Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: paradise now

Stuffing Your Stocking

Christmas is coming, Enthusiasts, coming all over us. Christmas is coming soon, too: can’t you hear Christmas’ breath becoming labored? Can’t you see Christmas’ toes curling? Don’t mention Christmas’ mother right now, Enthusiasts! Christmas will never come if you do that.

Excuse me.

Christmas is gonna come in our eyes and laugh when we cry.

Stop it.

Who among us is not dreaming of a milky, white Christmas?



Because you’re both trite and disgusting.

Like if someone wrote “Live, Laugh, Love” on the wall in feces?

Just like that, yes. You started this post with a point.

I did, and I was going to get to it after I exhausted myself being a filthmonster.

Why don’t we skip right to it?

Sure: Christmas, Enthusiasts, is the time to say “I love you.” And share the joy and laughter and good cheer. On the corners, the carolers are singing. There’s a touch of magic in the air. From grownup to minor, no one could be finer; times are hard, but–


Billy Squier’s fucking awesome.

Please just get to the point. 

My point is that the greatest gift that anyone could even hope to give this year for Christmas is Chris Jenning’s triumph of a book Paradise Now: The Story of American UtopianismThis book–remarkable scholarship matched with flowing prose–can be beaten by no object on the planet in terms of presentability. (I choose my words carefully, as always: as superb as Chris’ book is, it is not as good as world peace or true love or supreme physical beauty. If we’re honest, many concepts are a better Christmas present than Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism–lactose tolerance, gravity negation, the weather always matching your mood–but stuff? Stuff? No, there is no stuff that compares.


Nope. Nothing.

Luxury car with the giant bow on it like in the commercials.

A car is not a gift. A car is a financial obligation. Giving someone an automobile for Christmas is like giving someone a dog for Christmas. You’re essentially demanding that the recipient keep something alive.

Suitcase full of cash.

Have you ever seen a movie before?

I have seen several movies.

Do the movies that feature suitcases full of cash have happy endings for the protagonists?

Rarely. Wait: heist films.

Heist films most certainly do not feature suitcases full of cash. Heist films are about vaults full of cash. You can totally get away with stealing a vault full of cash, but being in possession of a suitcase full of cash leads to a bullet in the face in the third act. Terrible Christmas present.

Hope Diamond.

Bad mojo, man.

Complete set of Barney Miller DVDs.

Bad Wojo, man.

A sweater.

Can a sweater teach you about the Perfectionists of the Oneida Commune, and their inevitable schism? Or the Icarians of Nauvoo, and their inevitable schism? Or the Fourierist Phalanxes, and–

Their inevitable schism?

–their inevitable…yeah.

Utopianists were a bunch of schismatic motherfuckers.

You have no idea. It was just squabbling and either having no sex or having too much. And these are things no sweater could ever tell you, even a cardigan, which is the most intelligent of all the sweaters.

Are we including fictional objects in our discussion?

Obviously not. Don’t bring the Time Sheath into this. Also: Time Sheath technology is a horrible present: you put it under the tree and by the next morning the whole living room’s in the ninth century.

Well, you’ve stumped me and won the argument.

You’re just saying that.

I am. Not that everyone shouldn’t buy the book, but where did this come from?

The strenuous plug?


He knows what he did.

I want to listen to Billy Squier now.

Me, too.

In Which Realities Get Perilously Close To One Another


I don’t think that’s necessary.

“Huh? Ah, finger. It just, uh, resembles the bird. Holding the pick, gesturing dramatically.”

Oh, yeah, okay.

“Saw your buddy tonight.”

Chris Jennings, author of the award-winning Paradise Now: A Biography of American Utopianism?

“Yeah. I was doing a number with Wilbur–”


“–and I came off the stage, and there he is. You can’t, you know, you can’t miss him.”

Above-average height.

“Right. So first I thought he was Walton.”

He’s not that tall, Bobby.

“You didn’t let me get to my second thought.”


“It was ‘He’s not that tall, Bobby.’ And I was gonna keep on thinking, but he complimented me on my performance.”

He’s a polite guy.

“You bet. I was ready to be best friends with him.”


“Yeah. I’m lonely. Jimi Hendrix hasn’t been returning my texts.”




FoTotD and award-winning writer of Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism Chris Jennings sends in this picture of Bobby sitting in with Wilco tonight.

Wilco is a band from Brooklyn, and they are the musical equivalent of The Wire.

