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Things I Dig Right Now
Volume 1/ March 2021
Hey there. I hope all is well with you. No no, I know: it’s not Friday today. So what the hell am I doing in your email inbox? Well, I hope you won’t mind, but this is my first ‘bonus’ Thunder Pie newsletter just for subscribers. Except I’m going to share this one with everyone in order to persuade some new subscribers to maybe throw their hard-earned loot at me.
The idea here will be quite simple. Once a month or so, I’m going to send Paid Subscribers an extra newsletter that will feature a bunch of things I’ve been digging. Songs, books, writers, bands, snacks, places, photos… it might just be a sentence or even a word that I’ve run across somewhere recently and it made me smile. There are no rules; it’s just whatever. I’m hoping that it might lead to further discussion in the comments below. Maybe you check out something I’ve mentioned and let me know what you think. Or maybe you let me and the rest of us know about something that YOU have been digging lately.
Why not? We’re all probably feasting on some really delicious culture/ ideas/ and creativity that we have stumbled upon out there in the wilderness. Why not share a little of that with each other?
I hope you enjoy this. And I hope you’ll chime in if the spirit moves you.
Happy Early Cold-ass Spring.
1. A Ghost in the Throat
This book, just published by Tramp Press over the last year, I think, is the first memoir from Irish poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa. And listen, I’ll be right up front with you here/ this is a book that has literally made me feel- on multiple occasions- that I might as well quit this writing thing at once.
Because… I mean… after this... what’s the goddamn point? Besides having what is perhaps the single greatest title to a book I have ever heard, A Ghost in the Throat is this hyper-beautiful rush of a common life in the present smashing headlong into the world of someone who lived long ago.
Ní Ghríofa readily steers into potentially pretentious territory that most writers would crash and burn in. I’m talking Human Bacon. Like, you’re not good enough to go there, yo. Yet time and time again, she veers away from that imminent crash in some lovely new little way. It’s masterful, really; a thing of beauty within the thing of beauty itself. The book, on the surface, orbits the writer’s ‘obsession’ with a fellow Irish poet who lived centuries ago and manages to dabble in history and historical thinking in fresh ways that remain effortlessly human. And any kind of historically-tinged writing that can do that is, quite honestly, rare AF.
Beneath the surface though, the book is about the power of connection. About life and death. And about the charming winks from history that go largely ignored by most of us forever… until one single solitary person notices something flickering in the shadows… and at long last: the dead come reborn.
Truth is, I’m not even done this book: because I read it in small shots: because I don’t want it to end. That’s probably a weird endorsement until you think about it. But I’d read a few pages of this one every night for the rest of my life if new ones kept appearing. I can’t make any of this any clearer than that.
2. Internet Genealogy/ Ancestry.com
Do you know much at all about your family history? I’m happy if you do, but in all honesty: I’m not surprised if you don’t. In a lot of ways, I suspect there’s less and less emphasis put on people for knowing their ancestral history any more. Where your people came from, who your people were, that stuff is hard to dig into when life is the shambolic chaos it usually feels like to me.
I went most of my life not knowing diddly about my roots. That is until about a year or so ago when Arle and I both started seriously wondering about whether we had any Civil War soldiers in our bloodstream. Even with the question suddenly raging within me: I still had no hopes of finding out anything at all. Ancestry requires long hours of slogging through dusty dark basement records in some inconvenient place. With 5 kids between us: long gone family members from yesteryear would have to rain down through our attic roof like 19th-century meteorites if we were ever going to run into ‘em.
Luckily though, Arle signed us up for a trial subscription to Ancestry.com And man oh man, I’m still pinching myself. What we found was life-changing and I plan to write more about it all in future essays, but I mean, your past is just riveting. I promise you. And I just have a real sneaking suspicion that if you ever want to take a little time to proverbially dig up your Great Great Great Grandfather’s bones: you will absolutely have your mind exploded.
All of our people… soldiers or not, commoners or kings… they all led lives worth hearing about. Especially when you continually get to remind yourself that you are related to this person, to these people, as you ultimately uncover your own story in theirs.
