Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Archive for March, 2012

One-oh-four

Posted by ilbebe on March 27, 2012

The road to Sacramento is either routine and banal or very weird. Three true accounts of journeys to the capital, presented in chronological order:

One. It was October 2000, and I was interested in the possibility of getting a ride to the Bay Area for the weekend by using the dorm ride board. My interest here was a mixture of the potential for adventure and a desire to avoid paying for Greyhound-slash-desire to avoid taking Greyhound in general. After my first year at HSU, I’d already taken the Greyhound back and forth from Arcata to Oakland a dozen times, and though that was probably not quite enough to consider myself a seasoned Greyhound traveler, one ride is more than enough for most people to prompt the thought There has to be another way.

The only ride posted for the day I wanted to travel was going to Sacramento, so I eagerly used the then-still-new power of the internet to come up with a ridiculously involved way of getting home to Brentwood from Sacramento so that I could take advantage of the ride offered. The full itinerary involved an Amtrak train to Martinez, a local bus into Pleasant Hill, and finally a ride into Brentwood courtesy of my friend Lily. I called the number on the index card, spoke to a girl named Erin, and agreed to meet her in front of the commons building Friday at nine AM. A train was leaving Sacramento for Martinez at four, the bus between Martinez and Pleasant Hill ran until eight-thirty, and Lily was supposed to be getting off of work in Pleasant Hill at ten, so it seemed like everything would run smoothly. I was looking forward to seeing Lily at her work, Blondie’s Pizza, because it usually involved a free slice, and I was also excited about the possibility of making a new friend on the drive down.

Jesus Christ I was green in those days. Erin, who preferred to be called by her DJ name, ‘E-love’, and I were joined on our drive by another dude named Don, who was a perfectly nice guy, and really, I have say Erin was pretty cool too. What made the drive perhaps the worst five hours in a car in my life was E-love and Don’s mutual appreciation for an insidiously brain-dead genre of electronic dance music known as Happy Hardcore. Happy Hardcore, like many genres of modern electronic music, has but a few simple rules, yet these rules must be very closely adhered to. In fact, any song that gets too creative and perhaps pushes the boundaries of the genre too far risks creating a new genre. This is a very strong element of why I don’t much care for genre names, though it does not even come close to capturing my disdain for Happy Hardcore.

I find most electronic dance music rather repetitive, because, by nature and design, IT IS. Which is fine, for a while, but fuck, I really don’t see how you can listen to music that is exactly the same tempo for hours on end, no matter what drugs are involved. It just bores me into a really pernicious irritation that is known to bring out the worst in me. I suppose what I’m saying here is that prolonged exposure to some strains of electronic music has the potential to provoke psychotic or sociopathic behavior in me. So please, can we start disclosing this info before we offer people five-hour rides to Sacaramento?

I thought I was gonna lose my mind. I started getting a headache as we cut through Lake County on CA State Highway 20  about three hours into the trip. We weren’t making the best of time; E-Love and Don had stopped just south of Garberville to go down to the banks of a creek and smoke weed, and strangely enough, this had led to a few more stops than I felt were really necessary to resupply on snacks and Red Bull. However, I welcomed these breaks as a brief respite from the relentless assault of Happy Hardcore I was being subjected to in the car. E-love had ecstatically described how she had recently been sent a shoebox with a 24-volume set of European Happy Hardcore club mixes from “her DJ friend in Berlin”.

“It’s over, shit, what’s 24 times ninety? Shit. Anyway, it’s like HELLA music.”

She wasn’t kidding around. There were 2,160 minutes on those tapes, or to put it another way, thirty-six HOURS of fucking Happy Hardcore. It took me about a half-hour to decide that I didn’t like this shit– how could anyone stand a day and a half of it? Furthermore, was that much music actually necessary? There seemed to be five or six interchangeable grooves that inevitably led to a brief breakdown where a female vocalist declaimed how happy she was to be dancing. I felt a twenty-minute mix could accurately and completely survey the genre. WHAT SORT OF SADIST INTENDS TO LISTEN TO THIS FOR A FIVE-HOUR CAR RIDE AND DOESN’T CONSIDER THAT OTHER PEOPLE MIGHT NOT BE OKAY WITH THAT?

But then, also, you’ll recall that Don was entirely simpatico, rendering any dissenting view on the music I may have offered rather toothless. “Well, Landon, I understand that you’d rather listen to Modest Mouse, but, you know, two-to-one…” This conversation didn’t happen because by the time we joined up with I-5 in Williams, CA, I had essentially lost the ability to speak.

The headache was gone because my brain was gone. It had already taken five-and-a-half hours to cover a stretch of the drive that normally took three-and-a-half. HOW MUCH RED BULL DO YOU CRAVEN BEASTS REALLY NEED? WHAT HAS ECSTASY DONE TO YOUR MINDS??

Then E-Love decided to make up for lost time.

We made the last hundred miles into Sacramento in about an hour. Do the math. It was mid-afternoon on a Friday, and traffic was far from light. I almost completely lost it.

But then we got to the train station at the northern edge of downtown Sac at 3:30, a half-hour to spare for me to catch my train to Martinez.  Don hopped out to give me a high-five and then hopped back in; he was going a few blocks further into town to catch a ride from a different friend and continue on up to South Lake Tahoe.  I explained to E-love that I appreciated the ride, but would be taking the more conventional Greyhound out of Oakland for my return voyage north. She nodded and flashed a peace sign, and then they both wished me luck getting back safely and drove off.  I took in the sights inside the historic Sacramento train station, and forty-five minutes later, I was on an air-conditioned Capitol Corridor Express bound for Davis.

