Now

My “Now” page is where I share stuff I’ve enjoyed recently, in the hopes that you’ll find something you’ll enjoy too.

Music

Eluvium Virga II

Eluvium, Virga II

This is the follow-up to what was my most-played ambient record of 2020, and while it doesn’t quite hit those heights, it’s still better than most ambient released this year.  Four long-form pieces, 44 minutes, great for deep work.

Mike Lust Demented Wings

Mike Lust, Demented Wings

Shades of the poppier sides of Guided by Voices and Ty Segall, plus some straight-up low-fi pop and odd instrumentals, from a Chicago indie stalwart.  If you care about songcraft and vibe, but you’re not married to a single style, and your tastes are in any way influenced by ‘80s music, you’ll probably love this.  Lust is a recording engineer, so it sounds terrific on headphones.

Buick Sweatertongue

Buick, Sweatertongue

This is from 1992, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s appeared on Bandcamp.  I took a flyer on Sweatertongue, based on the blurb in the Ajax Records catalog, which at that time was a multi-page booklet that arrived in the actual mail. It ended up being one of my favorite records of all time.  It’s a little like if Sonic Youth and Slint had invented Mogwai, and frankly, I would have been fine if instrumental post-rock followed this vector instead of the quiet/loud/quiet formula that it’s largely turned into.  Go straight to “Immortality,” a song which was my go-to closer for mix-tapes back in the day.

(I link to Bandcamp whenever possible, since it’s the platform that returns the most money to the artists.)

Books

Say Nothing: A True Story of Memory and Murder in Northern Ireland, Patrick Radden Keefe.

I knew very little about the conflict in Northern Ireland when I opened Say Nothing, and I was shocked by much of what I read.  Keefe structures his book well, opening with the 1972 kidnapping of Jean McConville (taken from her apartment, in front of her children) and subsequently shifting the spotlight and unfolding the chronology over decades.  Perhaps the primary takeaway: One’s take on history largely depends on where one sits.

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story, Michael Lewis.

First, my quibbles: The Premonition leans a bit too heavily on cult of personality (even the title is reflective of this).  But Lewis’ ability to create a readable story from the ugly facts has few peers – he also wrote Moneyball, The Big Short, etc. – and you’ll learn a ton about how the system works, or doesn’t.  Certain Amazon reviewers who gave this book one star because of its treatment of Trump seem to have missed the numerous parts where the CDC and the state of California get dragged.  In the end, it’s one of the better understandings of the pandemic and its (mis)handling that you’ll find, even with its flaws.

At this writing (July 22), I’ve completed 22 books this year.

Travel

Kara & I celebrated our fifth anniversary by returning to one of our favorite little cities, Portland, ME.

View from Portland’s Eastern Promenade

Apart from being a fantastic walking town – plenty of exposure to water, some bonkers housing stock – it’s an ace spot for food & drink, which is what we tend to build our trips around. Here were our favorites:

Scales – Recommended even by the locals as the best seafood place in a seafood-centric city.  This was our “official” anniversary dinner; the tuna tartare & the pan-roasted halibut were fantastic, as were the ramp rolls.

Duckfat – A variety of pressed sandwiches, duckfat fries & a well-curated beer list.  What else do you need?

The Honey Paw – Flavorful Asian.  Since we went twice, we can recommend the rice salad, the coconut wings and pretty much any noodle dish.

Eventide – Still dreaming about the brown butter lobster roll.  The oysters, crudo and battered pollock were no slouches either, and the service is friendly & attentive, even when they’re slammed, as they almost always are.

Hunt & Alpine Club – One of my favorite cocktail bars in the country, point period.

Flag of the state of Maine from 1901-1909. Don’t know why they changed it.

Novare Res Bier Café – Extensive beer list at this taproom and garden tucked into a quiet interior plaza downtown.

Oxbow Blending & Bottling – Fantastic range of fruit-infused saisons and farmhouse ales.  And check out this page for some truly outstanding label design.

Austin Street Brewery – A more traditional range of beers, all well done, and plenty of outdoor space.

Coming up: Cannon Beach & McMinnville, OR and Maui, HI.

Chicago

Dope woodwork behind the Pilot Project taps.

I spent an oppressively hot Friday afternoon with my pal Tyler in Logan Square, easing into this reopening with the assistance of beer.  Lunch was at Revolution Brewpub, where the food and the beers are always top-notch.  Fewer IPAs than on past visits, but that’s understandable, given the state of the world.  We then headed down Milwaukee Ave. to Pilot Project, an incubator for smaller brewers.  Ever-rotating taps, a bright indoor tasting room and plenty of outdoor space.  If you’re a beer lover, you should check out both.

We also visited Shaw’s Crab House with my friends Liam & Marjie, who I’ve known since they both gave me a job offer in the summer of ’92. (True story! They were, and remain, married. Marjie was working for IRI, Liam at the company that made Mentos & Airheads. The choice was clear.) Shaw’s brings in some of the freshest fish & oysters in the city, and they make an all-killer, no-filler crab cake.  And the sushi lets the fish speak – none of that “stuffed with avocado, twice fried, and drenched in three kinds of sauce” nonsense here.

Beverages

We maintain a strict $20 price cap for “around the house” wines.  When the pandemic hit, this rule may have saved us thousands of dollars.

Recently, I discovered Last Bottle, which makes it even easier to stick to our wine rule, and helps us to avoid the horror of a half-empty wine fridge.  Last Bottle runs daily spot sales on select wines, some at 50% off or more, with discounted prices ranging from about $12 to three figures.  Use this link for 10% off your first order.

Fitness

Matthew Fenton Peloton
The Peloton receipts.

I’m pleased to report that I smashed my target of 800 Peloton miles for the thirty days ending Sept. 2. I’ll move that goal up to 825 or 850 next time.

For the current 30 days, I’m alternating weights & light cardio days in my building’s gym with heavier-resistance days on the Peloton.

At this writing (Sept. 19), I’ve exercised 248 of 262 days this year.

Grab-Bag

I enjoyed David Sedaris’ “Storytelling and Humor” MasterClass; in particular, I appreciated his curiosity about life and his willingness to engage with anyone in conversation (which is why his book signings can take hours). He shares one anecdote in which he asks a stranger, “When was the last time you touched a monkey?” Her reply: “Oh, can you smell it on me?” If you’re curious about MasterClass, here’s a guest pass.

Questions on any of the above?  Got something to share of your own?  Drop me a line: matthew(at)threedeuce(dot)com.