Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Archive for June, 2010

Fifty-six

Posted by ilbebe on June 25, 2010

Geez, those vuvuzelas are something else! I, for one, am all for them. God knows they must be annoying the shit out of the sort of people who vote against funding for elementary schools, so perhaps, like the Blues Brothers, they’re doing the Lord’s work. Did anyone catch that little item? The Catholic Church recognized The Blue Brothers, one of my favorite movies, as a “canonized” great film, and said every good Catholic should watch it! It’s been a really great week. I’ve been watching World Cup matches almost every day, with all sorts of different people, and it’s been a hell of a lot of fun. On Monday, B and I met a guy who claimed to be the goalie for the ‘72 Australian Olympic team at the San Mateo County Fair. He was working in a booth selling nuts and seeds, and he gave me a bargain on some delicious sunflower seeds. He also said that with the money he made from being on the Olympic Football squad, he bought his parents a house with an ocean view. I later looked the matter up on the internet and discovered that Australia didn’t field a football team at the Munich Games. Whatever.

I remember one of the more memorable World Cups I watched was the 1998 contest. It occurred while I was taking Government and Economics in summer school before my Senior year of high school started. It was a magical time. I had been canned from my job a few weeks before the school year let out, and then I went to the junior prom with this girl S who I’d had a crush on for three years. And she asked me! My Studebaker was running fine, and my band was really starting to hit it’s stride. I was writing new songs every week, and Shawn Sloan was in my summer school class.

I walked in like three minutes late on the first day, which was very uncharacteristic of me. I don’t remember why I was late, but you have to understand that was on time to everything in high school, and I only cut like five or ten times in all four years. The teacher was a short fella who was going over the syllabus in a very relaxed tone. I looked around for Shawn and deduced that he wasn’t there yet, and then I noticed it, the most literally awesome symbol I’d ever seen: a huge ‘G’ on the dry erase board behind where the teacher was casually pacing back and forth, reading from the syllabus.

Shawn slunk in a few minutes later and sat on the floor next to me, because there weren’t any seats left. Two or three minutes later, the teacher paused in his reading and asked “Are there any questions so far?” Shawn slowly raised his had and asked “Eh, what’s your name?”

The teacher pointed to the board and spoke plainly:

You Can Call Me G.

Not Mr. G

G.

Any Other Questions?

At that point, my only question was How Much Ass Does This Guy Kick?!?!? We soon found out more of his story; he was going to be moving to Oregon at the end of the summer to take a much better paying job at a private school, and was just doing this summer gig for some money to help pay his first month’s rent on an apartment out of state. Thus it was clarified that he hadn’t been kidding that first day when he said “All I’m really looking for here, guys, is attendance.” The wink had been and was tacit, and it was understood. All understood.

We did the Economics section of the class first, a semester of school compressed into a tidy little two-week package. Activities included watching Wall Street and playing Star Wars monopoly. Shawn and I were put into a variety of unusual group activities with people varying from Joe Baker, one of those lazy stoners who routinely fell backwards into all sorts of good fortune, to Andrew and Melissa, a couple whose common ground we simply couldn’t fathom. Case in point, when Andrew walked in ahead of Melissa the first day of the second session, having neither opened nor held the door for her, and saw one seat remaining, he ran to it and then teased her when she took a seat on the floor next to him. Melissa was no head-turner, but Christ, Andrew looked like a fuckin’ wimpy orc. Did he have money, or what? What the fuck?!

Daily lessons involved going to the school library so people could smoke weed in the bathroom, leave through the windows to go to Jiffy Mart off campus and stock up on cigs, and read old encyclopedias about topics ranging from Nothing To Do With Economics to Seriously, Couldn’t Be Much Farther From Anything Relating To Economics. We found out G had taken guitar lessons from Robert Fripp in the 80’s, and this explained why Fripp was G’s primary influence on guitar. G brought in his demo tape, twenty-five minutes of him wanking on one or two notes every ten seconds while his homemade Frippertronics system manipulated the sound to resemble a disinterested sexy robot nurse. I got an A in Econ.

