Praise from a Trophy Husband

I don’t get many fan letters, so the few I get I cherish.

The following letter I had to post in full because, 1) It’s from Dave Insley of the Trophy Husbands, a man and musician I admire very much; 2) I think it’s so cool that my site excited him so much that he felt inspired to send me a couple thousand words in response. 3) Dave just has some very interesting things to say about a variety of topics.

I’ve left the letter in tact, so as to preserve his rush of enthusiasm, which I dig.

The rest of this post is his words, not mine … but I’m not doing the usual indentation of quoted material, since the letter is so long.

my apologies in advance for what will almost certainly be a long winded email….

wow! my mind is officially blown by your site! this is why the internet is great–a man can create an entire publication to express his views and clear his mind, communicate with other humans, engage in stimulating dialogue and grow the mind & nourish the spirit, touching upon all subjects, as far reaching, expansive and inclusive as the human experience itself! obviously you write very well and very passionately, and this makes your site immensely enjoyable, readable and compelling. that part of me which feels compelled to express myself would be greatly satisfied by operating a site like yours — instead, i have focused on expressing myself with music & performance (tho i have at other times in my life chosen to write essays, stories, top 10 lists, and all manner of other ways to vent my ideas and opinions, not the least of which is the nearly lost art of conversation and of letter writing) incidentally, i would have still recognized how great your site is, even without the very generous and complimentary things you have said about kevin & i in your postings, but i am certainly glad for, and appreciative of those very kind words and opinions about our stuff. thank you, thank you, thank you! i am glad you dig our stuff, and get what we are about so very clearly. but lets get back to your content, thats the great thing i am savoring this morning….

i share many of your views on the topics you explore and have enjoyed reading your postings. i sometimes avoid discussing politics & other hefty issues with people because (especially in arizona) i am constantly encountering narrow minded individuals and persons absolutely set in their ideas, who view the world very one-dimensionally, and who are satisfied with easily digestible platitudes and whom grow fuzzy-eyed and lacking in attention span at the very suggestion that the world’s problems and issues are complex and interrelated. when i was younger i thought i would change every bodys minds about things i felt passionate about, simply by presenting a well thought out, reasoned argument. now i generally save my energy to have these discussions with persons who are actively open-minded and willing to engage in conversation and dialogue with respect for other peoples opinions. war, immigration, natural resources & the environment, art — all great topics to discuss and to learn from what someone else has to offer, if you aren’t dealing with someone who is blind & deaf to all comments except those which support their own clung-to opinions. which isn’t to say that some issues aren’t fairly straightforward–they just aren’t all so easily dismissed. we have a politician here where i live, a 70 year old retired DEA agent, who is the sheriff of maricopa county– he likes to be known as “the worlds toughest sheriff” and he likes to say things like “get tough on crime” he is also an out-of-control media whore, who sniffs out every opportunity to get his mug on tv or in the papers to capitalize on his image for every possible news item, no matter how far astray the issue is from his mandate. during his terms of office the incidence of violence, death and human rights violations perpetrated by inmate on inmate (jails are poorly and unsafely run) and by deputies & guards on inmates (many of the lower level, grunt employees are bullies and idiots) and the public at large (for example: “pursuit” policies allowing dunderheaded deputies to chase car thieves or parole violators at high speed thru the city, resulting in several deaths in recent years of innocent bystanders–a pursuit policy disapproved by every other law enforcement agency in arizona) the number of lawsuits filed by families of victims against the county (and it’s taxpayers) has been absolutely staggering. he is a lunatic egomaniac. and he continues to have among the highest approval ratings of any politician in the state. this is to give you some idea of what we are up against here. i guess it should come as no surprise that arizona also gave the world former governors evan mecham (bigoted, uneducated religious zealot) and fife symington (back stabbing, dishonest developer, bank defrauder and probably murder co-conspirator) thats whose been watching the publics interest over here. governor moonbeam probably would have been a welcome relief! speaking of moonbeams, i couldn’t help but be amused by the demonstrators in ventura while i was there! i know that these individuals have good intentions, but jeez! i thought i was watching a black comedy being filmed. i haven’t seen so many animated caricatures since watching the simpsons a few nights before. i shouldn’t be so jaded and cynical, but does walking around ventura singing “give peace a chance” really have any effect on whats happening? i think not. as you pointed out, (and like it or not) we are in a pretty irretractable (sp?) position at this point– i am not saying i am for or against war, but it seems clear that we’ve gotten ourselves into a spot where backing down with saddam still in power would have a far worse outcome than a us led military campaign. this is not to say that i think bush is good or smart, i think he isn’t gonna go down in history as a very good president, or a great thinker, or even a particularly good leader. in the wake of 9/11 any aggressive president who acts, well, um, presidential, and who isn’t afraid to use our armed forces would have had a good approval rating with the american public. is there any question that whoever was the president (even the most cerebral dove) of the US would have (for instance) bombed the hell outta the taliban after 9/11 ? you couldn’t go wrong by doing these things given the circumstances, so it didn’t exactly call for genius leadership, just to do the obvious. at this point korea scares the bejesus outta me, more than some of these middle eastern states (our good friends in pakistan are pretty damned scary too) but you want to talk about rouge states led by insane people, take a look at korea–makes iraq look like texas.

