Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Author: Thoughts On The Dead (page 1 of 704)

I Sewed Shut My Asshole…And Now I Sorely Regret It

When I first heard of the idea of sewing my asshole shut, I, like most people, thought it was a foolish idea. A week later, though, I happened to see a TEDx talk on the benefits of a sewn asshole. I was riveted.

I supported the procedure in dozens of articles, radio, and teevee appearances, even as everyone in my life said that I had to be kidding. As early as 2015, I wrote “there cannot possibly be a downside to lacing up your sphincter” and that it was “the smartest elective surgery” one could undergo. I believed that the sheer audacity of the move would be both balm and succor for all in these divided times, which is why I started a quarterly magazine entitled Asshole Affairs dedicated to promoting and defending my decision.

It is now clear my optimism was unfounded, and I should not have sewn my asshole shut. I thoroughly regret my decision and would strongly urge others considering the decision not to continue along their path. Far from making America great again, my actions have instead damaged my internal organs possibly beyond repair. I feel like I’m dying.

What did I see in sewing my asshole shut? I must now admit that I paid attention only to what I wanted, and discounted the many warnings from doctors, nurses, colleagues, and every single other person I know. The surgery would, I believed, save me, a person who went to Harvard, valuable time previously wasted in the bathroom. Financially, it was a no-brainer: thanks to Obama’s job-killing over-regulation, toilet paper is now the most expensive it’s ever been. No stains on your underwear, a cessation of flatulence, the list of positives went on forever.

Immediately after having my pucker zipped, I noticed that life was not, in fact, becoming great. When friends and family inquired, I would tell them that “it was early,” and “I’ve lived with a wide-open asshole for so many years; the transition is going to be a little shaky.”

But we are out of the transition. It is no longer early, and it is now clear that I was deluding myself. The body-wracking pains and gut spasms will not stop; they are, indeed, intensifying. Any time I thought I would save by no longer needing to poop has been replaced in treble by seizures and vomiting. As it turns out, everything my critics said was true.

I have seen the errors of my ways, but, perhaps, a bit too late and now I am completely and totally full of shit.


(After this jamoke.)

Setting Out And Settling Down In Little Aleppo

It was Saturday morning, and the Jews were walking to church. Since Torah, Torah, Torah burned down, the congregation had shuttled between sanctuaries, davening up and down Rose Street. The churches and temples and mosques still standing passed them around. One week here, the next there. The Jews wandered, as is their tendency. This week they were in the First Church of the Infinite Christ, and Jesus peered over the rabbi’s shoulder as he read from the Torah.

Behind and above the pulpit was stained glass, but between the stained glass and the pulpit was a giant crucifix with a larger-than-life (and rather detailed) Christ nailed to it. The Spectacular Harold had been paid to consult, and the magician earned his money: from any vantage but directly under the crucifix, it floated in air with no support at all. Rabbi Levy would not think of asking anyone at the First Church to cover up their Christ–they were guests, after all–but he was grateful for the yarmulke and tallis placed on the figure by the Reverend Arcade Jones.

Technically, Earnest Hubbs had dressed the Christ. Arcade was 6’5″ and 300 pounds–before lunch–and therefore not particularly suited to scampering up and down ladders, but Earnest was a foot and 150 pounds smaller. Earnest had been the synagogue’s handyman, and he had lived in a basement apartment along with the synagogue’s cat, Kischka; he saved the cat from the fire, and he saved one of the two Torahs. Sy Feldstein wanted to know why Earnest hadn’t saved both Torahs, but the rest of the congregation told him to shut the fuck up. Then Sy started yelling about free speech, and everyone dismissed him using exaggerated hand gestures. Rabbi Levy had paid for a room at the Hotel Synod for Earnest; the rabbi thought he was doing a mitzvah, but Earnest came to him with tears in his eyes and asked if there was anywhere else he could stay. Earnest Hubbs had not graduated from high school, but he knew himself. He knew he should not surround himself with bad influences. He knew he was a sinner, and so it was better to stay in the House of the Lord. A bad man who lived with the Gospel could walk right again, one of these days; a bad man who lived with other bad men would sink and drown and die. Lord, protect me from my plans, Earnest Hubbs prayed every night.

So Rabbi Levy sat and thought. Earnest could come home with him. Can’t be a more godly environment than a rabbi’s house, he figured, but then remembered he had five children under the age of ten. He and his wife Rivka had made the children, so they had to live with them, but no one else should have to. The Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches were out, as the rabbi could not recall which one was which. The mosque might work, the rabbi thought: Muslims like cats.

But he had a feeling about the First Church of the Infinite Christ.

“The man’s a wizard.”

“An actual wizard?”

“What, like Merlin?”

“Yeah,” the Reverend Arcade Jones said.

“No,” Rabbi Levy answered.

“Don’t act like there’s not wizards in this neighborhood.”

“Earnest has no magical abilities.”

“So why’d you call him a wizard?”

“It was a metaphor.”

“Metaphors are warnings around here,” Arcade said.

“He’s an excellent handyman, is what I’m saying. All I’m saying.”

“Okay. Where’s he gonna stay?”

