Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: nick paumgarten

Read This, Read This, Do This

Jennifer Finney Boylan in the New York Times comparing Basketball Head to Pepe LePew. Ms. Boylan’s pieces always disappoint me in a strange way that the Germans must have a word for: I read the Times to yell at it, not to enjoy it. When something appealing is published, it takes the fun out of it. Luckily, Ross Douthat is typing as we speak, so I’ll be back to full ire soon.

I did not know that the New Yorker‘s Nick Paumgarten was an Eagles fan when he called me a genius. I still accept his praise, and agree with it. Bonus points for living father. Generally, these pieces feature a dead dad and they’re unfuckingbearable: there is the obligatory scene at the grave; there is the required passed-down hat. No one needs any more “Thinkin’ about Dead Dad when [LONG-SUFFERING TEAM] wins” articles.

(You, Enthusiast, are in no danger of being presented with such an essay around these parts. While TotD does have the requisite dead father, we were Mets and Giants fans, and both of those teams have the courtesy to win championships every once in a while.)

Go google “ostrich + Philadelphia.”

Reasons Why Nick Paumgarten Is A Genius

He was the second person to recognize my genius I mean, I knew. And I tried to get the fact printed in the New Yorker, but the security in that building is top-notch. Luckily, Nick Paumgarten came to the same conclusion that I did and did my work for me. I quote Steven Jay Gould on intelligence:

The surest sign of it is the realization of TotD’s genius. Also, fuck E.O. Wilson.

There you go.

This article The Grateful Dead were a joke. For years, decades: they were the dopey stoner band for dopey stoners. An easy laugh on a sitcom, a punchline on a talk show, and certainly not worthy of respect from the right publications and media corners. There was nothing prestige about them. They had no cachet in the culture.

NP (I’m calling Nick Paumgarten “NP” and there’s not one of you that can stop me) said to this general consensus, “Dead rules, suck my jewels.” He said it a little more eloquently, but you get the drift. Was this article the impetus of the high-toned, white-glove treatment the Dead now receive? Probably not, at least not entirely.

But it certainly was the first.

And then there’s this Enthusiasts, I will not lie to you (right now): this article about Father John Misty pissed me off. How dare I be forced to think of him as a human being just trying to create art. It was fulfilling, in a primal way, to detest a man based on listening to half of one of his records and skimming through a Buzzfeed listicle about his beard.

It’s not a hit piece! There’s no snark! Just sentence after sentence of words in the right order, and a man slowly fitting his entire head up his own ass. It is a wonderful read, and you should go do so now.

It also ends like this:

At the Roosevelt, though, he wasn’t much more than a “minor fascination,” as he refers to himself in “Leaving LA.” After a drizzle of applause, he made his way through the crowd, back to the patio outside his room, where Emma was waiting. “That’s what you call a partial debasement,” he said. “It’s kind of poetic that, the week I have a Top 10 record, I have to go back to my beginning of playing a party with no one paying attention.” A small party-within-the-party sprang up in his room, but it wasn’t long before Tillman felt a kind of depression coming on and began to gather his things. He invited everyone to stay as long as they wanted, and he and Emma headed out to their Jaguars and up into the hills.

There’s a great AP English question in there: “Why did the author contrast the first and last sentences like that?”

Genius, I tells ya.

Many Reservations

Go read this. It’s FoTotD Nick Paumgarten’s latest piece of brilliance in The New Yorker, and it’s a perfectly paced thriller about a restaurant that doesn’t exist.

There’s this guy–that’s how all these stories start–named Damon. He has a last name, but it’s tough to spell and it’s late. Let’s pretend Damon’s last name is Dash. There you go: Damon Dash has a restaurant named Damon Dash in Upstate New York, and he’s taken all the foodie bullshit to its illogical endpoint. The food at Damon Dash is not locally sourced, which generally means within 100 miles: all of it comes from on the property. Like: the stuff that grows in the yard.