Full disclosure: I’ve got no endorsement whatsoever from Ancestry.com. And their subscription prices aren’t exactly peanuts when you first consider all this. But I will tell you this: for the price of a night in nice hotel…or a couple nights in a shitty one… the vast resources that these kind of websites can now make available at your fingertips is game-changing. So in case you were on the fence about trying to dig up your family history, I wanted to share my own thoughts.
3. ‘Sunday Best’ - Surfaces
This tune by a group?…band?…collective?…I don’t know what the fuck you call them... but they call themselves Surfaces. And ever since my daughter, Violet, who is 12, played this tune one day not long (a good couple hours when we were just driving aimlessly in my car/ her controlling the Spotify/ me navigating our country road course)… ever since then, I have been singing this to myself.
I think it’s a lot to do with the fact that it sticks in my head bad. Like, I can’t shake it. But also, and more importantly, it’s that it is a song Violet loves. She smiles when it plays. She dances a little in her seat, she can’t even control it. And something about that very natural state of affairs is wondrous to me. My little girl isn’t so little any more. She has her own taste/ her own vibe/ her own music. And she doesn’t need me to approve of it or like it.
Which leaves me driving around, alone, without her, listening to it on repeat.
Make of that what you will.
4. ‘Cute House’ - The Dress Up Gang
I’m not sure who these guys are. Some sort of LA YouTube acting squad? Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Cute House is a multilayered onion and you need to spend 8 minutes watching these geniuses fuck with all notions of modern masculinity in ways that had me smiling from the first 3 seconds.
Living where I live, suffering from depression, it all sort of dawned on me one morning recently when I was driving down Penns Valley. A voice started chasing me, a whisper that grew louder with each winter mountain swishing by.
Hiking will save you.
Hiking will save you, hoss.
That’s right. The voices in my head call me hoss.
And so I announced to Arle something that she had been telling me we should do for a long time.
Today, my love, WE HIKE.
As if I came up with that all on my own.
Regardless, we’ve been hitting the trails and I have to tell you: I feel really positive about that. Up mountain sides we go, sometimes with the kids, sometimes just the two of us. I pick up pinecones and strange twisted sticks for our Pop-Up kitchen table nature display. She watches me, patiently, that little smile on her face.
Hiking is not something that will cure you of all that ails you. But from where I’m standing, it sure seems like it can move you pretty far down that promising path.
6. Collage Baseball/ Instagram
As soon as I stumbled into @collage-baseball on Instagram: I knew I was in the presence of true greatness. Self-described as ‘Hand cut baseball cards in photobooks. A lot of PUN!’…this artist’s work is beautifully whack and moving and thought-provoking all at once. I’m not able to say much more without committing atrocities against the dude’s art by trying to describe it with mere words.
One thing of note about this IG page and these works? The collages, although magnificent in all ways, are not in-your-face for sale. In fact, when I finally was blown away to the point where I felt like I needed to own a print of one: I couldn’t even figure out a way to buy it. There’s no website. No link to purchase. Nothing. There’s the works themselves and that’s it.
I love that so much.
But still. So between me and you: I DM’d the account and after some compliments and a couple of hours, I was ultimately offered the opportunity to buy something. Which I did. And which arrived swiftly. And which was then promptly chewed upon by our Great Dane puppy. But not ruined. Just chomped along the edges. Which, I’m not gonna lie, I think it makes even cooler.
Go check these out/ lemme know what you think.
You have definitely heard about this film by now, but so what. I still need to tell you this one thing. Watch for all the slow-roll lovely it brings to the table. And watch just to see how Frances McDormand’s silent smile can make you smile too… without even realizing it.
That’s power right there.
8. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live/ 1975-85
Hello out there.
And all of it.
Thanks so much for reading this FREE edition of my Thunder Pie newsletter. Did you like what you just read? If so, how about becoming one of my Paid Subscribers?
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Paid Subscribers will also be getting my bonus monthly newsletter (JUST LIKE THIS ONE!). It’s a list-style rundown of anything and everything I’m digging in life right now. Books, movies, TV, writers, songs, bands, food,…all of it / from me to you.
Lastly, each and every Paid Subscriber literally makes it possible for me to write for you, week in/week out. I want that. I have always wanted that. So thank you for even considering my idea here. Have a great one. -SB