Come Back To Me, Fare Thee Well



Sunday night, the last night, we were in Section 331 or maybe 313: the top section on the right, maybe an inch in from the right border of the picture. Second row in the middle. The Captain was in front of us, and Hobbit was to the right.

These are not cruel nicknames; one is not a nickname at all: Hobbit introduced herself to me as “Hobbit. (Right, right: Hobbit was technically a nickname, but what I’m saying is that I’m not calling her “Hobbit” to be a dick and comment on her appearance. Although, she did get that nickname because she looks like a hobbit.)

The Captain was a Jew in his 30’s in a captain’s hat; he shushed Martin and I because we were having a giggling fit naming all of our favorite Phil songs. (Terrapin, Stella Blue, Deal, etc.) In the Captain’s defense: we were being boisterous. On the other hand, when I say that he shushed us, I do not speak euphemistically: he pouted his lips and exhaled forcefully, resulting in a sound we onomatopoetically refer to as a “shush.”

It wasn’t a “Hey. Guys?” You’d expect one of those. You trail off on the “guys” a little. People are being too loud? You turn around and go, “Hey. Guys?” and everyone knows what has transpired.



I am uncertain as to whether or not the Captain put his index finger to his lips to underscore the shush.


I managed to fuck up a grocery run.

Martin is a chef and prepared the three of us breakfast in the morning at around 1 in the afternoon. Left to my own devices, I would have stopped at the taco truck before and after the show and called it a day, but Martin is not just a chef, but an adult, so he made breakfast.

Nothing fancy. Eggs and bacon. The kind of breakfast Charles Bronson would approve of.

Supplies had run low and I, wanting to be a good guest, volunteered to shop. It was a short list; I had cash and a credit card; the store was two blocks away.

Sadly, there was a Ukranian grocery next door to the regular grocery, which I entered. Now: did I walk back out on to the street and check to see if there was another place to buy food where all the labels weren’t in Cyrillic? Of course not: I circled and re-circled the aisles as if that were the way to learn the language.

Not only was all the writing in gobbledygook, I’m pretty sure Ukrainians have a different definition of “food” than we do: I did not recognize some of the animals hanging behind the butcher case. I think they eat a lot of elk.

On my fifth or sixth circumambulation of the store, the babushkas were giving me the eye; I got eggs and orange juice, then tried to hide my failure with a shitload of fruit. (I regret not buying the Latvian version of Fanta, which is called Blug.)

I got back to the apartment and explained what had happened; neither Martin nor Chris brought up the fact that the store I was supposed to go to was right next door, which is polite of them.


Chicago made me realize that we need autonomous cars, and we need them quickly.

I checked my phone during a Dead show. (Kinda. Not I kinda checked my phone; I mean they were kinda the Dead.) Not obsessively–less than normal–but I did. I would never throw friends under the bus, but Chris and Martin totally did, too. And all the people in our general area the first night, and all the people in our rows the following nights.

Everyone in that stadium who had a phone played with it at one point, and not just to take pictures: they would get a text and take their phones out of their pocket to see who it was, and then notice they had a notification on Twitter, and so on.

Please understand that I am not just talking about the sober and the dragged-there: people on acid who had not been on acid in a very long time played with their phones. A headful of LSD and the Grateful Dead (kinda) onstage, and all of us chose at least briefly to fuck around with our magic toys.

And you expect people to stop using their phones while they drive? Bring on the robot chauffeurs; we have made our choice.


You don’t make eye contact in the Men’s Room: it’s a rule. It’s an impersonal room for a personal act. However, laws supersede rules, so when someone shreds the fabric of the social contract by walking into the Men’s Room barefoot, you are allowed to make eye contact with the guy next to you.

I don’t remember what the barefoot guy looked like, but my fellow witness was tall and had a brown beard; we both saw him–naked heels and toes squishing and semi-sliding on the slick, sickly tile–at the same time.

We looked at each other.

And then back down.

How often do you know the totality of a complete stranger’s mind? And have him know yours? We shared the kind of instant communion that only onlookers to terrorist attacks or natural disasters are privy to. (Pun semi-intended.)

I couldn’t tell you the set list of any of the shows I attended; I will never forget that moment in the Men’s Room.


If there had been no show, no music at all, and was just a crowd of happy people in the summer, then that might have been okay, too.

