So Ween broke up back in May (this is the year of seemingly one-hit-wonder bands breaking up after decades of playing). I have a bunch of Ween’s earlier stuff, but stopped listening after their hits. I’m told some of their later records are quite good. This song from the album Pure Guava was my introduction to them, and it is weird and kind of irritating and strangely catchy and perfectly encapsulates Ween.
The melody is simple and poppy, but the vocals are, if not sped up, then crazily falsettoed. And the repeated refrain of “push the little daisies and make em come up” is, if not annoying, certainly infectious (in many senses of the word).
The other fun thing about Ween is that in addition to pretty much none of their albums sounding alike, pretty much none of their songs sound alike. So you can’t tell if you’ll like any other Ween songs based on this one. A nice trick, that.
And if, like me, you haven’t see the video in twenty years, check it out
And there is a tangential tie in to JR with this post, by the way.
[READ: Week of July 16, 2012] JR Week 5
I realized that, unlike in previously long weekly posts, I haven’t been including tangentially related photos (I rather liked putting them in the Gravity’s Rainbow posts). I blame it all on my time constraints. There also aren’t quite as many picture-worthy things in this book. GR had lots of locations and historical photo-op type things. JR is more about money and sex, and the internet doesn’t have many pictures of either, right. So instead, it’s all block text.
When we left off, JR was trying to persuade Bast to help him out some more. And, holy, he needs Bast to meet Mister Piscator out by the Egyptian stuff in the museum (JR can’t do it himself obviously–I love that he is using a handkerchief on the phone and everyone asks if there’s connection troubles). Bast barely says anything but JR is on a roll: he got him the briefcase and that alarm clock (which runs backwards) and the business cards (which Simon pointed out I’ve been missing the typo on) and “I’ll call up that Virginia and fix it up where you get her to take telephone calls at the cafet…” (302). JR is also going on about the kind of massive tax breaks he (and Bast) will be able to declare. I can’t decide if he’s right or not (or if it simply won’t be relevant for what he has–indeed, a lot of this financial stuff, it seems like JR is more knowledgeable than anyone else because he has actually read the material–something nobody does. And Bast is a musician, what does he know about money, right?). Although his ultimate plan (potentially ingenious, but practically preposterous) is that they buy one share of all the big stocks, get their prospectuses and read them all. And if anyone is doing anything illegal they can file a class action suit like they did with Diamond Cable.
Bast said he hasn’t read any of the things that came in the mail (“like you didn’t even read them hey?). Bast says it would take a month just to read Moody’s. But JR says it’s important to read all the “literture.” (“Will you stop saying literture.”)
Then it gets down to what Bast owes JR. JR gave him $50 in expenses and Bast itemized his trip (I love that JR had $50 to give him while Gibbs has at one point got a penny on him). In the meantime JR is mad that Bast says he has no time to write music when here’s a whole bunch of music he has recently done (this is commercial stuff to pay the bills).
Bast agrees to meet Piscator (and for that, JR gives him an elastic band for his broken shoe). Then JR encourages Bast to take Mister Wonder to this gala event that he got free passes to–a free meal! Bast flees but is nabbed by Crawley who forgot to mention the hippos in the film, and hopes that Bast will add hippo music.
Amy Joubert runs into Crawley with her field trip (The Met is crowded today). Amy is delighted that Crawley is “patronizing the arts” and even more that he’s asking Bast to do a commission for him. Crawley moves on to discuss Amy’s situation. She replies “There’s nothing I can do until all this with Lucien is settled and I can..,” and in another great play with names, he replies, “This Joubert you mean, yes.” [Crawley, it is her name too...] (307). She’s about to run after her class, when Crawley mentions that Beaton is trying to pick up Nobili stocks to give Joubert a hard time.
Amy says she thought they were buying the stocks from Lucien. She thought that he wanted money and the company wanted controlling interest. But Lucien wants too much money for the stocks. So they are going to buy up the remaining shares and sell them at once to drive the price down. It looks like he’s borrowed against the value so he’ll have to sell.
