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Entry date: May 5, 2024 – Handy Is as Handy Does – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,


Swimming in the deep end was a big deal when I was a kid. My grandparents had a pool when I was growing up and it seemed so big when I was little. That deep end was beguiling. I realize now that me swimming in the deep end probably made Granny nervous, so she made sure I had a healthy fear of it.


Anxiety is a motherfucker.




Anxiety is a motherfucker.

Treading water, can’t touch the bottom

But it was just right there.

Where did it go?


Where did I go?

I was just here.

Now I’m not the me I want to be.

I’m not the me I claim to be.



Care conditioning.

I’ll worry for you

If you just do what I say.

Care conditioning

To prolong your life.

Care conditioning,

Explain away/explain away.




I was handy yesterday. I could feel my confidence growing, too, during the day. I am getting pretty decent at making cuts for drywall. Just as I got all the drywall finished for the first bathroom, I was feeling like I could do the second shower a lot faster.


Now, the taping part. That was not as easy as I thought it would be. Today I will make mud and learn how to do that part, then after the mud dries, I’ll do the waterproofing. Tile will have to start at the end of the day tomorrow.




What a nice turnout for Jim’s memorial gathering. It was nice to be with friends and share the feelings of collective grief and dismay. My heart goes out to Stephanie, and if you’re reading this right now, we will make the Jimmy Jam happen. I promise.


It was nice to see the skate and Tiki community come together, overlap, and bring the good vibes for our friend. There’s a lot of great people out here in the desert. The world gets larger all the time, but also smaller. It was very nice to meet some new people.




I took a break from working on the bathroom to watch a fair amount of the Timberwolves and Denver. I think the Nuggets might be in trouble. The Suns may have gotten steamrolled by the best team in the west. Watching the Timberwolves play reminded me why I like watching basketball. They are super fun to watch right now.




People, like music, come into your life for a reason. I am a firm believer in that. Perhaps it is the excuse I give myself because, like music, I collect people. When I find someone good, I just want to keep them around.


Not in a “Buffalo Bill” kind of way. I don’t live in a house with a basement, thankfully, nor do I care for deep holes in the ground. I just mean that I like good people and even when vast lengths of time separate us, the fondness, respect, and love is still there.


In addition to my fondness for music and people, I also love good stories. When the opportunity arises for all three to come together, I often do my best to write about this magical combination. To what degree of success, I don’t know or care, but the process is exhilarating.


That’s where the good stuff is, anyway.


If I have learned anything from this record a day undertaking so far, it’s that a lot of time has passed in my life. A lot of these records have been with me for almost as long as some people have. Even though I’ve spent most of my time thinking about and listening to the records alone, they were often gifts from people who have touched my life.


One person who is also the person who made the record I am about to tell you about has been part of my life since 1983. That’s 41 years if you are keeping score. It’s enough time for someone who is turning 41 this year to wake up and say, “Holy shit, I’m 41.”


We met in journalism class during our freshman year of high school. I won’t pretend to say that we were the closest or best of friends, but there was respect. Initially, that respect, at least for me, was based on the quick, cutting wit of my classmate. When we joined the Skyhawk Flight at the beginning of sophomore year, the respect grew further.


My classmate, now colleague (if you never worked on a school newspaper, it really is a job), is a much better writer than I will probably ever be. She made me want to be a better writer then and still does now. The wit was still there, too, and what she wrote in my 10th grade year book still makes me smile to this day. (Saving that for the book)


Anyway, Cait Brennan is someone I’ve been a fan of for over 40 years. We lost touch for a long time, but I watched her success and creativity from afar when I could. Thanks to social media, though, we’ve been able to reconnect, and I got to talk with her a lot about some of the records she made during the last decade.


To say this gal is talented when it comes to song is an understatement. It’s fucking bullshit, if you ask me, that both Debutante and Third were not huge hits. It is the latter I want to dive into today, though. I may find my way back to Debutante this year, as well, but Third hit on a lot of things that are close to my heart.


Part of the reason I feel a stronger connection to Brennan’s cleverly named second record is the story behind it. She got to go to fucking Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee (yes, that Memphis) to record it. If you are not familiar, bands like Led Zeppelin, R.E.M., and Big Start recorded there, as well as people like Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Joe Walsh.


Just to walk in the door would be an incredibly cool thing, but to make a record there. Holy shit. When she told me about it, I was so stoked for her. I think I probably offered to play bass right at that moment, but between her and collaborator extraordinaire, Fernando Perdomo, she was quite set. No trip to Memphis for me.