Look forward to future installments of Strange Tales Of Traveling To Sacramento, including The Day My Car Broke Down On An Interstate Bridge And Then A Few Hours Later I Almost Got Asked To Leave An Olive Garden and The Time I Had To Sneak Onto A Greyhound Bus Even Though I Actually Had A Ticket And Sat Next To A Drug Dealer From New Jersey Named Lenny.

Advertisements

Posted in The Americaphiles | Leave a Comment »

One-oh-three

Posted by ilbebe on March 22, 2012

One time my old roommate M and I were watching TV, and a commercial for a “hip new dating website” came on. The commercial sought to emphasize that, unlike other dating websites, this one allowed you to “flirt like you want to”. The basis for this claim seemed to be simply that you could choose to send other site members a proper message or simply “wink” at them. The “wink” feature seemed a lot like the Facebook “poke”, and I had to laugh. M, however, was disturbed, and made her “concerned, somewhat confused,  and mildly offended” face. I asked her to explain her reaction, and she said “Man, I don’t even like actual winks.”

Now, anyone with a shred of self-awareness is probably aware of the pratfalls and misunderstandings possible in reading other people’s body language thanks to a any number of personal experiences where some small gesture, stance, or look was taken the wrong way. Everyone has had this happen, with the gamut of possible memories ranging from an absentminded distant stare being mistaken for a lecherous one; an unconscious flick of the wrist being taken for something it is not; a feigned smile succeeding in its subterfuge, etc.

So though I do not find winking creepy in general, I do agree with M in wondering why in God’s name would anyone want to e-wink at a stranger they found attractive? And what kind of person would actually find an e-wink received from a stranger attractive? “Oooh, that guy is too lazy, stupid, or insecure to send me even the shortest personal message, but he thinks I’m hot enough to push a button! There’s no way he could possibly be just e-winking at every girl in a 25-mile radius!” Jesus Christ. What the fuck is wrong with people? I saw that commercial more than a year ago, and I just checked, the website is still up and in business. Who is using this site? How many e-winks are being transmitted through vast server farms as I type this? Given the common medium, I have to wonder if my writing as meaningless as an e-wink…

Which brings me to the point of finding meaning and validation on internet. I think it’s a fool’s game, but still I get bummed when no one seems to be responding to my writing. Luckily I can always youtube “muppets manamana” and cheer up when I log in here and see that my blog got one view (my own) the previous day. Check it out, it’s like free Prozac, and it’s non-habit-forming.

PSYCH, that shit will get stuck in your head like an e-wink from a dude with username latinlover94501. But if you had to choose, err on the side of the muppets, always. It ain’t easy being green, but it’s easier than  knowing what to make of the “adults” who brainstormed the e-wink and raised enough funding to start the website and then advertise on national television. It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World indeed, and I feel the internet is only accelerating the race to the bottom of the cultural barrel, but then again, mana mana, doot doo doo doo doot….

Posted in The Americaphiles | 3 Comments »

One-oh-two

Posted by ilbebe on March 21, 2012

I was talking to my pal Tim the other day and he said that an old Ju-Jitsu instructor he had won some “crazy tournament” and got like a million dollars. Naturally my first thought was ‘Holy shit, that guy must be fucking tough’, and just as naturally, my second thought was ‘Man, it would be nice to win a million dollars in a Ju-Jitsu tournament’. This notion was quickly followed by the sobering realization that I don’t know the first thing about Ju-Jitsu, and this reminded that until I’m actually really good at something, I’m lumped in there with every other asshole who genuinely dreams, even if only every once in a while, of one day winning the lottery. My next thought was ‘God dammit.’

So then I was thinking about things I have won. I won a walking tour of the Haunted Haight in a raffle a few years ago. One time I won a hundred bucks on a slot machine at the most pathetic casino I’ve ever seen outside of Laytonville, CA (though I lost it all and eighty more dollars within twenty minutes), and just two months ago in a raffle at a house party, I won a little handmade rubber stamp of a hand with middle finger raised. This win fucking elated me, because I got to go up in front of the assembled crowd at the party, give them a double bird salute, and yell FUCK YOU! The crowd merrily responded FUCK YOU!!! That was sublime.

Anyhow, then I was thinking of contests of  merit I have won, and I counted the fifth grade school spelling bee, a couple of $500 college scholarships, and a few middle school sprinting victories, not too shabby of a lifetime roll call, but what else? I had to have more laurels somewhere…

The last real category of achievement I could think of then was that of contests of feat, and the only victory that sprang to mind surrounds a lewd stunt I aced at a midnight screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show in late January of 2006. I had been seeing my girlfriend Dub for a few months, and things were awesome, so when she asked if I wanted to go see the show, I was pretty jazzed. I had sort of been wanting to go for years, but I sure as hell wanted to go with people who could brief me on what to expect, and I never thought it might be someone I was guaranteed to have sex with after the movie was over.

So there we were, liquored up and stoned to the ceiling, and the one thing Dub couldn’t predict what sort of goofy initiation ritual I would have to partake in. She could say without any doubt it would be sexual and pretty juvenile, but as to exactly what, there was no way of knowing.

Turns out I was in luck. With Cal Berkeley getting back into session the following week, some campus group had organized an end-of-break trip to Rocky, and there were like fifty virgins in the crowd. This forced the cast to settle for one or two individual initiations, and then a big group-challenge initiation. I am not allowed, by sacred respect of tradition, to explain exactly what I did, but don’t get too excited. It wasn’t that crazy, and it was all over in two seconds. But me and some frat dude WON, no one else was even close.

I apparently excel at contests involving mild debasement.

