“This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable….. [W]hat a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers…. Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be president?”
Trigger warning: For those of you who have trouble with expressions of gratitude, go no further. This was a note I posted on my birthday in 2016 — sort of a health update for friends.
Thank you for all of the birthday wishes. I feel blessed. There’s no doubt it’s been a difficult year – my mother died, I’m single again, I’m still dealing with lingering health issues — but when I start counting my blessings, I soon run out of numbers.
People ask, so here is the health update:
I spent two days at Dana Farber Cancer Institute this week, getting my semi-annual tests, scans and probes. I remain cancer-free.
However, all of the cancer surgeries created a row of hernias, so I had an operation in May to repair those. (I have a cool picture the doctor took of the inside of my guts and the hernias looked like space aliens. Let me know if you want to see it.)
I had kidney surgery last week and will have another kidney surgery some time this fall. I still have neuropathy in my feet and hands, a side effect of chemotherapy.
I also have mysterious pains in my knees and forearms. The arm pain, it turns out, might date from my time at dear old University High School. I broke my left arm one year while wrestling with John Day and broke my right arm the next year by diving into a wall while playing volleyball. I never noticed until this summer that I can’t straighten either arm.
But that’s small stuff. I feel great and there’s so much for which to be thankful:
I work in a wonderful American city
I do work (writing and teaching) that I love
I have great colleagues and friends
I live in a Norman Rockwell village and my children are safe
I have seven magnificent children and two grandchildren (one still in utero)*
I get off the train every morning at Fenway Park, my happy place (bless the Red Sox)
I have a fantastic mattress ….
You see why I run out of numbers.
My daily operating principles remain those expressed in song by Glen Campbell so long ago:
Let me be a little kinder.
Let me be a little blinder
to the faults of those around me.
Let me praise a little more.
Let me be, when I am weary,
just a little bit more cheery.
Let me think more of my neighbor
and a little less of me.
Thank you everybody.
(*) This has since changed, with the birth of Pearl.
I don’t do my Creative Loafing book blog anymore and had to cut back to 2-3 newspaper book reviews a year for the Boston Globe or the Tampa Bay Times.
But that doesn’t mean I read any less and have lost the desire to share news of a good book.
So this — a brief word of praise for Altamont by Joel Selvin.
It is a thoroughly engrossing account of what the subtitle calls ‘Rock’s Darkest Day.’ If you believe in a Higher Being and the concept of Heaven and Hell, then this is a preview of coming attractions should you think you are headed to the latter.
Three-hundred thousand people, fucked up on various combinations of acid, amphetamines and booze, cram into a small space and many get the shit beat out of them by Hells Angels as some of the best bands of the day (Burrito Bros., Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Crosby etc. and the Rolling Stones) try to perform.
It’s a wonderful book about a horrifying day.
About two years ago, Selvin wrote another great book – Here Comes the Night – about Bert Berns, one of the under-sung behind-the-scenes guys in rock (he wrote ‘Twist and Shout’ and many others).
Anyway: earns 37 thumbs up, my highest praise.
I’m Facebook Friends with a fellow named Kevin Lynn. Never met him, never talked to him. All of our communication has been through this forum. He’s a flesh-and-blood friend (high school classmate, I believe) of my old pal Ruth Baxter. A few years ago, Kevin and I became Facebook Friends. I soon learned that Kevin is a good dad, has shitty taste in baseball teams (hey, fuck the Yankees), but excellent taste in music.
A couple of days ago, Kevin commented on one of my posts and suggested I track down the Sid’n’Susie recordings. I immediately listened to a couple of tunes online, loved them, then found a four-disc box set online and, without hesitation, ordered it.
(And yes. I still like discs. I like — nay, need — packaging. I need to know who wrote what, who played what, who produced it, who engineered it, who did the song first … and historical background. The box set has a book with interviews, credits … just the way things used to be before digital downloads caused such magnificently produced products to fall into disrepute by becoming mere bytes out of context. Good God! Respect the music! Respect the artists! Buy the music in tangible form!)
Ah, but I digress.
The “Sid’n’Susie” recordings are by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, two great rock / power-pop voices. Listening to the Under the Covers discs is like sitting on the living room floor, watching them flip through three decades of 45 rpms and reimagining the songs as their own.
Let’s try this one, let’s try this one.
Matthew Sweet plays most of the instruments, but they invite a few people to help them out, including Steve Howe, Dhani Harrison, Lindsay Buckingham and Van Dyke Parks.) Matthew and Susanna sound great together. What beautiful voices.
And what a spectrum of artists they cover: Bob Dylan, Bread, the Grateful Dead, Badfinger, the Ramones, the Clash, the Mamas & the Papas, the Pretenders, the Who, the Beach Boys … wow!
I’m pleased to report they do one of my all-time favorite songs, “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time” by Marshall Crenshaw. For more fun, listen to “The Kids are Alright” and “And Your Bird Can Sing.” (Click on those links to hear samples.)
