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Entry date: 2-26-2024 – Return of The Bet (et al) – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Happy Monday. I bid a fond farewell to my shower today. When I get home from work, it will be gone.

 

We’ve lived in our house for 17 years. It’s the longest I have ever lived anywhere by far (as I chronicled way back in the first year of our Ergonomic Mischief). Other than some paint, I haven’t changed a thing about my bathroom. At some point in the last several months, though, the plumbing underneath my shower has died.

 

Goodbye, old friend. Although I do look forward to your replacement, it’s been comforting being inside you about 5000 times or so if you factor in all the days I was out of town or being scummy.

 

It’s weird thinking about all the thoughts I have had in that shower. I do a lot of my best thinking in the shower, so it’s been the start of many ideas, for sure. It’s been a place where I have cast a lot of judgement on myself and washed away a lot of stress and pain.

 

I can’t believe I am eulogizing a shower.

 

*****

 

Yesterday I went to visit Granny and she said something that reminded me of a fun childhood memory. I was a big fan of Captain America as a kid and my grandfather fashioned the lid of a garbage can into a shield for me. I used to run around in the backyard playing “Captain Shield.”

 

I hadn’t thought of that for years. It’s definitely going to find its way into a story at some point.

 

*****

 

(The Bet)

 

Bobby Valencia led Jonathan to a trailer on the backlot of the studios where he and Vince Trantella were shooting Jimmy’s Brain. In a few years, it would be taken over by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas as part of the Zoetrope Studios family, but for now, it was still called Scommettere Studios. Trantella often chose Scommettere as he liked the soundstages on the property.

 

 

“What’s your name, pal?” asked Valencia.

 

“Jonathan. Jonathan Bieliewski.”

 

“Do you know how you got here, Jonny?”

 

Valencia had a habit of adding a Y to almost everyone’s name. He didn’t realize how offensive this might be to someone who was recently deceased and resurrected.

 

“I have no idea. The last thing I really remember clearly is sitting in my living room with a man I met earlier in the day. We were drinking scotch,” said Jonathan.

 

“Did he make you a bet?”

 

“Not that I remember.”

 

“Did anyone make you a bet recently?”

 

Jonathan thought for a moment, but nothing came up.

 

“I’m sorry, Mr…what was it again? This is all so strange.”

 

“Valencia, Jonny. I’m Bobby Valencia and you’re an actor in my film. Well, our film.”

 

“Mr. Valencia, with all due respect, what the fuck is going on? What happened to me?”

 

Jonathan shrugged and put his arms out to his sides as if to emphasize the question. He looked at his arms and his legs in disbelief. Valencia picked up on this. He remembered what it was like from when it had happened to him.

 

“Head into the bathroom, Jonny. Check yourself out in the mirror.”

 

Valencia pointed towards the back of the trailer. It was a small trailer and the accommodations were sparse, but there was a decently sized bathroom in the back with a sink, mirror, toilet, and tiny shower.

 

Jonathan stood up, then sat back down. He buried his head in his hands with his elbows resting on his knees. This gave Valencia another clear view of his cock and balls.

 

“Jesus, Jonny. You ever do any porn? We dabble on the side, sometimes, I mean, everybody does. Lotta money in the skin game…”

 

Valenica stopped talking when he heard Jonathan start to sob.

 

“Hey, hey. I’m sorry, Jonny. Truly. Forget I said anything.”

 

Valencia stood up and held out his hand.

 

“Let’s go get a look at you,” said Valenica, “You’re going to like what you see, I think. We’ve still go so much to talk about.”

 

 

Jonathan accepted Valencia’s hand and stood up. He straightened his robe and turned toward the bathroom. As he got to the door, he could see his reflection in the mirror.

 

“It’s me,” he said.

 

“How old are you, Jonny?”

 

“I’m…(he paused), I’m 78 years old.”

 

“Not anymore,” said Valencia as he put his arm around Jonathan’s shoulders and smiled.

 

*****

My buddy, Chris, used to talk about The Dandy Warhols a lot. I kind of ignored it, but I was intrigued. I had heard of them and listened to a few songs, but it took seeing the movie, Dig!, to really make me take notice.

 

What I like and, conversely, hate about The Dandy Warhols is their (hopefully) feigned arrogance. To me, the band comes off as pretending to be the coolest people on the planet and while it works for some music folks, it just doesn’t cut it for me. It’s better on a record.

 

I have heard enough stories from Chris over the years to know that at least ¾ of the band is pretty down to earth, but still. I love that they have this overarching attitude in the music, but to listen to their lead dude, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, talk makes me a little, as the kids say, cringey. He likes fucking with people, as do I, so maybe it is a bit of mishandled jealousy on my part.

 

Either way, I like their music and so here we go.

 

The Dandy Warhols Come Down is one of those records that says, “Hey! This indie rock thing is pretty rad.” It just sounds good to my earholes. After watching Dig!, for example, I thought both bands were very interesting, but I liked The Dandy Warhols’ stuff just a little bit more. As I dived into the catalogs, I kept going back to albums like Come Down and 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia (which may get a nod this year, we’ll see).