Now how to parlay that into a million dollars…

Posted in The Americaphiles | 2 Comments »

One-oh-one

Posted by ilbebe on March 20, 2012

Bee-bee-cee, looking for that Hooker Creek Road…

With the advent of Spring tonight came deep feelings of malevolence, spurred on by my ongoing joblessness, etc. This led me on a rather amusing series of short conceptual leaps that led me from identifying these malevolent feelings to recalling the Everclear song ‘Malevolent’, from their first album, World of Noise, to thinking about a number of feelings I’ve been having about Portland recently. Why have I been thinking about Portland? Well, for one, I’ll be visiting Seattle soon, but not Portland, and for obvious reasons the two cities are linked in my mind, as they are in many, many other peoples’. And for two, it has been pissing buckets for the last week. Today was the first totally dry day since last Sunday, seven days ago. Ah, spring. Wonder the weather’s like in Puddletown.

Have you ever heard that nickname for the PDX? It’s based in the reality that  some years there are months on end where there’s not enough sun or warmth to dry out the puddles. I can only imagine how that picks away at the psyche. I would imagine it indeed contributes to the city’s preposterous Me-Decade-ish insistence on being positive when there are much more sound reasons to be negative. The steady barrage of foul weather the city receives for like eight months of the year is BOUND to get the best of a fair handful of the population, and I’m willing to argue for fifty-fifty as a possibly real ratio of people whose “Portland Cheer” is not rooted in very, very borderline personality disorders, and those for whom it is entirely composed of practically irreversible mental damage. The fact that town is so funky and weird, yet oddly self-obsessed and almost entirely without a sense of grunge-era humor about their self-obsession makes it nearly a form of high art that practically 101 percent of the town dresses like it’s 1995, and has since 1998. In 1995 I’m sure wraparound Rickey Henderson-style Oakleys were still all the rage, even though there’s probably like less than fifty days a year when sunglasses are merited by people with normal light sensitivity. This sums up my feelings about the lunacy of the Portland Character about as well as I care to think about it. WHY CANNOT I STOP THINKING ABOUT IT??

I’m getting frantic the way I do when I’m up north, in PDX or it’s superior northern twin Eattle-Say. In the spirit of the fair cities and the astonishing array of legal mind-altering beverages available on every corner in both towns, the next section will be in the form of linear/non-linear notes that may or may not make a whole lot of sense to other people.  But if you can’t, like, respect my artistic intent, then you can like, just, go back to California or Omaha or wherever man. But before you go, can I borrow five bucks?

Portlandia/not that funny/kinda like Portland/was this a really time-consuming meta-joke?/if so, count me out/turns out it’s really funny/got better after the first few episodes, they found their groove/wanna bone Carrie Brownstein

However chuffed I am on the place, some  awesome shit has happened there/Here’s a story from the D Blues tour which took me to fair Portlande Towne for the first time in January 2001/Played a party in SE at a house formerly owned by a band called .30-06. Place is still called .30-06 house (how cool is that band name??)/After show I feebly attempt to flirt with random girl leaving the party by asking idiotic “What’s up with the cold?”/Her response was “It’s the northwest”/Later I ate falafel for the first time. Does any of this actually mean anything??

BACK to somewhat less bananas reasoning, the malevolent, Green River Killer-esque mood I was brooding on earlier led me to coming up with the notion that whether or not I crave darkness, I can’t seem to fucking avoid it, and I have learned to accept this. I deal with it primarily by harboring a very dark sense of humor, and though I can be a sensitive, even touchy person myself, I do admit to a perverse pleasure in pushing people past their limits of comfort with my at-times sick thoughts and inappropriate jokes. Is it thus that I cannot be with anyone who does embrace the darkness in life the way I do?

Tempting to take a poll, but how, given the one-way nature of our communication, reader?

If yes, dial 867-5309.

If no, do the same.

I can make light-hearted jokes, and I do all the time.

Please help me focus on the light within me by letting go of yr fears of my dark aspects.

Peace.

1:01AM (no joke, wow, strange…) 3/20/12, home, astonished that this all seems to have tied together reasonably well, optimistic about spring!!

Posted in The Americaphiles | Leave a Comment »

All of me

Posted by ilbebe on March 17, 2012

Top of the morning to yas. I was talking to a guy from Virginia at the bar last night who asked me about my pins, and after I informed they represented New Hampshire and Tom Waits, we started talking about The Wolf Man Himself. This led quickly to discovering we were both writers, and naturally he asked me what I wrote. When I told him I was working on my memoirs, he seemed skeptical, so I told him about The Big Fellow. He seemed non-plussed, and didn’t write down any notes. Whatever.

I looked over the most recent ‘dialed calls’ in my phone this morning, and remembered that I called the KALX DJ at 1:26am, right after I got home last night, to tell them that the song was awesome. The miracle of the internet informs me that the song was Kissin’ and Cussin’, by Justin Robinson and the Mary Annettes, from the album Bones For Tinder. Huh. Musta been a banger. I love music. If you don’t, start. It’s easy.

Here are the liner notes I wrote for an autobiographical mix CD I made a few years ago. Slainte.

Nineteen Elements of Landon (Now Twenty)

 

I. Formative Years

 

1. The Allman Brothers – Jessica This mix starts slightly out of chronological order, because a seven-minutes-plus instrumental is always tricky to place in an unobtrusive spot that doesn’t disrupt the momentum. Putting it first is the easiest place to put it so that you can skip if you want to get straight to songs you can sing along with, although it is an excellent song to whistle along to. I first heard this when I started investigating my parent’s record collection around the age of thirteen, and it really struck me the first time I heard it. A few years later I got a guitar transcription and, after lots of practice, would play through the entire song, reading it off of the page. I never memorized it, though I can still play the main riff. It remains one of those songs that makes me smile every time I hear it.