Amy is a little freaked out by this and what it might mean for her and her son (Crawley tells her not to get mixed up in that aspect of things (ha!)). She sees Coach Vogel (who is on the trip with her) and tells him she has to go because of an emergence (Amy Joubert seems to be something of a fibber-di-gibbit, at least on school trips). Once again they have no idea how many kids are on the trip. Coach Vogel says that he thought he was taking the kids to a basketball game (HA!). And, it turns out that JR hopped a ride on the bus to go see the Egyptian stuff too. As they head out the door there’s a peculiar interchange between her and Vogel [which I don't quite get].. A hand “brushed behind her” and she steps away. He says “I Could feel its whiteness” and then mentions Niadu Airgetlam (which I can’t find online at all–and I haven’t actually looked in any JR notes do as to avoid spoilers). As the bus pulls out we learn that Ann diCephalis took the kids to the basketball game that Vogel was supposed to go to (HA!).
And a refrain of “maybe she enjoyed the basketball” runs through his head until they get back and Ann is there.
She Vogel observes that all the busses look alike, and is ranting at her and she calls him crazy to which he replies “Daisies won’t tell” (310). Which I assume references Always take a girl named Daisy (’cause daisies won’t tell). But she insists that he look after all the kids while she takes off and returns home.
In Casa diCephalis she runs around turning all the lights on (this would be the era of “When Not in Use Turn Off the Juice– I had that sticker on my light switch all through grade school and high school). As she walks into the room in an unsubtly sexual way: “in erect silhouette against the flaccid shadows beyond” (310) she sees that her husband is home. He was released from the hospital–he looked for her there but remembered the trip to the Met. She is enraged already saying that Miss Moneybags (and now we know why they call her that) and Mr Vogel pretending they didn’t know what bus was what. She asks how long he’ll be in the sling. It’s until the doctor thinks he’s strong enough to…. She interrupts: “The day he thinks you’re strong enough to remind me I’m still a woman tell him to send me a telegram” (310) [she's quite bitchy]. She asks about his friend, “that bonehead on the school board who hides in that underground toilet he’s got in his back yard and called himself a major you didn’t manage to kill, anybody that rides with you they should give them Purple Hearts” (311).
Donny still has wires attached to him, and Dan says that maybe he should see someone (what on earth could this be about–will this get revealed later, too?). Nora walks in covered in toilet paper. Ann asks why she is making fun of her father but she says she is a bride. She tells Dan that she got 14 Brownie points today. He replies that that’s fine. And Ann jumps on that too. “Fine? She got twice as many as anybody, is that all you can say, fine?” (312).
Dinner starts and Nora says the dinner looks like lingam. Dan says she learned that from the book about India that he hid so Nora… “So Nora what So she couldn’t read at home what they want me to teach them at school?” (312).
More fighting about school, Vogel, Whiteback. Then Nora leaves the table “Just [to go to] the bathroom to vomit” (313). Ann tells her to clean up when she’s done and come back to the tale. There’s mention of the strike, but that was derailed. She says all they want to do now is fire Gibbs. And more details: One of the women from C.U.N.T. has been dressing like a student and spying on the teachers. And evidently Buzzie’s family (Buzzie was killed in the crash) is planning to sue Hyde and Dan.
More hostility, then Dan reaches in the back of a drawer to find the $50 he had stashed away. Turns out that Donny sold it. He thought coins were worth more and got 85 cents for the 50$. Ann cleans off the bed (of all of Dan’s measuring equipment–he’s working on measuring the studs for the mortgage). And then she invites the kids in “so they can see. –See what. –See what. What do you mean see what. See us. –See us, what… –See us what! My God what do you think what!” (315). Dan is horrified; Ann is pissed. Dan starts measuring the studs and Ann goes to town on him calling him a freak for crawling around like that. They go to bed and wake up still arguing. Dan is looking for clothes. Turns out Nora took all his suits to the Thrift Store for her Brownie points. He was supposed to go down and buy them back (of course, he was in the hospital) “the first time she goes out and shows some initiative” (317). Poor Dan has to go to school in soiled ill-fitting clothes and bandages).
