25 Years

Today officially marks 25 years with my best gal, best friend, and bandmate. I’ve always been a little private about our relationship in a way, because it’s something so personal. We got together approximately a year after I was in a traumatic, life-changing car accident, and now all these years later I have a grasp on how damaged and vulnerable it left me. I recently wrote a song called “The Great Swim,” based on the title of a short story Mary Alice wrote before I moved to Hawaii in 1997, about her swimming the Pacific Ocean to be with me. There’s a line in it where I say “I was a baby when you were a kid,” which initially came to be in a dream, and I interpreted it as a description of my state of mind when she and I came together. I was 18 and she was 17, but the trauma of my accident had mentally regressed me to a much younger place. That's part of what I think makes our bond so close. Not only was she the girl I fell in love with, but she had a hand in rebuilding me as a person, and that’s something that’s hard to express. That’s partly why I’m glad we didn’t have a wedding with all of our weirdo relatives, because it all feels too personal. Our eloping to Las Vegas in 2003 even seems odd to me, because I don’t think she and I can be defined in that manner. Like Del to Neal said about his wife in Planes, Trains & Automobiles, “Love is not a big enough word.”

Cool James

Was putting on deodorant just now, and I flashed back to LL Cool J’s 1991 MTV Unplugged performance when he flashed deodorant cakes at everyone. He of course was ridiculed, but I always felt really bad for the guy.

 

First off, he obviously showered close to his performance time because he wanted to feel good and fresh, which I can totally relate to. Second of all, since he knew that he was performing shirtless, he layed it on extra thick, which is quite considerate. I’ve been to many a show where the shirtless yahoos on stage weren’t so considerate. Third, they missed a major marketing opportunity here. LL Cool J and Right Guard, which is a sporty brand that I don’t know if they even make anymore.

 

Kudos to you, Cool James.

Rocky V

The movie started with a man who had a brain damage because of a boxing match.  He told a man to get his wife, and she came to see him.  There was a press conference where another man said that he wanted to set up a fight with another man, but then the man's wife said he was retired.  It turns out the man and his wife lost money because of something they did, and they had to move to Philadelphia.

 

While there he met a young man who wanted to box, and he had him for dinner.  The man's son was mad because he had to leave.  He became his friend, and then he was sad.  He won a bunch of boxing matches, and then the other man introduced him to a beautiful woman.  Him and the woman and the man started to be against him.  He had a nice car, and drove away while he tried to talk to him.

 

In conclusion they fought outside, and it showed that he was right all along.  Then the man said he'd sue him, but he punched the man anyway.  At the end him and his son went to the library.

Joey

I was living in Hawaii in my small and filthy apartment at the time, getting ready to move back to Ohio that Summer. I was flipping through the channels late at night and I saw a live performance of "I Believe in Miracles" being shown on MTV2. I was puzzled as to why the channel was showing a seemingly obscure Ramones video, and at the end they had a graphic and and photo that read "Joey Ramone: 1951 -2001."

 

I probably called Mary Alice at her parents home, but neither of us can remember. I waited up a couple of hours until I knew it would be a semi-reasonable EDT, and I called my friend Mike and woke him to tell the news. I had this black wristband for some reason, and I wore that on my arm for a week in tribute.

 

Mary Alice and I hosted a radio show on KTUH Honolulu at the time, and we paid tribute to Joey on our next broadcast by playing all Ramones songs and sharing some Ramones history. During the show, this guy called and meekly asked us "What happened to Joey Ramone?" We looked at each other, as it had already been approximately a week. "He died," Mary Alice said. The guy on the phone began to sob. He was able to stammer out, "Back in 1977, KTUH was the only station in Hawaii that would play the Ramones." He thanked us for what we were doing, and hung up. That one still sticks with me.

 

I was lucky enough to see the Ramones play an opener-length set in Cleveland in 1995, and I wish could remember more of it. I have the pinhead bringing Joey the "GABBA GABBA HEY" sign imprinted on my mind, though. Mary Alice and I visited Joey's resting place at Hillside Cemetery in Lyndhurst, New Jersey several years back, which was really cool, because there was no one else around. It was just us hanging out with Joey. We were also able to see an amazing Ramones exhibit with Josie at the Queens museum. Joey died of lymphoma, which also was the first type of cancer that Josie was diagnosed with. I strongly dislike cancer.

