“Good times gone, but you feed it
Hate’s grown strong, you feel you need it
Just one thing, do you know you?
What you think, that the world owes you?
What’s gonna set you free?
Look inside and you’ll see
When you’ve got so much to say it’s called gratitude
And that’s right”
–Beastie Boys, “Gratitude”
Today would’ve been my brother Craig’s 53rd birthday. As you may have read — And So Castles Made of Sand … + … Melts Into the Sea, Eventually — he passed away due to cancer in July 2015. He was my only sibling, the last living member of my immediate family, and it was primarily his death that gave me the writers block that forced me into retirebernation for several months. Craig was a genuinely good guy, always a positive presence, and the biggest Hendrix fan I’ve ever met. In fact, everyone in downtown Huntington Beach — our hometown — called him Jimi or Hendrix, they didn’t call him Craig.
If you know my story, you know I returned to SoCal from Austin due to less than pleasant circumstances. Ironically, the day I brought it all back home was Thanksgiving 2009 (11/26/09). True story. Almost exactly seven years ago. This was entirely appropriate, too, but at the time I didn’t realize the significance. I was a PTSD-ridden shell of a man focused on revenge fantasies and bitterness. I obsessed over the fact I was being punished by forces stronger than me. And while that was technically true, forces much stronger than THEM were blessing me with a rare opportunity. What I didn’t understand at the time was that I would be gifted with the last four years of my father’s life — which I discussed in When They All Had Souls — and the last six years of my brother’s life. Had things worked out in Austin I wouldn’t have spent the time with them that I did. While I’m crushed that they’re both gone, I’m thankful that both men left this world knowing that I loved them. There was no unfinished business. I’m proud of that and genuinely grateful that my pain gave way to a genuine feeling of gratitude.
So, partly in the spirit of Thanksgiving and partly in tribute to my brother and father I thought it would be a good exercise to list things I’m thankful for. I feel like America is drowning in narcissistic self-pity and arrogant, defiant jackoffery. And sometimes those emotions are being displayed by the same person. Look, we live in an imperfect world. Way too many people are dying, fighting cancer, struggling to pay bills, dealing with bigots, dealing with assholes, sitting in traffic, and if this wifi drops out again I swear to God I’m gonna go full Office Space on this motherfucking router. All joking aside, I’m genuinely thankful for many things in my life, including the pain that shaped me into the person I am today. We live in a society that encourages and enables us to be the worst version of ourselves, but not here. The Adios Lounge encourages you to be thankful and thoughtful.
Sly And The Family Stone – Thankful N’ Thoughtful
I’m thankful for my smart, sassy wife, Sarah. She’s an exceptional mother, a patient college football widow (I’ll get to that in a bit), and after being married twice previously, I’m pleasantly surprised that I can be married AND enjoy hot sex with my spouse. This is apparently a thing that can happen. Who knew?
I’m thankful for my lovely daughters, Edie, Lucinda, and Leilani in absentia. I feel like Edie and Lu can either become the greatest crime-fighting duo ever OR the greatest crime-committing duo ever. They love each other, but they are decidedly volatile. Hopefully they err on the side of the former, but if they’re gonna break bad, they may as well go for the #1 spot.
Speaking of my daughters, I’m thankful they’re still not completely obsessed with Frozen. I mean, it’s a pretty good movie, but they really needed to let it go.
By contrast, I’m thankful for Hayao Miyazaki. Edie and especially Lu have fallen in love with Howl’s Moving Castle and to a lesser extent Spirited Away, which I think is the greatest movie of the 21st century. I’m further thankful for Miyazaki-san because news has just come out that he’s coming out of retirement to make one final movie, Boro The Caterpillar. WOO HOO!!!
I’m thankful for Alabama Crimson Tide football and Head Coach Nick Saban. We’ve won 4 championships in 7 years and a 5th title is reasonably within reach. That this is a possibility with a true freshman quarterback is astounding. As someone who distinctly remembers Spencer Pennington handing off to Aaron Johns and overthrowing DJ Hall on Mike Shula’s watch, I’m fully cognizant of the golden age in which us real Bama fans exist. This is special. And for those of you thinking I’m jumping on some sort of bandwagon, my masters degree in American Studies from the University of Alabama — Class of 2000 — will say otherwise.