onward, onward….
i was glad to read of your favorite books and music and films lists, i dig sharing this kind of info with friends. i also am a fan of henry miller, charles bukowski and marc reisner, and of course many of the musical artists and movies that you mentioned. may i add to your “must read” pile some of the following of my favorites (you probably have read, heard or watched many of them and they just didn’t get published to your list, or they aren’t among your favorites)

charles bowden – my personal favorites are “blood orchid” and also that book he wrote about charles keating and the defunct lincoln savings & loan (can’t remember the title) perhaps he writes unevenly, but he does achieve a nice blend of border literature, environmental writing, true crime stories and drug psychosis william langewiesche – writes for the new yorker, atlantic monthly, etc., but i really enjoyed his “cutting for sign” (more border literature) incidentally, the new york times book review this last sunday reviewed a war memoir called “jarhead” written by a marine who served in the gulf war – this looked like it might be well written and informative.

cormac mccarthy — skip “all the pretty horses” and go right to the meat of the matter, his masterpiece is “blood meridian – or the evening redness in the west” not that “all the pretty horses is bad, mind you, but just not as fully realized, immediate, jarring and genius as “blood meridian” i have read and enjoyed several others of his books, but blood meridian is the essential one.

i used to read a lot of john mcphee, loren eiseley, lawrence clark powell, bernard devoto, mark twain (talk about genius- my favorite is one of his earliest, “roughing it”), erskine caldwell (especially “god’s little acre,” second favorite “tobacco road”) of course steinbeck, faulkner & hemingway, herman melville, and one of my all-time favorite authors, wallace stegner (all of his books are amazing, but “angle of repose” is one of the greatest – must read literature for fans of great writing on the american west). i am also a fan of john irving and john nichols – i didn’t read “cider house rules” or “world according to garp” (tho i saw the garp movie) but “a prayer for owen meany is excellent. also, nichols “milagro beanfield war” “nirvana blues” and “magic journey” all hold a special place in my heart, as much for the great descriptive writing and character building, as for the northern new mexico culture and geography which i love deeply. other contemporary authors which i have enjoyed immensely are t.coraghessan boyle (water music still my favorite, tho they are all very good), john krakauer (“into thin air” and “into the wild” are both very well written and enjoyable) finally, for historical interest, john wesley powell’s “exploration of the colorado river and its environs” (sometimes called “powells journals”) and everett ruess’s “a vagabond for beauty” i used to read a lot of the literature of exploration and discovery, partly because it was gripping and entertaining, but also because i spent (mis-spent?) many, many years of my youth rockclimbing, mountaineering and river running. (i will send you a link to a couple of my own accounts of such things). oh yeah, ogden nash’s “wilderness and the american mind” is also quite a good treatise on the birth of the conservation movement and environmental writing. oh yeah, and what about ken kesey’s “sometimes a great notion” or “one flew over the cuckoo’s nest” or wolfe’s “electric kool aid acid tests” maybe these books wouldn’t interest me anymore, but years ago when i read them they seemed smart and funny and informative.