Then the world cup started.

There were three or seven Mexican dudes in the class, and every day found G walking into the room around eight in the morning to find them already gathered around the TV in the corner, yelling and whistling at the matches taking place halfway across the world in France. I believe Marco’s dad was the janitor, and left the door propped open for them overnight so that they could watch the early games that started at six in the morning. Bottom line, you can’t tell a Mexican of any age or gender to turn themselves down, let alone turn off the match. So my education in American Government was consistently overshadowed by screams of Cabron!, Puto!, and Gooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaal!

Another phrase that was often overheard was “Senor G, Senor G es un profesor mucho beuno!!”

G clearly had won the approval of a portion of the class he regarded with unabashed awe and respect. I can only imagine that he regarded Marco and the gang with a wild and unbridled respect for their irreverence of his reverent irreverence. That the respect was mutual is evident in the way the football fans consented to put the TV on mute for five minutes while we took the one and only quiz of our Government education, a fifteen question multiple-choice exam that featured such handwritten G gems as “The Bill of Rights establishes some basic civil liberties for residents of what nation? A: The US B. The USA C:The United States of America D: All of the Above”

That was a quick five minutes.

On a related note, the month after I graduated from high school the following summer, the San Francisco Examiner ran a front-page story on Independence Day, 1999, about how American high schoolers don’t learn shit any more, and the lead quote was taken from a girl in my graduating class at Liberty High in Brentwood, CA: “Um, the Germans?”

The question was “Who did we fight the Revolutionary War against?”

Wow. I remember that girl saying in casual conversation during my sophomore biology class “I dunno, I think the only concert I could go see not on acid any more would be Bush. Or maybe No Doubt. Everything else, if I’m not on acid or ecstasy or mushrooms, it just isn’t really that fun.”

“Are you on acid right now, C?” This was my question. We were fifteen.

“No, just really stoned and I had a lot of Jack Daniels between classes.”

It was 11:15 AM. Wow. She had somehow foreseen the eventual marriage of Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani. Zwah? Zwan?

You move to the suburbs to give your kids a chance at a better life, a place with less crime and better schools. Your kids gets bored to tears, and eventually you don’t talk to them much because they’ve become, in your eyes, insolent. They don’t give a shit how hard you work to put food on the table and pay for their braces and live in a place with very, very few black people. Yr kids will wind up on drugs, and that’s if yr lucky. If yr a real mother, yr kids’ll wind up in some sort of religious nonsense, or a 9-to-5’r that bleeds what little soul ya allowed them to build up from them at a remarkable pace. Why d’ y’ not see nose rings and funny clothes from decades past as a massive measure of relief?! It’s evidence yr kid’s OK!

Y doom yrself to kids learning more about American government and economics from a short-timer acid head and a class full of people drawing in coloring books and cheering on foreign sports teams in football matches. Things that yr progeny will rightly value as more cool, and more important, than yr message of money and pious dignity that rings false to anyone older than twelve.

He hands you your throat back sayin’ thanks for the loan!

And you know enough to know that you don’t know nothing at all!

-6/24/10, home, Oakland – Really, really Goddamn happy. Heard Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts earlier!!!

Advertisements

Posted in The Americaphiles | Leave a Comment »

Fifty-five

Posted by ilbebe on June 10, 2010

During my senior year of high school, my friend Garrett played the role of the father in our school’s production of Brighton Beach Memoirs, and I would often come across him mumbling somnolently “A colewaddah flat on Delancey Street” and staring intently at his hands. I’d never seen the play before, and I remember one of my favorite lines being when Eugene has to lower his voice to inform the audience that his aunt has “The cahnsaahh“. I guess I got the point; that suffering from something like cancer was practically unspeakable, the same as a young boy’s urge to jerk off.

(Tangentially, I saw another production of the same play a few months later at a local community college with a girl I’d been dating for a few months. That production really sucked. Upon leaving, the drama teacher who’d escorted us all out there remarked “My GOD, could the Dad have crossed and uncrossed his legs any more?!” My girl’s refusal to hold my hand during the performance didn’t improve my experience, and after we got dropped off outside of her house, I broke up with her, explaining that I was going through a lot of shit because my parents had separated. I walked home in the cold.)