 

2. The Big Bopper – Chantilly Lace Getting chronological, this was my favorite song off of the first tape I ever owned, ‘Rockin’ 50’s’. Other songs on that compilation included Sea Cruise, Blue Suede Shoes, Maybelline, Be Bop A Lula, Blueberry Hill and Summertime Blues, and though Sea Cruise was a close second, Chantilly Lace was the one I would rewind and play again the most often. Also cool is that it was a birthday gift from my first best friend in the world Benji, who had heard of the Big Bopper somehow and was making it his mission to introduce him to everyone in second grade. My eighth birthday party was a swimming party at the Concord, NH YMCA, and I remember listening to this song for the first time on a boombox in the party room, Benji had considerately unwrapped the tape and  fast forwarded it to the right spot. This may be the first instance of being judged on the spot for my musical hipness, because frankly the first time I heard Chantilly Lace I thought it was fucking weird and lied to agree with Benji when he asked Isn’t This The Coolest Song Ever? Yet another benefit of growing up in rural New Hampshire: I was born in 1981, but my first tape wasn’t Tiffany or Debbie Gibson.

 

3. “Weird” Al Yankovich – Lasagna   The first two tapes I ever bought with my own money were Weird Al’s ‘Even Worse’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Dangerous’. Believe me, it was hard to decide between this song and Will You Be There, especially because of the latter’s inclusion in Free Willy, a movie that made me cry with joy. I decided to go with Weird Al because it follows Chantilly Lace a little better, and because I was much more obsessive about him. I actually wrote out all the lyrics to the album, and it drove me nuts because there was one word in ‘Those Were The Good Old Days’ that I couldn’t understand. Another early indication of my obsessive analytic tendencies was that for probably the first fifty tapes I ever owned I would write down the time on the tape counter on my parents’ stereo that each song came at. When I ran out of the uniquely shaped pieces of paper on the tablet I used for this purpose it was a serious crisis, but I eventually decided that I didn’t actually use the information I was collecting very often, so I stopped writing lists for new tapes. The next decision, which took me months to make, was whether or not to throw out the lists I’d already made for purposes of uniformity in my collection. I finally decided that throwing out the lists would be a good step towards not being a nerd, and it was a triumphant moment when I removed them, ripped them all neatly into eight pieces, and trashed ‘em. I must also add that my Mom’s lasagna is my favorite food in the world, though she didn’t ever appreciate me listening to Weird Al…

 

4. Simon and Garfunkel – Cecilia  This I also first heard on an LP that my Mom owned, and to show that my OCD tendencies haven’t been fully abandoned, I like that including this song makes it one song from my Mom’s collection and one from my Dad’s (Jessica). It is noteworthy that when they combined their record collections in 1977, they only had one album in common, Loggins and Messina’s ‘Full Sail’. Why it took them twenty years to get divorced remains a mystery. FULL SAIL? Christ, what does this mean about ME?? I share your GENES!! Anyhow, I’ve always liked this song, and it’s one of the four songs I sing for karaoke unless there are extenuating circumstances, the others being Livin’ On A Prayer, Angel Of The Morning, and Islands In The Stream. In a strange parallel to my story, I copied Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits on CD from my friend Matt. One day I was going through his CDs and remarked on how surprised I was that he had it, since he mostly listens to old Metallica, emo rap, and electronic music. He said with a sigh that both his parents loved Simon and Garfunkel and listening to them always makes him that pleasant sort of melancholy. His parents divorced when he was two and have hated each other ever since. But back to my story…

 

5. R.E.M. – Fall On Me This makes the list because it was the first song on the first mixtape I ever made, which I labeled “Good Shit, Man.” I put it on there twice in a row. Can you tell I was fourteen when I made it? It’s still a tape I listen to every once in a while (i.e. most recently seven years ago), and other artists include Tom Petty, Blues Traveler and Counting Crows. I still think Tom Petty rules and that the Counting Crows’ first two albums are still good. Blues Traveler I don’t think is so hot anymore, though I still know ninety percent of the lyrics to Runaround- out of order. During middle school, though, Blues Traveler was one of my favorite bands, and I desperately wanted to see them live, but sadly, this was years before my parents would let me go to shows. Thus I was pretty intrigued when I did get to see them at the Oakland Art and Soul festival in September 2005. It was five bucks, and although I mainly went to see Aimee Mann, I figured I’d stick around and see what Blues Traveler was all about. Though I definitely enjoyed Runaround and Hook, their guitarist was unforgivably wanky, and the verdict is not to bother doings things you really wanted to ten years ago but never did. Some things never happen for sound reasons.

           

6. Weezer – The World Has Turned And Left Me Here The first Weezer song I heard was of course Undone (The Sweater Song), and it changed my life. The first concert I ever went to was Weezer at the Fillmore in SF on the Pinkerton tour, July 1997. I’d had a driver’s license for four months, and since I’d bought my Studebaker three months earlier, I had been dying for a good show to go to. Automobile ownership had freed me from my parents’ stodgy dictums against “being safe”. The night of the Weezer concert was the first time I’d ever driven into San Francisco, and holy fuck I was not prepared for that. I cut off busses, nearly flattened scores of pedestrians, and almost got into an accident in a parking garage. For some reason I hadn’t gotten directions to the venue, so as me and four friends crossed the Bay Bridge, I handed my map of SF to Danny and told him to navigate us towards the intersection of Fillmore and Geary. Forty terrifying and frustrated minutes and a dozen reassurances from Danny that “it should be here!” later, I pulled over to see what the fuck was going on. Apparently Danny had been navigating us towards the large, red FILLMORE on the map that denoted the Fillmore district and stretched over six city blocks. I was incensed, but we righted our course and got there. The show was mind-bogglingly awesome, and will forever remain a show that all others must be judged against. The reason I decided to put this song on to represent the Blue Album is because it’s the first song I ever remember associating with a girl, fuckin’ Andrea H. I asked her out freshman year of high school and she said no, and this song came into mind as I was walking home from school later that day. Sigh.

