I imagine if you were a kid in Florida you had Ponce de Leon shoved down your throat in elementary school, and if you’re from Texas you were taught all about Sam Houston. For California kids, our white male figure of state pride is John Muir. I did a report on him in third grade and remember exactly 3 things about his life: he was from Scotland, his father was super religious, and he is known as the Father of the National Park System for churning out so much pro-wilderness propaganda that Teddy Roosevelt set aside lands for protection in perpetuity. The entry fee for the park is just $20, a direct result of its status as federal, public land. Can’t find a much cheaper vacation than that, guys.
Later on, I learned that Muir and I agreed on the criteria for good living. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,” he said, “places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal.” He died in 1914, a couple decades before home phonographs really took off in popularity, which explains why he’s not quoted as saying, “beauty as well as bread and most importantly of all: records.”
Yosemite Family Funtimes, Aug. 3 – 8, 2014!
Premise: Last week was our annual Yosemite Family Funtimes Trip™, which, as luck would have it, always coincides with MY annual Driving Through the Scary Republican Parts of California to go Digging on the Way to Yosemite Trip™. This year we stopped by Tower District Records, where they didn’t have the most reasonably priced records but they let us bring in Cairo, our sweet and mellow shepherd/retriever mix. When we got to the cabin, I spread all of my purchases out on the bed, took some pics, then took my body to the river where I washed myself in the water, in the water, heyyy…(fade out).
Promotional consideration provided by: Toyota, the Frye Company, Apple, Conde Nast Publications, lots and lots of caffeine, Lagunitas brewery, and the US National Park System.
Apparel: cutoffs, flip-flops, boots, tank tops, bikinis (mint green, royal blue), and The Phil Lynott Shirt of Goodness and Light™.
Road trip stops, vinyl-related: Tower District Records in Fresno (drive up), Velouria Records in Visalia (drive back).
Road trip stops, non-vinyl-related: In-N-Out, Barnes & Noble, depressing gas station snack marts.
Current awful popular radio song, heard 5-7 times: “Garbage Song” or something like that, by Lil Wayne. I hate it. Everyone I respect and love will tell me how much they hate it. It will be a monster hit.
Historical fucking terrific palate-cleansing joint and overall theme song for the trip: Ramsey Lewis’ “Wade in the Water.” Esmond Edwards forever.
Reading material: King of the World, David Remnick; The Things I Never Told You, Celeste Ng; The Last Holiday, Gil Scott-Heron; Fantasy Football mag, Q magazine for its Motown cover story because I’m a sucker.
Minor annoyances attempted to soothe by walks in the woods: Should I take Jamaal Charles or Calvin Johnson first in my Fantasy draft? Am I a terrible person for continuing to play Fantasy Football*? Is my bikini top too small?
Major stress attempted to erase by purifying myself in the waters of the Merced River: *Ray Rice & Roger Goodell, the fleeting nature of time, loneliness.
Aretha Franklin, Young, Gifted and Black. “Rock Steady,” obviously. The names Dowd, Mardin, Purdie, and Rebennack on the back cover, obviously. I shouldn’t have to justify this purchase to you people. Secretly, though, I bought this because of “Day Dreaming,” a lovely slice of longing with that throbby Hathaway organ for an intro. I’m a feminist and I deeply believe in the words “I wanna be what he wants when he wants it/And whenever he needs it,” and there’s absolutely no conflict there, and it’s beautiful.
Cannonball Adderley and Friends. I didn’t need this, but that applies to a good 60% of my record collection. I always run across this man in bins, and I always pick him up and announce that I have an urgent and horrifying news story. I’m 13.
Dollar Brand, Cape Town Fringe. In the Yosemite of life, vinyl bros are the racoons who aren’t sure if human record-digging females are friends or foes. They hide behind comments sections and message boards until they’re sure it’s safe to show themselves. Hello, gentlemen. Let’s talk about this pretty pretty record.
Bernie Worrell, All the Woo in the World. This one’s got a folksy, pensive vibe – Nick Drake picking Richie Havens up in his VW bug to go hang out in Nilsson’s backyard AHAHAHA just kidding it sounds like a fuciking Bernie Worrell record circa 1978. How on earth, by the way, did this turn up in a tiny shop in tiny Fresno, California? I ain’t superstitious but I feel like the closeness of Fresno State provided some good juju for me on this digging expedition. A tip of the hat to Tark, Rafer Alston, and my man Logan Mankins.
