Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Archive for January, 2012

Eighty-one

Posted by ilbebe on January 31, 2012

This is the Tale of The Day I Met Steve Guttenberg.

It was Anna H’s 21st birthday, Sunday, January 26th, 2003. Nine years and five days ago, now. Funny how dates help you keep track of things, and time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future. Who gives a damn about an Oxford Comma now? Philly D don’t, and he’s back in school, Young Dangerfield style. He’s gonna rock it, poe-tee-weet.

Anna, a CCAC classmate of Shawn’s, was dating Casey at the time, so I had gone over to her house on 56th Street to celebrate this momentous birthday. I had recently begun seeing an unexpected pattern of lightweightness amongst Shawn’s classmates, and I was somewhat wary of the potential for a lame time based on these observations, but Hell, I figured, it’s her birthday, this is gonna be fun.

I got there around six PM and Casey was drunk. Anna wasn’t. She was on her second Heinekin of the day; Casey was on his eighth. There were only two bottles left in the twelve-pack, and I took one. I asked Eh, Anybody Else Around? Casey explained that her brother had apparently “dropped by” earlier for about an hour; just long enough to show up without a gift, say happy birthday, refuse a Heinekin, and completely rebuff all of Casey’s attempts at conversation. I have a word for people who make no attempt to get to know the people that are fucking their sisters: Total Shitheads. Needless to say, this info regarding Anna’s brother did not raise my opinion of her much, and within ten minutes of me being there, the beer was gone, so I began to consider my options for the rest of the day.

The following day I was supposed to be driving to Sacramento for another friend’s birthday, and then on Tuesday I was going to begin wrapping up all of the important projects I had been working on during my six-month internship with the City of Brentwood Community Development Department in anticipation of my last day, Friday the 31st. The important projects on the docket for me to wrap up included taking down the picture of a cow I had taped to one of my empty filing cabinets, taking home the sun-with-arms pillow I used to take naps under my desk at lunchtime, and seeing if I could run my FreeCell consecutive-victory streak past thirty. My overall FreeCell record during my time at the CoB-CDD stood at 97-8 going into that last week, but the defeats had been evenly spaced out enough such that my longest victory streak was at a mere twenty-two, a figure unsatisfactory to me. They made me change lightbulbs at this job, for chrissakes. I wanted to leave with a thirty-game winning streak, and also several reams of white paper. Luckily I had four days (read:backpack loads) to accomplish this.

But back to Sunday night: We were out of beer, and I the only fun I saw to be had would have to come at Anna’s expense, i.e. making fun of her for having a lame brother, no other friends over on HER 21ST BIRTHDAY, and a pathetic appetite for beer. This fun-making I was not about to do, and even though the look on Casey’s face read HELP ME BY STAYING AROUND AND DRINKING WITH ME, FORGET ANNA loud and clear, I couldn’t help but jumping at a good excuse to leave. The excuse came in the form of a phone call (to the house’s landline!! It was 2003!!) from Shawn, saying that his useless wet-blanket girlfriend-at-the-time A-train didn’t feel like coming over to the party. She was more interested in going to the downtown Berkeley Landmark theatre, where Steve Guttenberg was going to be presenting a few screenings of the new movie he had adapted for the screen, produced, directed, starred in, and financed!!! This was music to my ears. Meet Steve Guttenberg? Who could begrudge me for leaving a bad party for such a noble cause?

I hastily bid adieu to Casey and Anna, jumped in my ’93 Mercury Topaz, and was walking up to the Landmark lobby twenty minutes later. Shawn and A-train showed up ten minutes later, and we milled about the lobby, waiting for the appearance of He Who Was Mahoney. The info they had was that Newton Crosby himself was supposed to be greeting fans in the lobby, then introducing the film, and finally conducting a Q&A session after the film. Being a bit short of the nine bucks each to see the film, our strategy was to catch him in the lobby. We were hoping for nothing more than the opportunity to shake the hand of the man who could perhaps confirm or deny the explanation that the “ghost” in one scene of Three Men and a Baby was just a cardboard cutout of Ted Danson.

We had our eyes on the theatre closest to the glass doors separating the paid area of the multi-plex from the lobby, and when we saw people begin leaving, we started to get excited. After most of the audience had left, one woman noticed the eager looks on our faces, and asked what we were doing huddled around the lobby exit door.

“We’re waiting for Steve Guttenberg!!”

“Oh, well, you’ll get a chance to talk to him in the theatre.”

“Yeah,” A-train explained, “But we don’t have tickets. We’re all students, and we just wanted to meet him in the lobby.” This was two-thirds true; Shawn and A-train were still at CCAC, but I had graduated from Humboldt State the prior spring. The internship I would be wrapping up in five days, the couple grand I had saved while living with my Mom, and the Junior Night Ranger album (Electric Death Hammer of Death) we had recorded in November 2002 was all I had to show for my post-graduate life so far. I desperately wanted to add “Have Met Steve Guttenberg” to my list of achievements. I was glad that A-train was not shy about turning on the sad puppy charm to get what she wanted, since for once what she wanted did not stand diametrically opposed to my own interest. It was a confusing array of emotions, to say the least. I adopted my best sad puppy look, and wondered: Would this woman help us?

“Oh geez, that’s great! Lemme go talk to somebody.” She turned and walked back to the door of the theatre, where she spoke to an usher. The usher turned and disappeared inside, returning a moment later accompanied by a big goon dressed all in black. The woman pointed out the three of us standing on the lobby side of the glass. The big goon nodded, ducked back inside the theatre, and a minute later re-emerged following a similarly all-in-black Steve Guttenberg.

He strode up to us through the glass doors and said “Hey, I heard I had some fans out here that wanted to say hello!”

“YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH, that’s us!!”

“Well great, what are your names?”

We introduced ourselves, and that’s when we began to realize that SG had been drinking.

“It’s so good to meet you, ” I said, “I remember seeing some of yr more obscure stuff on USA Up All Night, and it was awesome when they mentioned you in the Stonecutter’s song.”

“Oh yeah, Stonecutters, I get that one a lot. What did you say about USA?”

“I saw you guest-host an episode of USA Up All Night in 1993!”

“Huh, I don’t remember that.” Clarification: SG was hammered. Later, A-train would say “My GOD, he stunk of booze.”

In all fairness, it must be noted, I may be wrong about this guest-host-ography entry. Why I would have remembered a Steve Guttenberg guest-host spot instead of the boobs that every Up All Night movie boasted in abundance when I was 12 is beyond my current comprehension or recollection of how my mind worked at the time.

“So, you guys are from around here?”

“Yeah, we go to art school,” Shawn replied.