In the apartment he built himself in the First Church’s basement, the Reverend learned. Earnest was not a carpenter, but he could carpent, and he was not a plumber, but he could plumb, and so with only his tools and a few hundred bucks from the congregation of Torah, Torah, Torah, Earnest Hubbs built himself and Kischka a place to live; before anyone could complain, he had fixed the wobbly pew in the sixth row and she had solved the mouse problem.

The First Church of the Infinite Christ always did have trouble turning away refugees.

“Give me another leaf. This one’s cashed.”

“You’re not supposed to chomp on them.”

“I’m a fast chewer,” Talks To Whites Said.

“That’s not a thing,” Cannot Swim answered. “Besides, you have the leaves.”

Talks To Whites checked the pouch slung over his shoulder.

“I could’ve swore you had ’em.”

“Maybe you should pace yourself.”

“Maybe you should suck my balls.”


There were three of them walking through the pass: Cannot Swim, Talks To Whites, and Easy Life. The first two were sixteen-year-old boys, cousins, from the Pulaski tribe; the third was a horse.

The Pulaski had little need for horses. They were not nomads following their food like some tribes: their valley was bountiful and never froze. Fish swam in the lake, and their farming techniques did not require plowing. They did not seek out fights with faraway Natives, nor had they been harassed by Whites. Some Pulaski knew how to ride, but there was no day-to-day requirement for the animals. But once every two months or so? Then the horse came in handy.

The Pulaski were gun nuts.

Wanders Away had brought the first rifle into the village. When he was a child, he would walk out of his kotcha in the middle of the night; when he was a boy, he would stroll into the woods for days. Back then, all the Pulaski children were given the same Assignment: a trip to the Low Desert. Wanders Away left the village for the desert the morning after the rain that came every 18 days. He came back into the valley two years later wearing clothes no Pulaski had ever seen before. And he had a Springfield Model 1842.

The 1842 was a leap. Previous guns were smooth-bore. That means the inside of the barrel is flat and the projectile comes out with no spin. The Springfield was rifled, though, which means there helical grooves cut into the interior surface of the barrel. Difference between a knuckleball and a tight spiral. The Pulaski were still using bows and arrows when Wanders Away brought the rifle into the village. One hunting trip later, the tribe decided to scrap the bows in favor of guns. Wanders Away said that the shiny nuggets in the streams that fed the lake were valuable to the Whites, and that they would trade rifles for them, so the Pulaski gave him some of the rocks and sent him back over the hills to find more guns. When Wanders Away hadn’t returned for a year, the tribe decided to find someone more reliable. The elders woke Talks To Whites’ father at dawn, roughly.

“What? What’s happening Is the Turtle back?”

“It is time for your Assignment, High Noon.”

Talks To Whites’ father would soon share his son’s village name, but his family name was High Noon. The sun was barely shining through the clouds and the village was quiet. Talks To Whites, Sr., rubbed his eyes and said,

“The desert?”

“No,” the elders said.

“The hills?”

“No,” the elders said.

“I thought those were the only two options.”

“High Noon, you are clever. And you never shut up. So, you will go to the Whites. You will learn their language. And you will bring us back rifles.”

He stared at his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, assorted kibbitzers. Then he said,

“I’d really prefer the squatch.”

The people who loved him the most grabbed him, naked, and threw him out of the kotcha. His breechcloth and tunic followed. High Noon thought to himself that this was no way to begin manhood. But he was, as his elders thought, smart and resourceful. High Noon walked through the pass just as his son would out of the Pulaski’s valley and into America.

After a day’s walking, he came to a small farm. He paused at the treeline and dug the sack with the nuggets out of his deerhide pouch. Wanders Away had told the elders about the magic of the nuggets. There was a curse on them, he said, but a curse that depended on size. Men with a small amount of the pebbles would be treated as guests, and with kindness; men believed to have a large reserve of them would be robbed, or killed. High Noon found a distinctive rock on the west side of a spruce and buried most of his stash. Then he walked down to the farm.

The farmer and his son stopped their work and watched the tall boy approach. High noon’s tunic had a sun embroidered on it, and so did the pouch slung over his shoulder. He was short for a Pulaski, but taller than the Whites.

The farmer leaned against his shovel and spat in the ground. His son mimicked him. They were wearing hard shoes and overalls, and both had beards–a full one on the father and a scraggly blondish one on the son–which High Noon had not seen before. Pulaski men did not grow facial hair.

“Hi. My name’s High Noon. I mean you no harm,” High Noon said, but obviously he said it in Pulaski.

“Howdy,” the farmer answered in English.

High Noon thought it was going well so far.

“I need to learn how to speak the White language,” High Noon said. He pointed to his mouth, and then at the farmer’s, and then back while making a gesture with his fingers like air was coming out.

“Should I kill him, Pa?”

“Shut the fuck up, Johnny,” the farmer said. He was a simple man, which is a euphemism for poor, but he was not stupid.

High Noon repeated the gesture again. Then he pointed at his own chest.

“My name’s High Noon,” he said, and then repeated it slowly and loudly as people have been doing to foreigners since time immemorial. “Hiiiiiigh Noooooon.”

Mouth gesture once more. Then he pulled a gold nugget the size of a ball bearing out of his pouch that had the sun embroidered on it. Extended it to the farmer. Mouth gesture.

