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Entry date: 3-7-2024 – 7x7=Love – Letters to My Friends

 Dear Friends,

 

It’s weird to chew on the idea that this is the third time I’ve wished Rhondi a happy birthday via this blog. Ergonomic love story in full effect today, I suppose. Let me get sappy for a bit, please.

 

It hit me yesterday that I’ve been spending an awful lot of time on this computer this year so far. The records take up a lot of time. On the one hand, it has been good to write and remember and listen. On the other, I also realized that the clock is starting to tick on the time of year when the birthday girl heads east for five months or so.

 

I literally almost started crying when that hit me. I also realized that she probably doesn’t know this and won’t unless she reads this today. Each of the last two years, I’ve started missing her before she even left. This is probably what she feels when I am not emotionally available to her.

 

Being a couple is hard under the best circumstances. I am all over the place when it comes to how I share myself, but emotional availability is not a strong point for me. Rhondi and I each like to do what we like to do, but I know she would like more involvement from me in “our” time.

 

I will work on this during 2024 and beyond. This is my vow, in writing, to do just that. I mean it, too.

 

When you have a good partner, you need to be a good partner. I can be a much better partner because she is worth it. I wish that for everyone who loves someone unconditionally.

 

Rhondi taught me to believe in unconditional love again. As a child I believed in it (although I probably didn’t realize what it was), but somewhere along the way, I stopped believing that unconditional love was a real thing that I could have, or worse, that I needed.

 

Fast forward, though, and now in our 19th year of being together, I fully appreciate that unconditional love exists and can actually offer it, too. This is because of Rhondi. The birthday girl.

 

Tonight, we dine and ponder a new bathroom. This is the good stuff.

 

I love you, babe.

 

*****

 

Cocaine Baby was at school yesterday. I called his dad, too, when he said, “Fuck you” to another student. I’m not backing down. He also said, “Fuck you,” to me and then said he didn’t know what it means. The kid is good.

 

Two more days ‘til spring break. I can do it standing on my head. All my grading is in for the quarter and prep has begun for when I get back. I’m on it, agile, and ready for whatever the little batman throws at me.

 

***** 

 

“Batman” was a code word I used to use for when a young person was being a fucking bastard, by the way.

 

*****

 

My heart is heavy, too, today. I’m thinking about my brother as he begins to see the world very differently for a while. I hope with everything that I am that he sees the proverbial light. I wish he knew that we all need him to do just that.

 

I’m right here, though, if I am needed.

 

*****

 

The record today is also inspired by the birthday girl. Here it is…

 

*****

 

Sometimes you get to a party or a show a little late. I don’t know how many times I’ve snoozed on things only to regret it later. Whether it was not going to see Nirvana at the Mason Jar or Flipper in Berkeley when I was sitting in my car outside the club wondering if I should go in. There have been lots of bands over the years that I made my mind up about because of one thing or another only to realize that I was dead wrong. This is one of those stories.

 

For years, my buddy Eric would tell me that Toadies were coming to Phoenix to play a show and that I should go with him. He’d say how great they were live and I’d sort of poo poo him and say, “Oh, no. I don’t really dig them.” I mean, I did kinda like the song, “Possum Kingdom,” but I figured them for one hit wonders without any real evidence to back it up other than my own misguided notion that the rest of their songs would be worse.

 

My dumb brain reasoned with me that there was no way they could have a better song than “Possum Kingdom.” It’s a really good song, true, and I like it a lot, but it’s not even the best song on Rubberneck. Dumb, dumb brain.

 

Rubberneck, for one thing, is a pretty rad debut record (what is it with this week? Totally unplanned). When I finally broke down and listened to it, I was blown away. In 2015, I got the opportunity to interview Vaden Todd Lewis, the main songwriter for Toadies. I wanted to do it because my better half (celebrating a birthday today) is also a big Toadies fan, so I figured I would do the interview and take her to the show.

 

What I learned before I did the interview, though, as I was prepping is that I fucking love the Toadies. I was now super stoked to talk to Lewis and the conversation was great. We went to the show, and it was great, too. Much to my crow-eating chagrin, I was now a fan.