“Oh, studying film?”

“No, painting.”

“I’m an illustrator,” A-train chimed in.

I had had enough of the small talk.

“That was really a cardboard cut-out of Ted Danson in that scene in Three Men and a Baby that people say is a ghost, right?”

“Oh yeah, totally. I don’t know why it was there.”

“Thank you so much for clearing that up, Steve. So, why are you premiering yr movie here? Are you from the Bay?”

SG looked hurt. “No, can’t you tell from accent?” We stared at him blankly. “I’m from Brooklyn!” Oh. It seemed we were losing him.

“Well, hey, it was great talking to you guys, I’ll see you inside the theater.”

Back to A-train. I should remember this moment more often these days when I’m shit-talking her.

“Oh, we’re not going in. We’re all students, and we don’t have the money for a ticket.”

SG looked appalled. “Oh, that’s not right at all!” You would think that as the Emir of the movie he would have been able to simply wave us in, but instead he rushed over to the box office and plunked down twenty-seven dollars for us to get tickets. He shoved the tickets into our hands, and said “Hey, I hope you enjoy the film. It’s been a dream of mine for twenty years to get this made, and I’m really proud of it.”

Stunned, we found ourselves seated in the theater a few minutes later, waiting for SG’s reappearance for the film’s introduction. The lights came down, and then a spotlight came up, and then there he was again. Now I knew why he was all in black. He looked cool, and authoritative, and hopefully no one in the front row could smell the hooch on his breath. There were probably about forty people in the theatre.

He explained that this film had been a labor of love for him, which is why he had taken on nearly every important role in getting the film produced, including putting up the money. Then he said he would be available for Q&A and maybe a few autographs at the end. “So, without further ado ladies and Gentlemen, P.S. Your Cat Is Dead.”

The movie was pretty good. I laughed, I cried a little, I felt I had learned something about the human experience by the time the credits rolled. I was ecstatic about asking SG a few questions about the process of adapting a stage play for the screen. The lights came up. No SG. After a minute or two, a theatre employee explained that SG had to leave, and was very sorry he couldn’t do the Q&A. We knew the truth. I hope that at that moment SG was either sleeping it off or indulging in a reasonably priced escort, whichever would have made him happier at that time. I will never forget his generosity, or his genuine enthusiasm for a project he believed in and had committed so much of his soul to. I am so happy to see that his acting career has made a small comeback in the past several years, and happier still that he looks healthy and happy.

Here’s to you, Steve Guttenberg. Nine years and five days later, I still remember the spark in yr eyes as you made me realize for the first time that celebrities were people too, and as capable of casual acts of kindness and inspiration as anyone. Here’s to yr continuing success.

Peace.

-12:54PM, 1/31/12, home, thinking about how you can be a pepper too, and also Los Locos…

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Eighty

Posted by ilbebe on January 29, 2012

First you need to find a lover within yourself that will allow yourself to realize what you are looking for in a lover you can love without worry. As the Leviathan night recedes until the light becomes redundant, you can hope to find yourself in bed with the lover you will attract and woo. Wu way, to repeat a phrase. Here’s looking at you, Tylenol The Chemist. You are among the many friends of my new interest whom I was mightily intrigued by last night, and last night cannot end until I testify to the power of the feelings I have growing larger each moment for yr friend Tee.

 

Up and up and up and up and up. That is how things have gone. Allow me to elucidate this, these feelings…

 

It began with me turning around and saying “Do you know what’s down these stairs?” Kel said to you, Tee, “You guys should go see what’s down there!” You took my arm. Then I slipped and fell down the stairs. I kept falling until you came back for me for the third time that first night, and then I fell into your arms and a dream safe and dry. Clean. I guesses the pedigree of yr dog’s name before I met him, and I want you to know that I’ve never met anyone who listens like you, who expresses so much in every motion and look, and who makes me feel like I could float away with you.

 

In the morning, Tee, there shall be no deus ex machina. But stay with me, and go places we shall. Lookout(!) upon that Myriad Harbour!

 

They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn, so stay in, eat a bite, drink a glass, then go outside for a Parly. Smoke it, look at the first rays of the new dawn. Go back inside, take yr pants off, crawl back into bed, and start writing this.

 

Stop only to kiss you on the cheek while yr still sleeping…

 

I’d look for you in old Ashtabula, but there’s no need for that now. I’ve got you right where I’d like to see you. Safe and warm and clean, with me. Moving my fingers across these keys with yr soft little breaths. The sound of a new world being born.

 

The sound of me listening to you…

 

I’m getting pretty good at doing two things at once.

 

I’m still listening to you…

 

-7:12AM, 1/29/12, home, in bed with you, TCB in a flash, but not too hastily…

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Seventy-nine

Posted by ilbebe on January 27, 2012

At the time, there was no sense of needing to up the ante. There was merely the sense of an imperative to keep making music, lest the night catch the day. I am speaking of September 2003.

California was headed toward a recall election. Moneyed machinations had gamed the state game, and nearly 200 candidates were seeking to supplant Grey Davis. Casey, Shawn, SosD, and I had been at a machine gun range in Nevada earlier in the prior year and heard an employee, upon reviewing our IDs, remark “Heh. GAY Davis.” Now that man was being made to seem sage. I was working at a hotel front desk, and I was somewhat perturbed that I had not seized any earlier opportunity to buy a gun. Arnold Shwarzenegger was poised to become my chief executive, and I was feeling the gyre begin to slip. The only possible balm was music; wild, blue-blooded shit. Here’s the rundown:

9-6-03: Stupidummerfest 2003. Garrett, Erin, Sagar, and Adrienne’s apt., 16th and H, Apt. Ben Affleck’s Worst Nightmare. No joke, one time I thought I had turned into a minotaur at this apartment. Strange powers slept unstill there.

The Summerfest festival was in its second or third year at that point. Summerfest was a corporate-ish “big summer festival”-type show held out in Willow Creek, CA. Kottonmouth Kings were a perennial at this festival. I didn’t give much of a shit about Summerfest.

Bummerfest was in its first or second year at that point. Bummerfest was organized and curated by the reigning local booking queen as a completely unnecessary “response” to Summerfest. This is not to say Bummerfest was a bad or misguided event. It was great. But it was like eight bucks. Eight bucks in 2003 dollars equaled four-plus forties. So what if there were eleven bands? ‘Eureka sucks’ was one of our passwords.