The farmer pointed to his overall’d chest and said,

“Caleb Greenwood.”

And then he took the nugget from High Noon’s hand, held it up to the light, bit it, unbuttoned his breast pocket, dropped it in, buttoned his breast pocket, pat pat pat, and then he smiled and held out his hand.

High Noon had never shaken hands before–the Pulaski grasped each others’ shoulders with both hands–but he reached out and took Caleb Greenwood’s hand and shook it once twice three times and when Caleb smiled at him, he smiled back.

The farmer pointed to his newly-richer chest and said again,


High Noon pointed at him and repeated back as best he could,


“Close enough,” he said and then pointed at his son. “Johnny.”


High Noon pointed at himself and said,

“High Noon,” but the Pulaski language was difficult even compared to other Native languages, so all Caleb heard was random fricatives and vowels where they didn’t belong.

“Yeah, I can’t pronounce that. I’m gonna call you Peter.”

Caleb Greenwood pointed at High Noon and said,


High Noon took a second, and then he pointed at himself and said,



High Noon was completely unfamiliar with Whites, so he just figured all guests got new names. He shrugged and nodded his head and said,


Caleb held up his shovel and shook it, then pointed over towards the barn where another shovel was leaning. High Noon, who was now called Peter, went and got the shovel. Caleb turned to his son.

“He’s already smarter than you.”

“What’s going on here Pa?”

“Seriously, Johnny, just shut the fuck up.”

Peter stayed with the Greenwoods for six months. By the time he left he was fluent in the White language, which he came to learn was called English, and he set off for C—–a City to trade for rifles and ammo. It wasn’t much of a city–three blocks containing 13 bars, a bank, and a hardware store–but there were rifles for sale and so it was all that Peter needed. Caleb had taught him the worth of gold during his stay. Peter did not believe that men could be so obsessed with rocks, but Caleb insisted that they were and Caleb had not lied or mistreated him, so Peter trusted his opinion and negotiated for the rifles well.

He did not anticipate the weight of weapons and ammunition.

There was a livery on the far south side of the city, and Peter bought the cheapest horse and strapped the guns and bullets to the animal’s back. He led it east out of the city and then doubled back after dark in case anyone had followed him to learn where the gold had come from. When he returned to the Pulaski village after six months away, bearing precious rifles and ammo, the tribe let out a great holler and there was a feast that night in his honor where he received yet another name: his village name, Talks To Whites. He also got a handjob, which he thought was awesome.

The horse was allowed to wander around the valley; his only responsibility was the regular trip to C—–a City with Talks To Whites for ammo and rifles and parts, and so the Pulaski named him Easy Life.

Now he walked the pass through the hills with Talks To Whites’ son.

“It’s not fair,” Cannot Swim said.


“You don’t know what I’m talking about yet.”

“Whatever it is,” Talks To Whites said, “it’s not fair.”

“You have an easy Assignment.”

“It’s not easy. You couldn’t do it.”

“Of course not. I cannot speak the White language.”

“And I can’t go up into the hills. You know how much I hate sleeping outside.”

“It brings you closer to nature.”

“You wake up covered in dew. It sucks.”

The Segovian Hils had one pass, a saddle-shaped depression to the north of the highest peak, and the two cousins walked in light that writers are forced by law to call dappled: little needle-shivers speckling on the ground like reflections off a lake. The woods were moving and alive and awake and breathing, and there was no trail cut at all because that’s how the Pulaski liked it. A man named Furlong Christy would bushwhack a swerving and slippery route along the pass a few years later, and when a road for cars was built, it followed his path and so the road and pass were named Christy Canyon.

But now the pass had no name and there was no trail, just pine trees and grass and two cousins and a horse.

“Seriously, I can’t believe this is your Assignment.”

“Today, I am a man,” Talks To Whites said.

“You do this all the time!”

A flock of startled starlings flapped away from the boys.

“Pnerfpbpbpbpb,” Easy Wind said as shit slopped out of him.

“What he said. You’re not seeing the big picture.”

“I’m not.”

“You live by yourself?”

“You know where I live.”

“Answer the question. I’m making a point.”

“I live with my father and sister,” Cannot Swim said.

Talks To Whites spat loudly and wetly.

“You three all by yourself?”

“I thought you said you had a point.”

“I’d get to it if you’d answer the questions the right way.”

Cannot Swim spat, too.

“I like in the village with the rest of the tribe.”

“Right. And everyone in the village is good at something. We all contribute what we’re able. All connected. It’s like this pass. The pass is a village just like ours. Owl’s good at being an owl; squirrels good at squirreling. Ask the squirrel to catch a mouse at night. Ask the owl to find a nut. You’re good at hunting. Me? I’m good at buying bullets.”

Talks To Whites kicked an oval rock ahead of him as he walked, and the cousins could see a circling eagle through the canopy of needles.

“You’re not very good at spotting pumas.”

“I might be. Haven’t ever tried.”

“You should try right now,” Cannot Swim said, and pointed towards a rill 200 yards to the south.

“Oh, shit.”

Talks To Whites scurried around Easy Life, putting the horse in between himself and the big cat.

“You cannot hide from the world!