 

For me, Come Down edges out the latter because of two songs, “Boys Better” and “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth.” The first is a fave because it rocks and also because it is prominently featured in the film, Igby Goes Down, which I love. The second is just kind of a perfect song on many levels.

 

A lot of bands I love use fuzz well. One could extrapolate that I love fuzz, and I do, but I don’t go out of my way to make it happen in my own projects. For one, I’ve never been in charge of the guitar sound, and I would never tell someone what to play. Another reason is that the fuzz just sort of comes naturally in a lot of the projects I do.

 

I have to believe that The Dandy Warhols have carefully cultivated their sound. I don’t know this for a fact but based on what I know and have heard about them (again, thanks Chris), they are very conscious of what they want to sound like. As previously stated, I love the sound of Come Down. If you like a cool sounding record, this one is for you. I’m guessing it has been used as a sound reference for many bands when they tell their engineer what they want to sound like in the studio.

 

Those are fun discussions, by the way. I hope I get to have a few more before all is said and done. Back to our program…

 

I may have a secret envy thing going on Taylor-Taylor, too, because his songs are so fucking catchy. Even when they are not “Standout” tracks, they can still get the toes tappin’ and the neck flappin’. Yuck. I’m leaving “Neck flappin’” there because I need to be honest in my dorkiness, but I shan’t use it again.

 

“Be-In,” for example, is a typical Dandy’s kind of opener. It blooms like a beautiful flower, opening up to let the listener in on their whole vibe. It’s not some super memorable riff or particularly interesting, but it opens the door to Come Down. It helps that it also has the typical Dandy’s guitar riff progression.

 

I’m trying to think how to articulate it. Many of their songs have a kind of droning strum on a note and then do a quick two or three note change that just creates a total ear worm. As a musician, you love coming up with these kinds of hooks and as a fan, you’re drawn to them like a bee on a mission to pollinate the world.

 

“Boys Better” then picks up the ball and runs with it. For me, I’m hooked at this point and hoping I have the time to hang with this record for a while.  If there is a weak spot in the song, it might be the bridge for me, but I love the stuff that Zia McCabe throws in here. She saves that short part of the song and keeps it interesting. Hats off to her for keeping the low end cool, too, via keyboard.

 

“Minnesoter” is a fun song. Pure indie rock and cool stuff from guitarist Peter Holmström. His touches on songs are always flamboyant yet tasteful. He rarely seems to overplay, which could be part of Taylor-Taylor’s vision, or just knowing how the song needs to be played.

 

“Orange” and “I Love You” are lovely placeholders, but admittedly, I do find myself getting a little antsy in these songs to get to “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth.” I dig the guitar on “Orange,” and appreciate how it changes the pace of Come Down. It feels like a bit of a nod to the Pacific Northwest grunge scene, but not in a copycat kind of way. “I Love You” feels like a spacer, though, and one of those songs that a band like The Dandy Warhols does because they can.

 

“I never thought you’d be a junkie because heroin is so passé” is a fantastic first line. Clearly, I am a bit of a cool first line junkie. I can find them on just about any record that I love. “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth” is another catchy little treat. McCabe shines on this one, too.

 

“Everyday Should Be A Holiday” is another very typical Dandy’s song. I like it when they pick up the tempo a bit for a little booty shaking. They do it well and this one is a mover and shaker. It’s got a bit of a Manchester-ish sound, too.

 

There is an East Asian/faux sitar kind of thing going on with a lot of their songs, too. “Good Morning” is a good example of this in the intro. They have the guitars all quaky and wavering (no, I didn’t say “unwavering”, and I am not AI) and it is pretty boss. Taylor-Taylor goes a little lower in his register, too, which is a nice change of pace. The guy can sing. Maybe I don’t hate him.

 

I could go on about the rest of the record, but I’d just be repeating myself. As with other records in this list, the weak moments here are few and far between. “Whipping Tree” is another change of pace and sound song. It works on all the levels, but it’s not super inspiring or important here for me. “Green,” is kind of the same. It’s pretty sounding and I love songs with my favorite color in the title, typically, but it barely moves my needle.

 

Any band that pays homage to Kim Deal is pretty okay with me, too. I do like “Cool as Kim Deal.” Mainly because of the title, of course, but it is a fitting tribute. Who doesn’t want a girl as cool as Kim Deal. I’m pretty lucky here, though, because my wife is even cooler.

 

As I was diving into this record, I noticed that the last three songs on the record are the ones that give band members other than Taylor-Taylor writing credit. Maybe I do hate him or maybe I’m just reading too much into it. “Hard On For Jesus” would have fit in on side one. I’m not a huge fan of the atmospheric bit that is “Pete International Airport” but it’s another palate cleanser kind of song. “The Creep Out” is a big, cool sounding ender, though, even drummer Eric Hedford gets a writing credit! I bet he probably can afford a new couch with his royalties.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



As I was cleaning out my soon to be demolished bathroom, I found my secret pandemic stash of TP. This is the luckiest role of toilet paper on the planet.

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