Let me start by saying that I’m listening to a lot of Steely Dan as I write this, so if it comes off as rambling, dark and sarcastic, I apologize. Every time I put on a Steely Dan record, I find myself thinking why am I not spending every minute of every day listening to Steely Dan? Becker/Fagen are to my 30s as Morrissey/Marr were to my 20s, a constant, reassuring soundtrack. Every time I listen to an album, I discover something new to love about a song I’ve heard a thousand times before. (How could I forget about “Caves of Altamira?” Was “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” always this brilliant?).
Matthew & I saw our third Dan show at the Beacon on Wednesday; last time we saw them play Gaucho in full and when they played “Josie” I thought my heart would explode. The first time we saw them, they busted out “The Second Arrangement.” And I’ve seen Donald Fagen play with the Dukes of September Rhythm Review, as well as seeing fellow Dukes Boz Scaggs & Michael McDonald on their own tours. (Also, I am kind of in love with Donald Fagen and wish he would write a charmingly sleazy song about me, more “Slinky Thing” than “Cousin Dupree.”)
But Wednesday night, they opened with “Black Cow” (one of my favorites) and played “FM,” which made me so insanely happy that I screamed. They played “Josie” too, and “Peg,” and “Black Friday.” If they had played “What a Shame About Me,” I might have died of happiness.
In addition to the show, Matthew and I took a few days to work on some writing. The way I’ve been barreling through notebook pages, I’m on Dutch’s last signature, and he’ll only last another week, at most. And Gail, hale and hearty as she is, is nearing the end of her line, with only a signature left before she’s retired to the bookshelf.
I keep a “Writing DIY” folder of funky writer crafts and workspace porn, and for awhile I’ve wanted to make a record notebook. But I couldn’t bring myself to cut up a record or buy a record TO cut up. But when my dentist, a smooth cat in his own right, gave me a copy of Steely Dan’s Greatest Hits, I discovered that not only was it missing the first record, it wasn’t in playable condition. The best materials, I have discovered, reveal themselves in time.
So last night I put Pretzel Logic on the hi-fi and set down to construct the book. Here’s my hint. Don’t do this.
Melting the record in the oven was easy. Punching the holes? Not so much. I burned my fingers about a hundred times because while the plastic melted fine, trying to punch through half-melted plastic like the instructions said I could do? Fucking impossible. The holes kept closing up. Ian suggested that next time we drill them out, but there isn’t going to be a next time.
Also, the instructions failed to tell me that the record will shrink about 2 inches in the course of melting. I should have known that, obviously, but also, instructions are supposed to remind you of these things. So I had to trim down my paper, which allowed me to use the funky craft scissors I bought for wedding crafts. I alternated soft white and a slicker brown sketch paper, with postcards in-between the signatures. It took me a couple tries to figure out the stitching pattern on the postcards; because I was using Coptic Stitch on a single-page signature and generally, that’s for double-truck signatures. But somewhere around the B-side of Gaucho, I got the groove down.
The back cover is the album’s track list, which also makes for a handy playlist builder, in case I forget that I haven’t heard “Black Friday” in awhile.
So the cover is a melted mess, the paper’s edges are ragged and the stitching’s a little wonky. But I named the little monster Fagen anyways. It isn’t smooth, it isn’t perfect, but it represents a stretch, a new direction for my work. A New Frontier, if you will.