 

Hard to believe the rest of the original lineup has passed since. What else can i say, I think they're the most important band there ever was. RIP Joey

Freedom Government

The resurrection of Tag Team for that Geico commercial got me thinking about other songs of the era. This song "Dazzey Duks" (Daisy Dukes) has a hook that goes "Look at them girls with the Dazzey Duks on," but at the time I misheard it as a garbled call to grassroots political action, something along the lines of "Free the government yourself," or "Freedom government you sew."

 

I didn't have MTV, so I didn't have any visual aids to assist me in deciphering. So when this song inevitably arrived at the #1 spot on the "Top 8 at 8" countdown on Jammin' 92.3 Cleveland, I remember thinking to myself, "Ah, the government song. Interesting choice."

Dr. Juice

They can take away whatever Dr. Seuss book they want, just don't mess with my childhood hero, Dr. Juice.

AC Pee

In 2013 we put out the "Make a Joyful Noise" collection featuring 100 very low-fi EG songs songs spanning from 1999-2002. I made a promo vid at the time for a song called "Michael J. Fox Went to My House" that I recorded in 1999, so now 8 years later I decided to do another for a 2001 song called "AC Pee," which in retrospect can be seen as an emotional reaction to 9/11. It took me all afternoon to make it.

Framed

I had a dream last night that I somehow directed a commercial airplane to fly into a set of power lines to knock out electricity in the area. I did this using a computer while sitting in the bedroom bathroom of my parents' house. The reason I committed this act was to frame the Trump administration. The pilot of the plane blamed Kayleigh McEnany for directing him to fly into the power lines, and this was an excerpt from an interview with him in the newspaper the next day:

 

"She's a n-n-n-nerd," said the pilot, who was not previously thought to speak English. "I knew it was a bad idea to fly into the power lines, but I did what I was told. I'd like to thank for inspiration Jesus, MDC*, and Martial Arts."

 

The power came back on, and credit was given to the current administration for acting quickly. I was relieved to know that nobody was hurt, but I still felt a little guilty about what I did. I told Donna Jo that I felt everything went exactly as planned.

Interview with Marilyn Manson

Electric Grandmother: Hello Man.
Marilyn Manson: Hi man.
EG: Where were you born?

MM: Canton, Ohio.
EG: That's pretty good.
MM: Thank you.
EG: Why are you like this?
MM: A lot of reasons I suppose. You're from Ohio, so you probably get it. There's not a lot to do. I guess I'm just mad.
EG: How come?
MM: My dad.
EG: I'm sorry.
MM: I'm sorry.
EG: A lot of people are saying you aren't very good.
MM: I know, and it kind of tears me up.  I've always tried to be nice, despite my uproarious public image.  I owe a lot to the people I grew up with, and they understand.  I don't know if I'll ever be the same.  Might be time to do something else.
EG: Like what?
MM: Singing.  They say you should sing every day.
EG: That's very well put.
MM: I was taught to do that.
EG: Well, what's next on the horizon for you?
MM: A lot of people don't know the Pro football Hall of Fame is in Canton.  I'm not sure when I'll ever get back, but I always enjoy being inside.

EG: Are you going to watch the Super Bowl?
MM: A little.
EG: Are there any misconceptions about you that you'd like to clear up right now?

MM: All I ever wanted in life was a house to live in.
EG: Like in the movie Bowling For Columbine?

MM: Exactly.
EG: Well, it's time to go.
MM: (laughs) I knew it.
EG: Thank you for speaking with me today.
MM: Goodbye.

Screech's Eulogy

Written by Mary Alice

Most of the time, I don’t find myself affected by celebrity deaths, though there are notable exceptions. One such exception was Isabel Sanford, who played TV’s Louise “Weezie” Jefferson on the 1970s-80s sitcom the Jeffersons, who passed away in 2004. Not being a particular fan of the show, I was struck by how saddened I was to hear of this. At the time, I think I was mourning the loss of a notable cultural icon from before my time and the knowledge that someday, they would all be dead. I was 25 at the time and think it marked the beginning of my truly understanding human mortality and indeed my own. This detached sense of sadness stands in stark contrast to how I feel about the passing of Dustin Diamond, known to most as Screech from Saved by the Bell.

 

I turned 41 this year and have changed a lot from the self-centered 25 year old who was a little sad when Weezie died. When I heard that Dustin Diamond had sage four cancer just a few short weeks ago, I was 100% aware that the colossal bummer that this death sentence laid upon a man just 3 years my senior is rooted almost completely in empathy for a person who had a pretty terrible life overall and never found peace in it.