So Stupidummerfest was our unnecessary protest against Bummerfest, and to make sure everyone understood we weren’t taking ourselves seriously, we held Stupidummerfest three weeks after Bummerfest. Read: There was no conflict of interest. Yet somehow, my gang’s limited pull in the scene was radically exaggerated in non-attendee’s disregard of Stupidummerfest. It was as if it was just a fucking party where a bunch of party animals made music and fucked around. Perish the thought, cherish whatcha ought…

The opening act was a group called the Stupid Kids; an ambient sound trio from McKinleyville. I don’t remember much from their set, and the only part that survives on the recording is their final sound clip; Cookie Monster saying ME ONLY WANT COOKIE!

Next up was Nick B performing as Gas Station Burrito. He played breathless Bright Eyes-style covers of TV theme songs. It was wonderful. Cubbyhole was supposed to play a set after him, and about two-thirds of the way through Nick’s set, a call came in to the apartment’s landline from Rachel, the guitarist/singer of Cubbyhole, saying she wasn’t going to make it home from Hayfork that night. Hayfork was/is a very small town in Trinity County, about four hour’s drive from Arcata. Upon getting the news, Gas Station Burrito exclaimed “I said Hay-Fork!” It remains a moment in time I recall when I just need to remember that shit is hilarious. However, JRho didn’t think it was too funny; he was anxiously awaiting the opportunity to prove himself musically in front of the apple of his eye, Bethany. This was a spanner in the works, but don’t worry, there is a happy ending. Nolan Samhain Cowan Rhodes will be three in ten days.

Nick B as GSB finished his set with a rousing rendition of Theme From The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and then it was my turn. I poured a pint of Great White Courage off of the keg, plugged into Rachel’s strange old Fender amp, set down my set list and lyric sheets, and let it loose.

I turned in a fine performance, if I do say so myself. It all starts with me commenting on the SubwayTM value meal, imploring G-funk to not interfere with my artistry, and then recounting a sorry tale of being irate over a perceived debt of less than fifty cents that G-funk owed me when we were roommates our Freshman year of college.

The set proceeded through an eclectic mixture of songs; some recent originals, some old originals, some brief jokes, more covers. The performance is decidedly uneven, but Goddamn, it rings true to the time. I forgot the words to I Don’t Want To Grow Up. ‘Nuff said.

The recording of the evening concludes with G-funk manipulating people to come inside the apartment from outside by yelling “The Cops are here!!” This ingenuous strategy was solely for the purpose of fostering an environment suitable for a massive sing-a-long of “Do You Love Me?” Poets wax poetic, and the crooners croon, but never was there ever an’ting more poetic than that song ‘neath the moon.

I heard Josh and Bethany made it all of two blocks away before making out rolling around on the sidewalk at Sixteenth and J, across from Arcata High. Young love, it makes the winds…

9-13-03: Party at me and Tom’s place, 15th and H, Apt. C. That’s right, I took the lightbulb out of the socket in the front room and invited everyone.

The following Saturday, the Junior Night Ranger gang from back home came up to rock a party I was hosting at my apartment. I put screws into the ceiling to hang mics for recording purposes. I designed a flyer which used the upcoming recall election sample ballot as a template. I was drinking like a fish and still working at the hotel. The promised post-Labor Day slowdown was already materializing, and I was starting to get worried about the accompanying cut in hours that all employees had been notified of. I was avoiding weed because I was expecting a call back from the post office any day about a better job. I was in need of another good party, and it started out well when some of my visiting friends started wantonly cracking a whip in the parking lot outside.

Set ‘em up, knock ‘em straight back to Manila. I drank beer from a trumpet during ‘Art Fag’, and it was a massive night. I recall my downstairs neighbor threatening to punch a visiting friend in the face for his untoward advances. I don’t recall falling asleep. I’ll tell you more about this party one day, when yr older. When there is frost on the tepee in the morning, the squaw will sleep alone.

9-21-03: Panda Tears – At A House On 14th and J in Arcata, across from the Arcata Vet’s Hall. I voted at the Vet’s Hall while I lived at the Carriage House Apartments. It always made me feel good, like something was working as designed.

Panda Tears was an idea that had been fomented in the sick, sick allegiance of G-funk, Errin, Ces and KaySo when they wanted to record a killer cover of ‘Part of Your World’, from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. The first recording of this project dates back to June of the preceding summer, and also includes an original composition, ‘BBC’. ‘BBC’ was written by Ces and KaySo while pursuing a car with two cute boys in it down US-101 in southern Humboldt County. It was meant to mean ‘British Boy Car’. Its lyrics are pretty literal.

In any case, G-funk had decided that a fuller sound was needed, and so with my aid we assembled a larger cast of characters in his living room to record as much material as possible on this Sunday evening in September. Six weeks later I would go to the Vet’s Hall and cast a vote for my friend C-Note in the governor’s recall election, and today is his 31st birthday. Happy birthday, C-Note. I never once forgot you. C-note wasn’t present for the Panda Tears session that became the album 9-21-03, but here’s who was: G-funk, myself, Rachet, JRho, Bethany, Ces, Errin, and towards the end, Christina Antipa.

We cut fourteen tracks that added up to just under a half-hour’s worth of music in slightly more than an hour. I swear I’m not just being lazy when I say that this music is better heard first, before anyone tries to tell you what it’s like. Google “panda tears 9-21-03” and click on the first link, or copy and paste this link into a new tab in your browser:

http://www.boontdusties.com/journal/2005/09/16/born-in-the-hospital-a-lull-compiliation/

Catch the mystery, catch the myth. Back so soon?

I hope you now see what music meant to me then, as it does now and shall forever more. My fondest wish for all of y’ on this lovely Friday is more friends and family than fortune and fame. More first Fridays and unforced freewill. More focused fraternity than frankincense and fault.

Much love!

Peace.

-12:56PM, 1/27/12, home, weary but not faltering. Matthau but not Waltering…

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Seventy-eight

Posted by ilbebe on January 27, 2012

Anger is natural, and it can evolve to rage, but what do you when yr rage outgrows the box you’ve put it in? Yr body can’t always hold it all in. Be it a cage, you hold the key.

 

In eighth grade I had an English teacher named Mrs. Dembizack. She was a crotchety old bitch, and she hated me because I would correct her sometimes. I sat next to my friend Seth in her class, and our friend Morgan sat behind him. Once Seth turned to stab Morgan with a pencil and accidentally stabbed me instead when his swing went wide. I yelled, and I got in trouble.

 

In the middle of October, we got a student teacher named Ms. Price, and for the most part, this drastically relieved the growing tension between Mrs. Dembizack and the class. Ms. Price instantly set about trying to be friends with the students instead of establishing herself as an authority figure, an approach in which I’d seen little success in prior experiences. One day Mrs. Dembizack wasn’t there, and then wasn’t there the next day, and then we got word she’d be out until after Christmas. This was when we all first heard that she had a brain tumor. This was also when we first found out that Ms. Price was engaged to a cop named Slay.

