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Entry date: 1-29-2024 – Feeling Stronger Every Day (the Bet) – Letters to My Friends

Updated: Jan 30

Dear Friends,

 

I can’t really say that I’m stoked that it’s Monday, but I am happy to be feeling a lot better. I made a point of resting this weekend and it seems to have worked. Let’s see how the day of teaching goes, though. That could suck the life right out of me again.

 

*****

 

Doug is still in the hospital, but Rhondi talked to the doctor yesterday and things are bit more clear now. It is not dire, but it is serious. They are watching him closely and hoping he responds to the therapy they are trying. Fingers and toes are crossed. Much appreciation to those who have been reaching out, sending good juju, and just being great. Thank you.

 

*****

 

Interesting day of football yesterday. The Lions…oh man. I was so excited.

 

*****

Here’s some new fiction: The Bet installment 431 (not quite that many):

 

Still feeling a bit unsettled about the first greeting card, Friday was not quick to pick up the card. Instead, she stood there in the middle of her living room and stared at the small, rectangular envelope on the floor. While it looked like another greeting card, it seemed smaller than the one from earlier that morning.

 

Finally, she broke the spell captivating her head and walked the three steps to where the card was on the floor, bent over with her usual grace, and picked up the envelope. She turned it over and printed neatly on the front was her legal name: Friday June Adams.

 

Nobody called Friday by her legal name.

 

In fact, her father hadn’t been born an “Adams.” Fredrick Inslee (AKA Freddy Adams) had legally changed his name on the advice from his grandmother, Belle, who had been an actress in the silent film days. She never really explained why, but Freddy’s agent had also thought it was a good idea, so he went along.

 

 

Friday had been bitten by the acting bug at a young age. She had played the child of both her parents in more movies than she could remember, although rarely did she have a speaking part until she was around 11 or 12. It was around this time she decided to change her name.

 

 

One day after school, she and Melanie had been idly thumbing through a Neiman Marcus catalog looking for potential Christmas presents. They came across a page featuring caftans from Yves St. Laurent and the word “vermillion” caught Friday’s eye.

 

“That’s it,” she had said.

 

“That’s what,” asked Melanie who had just put a peanut butter cookie in her mouth. They were Melanie’s favorite. A few years later when Nutter Butter’s came out, Friday and her friends thought they might have to tell Mrs. Stark that Melanie had a problem.

 

“My name. I’m Friday Vermillion,” she had said proudly.

 

“I like it,” Melanie said, grabbing another cookie.

 

“I think I’m going to order this for my mom,” Friday said, pointing at the caftan. “I’m going to order it in vermillion.” She let the word roll luxuriously out of her mouth and both girls ended up giggling their asses off.

 

When Friday had turned 18, she followed in her father’s footsteps with the blessing of her parents and legally changed her name to Friday Vermillion. No middle name and no “Adams.” She was who she was, but now this weird card.

 

“What the hell?” she asked out loud and opened the card.

 

*****

 

Back in the days when I was working for Casa and travelling around from school to school each week, I would often have down time in whatever neighborhood I was working in. One week, I was way out in east Mesa, almost to Apache Junction. There was nothing around the school and I had a two-hour break between classes, so I found the local Walmart one day and spent some time digging through the cheap CD bin.

 

Over the years, I’ve found quite a few gems in there, but during this particular week, I stumbled on a Rhino Records’ release of Chicago IX – Chicago’s Greatest Hits for $3. I just happened to have $3 on me and I’ve always thought “25 or 6 to 4” would make a great cover song, so I snatched it up. I remember going out to my truck and throwing it in the CD player while I looked at the Superstition Mountains up close.

 

“25 or 6 to 4” is the first track, so I knew I would, at very least, enjoy the hell out of that one. I still had an hour or more to kill, so I started driving towards the mountains. I think I was on University, maybe or one of the east/west roads that run toward the Superstitions. It was kind of an overcast day and the Superstitions looked amazing. I just kept driving, listening to the music and really diving into the musicianship.

 

Those first iterations of Chicago were filled with some heavy players. I don’t know much about the band, to be honest, but they could just play. In the last ten years, I’ve seen at least one documentary on the band and now know they had some weird chemistry issues and such, but they could really rock in a totally easy listening kind of way.

 

Chicago IX goes right into “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” after “25 or 6 to 4” and it kept me driving along, getting farther and farther from the school. I figured I could almost make it to the river and back, so I headed that way. The words to “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” got into my brain and I just sort of got into it.

 

I had no plans on liking any of the other songs on the record. Obviously, I’d heard this one before. I grew up in the 70s. It was a popular song, I guess, but I had never paid any attention. Sure, some of the horn stuff grated on me a bit, but over the years, I’ve gotten quite fond of it, especially the part where there is some spoken word underneath in the mix. I wonder if the guys in Gang of Four stole that stuff for their own weaving of singing and talking.

 

Admittedly, I have to be in the mood for “Color My World,” but recent discussions of adding flute to the Living Room Collective have made me see the song in a new light. “Just You and Me” is an easy listening classic and reminds me of riding around in my mom’s car when I was a little guy. I can see how she would have liked this song, but my memory could be fabricating that whole thing.

 

These are both good songs to drive around the desert to, though. When “Saturday In The Park” kicks in, you’re in (to borrow a term from the classic Dan Ackroyd/Eddie Murphy/Jamie Lee Curtis movie Trading Places) “a stone, cold groove.” It’s just a delightful song about spending a great day doing fun things. Kind of the spiritual, albeit sunny, cousin of “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed. Weird that both of those songs came out in the same year.

 

It was about this point where I got to one of the first places you can see the river and I sat and looked at it for a bit. I listened to “Feeling Stronger Every Day” and thought about not going back to the school I was speaking at, but that would have been dumb. I loved the work I got to do for schools back in those days and “Feeling Stronger Every Day” is almost impossible to not get jazzed up by. I wonder what a punk rock version would sound like.

 

 

I was certainly in a good mood by the time I got back to work. I think it was a few weeks before I took it out of my CD player (some of you might see a pattern here).   I’m a creature of habit and can eat the same food for days on end without getting bummed. It’s the same with music. If something is agreeing with me, I can listen to it for a long time. Nowadays, though, it’s a lot easier to listen to a wider variety of stuff. There is no CD to take out.

 

Maybe I’m just exceptionally lazy.

 

“Make Me Smile” is a good song, too. The interplay of Chicago’s horn section is just so great. Why can’t newer ska bands take a cue from this? I might be able to get more excited about them. “Wishing You Were Here” is another one that just grabs my heart strings if it hits me at the right moment. It’s a really pretty ballad and this is coming from a guy who is not a fan of ballads, but I have to admit that I’ve skipped it a bunch of times, too. Sometimes you don’t want to hear that stuff.

 

I skip “Call on Me” most of the time. Just don’t care about it. Usually, I blow right by (I’ve Been” Searchin’ so Long,” as well. It’s a bit of a moaner, as in “moaning wimp” song. This is where Chicago totally loses me and I realize that for me, the good Chicago music came when they were probably still smoking a shit ton of weed and hadn’t found cocaine yet.

 

“Beginnings” is a good jam, though, and a mid-to-up-tempo number to end on. I really like it, to be honest. It just grooves along and has those catchy “Whoa-ohs.” Don’t be afraid to embrace your inner-easy listener. It’s not as bad or scary as you might think.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



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