 

Screech was a joke-character on a show that in its time tried to present an aspirational picture of the American teenage experience in the early 1990s, which eventually became a joke in itself. Screech became a joke within a joke. The tragedy of the Child Actor trope is a well-worn cliché at this point, but doesn’t stop it from being tragic. This place in pop culture history does not excuse his behavior post-Saved By the Bell, but does kind of explain it.

 

I don’t need to list all of the shitty things Dustin Diamond has done since Saved by the Bell. His stint in porn isn’t itself problematic except that it’s rooted in his attempts to repair an image rooted in fragile masculinity that never existed in the first place. Which at minimum makes it really, really gross. He scammed people out of money for various reasons related to his housing situation the details of which I don’t really remember. The one that hits closest to home to me is the lies he told in his trash memoir Beyond the Bell. Among other things, he claimed to have had an affair with NBC VP of Children’s Programming Linda Mancuso, who died in 2003 of breast cancer. I don’t think it was coincidence that she was not around to challenge these claims when he made them. That’s a sensitive issue for me for some reason. Making claims about things people did after they died when they’re not around to contradict them.

 

After Saved by the Bell, we watched Dustin Diamond try very hard to reinvent himself into the anti-Screech. Through it all, whether it was challenging the drill sergeant on that VH1 weight loss show to a fight or the public humiliation of listing his house for sale in 2020 as a “great rehab opportunity,” it’s very clear to me that he was a very unhappy person.

 

He felt ridiculed and left out during the pinnacle of his career. He spent a large part of the aftermath extremely angry and persistently making moves in an attempt to get “revenge” for wrongs that were never really committed. In doing so, he permanently alienated anyone who could come close to understanding. He experienced financial ruin, was sent to jail for stabbing a man in a barroom brawl and faded into obscurity. Then, when his child-star peers did the impossible and successfully revived the franchise that made them stars, Dustin Diamond is diagnosed with stage four long cancer and passes away three weeks later.

 

He was not a good person, but I’ve spent a lot of time with his Saved by the Bell character over the years. His character isn’t a particularly good person either. He’s like Urkel Light and seems to feel like he’s owed something by women for not being attractive—or something. But his illness and subsequent passing reminds me only that he is a person who lived a pretty tragic life. He never found peace and now he never will. I don’t think anyone deserves that.

 

Sleep easy, Screech. I wish better for you.

Ricky's Nuts

My household didn’t have a lot of salty or sugary snacks when I was growing up, so I always jumped at the chance to eat stuff like that whenever I could. When I was in 5th grade, this rich boy named Ricky brought peanuts for a snack every day, and I would always ask if I could have some. He never wanted to give me any, but eventually he realized that if he threw a peanut on the floor, I would retrieve it and eat it. He would ask other kids to watch, throw a peanut on the floor for me to pick up and eat, and laugh hysterically.

 

He later claimed to me that he had put the peanuts in his mouth prior to throwing them onto the floor. I knew this wasn’t true because I had never seen him do that, and besides, I would never have voluntarily engaged in doing something so degrading.

Sobering Reminder

Just in case you need any sort of reminder of the effect that recent events can have on people, here is a picture I drew of a Trump supporter firing a gun at the Capitol Building engulfed in flames.

Cassettefest Fest

June 19, 2004, at Pat's in the Flats

Cleveland, OH

 

Before EG hit the stage for the first time that night, I took the stage earlier with my friends Mike and Eric as The Pinheads. I was actually standing in for our friend Gary who was unavailable, and Eric was essentially playing the part of our friend Brandt, who was probably somewhere doing something else. The Pinheads, along with The Doldrums which preceded it (which was myself, Mike, and Gary) were the origins of what we now know as "Sitcom-Core."

 

Mike and I had been wanting to be on stage together since we were teenage punkers, and we were finally able to here in our mid-late 20's. Eric was the guitarist for the punk rock band I sang for in Columbus called Upchuck Berry, which featured our friend Brandt on drums and our friend Jeff on bass. This marked the first time we had been on stage together since 2002.

 

Mary Alice and I were extremely nervous to be doing EG that night, and when the screen we brought for projection kept getting blown over by the strong wind outside, we were panicked and just wanted to forget about it. "No," Eric said. "That's why we brought it." We then got concrete blocks to hold up the screen, and we went on went the show as planned.

 

It's a mantra we still use to this day when we flummoxed or frustrated when trying to do something ambitious: "That's why we brought it."