music. gonna limit myself to a couple quick questions re: things which don’t appear on your site: what about billy joe shaver? if there is a more charming, heartfelt, sincere, genius at being simple yet profound this side of johnny cash and buck owens, i’ll eat my hat. my two personal favorites “the earth rolls on” (intimate, courageous and tragic) and “tramp on your street” (rockin’ and heroic) of course, you can follow this path all the way back to the seminal album he wrote for waylon jennings, “honky tonk heroes”

i noticed that you had nick lowe’s “dig my mood” on there, how do you like his newest “the convincer” ? he is an amazing talent, i don’t think he’s made any bad records lately. also, i really like that blasters 2 disc set that came out recently, great having all those songs from the LPs in one set, a great tribute to a great american band. of course los lobos have made some terrific records, altho the most recent one has yet to grab me. i share your love of the elvis’s (presley and costello) i thought “when i was cruel” was long overdue, costello hadn’t made a good album since “king of america” (produced by the amazing TBone burnette, whose first album with “the alpha band” and first solo record “truth decay” remain amongst my favorites). what about everything that jerry reed ever recorded? and roger miller? those guys are both at the very top of my list of the great talents in american music. there is of course a long list of texans whose contributions are impossible to ignore, including of course billy joe shaver, but also guy clark, townes van zandt, willie nelson, ernest tubb, doug sahm, and delbert mcclinton. must be something in the water down there.

hey, incidentally, check out my friend rick shea if you get a chance, he plays guitar for dave alvin, but his solo work is really great, and he is a super nice person, to boot. he plays there at zoeys from time to time, and he is an extremely talented songwriter and friendly, honest guy- a great picker and great singer, of course

movies. too long of a topic to get too deep right now, but let me just say that i also dig the hell out of “sweet smell of success” curtis and lancaster both are great. all of lancasters work is amazing. i’ve seen and enjoyed most of the movies on your list. i don’t know where to start, but i will just throw out a few favorite actors and see where that leads before i run outta juice. james stewart – one of my favorites is “destry rides again” henry fonda – “ox bow incident” – the adaptation of the walter van tilburg clark story – has always been a favorite. best movie i’ve seen lately in the new release department was “adaptation” also i liked “the fast runner” (inuit written and produced, very cool) also “smoke signals” was very good, i cried at the end cause it made me think about my relationship with my father. “blood simple,” “fargo” “millers crossing… ” fuck it – everything by the coen brothers. also, we really enjoyed the george clooney directed movie about chuck berris, “confessions of a dangerous mind” anything with peter lorre. “posse” (kirk douglas & bruce dern) paths of glory (kirk douglas & stanley kubrick) all quiet on the western front (still endures as one of the greatest war movies of all time) manchurian candidate. freaks. the public enemy. to die for. get shorty. the player. high fidelity. trekkers. quiz show. being john malkovich. natural born killers. lone star (john sayles!) dusk til dawn. dead man walking. to kill a mockingbird. el mariachi. reservoir dogs. godfathers I & II. i like movies, this could go on just about forever. this isn’t my top 10 or anything for the movies, just what popped into my head while writing this.

best tv shows
the simpsons
the andy griffith show
the shield
the sopranos
sctv and snl
the daily show
news radio
larry sanders show

okay, i better get back to whatever i am supposed to be doing. just wanted to write and thank you personally for your kindness and compliment you on your site. i hope to be out in californian in the next month or two (without band in tow) i hope you have time to get together for lunch or dinner or drinks or hanging out. i have added a link to your site on the “magazines & publications” area of our links page. there is also a link to one of my stories that was published on a climbing website, called “toothrock climbing story,” just in case you have time & curiosity and want to check it out. here’s a link to it here, also

be forewarned, i don’t have your writing skills or gift of brevity, but there it is anyways. if you like it, i will send you a few others for your amusement. one was used in a book called “ascent” a few years ago, and there are a few others that i sold to various magazines.

hey, it was cool to see those 2 photos from zoeys on your site – if there are others, is there any chance you would email some to me? further, is there any chance we could use some/any of them (with photo credits of course). maybe my web designer could incorporate some into our site, if i can ever get any more work from her!!

okay, thats about it for now. gotta head into town to do some stuff. great seeing ya last friday, hope to talk to ya soon.

dave insley

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