 

Over the last decade (well, almost), Rubberneck has become a go to record for me. I really love several of their other ones, too, and one I will definitely write about at least one more at some point this year, but I keep going back to their 1994 debut. It kills me that I could have been enjoying this record for about 20 more years than I have been.

 

One of the things I love about them is the Texas sound. It oozes from them. Instrumental opener “Mexican Hairless” is like the bastard son of Reverend Horton Heat and the Butthole Surfers until Lewis’ vocals kick in when “Mister Love” starts up as track one becomes track two. He’s got his own unique and killer style, so the comparisons stop there.

 

“Are you gonna save me? You gonna make me happy? Can you save me? Tell me, mister!”

 

There is a lot of religious commentary in Toadies music. Lewis and I talked about this a lot in our two conversations. I liked writing about the band so much I made sure and got to do it again. I even got Rhondi and I a meet and greet, but she had to dip out. Either way, Lewis and his bandmates are totally righteous dudes who rock out. “Mister Love” is just the tip of the iceberg, too.

 

“Backslider” is like riding a rollercoaster. It has all the twists and turns, big drops, suspense, and loop-de-loops. I love it. Personally, this one is better than “Possum Kingdom,” although I know why the fourth track got all the radio play.

 

My dumb brain is full of regrets. There are no weak moments on Rubberneck. “Possum Kingdom” really is a good song, as mentioned, but it’s like the fourth best song on the record. The lyrics are great and catchy and make you want to sing along. Musically, it’s right there in that perfect radio song pocket, but for straight up rockin’, I’ll get to the good stuff soon.

 

“Quitter” is another one of those kind of twisted Texas riffs at first and then kicks in on a high gear that borrows a little from the Cobain school of big build up riffs. Lisa Umbarger’s bass has some Krist Novoselic things going on, but who cares? More bands should borrow from Nirvana. Drummer Mark Reznicek kinda steals “Quitter,” too, like he does every song at some point.

 

This includes “Away.” Reznicek’s beats are bad ass and I know why Eric, who is also a kick ass drummer, appreciates them. I like “Away” more than “Possum Kingdom,” too. I know this as I sit here typing this and have to take a quick headbanging break around the two-minute mark.

 

My favorite song on the record, and maybe my favorite Toadies’ song, though, is “I Come from the Water.” It is one of those perfect songs. They don’t happen very often, but there is nothing I would change about “I Come from the Water.” It’s pure roadhouse rock and roll and Umbarger and Reznicek are sofa king locked in. They allow Lewis and lead guitarist Darrel Herbert to just do their thing. God damn…I want to cover this song so badly right now.

 

As far as I’m concerned, Toadies could have just taken a big shit in the studio after “I Come from the Water” and I would still love this record, but “Tyler” is another great song. Killer bass line and the song just sort coils and coils up like a snake waiting to strike. When it finally does, the payoff is pure, simple, and satisfying. Reznicek lays down this wonderful drum beat, and the guitar disintegrates into this serpentine riff over Umbarger’s steady Eddie bass line.

 

You know, Lewis writes these great songs that build into such satisfying endings. It’s really a thing of beauty. “Happy Face” keeps the party going with a bit of Pearl Jam-ish guitar work. Like the Hater album I wrote about yesterday, there is definitely a little groove/grunge thing going here that those Pearl Jam guys really perfected over their first couple records.

 

“Velvet” has a big bass line that I like and have done my own versions a lot over the years. I am relieved to say I didn’t steal them because I hadn’t heard this record in those days, but maybe Umbarger and I were stealing from the same store. Bass playing riff lifters unite!

 

“I Burn” is the last song. I love that it kind of foreshadows their Heretics record a bit with the acoustic guitar. I’ve been trying to avoid giving away the other Toadies’ record I am definitely going to write about, but “I Burn” reminded me of why I love Heretics, too. Vaden Tood Lewis writes lyrics that take the piss out organized religion, specifically revivalist Christian sects, better than anyone. “I Burn” is a great example.

 

The Toadies rule and Rubberneck is a great record. Happy birthday, babe. Thanks for making me see the light.

 

***** 

 

See you tomorrow.



I love the way she looks at me. I'm a lucky guy.

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