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Entry date: 3-27-2024 – Bag People – Letters to My Friends


Dear Friends,

 

It occurred to me yesterday morning as I unpacked my three plastic bags at Doug’s house that I am a bag person now. One bag had my bathroom kit: hairbrush, toothbrush and paste, deodorant, etc. The next bag had my shoes and socks. The third had my undershirt, underwear, and belt.

 

I am a bag person.

 

*****

 

I am not complaining. I have an easier life than most of my fellow bag people.

 

***** 

 

The bag man throws no stones.

People who live out of plastic bags should never do that.

Stones rip the shit out of grocery store plastic bag.

 

The bag man never complains.

No one listens.

If you can’t make eye contact, you’re not going to listen.

 

The bag man knows this.

He shrugs inwardly and looks for a stronger bag.

They exist.

 

The bag man counts on his bags

More than he counts on you.

But it’s nice when you’re nice.

 

*****

 

(The Bet)

“Aidan!”

The actor didn’t budge.

 

“AIDAN!!!! Wake up, man!” yelled Sean Engel.

 

Engel was Aidan Mann’s best friend and while it had never been officially stated, he was also his de facto assistant.

 

It was 10AM and Mann had been due on the Jimmy’s Brain set an hour ago, but here he was, sleeping like a rock.  A PA from the set, Buddy or Billy or something, had been pounding on the door of the house they had rented in the Hollywood Hills for the last twenty minutes.

 

Engel and Mann had really tied one on the night before. It started off as a couple of beers while they ran some lines, but after a few beers, Mann had opened up to Engel about this girl from the movie he’d been seeing, Friday Vermillion.

 

The way Mann said “Vermillion” set off alarm bells in Engel. He and Mann had been friends for about six years since Mann turned up in his ‘Fundamentals of Acting’ class at the University of Arizona in 1968. He was just a confused kid, Engel thought, and even now, he’s still a confused kid with great looks and a good heart.

 

“Get UP!!! Dipshit!” Engel shouted and Mann finally stirred.

 

“Fuck off. I’m not due at the set until 9,” mumbled Mann who rolled back over.

 

“It’s five after 10, Dipshit. Buddy or Billy or something like that is here to drive you to the set. GET UP!”

 

Usually, Mann was a lot more responsible, but Engel had noticed a shift in his friend since he signed on to this flick. Something was…off. That was the only word Engel could have used if someone had asked him.

 

In the summer of 1970, Mann got his first real break. An associate producer named Troy Allen was working on “Two Mules for Sister Sara” in Tucson and needed a couple of background cowboys. Allen was a friend of Engel and Mann’s acting teacher, Donna Verlaine, and she had recommended her two favorite pupils.

 

That opportunity got Mann in front of a few other people, and by the fall of 1970, he had dropped out of U of A and headed to Hollywood. After a few months of trying it on his own, he called Engel and begged him to come out and be his roommate. When Mann got cast in a film called A Monument to Destroy, which was about a forgotten World War II mission, he made enough money to quit waiting tables Ma Maison where he and Engel had been lucky enough to land jobs. It was the place to see and be seen in those days.

 

Engel had stayed working at Ma Maison while his friend was off making one movie after the other. His acting career never really took off, but he did get a small part here and there, usually in films Mann was working on.

 

He had gone with Mann to the first meeting with Vince Trantella but hadn’t been offered a part. Engel realized that Trantella only had eyes for Aidan and that was okay. There was something about Trantella that Engel just didn’t like, but he had kept his mouth shut. The script was funny, and it was a great opportunity for his friend.

 

“Okay, okay. I’m up,” Mann said, pulling back the covers. “Tell Barney I’ll be out in ten minutes.”

 

 

 

 

*****

 

Zia Records and I have a symbiotic relationship. I support them, they support me. This happened a lot as I was growing up. I spent (and still spend) a fair amount of money there. In the early years, it was a good percentage of my available funds a lot of the time. Now, not so much, but I’m glad they are there.

 

Local record stores are something that everyone should support, no matter where you live. Amoeba in California, for example, is a pretty cool place. I’ve been to their stores in the bay area and down in LA. When I lived in Berkeley, I was there once a week. It was the same for Zia for many years here in Phoenix.

 

I’ve written about the big Sub Pop sale in 1992. I got several great CDs during that sale and one of them was Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock by Sebadoh. That record is not the subject today, but it was my introduction to a band that became one of my favorites in the early 1990s. I bought everything the band put out and loved each release for different reasons.

 

To be candid, some days I really identify with Lou Barlow’s songs and sometimes, I think Barlow is really whiny. It just seems like he’s being way too sad about some girl and being lonely or sick of J. Mascis (his Dinosaur Jr. bandmate) Some days I am more into Jason Loewenstein’s songs. They tend to be a bit more on the punk rock side of the indie/lo-fi thing Sebadoh does so well.