 

Whether or not anyone else in the class felt like I did, the next few weeks were clouded by uncertainty for me. I felt really guilty for hating Mrs. Dembizack in light of the knowledge of her cancer. I was also starting to really hate Ms. Price, primarily because one of her juvenile strategies to endear herself to the majority of the class was to ostracize the nerds. I was perhaps the most visible member of this undesirable non-clique; I was six-foot one, with a ridiculous parted-down-the-middle dickhead haircut, big plastic modified-aviator-frame glasses, and braces, which were ever more frequently adorned with colored rubber bands that connected my upper and lower teeth in an uncomfortable and humiliating manner. I felt like a freak taking the rubber bands out of my mouth to eat at lunch, and it didn’t seem fair that kids thought that C. Rodrig’s braces were cool, yet passed no comment on mine other than the occasional insult hurled while passing in the hall. Maybe I should have changed up the colors of the tiny bands that secured the tooth anchors to the brace every month, like C. Rodrig did. Red and gold in the winter, orange and black the rest of the year, with occasional variations like red white and blue for the Fourth of July.

 

It was the casual condescension that really stoked my temper, and by eighth grade, I had a reputation as a real head case with hair-trigger fury at my disposal. Many were the times I would strike out while playing baseball and start crying on the bench. After the first time I stared down a teammate after they made fun of me and made them cry, even the coaches learned to let me cry rather than risk the unknown. One time in sixth grade, I got upset about being roughhoused on the playground basketball court and rebelled by lying down in the middle of the court so that I would have to be played around. Kids kicked me and taunted me, and finally the yard duty teacher intervened. The kids who had been kicking me were terrified when I stood up and told the yard duty teacher in an eerily calm and mannered voice that everything was fine, and I would just like to continue playing. My totals for the next ten minutes that concluded the recess were no points, three broken teeth taken out of one kid whose head I slammed into the steel backboard post, and a forfeit victory, claimed when everyone else quit after I rocked that little fuck’s head into the pole.

 

When Ms. Price deliberately ignored me and the three or four other nerds in my eighth-grade English class, it was the first exposure I’d yet had to prolonged institutional abuse, and it made me increasingly angry. The incidents of being passed over to provide an answer regarding the previous day’s reading segued into outright mocking, perhaps coincidentally as we began reading Harper Lee’s only novel. Things came to a head one beautiful Friday towards the end of Indian Summer in late October 1994. We were performing brief group skits based on different scenes from To Kill A Mockingbird, and Mrs. Price had brought her camcorder from home to record them.

 

After all the skits had been performed, she let us turn on MTV and goof around for the last ten minutes before lunch recess. Coolio’s ‘I Remember’ came on, and everyone sang along, and a few brave or careless souls danced, and as long as I stayed still and didn’t sing too loud or mess up the lyrics, I was part of the gang, a feeling I’d been increasingly desperate to experience more often. I was fucking thirteen, is it any wonder I just fucking wanted people to like me? Basketball season was starting soon, and this would be my year to prove myself on the court, which would inevitably lead to acceptance, party invitations, and a girlfriend who would at least kiss me if not let me all the way to second base.

 

My good times were laid to ruin when Ms. Price abruptly stormed up to me and asked “Where’s the back-up camcorder battery?”

 

I was caught completely off-guard for such a baseless accusation, and I was baffled. “Uhhhh…?”

 

“Where’s the back-up battery? It was in the camera case, and now it’s not.”

 

“Well, I, I don’t know where it is?”

 

“Well I saw you near the case, and if you don’t find it, you have to pay for it.”

 

I had and have to this day no idea what the actual retail price of a camcorder battery would have been in 1994; I would guess it would have been in the neighborhood of seventy-eight bucks. But the actual cost was irrelevant, what was immediately relevant was that I was being falsely accused of a theft I did not commit, and given our track record, I could assume I would be guilty without a trial before a jury of my peers. There was to be no Atticus for my Boo, and my parents would fucking kill me if I were convicted of stealing something. Worse still would be having to pay for the replacement; I could see the next several years of birthday and Hannukah presents evaporating before my increasingly blurry vision. I had to blow the anger out.

 

I kicked a small metal trash can, and it collapsed and flew about fifteen feet across the room. It didn’t hit anybody, but it almost hit Taryn Gindt.

 

Ms. Price came up to me a few minutes later, while I was still stewing, and, for all I know, on the verge of an aneurysm.

 

“I found the battery.”

 

I leveled a wrathful gaze her way.

 

“Oh?”

 

“Yeah, I’m sorry about that.”

 

“Oh, you’re sorry?”

 

She got defensive, and took a step back to be able to put a finger into my shoulder.

 

“Look, I’m sorry. But you can’t go breaking things when you’re angry.”

 

That may have been the birth of my hatred of the spelling you’re. Now I say yr in control.

 

The moment died away, and I was standing around talking to some friends during lunch recess when the Vice Principal, Mr. Ralph Soler, came up to me. When I say came up, I must emphasize the strange dynamic in the disparity between our adult and junior-adult heights. Mr. Soler was not much taller than Ms. Future-Slay, about five-seven. A half-foot shorter than me. So he came up to me.

 

“Can I talk to you, Mr. Phillips?”

 

“Uhhhh…” At that moment, I honestly had no idea why he would want to talk to me. I suppose I had already subliminated the rage from fourth period. That recent rage was already forming allegiances with the cadre of other rages lounging about in the rumpus room of my teenaged psyche.

 

“Come with me.”

 

“Okay.”

 

I walked with him back to his office. En route, I realized this had to be about the theft. I felt an odd calm come over me as I became certain that I was soon to be exonerated, and perhaps even rewarded for my patience with the useless middle school disciplinary system.

 

“Do you know why we’re going to my office?”

 

[You are very short. I will crush you] “Yep.”

 

“Do you have anything to say about it?”

 

[I will crush you, and I want to] “I’d rather say what I have to say in your office.” [Little man]

 

We got back to his office, and he offered me a seat across the desk from his. We sat there awkwardly for a moment, and he folded his hands into the universally recognized pyramid which symbolizes “I am a compleat asshole. C-O-M-P-L-E-A-T. Complete assholes I eat for breakfast. Subject verb I FEAR YOU.”

 

He picked up the collapsed metal trash can I had kicked. The bottom had busted out.

 

“Does this look familiar?”

 

What the fuck is anyone supposed to say to that? No? It Will Get More Familiar Little Fucker?

 

“Uh, yeah.”

