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Entry date: 1-8-2024 – Random Thoughts – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Today is Ryan’s birthday. I can’t believe I have a son as old as he is, but I am certainly very proud of the man he has become. I hope this year brings us closer and closer together. I know what I need to do to help that along and I am committed to doing so. Love you, kiddo!

 

*****

 

Happy back to work day.

 

No, seriously. I am happy to be going back to work. The students and I did a lot of good work in 2023 and it’s great to be starting a new year and a new semester. I’m ready. I hope they are, too. I have ideas.

 

One of my ideas is to do some sort of project with the students to help them learn about how a farm works. It’s not that I’m really into or know much about farming, but fourth grade science standards are really about how systems work in the scientific world. It seems to me that there needs to be a system when it comes to farming and, if done right, it will also teach the students about how to use resources to make their own lives more enriched.

 

We’ll see how it goes.

 

*****

 

We went to the Cardinals game yesterday. It was really nice to spend the afternoon with my dad, brother, two sons, and my brother’s friend. It wasn’t the greatest ending, unfortunately, but I’m not super disappointed they lost since it will mean a better draft pick. If they would have won, it would have been a little more exciting, but in the grand scheme of things, they aren’t a good football team. It was way more fun to be with my family.

 

It was also nice to talk with Ryan a bit about my decision to stop drinking. He was very supportive and I’m sure he understands my decision as well as anyone can. He’s seen me make some pretty terrible decisions under the influence of alcohol. If I could take a few things back over the years when it comes to how booze has impacted my relationship with him, I would certainly do that.

 

***** 

 

Speaking of the booze thing, I really don’t want anyone to think that drinking around me is going to negatively impact our relationship in any way. I’m good with my decision and seeing people drink does not bother me. Sure, while at the game yesterday I saw a lot of people drinking and part of me would have liked to have had a beer, but I also thought about how I would feel this morning if I would have drunk a few and how much money I would have wasted buying beers out there.

 

Bottom line is that I’m doing this for a healthy me. I reserve the right to feel differently in the future and who knows, maybe some day I will figure out how to be a very moderate, occasional drinker who can have a tasty beverage and not worry about when the next one is coming or how I can go down to Total Wine or Orange Market or Parkside and Main and get another one.

 

I’m tired of thinking about it, to be honest. Maybe I will never stop, but last year when I took my three months off or so, I felt great, and a beer didn’t even sound good. Once I had one, though, it was on my mind all the time again.

 

*****

 

Brian and I were on a trip to California in 1989 when I scored my copy of Machine Gun Etiquette by The Damned on vinyl. I had loved The Damned since Bill introduced me to them in 1985. I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to the band, but it was love at first sight.

 

Machine Gun Etiquette was a bit of a tough one to find in those days. I had been searching for my own copy for a while, but if I found it, it was either too pricey or I didn’t have any money at all. Luckily, I did have a cassette of it that someone had dubbed me…probably Bill or Markus. I fell in love with the songs on Machine Gun Etiquette, though, and I had to have it.

 

“Melody Lee” is one of the two songs that really just grabbed me by the balls on this record. It could be the rolling piano intro before Captain Sensible’s huge guitar sound takes over or it could just be the ferocity of how Dave Vanian jumps on the lyrics and won’t let go. It is always a treat when they play this song live.

 

In fact, a somewhat recent treat was seeing The Damned play Machine Gun Etiquette in it’s entirety at Punk Rock Bowling a few years ago. I spent much of that hour with a giddy smile on my face. I had to pee at one point and was so bummed to be out of direct earshot for the minute or so it took to drain the vein.

 

The other song that really grabbed me in the 80s was “These Hands.” I just love the opening line, “These are the hands of a demented circus clown/Outside I’m laughing but inside I’m really wearing a frown.” It’s a demented song about killing a loved one by strangulation but it just resonated with me. Was I homicidal in those days? No, but the song made feel creepy in a really satisfying way.

 

Of course, “Smash It Up” is a great way to finish the record. Part 1 and 2 of the song will always remind me of being in Celebrity Theater up on stage with the band. They started playing “Smash It Up” after everyone got off the stage and that was it. The powers that be got real nervous and it’s a good thing they did.

 

From start to finish, Machine Gun Etiquette is just pure pleasure. It was the only record that Algy Ward played on as a member of the band, but his bass lines were great. “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” will always be a fave because of his work. I also can’t forget “Anti-Pope.” That is another scorcher that made me want to break things as a teenager.

 

Over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate the band’s terrific musicianship, too. Like yesterday’s record, this won’t be the only Damned record I write about this year. I’ll probably write about five more, to be honest. It’s one of the reasons I love them as much as any other band.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



The view from our seats...not bad at all.


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For my money, MGE is the best record of the original punk era, on any continent. Come to think of it, it's probably the last true punk record. It perfected the form and set the stage for punk to evolve.

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Strong words but I would have a hard time arguing against them. Always good to hear from you!

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