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Entry date: 3-31-2024 – Happy Easter, I presume – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Word to the wise on this fine, wet, Easter morning. If you ever do any jackhammering, get more than one attachment for the jackhammer. I would have probably saved myself an hour or more if I had just rented the chisel attachment, too. Clearly the young kid who rented it to me didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about when he said, “You’ll be fine with the pointy one.”

 I mean, the pointy one worked, but the chisel would have been so much easier once I got a decent hole started. Live, jackhammer, and learn. If you’re reading this now, you know, too.

 

More words to the wise. Dishwashers are not hard to install. I always thought they would be harder to do. I think the next time I have to do one, it won’t take nearly as long as the one yesterday did. I can be handy, to an extent.

 

*****

 

I was trying to think last night if I have any really fond Easter memories. As a kid, I liked going over to my grandparents’ houses on Easter and finding Easter Eggs, I suppose. My mom used to save the big L’eggs panty hose egg-shaped containers and put stuff in them for me. I have some choice photos of Ben and I dressed up, too. I shared those the first year of the blog.

 

Today, Mia will visit for breakfast and Ryan will do a little plumbing. Later this afternoon, we will go over to Doug’s for dinner and in the meantime, I will visit Granny and record some bass lines over at Michaels’ house. It’s been a full weekend, that’s for sure. Hopefully, I can get some good rest tonight.

 

*****   

(The Bet)

At 7:30 that night, Sean was delighted to see Arlene Whitley and her friend, Shirley Knight, being seated at one of his tables. He had worked with Arlene on the last film he had done, The Bad Egg, and had worked on an episode of Barnaby Jones with Shirley a few years before that.

 

Both ladies were already a couple of cocktails in, it seemed, and each of them greeted Sean with a kiss.

 

“Dear boy, when are you going to quit this place and come live with me,” Arlene teased.

 

“You can’t afford me,” Sean joked back.

 

This made Shirley laugh a little too hard, but she did have a wonderful laugh, and several other nearby patrons turned to look at her. She must’ve picked up on this because she threw her head back and extended the laugh as if Sean had said the funniest thing ever.

 

 

“Are you filming anything right now, Sean?” asked Shirley when she calmed down a bit.

 

“Not right now, unfortunately. Just working here and auditioning here and there. What are you two celebrating?” asked Sean as he nodded toward their cocktails.

 

“We are just catching up. We did a play in New York last year, dear. You would’ve been perfect for the role of "Durwood," but the play closed just before Thanksgiving. Pity,” said Arlene, letting the last syllable of “pity” drag out.

 

“Looking for anything special tonight, ladies?” Sean wanted to change the subject.

 

“Just tell Wolfman back there to surprise us,” said Arlene. She always referred to Chef Wolfgang Puck as “Wolfman” and he ate it up.

 

“I’ll go along with that, Sean, thank you,” added Shirley who was always so polite.

 

Sean wondered how the two of them got along so well. Arlene was the stereotypical Hollywood star on the verge of being, not a has been really, but a “once was.” Shirley, on the other hand, was graceful and kind. She had won a Tony not long after Sean had worked with her and had been nominated for a couple of Academy Awards, too.

 

Arlene, a former beauty queen, had a lot of success in the 1950s and 60s in film and TV. She was definitely slumming it a bit on The Bad Egg, which had been a low budget horror film that revolved around Easter. Arlene and Sean had hit it off from the first few days of pre-production.

 

She had played Sean’s mother and her younger son, played by Brian Forster, who had been on The Partridge Family, got killed in the first half of the film by the “Easter Egg Killer,” who was played by Norman Fell. Sean’s part was small, but Arlene spent the rest of the film trying to track down the killer, only to fall victim to Fell’s character in the end. Sean had a great scene, though, as he was the one who discovered her body, but as Fell jumped out and stabbed him with a carrot-shaped blade.

 

It was terrible but a lot of fun.

 

“Can I freshen up those drinks for you two?” Sean asked.

 

“Yes and keep them coming. I’ve got Shirley all night,” Arlene replied.

 

“Sounds good. I’ll be right back with those.” He started to walk away but did an about face and came back to the table. “It’s good that you are here. I think you might be able to help me with something…maybe even both of you,” Sean said.

 

“Mmm, goody,” purred Arlene, ”Shirley’s a married lady, but for you, I bet she’d make an exception.”

 

This brought both ladies to giggles and Sean went off to get their drinks.

 

*****

 

My buddy, Geoff, used to work at Eastside Records in Tempe. I’ve mentioned it a lot and I definitely loved hanging out there while I waited for traffic to calm down back in the early 90s. I lived on 19th Avenue, just south of Northern, so driving from ASU to there could be a bit of a bear during rush hour. Geoff, Mike, and Ben at Eastside gave me a place to hang out, spend a few bucks, and find a ton of great music that was new to me.

 

Geoff turned me on to a New York band called Fly Ashtray at some point in 1992. I really liked what they were doing, and I remember asking if there was any more of their stuff to check out. There wasn’t, but what he did have for me that day was a band called Uncle Wiggly. As a skater, this name wasn’t lost on me, but the band spelled it a little differently than the skate brand.

