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Entry date: 1-25-2024 – Stupid Flu – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,


Oh, my friends. Yesterday was a bunch of trash as far as body aches and pains. I had a fever for much of the morning and called in sick. I hate doing that. It’s really just the idea of a sub being in my room teaching my kids. I don’t care for that idea at all. They are mine. I get to mold the young minds.


Luckily, the fever broke, and the rest of my day was just resting and having weird Mucinex dreams. I don’t remember them at the moment, but I do recall waking up from my midday nap around 3pm and being glad that I was awake. Maybe it was the fever breaking, but who knows.


Rhondi (who is sick, too, and probably gave it to me) and I watched a documentary about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds called Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Again, it could have been the cold meds or the fever, but it was really odd and very sad. Talk about two women who were clearly suffering from mental health challenges. I don’t mean that in a bad way, either.


I think it is time we destigmatize mental health issues. Clearly much of the country suffers from it on some level these days. Perhaps it is the result of an underfunded (here comes the soapbox) education and mental health system meeting technology that is advancing so rapidly that our brains are just overwhelmed.


Watching the film, though, just made it very clear that these two very talented and interesting women were really struggling with their mental health. I knew that Carrie Fisher had her demons but wasn’t aware that Debbie Reynolds had her own things going on, too. She was such a charming actress in Singin’ In The Rain. I also love the movie she did with Tony Randall called The Mating Game.


With Reynolds, it was clear from listening to Todd and Carrie Fisher talk that she didn’t get to have any healthy romantic relationships in her life. It’s very sad. She just seemed so delightful on screen that it pains me to think she didn’t get to have a whole lot of the same delight in her personal life. I guess I’m a fan.


Another really interesting thing about the film that I didn’t know was how much Debbie Reynolds invested in old artifacts from Hollywood. She wanted to start a museum and purchased a ton of old costumes and props, but it never really came to fruition in the manner she had hoped for and eventually she had to sell the collection to cover debt. The things you learn while being sick and home in bed.






A few days ago, I commented on a post by Stan Ridgway on Twitter (yep, I still call it that) and he liked what I said. It made me a little giddy. I just love the guy, even though he turned me down for an interview years ago when I was doing a series of interviews for LA Weekly. Maybe I should try again.


When I found out he had formed Drywall with his wife, Pietra Wexstun, I immediately went to the record store and bought the CD. I was not disappointed at all. Work The Dumb Oracle is a great record. Even if you have never heard of Wall of Voodoo, you might like it a lot, and if you fall into that category, it will help you enjoy the Stan Ridgway version of Wall of Voodoo even more.


Ridgway’s known for his great lyrics, but other than the drums, he and Wexstun play all the instruments on Work The Dumb Oracle. Sonically, the album is very reminiscent of the Wall of Voodoo stuff to me, but it’s also nuanced and the fourteen years or so between Call of the West and Work The Dumb Oracle shows a lot of growth and maturity. Let’s get into the songs…


“Back Towards Diamond Bar” is a killer opener. Short, sweet, to the point…there is no meandering around here. It’s also the shortest song on the CD (it never came out on vinyl). The music just takes off from here and never lets up.


“Police Call” is snakey and full of fuzzy brilliance. It could have easily been on Call of the West (which I will probably reference a lot here). I would have loved to see this performed live back in the day. Sadly, I’ve never seen Stan perform live. For one reason or another, I’ve never been able to make it to any of his shows in town. Wexstun’s keyboards are fantastic on “Police Call.”


“New Blue Mercedes” foreshadows our current political climate so well. The lyrics here are so good. “Blessed with no ambition, she was tired of selling sex there on the telephone” is a great line but when Ridgway says, “We are taking back America,” it makes me prick up my ears. In this case, though, Ridgway is talking about the little guy taking the country back and saying how the rich people deserve it.


“Bel Air Blues” is another great song with a cool chorus about the Menendez Brothers. Ridgway is a consummate story teller and while a lot of people might not get the reference today, the way he weaves in the French nursery song/melody, “Frere Jacques” into the song is brilliant. The guitar work here is really cool, as well.


Drywall cranks up the noise for “Hell In A Handbasket.” There is a bit of Jackofficers-style squiggly effects and a heavy beat. When “Highway Song” kicks in, the cool, yet slightly raunchy vamp is just about perfect. I like how Ridgway goes to highly effected vocals for the middle songs on the CD. It gives it a nice warmth. Of course, though, I love some effected vox.


For several months after getting this CD, it didn’t leave the player in my red Nissan pickup. I would do that a lot. Just listen to a CD over and over while driving around. I was going to ASU and working at Courtesy Chevrolet, so I had a lot of time to listen to music. This one took me a good long while to take it out and throw in something else.


We used to call Hillbilly Trent “Mr. Smith” so his involvement in our weirdness wouldn’t be reflected back on his parents. The song “Mr. Smith” is pretty sweet. Another great story by Ridgway. “I’ve been walking up this street all night long and I’m tired of looking for a place to piss.” Another great line.


“Time Wave Zero” and “Old Bent Coin” are also noisy as hell, but both are on the slower side of midtempo jams. I kind of think of these as the smoke break before the big finish. If Work The Dumb Oracle was a fireworks show, these two tracks are kind of the calm before the finale where the pace slows a bit, but it’s still beautiful.


As a fan of Ridgway, I’ve long appreciated his special ability for creating titles for his songs. “My Exclusive Sex Club” is one of his best song titles. The intro guitar riff just oozes sleaze and comes in and out during the song. “Have you seen this before?” he asks during the song a few times. No, Stan, I have not, but I like it. “There is a man upstairs, he’s hanging from a hook. The lady with tattoos looks like a coloring book.”  Good stuff.


“Triangle Head” shuffles along thanks to Ivan Knight’s drum tracks. One could easily forget this song if it wasn’t so darn interesting sounding. Knight provides such a cool, yet simple beat. It just keeps the song going and going until “Big American Problem” closes things out.


Drywall’s Work The Dumb Oracle has a ton of flavor and different moods to it. “Big American Problem” kind of encompasses it all in one final (and 7 minutes long) jam. Ridgway is rarely subtle with his social or political commentary, but he certainly does not hold back on this one. Like “New Blue Mercedes,” Ridgway takes a few chunks out of the hypocrisy of the rich on “Big American Problem.”


There are only two Drywall releases, but if you have to choose just one, let it be Work The Dumb Oracle. If you don’t like it, I’ll take your copy off your hands. Never hurts to have two copies of a great record.




See you tomorrow.

A still from The Mating Game. I pilfered this from the interwebs.

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I hope you are well soon!

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