When Dan gets to school, all the educational equipment is gone. Vogel starts going on about Mrs James Watt (he thinks she must have been something to look at: push pull, push pull). And he starts talking about asses, rump, derrière. While he is talking, Dan looks at Vogel’s suit and realizes that it is his own. Vogel bought it for $2 at the thrift store (he even found a condom in the back pocket). Glancy bought another suit there too (actually he split the seat of it). There’s some talk of Augustus Montague Toplady and how he could have stayed out of jail. Then the men enter the bathroom where there is literally a pissing contest going on (although i don’t quite get the rules–piss above the line and get a quarter?). [Simon clarifies this for me below and it makes perfect sense--they are paying kids for clean pee because of the drug tests. Simon gives more details below].
The homeroom bell rings but things are a bit off. Gibbs, who normally doesn’t read and proscribed openings is reading the entire Constitution and homeroom won’t end until he does. (It’s amusing that throughout the scene that no one knows how long the Constitution is and then someone says that its 204 feet long (ha!) which they use as a definitive measurement. (Although I don’t get the Charlie Chan joke–again, look at the comments for Simon’s explanation).
Hyde has also been released and is in the office (they are talking to Stye about stolen property from the school). Hyde talks to Stye and tries to disentangle the confusion of having his own car stolen and then getting hit by said stolen car while driving in somebody else’s car. There’s an awkward discussion about race (Stye is black) as Hyde tries to describe the thief without saying they are black. And then, the phone falls and Hyde things he’s been hung up on.
In all of that talk we learn that the school budget was voted down. The Senator comes in, “here Senator, that’s Dan our ahm, Dan diCephalis our psycho…” (324). But the Senator is pissed about a smear job in the paper–the Cultural Center as a rider to his highway bill–and Flo-Jan Corp. Then Vern calls to complain that Parentucelli has dumped asphalt all over his lawn (while the Senator defends it wondering is he knew how much that “gift” cost). All Vern wanted was a small driveway, and Parentucelli paved his whole front yard). There’s also a suggestion that the Cultural Center go up out past the Dunkin’ Donuts on the border with District 13–just some pine trees and ranch houses that could easily be condemned.
There’s more budgetary stuff. The kids are “embarrassing” the school by paying for lunch with thirty cent checks. But if the school lets the kids bring lunch, the school loses the federally subsidized cafeteria lunch program.
During this scene we hear (in different font) the Constitution. Gibbs then reads the signatories and the teachers assume he’s taking role. There’s also a wonderful paragraph about electricity which can be found online as “The Sex Life of an Electron” I don’t know if Gaddis made it up or if it is a common joke. But it’s funny.
Dan finally starts talking about the moved equipment again, but Hyde interrupts saying that he’d like to take some of the school’s appliance home–at cost–(since he was robbed).
The discussion switches to Proportion 13, the Senator’s bill to get the schools out of the entertainment business–the Foundation announced it was dropping support for the school television program. They are going to support community education as opposed to school television. General outrage ensues.
While all this is going on JR comes into the office agin. No, not to use the typewriter. And no he didn’t steal it, “I mean holy, I mean if I stole one why would I get caught using this here one up in the…” (332). JR is on the phone with Mr Wiles and learns what sounds like bad news about his investments. Then he talks to Virginia (at the cafe) and asks about his calls. Bast isn’t there but she has heard from Mooneyham and Crawley and then she tells him about Nobili stock (at 38). He asks her to tell Mr Bast to call him at the school phone at 2:50. It seems like he has gotten tax write offs for mineral exploration. And we learn that he’s going to be putting a picture phone in Mr Bast’s (Grynzspan’s) apartment.
Then he calls Mr Hopper (no, the old Mr Hopper) at Eagle Mills and starts talking to him about the land and the cemetery (which “belongs to the Ancient and Loyal Order of… of which he’s the Grand….” (333)). The call goes on until Mr diCephalis gets in the booth (and is asked to pay for JR’s extra time–he doesn’t even know anyone in Union Falls).