Riffing off of that, I’m thankful for college football, the greatest American sport of all-time. It’s national, yet its lifeblood is the intense regional rivalry. American professional leagues may have an occasional, small market Green Bay, Sacramento, or Buffalo, but college football has 40-50 Green Bays, in both market size and passion, especially if you count FCS and D-III programs. I love the diversity of college football offenses, which can run the gamut from triple option to Air Raid to spread option to I formation. I love that the QB can be a legitimate running AND passing threat. I love that we have a 4-team playoff. 8 is too many, but 2 wasn’t enough. While I admit that 41 bowls MIGHT be too many, I’ll probably try and watch 30 of them. I love tailgaiting, cheerleaders, marching bands, fight songs, dotting the i, rushing the field, tearing down the goalposts, blackouts, whiteouts, redshirts, Paul Bunyan’s Axe, The Backyard Brawl, Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate, The Third Saturday In October, The Civil War, The Holy War, The Red River Shootout, Army/Navy, Chief Osceola, Traveler, Ralphie, Bevo, Uga, The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, The Grove, The Swamp, The Death Valleys, a little ting in your tang tang, woo pig sooie, the Heisman pose, the Sooner Schooner, the Ramblin’ Wreck, Touchdown Jesus, The 12th Man, The Apple Cup, The Orange Bowl, The Egg Bowl, The Cotton Bowl, The Sugar Bowl, The Rose Bowl, and the greatest of them all … The Iron Bowl. Roll Tide.
That said, I’m thankful for this year’s Oakland Raiders. It’s been many, many years since my boys have been worth a damn and I wish Craig was here to see it. Derek Carr and Khalil Mack are as good as any player at their respective positions in the NFL and a playoff slot ALMOST seems inevitable. Pride and poise, baby.
I’m thankful for grilled meats, PBR, and Jack Daniels.
I’m thankful for Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This film podcast, which tells expertly woven stories about Hollywood’s first century. Right now she’s doing “Six Degrees of Joan Crawford,” but previous seasons have discussed the blacklist and the history of MGM Studios. But, my way in was “Charles Manson’s Hollywood,” which addressed the Manson Family in the context of LA’s late ’60s music and movie industry culture, as well as the culture at large. I like to think that Karina’s aesthetic and the aesthetic of The Adios Lounge are similar. If you enjoy movie history, check it out.
I’m also thankful for the Filmspotting and Filmspotting: Streaming Video Unit (SVU) podcasts. Where You Must Remember This focuses on historical figures and moments, the Filmspottings are amiable, thoughtful, diverse, wiseass, bemusedly contentious variations on the classic Siskel & Ebert format. It’s the road movie of movie criticism formats. If you have chemistry between two people — and both of these podcasts have that — it’s just a fun way to spend an hour. And I just now realized that I actually enjoy listening to smart people talk about movies more than I like smart people talk about music. And yet, I listen to music way more than I watch movies. I don’t understand me sometimes.
I’m thankful for Doug Sahm. In fact, given the title, it seems fitting to check out an oldie but goodie Adios Lounge post, Happy Thanksgiving from Doug Sahm and Friends. Those friends weren’t just Austin locals. They included Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh from the Dead and one Leon Russell, who passed away two weeks ago at the age of 74.
I’m thankful that Quentin Tarantino filmed this sequence for the otherwise so-so Death Proof. To be honest, though, I doubt I’m as thankful as Kurt Russell.
Since I mentioned Russell’s death, I may as well go whole hog. This is the ADIOS Lounge after all. I’m thankful for the following people, all of whom passed away this year. This is not a comprehensive list, mind you. These are only the people whose contributions had a tangible impact on MY life and in some cases I’ve written about previously. I’ve included their date of death in parentheses. Thank you David Bowie (1/10), George Martin (3/8), Phife Dawg (A Tribe Called Quest, 3/22), Ross Shapiro (The Glands, 3/26), Merle Haggard (4/6), Gib Gilbeau (Nashville West/Flying Burrito Brothers, 4/13), Prince (4/21), Muhammad Ali (6/1), Chips Moman (6/13), Wayne Jackson (Memphis Horns, 6/21), Ralph Stanley (6/23), Bernie Worrell (6/24), Scotty Moore (6/28), Rudy Van Gelder (jazz engineer, 8/25), Bap Kennedy (11/1), Leon Russell (11/13), and Sharon Jones (11/18).