There is also no bathroom: you are asked to poop on whatever crop is not growing well, usually the rutabaga. (Rutabaga is a slothful and indolent plant.)

And you can’t get in. The new hot restaurant in New York City is Le Coucou; you can’t get in there, either, but in a different way: if you want to eat there at 5 o’clock on a Monday, then you can get in, but you can’t go on Saturday night. Not Damon Dash, the joint in Upstate: every single reservation is taken for the next decade. If you ask real nice, and give him $400, then Damon might just open up the place special for you on an off-night.

It helps if you’re a big-time Food Person. Perhaps if you’re a star. Lyle Alzado has eaten there. Grace Pennington. Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker ended a years-long feud in the table by the left. Calls to the stars’ representatives went unanswered.

Go read about Damon Dash, a restaurant that may or may not be located on Route 77.

Social Climbing

A New York City kinda afternoon for you, Enthusiasts: upward mobility of all sorts; treats for your eyes and your ears.

The ’72 Academy of Music run is underrated, and under-represented in the Vault. The 3/28 show, plus the best of a Bo Diddley sit-in set that goes on far too long, was released as a Dick’s Pick, but several other nights are missing or partials. The Dead played seven shows in eight nights, putting their noses to the mirror in order to fill their coffers for the Europe tour. (Don’t forget that the Boys were still scraping by in 1972, and actually lost money on their tour of the Continent, only recouping later with the live album.)

The 23rd is the only Dark Star show, though. Sure, it’s a short one (only 23 minutes) and it’s a rare stand-alone DS: they just kinda start, and then they just kinda stop.

“Hey, fellows: you wanna do that thing where we magically flow into another song?”


“Not really.”

“Kiss my ass, Weir.”

“Is it time for Drums?”

“Mickey? You shouldn’t be here.”

And so on.

There’s also a passel of snappy and authoritative versions of the short songs: if you didn’t know better, you might think they actually practiced. The Looks Like Rain (with Phil on the high, throaty harmony) is a killer. Plus a China>Rider opener. There’s nothing you were planning on listening to that’s better than this show; go and listen to it right now. There will be a quiz.

But, you ask, what should I do with my eyeballs?

Good question, I say, but that’s an odd way to phrase it and now I fear you.

Go read the latest from FoTotD (Friend of Thoughts on the Dead) Nick Paumgarten in the New Yorker, where I have been called a genius. He tells us about the best boulder-climber in the world, which is a thing. She’s a 14-year-old girl, Tavi Gevinson with chalky hands, and she climbs up and away from her father faster and better than anyone’s ever seen.

Boulder climbing is unlike the other climbing sports in minor details, but it’s a status game of the bored and privileged played because humans have no feathers to pluck out or fur to chew at. Once the problems of food and shelter have been solved, everything else is a defense mechanism against long afternoons.

It is, however, the minor details that count. Bouldering isn’t mountain-climbing (which is mostly punctuated walking) or rock-climbing (which is 90% hideous conversations about chafing and pitons and carabiners): it’s dashing up a bumpy rock.

To me, this is even more pointless than climbing mountains. Get to the top of a mountain and you have a rare view; there’s nothing on top of a boulder except maybe a used condom and some stubbed-out Marlboro Reds. Plus, this young climbing woman lives in New York City and climbs the rocks in Central Park. If Law & Order has taught us anything, there will be a dead body up there once or twice a year.

Read the story. It’s sadder than it seems, but most things are.

Everything That’s Dead Someday Comes Back

In the Friends of Thoughts on the Dead (FoTotD) column, today we have the great Nick Paumgarten’s latest piece in The New Yorker about Atlantic City: apparently, it is not doing well.

This, of course, follows Mr. Paumgarten’s classic article about the Dead (one of the best written in a long time) from a few years back and continues his obsession with crumbling American institutions that shouldn’t even have lasted as long as they did.

TotD was not called a genius in this article, but it’s still worth your time.

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