 

“Ms. Price says you kicked this across the room, and that it almost hit somebody.”

 

“Ms. Price is not telling you the whole story.”

 

“Oh my God, you’re right.” [You’re=being told what you are] “There is no way this is what I actually said. What I actually said in response to you saying ‘Uhhh’ for the umpteenth time since this interrogation began is that You Have To Learn To Control Yourself. Then what you did was stand up and intimidate me. You began to stand up on the desk and I told you to calm down, perhaps we could work this out. You stared directly over my left shoulder as I told you to go back to class when the bell rang. You walked home and intercepted the message I had left on your parent’s answering machine saying you were suspended, and to call me. You wished there was some way I could have known you wished your parents didn’t both have to work. You wished your Dad didn’t work so far away, and that he didn’t come home drunk some nights. You wished he hadn’t crashed his truck last month. You wish you could tell someone that you were worried he was dead for a few hours after you got a static-y cell phone call from somewhere off of Vasco Road and all it was just him moaning “Son…….son…….”

 

You got suspended. You served your suspension with your Mom, helping her out at the day care she worked at. You hated the kids she was paid to care about, sheer jealousy. You hated that she seemed disappointed in you. You hated having to be quiet during nap time. You hated everything about it, but you loved playing with the little kids. You were so glad you were serving your suspension with your Mom, and not your Dad. You didn’t want to go back to Eighth Grade. You wanted to hang out with your Mom, and teach songs to children. You were thirteen. Fuck.

 

You went back to school.

 

You started writing yr.

 

Yr still angry, but yr still writing, and yr Mom and Dad are still alive, and y can still make right with them, and with yrself.

 

Yr lucky.

 

You are lucky. You.

 

-12:29AM, 1/27/12, home, angry, lucky, duh

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Seventy-seven

Posted by ilbebe on January 25, 2012

In honor of Robert Burns’ birthday (Happy 253rd!), we will continue our discussion of spirits, and given the number of this entry, we shall discuss the spirit of punk. That spirit was most perfectly described to me in the closing lines of Trainspotting, a novel by another Scotsman, Irvine Welsh. I won’t quote it at length, but you can buy the poster. The gist is that the most radical thing you could ever hope to do is stay alive. Only if the livers live to love do we stand any chance at peace in our time.

Amanda Curreri, an acquaintance of mine, opened an exhibition in 2010 entitled “Occupy the Empty”. That exhibit was recently cited by the SF Bay Guardian in their 2011 year-end wrap-up for her prescience in identifying the key password of this past year’s resistance movements. I never got to see the exhibit in person, but given the photos I saw of it and her artist’s statement, which my own opinion stands in relation beside, I’d like to imagine the thrust of it was simply the radical act of filling up anything empty; whether it be a room, a park in lower Manhattan, an old sweater, yr heart, anything. I still fit well into a shirt she gave out as part of her graduate open studio exhibition. The shirt is bright yellow with purple lettering. The back reads “reorientation ops”, with ‘reorientation’ written backwards. The front implores “COME BACK”. I like it when that shirt comes up in my clothes rotation. I take the shirt off the hanger, and think Did You Ever Doubt Me, Baby?

But the truth is people doubt me all the time. They doubt I’ll stick with the writing this time. They doubt I’ll call them in the afternoon. They doubt my rent check is good. Based on my resume, they doubt I can do part-time entry-level office work. Do I blame them? Of course I do. I am one of them.

Last week I was shown a radical act of selflessness and compassion when my friend Jenny B bought me a new laptop. I was complaining to her that my old one had all sorts of problems, and it was impeding the writing process, which made me hate myself for being too poor to afford a new one. So she just bought me a new one, and said pay me back whenever. It is on this gift I am writing now, and you can count on me, Jenny B and everyone. For auld lang syne, and for the present and brilliant future. This gift will keep on giving.

Yr punk,

Landon

-1o:30AM, 1/25/12, home, sunny as shit outside!, grinning like a magazine salesman…

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Seventy-six

Posted by ilbebe on January 24, 2012

Though there were no ghosts this past weekend, there were many spirits, and thus this chapter is for the ghost of John Paul Jones, the Scotsman who fought for the Colonies some 236 years ago now.  You’ll recall his favorite apocryphal statement; “I have not begun to fight!” This is crucial to the notion that everything you do has already begun and at the same time cannot ever be finished. Like a hot tuna sandwich, for if one ate one not every seven days, there might be no seventy-six.

The seed for the weekend was planted the previously Friday night as I wobbled home from a friend’s apartment around 3AM. I’d been at an informal beer pong tournament being held at the Mexican restaurant my roommate Ess works at, and I was in full bloom, if not at full tilt. Anyhow, I had no sooner begun the last leg of my journey home when my sister Rae sent me a text asking me if want to go out on a date the following Friday. I agreed, and so last Friday, 1/20/12, I found myself standing in the rain outside a whomp-whomp dance club in SoMa. I was with Rae and her fella, and about ten or fifteen other affiliates of her gang. I will issue a warning: do not go to a whomp-whomp dance club during the first significant downpour of the year. The club and its staff will be woefully unprepared to make the club safe or comfortable.

The rest of the weekend is best described as a series of impressions.

Hi there, seven bucks for a beer? Man it’s loud in here. There’s gotta be somewhere that’s a little quieter. Ah, the mezzanine usually delivers. Where do you think those stairs go? Hi there? Wanna investigate? AAAHHHHHHHH! My fucking hip! How’m I gonna look young and cool now? You don’t care? AAAHHHHHHHH! Self, make the best of it. Stand outside and smoke, and find someone else to help. Hey, you look like you could use some help. Do you feel better now? Me too. I think I’ll head back inside and stand at the back of the room.

This sucks. Ah shit, there goes that girl. Do I look like I want or need a flower? Go ahead, stand in front of me. What am I supposed to do in this corner? OH SHIT. You came back. Let’s get outta here. Let’s walk down Sixth Street in the rain. Let’s wait for a bus or train. Let’s stay awake until an hour before dawn.

Let’s get coffee and a bagel. Yr dog is wonderful. Have fun with yr friends, see ya later? Hiya sis, last night was nuts. Lemme show ya this bruise. There’s more. I was really fucking mad at you the year before last. I’m not anymore, but I needed you to know. Let’s get the gang together. Let’s go looking for salvation in the East Mission. Does anyone say that? Did they ever?

Dios mio, where are we? What does this guy want with us? Why is he squaring up to me? Help. Thank you for your help. Tonight is much better than last. Hi, Kate! Happy birthday! Here’s my number. We’ll be in touch. How’s yr fella? Didn’t realize his birthday just passed too. So what’s he got for me? Words?