 

7. Everclear – Heartspark Dollarsign  I bought Everclear’s ‘Sparkle and Fade’ at the Pittsburg Target because I really liked Santa Monica, and damn, as it turned out, I really liked the whole album. There was one song about leaving town with no destination in mind, Summerland, that I really took to when I was a mopey teenager thinking about running away. More than once I made a list of things to do before running away, which generally included selling stuff for money, returning things I had borrowed, and collecting debts from my friends, some of which were as small as fifty cents. I want to say that the last such list I made had more than twenty-six entries, and when I got labeling some petty chore ‘BB’, I realized that I had no real desire to run away. Anyhow, my favorite song on the album was and is Heartspark Dollarsign. Besides the fact that it rocks, I always thought I was cool for liking a song about interracial relationships, and in retrospect it’s funny to think that I felt this way even though I still used ‘gay’ as a derogatory term at the time. This might be specious proof of people’s capacity to change, but more likely it’s just proof that teenagers are really good at two things: being self-righteous, and being mean.

 

8. The Mr. T Experience – Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba I have fond memories of seeing MTX several times in their heydey and being part of a huge crowd of kids in a synchronized pogo during the chorus of this song. Worth mentioning is that my friend Ryan always used to come away from shows claiming that some hot chick had crowd surfed over him and “her ass was right in my face!” Of course there was never any hard proof of this…also, another time we were leaving an MTX show at a venue that was next door to a whomp-whomp dance club, and as we walked past a row of parked cars on the street, another friend of mine Garrett blurted out OH MY GOD! When we said What? he said He Was Sucking On Her Thing! Ryan got really excited and said Woah, We Just Walked Past Oral Sex!, but then Garrett clarified that by ‘thing’ he meant ‘boob’, and we teased him mercilessly for being too square to say ‘boob’ the first time around. In a carefully calculated move to get girls to understand that I was cool, my senior yearbook quote was Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba. I didn’t factor in that the yearbook is published after school gets out, however, so whether or not the ladies of the Liberty High Class of ‘99 were impressed by this may never be known.

 

II. Sexually Active (i.e. post-high school) Years

 

9. Bob Dylan – Meet Me In The Morning My Mom bought me a three-disc set of Bob Dylan’s second, third, and fourth albums the month I graduated high school, and I slowly grew to love them while playing SimCity 2000 on the house computer that sat on a desk in my parent’s bedroom during a typical roasting Brentwood summer. Outside of those albums I had heard Like A Rolling Stone because it is fucking great and should find its way into everyone’s life, Rainy Day Women # 12 and 35 courtesy of the Forrest Gump soundtrack, and Mr. Tambourine Man because I attended Humboldt State. I first heard the album Blood on the Tracks thanks to my friend Jake, who loaned it to me in December 2004 when I was desperately looking for a new bible that explained everything. The album came to represent a somehow concrete view I adopted that almost nothing can be explained, and it ushered in a serious study/worship of Dylan that many people never come out on the other side of. Different songs from the album stand out to me for different reasons, but if pressed, I must say that Meet Me In The Morning is my favorite song from the album, perhaps my favorite song of all time. It, well, it sounds like morning to me, and it’s a fantastic song to play air drums to. I imagine myself with a gigantic mustache, leaning away from the drums as if I haven’t a care in the world. It sounds like the world, as Dr. Frank said in Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba, is our oyster…

 

10. Neutral Milk Hotel – Ghost In an odd coincidence, I started going through songs my freshman roommate Garrett had downloaded onto my computer via Napster that I had never listened to towards the middle of my Sophomore year of college and heard Two Headed Boy from the album that remains my favorite of all time, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”. Days later, my friend and Garrett’s ex-girlfriend (who he was still really bummed about), Stephanie, made the questionable move of putting NMH on at a party late at night, when people may have already be getting emotional for self-contained reasons. I heard Two Headed Boy and it occurred to me that I should get the rest of the album. I chose Ghost to represent it here because I had a dream about it a few years ago that remains one of those most awesomely vivid dreams I’ve ever had, and because I used to play it when I was in a living room guitar-and-violin duo for a year. We always played Ghost last because it wore out her hands and my voice, and it sufficiently motivated me to drink to our impending fame almost every time. As it turns out, our ambitions wound up in a hole from which nothing could escape, and hearing the song now is bittersweet, which of course makes me love it all the more.

 

11. The Sleeze – Do You Wanna Dance? The Sleeze was a band I was in in Arcata that went through two different periods of activity. The first was not particularly fruitful, as we only wrote five songs and never mastered the one cover we attempted, Molly’s Lips by Nirvana. That song has two chords, if that gives any sense of our overall proficiency as a unit. That first era came to an end when our drummer Danny did a semester abroad in China, and right when he came back, I moved away for six months. In February of 2003 I moved back, and the second, golden era began. We tightened up the old songs, including Motha’s New Lover (sample lyric: “I-I’m, you-our, mu-ther’s, bra-and, new-ew, lover, yeah-ah, whaddya think about that?), and wrote several new ones, including this little novelty. We recorded our album “Aim To Sleeze” at the practice space on south H a week before our guitarist Jeff moved away, and it was because of this time crunch that we couldn’t wait for our singer Travis to get over the sore throat he was battling at the time. The Sleeze’s last performance was our “reunion show” a year after the ‘album’ was made at the last show at the I street Derail house. I drank two Mad Dogs and fell over backwards onto Danny’s hi-hat in the middle of our set, bending it in half. While I was telling my panda joke to allow time for repairs, the cops came to end the suaree, putting a beautifully anti-climactic epitaph on the Sleeze.

