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Entry date: 1-16-2024 – Turn and face the Strain, ta-ta Tuesday(and The Bet) – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Three-day weekends are the bomb. I think I could get down with having a four-day work week. It might be a logistical nightmare for parents, but I do know of a charter school network (albeit one that from what I have seen and heard is not very well run) where students attend Monday through Thursday and Fridays are open for tutoring and such.

 

I have to believe you could put together a rotation of staff to work on Friday mornings that meant all teachers would get at least two three-day weekends per month. On a lot of days, I’m at school for ten hours anyway. Obviously there would need to be a few small concessions to make the numbers line up and you might have to go to 190-day school years.

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, though…if you think teachers have it easy by having some much time off during the year, come hang out with me for a week and see if you would need a break, too. I’m guessing you would change your tune.

 

*****

 

Around 1PM, Friday woke up. She had been sleeping on her side with her mouth open for some time and her pillowcase was wet from her snoozy drool. She’d been an open mouth sleeper since she was a kid. It was something she was highly ashamed of but couldn’t figure out how to stop.

 

Nobody was there to notice the wet spot today, though, she thought thankfully.

 

Friday stretched out to her full 5’ 9” and curled her fingers around the rod iron in her headboard. She pulled her knees up to her chest and then stretched her legs out again before popping up and headed to the bathroom. Her head was a little fuzzy from the night before.

 

When she got done with the toilet, she brushed her teeth and washed her face. Friday rarely wore makeup away from work, so her morning ritual was quick and easy. As she walked out to see what was in the fridge, she noticed the greeting card with the rose on it.

 

The card seemed to vibrate while she was looking at it. Friday rubbed her eyes and focused again. The rose still appeared to be slightly moving. Did we drop acid last night, she wondered, but she knew they had not.

 

Friday walked over to the end table next to her couch where she had lain the card. She remembered the smiley face on the inside and decided not to open it again. The rose had stopped moving, thankfully, but there was something a little unnerving about the card just the same.

 

For one thing, now that Friday was sober and had a decent night’s sleep in her, the card didn’t really look or feel like any greeting card she had held before. It was slightly thicker, and the photo almost looked like it was a drawing. It wasn’t a drawing, though. It was, what was the term her dad liked to use when he was talking about the effects in his films… it was “hyper-real.”

 

Friday held the card up to her nose expecting to smell a rose, but it didn’t smell like a rose. Instead, it smelled faintly of cigarette smoke. Eww, Friday thought, and she moved the card a little farther away from her face.

 

 

She turned the card over to see if it was a Hallmark, but there were only two small words printed carefully in the lower left-hand corner of the thick paper:

 

“Help me.”

 

This was startling, to say the least, and Friday opened the card again. The smiley face was still there, but she realized it was not exactly a smiley face. It was more of a confused face with a slight smile.

 

Was someone fucking with her, she wondered. Was this some sort of joke? Her conversation with Dirk and Melinda from the night before started to spin itself up in her head again. It might be time to go see her parents and talk through it.

 

She decided to call and see if they were home today.

 

*****

 

My old friend Buzz and I used to listen to this record while talking about girls, drugs, and skateboarding. Markus was probably in on some of those convos, too, if I am being accurate, but Subhumans have always reminded me of Buzz. Probably because I traded him the Exploited’s Live at the White House record for The Day the Country Died in 1986.

 

I was already a Dead Kennedy’s aficionado by the time I discovered Subhumans, but there was something about The Day the Country Died that really reminded me of their kindred spirits from San Francisco. Political punk became a thing for me for a while, but I always come back to DK and Subhumans as the bands that did it the best for me. (As I’ve gotten older, my appreciation for Crass has evolved, too, but not to the point where I am with the aforementioned bands)

 

Dick Lucas has got to be one of the best punk rock lyricists of all-time. As great as the riffs are on The Day the Country Died, the lyrics are what makes this record. “Minority” makes Black Flag’s “White Minority” seem a bit amateurish when I compare the two songs together and while “White Minority” gives way to “No Values” on the Jealous Again EP, Subhumans one upped Black Flag again by having “Minority” go right into “Mickey Mouse Is Dead.”

 

Holy hell did “Mickey Mouse Is Dead” change my life for a while. When I first heard it, I thought it was about the greatest song ever. It rattled around in my brain for weeks as I tried to navigate what it meant to be sixteen-years old. The album just kind of explodes at this point and you better just hold on for dear life.

 

“What does it matter? There’s nothing I can do” is such a great line. “Nothing I Can Do” is a song that I’ve tried to sing along with for almost forty years, but I still don’t understand everything Lucas sings. I should probably mention here, as well, that the rest of the band is more than proficient at their instruments.

 

You have to love that Subhumans have been the same four dudes for almost the entire life of the band. This was Grant Jackson’s last record with the band on bass, but he gave way to the dude (Phil Bryant) who has been there ever since.

 

If “Mickey Mouse Is Dead” wasn’t enough of a revelation to my teenage life, “Subvert City” was equally pugnacious and angst affirming. Just try not to get riled up when Lucas sings, “And it all went quiet in the city and the wind blew down the road/Someone cried out ‘subvert’ and the people all went cold.” The lyrics are over forty years old, but they perfectly explain what is happening in America right now.

 

While the record doesn’t have a relly standout track after “Subvert City” other than the brilliant “No,” that doesn’t mean it isn’t super solid punk rock on the rest of side two. There is some really great guitar work by Bruce Treasure on songs like “New Age” and the bassline on “No” was probably hugely influential on how I play bass on a lot of early Hillbilly songs.

 

“No, I don’t believe in Jesus Christ. My mother died of cancer when I was five. No, I don’t believe in religion I was forced to go to church, I wasn’t told why.” As a devout PIL fan, these lyrics resonated with me, too. I have to believe Lucas was at least slightly inspired by John Lydon’s “Religion” from the first PIL record when he wrote the lyrics for “No.”

 

This won’t be the only Subhumans’ record I write about this year. Not by a long shot.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



Oh lovely...a Covid sky.

2020.

Looking toward the morning light.

If only we could have seen what was to come.

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