12:02am – adios, mas joven mi. One or two more, probably, someday. For now, in this rising tide, we need only high life, a vodka soda, and a bullitt rye manhattan. We jam econo, daily and nightly. In the leviathan night, walk four over, two up, then keep going. You’ll find sanctuary and warmth, and it’s not even in a cave. Sleep well. Football awaits to disappoint.

Awake too soon. Football needs more time to prepare to disappoint. Coffee and a bagel round two, and damn if Herr Fullerine isn’t looking even better today! Lay around and watch disappointment, round one. Boston only partially buried thus far this season. Rats, and not good ones. Let’s boogie.

Well, he beat the blitz, I guess we’ll give it a whirl. I like this place. This is going pretty well so far. So let’s fuck it up. Let’s go for a walk. Let’s revel in what makes SF great. Let’s hit Daly’s place and get loud. Let’s be part of the disappointment. Let’s go, again. This city is more than a team. It’s a fucking nightmare, and it’s a bloodbath. It’s great, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I need to sleep. Can I sleep at yr place again?

I’ll be on my way now. Thanks for everything. See you soon. I need a cheeseburger.

Sparky’s to Market to Franklin to Green to Columbus to Montgomery to BART. The city is so quiet and calm in the wake of defeat. It seems okay, eaiser to love. Vandals hit the BofA on Montgomery pretty good. Good on ‘em. All the same, Back To Oakland.

Has this fight yet begun, or was there ever one? I feel good. I haven’t had a cigarette in over sixty hours, and I used to define myself that way. I used to smoke to divide my time into manageable compartments so that I didn’t get overwhelmed. Now I believe in myself. It’s been a strange week, and a stranger weekend, and damn if I didn’t encounter the strangeness that I imagined was out there, somewhere. What’s the moral here? Find yr strange?

How about

Find a strand within you that you can stand on.

You can balance on a string, but not a razor.

There was never any razor.

You can borrow my string.

-1/24/12, 2:00pm, home, hydrated, sucka-free:)

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Seventy-five

Posted by ilbebe on January 23, 2012

Here’s yr weekend wrap-up report: No ghosts, all good times, gold rusters rushed for naught and bled blue blame, ElDeeEl doubled down and quit smoking after some brief flare-ups. Thirty hours now. Strange confluence of fifteens and nines, summing to twenty-fours. Figured it was relevant to tell you where this all started, so below is a poem I started writing sometime in the spring of 2007, after my brief commitment at the mental hospital. I finished it sometime in the summer of 2007, after I saw a relation between my situation and that of my friend M Pie’s dog Mason, who was taken away by animal control after he got out one morning and bit someone. He was off of his meds, so they took him away from M Pie and his fiancée four days before their wedding. They said he was pretty good with barks, but barks will never save your life, and they didn’t, so he died. They killed him. Here’s our story. It is called Owl, and it is dedicated to Theodor Geisel.

Mason

went

mad.

His brain was broke

He cut one wrist with a rusty bicycle spoke

Instantly realizing that what he’d done was wrong

He ran to the hospital to sew up his arm

But in the land of the free

Health care ain’t

So the hospital advised to him to pray to a saint

To protect him from tetanus

So to a church he went next

Where the priest sized him up and said

“Was your mother Aztec?”

So he hopped on a bus, was refused for lack of fare

Fell to his knees and screamed “Does anybody care?”

Then a billboard with enormous

immaculate white teeth

Said Great wealth is yours

for an introductory fee

And then Mason blacked out.

Came to in a room.

A room with one barred window and

one flourescent lightbulb and one

thinly carpeted floor and,

it seemed,

no door.

With his blood pressure out of fear at 300/110

He yelled “Is there anyone here who can tell me where I am?”

And a voice on an intercom said “ccccsch

John George Psychiatric Pavillion, San Leandro”

Three weeks later Mason was discharged

With a prescription for Paxil, two legs and one arm

He was advised he’d been terminated from his post

And that his savings account now resembled a ghost

So was advised to file for California State Disability Insurance

He collected signatures

Filled out the forms

Detailing the failures that had cost him an arm

Two weeks later he called a toll-free number

To see where his check was

He couldn’t wait much longer

And an automated voice told him:

Please select your 48 digit PIN, which much consist of

Arabic numerals, Cyrillic letters, bird sounds, at least

Three varietes of orchid and your favorite James Cameron movie

(Hint: T2)

And be prepared to wait two to three lifetimes during peak calling hours

Which occur whenever the Earth’s gravity is in effect.

If you are expecting to speak to someone whose

Primary language is English,

Press Asemnatz

If you think the person you will eventually speak to is being

Paid a fair wage,

Press Nike

If you think this is ridiculous, please call your congressman

And if you think

We care

Please do fuck off.

Mason sat there stunned and pressed the pound key

The phone exploded

And then Mason couldn’t see

He felt his way to the community clinic to seek some aid

But the clinic had been closed by a budget cutting mandate

So he asked a passing meter maid for a ride back home

She said she couldn’t trust a man bleeding and alone

Then once more Mason fell to his knees and pled

With a man who once too had for inane reasons bled

To his death for crimes he did not commit

And for human failings hard to admit

And the man said Mason, my brother, I know you feel weak

And I know people told you I said to offer the other cheek

And I know you feel that you have no self-worth

And I know people told you I said the meek would inherit the Earth

But honestly Mason, those people were wrong

We’re all just making it up as we go along

-Landon Phillips, b.1981, for Mason Owl Pie, March 29, 2007 – June 27, 2007

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Seventy-four

Posted by ilbebe on January 21, 2012

Impossible Germany –> Improbably Germane to our discussion

I’m on a roll. Call me the Kaiser.

Call The Doctor. No Hands On The Bad One. One Beat?

No Rock and Roll Fun –> Hints and paths left unexplored in the great black forest…

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Seventy-three

Posted by ilbebe on January 20, 2012

I was standing outside reading a book, smoking a cigarette, thinking about what it was that I might write a book about. Instead, predictably, I thought about why I wasn’t more drunk. I’d been drinking, and it had been twelve hours since I’d eaten. Maybe I was hungry. No! Eating was the enemy. Eating made it harder to get drunk. I would have to drink more. SO why wasn’t I? I thought maybe the recliner I sat in put my stomach at a disadvantage, where the cheap beers I was draining couldn’t be absorbed properly. Standing up, outside, smoking a cig and reading, I always drank more prodigiously. Maybe standing was key. Maybe smoking was key. Maybe having someone to talk to, or being out of the house, or having a more palatable beer was key. WHY DID I WANT THIS KEY? I wanted this key because my life was waiting to be drunk enough to go to sleep, wake up, resist being fully awake, and then drink again. It was a condition, I had gathered, that was not unusual. I had wanted more for myself, yet here I was.

