Updates from HQ

Time, I think, to get back to regular posting. Let there be Momentum!

As I sit here watching the news halfway through my 57th year on Earth, I get the feeling that things are weirder than they’ve been in a long, long time. I was too young for Watergate; 2024 is shaping up to be at least as wild, with the added bonus of being an election year. And we all remember what Dr. Thompson said:

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

As it happens I was just in Hunter’s hometown of Louisville, though to be honest I didn’t really think about that at the time. We went out for Cuban food then had some whiskey flights. This was part of a whirlwind journey that also included Nashville, Memphis, and Owensboro, Kentucky, home of the Green River distillery.

There may be more to say on that subject later. I am still in recovery mode. Meanwhile dickhead, whatshisface, the orange guy, was in court today, for the first time facing actual personal legal danger for one of his many, many crimes. I’m not getting my hopes up but still — it’s progress.

This is also the day when I traditionally mark the birthday of my cat Johnny. This is his 19th and he is unlikely to see his 20th, as his body is beginning to fail on multiple fronts. But at the moment he continues to eat and sleep and purr and yell that he wants to go outside, now.

Finally, the NBA regular season ended yesterday, and when the wheel of fortune ceased its spinning my team held the 10th seed in the Western Conference. This means that they have to beat the Sacramento Kings tomorrow, then win a second game against either the Lakers or Pelicans, just for the privilege of playing a seven-game series against Oklahoma City. Under these circumstances it would be foolish to expect too much, but when has that ever stopped me? I will tell you right now with a completely straight face that the Warriors — who rallied to finish 46-36 after suffering a baffling malaise for much of the season — remain a force to be reckoned with, and that nothing they do — from total faceplant to deep playoff run — will surprise me.

Remember what Baba said:

Life… is always mysterious!

DB Video du Jour #28

The funny thing about “I’d Rather Be High” is that when you get to the part where he says what he’d rather be high than — “training these guns on those men in the sand” — you have to scratch your head. Well, of course, Dave, you’d rather be high than doing that — who wouldn’t? What are you trying to get at here?

The whole song is a confusing tangle of literary references and war imagery. Then all of a sudden the soldier seems to remember he’s in a rock’n’roll song and croons,

I’d rather smoke and phone my ex
Be pleading for some teenage sex, yeah

It’s a good tune, though, and it comes in a few different flavors. I’m partial to the album version, but the official video uses the Venetian mix, which is heavy on the harpsichord. The definitive version, though, may well be the one he did for Louis Vuitton. Unlike the other video, David actually appears in this one:

It’s quite the little epic. Sure, it’s a commercial; so what? Late-stage Bowie could do whatever he wanted, and this was what he wanted to do. Who are we mere mortals to question him?

Just remember, duckies, everybody gets got.

Bring Out Your Dead, 2/19/2023

When Jerry Lee Lewis died last year, I wrote that “he was the last survivor of that first generation of rock stars.” But I was not aware at the time that Huey “Piano” Smith was still alive. Huey passed this week at the age of 89 — surprisingly young, considering that his big hits were in the mid-1950s. But he got started early, playing clubs and making records at the age of 15.

He was not quite as famous (or as infamous) as the Killer, and I’m not 100% sure that his music technically qualifies as rock’n’roll; it hews pretty close to New Orleans funk rhythms. But for that reason it is absolutely timeless and still sounds great today. I’m partial to “Rockin’ Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu,” but for our purposes here, let’s go with this lip-synced performance of “Don’t You Just Know It” from 1958. That’s Huey on the left.

Also on the Reaper’s list this week: Raquel Welch née Tejada. We don’t generally think of Raqual as Latina but she was; her father’s name Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo. Most of us probably also think we saw her naked, but apparently she never appeared nude in any photographs or movies. Playboy pursued her for many years, and she did eventually appear in its pages — in a bikini bottom with one arm tastefully covering her breasts. “She declined to do complete nudity, and I yielded gracefully,” said Hugh Hefner, probably lying; I’ll bet Raquel left a lot of money on the table in that deal, and good for her.


Like It’s 1999

I’ve been thinking a lot about 1999 lately, I’m not sure why. Something about that moment in time resonates with our current one.

In 99 we thought it was end of an era, the first move to a new century any of us under 100 had experienced, and the first into a new millennium in many a generation. But of course there was no big sudden change — the exciting chaos we’d been expecting never materialized, and we woke up on the first day of the “new era” a day older but the same as ever.