So, when I listen to Third , there is an undercurrent of triumph and uber-cool that kicks in before I even think about the amazing songs within.


And they are amazing.


Part of the reason that I feel like everyone should know this record is that Brennan channels some of the greatest songwriters that I can think of without aping any of them. When I listen, I hear the influence of Paul McCartney, Harry Nilsson, and Aretha Franklin.


There is McCartney’s gift of subtly putting together the catchiest melody, Nilsson’s acerbic wit and wisdom, and Franklin’s gigantic ability to just own a song vocally. Brennan’s her own person, but she also channels these types of gifts. It’s really fun to listen to.


Because there is an almost “classic rock” feel to Third in a lot of ways, again, I’m surprised that more people didn’t gravitate to it. Stupid radio people missed out. This collection of songs needs to be heard.


There was a fair amount of buzz, so don’t get me wrong, it was not completely ignored. I don’t want to minimize the hard work that went into Third . I think it was daunting and costly to my friend, but that part is not my story to tell.


Third is a record that makes me want to make better music. This is another reason why I love it, as well. Records should inspire musicians to make better records. It should be a rule or something. Maybe it is and no one has clued me on where to find it in the non-existent rule book.


That’s a good idea, actually, and it would be even better if Cait Brennan wrote that book.


Speaking of writing, aside from catchy, well-written and arranged songs, the lyrics are what really shine on Third.


“Yeah, I’m the asshole who stole your boyfriend” is one of the best opening lines of any record ever. It’s how “Bad At Apologies” begins and what a beginning it is. Perdomo’s drums really shine on this one, too. The guy just knows how to play Brennan’s songs. What a gift to have a partner that can do that for you.


“Stack Overflow” is a danceable rocker with some nifty knob twiddling before a Beatles/ELO sounding bridge. It’s got a killer beat, as well, and bridges the gap between “Bad At Apologies” and one of my other favorites, “He Knows Too Much.”


“He won’t be very talkative from fourteen feet below the ground” is such a good line.


I would also be remiss if I didn’t give Brennan a shout out for some of the best backing vocals ever on a Phoenix artist’s record. They are right up there with Trunk Federation/No Volcano when it comes to the backing vocals. High praise indeed.


Another rad thing about the end of “He Knows Too Much” is the influence of Wallace and Ladmo can be heard on the vocal outro. Mike Condello and Pat McMahon couldn’t have done it better.


“At the End of the World” is a really good love song. I’m not typically a fan of this type of song, but as the clean up hitter on the record, it’s a powerhouse with a nod to the 80s.  Brennan fully channels late 80s and early 90s dance pop on “A Hard Man to Love.” It definitely stands out here.


“Catiebots Don’t Cry” is another favorite of mine. It’s super Prince-ish in all the best ways. We all loved Purple Rain back in the day, so why not pay a little homage.


‘Benedict Cumberbatch” taught me that I’ve been pronouncing the actor’s name wrong all these years. Another good song, though, and as much as I like “Shake Away” and “The Angels Lie,” the ode to the actor (sort of, I guess…it’s more of a ‘fuck you’ to someone who was being a butthead) is really growing on me.


“Shake Away” is a fun one with a great beat and lyrics about “nitrous” are always welcome. I love, though, how Perdomo starts off “The Angels Lie.” It drives the song really well and when the lyrics kick in, they are reminiscent of what it means to get older and not feel great some (or most) of the time.


Things slow down for “Collapse” and the song kind of reminds me of my man crush, Duncan Sheik. The guitars are particularly cool on this one, which I think is the part that reminds me of Sheik’s work. Good stuff.


A number of the songs on Third zig when you think they are going to zag. I love this about them. “LA/Amsterdam” starts off and makes you think it is going to be another slow number, but then it perks right the hell up. Dig the fuzzy sound of this one.


“Perish the Thought” is a very cool penultimate track here. It’s kind of big and pastoral in a way thanks to the organ that haunts the background. Again, Perdomo is just fantastic on this record. He plays so tastefully and yet still gives songs the occasional cool flourish, too. “Perish the Thought” is like a lost track from the soundtrack of Northern Exposure.


Brennan’s love for McCartney shows up again at the end on “Goodbye Missamerica.” It’s a great ender and unfolds like a long kiss goodbye. “Hello oblivion,” Brennan sings, “I’m come to send a message/She’s gone from what I can see.” Goodbye’s are tough.


Nice work, buddy. Time to make another one. Viva Third !




See you tomorrow.

Blue water.

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