FEBRUARY, 2004 E.V.
for Bill Hicks
In keeping with New Year Resolution #1,
I want to let all the Tool fans out there know that Justin Chancellor just bought a new guitar strap for his bass. Now... I don't have a lot of details about the strap yet, but I'm most certainly working on procuring them. I'm also trying to find out if he 'purchased' this... (well, hell, I don't even know the color yet) strap at LOBAL ORNING in Topanga Canyon, or if he stumbled upon it somewhere else, like maybe the Guitar Center or the Neo-Cathar boutique, Spelunca Adornata. However, my main focus will be to try and find out from Justin himself how this might effect his playing with regards to the new riffs for the next Tool recording Stay tuned, because when I make a New Year resolution...
Camella Grace just called to see if I wanted to go to the pub with her and Diablo* (her Great Dane that drinks schnapps) for a couple of Stellas and a basket of hot chips. I said... "sure, it beats the shit out of writing a February Tool newsletter" and then pressed her for any information about Justin's new guitar strap. With my hand on a stack of Crowley firsts (including The Scented Garden), I swear that she immediately called Adam on her cell phone to try and get the skinny on the new strap. A few rainy minutes later when she came to pick me up in the Jeep, all she knew from her conversation with Adam (who was at a Melvins/Jello Biafra rehearsal) was that the brand new Justin strap was multi-colored. So, there you have it, a new multi-colored guitar strap for Justin (shit, and I thought Borland was well-to-do!)
* He might just be the best dog in the world (even though he doesn't really drink that much schnapps).
In a recent post for the news section of the Tool Collective I mentioned that there is an interview with Maynard in the current issue of Wine Spectator magazine (see VOL 28, No. 16) that can be perused in the "collecting" department. And although the interview is fairly straight forward, as you'd expect from a wine aficionado's magazine, I was intrigued by the fact that the article begins on page 117. With all we've discussed over the last few years about the mystery of Berenger Sauniere and Rennes-le-Chateau, and about Maynard's plans to develop vineyards on his Arizona property in order to possibly harvest the "pommes bleues" of the Templar Wine, I wondered if the page number 117 was related to January 17th, a recurring number in the Rennes affair.
My suspicion that this might be more than just a coincidence seemed to be confirmed by a rather cryptic remark MJK makes at the end of the interview concerning a Madeira from 1827 that he had at dinner in "Babbo", one of his favorite restaurants in New York City: "Just think of everything that's happened since 1827. This thing survived that long. If it could just talk to you... I think there's a magic, a transformation from just grape juice to this magic - there's an alchemy, an otherworldly alchemy going on here."
SUBJECT: 1:17 into A STRANGER, APC
There is a barely audible noise right here in this song. MJK is saying, "You're a stranger, so what do I care, you vanish today, not the first time I hear", during "vanish" it sounds like the beginning of a coughing fit. Is someone in the studio rockin' the ganj or is it something else?
So the secret's out. I knew Maynard would put it somewhere, I just didn't think it would be so obvious.1:17 into A STRANGER... a coughing fit. Very clever, they almost look like real nuns don't they Harry? Right down to the stockings. You might want to isolate that "coughing fit" and slow it down. Then tell me about "a coughing fit." Whatever happened to Solis Saceradotis?
There were fourteen churches on Bornholm as the Icelandic Knytlinge Saga tells us, and there is such a thing as a Siljmonster. I know because I summoned it into my solipsistic multiverse and I've the dirt from plants on my kitchen floor and Danny Carey the sugary effulvia of a Bears Claw in the 'back seat' of his Porcshe to prove it. Allow me to explain the seemingly unexplainable: It all began exactly one year ago, with the posting of the Tool newsletter. February is my least favorite month, Valentine's Day my least favorite holiday (besides Thanksgiving), and the February newsletter my least favorite thing to write in the whole world. So last year I wrote about my fictitious sapphire-eyed Icelandic goddess and how great things were with this honeycicle until the horror of the Porrablot (Thorrablot), that Icelandic "holiday' with it's traditional feast of sheep's testicles, spiced pig's head jam on black flatbread, and smoked seal rectums, ad infinitum. As I said, my Icelandic lady was just a literary device, a way to share with others the culinary marvels of rotting seal flippers. But then something very strange happened, and this without any galder staves from a dusty Icelandic grimoire. On St. Patrick's Day (fitting, now that I think about it), while attending a gig that my friend Benny was playing guitar, Camella and I spotted a blonde women in the 'crowd' (teehee) dressed rather eloquently in a lacy black outfit and toting a Vodka soda lime. "Who is that woman?" Camella asked me. "I don't know", I replied as a proverbial chill ran down my spine...