About a month after my family moved into our second house in Brentwood, my Mom’s mother, Grandma Gert, died of lung cancer. My Mom flew back to New Hampshire right before she passed to be with her, and then settled her affairs afterwards. She reported clearing out entire kitchen cabinets full of pots of full of grocery coupons that had expired a decade earlier. She also said that in her Mom’s final days, her Mom was nice to her to the first time ever, and seemed to be at peace. I was in the middle of a successful eighth-grade basketball season, and wasn’t too affected by the news.

My father’s mother died of lung cancer a few days after my second year of college ended. I left early in the morning on a Thursday to drive from Arcata to Brentwood with my girlfriend Kaydee and two other friends, went to my youngest sister Tate’s eighth-grade graduation, and then hit the road with my whole family to drive to San Diego overnight. Around dawn we arrived at a motel where my Dad’s girlfriend has gotten us a few rooms, and I tried to sleep for a few hours before waking, dressing, and going down to the small town of Bonita to bury Grandma Shirley.

Afterwards, my Grandpa talked about how in the last few months of her life, Grandma Shirley was repeatedly admonished by doctors to never smoke again, and yet he’d find her around the side of the house, enjoying a drag. “I don’t even know where she got them,” he said. “She’s say ‘Oh leave me be, it’s my only vice.”

In May of 2007, my sister Lee graduated from college, and I was in San Diego again, taking her dog for a walk with my Mom. My Mom was harassing me about smoking, Don’t You Realize That Killed My Mother?

Yes, I replied, And Dad’s Too. And I Don’t Fucking Care. Four Years We’ve Been At War In Iraq And You Don’t Seem To Give Too Much Of A Shit About That Any More. Give Me A Couple More Years.

You’re Scaring Me, Son.

I Know, Mom. It Bothers Me Too. Believe me, I’m Not Even Really Enjoying Smoking That Much, But Whaddya Know, It’s Habit Forming.

And now here I am, three years after that. Now it’s been four years I’ve been smoking, seven years the US has been in Iraq, nine years in Afghanistan, eight years since I graduated from college. Sixteen years since Grandma Gert died, nine since Grandma Shirley died. Nothing’s gonna change that.

I recently read the autobiography of Lenny Bruce, How To Talk Dirty And Influence People. He spends a large part of the second half of the book talking about his various court battles and emphatically denying that he used any illegal drugs. He was found dead at forty of an accidental morphine overdose. I laid on my back in Golden Gate Park recently, thinking about the notion of dying on my own terms, and wondering if maybe I should accept the lung cancer that’s surely heading my way if I don’t stop smoking as my cancer. I’ll never own a home, I’ll be out of a job in three months, I can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetary, and I’ve decided against suicide, but maybe I can own my cancer.

I think that’s silly. Tired as I am of all the things I can’t fucking control in this world and my own life, I’m not about to beat myself into ruin just to prove a point or to own something. I’ve been eating better lately, stretching more, sleeping more soundly, and I’m in a good relationship with a great girl. We smile a lot. I’ll probably see my parents die before I do, but that’s how it ought to be. I’m gonna quit someday.

In the meantime, though, I get to reward myself for writing new chapters.

Smoke break!

-6/10/10, Oakland, home

Posted in The Americaphiles | Leave a Comment »

Fifty-four

Posted by ilbebe on June 4, 2010

I find the phrase editorial submission intriguing because it implies both what yr offering and the knowledge that what yr offering will be at the mercy of the judgement of an editor. Editorial policy varies, this much we know. Why would anyone willingly submit to any additional phantom force with the power to accept or deny them, when there are already so many shadows at work controlling the quality of our liberty? I suppose the freedom there lies in our willingness to submit…

In December of 2002, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Contra Costa Times in regards to the BART system, and my feeling that it needed to be expanded farther into the suburbs to meet the needs of the population it was supposed to be serving. My opinion was based on, eh, common sense!!, and also a little indignation about the fact that Brentwood, where I was currently interning for the Planning Department, had been paying the taxes and bonds that had built and maintained the BART system since its inception in the ‘60’s, even though the closest station was still fifteen miles away. My letter was printed, and a few weeks later, I took part in a community workshop about planning for a large undeveloped area that sat at the edge of Brentwood and two other cities.

