Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dead musician update

Some fine, talented people died while I was home for the holidays. RIP Rowland S. Howard and Vic Chesnutt.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cassette corner #2

A teaser trailer for what's to come:
Today, the cassette in the car is Dead Milkmen's Big Lizard in My Backyard. Before I get into the origin of this cassette, I want to repeat a bit of information about the good people who put this in my hands and the conditions from whence I issued forth. My hometown has a population of 1,500. At any given time, the number of people living in that pee-pee soaked heck-hole who love music can be estimated at 9. My former townsmen and townswomen were mostly into hunting, sports, and cable TV. Nothing wrong with those things. It's just hard to live there if those things don't give you twenty boners a second. When I was in grade school, junior high, and high school, I found the few kindred spirits the portal to hell I call my hometown belched forth. Three of them were siblings. For privacy's sake, I will call them the Burtreynolds. Clint Burtreynolds was my classmate, partner in crime, and future weed supplier. His older brother Jason Burtreynolds and older sister Jenny Burtreynolds became friends, too. Vince Jazzyjeff was not a Burtreynolds, but he had the chutzpah of a young extra on Cannonball Run II. He also liked music a lot, so much so that he quit the football team to listen to Ween and Sonic Youth albums at my house, an unpopular decision at the time. In all fairness, he also quit the team to spend more time with girls. These girls were not spending much time at my house listening to Ween and Sonic Youth. I believe the hours these girls spent listening to Ween and Sonic Youth at my house totaled zero. Zero hours. Yeah, that sounds right. Anyway, the Burtreynolds family was a godsend. Wonderful, interesting people who shared my sensibilities. And a whole house full of them. In the godforsaken shithole I'd accidentally been conceived, born, and raised in. (A digression: It may sound like I'm bitter about my hometown. However, I've slowly learned to be grateful for the experience of growing up in such a hostile environment. When you're raised in a town in which you have absolutely nothing in common with anyone else, you find yourself in multiple ridiculous situations that only career alcoholics, morning news show hosts, and Miami drug lords find themselves in, which builds character.) What are the odds? Anyway, Jason graduated first, moved away, and came back on holidays with all kinds of musical treats. Even before he'd escaped to the outside world, he had connections with every weirdo in the western Nebraska panhandle and had a mighty cassette collection of punk rock, classic rock, early hip-hop, metal, and what was then being called college rock, which would later splinter into what Diane Sawyer calls indie rock and alternative rock. Anyway, my first dub from Jason's cassette collection was Dead Milkmen's first album. I was in sixth grade, and it was just what I needed. I borrowed the cassette and rode it on my bike over to my grandfather's house to dub it. (More on my grandfather's sweet-at-the-time cassette and vinyl setup in a future installment.) Clint accompanied me on this excursion. On the way, my cassette case flipped open and I dumped most of my cassette collection all over the street behind the grocery store where I would later work in high school. A pickup was coming up fast behind us, and Clint jumped into the middle of the street and started doing jumping jacks to prevent my cassettes from being smushed all over the road. The old guy driving the pickup looked at us like we were out of our fucking minds, swerved around us, and continued on his way. I listened to Big Lizard in My Backyard about 800 times that year. They hated right-wingers, but also made jokes about retarded people and AIDS. That was still possible in the 1980s. And those songs are pretty good. They're not just a novelty band. One of my college roommates, who is also a friend and is married to my wife's sister, has a great story about stealing their license plates in a misguided fanboy gesture that resulted in the band being busted for drugs.
The Burtreynolds also had a bunch of other kids who were younger than us. My copy of Big Lizard in My Backyard opens with Clint's younger brother Alex babbling in baby talk for a few seconds, then saying my name, "Dosh, Dosh, Dosh." Then I say in my pre-pubescent, almost pubescent voice, "Oh man, I think I hit record." Then Clint's other younger brother Doug says, apropos of nothing, "Hey dude, you're looking at one big bad football player," then "Bitchin' Camaro" starts. Rewinding cassettes is a pain in the ass, but you're not going to accidentally capture moments of your own life on mp3. I heard my long-dead grandfather breathing and coughing at the end of one of my other cassettes, which I'll write about later. Make that happen again, technological progress. Two steps forward, six steps back.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon's Crazy Second-Cousin

I was in line at the no-longer-the-store's-best-kept-secret express checkout lane near the produce entrance at my neighborhood monolith grocery store buying some macaroni salad and beer a few weeks ago. The line was long, and I stood there for several minutes. A woman was about three people in line ahead of me. This woman was clearly, but gently, insane. She wore ill-fitting clothes and a stocking cap that would have looked more at home on Tad Doyle or the Screaming Trees' Conner brothers circa 1991, and she was missing several teeth. She occasionally turned toward the people in line behind her, including me, and said something to nobody in particular that made no sense. "I cut in line," she said once. She hadn't cut in line. "Today is Thursday," she said. It was Wednesday. "We're going to the moon," she said. We weren't. About four minutes later and the line hadn't moved much. We were still in the same spot. Suddenly, a large man wearing several coats, though it was relatively warm outside, slowly pushed his cart by us. In addition to the multiple coats, he had a large pair of earphones on, which were affixed to his chalky, bushy hair by a shitload of packing tape. He was hunched so far over his shopping cart that he was nearly resting his head on the bottom of it. The crazy woman in line looked at him gently, and said, "Oh hey, Louis." He looked at her, said, "Hey, how's it going?" and proceeded on his way.