Here, I need to digress just a bit. In a Toolband post a week or so after the February newsletter, I mentioned Ben's upcoming show with the caption: HE POURED A PINT OF GUINNESS OVER BENNY'S BOOTS (taken from Brain Salad Surgery). Well, whether or not some kind of tangential tantra was occurring, that very same night, the blonde Icelandic woman (this Siljmonster thing) actually spilled a pint of Guinness over Benny's... pink tennis shoes.
The following night at a Pigmy Love Circus show at Spaceland, my friends Sash and Kat spotted the same woman standing by herself in a dark corner of the club."You should go over and say hi to her" Kat said... and, for whatever reason (gin & tonics?), I did. Thus it began, and here my strange adventures with this Icelandic creature (possibly a tulpa of sorts) continues. The last time I saw her, we'd spent 5 days in the Luxor pyramid (on the 23rd floor in room #23) without ever leaving the place (except to take the walkway into the casino and restaurants in Mandalay Bay). Around my favorite video poker machine she placed tiny statues of golden Buddhas, with more of the jolly fellows appearing each day and night, the statues getting bigger and more ornate with each passing hour until there was barely room for our glasses of champagne, Coronas, La Gloria Cubana and Macanudo Portofino cigars. At night, after intense drinking/gambling sessions we would talk to members of the hotel staff about the various suicides in the Luxor - those people who jumped to their death from the 24th floor and higher after losing money or, in some cases, just partying too much (what did Bill Hicks say about the guy on LSD, "even birds take off from the ground first"). Later, there were epic pillow fights (be careful if you engage in this kind of activity with a Viking woman) and views of the variegated brilliance of the Vegas skyline. One night I attempted to transcribe the Justin interview on my voice recorder. I'm still trying to decipher my own hand writing as the batteries were low. On night four I snuck a phone call to Kat to tell her to tell Camella that I was alright, and that I was ready to commit to going to Cuba (NEW YEAR RESOLUTION #2) to paint Untitarian churchs, bring medical supplies and condoms, drink Moiitos and smoke Cohibas, whatever. The next morning we were stuck in an elevator for several minutes after the power went out. After banging on the control panel in a state of near panic, the lights came back on and we proceeded down to the bar... and ultimately into the casino in Mandalay Bay, stopping first to pick up a Macanudo and several more golden Buddhas. If nothing else, the Siljmonster, real or from the astral plane, helped me stagger through my least favorite month with little pain or memory, and to get through writing my least favorite newsletter. For that I'm grateful. Now, if she'd only help me clean up the dirt on my kitchen floor from the plants (little hor...ticulturalist* presents) that she over watered and completely killed. (NOTE: Danny used Adam's guys [a crack crew of three of them altogether} at a heavy-duty car wash to get out the remnants of the bear claw from the interior of his Porsche).
* When I returned home from our riotous carousing in Las Vegas, I found out that the surfer-girl, little hor...ticulturist was staying at the Luxor on the 21st floor that same weekend. And, stranger still, my friend Benny's ex-girlfriend was also staying in the hotel at the time. I swear on the same stack of Crowley firsts that it's true.
A HUNGARIAN CELLO, UNDRINKABLE ABSINTHE, AND ONE HELL OF A LEMON FIGHT:
TALES FROM WES BORLAND'S "SUPER CAUSUAL" BIRTHDAY BASH
Here's my impressions: Borland's damn good at making burgers for a rocker, although at one point I thought he was going to lose some in the high flames. Wife Heather has a great arm as was evident by the lemon fight with her friend Adele (and the window in the kitchen she nearly shattered). Camella's nephew could be an excellent ballroom dancer and Camella, Heather, Robyn, Kat and ALL the girls (save for the Siljmonster and her glass of wine) were totally loving it as he picked them up and spun them around like a pro (I hope he doesn't try that shit in Cuba, cuz then what can I do to impress the ladies?).