We were split into small groups, and my working group included a serious bastard who was one of the richest people in town. His riches came from turning his agricultural holdings into shitty houses, houses that aren’t going to taste good after the money is gone. He talked at length about the seemingly unrelated issue of annexing more land east of downtown Brentwood, land which he coincidentally owned and wanted to pave under. Then we talked about the placement of the new transit stop in the middle of the area we were supposed to be discussing, and it was his opinion that it be placed in a de-centralized spot to allow for improved auto traffic. I groaned and leaned back in my chair, and that’s how my boss found me when he walked around, checking in on the groups. He didn’t seem amused at my non-participation, but when I jumped into the dialogue and offered my two cents on restricting auto access, he sighed and walked away.

He never mentioned my letter to the editor; maybe he saw, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he agreed, maybe he didn’t. I left my internship with the city a month after the workshop despite being offered a full time position. I was far more interested in going back to Arcata to party.

A few years later Arcata was having City Council elections, and a local eco-groovy activist gadfly named Fhyre Phoenix was running. This was a guy who attempted to start a community currency project modeled after the Ithaca Dollar, and ran a newspaper to advertise and support the project’s goals. In the first few editions, about twenty-five percent of the ads in the classified section were his. The included “Wanted: Free Office Space To Run Community Currency Project In”, “Wanted: Free Printing Services For Community Currency Project Newspaper”, “Wanted: Free Place To Live For Community Currency Project Director”, and “Offered: Freedom From Corrupt Capitalistic System. Do Community Currency!”

The best one, however, was “Wanted: Snugglebuddy. Contact Fhyre at Community Currency Project”.

So when he ran for city council, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Arcata Eye and didn’t bother getting specific about my feelings that the man was entirely unfit for public service in any universe numbering less than fourteen dimensions. I just said that given Arcata’s recent exposure in the national and international media surrounding the somewhat radical opinions of a current councilmember, it would be Arcata’s folly to elect a dude with such a ridiculous name. You could imagine the BBC report on that one- “We return to Arcata, California, where their newest city councilman is a bum named Fhyre.” That letter got printed, and for a while, that was the first result that came up when I googled myself.

Six years later I was living during wartime in Oakland, and read an interesting column in the East Bay Express about a radical economist living in Berkeley. It was an interesting article, but for whatever ridiculous reasons they put everyone whose name was mentioned in the article in boldface, and to me it made the whole feature look like a society gossip column. There was also a minor typo in a significant quote in the middle of the article, and towards the end, the article’s author stated “The media took its hit long ago” in regards to declining public faith in the institutions that are supposed to inform and govern our lives. I wrote a letter to the editor chastising what I felt were their misguided editorial functions, and the interesting parallels that could be drawn between the content of the article and it’s presentation. The East Bay Express has always had my respect for being fearless in printing letters from their detractors, and as of a few weeks ago, I now proudly number amongst them.

It now has me ruminating on the power of words. You can be pretty good with them, but they’ll never save your life. Or will they? The future remains unwritten, unspoken, and unfelt, but I, I-I, I-I, I’m hooked on a feeling. I’m high on believing that things are getting better. Younger and younger children are harnessing acute powers of language, and the I feel that this is a powerful representation of our ever-expanding powers of human cognition. Right behind, in front of and all around this ability to think is a capacity for love.

An image:

A single drop of rain jams the carbine and queers the executioner’s mission and allows the prisoner to say Please Don’t!

An opportunity for the executioner to listen, and understand, and stand down; beside; with

-2:42PM, 6-3-10, Oakland, home. Caffeinated and happy.

Posted in The Americaphiles | Leave a Comment »