 

Most days, really, I like Loewenstein’s songs better, but I have a real soft spot for Barlow’s lyrics. Both are great, though, and that’s why I love Sebadoh. If I need to be a little more sensitive, I can always find my buddy, Lou, and if I want to be fuzzy and rockin’, there’s Jason.

 

I actually got to meet Lou once and he was really great. I think I wrote about that in my first piece on Dinosaur Jr. I haven’t met the other Sebadoh guys, but I certainly saw them a good handful of times.

 

In 1993, they released a preview kind of thing, 4 Song CD, that contained a bunch (not 4 as advertised on the cover) of tracks that would be on their excellent record, Bakesale, the next year. This time around, Bob Fay was on drums, and he contributed some noisy sound collages to 4 Song CD that serve the disc in a good way.

 

The versions of the songs from Bakesale are a bit rawer on 4 Song CD and because they are surrounded by some outtakes from the recording sessions that were later added to a Bakesale reissue back in 2011.

 

 

Come to think of it, I’ll probably write about Bakesale eventually, too. I really do love that record, but there is something about 4 Song CD that always keeps me coming back to it after all these years.  Fay starts the party with a short sound collage called “MOR Backlash” that is kind of noisy and cool. When I got this, it was probably the fifth Sebadoh CD in my collection and I was used to their experimental side, but Fay added a whole new edge. It’s a lot of delay, reverb, and crazy sounds, a fucked up “Whole Lotta Love” sample, and cool noises, but it is also short and sweet. He does something similar with John Coltrane’s “Naima” a bit later, too.

 

Barlow is up after “MOR Backlash” with “Rebound,” which would probably grow to be Sebadoh’s most popular song at that point. It’s a great piece of indie-pop writing. Catchy, great lyrics, and it moves along at a nice clip. I love the line, too, where Barlow sings, “No one lives their life/Doing all the things they say they should.” We can all identify with that.

 

“Not a Friend” is one of the sadder Barlow songs, but even though it starts off as a bit of a moaner, it builds into something way more self-affirming. The band builds their riff along with Barlow’s increased confidence and by the end, you’re rooting for the guy again. It’s fuzzy and upbeat at the end after starting out sounding like someone is getting ready to drain a lot of blood from their wrists.

 

Loewenstein contributes “Careful” next, and it has a great pace to it, plus he plays a pretty nifty bass line. When I saw the band play live, the guys would switch instruments a lot, so I am going to assume it was Loewenstein on the bass on the record because it was his song, but who knows…I certainly can’t say fo’ sho’. I just like it.

 

Fay is back with “Foreground” which has a bit of jazzy piano and some spoken word stuff, probably studio chatter, in the background and the aforementioned “Naima.” “Naima” is on 4 Song CD but I’m guessing it is nowhere else because of licensing. Too bad. It’s fun.

 

Those two create a noisy spacer between “Careful” and one of my all-time favorite instrumental tracks on any record by anyone. “40203” is a song that I just dearly love.

 

The riff is kind of dreamy with a circular feel. It ascends and descends and wraps around itself. I bet I’ve listened to it well over 1000 times. Sometimes I would just hit ‘repeat’ when I was listening while driving. It seemed to pop up at the perfect time a lot, too, when I would listen to this disc.

 

If the sun was coming through the clouds in a really beautiful way, for example, “40203” would be on. I don’t know why. I love songs like this that evoke strong emotions in me. As I think about why I like it so much, it is really hard to express in words. I just want to wrap it up in a bow and give it away so that someone else might love it, too.

 

Until now, I’ve never been curious about what “40203” might mean. It’s a zip code in Louisville, KY. I don’t even want to speculate. It’s perfect, no matter what.

 

“Mystery Man” is a solid Barlow tune, for sure, and this version is stripped down compared to the track on Bakesale. I like it, but everything kind of pales for me after “40203” to be completely honest. “Drumstick Jumble” is another Fay sound collage and then “Lime Kiln” closes out 4 Song CD.

 

“Lime Kiln” is a Loewenstein tune that is pretty mellow for him, even with the fuzzed out electric guitar that weaves it’s way in between the distorted acoustic guitar, bass, and tick-tacky percussion that sounds like it is probably found objects. It’s another one to like and if you’re a Kurt Cobain fan, you might even hear something in there that reminds you of your dead hero.

 

You know, speaking of Cobain, I think if he had lived long enough, he might have put out a record that was not far off from what Sebadoh did so well. Maybe?

 

Again, I put it out there…if anyone wants to do a band like this, hit me up.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



I like how this is weirdly cropped. I stole it.

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