Song of the Week: Thanksgiving in Reno

As the lyric says, this is a true story. True-ish, anyway; we always reserve the right to improve upon reality.

Jay and I had spent most of the Fall of 1988 couch-surfing in San Francisco, working on the “Making Fun of Bums” video and playing the occasional show at the Paradise, but mostly just drinking and playing pool. As T-day approached, we realized we were wearing out our welcome with the various friends at whose apartments we’d been crashing, and decided a road trip was in order.

It seemed like a good idea at the time: hotels in Reno were pretty damn cheap, and so was the food, and we figured the place would be relatively empty. Wrong.

Depression set in at dinner, at an honest-to-goodness $5.99 buffet with turkey and cranberries and a smorgasbord of other selections. The single folks sitting at tables by themselves made sense. It was the families that got to me. I wondered aloud what they were doing there, and Jay, who is prone to uttering pearls of wisdom every so often, said, “Dude, what are WE doing here?”

So we smoked and drank and gambled a little more than we might have, otherwise, trying to erase that feeling of wrongness, and, of course, failing.

There was no girl to save me, as the song eventually confesses, and we didn’t win any money from a slot machine (though a roadie of ours did actually win $600 in Reno a year or two later — only he won with triple clowns, not triple bars, a detail I changed because, weirdly, it felt too fake). There was only melancholy, mitigated slightly by the fact that we were friends on an adventure. So it makes sense that in my sad stupor I would have a vision of a red, white and blue angel trying to soar above and beyond the neon and the debauchery.

At the end of the weekend we drove home the long way, through Lake Tahoe, where we stopped to gamble some more, and Jay balanced the karmic scales by being the opposite of a wisdom-spouting Buddha, standing drunkenly in front of an ATM machine on a casino floor, shouting, “This machine’s the best! I always win!” as it spat out more twenties for him to go lose at the Blackjack table.


  1. “This machine’s the best! I always win!” I’m going to say that at the ATM every time from now on, no matter what city I’m in. Awesome.

  2. I spent my first Thanksgiving in Reno this last year and thought of you guys. It was just as boring of a time, and cold.

    PS AND OMG I listened to Son of Sam I Am & Cereal Killers over and over while in college (me and my girlfriends loved Crush Story and Long Haired Guys from England)…I don’t think you ever came to Austin, TEXAS?!! I also sent your record company a letter and bot one of your t-shirts! I don’t know where it is now. : ( Anyway, Happy New Year!

  3. I’ve always loved that song and wondered about the tale(s) behind it. Thanks! Keep ’em coming.

  4. Wait, what about the Evel Kneivel dream?? That really happen???

  5. Thanks for these. It still guts me to never get a new album from you guys. I still remember spending my 18th summer in Long Beach, when Crush Story came on the radio. I was in a pool at a party and jumped the f&@k outta the water and told everyone to shut up! The best band in the world is on the radio! People thought I was crazy – but I’m pretty sure almost everyone there loved the song. In another world you guys would be on album 10 by now. Freaking bums me out. Just hope you guys know some people still love you and try to get the kids to understand – ‘ No – these guys freaking RULED!’.

  6. This song always inspires a sweet depressed feeling. Temporary sadness. (The holiday will be over and life will return to normal.)
    I grew up near a shore area that is popular in the summer, but I moved away when I got older. On summer holidays it was just me and the foreigners. Like everybody was invited to some great party but me.
    Living near the shore in the summertime every place was happening. I’d meet girls at the 7/11. I never noticed it growing up, just thought ‘this is what its like in the summer’

  7. Best disclaimer lyric ever: “some of this is true, some of this is better!”

    I loved Cereal Killers in ’91 when I was in a bad relationship (RIP WHFS). “Crush Story” was our song. I got the joke, she didn’t. But 25 years later, CK, SOSIA still get in rotation on my iPhone. “Nothing On My Mind” always makes me a bit sad, whether you all intended it to or not. As does “making fun of bums” (for anyone who had parents split). You guys had the indispensable combo of hooks and wit (and heart) that has aged much better than it should have. This blog looks a little old (as I am), but I just wanted to say thanks. Unappreciated then and now. And “Tim Quirk”. Perfect name.

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