Then JR starts talking to Nonny Piscator about his grand schemes–one of which seems to have him making 3 million dollars (although Piscator says something that causes JR to reply “What do you mean go to jail?” And then JR gives the classic response: “No now look Nonny, see I’m not asking you what I can do, I’m telling you what I want to do and paying you to find out how I can do it, understand” (336).
Mr Gibbs interrupts and asks for change for a dollar from JR (he has coins stacked up in the booth), then Gibbs reneges on the dollar bill, but JR says he can owe him (and you know JR doesn’t forget). Gibbs asks why a handkerchief is knotted over the phone and JR says it’s to prevent getting germs. Gibbs replies “And that indescribable wad of, of cloth protects you from contamination?” (337). Gibbs then flourishes his own handkerchief and presents it to JR on condition he throw out the other one . JR is grateful, saying it’s neat and that “people don’ usually give me things, you know?” (338). Gibbs seems moved for a moment and then the operator asks him to pay JR’s balance on that recent call and asks bout Union falls too. Gibbs gets pissed. He calls ben and yells at him about his ex-wife and daughter. And yells “This God damned comic strip out here’s getting closer to the last episode and I’ve got to have that thing settled before I…” [I can't wait to find out what this is all about] (338). Then Ben (on the phone) asks him about the five shares, which Gibbs says is in his shirt drawers and there’s no way to find out what they are worth because there’s some kind of estate squabble. And I believe we learn that Skinner is dating Gibbs’ ex (I assume Skinner is the “broken down book salesman”). But Gibbs says that his ex is not spending the support he pays them on his daughter (he had to buy her a $90 winter coat).
Gibbs hangs up and goes to the principles office. Hyde comes out covered in bandages and Gibbs says he wants to make sure he’s safe if that’s what comes out of this office. (HA). Gibbs sits down to talk about the “proscribed opening” and there’s some back and forth on the phone about the drug detection equipment (which has caught no one). Whiteback says that Glancy is missing and he asks Gibbs to cover–Gibbs say he doesn’t know where Glancy is; he can’t help. Finally Gibbs asks Whiteback if doing these two jobs isn’t just exhausting (since he’s getting calls for the bank at the school). Whiteback doesn’t reply but suggest that Gibbs go to the nurse to get an ace bandage to fix his shoe, or maybe wear some tennis shoes. [In the comments, Simon reveals that Whiteback does reply, can't believe I missed it. he says he wants to see which of the jobs goes under first].
Vogel sees Gibbs limping and asks if he is wounded too, but Gibbs says he’s just trying to jeep his slipper from falling off. Bast comes over and theres’ some rude funny banter, but Bast has to call JR. JR is mad that Bast never called Piscator about Wonder. But evidently one of the old men had to go to the hospital from the gala banquet (while Bast had his arm around him). JR is panicked, until he hears that they both signed the papers, then he doesn’t care about the old men anymore. And we hear the trade secret of the brewery: “cobalt in the water puts such a great head on their beer” (343). JR says that since they sold the brewery, it’s not their trade secret anymore. JR is also upset about this whole X-L Lithography thing and goes on about it until he asks bast :”what’s lithography?”
JR explains something about the scam he got involved in with the Debenture B & C and how it’s all that Mr Wall’s fault. But then it sounds like he’s going to buy shares of Nobili (down to 34 from 38). JR suggests that Bast write a composition for Wonder for their brewery (it’s an easy $50). JR then says he doesn’t have any time either and is getting a D in math and Joubert says he might get one in social studies.
Bast asks how Joubert is. And she walks right past the phone booth (she looks real healthy). Oh, and JR enrolled Bast in a speed reading course.
Mister Gibbs walks past again, this time with bright sneakers, which JR asks about. Gibbs says his mom got them for him, although we know he got them from Coach Vogel, what JR says leads me to believe they were Buzzies. Gibbs gets on the phone to call his bookie when Amy walks by and asks about the sneakers (he says it’ s tie-in for coach). Turns out neither one made it for their “date.” Then Stella comes in and he introduces her as Mrs Grynzspan to Mrs diCephalis.