Soldier Field was not built to be wandered around. The outside, I mean: unlike most stadia plunked in the middle of ten-acre parking lots, Soldier Field is on a little strip of land in between the highway and Lake Michigan; there are natural choke points for movement, plus there are hills and multiple levels so you can’t ever get a vantage point on where the hell you are.

(Grant Park, which is right next to the stadium, was built to be wandered around in. It is a park.)

You had to show your ticket twice: first to get in to what you could call the front yard of the joint, and then again to get in the building proper. Once you got inside the wire, there was open space, flat, on three sides of the stadium; space and grass and sun and opportunities to buy anything you could ever want, as long as the only things you ever wanted were Dead merch and RC Cola.

People were in wheelchairs: the unlucky, with their legs in casts; and the really unlucky, with nothing obviously wrong. Hobbit’s left leg was in a massive brace, the canvas one that wraps around your entire leg from the back like a tortilla, and the velcro straps in front.


Soldier Field was refitted around the turn of the century (the most recent one, not the old-timey one) and it was necessarily a bit of a kludge: there’s at least one part where changing levels on the concourse involves going both up and down. They had a certain amount of space, and they fit a football stadium into it. It’s a little discombobulating on the best day.

But during a Dead show, the place becomes completely uncombobulatable.

“Chris,” I said. “Can you combobulate?”

And he said nothing, because that conversation did not actually occur. (The fictionality of that anecdote takes nothing away from the fact that I will now be using the word “combobulate” to mean “finding your way with purpose and efficiency.”)

We were not so confused as to disregard the cardinal rule of show-wanderin’: follow the tall guy and you’ll get there eventually. If you try following the short guy and getting there soon, you will fail.

While we were walking, we talked loudly about the soon-to-be-announced shows at CitiField in two weeks. We were hoping, perhaps, to return to our seats and have the people around us buzzing like extras in a screwball comedy.

“Didja hear, Marge? They’re taking the show to Queens!”

“Queens! This bunch of jokers?”

“Why I oughtta…”

This did not happen. That people who heard us did not believe us.


RC Cola should use the marketing strategy that they employ in Soldier Field in more places: I would buy RC Cola much more if it were the only product available. People have brand loyalty when it comes to soda–I’ll admit to preferring Pepsi to Coke–but it’s all the same poison; I have one every two weeks or so. In Chicago, I had one every two songs or so. The trick is to get the soda/sweating ratio just right; this limits both bathroom runs and the chance of sunstroke.

Chris and Martin, who I have mentioned previously are adults, had beer.

After the show, back at the house, we watched Ferris Bueller in honor of the city. There was whiskey or whisky or scotch or whatever that brown stuff is officially called. Martin and Chris relaxed with their drinks; again: like adults.

I asked for a glass, pounded the shot like I were in a biker bar, and then made this noise MANACXHblech HOO nHOO and I also made a face like a six-year-old forced to finish her broccoli.

They judged me a little.


The stadium was protected by being a stadium: they build them to be defensible, and while most of the security was “security,” there were also the requisite number of enormous private guards and bemused cops. There was also a fence, and nothing can get through a fence.

In the corner of the stadium, by the taco truck, someone managed to crack the fence code: he climbed it.

“I never would have thought of that,” Chris, whose book Paradise Now is garnering rave reviews and you should really buy, said.

“So that’s how you do it,” Martin said.

“You use your hands and feet. Right,” I said.

He was a little wiry guy with a massive backpack; it didn’t slow him down as he scampered up the chain-link, over, around a cop, and into the crowd.

We were mild. “This is why we can’t have nice things,” was our first thought and then we remembered it was 2016 and that backpack was enormous; we talked about something else until nothing blew up, and then we talked about the kid with the backpack a little.

Another Case Of Disaster Narrowly Averted


All of you, every single one of you, need to thank the great and tall and dignified Chris Jennings (whose award-winning* book Paradise Now can be purchased via clicking the link in the sidebar) for talking me out of buying this. I would have inflicted it on you; it would have been days out of all of our busy schedules.

And it’s not a short book, either: it’s the same length as Chris’ book, which covers hundreds of years and hops from the Old World to the New. Destroyer has nine songs on it, and only five or six are any good. One of the tunes is called Great Expectations, and it is about Great Expectations. It’s the best record KISS ever made, and you can take that statement exactly how I meant it.

So: thank Chris.

Also: look at those hands. Very powerful. Large. Not small.

*Chris Jennings has won the prestigious Best Writer in the Entire World Award in a ceremony held in my kitchen a week or so ago.

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