 

12. The Strokes – What Ever Happened?  When I left Arcata in December 2004, I spent a month slumbering around Seattle, a month at my Mom’s, and then three months at my Dad’s apartment in Alameda. This time was spent drinking malt liquor, eating pretzels, and slowly sleeping the clock around. The CDs I listened to most during this era were “Blood on the Tracks”, “Blonde on Blonde”, and the second disc of “Live ‘66″ by Bob Dylan, “Room on Fire” by the Strokes, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” by Wilco, and the title track of “Fear and Whiskey” by the Mekons, mostly while playing Freecell. To illustrate the unbelievable amount of time I spent on the game, you should probably know that I achieved 200 consecutive wins towards the end of my time in Alameda. After finally getting a job as a law-office file clerk, I sublet a room in a basement and made a mix called ‘Drinking Alone’, and this was the first song on it. It remains the only mix I’ve made where I broke the self-imposed rule of never putting the first song from an album first on a mix, lest there be any confusion, but I had to; both lyrically and musically this tune sums up the awful ennui and self-loathing of the first half of 2005 for me. I believe the second song was Badlands by the Boss, and it was a tricky deciding which song to include here, but I guess that this song will always be associated with this time of my life, whereas Badlands is a little more timeless for me; it makes me think about driving fast while singing along and getting half of the words wrong.

 

13. The Band – The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down  During that time in the basement sublet, I watched “The Last Waltz” nearly every night while working on a case of assorted wines my yuppie friend Craig had given me. After the wine ran out, it was back to malt liquor, and on one memorable night I finished most of a fifth of tequila after I met my lesbian roommate’s new girlfriend, one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. She was Romanian, she had the fucking wackiest accent…sigh. Anyhow, every night I’d at least try to stay lucid until this song, chapter 14 on the DVD, before passing out, and one night I looked up the chords for guitar and played it nearly every day for the rest of the summer. In the summer of 2007, I was driving home from Arcata and stopped at the banks of the Eel River south of Garberville for a while to relax. I played guitar for a while, and as I was packing up to leave, this guy who’d been playing around on inner tubes with his family came over and asked me to play a song for them. I went with this one, and after polite applause and a short conversation, he handed me his business card and said to give him a call if I was ever in trouble in Sonoma. He was a Sonoma County sheriff! Wow.

 

14. Jolie Holland – Damn Shame My best friend’s Mom died on February 1, 2006, and it really fucked me up. I started acting out at work, and eventually got sent to a few sessions of anger management therapy, though not much was accomplished because the dude they sent me to was actually a hard-drug addiction specialist, and we mainly talked about jazz. I didn’t hear this song until the following summer, but I came to associate it with the slow, hard feelings I had around the time that Casey’s mom passed. On the first anniversary of her death, I wrote “2-1-07 – Nothing but a damn shame” on the white board at the house where I lived with nine other people, and several of them asked me if I was okay. I explained that yeah, I was fine; the damn shame was someone else who had passed. Then six days later I wound up in a mental hospital, thinking I wanted to kill myself, and the next round of explanations about my condition to my roommates was not quite so easy. Now I associate the song with both events, and the first line always makes me stop what I’m doing and get sad- “Tonight I fell asleep in my haunted little room”. Top that, Congress, I dare you.

 

15. The Flaming Lips – Waiting For A Superman The album “The Soft Bulletin” had been recommended to me by several different people over the years, and I liked it instantly when I finally picked it up in the summer of 2006. I listened to it a lot at my desk at the law office where I worked when I had those suicidal thoughts in the winter of 2006-07, and both this song and the first track, Race For The Prize, really struck me as brilliant encapsulations of the impossibility of life. I chose Waiting For A Superman for this mix because it became a personal anthem in the months following my stay in the crazy house about finding something within yourself to keep on keepin’ on. There are no supermen anymore, if there ever were. I think of this song whenever I’m trying to lift something too heavy, be it theoretically or actually. Thus I thought of it frequently while working as a mover at the end of the summer of 2007. Have you ever tried moving a piano? Mothers are heavy.

 

16. Wilco – I’m Always In Love The beginning of this song is my idea of the musical counterweight to Ghost; the sound of a happy explosion versus a painful one. This music plays in my head a lot, whether because I’m in a really good mood or because I’m miserable and want to feel better. I’ve included this song on countless mixes over the past few years, but my favorite placement was on the mix I made my friend Shawn to celebrate his graduation from art grad school, ‘Urine Asshole In Debt’. This was the first song, meant to be a subtle jab about the habit of serial monogamy that had caused him so much grief up to that point. It was followed by That’s Not Me by the Beach Boys, and then Hang Down Your Head by Tom Waits and Absolutely Sweet Marie by Bob Dylan, because the most recent relationship that had gone awry was with a girl named Marie who I was convinced was going to murder him over his refusal to be with her. She didn’t though, and I’m glad, because I hate being right about people’s murderous intents all the time.

 

17. The Hold Steady – Hot Soft Light The Hold Steady have become one of my favorite bands over the last few years, and this song stands out in particular because the final line was a revelation, pun intended?, about the appeal of becoming a born-again Christian. I’ve dwelt quite a bit on the unique appeal of Christianity, and was never able to come up with a satisfactory answer until I heard this, which I think is a remarkable achievement for a song, especially by a non-Christian band that actually spends a lot of lyrical time talking shit about the church. It’s funny though, I’ve seen the Hold Steady twice now, and their concerts definitely inspire a rapturous ecstasy a la religious fervor, maybe they know more than they’re letting on…

 

18. Fpodbpod – Plucked Fpodbpod holds a special place in my heart because they were a band I came across by pure chance. I had gone to see a band my friend Chops recommended in San Francisco*, and FpodBpod were one of the opening acts. They were on stage when my ex-girlfriend and I walked in the door, in the middle of this bizarre song called Puppies and Kittens that has a falsetto chorus that goes “La la-la la la la-la la- la la la”…fuck, there’s no way you could get an idea of what a strange impression this song makes without hearing it. Anyway, I became friends with the guys over the course of time and I’ve seen ‘em lots of times. I chose Plucked off of their only CD “The Egg” because the lyrics so accurately speak to where I’ve been at in life for, shit, how long has it been since I graduated? Almost seven years? Sheesh.