Mal Waldron, Signals. Sure sure, Mal played with this cat and that cat, but he played with Jackie McLean which means I get to take a trip to Mars for the hundredth time. Bidabidaboop bidabidaboop BAP BAP? Fuck no – it’s bidabidaboop bidabidaboop BIP BIP. Anyway, I actually haven’t listened to Signals yet but Mal can just coast on Mingus at the Bohemia forever as far as I’m concerned.
Wayne Shorter, Schizophrenia. “Tom Thumb” almost makes up for the fact that this record is not Adam’s Apple. “Kryptonite,” while lovely, is missing the Killer Michael vocal that I crave in the alternate version.
Jimmy Cliff, Wonderful World, Beautiful People. If you say so, Jimmy.
Grachan Moncur III, New Africa. A teenage Grachan went up to Miles Davis at Birdland and told him he admired him. Miles, a real sweetheart, replied, “Don’t you ever say that corny shit to nobody.” Grachan then went on to play in Ray Charles’ band which included David Fathead Newman, who, according to the performance of Bokeem Woodbine in the major motion picture Ray, was a real dick. This record was overpriced and I’ll probably regret it, but I’m a chump.
Jaki Byard, There’ll Be Some Changes Made. The title is a quote from noted dick/genius Mingus in the studio during the sessions for The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. He didn’t like Thiele’s original mix and they got into it, or, equally likely, the man at the newsstand looked at Mingus funny, or the amount of cream in his coffee was wrong, ALL WRONG. Smartly, Jaki changed the title from If You Don’t Know Just Go Ask Jimmy Knepper What Happens When You Incur My Wrath, which was just too clunky.
Natural Four. Curtom. Hutson and Hathaway were the original Westbrook and Love when it comes to rad collegiates. Fuck off, Tommy Lee Jones and Al Gore.
Stevie Wonder, Fulfillingness’ First Finale. I’m now the owner of 2 copies of this, since I have one at home but couldn’t resist when I saw it in a store bin far from home. It was perfect for the cabin. Baby Boomers need the comforting, predictable song structure of Motown hits to really relax while on vacation.
Little Feat, Waiting for Columbus. Also bought largely to appease the Baby Boomers in the cabin, the standout is “Dixie Chicken,” a sick-breakdown joint about a slutty southern woman who tricks men with her vagina and then Tower of fucking Power show up and blow the roof off. It’s so wonderful. This whole record sounds like my childhood and listening to it prompted my mother to get drunk and tell stories about my crippling shyness as a child. GOOD TIMES. It would’ve been the cabin favorite, but ultimately this one was done in by causing a bunch of bickering among my family members about how the word “Dixie” is inappropriately stripped of its offensive history in this song. “EVERYONE LIGHTEN UP,” I said, because I was drunk. (Sober me would have been the #1 most offended person in the conversation, I guarantee it.)
John Lee Hooker, Born in Mississippi, Raised Up in Tennessee. I noticed this one when Velouria posted it on its Instagram feed a couple weeks ago, and I was shocked that it was still available. Baby Boomers again.
Rick Danko. People say Rick can’t sing, which is true but does not need to be announced. I have ears. I’m still waiting to hear why Donald Fagen gets a pass, though.
“WHY IN THE FUCK would I listen to Physical Graffiti when this new Funkadelic record just came out? USE YOUR HEAD.” – me, being all indignant during the spring of 1975, if I had been around back then. (Incidentally, “Use your head” is also my go-to strategy for getting a backstage pass. George Clinton was so taken with the idea he wrote a song about it.)
Later on in ’75, I would fall in deep deep throbbing love with records by the Meters, the Isleys, the Players of Ohio, Rufus, Burning Spear, Tom Waits, Heart (YEAH I SAID IT), and Curtis. But that spring was pretty epic – Chocolate City came out in March and Let’s Take It to the Stage came out a month later because George Clinton is the god damned devil.
(Special thank you to Natalie for handling black Sharpie duties)
I believe the expression is “The bigger the headache, the bigger the pill.” Less popular but no less true is the expression “The bigger my love for Dr. Funkenstein, licensed administer of ear-canal narcotics including but not limited to rubbery bassline antidepressants, the greater the likelihood that I’m willing to forego monogamy and share my groom with my other sister-wives so we can blow the cobwebs out your mind.”
I wish George would give women a little wiggle room when it comes to roles – we are backup singers and side-project wives, and that’s it – but if I complain I’ll get kicked out of the family and he’ll easily find another fake wife to hit in the protons and make sure her hips keep moving. Having to share Dr. Funkenstein with some other ladies is better than no Funkenstein at all.