“No, not for long. World finds you, world creeps in, world seeps through. You are part of the world, and what is part of is. Rabbi Levy, he’s been teaching me a lot about the Jews. About Judaism. Keeps on coming back to the tree of life, and I keep saying to him, ‘Rabbi, I’m from Loxachachi, Florida! Life ain’t a tree, no! It’s a swamp.’ It’s overgrown and everything yearns for the sun.

“But when there’s so much life, then the world is full of shade. Overgrown, like I said.

“Trees don’t grow by their lonesome! Got brothers and sisters and cousins surrounding ’em, we call that a forest. Maybe they call it a village. We call it the woods, but maybe the trees see a neighborhood.”

The Reverend Arcade Jones was behind the pulpit; Rabbi Levy and Cantor Manevich sat behind him in chairs with absurdly tall backs. Earnest Hubbs had rigged up a temporary ark at the back of the bema, and the Torah he had saved was within. Christ hovered above; he was wearing a breechcloth and a yarmulke. The pews were filled with Jews: coughing, hocking, eating hard candies, holding grudges.

The Jews had been shuttled from place to place–people kept getting tired of them–but now they were here in the First Church of the Infinite Christ and they had stood and sat and stood and sat, and they had declared the Shema as one and sang Havenu Shalom Aleichem led on by the Cantor. It was not the High Holy Days, but the rabbi blew the shofar anyway, just as he had done every Shabbat since the synagogue burned, and the horn made a sound like baaaahROPABOBbahROPABOB that echoed up and down Rose Street. Rabbi Levy blew as hard as he could. He wanted the Main Drag to hear.

It takes a year to read through the Torah, and then you start again. It’s not a sprint or a marathon; it’s not a race at all. A passage each week and then it’s Simcha Torah and you begin again. This week was called Kedoshim. The rabbi said the prayers over the scroll and removed the velvet cover and rolled it out so he could read the words he knew by heart. It went like this:

And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “And you, son of man, will you judge, will you judge the bloody city?”

And it continued on:

Behold, I strike my hand at the dishonest gain that you have made, and at the blood that has been in your midst. Can your courage endure? I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it. I will scatter you among the nations and disperse you through the countries, and I will consume your uncleanness out of you. And you shall be profaned by your own doing in the sight of the nations, and you shall know that I am the Lord.

There was a Bar Mitzvah that week. His name was Josh because all Bar Mitzvah boys are named Josh, and he chanted words he did not understand in a bored monotone. Later, he would be rewarded with savings bonds.

The rabbi asked the Reverend Jones to speak before the congregation, just as he had all the other pastors and priests with whom the Jews had sought refuge. Arcade Jones was wearing a suit the color of a melting creamsicle.

“Ever been to a swamp? Spend time in one? Ooh, Lord, it is hot. First thing you notice. Second thing, too, probably.

“All that life lying on top of one another raises the temperature. Friction and proximity. Leaves get on top of branches get on top of lizards get on top of gators. Nothing gets on top of gators, but they get old just like we do, just like the trees do.

“And time gets thick just like the swamp.”

The Reverend had a glass of water at the pulpit, and he took a drink from it. There were Jews in front of him, behind him, and there was one suspended above him in a purposely uncomfortable pose. Several drunk Christians who had gotten their weekend days mixed up and thought it was Sunday; they were rather confused. Earnest Hubbs had one good shirt, and he was wearing it on the last pew on the left.

Above the bema, the top half of the east wall was stained glass; the artist’s name was Guadalupe Forsythe and she was very famous, but not for her art: she tried to stab the governor of South Dakota at a chili cook-off. Transparent pebbling and shards of blue and green. Fractalized iconography with the sun for a projector: the glass was moving and alive and awake and breathing, and it told the story of Jesus Christ of Little Aleppo. The Stations of the Cross, localized. Christ in a tunic and moccasins as the Pulaski are betrayed; Christ trapped and burning behind painted-shut windows in St. Florian’s orphanage; Christ with her head staved in on the Main Drag; Christ hiding under a bed in Chinatown; Christ a failure on Alfalfa Street; Christ wasting away in a bar on Sylvester Street.

“Rabbi Levy taught me something else. Dayenu. I see you nodding your heads. I see you smiling. When the rabbi taught me about dayenu, I imagined that I had finally met in person someone I’d only known through letters or on the phone. It crystallized something I’ve been thinking about almost all my life. But you know that thoughts ain’t words. Thoughts float around, but words pin ideas down.

Dayenu. ‘You’ve done enough.’ That’s what it means, and it’s a prayer.

“Anything’s a prayer if you say it to the Lord.

“We woke up this morning with health: dayenu. We woke up this morning with a chance at redemption: dayenu. The synagogue burned, but the congregation remains: dayenu. Fire consumes a building, but not the man living within: dayenu!

The Jews did not know what to do: they had heard many sermons, but never been preached at; there was some renegade applause, and a muffled “Woo” from the right side of the nave, and a muttered “That’s right” from the left.

“Wood turns to ash, but the Torah remains: dayenu. In times of strife, the greatest kindnesses emerge: DAYENU! In the DESERT of CRUELTY, water is PASSED ABOUT: DAYENU!”

Arcade Jones ran a handkerchief over his great bald head; a voice cried out,

“Take your time, Reverend.”