He gets in the car with Stella (she wishes he’d change his suit and sneakers but no). On the way out he shows her Dan diCephalis and she comments that he really does work with “quite an assortment” (348). He notices that she’s wearing sunglasses and she reveals that she has a big black eye from Norman. She claims that she caught him with those Polaroids (she says it looks like his secretary), but Gibbs doesn’t believe that. He knows Norman.
We also learn that Gibbs and Stella dated before she married Norman. And we get this interesting history lesson:
When you and I were, when you started behaving just the way you are now and I started seeing him he sat down one night and told me he’d added up what he’d spent so far taking me out. It came to ninety-four dollars and a half, and he wanted to know if I was serious before he went on. Does that answer you? (350).
Gibbs can’t settle in the tiny expensive foreign car and says that business must be good, which lets Stella ask about those fie shares. Gibbs doesn’t think much at first, figuring that Stella and Norman’s shares together make 48, but she says “assuming they stay together.” Then he gets mad, he knows what’s been going on and responds, “Stella for you lying is just a practical way of handling things” (351). His parting shot implies that they had sex on the train platform on that night near the beginning of the book.
She gets to
Edward’s studio her house [See Simon's comments, I was way off in this,] where someone is there (and I can’t tell who…I would guess Edward and yet he doesn’t really stay there–[Simon clears this up, somewhat]). There is some mischievous behavior–lipstick drawn on her naked body. The phone rings. It’s Norman calling the studio, but they don’t answer. He is with Coen trying to straighten things out.
Coen looks around the office and notices changes. Norman says he’d like to get some Muzak piped in here. He also says that he switched Myrna and Terry, because Terry was lonely.
Coen talks finances, encouraging Norman to go public with the stock–Norman refuses, but he’d like to know about the Nathan Wise company (who make condoms)–the Pill has really put a damper on their sales. Coen gets back on track and talks about a threat from the Jubilee Musical Instrument Company. But back to the shares…Coen believes that Edward is not interested at all–he’s an artist. Norman isn’t so sure but he says,”There’s just something about him you like, something you kind of like and trust about him that you want to help out” (357).
Norman confides that Stella has access to Gibbs, but that he has lost track of Gibbs. Gibbs used to work there and was brilliant but erratic. Then Norman makes an eloquent argument about craftmanship:
— Coen God damn it can’t you see what I mean? Can’t you see this is what’s going to happen right here, after all it took to put all this together? Can’t you see you go public and all these people owning you want is dividends and running their stock up, you don’t give them that and they sell you out, you do and some bunch of vice presidents some place you never heard of like the ones that turned this out, this wood product they call it, they spot you and launch an offer and all of a sudden you’re working for them trimming and cutting and finally bringing in people to turn something out they don’t care what the hell it is, there’s no pride in their work because what you’ve got them turning out nobody could be proud of in the first place… (359).
Norman also says that if it weren’t for Stella he and Gibbs could have accomplished something together. Coen leaves and Norman says he’d like to get a word with Terry. Myrna has died her hair black. Myrna and Terry see Norma going out of the office, running, chasing somebody. Myrna and Terry are on the subway (there is some groping from Hispanics). They get off of the car and Bast is standing on the platform. Someone calls him but he can’t tell who it is. [As Simon points out below, and I thought might have been the case there is a narrative transition between these two scenes]. A girl runs up to him and he sort of recognizes her as Rhoda, the girl who was with Schramm.
The next whole section is then set in Grynzspan’s apartment and it is a very funny sequence of flooding water, crazy sex (in another room), telephones, and food.
Rhoda needs to get into Schramm’s apartment because her weed is in there. (She’s shocked theat Edward, a musician, doesn’t partake. She is also appalled a the state of the room (which has gotten worse–there’s also tons of mail outside which she helps bring in). She also can’t believe that he can work in this chaos. She complains that she is hungry. There’s no food, so she says she’ll go to the store and get a pizza (because she misunderstood his comment, “I just use the oven to…” (364) to mean that he cooked in it when the send ended “to put mail in”).