I want to single out the passing of Marie Arsenault, a St. Louis-based booking agent, co-founder of the Twangfest music festival, and a person I was lucky enough to call my friend. She died on August 10 because cancer is fucking bullshit. I knew her as organizer, curator, den mother, and the driving force behind Twangfest, but we bonded, more than anything, over Grand Champeen, for whom she booked shows for a few years in the mid-’00s. For awhile there we saw each other at every SXSW and every other Twangfest and she was always funny and gracious and I respected that she took care of business. However, I especially loved that Marie could successfully manage a music festival — with all those moving parts and personalities — and yet when Grand Champeen was in full juggernaut mode where was she? In the front row, fistpumping, headbanging, and knocking down beers. She was one of the good ones and her death was devastating.
Another noteworthy death was John Berry III, not only an original Beastie Boy, but the guy who came up with the group’s name. He passed away from frontal lobe dementia on 5/19.because I’m eternally thankful for the Beastie Boys, who I feel like grew up right along with me. And given the nature of this post I want to play the thematically appropriate “Gratitude,” one of the many great tracks from 1992’s Check Your Head. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that fascists recently tagged Brooklyn’s Adam Yauch Park with swastikas and at least one message reading, “Go Trump.” Remember my reference to arrogant, defiant jackoffery at the beginning of this piece? That would be this, an act of idiotic vandalism that immediately prompted an anti-hate rally with Ad-Rock in attendance. What you may not have known was that after discovering the graffiti, local children redecorated the playground equipment with hearts and messages of love. Very cool. By the way, if you’re a Beasties fan, check out my previous posts, Deconstructing “Johnny Ryall,” Riddle Me This, My Brother: Deconstructing “Shadrach,” and That’s a Record ‘Cause of Mario.
I’m thankful for Bandcamp. It’s my favorite online record store because artists get 85% and BC keeps 15%. Bandcamp is the promise of DIY punk fulfilled and proof that conscientious capitalism is a better economic model than cutthroat capitalism — not to mention far superior to whatever utopian socialism has to offer (i.e. very little).
I’m thankful for Sabrina Ellis of A Giant Dog and Sweet Spirit, Kim Shattuck of The Muffs, Shannon Shaw of Shannon And The Clams, and Miranda Lambert of her own damn self (and occasionally the Pistol Annies). These women are among my favorite singers and songwriters working today and in Shattuck’s case, a secretly excellent producer. Seriously, if I determined my favorite musicians by straight up hours logged on my stereo, car, and phone, these four women would all be in or around the Top 5. Ellis would certainly be #1. She’s a fucking powerhouse for TWO hard working bands in an era where most musicians have a hard enough time being a badass in just one. Her partnership with Andrew Cashen in both bands is the most rewarding professional marriage in music today. And while I only discovered Lambert a few months ago, I immediately fell in love with her sensibility, which is equal parts intelligent, poignant, salty, funny, and vulnerable. Her 2014 album, Platinum, is just about perfect and probably my favorite mainstream country record since Dwight Yoakam’s If There Was A Way.
I’m thankful that Archer was renewed for its 8th, 9th, and 10th seasons. I’m thankful for the tactical turtleneck. I’m thankful for “phrasing.” I’m thankful for “Holy shitsnacks!” I’m thankful for “Do you want ants? Because that’s how you get ants.” I”m thankful for “Can’t … or won’t?” I’m thankful for “Danger zone!” And I’m thankful for “I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary, full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen.”
I’m thankful for the invention of air conditioning, the DVR, the debit card, yoga pants, and returning to football, that yellow first down line that appears on TV broadcasts. That guy deserves a Nobel Prize.
I’m thankful for The Last Waltz, filmed on Thanksgiving Day 1976.
On that note, I’m very thankful that Tom Engfer invited me to see The Levon Helm Band play the Greek Theater on August 15, 2010, two years before Helm passed away. The heart and soul of The Band, Levon is one of my favorite drummers ever, one of my favorite rock singers, AND one of my favorite country singers. If you haven’t already done so, check out The Roots of Levon Helm, which I wrote shortly after his death.
One final thing I’m thankful for: The Jerk. We live in a world where people are too angry, too depressed, and too bitter. We need to laugh more. Hopefully this helps.
Happy Thanksgiving and happy birthday, Craig. Love you, man.