Having people to talk to must be key, if not the key. But I was more and more reluctant to leave the house to drink. It cost more, first off. Second, I was loathe to get into an inane discussion with some other sad piece of shit at a bar; I had done that plenty of times, and wasn’t eager for more grist for the awful hours between when I hit the sheets anywhere south of hammered and unconsciousness. I didn’t know what to do other than come inside and commit these thoughts to the computer. Perhaps paper would have been more effective and resonant, like the three-page missive I wrote in a journal in September 2009 directing myself to stop drinking so that I had a fair shot at a loving relationship with a woman. I didn’t listen to myself then, which led to the first relationship I’ve ever had which started at a bar. That shit ended awfully, and let to me punching a hole in my bedroom wall one frantic morning a month after it ended; it was so bad I couldn’t wash it out of my mind. That relationship is a small part of why I found myself writing the beginning words of this chapter in the summer of 2011 and saving it in a file titled “Outside”. The file sat untouched on my e-desktop until today.

Now it is the winter of 2011-2012. And it has been a warm one so far.

Peace.

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Seventy-two

Posted by ilbebe on January 19, 2012

Quantity or quality, that is our question. Quantity is more or less a matter of amount, whereas quality is what we make of it. Equality does not exist unless somewhere between the two, and certainly not online, whereas equanimity is entirely possible as a combination of the two. For example, do I want one really good beer, or four crummy ones? On another note, why do people sometimes mention this ethereal “Joe Six-Pack”, but never “Joe Twelve-Pack”, “Johnny Four Bottles Of Red Wine”, or “Stevie That LOVES Mad Dog”?

Is it better to buy quality shoes less often or cheap shoes more often?

Is it better to walk or take the bus?

Is it better to have one girlfriend or none?

I went to a handful of open mike nights during my time in Arcata, but the first time I ever went to a poetry slam was around February 2003. My pal M Pie’s community college debate team had decided to take a field trip to the Starry Plough in Berkeley to check out their open slam, and he invited me and our friend Casey to come along. I assume the thought was that the trip would be educational, in that the students would see a variety of wordsmiths crafting an artful argument on the fly. This seemed to me to be a reasonable expectation for a well-educated populace such as the Berkeley and Environs area boasts, but holy shit, the evening turned into something much weirder. Beer and Loathing at the Plough…

So the MMC welcomed everybody, laid out the few ground rules, and announced the special bonus word, which I can’t recall. I know, I wish I could remember what it was. It was a fairly innocuous noun, along the lines of ‘cafeteria’ or something. Anyhow, using the special bonus word in your performance would get you extra points that would be added to your regular score. Your regular score was based on your performance, and was composed of your use of flow, wordplay, message, and ultimately, how much of an impact your slam had. The first several performers didn’t leave too much of an impression on me as I stood in the back sipping my Guinness, but shit got real after the intermission.

The first performer after the break prefaced his performance with a taste of what we were in for:

“I want you to know that I love women, and this is about loving women.” His piece was a fairly aimless sequence of G-rated 7th-Grade metaphors for sexual acts and anatomy; “ruby fruit”, “delicate dance”, “milk gift”, “jizz muffin”. Actually, the last one I made up and put in his mouth; I don’t think he had the balls to say jizz. He was the guy I would imagine you would not want to have at your orgy: “Hey man, you gotta stop worshipping these chicks instead of just bangin’ ‘em; yr saltin’ our game with yr ‘sugar moon’ shit.” Beware of slam poets who have trouble putting more than two words together at a time; it seems to represent a certain tunnel vision…

The next fellow blew me away with what I thought was the best performance of the evening. The first portion of his slam I don’t recall too well, but there were some lines towards the end that I will never forget:

“Imagine the East Bay wasn’t always like it is now. There were fields of grass, and in the springtime, the deer would come down from the hills to drink from the streams. And when you think about that, then you know that there is no good reason why the cops had to shoot my uncle in the back seven times.”

It makes me cry every time I think about it.

(I just shed a few tears, and it is raining lightly outside my kitchen window, where I sit writing. We need the rain this year, and here it comes…)

Then the main event, the cherry on top, took the mike. He was a young black dude, probably about my age at the time, 21. He was wearing a red shirt that hung loosely on his large frame, and he had some kind of baseball cap on backwards. When he first took the stage, I thought “Hmm, this guy looks like the sort of person that is an accomplished slam poet.” Then he started talking. It is crucial to note that this guy had no flow.

He started off slow- “Yo, Im’a give to you real, cuz I’m a real man, not some chump.” Pedestrian, I thought, but maybe he’s just warming up. No. “You think you wanna take my girl from me, say you can treat her better than me, than you can have her, I fucked that bitch already.” Some gasps and finger snapping came from the crowd.

This was the beginning of the end. One of the few ground rules laid out by the MMC at the start of the competition was that offensive language, specifically misogynistic and homophobic, was strictly prohibited. A first offense could be called by anyone in the crowd, judges, audience members, and fellow performers alike, and would be signaled by finger snaps, or boos. A second offense was grounds for removal from the mike.

“What, I’m too real for y’all? Shit, you just like that bitch then. And damn man, you wanna say that I got a problem, well I had a problem, and it was that bitch, and now you the bitch.”

More finger snaps, a few boos, some people started talking to the person next to them.

“WTF is this guy’s problem?”

“Well, it sounds like a friend of his took his girlfriend.”

“Small Wonder.”

“Oh shit, do you know if that’s out on DVD yet?”

He was raising the crowd’s ire, which ironically was only raising their interest as well. The MMC stood up from his chair and warned him about the language.

“All right, all right,” the angry red dude said, and looked at the ground in an effort to collect his thought. “But I’m just so angry.” He then looked over at the easel where the special bonus word was written on a notepad, and just said the word without attempting to work it into his flow, which as I mentioned before, was entirely non-existent. He then continued with “I mean, you take my girl, that makes me just wanna fuck you. I mean, I ain’t gay, I’m straight as hell, but I will fuck you. Repeat: I will fuck you.”

The MMC stood up again, and the crowd started to get flat-out noisy. Calls of “Get off the stage” came from more than one person, perhaps including the amateur erotic poet. Me and my pal Casey just stood in the back with huge grins on our faces. “Did he just say ‘I will fuck you’?”

He raised the temperature further: “Man, if I’m too real for y’all, then fuck you. I’ma fly over to Afghanistan and smoke a blunt with bin Laden and then come back here and crash into some buildings.”

