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Entry date: 2-2-2024 – These Great Thoughts the Disappear – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Lately it seems that just after I upload the daily blog, I have these deep thoughts and think, “I want to write about that later.” The problem I am faced with, though, is that I keep forgetting them. I usually add a note to my phone so I don’t forget, but I’ve had a couple of real doozies in the last few days that would make a really good blog entry and poof, they are gone.

 

The one from yesterday morning while I was getting ready for work seemed so great, too. It was something that I thought could really help people other than myself. Here I sit now, and I can’t recall what it was at all. For all I know, it might have been peanut butter. I’m sure you can see through my guise and, yes, I’m trying to jog the old memory.

 

Alas, alack, it’s no use.

 

*****

 

One of the benefits of doing these record write ups is that it is really bringing a lot of old memories up for me. It works kind of like how driving through particular neighborhoods brings up things, too. Almost all of the records I have written about so far have been part of my life for a long time. They are my sound track, I suppose.

 

***** 

 

Yesterday, I was driving near my house on my way home taking some side streets. I remembered a night back in early June of 1986. A female friend of mine and I were going to go out for the evening. She had just turned 16 and was a brand-new driver. We liked to party a lot together and she suggested that we get some weed.

 

I was game, of course. It was 1986 and weed was a big part of my agenda. A guy she knew from the mall lived in the neighborhood just north of where I live now and he had weed, so we headed to his house. He was a bit older than us, probably 19 or 20, and he and I really didn’t get along so well. I knew him because she knew him. It was that kind of thing.

 

Because of this air of tension, which had probably been fabricated by my friend, I waited in the car while she went into the house. She kind of liked to have these tensions going on around her between the men in her life. It had to be some sort of teenage ego stroke, maybe, or it was something else. Who knows? I still don’t understand why women do things a lot of the time and I mean that in the sweetest way possible.

 

So, I waited, and she eventually came out with some weed. Maybe it was a joint, I don’t know. Either way, we went to the park and got high.

 

It was the first week of summer and a weeknight, but the possibilities were endless. She knew of a liquor store that liked to sell beer to teenage girls, so we went and got some Budweiser. I think we probably went to another park and drank there. I honestly don’t remember where we went, but I didn’t care. I was happy to be out for some fun with her, just the two of us.

 

It occurs to me now that as much as I still don’t always understand the whys and wherefores of why women do things, I really didn’t know women back then. I was sixteen and I had feelings for this gal. Teenage feelings. I also had no idea of my own self-worth back then. I would have eaten a lot of metaphorical shit for this woman and over the years, I certainly did.

 

If it seems like I am angry about this, I am not. It’s a strange little memory that I can now forgive myself for because I did absolutely nothing wrong. Anyway, we drove around a bit and got a little drunk and high and eventually ended up back on the street in front of the apartment complex where my mom and I lived back then.

 

We sat and talked for a while, and I was really concerned about her driving home. She was definitely tipsy, and she had to drive on Camelback Road to get home, at least for a half mile or so. I asked her to come in and lay down, but she was a new driver and had to get the car home.

 

She and I also ended up kissing a little bit, which was a first for us. This shocked the hell out of me because she initiated it. Very rarely in those days did I ever initiate these kinds of things. I was not very good at the Don Juan stuff in 1986. I was more like Don Dork.

 

I think the kissing might have made her nervous and wanting to get out of there even more. Who knows. Who cares, really? It was almost 38 years ago. Before she drove off, I asked her one more time to come in and call her mom and let her know she was going to hang out with me for a bit longer, but that answer was a “no.”

 

The next day, I tried to call her and got nothing. Eventually, I was at the mall, and she was at work and she told me that we had to take a month long break in our friendship because she had gotten a DUI. Somehow it was my fault. I thought this was bullshit, but what could I do? I didn’t understand at all. Even the weed guy was like, “Dude, that’s harsh,” when I saw him at the store he worked at.

 

Yesterday as I drove home, thinking about this stupid situation, it occurred to me that I could have cut a lot of losses in my life if I had just said, “A month? Ha! Take your whole life, sweetheart. I tried to stop you from driving.” Then I thought about all the things that would not have happened to me, good and bad, if that friendship had just stopped then.

 

Hindsight is a bitch.

 

*****

 

Being a word person, I can blame a lot of my musical taste on things I’ve read. At some point in the mid-to-late 2000s, I read glowing things about solo artist Ben Kweller, so I checked out a rerun of when he played on Austin City Limits and fell in love. It could have been the timing and this or that going on in my life, but the guy just writes the catchiest songs.