 

19. Tom Waits – Anywhere I Lay My Head This song represents so many nights lying on my living room floor drunk in Arcata to me it’s ridiculous. Out of sequence chronologically, but lying on the floor drunk and listening to Tom Waits is always a good place to end.

 

20. The New Pornographers – Go Places These notes were originally written in October 2008, and the album this song comes from, Challengers, was released in October 2007. Thus it seems to respect the non-linear nature of this writing to make this the song that I have actually added after the initial fact as I sit here typing on this Saturday morning, St. Patrick’s Day 2012. Stay with me…I say it to myself.

 

 

*Strange footnote: The main act that night, The Moanin’ Dove, was also cool, and the singer later dated a roommate of mine, and the two of them moved in two doors down from my girlfriend sat the time who was with me that night, proving that other places can have Arcata-esque characteristics.

 

**Bonus story about a song that didn’t make the final cut:

-I wanted to include a song by a band from Vancouver, BC called The Saddlesores, but eventually decided that the story about them was better than the music, which hasn’t stood up all that well over time. I saw them at the Plaza Grill my third week of college after a guy at People’s Records who had recommended a great band called Cringer (members of whom later became J Church) to my roommate Garrett also recommended the show these guys were playing. The opening band was from LA and really weird and I didn’t really like them, but the Saddlesores were a blast, and this made me think that college was going to expose me to all kinds of awesome music. Then the following week I heard the new Live single, The Dolphin’s Cry, on KRFH while eating dinner in the dorm cafeteria, and my illusions were shattered. Also, the lead singer of the Saddlesores hit on my then-girlfriend Kaydee the second time I saw them, couldn’t for the life of himself stop staring at her boobs. This was at the Vista, and it clued me in to the fact that life is not always all that it’s cracked up to be.

Posted in The Americaphiles | 7 Comments »

Ninety-nine percent garbage

Posted by ilbebe on March 16, 2012

We search and we search for meaning this life, and lately, I have been finding both meaning and a means to keep on in garbage. Huh, you say???

I’ve been unemployed for most of the last eighteen months. The only break in that time was five weeks this past November and December when I worked at a fundamentally ridiculous job in food service with Cirque du Soleil’s “Totem”. I have applied for perhaps a hundred and fifty jobs since I was laid off of my last job, which happened shortly after Labor Day 2010. From that effort have come four in-person interviews, one excruciating surprise phone interview, and a fifth personal interview that I had scheduled with the Biology Department Stockroom at UC Berkeley which I missed because I slept through my alarm. The night before was a friend of my roommates’ last night in town before moving to Chicago, so, you know, what’s an unemployed motherfucker to do? Not drink wine by the carafe-full? And I mean full full…

I have come to adopt the opinion that my unemployment benefits are akin to a crop subsidy; that is, by decision of the Congress of these United States, I am essentially being paid not to work the same way farmers are paid not to plant crops. Using my time to write, hang out, have fun, and be a good friend to people when their other friends don’t have the time is what I consider to be my fulfillment of the obligation this free money has burdened me with, though I cannot stress enough I have never considered this free money a burden. Having a young family and working two jobs can be considered a burden, but that is not my scenario. Walking twenty miles by moonlight through the desert because you craved adventure I can’t honestly call any sort of burden and hope to keep a straight face.

I actually made that moonlight walk thirteen days ago now. It was great.

On the other similar long walks I’ve been taking more and more often lately, I breath deeply, and think. I also smoke cigarettes, and keep a keen eye out for garbage and small change. This week it has rained more than it has all this weird winter long, and the water is bringing some coins out of the muck that have been buried for, it seems, quite some time if their strange patinas are any indication. The appearance of these coins has also occurred alongside the latest installment of my series of unnecessarily deep and prolonged thoughts regarding street sweeping and street sweeping day parking tickets.

ARRRGH, these parking restrictions…

My roommate S is borrowing an old car from her parents, and a few weeks ago the battery died; rigor mortis, gone for good.  She’d been having a hard time finding a ride down to the auto parts store to pick up a new one, so the car was still sitting on the curb, dead, when this past week’s street sweeping days came around. In order to avoid the forty-eight dollar ticket that results from a street sweeping day violation, her and two friends had to push the fucking thing up our steep shitty driveway in the pouring rain. But they did it, and had a good laugh about it afterwards, and though I do acknowledge that the whole point of having immediate fiscal punishments for non-compliance with the street sweeping laws is an idealistically just process; in practice, it is a much different matter.

The problem as I see is this: If you don’t move your car, you can damn well fucking set yr watch by the certainty that you will get a ticket. However, if you do the right thing by the law and by the respect you ought to have for your community and its ecology, and move your car, there is not really any guarantee the city will keep its end of the bargain and sweep the fucking street. Why this occurs, I cannot say for sure, and I will admit that it is rare that my block does not get swept at its appointed bi-monthly time. But I have a theory.

My suspicion is that whether on purpose or unconsciously, street sweeping and the accompanying parking restrictions as/have turned into simply one of the numerous small battles on which the class war in this country is being fought. Like the rest of those other little battles, it is stupid, wasteful, cruel, unjust, and an insult to the notion of liberty and egalitarianism outlined in our nation’s founding documents.

