no, you’ve got it all wrong: It’s just a song, dude…” Luckily, I had a fallback: the engagement ring. As soon as the song was over, I reached over to where I’d hid it, and I offered the ring to her.

It couldn’t have gone better, then or since.

Together May We Stay

Wouldn’t it be grand?
Wouldn’t it be sweet
If you spent the rest
Of your life with me?

Only you can stand my ranting
And my languid pace
Only you can carry me
And put me in my place

Wouldn’t it be true?
Wouldn’t it be real
To say that I’m a spoke
In your loving wheel?

Turning up a road that’s buried
In our future’s haze,
May we roll together
All our days

   For you I will be brave
   Together may we stay

Let us say the word
Let us make the sign
Say that I’m your equal
And you are mine

May the growing older bear
An interwoven truth
That these hearts are closer than
We thought they were in youth

May I take your hand?
May I take your smile?
May we both avoid only
Self-denial

It’s the greatest role
That we’ll ever get to play
May I be your co-star
Today?

   For you I will be brave
   Together may we stay

Wouldn’t it be grand?
Wouldn’t it be sweet
If you spent the rest
Of your life with me?

Would you spend the rest of
Your life with me?

© Copyright 1998-2012 Nate Orshan

This version of “Together May We Stay” was recorded live at Rose Street Cooperative and Artists’ Gallery in Burlington, Vermont, USA, on Friday, September 21, 2012. Those kids you hear in the background? They’re just a regular part of the Rose Street mix!

* Ohhhh, ohhhhh-kaaaaay. She probably woulda said “Yes” even if I’d gone to less effort. But still…

** Any Vermonters remember The Kennel on Williston Road? I never practiced there in a band, but I really liked its vibe. (“It’s like a house…for making music!”) Above all, I never would have ended up with this song. That must say something about the place’s feng shui.