 

Uncle Wiggly was an off shoot of Fly Ashtray as the trio shared two members, James Kavoussi and Michael Anzalone. Wm. Berger rounded out the lineup for Uncle Wiggly and a band was born. They had a really cool sound, I thought, back then and I listened to the first record of theirs I bought, Across the Room and Into Your Lap, a lot.

 

Because of the influence of a lot of the weirder, indie rock kind of bands I was listening to at the time, my musical career could have really started off in a different way. If I would have met the right people, there might not have been a Hillbilly Devilspeak at all. My first serious band could have been something a lot like Uncle Wiggly.

 

I like how the band crafted their songs. From what I’ve read about them, each of the dudes contributed songs and they switched instruments a lot, so I’m not going to hazard a guess at who played what. Something tells me I am probably the only person in the world listening to this record at this exact moment and that’s okay.

 

“Stick Up You Smile” is a fun little opener. “Straighten out your teeth and look away/Stick up your smile for us today,” is a cool opening line. The vocals are layered and work nicely with the fuzzy guitars, loping bassline, and simple drums. These guys probably knew they had something fun and cool from the first time they jammed.

 

“That movie star/he’s been working so hard/he needs more time to be alone,” is another great line. Lyrically, I like this album a lot, but there are also a lot of heavily instrumental parts, too. Across the Room and Into Your Lap has sixteen tracks over almost 43 minutes, but it never seems like the record is crowded at all, if that makes sense.

 

Because each of the guys wrote, there is a lot of variety while still sounding like the same band. “Nerve” has a similar feel to “Stick Up Your Smile,” but there is definitely movement and change happening even across the first two tracks. “Morphine Ice Cream” is a cool title for a song and also a really good riff, too.

 

It starts with a heavily picked guitar riff that kind of restarts the cycle each time that I like. It’s simple and seems like something I could probably play (this always makes me feel good), but it’s catchy and adds to the song. The lyrics are kind of lowbrow silly and nerdy.

 

“Hope So, Hope Soon,” is kind of just there. It’s typical early 90s indie rock. It’s nice little riff, I suppose, and as a song, I don’t hate it, but it’s not super motivating to me. “Build Your Own Monster” is way more interesting to me. It has a cool bassline and some weird vocal stuff happening as it winds into “That Piece of String,” which is kind of early Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett sounding.

 

In fact, I have to believe these guys were probably all big Syd Barrett fans. A lot of the tracks have that same type of quirkiness that some of the early Floyd and Barrett’s solo stuff have. “Express” is a spacey riff that kind of ambles along without a care in the world.

 

“Best Boy” ambles, too, and it would have ended side one if I had the record on vinyl. With any luck, I will have it soon. “Big Epic” is track 9 and I like this one a lot. It’s got a nice feel to it and a snappy drum beat. Most of the drumming on this record is super simple and there is nothing wrong with that at all. The drums do what the song needs them to do.

 

Tons of cool bass playing, though. I have no issue with that at all.

 

“Big Epic” has another great line: “The ice cream truck has passed me by again/and you can’t write Syd Barrett songs again.” I wonder if any of these guys were skaters? There is a flow to a song like “Big Epic” that is perfect for riding a ditch.

 

“Toucan” is pretty short and sweet. Filler, really, but cool. “Oven” is similar, but it has a nice, distorted jangle thing going on over super druggy vocals. This song is the musical equivalent of what opiates are like for me. By the time it ended, I’m not quite sure what happened, but I know something did.

 

“Ba Ba Ba” is the long track here. It’s got a little Laurel Canyon kind of thing happening in it, mostly because of a really cool organ part. Essentially, the riff just sort of meanders along and the vocals go, “Ba-ba-ba, ba-ba-ba-ba” and then the riff becomes more urgent for about 10 seconds. It repeats this cycle a few times and there is a noisy outro. I like it a lot.

 

Uncle Wiggly is a band that does a lot of meandering, but it doesn’t feel like time is wasted. Across the Room and Into Your Lap makes for good background music or something to listen to and pay attention to, as well. There is definitely enough cool riffage to make the average indie fan happy

 

“My, My, My, How Are You?” is probably the last really strong song on the record, but that isn’t taking anything away from the last three. They just don’t really explore any new territory. “Spitoon Cleaner” has some cool start and stop stuff going on, but it’s short and sweet.

 

“Julie in the Greenhouse” never really takes off for me. It’s got some kinda cutesy guitar and bass interplay that devolves into a kinda backwards, jazzy math rock riff, but by the time I get to it. There is a cool Japanese all-girl band called Tricot that does this stuff really well.

 

“Ol’ Pal” is the last song and this one sounds like a cast-off Dinosaur Jr. riff. It’s a good ender, but if it were me, I think I would have ended with “Ba-Ba-Ba.”

 

Here’s a link to the YouTube of this record.  If you’re interested, it might be hard to find online anywhere else. Happy wiggling.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



AI rendering of Ma Maison in 1978.

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