 

I picked up a copy of Sha Sha which was five or six years old by the time I got to it. I was giddy about it, too. Such a fun record and, apparently, I am a real sucker for his brand of indie pop. I happen to like the cover a lot, as well. Something about a very young Ben Kweller with his toothbrush in his mouth and a goofy hat on just speaks to me.

 

When I think of this record, one of the first things that comes to mind is that when I turned my wife on to it, she loved it, too. Then she started playing it for the kids and they loved it. Ben Kweller has a little something for everyone. It made me so happy to have something that the older kids really liked and gravitated towards at a time when sometimes we struggled to find things in common.

 

Music has the power to unite people and Ben Kweller is a purveyor of music that just about anyone can get into on some level. Sha Sha may be a little on the sweet side for some, but it’s got enough rockin’ moments that even a jaded ol’ fucker (like I often am) can let his guard down. It’s a really wonderful record.

 

From the first piano chords of “How It Should Be (Sha Sha)” to “Falling,” Sha Sha just flows. Poppy, playful, and wonderfully arranged, this is another record where there really just isn’t any weak moments. Let’s start at the top, though.

 

“How It Should Be (Sha Sha)” is just under two minutes of pop bliss. Kweller sings, “That’s how it should be,” and he’s right. “Sha sha! Sha Doo.” Listen to it and bop it out.

 

Next up is “Wasted and Ready.” I had heard about this one and there is a certain Beck quality to the lyrics here. They have that feel of kind of being a stream of consciousness type of thing, and like Beck, they are clever and easy to sing along with fairly quickly. Something tells me the two of those guys would make an epic record together.

 

“Family Tree” is sweet and tender. It’s a love song wrapped in a diss track to the press. “You are my family tree, be good to me (ee-ee), take care of me (ee-ee) …bop bop, bop bop” is such a catchy chorus. It’s always made me think of a short poem I wrote back in the early 90s:

 

I bend sentences in your shadow

Twisting my words out of thoughts and feelings.

Thorny branches of my memory tree,

Spread out over me, protect me.

 

It was always comforting me to know that there was this kid (well, he’s twelve years or so younger than me) out there who could put together such a smart, charming, and hip as fuck record. I listen to his songs, especially “Commerce, TX” and just know, he gets me. Maybe it’s more that I get him, but I can’t imagine Ben Kweller being anything but super fucking cool.

 

“In Other Words” is another one that starts off with piano. It’s kind of a sad one, too, and a bit heavy lyrically, but there is hope in Kweller’s voice throughout. There is no sense of bleakness, though, because it the hope just sort of oozes from its sonic pores. “But it’s beautiful…” he sings over some wistful piano before the ending rises up around the 3:30 mark.

 

“It starts stopping when it stops stoppin’!”

 

I urge you to listen to “In Other Words” if you are ever having a bad day. It’s a song that kind of puts its arm around you and then gives you a little pat on the back. The next thing you know, there is a gentle BK shove, and off you go to a better mood.

 

“Walk on Me” is pretty darn brilliant, too. Another one that helps you see through what’s troubling you so you can move forward. I never really realized that Sha Sha is kind of a break up record and a record about falling in love. It has it all when it comes to love.

 

“Make It Up” is pretty solid pop/rock replete with some nice crunchy guitars and a big bouncy bridge. “No Reason” is another solid pop/rock song, too. I don’t skip these songs by any stretch of the imagination, but they aren’t the most remarkable ones on the record.

 

I love “Lizzy,” though. It’s about Kweller’s wife and you can feel the pain in his voice as he sings about them being in two separate states because of their jobs at the time. It’s also got some really nifty acoustic guitars in it. So many great lyrics in this one, too.

 

“Harriet’s Got a Song” is grungy and great. Just perfect and has a little minor chording in it that swells to something bigger and better than I could ever do. Well, at least not yet. Sha Sha is inspiring, to say the least. “Falling” closes out the record in much the same way it began. Piano riff to start that builds into a great chorus and a great song.

 

If you get a chance to see Ben Kweller live, do it. He played Valley Bar several years ago and it was awesome. The Austin City Limits episode where he plays all of Sha Sha is pretty choice, too. You can find that online, I’m sure.

 

***** 

 

See you tomorrow.



This was a fun day of kayaking.

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