I think Wes may have bought twenty or so houses on the hills below his property and left all the lights on to enhance the view from his own house (just kidding, maybe three at the most), brother Scott Borland was so wasted that he claimed the absinthe was going down like water (actually, it was green-colored water that Wes concocted as a trick), Wes was still basking in the glory of beating Sash and me* in the Beni-Hana eat-off, and was trying to challenge Sash to a contest to see who could eat the most hot-dogs in one sitting. Yep, a good old-fashioned dog slam! Sash declined (reluctantly).
* A few nights later, while sitting at Birds in Hollywood with Danny and some friends, a young girl that I recently met - we'll call her the "Yoga Instructor" approached the table and said hello. She joined us for drinks and during the conversation told me that I had taken her to Beni-Hana for lunch the day before the eat-off with Wes so that I could practice eating two complete meals. I had no memory of this at all (I love it, a dream of mine come true, to wipe out the month of February), nor of the few times she'd been to my apartment to party. SO THAT EXPLAINS IT! I was still full from the day before. I knew there must be some reason why I couldn't even finish one plate.
Adam enjoyed the Heather & Adele lemon fight so much that he retrieved an errant Heather toss from a long (of course!) hallway and asked whose turn it was? Camella dropped a bombshell, when she told me that it was illegal for any Cuban girls to be in the hotel room with an American (meaning me). When she asked if that would have influenced my decision to go I said "sometimes I don't think you know me at all." There were no Cheetohs and hence no Cheetoh dust on the walls, Wes has a nice telescope and showed us four of Jupiter's moons. Not to be out done, Kat mooned us four times. It was truly a great party, and Wes does grill a mean burger (veggie burger, too, as the Siljmonster will attest to), Kat, Camella and Wes all regaled us with music on Wes's Hungarian cello. Wow, playing the cello, grilling dogs, and bringing the Jovian moons into focus. I wonder what Wes could do with a hammer (axe?) and some extra-long nails?
NO MORE FREAKIN' IN-N-OUT: NEW YEAR RESOLUTION #8
Alright, just exactly what the hell is going on at those In-N-Out burger joints?
Check out this e-mail: "Blair, As a former I-N-O employee, I was certainly delighted to see you enjoy some of what they have to offer. One item you might not be aware of (of course who knows... you probably are) would be the "Flying Dutchman." Yes, indeed, there is actually a button on the register for the highly touted mystery meat. The actual burger is comprised of two slices of meat, and two of cheese... that's it. No succulent lettuce wrap. No bun. Nothing. It's wrapped to keep you from really making a mess, but it's just a couple hunks of meat and cheese waiting to slide down yer' throat. While your near-vegan status would make you uninterested in this treat, there is bound to be someone in the Tool family that would enjoy such. Oh yes, history behind the name... The family that owns the company is Dutch, and one of the sons (both have now passed away at early ages) loved fast cars. Whenever visiting a store, he'd order up the previously described meat puck. His nickname became the name of the burger and the rest is near history.
The whole Xtian thing always bugged the hell out of me. The store manager was a Jesus super freak, and yeah, it just got old..."
It's true. Besides placing notations to Biblical passages on the product packaging (on the undersides of soda cups and nearly hidden on burger wrappers), the California, Arizona and Nevada hamburger eatery has a secret menu that includes burgers made "Animal Style", "Protein Style" and a "Wish Burger" (in which there is no burger patty). The more I researched the Xtian place, the stranger it got. There are five different pointers to Biblical verses including a near apocalyptic reference on the "double-double wrapper."