And he did. He preached about the Lord and His infinicy, and how an Infinite Christ must surely be Jewish and Muslim and Hindu and either Presbyterian or Episcopalian, whichever was which, and an Animist and an Atheist and an Agnostic and a Gnostic, however you pronounced that, and so too must the Christ await the return of the Turtle Who Once Was And Will Be Again. The Jews shouted AH-MANE and leapt to their feet and whistled, and Arcade Jones declared that they would no longer wander, that the congregation would stay in the First Church until it had a new home, which surprised Deacon Blue but thrilled the Jews, who clapped and cheered so loudly that–since the doors of the First Church of the Infinite Christ were open–the noise ricocheted off the sanctified buildings of Rose Street and into the bars and courthouses and hair salons of the Main Drag through Little Aleppo, which is a neighborhood in America.

Maggie Haberman Receives Another Late Night Call


“Wha? Huh? Jesus, what time is it? Oh, this better not be him. Hello?”


“Was that a belch?”

“Hey, better out than in. Haberman, it’s Bannon.”

“How did you get my number?”

“Mooch gave it to me.”

“Of course he did.”

“He says you two banged.”

“Fake news.”

“Hey, that’s my line. HahahaHACK HACK HACK!”

“That doesn’t sound good.”

“Nothing a Pall Mall won’t soothe. Listen, Habes.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“This place? The White House? Couldn’t run without me. Bunch of fucktards. And Jews. Everywhere ya fuckin’ turn. It’s like a Chinese restaurant on Christmas. Should call it the Nose House.”


“Speaking of China, they got Fat Ass over a barrel. Like the funniest scene in Pulp Fiction.”

“Which scene was that?”

“Where the black guy gets raped.”


“They’re the real enemy.”

“Black guys or China? I mean, either answer is horrible, but I’d like to know what you meant.”



“Chinese are eating our lunch. And, you know: anything’s lunch to those fuckin’ people. Hardcore omnivores, the Chinese.”

“Mr. Bannon–”

“Big Steve!”

“–is there a reason you’re calling?”

“Because I think we have a lot more in common than you think.”

“We do? Like what?”

“Both of us hate me.”


“We’re both halfway through our second bottle of gin.”

“I was asleep.”

“Sleeping’s for cucks.”

“And everyone else.”

“Nonsense! Napoleon slept three hours a night, and so do I. The trick is to not own a bed.”

“How does that work?”

“I keep a pile of canvas moving blankets in the corner. I just curl up for short snoozes. Hey, did you see the president’s press conference? How great was that?”

“Not at all. It was the single most shameful public performance of a president since Bush threw up on the Japanese prime minister. And, you know: that was involuntary. Whereas Trump intended to equate Nazis and people protesting Nazis.”

“And he fuckin’ nailed it! Listen to me, young lady: start removing Confederate statues and next thing you know, white people are being executed in the streets by radical feminist lesbian Mexicans. History proves this.”

“It doesn’t.”


“WHOA! There ya go! Big Steve’s back in the game. Hey, I got a ton of this; come on over and get loose.”

“No. Wait. Where are you?”


“You’re doing cocaine in the White House?”

“In the White House? Shit, I’m sitting at the fuckin’ Resolute Desk. I AM THE LAW, MOTHERFUCKER.”

“Holy shit.”

“I’m optimistic about tax reform.”



“What about tax reform?”

“I didn’t say anything about tax reform. Hey, you wanna know what Fat Ass keeps in his desk drawers?”

“You shouldn’t do that.”

“That’s never stopped me before.”

“Okay, tell me.”


“Holy shit, it’s just cans of hair spray and cock rings.”

“I didn’t need to know that.”

“Ooh, a Luger.”

“A Luger?”

“It’s a German pistol issued to Nazi officers, Habes.”

“Don’t call me that. And I know what it is. Why is there one in the president’s desk drawer?”

“Because it’s history. Removing the Nazi pistol from the Resolute Desk would be just as bad as taking down the Robert E. Lee statue.”

“I have no response to that.”


“Or that. I am hanging up, Mr. Bannon.”

“Big Steve!”

“Not calling you that.”

“Okay, okay, okay. Just, uh, just answer one question for me.”


“What kind of name is Haberman, anyway?”


I Wish I Had A Seatbelt On A Northbound Train

The Grateful Dead weren’t a car band, not thematically. Keith’s Let Me Sing Your Blues Away uses an automotive motif, and Bobby has a line about Cassady’s Cadillac, but not much more than that in their original tunes. (I am deliberately not mentioning Money, Money.) Chuck Berry and Bruce and all the other blue-jeaned rockers covered the parking lot; the Dead tended to mine the depots and switchyards for their symbolic language.

Don’t believe me? Go check for yourself. Searching for “car” pulls up five examples, only one of which was written by the band and is actually referring to a boxcar. “Train,” on the other hand, retrieves eight original songs and a shitload of covers. The Dead’s songs generally take place in some dateless “West” where the past and present and future jerk each other off and eat each others’ lunches from the fridge; the introduction of an automobile gives a song too much temporal specificity.