One of the big boxes has the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers and she has a hard time believing he does music. There’ an clog in the flooding sink and water starts spilling all over the place. They start to clean it up when Rhoda looks out the window and sees a man in his underpants with a woman there about to take them off. She admires the woman’s ass and wishes she had an ass like that (is that Terry with an ass like that?) Rhoda says her own tits are too big, but that that woman’s are perfect (then she gets mad that Bast is checking hers out).
Rhoda then recognizes the man as Gibbs, “he’s the one that night the cops were here he was running around stoned with one shoe on giving them a hard time” (367).
They can’t eat the frozen pizza and she reveals all that she has shoplifted (a very random assortment of things including frogs legs and pickled onions).
They look at Grynzpan’s mail (he owes Con Ed $1267.09). And then she sees Bast’s slide of a dik-dik (because of Crawley’s film). She starts looking at the music he is writing, “So like you never heard this, right I mean how do you know what it even sounds like? –You don’t that’s one of the , you don’t really know till you hear it performed, that’s one of the…” (371).
Rhoda is afraid to leave the place tonight because of the thugs downstairs (who have to push their car across the street every night because of alternative side parking rules). Bast says she can sleep on the couch. Before she does the upstairs neighbor knocks, “My vife Missues” and Rhoda tells him to fuck off. She cleans off the couch of pencils and tries to settle down. He had asked her several times if the light will bother her, but she ignores him. Then she asks if he’s staying up and says that the light is in her eyes.
In the morning, a button has popped loose on her shirt and, unless I am mistaken she is bottomless? She complains about his pointy dick-dick picture (ha). Anyhow, she is walking around with her shirttail hanging low and Mr Bast is trying to help her get the bathtub clean so she can wash her feet. (The tub is full of paper bag and the water comes out rusty). Bast leaves he has an appointment. So Rhoda, water clean now, sinks into the tub.
There’s a knock at the door its the telephone guy installing the videophone. She asks for help in the tub and he breaks the tap. The water is now rushing out of there as well now. (It’s like Niagara Falls in here). He checks out the place and assumes there’s a great party going on (everyone keeps commenting on the footprints on the window shade. She says her weeds (from Guatemala) is next door and asks if he, being a serviceman, can help out. He says a coat hanger will do it and she asks him to get it for her (she doesn’t want to go back in the place).
Someone [Moonyham] knock on the door to see if Bast wants to go to a Bible breakfast, but he sees Rhoda [and the phone man who is black--see Simon's comments] and assumes he has the wrong address.
Bast comes back to the place and there’s no one there. Then the vdieophone rings, and it’s JR (of course). He signed up Bast for a Dale Carnegie course. Turns out the Bible Breakfast guy wha Mooneyham who saw a naked Rhoda. Mooneyham went to the bible breakfast to seek solace (because JR said he’s buying the business). And then he went for a few drinks. There’s lots of stuff in here, like that X-L Lithography prints matchbook covers and two hundred thousand dollars cash to Eagle Mills and that Piscator has gone to Jamaica to incorporate JRs company.
There’ a package for Grynzspan from Eigen downstairs. The heavy box from earlier is an electric letter opener. He talks about the messages from Virginia (Crawley about an Italian drug company, and Beaton is calling him about drilling right in Alberta, And calls from Pomerace Associates (who the hell are they?) and Hopper called upset about a cemetery and big cuts to salary.
Bast hangs up and Gibbs knocks on the door. And we’ll pick up with Gibbs next week. Phew.
It’s amazing how many important little details are thrown about in these long rambling phone calls, especially from JR or Bast. We learn a lot, and yet it’s only half a conversation, and since both Bast and JR are skewed in their takes (because Bast doesn’t care and because JR may or may not know the rules very well), it’s not always clear if what they say is right or even true.
I had a chunk of free time this past week and wound up reading about 40 pages at a time, and I found it exhausting! Not bad, just exhausting. At the same time, it’s fun to read a big chunk at once, because the book is a real page turner. The crazy thing also is that I can’t even imagine how Gaddis will end this. Or if he had a hard time devising an ending.