It should come as no surprise that they have excellent taste in music. I’ve always taken pride in my music library, so I love the reworkings of some of my old favorites. And they even do a few songs that I somehow missed.
Speaking of missing: How did I miss this? How far have I fallen out of the world to have not known of the Sid’n’Susie recordings? Having found them, my life is complete.
I’m passing it on. (Insert big thumbs up here)
Disc 1 (The Sixties)
1. I See the Rain
2. And Your Bird Can Sing
3. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
4. Who Knows Where the Time Goes?
5. Cinnamon Girl
6. Alone Again
7. The Warmth of the Sun
8. Different Drum
9. The Kids Are Alright
10. Sunday Morning
11. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
12. Care of Cell 44
13. Monday, Monday
15. Run to Me
16. Village Green Preservation Society
17. I Can See for Miles
Disc 2 (The Seventies, Part 1)
1. Sugar Magnolia
2. Go All the Way
3. Second Hand News
4. Bell Bottom Blues
5. All the Young Dudes
6. You’re So Vain
7. Here Comes My Girl
8. I’ve Seen All Good People: Your Move/All Good People
9. Hello It’s Me
11. Back of a Car
12. Couldn’t I Just Tell You
13. Gimme Some Truth
14. Maggie May
15. Everything I Own
16. Beware of Darkness
Disc 3 (The Seventies, Part 2)
2. Marquee Moon
3. I Wanna Be Sedated
4. Baby Blue
5. You Say You Don’t Love Me
6. (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding
7. You Can Close Your Eyes
9. Killer Queen
10. A Song for You
Disc 4 (The Eighties)
1. Sitting Still
2. Girls Talk
3. Big Brown Eyes
5. Free Fallin’
6. Save It for Later
7. They Don’t Know
8. The Bulrushes
9. Our Lips Are Sealed
10. How Soon Is Now
11. More Than This
12. Towers of London
13. Killing Moon
15. Train in Vain
16. You’re My Favorite Waste of Time
17. I Would Die 4 U
Offered as a public service. Found on the Internet Movie Database, the most important reason for the Internet to exist.
My wife was afraid of the dark, saw me naked, now she’s afraid of the light.
I feel sorry for short people, you know. When it rains, they’re the last to know.
My wife and I were happy for 20 years. Then we met.
I told my doctor that when I woke up in the morning I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror. He said, “At least we know your vision is perfect.”
If it weren’t for pickpockets, I’d have no sex life at all.
My dog learned how to beg by watching me through the bedroom door.
I was an ugly child. I got lost on the beach. I asked a cop if he could find my parents. He said, ‘I don’t know. There’s lots of places for them to hide’.
Last week my house was on fire. My wife told the kids, ‘Be quiet, you’ll wake up Daddy’.
I was ugly, very ugly. When I was born, the doctor smacked my mother.
My mother never breast-fed me. She told me she liked me better as a friend.
At my age, making love is like trying to shoot pool with a rope.
When I get in an elevator, the operator takes one look and says, “Basement?”
I drink too much. The last time I gave a urine sample it had an olive in it.
My psychiatrist told me I was crazy, and I said I wanted a second opinion. He said, ‘Okay, you’re ugly too.’
I looked up my family tree and found three dogs using it.
I’m taking Viagra and drinking prune juice. I don’t know if I’m coming or going.
When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.
My cousin’s gay. He went to London only to find out that Big Ben is a clock.
I could tell my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.
What a kid I’ve got. I told him about the birds and the bees, and he told me about the butcher and my wife.
I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous: everyone hasn’t met me yet.
Apologies to Grandma Moses for borrowing her title.
Here’s my photograph called “Through a Hoosier Window.” I took this in my brother’s living room.
Thank You for revealing the concept of Facebook on those stone tablets You showed that Zuckerberg kid a while back.
Facebook allows people to wish me a happy birthday without having to mess with stamps and cards and stuff.
So that’s cool.
But I do want to ask You one thing, Lord. I just have one birthday wish.
Please help the Red Sox stop their swoon and stomp the living piss out of the Rays today.
This won’t go over well with some of my Florida friends, but they’ll understand. If the situation was reversed, and their team was in the midst of a terrible skid, they’d be asking for something similar.
So that’s all I want, Lord.
Had a birthday cake yesterday. That was good. I just a W, Lord, that’s all.
Thanks. You bless You.
(You might remember me as Creation No. 781, 352, 617, 803, 840, 940, 428, 7
PS. These Winklevoss Twins keep saying You showed them the Facebook Tablets first. Anything You can do to set the record straight? We’re getting tired of their whining.
*** Of course I remember you, Bill. But you’re fucked if you think I’m helping out with the Red Sox this year. You’re on your own. And fuck the Winklevai.***
I took a trip to Oxford, Mississippi, but detoured through Clarksdale — which is way out of the way. But since it’s ground zero for the blues, I had to make the pilgrimage.