The Dead also liked trains because the Dead were the trainwreckingest band that ever sold out football stadiums. They were capable of shanking any song at any moment, and in ways you’d not think possible were you not an Enthusiast and already apprised of the band’s infinite bush leaguery. Do you not believe me yet again? Listen to this El Paso from 11/2/84 at the Berkeley Community Theater. El Paso has two fucking chords and they played it every other night for their entire career, but the Dead found a way to utterly fuck the song up AND for way longer than usual: El Paso is usually three-and-a-half minutes long, but this Texas Tragedy is over six.

That El Paso is a bit of an outlier, though, in that you can’t quite put your finger on what went wrong besides everything. Not so with this Ship Of Fools from 5/5/78 at Dartmouth. 6:35 or thereabouts, Garcia jumps a beat in between “It was later than I thought” and “When I first believed you” and then refuses to listen to anyone onstage for the rest of the tune; the song never recovers.

But if we’re talking full-song calamities, then the 3/31/85 China Doll might be the winner. It’s got everything: Garcia randomly speeding up and slowing down, pooched lyrics, transition pile-ups, out-of-sync drummers, and several unplanned key changes.

Those, Enthusiasts, are all intrasong trainwrecks, but the Dead also managed to fuck up before they’d quite begun the tune.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B (go to 2:02:00):

We have barely scratched the surface, Enthusiasts. There were many other categories of catastrophe. You’ll notice that the songs posted so far have been ones that the Dead knew how to play. But, sometimes, the Grateful Dead would play songs that they did not know how to play. For example, on 6/23/88 at Alpine Valley, the Dead did not know how to play the Beatles’ Blackbird. They did not let that stop them.

Well, Blackbird’s got a bunch of chords, you might think. Louie Louie, however, famously has only three. And yet, the Dead did not know how to play the song.

In terms of minor wrecks–ones that work themselves out within a few bars, but still make you giggle–the best place to go looking is right at the intersection of Jam and Song in Playing in the Band. That spot was the Dead’s equivalent of that one wobbly step on your staircase that you trip on every time but never fix.

I’m missing quite a few, obviously. Speak up in the Comment Section, and don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe.


I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos lately.

Stop that.



(With thanks to everyone on Twitter who pointed out these gems.)

An Imperfect Storm

“How dare the fire department attack that fire? The arsonist was just expressing his views.”

“Telling that man to put his dick away makes you just as bad as him. Whatever happened to ‘I don’t agree with your dick, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to take it out in the food court?'”

“The real Yankees are the team playing the Yankees.”

Can’t we get back to silly little skitches and making up words?

Ah, you know. Got Nazis on the brain.

Go find some wacky pictures of Phil or something. You’re driving yourself nuts.

I know, I know. But…

But what?


What did you do?

I might kind of sort of a little bit be hosting the Daily Stormer.

I can’t with you.


What so you even mean by hosting? You don’t have a server. You barely know how to use your computer.

What do computers have to do with it? I’m hosting them.

Like, physically?

They’re in the living room.

The Daily Stormer is in the living room?

Well, I’m not letting them in the solarium.

Tell the Nazis to get out.

Dude, free speech.

This has literally nothing to do with free speech.

Commerce Clause? It’s in the Constitution somewhere. I wish I could get rid of them: they’re complete assholes.


They took my Galactus action figure and turned it into a Robert E. Lee statue. And the house stinks like citronella.

The tiki torches?

Those fuckers are obsessed.

Throw the Nazis out.

What if some of them are fine people who just happen to work for the Stormer?

Ah. We have a name for those people.


Nazis. Throw them out and write something funny.

You’re not the boss of me.

I actually am.

I know.

Something Sweet

You know Annabelle and Trixie, but those are Trey’s daughters, Kay and Fay, on the outside.

A Time For Choosing

The poet Maya Angelou once said, “Don’t forget about my asshole while you’re back there, boy. Let’s see some thumb work.” She also said “When someone shows you who they really are, believe them the first time.”

O, he showed us.

Is there a more transparent man in public life? A more obviously oblivious and  patently putrid mammal incapable of strategic thought or deed? Donald Trump has always laid his cards face-up in any one of the casinos he bankrupted. (He is, in a way, more trustworthy than actual politicians: they might be lying, but Trump is.) For years now–decades if you grew up in the New York mediasphere–he has informed all in earshot of his views on race. (And women, foreigners, the poor, and the press, but let’s stick to the topic of the day.)

His very first campaign speech–the cold open, for fuck’s sake–built to a climax in which he called Mexicans rapists.

In the 80’s, Trump paid (or got someone else to pay, most likely) for full-page ads in the papers calling for the death penalty for the so-called “Central Park Five, a group of black teens accused of raping a white women. They were later exonerated after spending years in jail; the city paid out more than $40 million in settlements. Donald Trump refused to apologize or repudiate his claims given the new information. Instead, he doubled down.

Any mention of African-Americans in his presence leads to a stuttering harangue on the inner cities, and their terrors.

Gonzalo Curiel is a judge assigned to hear a case involving Donald Trump. This is what he said:

“I think it has to do with, perhaps, the fact that I’m very, very strong on the border — very, very strong on the border,” Trump said at the time. “He has been extremely hostile to me. Now, he is Hispanic, I believe.”

Pressure on Trump continued to mount after his comments. In an interview with CNN in June, Trump doubled down on his criticism of Curiel, who was born and raised in Indiana, saying that his comments were not racist. “He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico.”

