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Entry date: 3-1-2024 – A New Something – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Fuck February.

 

I mean, not all the way, like, to completion. February doesn’t deserve an orgasm. It had nice moments. There were a few fun things and good times and big laughs, but on the whole, I’m glad to be rid of its shit.

 

*****

 

Leap day was pretty decent. Things eased up on the home front a bit. Getting used to showering in a different shower. It’s been weird driving over to Doug’s and showering in the morning. Getting used to a different shower head and a steamier bathroom is always fun. We’re lucky to have access to a shower, though. I shouldn’t complain and I’m not really complaining.

 

My students were ridiculous by the end of the day. I keep harping on this, but they seem to be regressing when it comes to following my directions or the directions on an assignment. I’m about to try some reverse psychology and just tell them to do the assignments however they want.

 

Cocaine Baby had a decent morning and then the wheels fell off. He needs to be in a really controlled environment. On his own, he’s a danger to himself and others. I wish I was being overly dramatic here, but I’m not. Luckily there isn’t that one badass kid in the fourth grade at our school who could do serious damage to him.

 

That will be next year.

 

Hopefully Cocaine Baby figures out that he’s, as people used to say, “Cruisin’ for a bruisin’.” I don’t know if he has a sense of self-preservation, though. It was really cute to hear about his experience at the circus on Wednesday. Not sure which circus is in town, but he got to go on Wednesday, and it was all he could talk about yesterday in the morning.

 

*****

 

After work, I did a couple interviews that were great for the Placebo documentary. I’ll write more about them in the next couple of days after they wrap up. It was a long day yesterday, but was a nice way to end a shitty month.

 

*****

 

Hello March.

 

What do you have in store?

 

*****

 

I never expected the Grateful Dead to the be first band I wrote about for a second time in this year, 2024, of writing about albums I love. If you had asked in the days after I hatched this daunting plan, I would have guessed at least ten other bands that would have been the first double dip. Here we are, though, and Reckoning is an album I’ve been listening to a lot lately.

 

I always liked the cover of this album. A skull, crossbones, an immaculate heart with roses around it. What’s not to like? The music is pretty darn great, too.

 

Quite a bit of Reckoning was recorded at the Warfield in San Francisco in 1980. I happen to love the Warfield Theatre, but I had no idea this was the case until I bought the double cassette version in the early 90s. I had a tape player in my Nissan truck, so I had a nice little tape collection for a while. Reckoning was one of those cassettes.

 

This recording got me through a lot of tough times. It’s a live, acoustic record and there is something about it that is just comforting to me. Strangely, when I used to bring it up to some of my Deadhead friends, they kind of dismissed it as a lesser Dead record, but I love it. I used to put it on, and I would sort of instantly feel better.

 

For one thing, it’s got a lot of very gentle sounding songs on it. “Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie,” for example, is just a beautiful song. I totally dig “Dire Wolf” and “The Race Is On,” of course, but it’s the third song where I really start wrapping myself up in a Grateful Dead blanket. Something about Jerry Garcia’s vocal line just puts me at ease.

 

As a Dead fan, I’m not one to obsess over any particular member of the band. I’ve never wanted to get into that whole side of Deadheaded-ness. I do like the music, though, and seeing the band live really helped me understand why they were such a great band. I would have loved to have seen an acoustic performance, but I never got to be at one.

 

There are too many songs on Reckoning to talk about each one, but the flow of the record is just about perfect. The mood of “Oh, Babe It Ain’t No Lie” flows perfectly into “It Must Have Been the Roses,” for example. Both are kind of slower tempo, mildly sad songs about love, and my heart strings they do tug.

 

Last week, an old friend of mine passed away. I wrote about her in the regular part of the blog a few days ago. When we reconnected after a couple of decades of not talking, she shared with me that in one of her marriages (and she had a few), she had grown to really love the Dead. I told her of my affection for Reckoning and she bragged about having it on vinyl. I was jealous and offered to take it off her hands, but she just smiled and laughed.

 

Maybe I’ve been frequenting Reckoning for the last few months because the universe was telling me to break the silence between us. I don’t know. I’ll never know now, but listening to the record brings me a little peace. It’s really wonderful when music does that for you.

 

I think the Grateful Dead were plugged into that universal consciousness vibe as much as any band that I’ve ever known about, and Reckoning is really a perfect example of this thinking. As I mentioned, from the beginning of listening to it, it’s always had a peaceful, calming, and in some cases, joy-inducing effect on me. There are several other records that do this for me, too, but today, Reckoning is the perfect antidote for the often-overwhelming nature of daily life.

 

“Dark Hollow” and “China Doll” bring things down a lot, but they are still beautiful. The band picks things up, though, a little with “Been All Around This World” and then we get a little bluegrass type of thing “Monkey and the Engineer.” It’s a fun one sung by Bob Weir.

 

The nifty guitar pickin’ keeps on truckin’ (see what I did there) through “Jack-A-Roe” and then “Deep Elum Blues” keeps the train a rollin’. By the time we end up at “Cassidy,” we are back into some classic Dead. I can see the ladies and gentle boys doing the twirly dance to “Cassidy” if I shut my eyes. I saw them do “Cassidy” in Oakland in late October of that year. It was magical.

 

Bill Graham had died the day before, so you can imagine what the energy was like in the Oakland Coliseum that night. I wrote about that experience back in 2022. “Cassidy” is such a good song and the guitar flourishes that happen in this particular version are great.

 

There is some more nifty and nimble guitar work, along with some great piano from Brent Mydland on “Rosalie McFall.” I like that one a lot, but my favorite track on the whole enchilada is “Bird Song.” I did get to see them play “Bird Song” live once in Phoenix. I love that song with my whole heart. It’s fucking beautiful.

 

The way the guitar riff just sort of dances along just kills me. “Don’t cry now/Don’t you cry/Don’t you cry anymore/ La-la-la-la. Sleep in the stars/Don’t you cry/Dry your eyes on the wind/La-la-la-la.”

“Ripple” closes it out. I love that one, too. I would often just listen to the last side of cassette two when I was bummed in the early 90s. That was a lot in those days. Thank you, Grateful Dead, for keeping me company when I was lonely.

 

*****

 

Happy Friday!

 

See you tomorrow.



Buildings are so weird.

Where do all the funky doors

lead to off the stairs?

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