The real new era — for Americans at least — arrived a year, nine months, and ten days later. In some ways I feel like this country has never fully processed the trauma of 9/11. We had always felt invulnerable before that — we had lost in Vietnam, but that happened far away. You can trace a direct if somewhat blurry line between the wave of paranoia and finger-pointing that followed to our current hate-filled political condition. In that sense, the terrorists won.

Again, I’m not sure why I feel like we’re on the cusp of something similar. I’m no psychic or pundit. It would be nice to think some kind of positive change is the offing, though there’s little reason to think so. But hope springs eternal.

Anyway… you need to live your life one day at a time, don’t you? Tonight I will not be partying like it’s 1999. Back then I was in Seattle with some friends. We ate special brownies and watched fireworks while waiting for the great blackout to never happen. At one point I remember AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top if You Wanna Rock’n’Roll” came blasting over the hill and I decided that it was the greatest song ever written. Later my friends wanted to go to bed but I was all amped up and wandered the neighborhood looking for parties to crash. I think I found a few but the whole thing is pretty vague. At some point I ambled back to Sky Command, my friend James’s redoubt at the top of Queen Anne Hill, and fell into a deep and I think peaceful slumber.

Tonight my beloved and I will be supping on a five-course tasting menu at the Carter House’s restaurant in Eureka, then ambling slowly to our room at the Inn. May even make it to midnight, who knows.

While we’re on the subject of 1999, here’s a song from that year that popped into my head for some reason. It’s a good one. Happy New Year, everybody!

A List of Things to Look Forward To

I can’t say I feel terribly inspired to do a year-end wrap-up here. It was kind of a boring year; not a bad one, on a personal level, but one lacking in what we generally think of as Events.

We did get to see Courtney Barnett at the Fox in Oakland earlier this month, on a trip that included my first visit to the Chase Center for a Warriors game. (A loss to the Spurs, unfortunately, but a fairly exciting game.) There were also several nice dinners with friends, and on the whole I can say that a good time was had.

But for the nonce I’ve decided to take Courtney’s advice and, rather than looking back, make a list of things to look forward to in 2022.


State of the Philter Address

I wrote one of these for another blog recently, and with the holidays upon us and the new year just around the corner, this seems like a good time to check in and share updates on some of the ongoing obsessions.1

  • I’ve been listening to a lot of Van Morrison lately, for reasons having to do more with the alphabet than anything else. (I’ve also been listening to Monty Python, Morcheeba, and the Monkees.) The early stuff is so beautiful that it’s hard to believe he’s turned into this cranky geezer who writes songs about Facebook and “who owns the media.” My official policy is that I am not going to let Old Van ruin Young Van for me. I’m not sure about Middle-Aged Van; it seems like there’s some good stuff there, but there’s a mountain of material to sift through and at the moment a lack of will to tackle it.
  • The pile of unread books has shrunk a bit, thanks partly to a newfound willingness to abandon disappointing ones. David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue wasn’t doing it for me, so into the neighborhood free library it went. Likewise Michael Moorcock’s Cornelius Quartet, a gigantic tome that came highly recommended but turned out to be clichéd Seventies nonsense. (I rarely trade things in at the bookstore anymore; at this age I feel like haggling over two or three dollars is beneath me. Sometimes a book will go into a cafe with me but not leave, and I always feel like I’m getting away with something.) The major obstacles still remaining are three large biographies — one each of William S. Burroughs, Albert Einstein, and Werner Herzog — and gigantic books of stories by J.G. Ballard, Harlan Ellison, and H.P. Lovecraft.
  • I haven’t written much in the last couple years about my beloved Golden State Warriors, for whom this has been a period of adjustment. From the lofty heights of going to the NBA Finals five straight years and winning three titles, they tumbled to a dismal 15-50 record in the 2019-20 season, devastated by a series of defections and injuries. Last season was better, with My Personal Savior Stephen Curry again playing at an all-world level, but they became the first victims of the NBA’s new “play-in” format and barely missed the playoffs. This year things gave been going almost alarmingly well. Bolstered by the development of young players, some canny free-agent acquisitions, and Steph somehow finding a new level to his otherworldly game (including vastly improved defense), the W’s are tied for the best record in the NBA. And one of these days, probably sometime around Christmas, Klay Thompson will return from a two-year injury exile. If he’s in good form — and he’s been looking strong in practices and scrimmages — the league is in trouble.

And finally, as long as we’re here, do you want to hear the same song being covered by David Bowie and Rowlf the Dog? Of course you do.