One might think it odd for a man who had such poor luck in casinos to be doubling down so much.

Donald Trump uses not just words to show us who he is, but actions. Hiring one known racist to work in the White House? Well, that’s an accident. Happens to the best of us. Happened to Reagan! Brought a fellow on to be his Communications Director and it came out that he’d been in the Hitler Youth. Ronnie gave him the axe, not sent him out to represent the presidency on teevee. Hire two? Can’t lie: that’s suspicious. But three? Now, that’s downright suggestive.

King of the birthers, ladies and gentiles.

Must we speak of Twitter? Of the “accidental” retweets from white supremacists? At the Star of David overlaid on a background of cash? Six members of Trump’s economic council have resigned in the past few days: five white and one black. I’ll take your bet on which one got the nasty tweet, but I won’t give you better odds than even money.

When Nazis started a riot in Charlottesville on Saturday, a woman ended up dead. Two policemen surveiling the scene were killed when their helicopter crashed. Many others were injured, some severely.  The president could not be bothered to cut his 17-day vacation short, and that night he read a boilerplate statement for half-a-paragraph. The statement had been prepared for him by more sober minds, but Donald got bored and started extemporizing.

“Many sides” were responsible for the carnage, he said while standing at a podium bearing the Presidential seal.

The White House released an unsigned memo the next day with more forceful language.

And so we come to the present. At a press conference today, Trump declared both sides to be equally at fault. One side, it should be noted, was made up of Nazis; the other was not. Yet the president claimed ambivalence towards the event. After all, he reminded us, the Nazis did have a permit. Then he expressed gratitude that mother of the dead woman wrote nice things about him on Facebook.

And then he lied about owning a winery in Charlottesville.

The cards are up. We’ve seen what Donald Trump is holding: most likely a flush. He seems to prefer when colors stick together. He is the most honest liar in the entire world, and he has shown us who he is.

Donald Trump has shown us whose side he is on.

Whose side are you on?

Maggie Haberman Is Still Getting Late-Night Calls


“Wha? Why? What time is it? Hello?”


“Ah, fuck.”


“It’s your boy, Mooch!”

“I heard the theme music.”

“You see me on Colbert tonight? Fuckin’ killed that shit. Got it up on the big screen now. Mamalucha! I look good.”

“Why are you calling?”

“I’d fuck me.”

“I take it you’re getting over your divorce.”

“Pssh. Not even in my rearview anymore. Mooch is moving on. And moving out. You like Billy Joel?”

“I work for the New York Times. Of course I like Billy Joel.”

“Next time he comes around, we’ll go together.”


“I get tickets in the luxury boxes, so I can go in the back and get a bit of skull You know: in case he starts playing any new stuff.”


“My dick goes insane in the mountains of mouthness.”

“I have absolutely no idea–”

“Some slurp for my wontons.”

“What does any of this have to do with Billy Joel?”

“I know him, y’know.”

“Of course you do.”

“One time out in the Hamptons, me and Billy are driving around late at night. Mercedes, the Brabus, very classy. We’re gettin’ high, I’m helpin’ him with lyrics, it’s a great night.”


“And Billy looks at me and says, ‘Watch this, Mooch.’ And he drives the car right the fuck into a tree.”


“And then, with a superhuman strength he had heretofore not displayed in my presence, he pulled my body over to the driver’s side as he got out. ‘When the cops come? If you mention my name, I’ll fuckin’ kill you.’ This is what he said! ‘I’m Billy fuckin’ Joel, motherfucker.’ And then he kissed me on the mouth and ran into the woods.”

“None of this happened.”

“Greatest night of my life.”

“Why are you calling me?”


“Don’t call me that.”

“–I genuinely wanted to hear your opinion on my Colbert spot. I value your insight as a reporter and as a writer.”


“Sure, why not.”

“You’re coked up and bored with talking to the hookers?”

“Bingo bongo bango. You’re sharp.”

“I’ve been told.”

“You did watch, right?”

“Yes, I watched.”

“I knew it. You’re sweet on me. You’re drunk off Mooch Hooch.”

“I am a fan of Stephen Colbert.”

“Between you and me? Pretty sure he’s a fag.”

“Stop that.”

“I got a vibe off him.”

“Maybe he was just reflecting your energy, ever think about that?”

“Ayyoh! Watch your mouth, little girl.”

“Little girl?”

“The Mooch ain’t no finocchio. I eat more pussy than the Koreans.”

“Wow. Sexist and racist at once.”

“Mooch killed that shit so hard. Already blowing up. Got an offer from a teevee station to do a talk show.”

“Russia Today?”

“Who leaked that!? Was it Bannon?”

“I guessed.”

“That fat fuck Bannon. I give him this!”


“And this!”


“That’s what I give Steve Bannon.”

“You do know we’re on the phone, right?”

“You know what he always reminded me of? Fight Club.”

Fight Club? Everybody was in shape in that movie. Wait. Meatloaf?”

“Nah. You remember when Brad Pitt and the other guy steal the fat to make soap? And they’re going over the fence with the barbed wire and one of the bags gets caught and starts leaking? That’s what Bannon reminds me of. That bag of human fat draped over barbed wire and pouring grease and shit onto the world.”