See, down in West Oakland, in the blocks near the BART station off of Mandela Parkway, the street gets swept every week, in contrast the twice-monthly sweeping my block gets. My neighborhood, by anyone’s standards, is inarguably a much more affluent neighborhood than the part of West Oakland I am referring to. Furthermore, every block in my neighborhood has huge deciduous trees that shed year-round. The blocks I’m thinking of in West Oakland have significantly less trees. So, for two reasons, you might think that it would be beneficial and just to reverse the frequency of street sweeping between the two neighborhoods:

1)As a more tony neighborhood, Rockridge should, by reasons of entrenched class favoritism, get more services from the city than a poorer neighborhood. And

2) As the neighborhood with more trees and thus more shit to get swept off of the streets, logic and fairness ought to dictate that Rockridge should get swept weekly, while West Oakland would be perfectly fine getting swept every two weeks.

My conclusion as to why the reality of the situation defies these two points is this: The city parking enforcement department is either inept or corrupt, or perhaps both. West Oakland gets swept more often so that they can fuck with poor people, and they sweep Rockridge less often so as not to up the nice rich folks too much. Furthermore, though everyone complains about parking tickets pretty much at the same level of “AHHH fuck, this shit sucks”, rich people do tend to actually pay them in greater percentages. Why the money collected from the program doesn’t go straight into keeping the libraries or the community health clinics instead of straight back into itself, I don’t know, but this I do know: There is something fucked up going on, and it is but a small example of the larger problems facing this nation. Because my street gets swept less often, leaves pile up in the gutters, coins get caught in these leaf piles, and then on a rainy day in March I get to find money to supplement my federal unemployment benefits. Meanwhile there are hungry people getting fined in West Oakland who are getting their food stamps cut off cos they’ve timed out. It is hard for me to complain about my situation, but I know it is unfair, and my heart aches for those being cheated.

However, I have been discriminated against, and recently. A brief example from the beginning of February, the evening of the ninth to be exact:

I found a lot of small change in the street and tried to buy a pack of cheap cigarettes with it at DeLauer’s, an old-school newsstand/package store that’s downtown on Broadway. DeLauer’s is an Oakland landmark, one of the oldest continually operating businesses in town, and, it is rumored, the oldest continually operating newsstand west of the Mississippi. The clerk refused to take some of my money, because it was old and tarnished and “ugly”. So I had to get an even cheaper pack of cigarettes. Fortunas. What the fuck is that supposed to mean?

Enough- I don’t even want yr shit any more.

I’m coming for your garbage. Consider this fair warning.

Peace.

-2:48pm 3/16/12, home, thinking about Field of Dreams, New Hampshire, and Elvis Perkins. One, two, three…

Posted in The Americaphiles | Leave a Comment »

Ninety-eight

Posted by ilbebe on March 8, 2012

This was getting to be one of those arguments. A whole evening of shouting had led us to this point, as it often did, the point where Mark’s head hurt from the noise and strain. His pain often affected the both of us, or really, anyone within his emotional orbit or even earshot . Shouting back at him over the clamor of the bar, I suggested acetaminophen.

“I don’t need a minivan of any kind. Are you implying I’m getting old and soft? What the fuck?”

Mark was quick to get defensive. He was also deft at flitting mosquito-like around the conventions of linear thought the way many young drunks are.

“What the fuck is a seated minivan anyway? Don’t all minivans come with seats? Seriously, why the fuck would I want a minivan with gas being the price it is?”

“I wasn’t saying you needed a seated minivan, I was saying you need acetaminophen, like Tylenol or something.”

“Why do I need Tylenol?

“For the headache you said I was giving you.”

Mark made a sour face, and it sunk in. He held the look for a moment, then took a sip of his gin, and the grimace broke. It never failed to intrigue me that gin, for Mark, took anguished looks off of his face.

“Yeah, fuck. Let’s get out of here. Let’s go to Sheesh’s place.”

Sheesh’s place was special. It was many things to me, and to Mark, and to many people; grocery, deli, coffee shop, asylum.  Sheesh had been running the place for about twelve years when I first moved to the neighborhood five years ago, so at this point, he’d been running it for about three months longer than his oldest child, his son Ram, had been alive. I went there almost every day for coffee, and therapy, and sometimes I went more than once a day. This visit with Mark would be the fourth time I’d been in today, but then again, it was the twelfth of April. My Uncle Stan’s birthday, one of my least favorite days of the year. Mark and I had been at the bar earlier because we knew it didn’t have cell reception for some odd reason, and I wanted desperately to avoid the inevitable phonecalls that would start coming from Uncle Stan once he got into the second pint of Colonel Bennett’s. My relationship with Uncle Stan was living proof that being the kind of fucking person who actually listens to people when they’re upset can be a damn near intolerable way of life.

Highlights from years past included 2005, when he called from home to say he had jut remembered where he buried his child baseball cards, 2005 again when he called back to say he had just realized there was a freeway over the lot where his childhood home had stood, so ix nay on the baseball cards, and most recently 2009, when he said he was talking to Winona Ryder through Facebook and so to get ready to have a new Aunt. It was sort of funny once you got some distance from the calls themselves, but while I was on the line with him, I wanted lightning to strike him, anything; anything to give me back my normal April Twelfths.

Such had it come to pass that April 12 had come to be the central boogeyday of my year, but so far this one was going well. Mark found a quarter on the walk between Smaller’s and Sheesh’s (“Connecticut! I love this one!”), which was promising. And luckily, Sheesh was still open when we strolled in at ten-ten. Sometimes he closed up early on Fridays to get home and shoot a solitary game of nine-ball before going to sleep in the backyard.

Posted in The Americaphiles | Leave a Comment »