Because of the high strangeness of the place, my working hypothesis was that the blonde staff members were in reality shape-shifting reptilian aliens only pretending to be good Xtians. In fact, while doing research, when I sent members of my harem through the drive-through (remember what happened to my car) to order various things, I would make sure that they were protected by wearing blue lipstick. Since the fast food chain was founded in 1948, and due to the fact that all are privately owned and operated (no franchises), I figured the owner and certain key managers might have been the stranded pilots of the Roswell crash in July of 1947. My suspicions were bolstered after learning that the Blake's "Lot-O-Burger" in Farmington near Aztec and Dulce in New Mexico were recently bought out and converted into... you guessed it, IN-N-OUT. Could it be that these IN-N-OUTs conceal the entranceway to a network of underground tunnels that connect certain secret shadow government facilities? While investigating the various secret menu items, I found out that the staff will make your burger just about anyway you want to design it. WITH ONE EXCEPTION. While there is a 4X4 (four patties and four pieces of cheese) and a 5X5 (five patties and five pieces of cheese), when I attempted to order a 6X6X6 (six patties with six pieces of cheese on six buns, a custom secret menu item I call "The Beast 666") they wouldn't make it for me. Although the blonde kid at the drive up window said it was too difficult to get the bun placement right, I think I was refused for other, more Xtian reasons. Well, needless to say, there went my reptilian alien hypothesis.
Others should try ordering the 6X6X6 and e-mail me the results. I have not yet closed the books on IN-N-OUT. This is an on-going investigation in an attempt to get the truth about these most bizarre hamburger eateries.
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding."
Proverbs 3:5 (IN-N-OUT milkshake cups)
After the last Toolband meeting, I was pulled over for making an illegal left turn in a residential neighborhood in Hollywood. I had Camella and Diablo in my car and two open bottles of tequila. As some of you may recall, the plan was to make my chocolate margaritas for the Toolband anti-Valentine Day meeting. However, as both Camella and myself weren't feeling up to it (I was partying with the Siljmonster the night before), no margaritas (chocolate or otherwise) were constructed on that sunny afternoon. In keeping with New Year Resolution # 8, we were looking for ASTRO BURGER on Melrose and Camella had given me confusing directions (hence the illegal left turn and resulting moving violation). This was definitely a trap, with the motorcycle cop hiding in the bushes of a ramshackle apartment complex. I think he might have been an Xtian, or a shape-shifting reptilian alien who was giving me a warning not to stick my nose into the affairs of IN-N-OUT. Well, I've news for you 'officer', it will take more than a traffic ticket to keep me from exposing the truth about that place.
E-MAIL FROM JULIE M. SKAGGS:
Dearest Blair - It was nice to see your article about Peter at Toolband; I talked to him after the show on Friday and told him how very proud I was of him for being so brave and deciding to go on with the gig. And not only play, but play his heart out. I wish more people had the opportunity to really know him - know that underneath that tough-guy guitar hero exterior he exhibits on stage and the ranting that he does in his columns for the Weekly and his website that there is a very shy and sweet person who managed to cull some redemption out of his devastating loss for the enjoyment of us all. I reminded him that he has four best friends whom are his brothers to the end, and a very lovely dear wife (who I've been fortunate enough to meet) who will always love and cherish him as much as he did his brother. He began to tear up at this, and I almost lost it myself.
I talked to all the guys, thanked them for another great show, and commented again on Peter's sacrifice. They all agreed that what he did in the face of adversity was a gift for all of us; as Danny said to me, "He's a helluva lot braver than I ever would have been. If it had been me, I would have been gone, on my way to my parents." Knowing how close Danny is to his brothers, I understood the gravity of that statement.
And hearing Mike relate how hard it was for him when he lost his mother a few years ago - I was reminded of how we are often more closely bonded by tragedy, and also that these men are survivors - they have it in them to do nothing else but go on.
It was indeed a very special show, the crowd was very giving of their energy (more so than I've ever seen at any other PLC show I've been to), and I hope that maybe what I was saying to people who asked me about the group beforehand sunk in a little bit: These are five of the nicest guys you could ever know, and they work their asses off to make great music and entertain their fans, so they deserve all the support we could possibly give them."
I couldn't agree more, Julie. Very well said, and straight from the heart, but let's keep that nice guys thing a secret..