“Not a bad analogy.”

“You think I should be on Dancing with the Stars?”

“Have they called?”

“They’re gonna.”

“You should.”

“Gotta keep the face out there. Besides, the Mooch got moves. Me and my friends used to go down to this disco in Queens every Saturday night.”

“I already know where this is going.”

“And then we raped a chick and my buddy jumped off a bridge. It’s honestly fucked-up story if you think about it.”

“I’m hanging up the phone.”

“Why do we still say ‘hang up?’ Isn’t that weird?”

“Good night, Mooch.”

“Wait, wait. So you really thought I did good?”

“You were your usual charming self.”

“I gotta be me.”

“Even when you shouldn’t.”

“Sure you don’t wanna come over?”


“I got ecstasy.”


Dem Ol’ Caveman Blues


“Yeah, Oggie?”

“Your hair looks great.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s a compliment. I invented them this morning. How’d it make you feel?”

“Honestly? Warm inside. More secure in our friendship.”

“Thog, friendship is the best thing we’ve come up with so far.”

“Better than clothes?”

“Okay, second-best.”

“Because it was just so cold at night before we invented clothes.”

“True. So you liked the compliment thing?’

“I did. Is it just for hair?”

“No! That’s the great part. You could compliment someone on anything.”

“A smile?”

“That would be a perfect thing to compliment someone on.”

“A job well done?”

“Yes! You wanna try?”

“Sure. Um. Oggie, you’ve got a great penis.”


“It’s just lovely. Brings a smile to the cave.”


“What? You complimented my hair. I assumed all body parts were in the game.”

“My penis is not in the game. Plus I’m wearing my tunic. You can’t even see it.”

“It’s burned into my memory.”

“Can we talk about something else?”

“My penis?”


“Oh! Wait, I had something to tell you.”


“Not about penises.”


“I invented something this morning, too. Check this out: OOOOOOOooooooo AAAAwahwahLAAAAAAAA!”

“What the fuck was that?”

“I don’t know, man.”

“It was like you were talking, but…not.”

“Right? Sounded like a bird a little?”

“It was amazing.”

“You try, Oggie.”

“Okay. Harrumph! DOOOOOOoooooowahdiddydiddydumdiddydoooooooOOOOOOO.”


“That was good?”

“That was outrageous.”

“It felt a little pitchy, Thog.”

“You were in there. Your voice is as beautiful as your penis.”

“You need to stop with that.”

“This is the best thing we’ve invented since compliments! Let’s call it ‘fisting.'”

“Or ‘singing’ could be good, too.”

“Yeah, okay. We should form a group.”

“A capella? Ugh. So dorky.”

“Well, then we need to invent instruments, don’t we?”

“I got an idea.”

“Please don’t say piano.”

“Why not? I’ve always wanted to learn the piano.”

“Thog, look down.


“Now tell me: are you wearing shoes, or are there raw animal skins strapped crudely to your feet?”

“The second thing.”

“Yeah, that’s why we can’t have a piano.”


“Same answer.”


“We can do drums.”

“Double kick drums?”

“Let’s start with slapping our hands on rocks and build from there.”

“Dude, we’re in a band.”

“We gotta think of a name.”

“And then paint it on the rock.”


More Musical Questions Answered

Who’s Zooming Who? First of all, Aretha: whom. You meant to ask “Who’s zooming whom?” Second: I think you’re using some kind of colloquial definition of “zooming” that I am not privy to. Zooming could mean almost anything. You’ve given me nothing to work with, and therefore I cannot answer this.

How Long Has This Been Going On? Okay, I am going to need all of you fuckers to be more specific. These pronouns are killing me. What’s “this,” Paul Carrack? Photosynthesis? If you’re asking how long photosynthesis has been going on, then the answer is “a very long time.” But if “this” refers to the fidget spinner fad, then I would say it’s been six months or so. But without more information, this song too remains a mystery.

Who Wrote The Book Of Love? Neruda, or maybe E.L. James.

Where Have All The Flowers Gone? It’s winter, Pete. They’ll be back in May. I can’t go through this with you every fucking January, man.

Are You Experienced? STOP BEING VAGUE, ASSHOLES. Experienced at what? Long-haul driving? Animal husbandry? Refrigerator repair? (Although knowing Hendrix, he was probably talking about headband-wearin’. Jimi wore the fuck out of headbands.)

Are You Lonesome Tonight? Little bit.

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? The one with the waggly tail? I don’t know and quite honestly think you’re a monster for even considering buying an animal from a store. Rescue your pets, folks.*

Who Wears Short Shorts? Bobert Herbert Walker Weir.

Is She Really Going Out With Him? I can’t. I just can’t. Who is “she” and who is “him,” Joe Jackson? I don’t travel in your social circles, so I need more context.

How Soon Is Now? Oh, shut up, Morrissey.

Who’s That Girl? FUUUUUUUUUUCK. Are you pointing, Madonna? Are you pointing at a woman on the street? You need to be more forthcoming. Tell me who that girl is. Wait. Are you talking about Marlo Thomas? Holy shit, has Who’s That Girl been about Marlo Thomas all these years? Does Donahue know?

You Down With OPP? Yeah, you know me.


*You can buy fish from the store. I don’t think there are rescue fish.

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