The power to the PA was cut by somebody, and the crowd angrily booed the dude off the stage. Me and Casey were in consensus: “Someone needs to buy that dude a beer.”

“Seriously. Also, I think I’ve seen enough now.”

We left a few minutes later, and passed the angry red dude smoking a cigarette outside on the sidewalk, alone. Casey said Hey Man, That Was Awesome. The dude’s response was Thanks.

A few years later, in August 2008, I went to the free SoCo Music Festival in San Diego with some friends, and caught several great acts; among them Grand Ole Party, The Black Keys, and Common. But my favorite of the day was Saul Stacey Williams; the former slam poet who was touring in support of his second album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust! His performance was a game-changer. I sipped on my disgusting six-dollar SoCo-based soda cocktail and grew ever more dehydrated as I stood rapt while he stormed onto the stage and began throwing down.

In the middle of his set, he slew me with the back to back performance of NiggyTardust and U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday.

“When I say Niggy, you say nothing. Niggy. (silence)”

Holy shit.

“How long, How long must we sing this song…Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

Holy Holy shit. I realized slam poetry could go many, many different directions, and some of them, if not many, had the power to change people’s hearts.

The following month, September 2008 to be specific, I found myself back at the Plough drinking Guinness at their weekly Tuesday open mike. I wanted to read a selection from the beginning of these Americaphiles, which I had just started writing the week before. It is crucial to note that I called in sick to work in order to attend, because I was deeply motivated by the new stream of creativity flooding out of me, and I was eager to get a response on it. I was sort of worried that my literature would not sit well amongst the rest of the line-up, which was all music, but I figured that a hip Berkeley crowd would be open-minded enough to endure five minutes of storytelling. Wrong.

I was so drunk by the time they called my name toward the very end of the program that I took the mike and described what I had intended to do instead of actually doing it. In the middle of my brief monologue I started crying, and then decided to wrap it up by simply saying “Thank you for listening. You guys are great.” A few people clapped, but the rest of the crowd was completely unimpressed except for one guy who actually came up to me afterwards and congratulated me on my courage. Then he recommended I not get so drunk the next time.

The next day I called in sick again and went back to the Plough for the Wednesday Poetry Slam. I hoped that a more literary audience would be more open to receiving my performance, though I did worry about my ability to do slam poetry, since I had never once before tried. But in the spirit of the times, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try something new. I got my friend Mile-Five to accompany me for moral support, and my girlfriend/ex-girlfriend W was supposed to meet up later as well.

There were a more people there than for the open mike, and almost all of them were there to sign up for a chance to perform. I think there were about forty people competing for sixteen spots. Bottom line, after being there for two hours and trying to be a supportive audience member for all the people who did get a spot, I asked the MMC if I had any chance of getting called.

“No.”

So I settled my bar tab, and then me, Mile-Five and W left in a huff. At the end of the block, walking to my car, we came across a couple of A-frame construction barriers sitting on the sidewalk for no apparent reason. Me and Mile-Five smashed the shit out of them, while W looked on in disapproval.

I dropped Mile-Five off at home, and me and W went back to my place and got it on. Feeling better, a few hours later we stepped out to the front of house for a smoke, and that’s when I discovered my car was gone; stolen for the third time in eighteen months. Please note that my job those days was in pizza delivery, so I could not do my job without my car. There seemed to be fairly obvious karmic reasons for the theft to have occurred; the calling in sick, the sign smashing, the cheating on my long-distance teenaged girlfriend with my ex behind her out-of-state back; but I was still pissed, and I took my shoes off and put a cig out on the side of my left foot.

Perhaps it was that act of penitence that led to a phone call an hour later from the Oakland PD letting me know that they had found my car in East Oakland, and I could come pick it up with no penalties if I could get there in half an hour. A quick ride courtesy of my roommate Z accomplished this, and I got my car back. I was stunned; I had paid upwards of six hundred dollars in recovery fees the first two times my car had been stolen, so to get it back in a few hours for free was amazing. I supposed the third time was the charm, and perhaps that’s why I went back to the Plough the following Tuesday, October Second, 2008.

I arrived early to secure a good spot in the line-up, and sat back and watched a Presidential debate on TV. Or maybe it was the VP candidate’s debate; God, it’s funny to think back on that time when there were people in this country that actually thought McCain/Palin did not pale in comparison to Obama/Biden.

So there I was, bidin’ my time, sipping at a Guinness and deciding which chapter to read. When sign-ups closed and the order was drawn, I was told I was going tenth, the second act after the intermission. I took this as a good sign, and heartily applauded all the first-act acts while running my bar tab past fifty bucks, as I had on each of the previous week’s visits. The first act after the break was a musical one; a collaboration between a guitarist/singer and a violinist. They were good, and got a good round of applause. Then it was my turn.

As I took the stage, the audience deemed it time to stop being polite, and started talking loudly to one another about this, that, and every other thing besides me. I set my glass down, introduced myself, and started reading. I was a few minutes into my story when my irritation with the crowd’s disrespect grew to a point that I started wantonly hurling insults at various people.

“Yeah you, chubby chick in the yellow shirt at the bar. I’ll be bangin’ you later.”

“Hey, ponytail guy in the back- I listened to you, show me some attention in kind.”

“Hey all you Berkeley morons, when did you forget how to listen?”

Disgusted, I said thanks, picked up my beer, and left the stage, handing the mike over to the MC as I stepped down. A few people clapped. The MC put the mike back into the stand and said “All right, I’d like to remind all of our acts to respect the crowd.” Disgust turning into fury, I turned back towards him, shrugged my shoulders and threw my hands up in the universal gesture of What Do You Want Me To Do? Apparently, when I did that, the last half-ounce of Guinness in my pint flew out and onto one of the monitor speakers at the foot of the stage.

I was making my way to the bar to hit on the chubby chick in yellow who had been watching the TV while I insulted her from the stage when a firm hand tapped me on the shoulder. It was the door guy, telling me the MC had asked that I be asked to leave.

“Huh?”

“Yeah, he said you threw beer on the monitors, and we can’t have that kind of behavior. They’re expensive, like thousands of dollars, and I don’t think you want to pay for ‘em if you break ‘em.”

Astonished, I said Okay, Fine, I’ll Go. I called to the barman for my tab, and he had a mournful look on his face as he handed it to me and lamented “You’re one of the only people here that tips.” I signed my tab, and left without further incident. I have yet to go back, and I suspect I never will.

And so; quantity or quality?

I say it makes no difference. The mystery endures.

Occupy your own body…

-3:44PM, Thursday, January 19th, 2012, home, looking out the window expecting more rain…

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