Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

One-thirty-one

Posted by ilbebe on July 31, 2012

The Mr T Experience was going to play at Bottom of the Hill on a Friday in late January. I was excited; MTX had been my favorite band in high school and I hadn’t seen them in a few years. The lead man, Dr. Frank, had shifted his focus to writing a few years earlier and put the band on the back burner, I can’t recall if they’d played any shows at all since 2005. But in the weeks leading up to the show, I had mixed feelings about it- was it going to be the same?

I was down on myself again. I’d been back at my pizza delivery job for five months, and I’d been living with my girlfriend and her roommates in a cold apartment that the landlord was trying to throw them out of. We had pulled the classic “move the boyfriend in without asking or telling anyone” move, and while I was grateful that none of the roommates gave much of a shit once they realized I was living there, it put me in the weird spot of feeling like I had no place to say anything about the place. One roommate had two adorable little kids that he was constantly yelling at, which dismayed me to no end. His erstwhile girlfriend, the kids’ mother, would come by every so often, and her visits almost always ended in a vicious trading of verbal cheap shots. The landlord served a rent increase on the apartment, an in response they filed for a court hearing and stopped paying rent. The other two roommates moved out in the months thereafter, leaving just me, the Dub, Arr and his kids, and the awful chill of 53rd Street.

I was happy to be back at work, and it felt good to be paying off the debt I’d incurred the previous summer, but I also felt trapped at the job. A friend’s band had asked me to go on a national tour with them as merch dude, and I said no. Going on the road to see the same band as a was the primary thrust of the trip that had recently bankrupted me, and following the crushing experience of winding up busted at my Mom’s house without a job or a cent in the world, I had built a minefield in my head around the notion of walking away from steady work to have fun. I was standing in the back of the pizza place with a heavy heart when I called my friend to tell him that I couldn’t tour with them because I didn’t want to quit my job. That MTX was playing the day after my friend’s band left for their tour was cold consolation, and I thus I had started building it up to be something much more than it deserved to be; in retrospect I realize that I expected the thrill of that one show to be equivalent to what I imagined the fun of a national tour would be. Seeing my favorite band from high school was supposed to be the same as a lifelong dream.

So I was really upset when my friend Josh couldn’t make it. When I spoke to him that evening before I left Oakland for the City, he said that his Dad hadn’t shown up for work that morning and had not been heard from. I didn’t know what to say to that, who does? I recall saying something along the lines of “Shit, that’s weird. Well, I’m sure everything’s OK. Sorry you can’t make the show. Talk to you soon.”

The show was fun. I saw an old pal I knew from Arcata days, still wearing that letterman’s jacket. ‘I Fell For You’ still made me smile.

The next day I thought about calling Josh a few times while I was at work, but I didn’t.

Sunday night I was standing around at work, waiting for an order to cook, when the usual happened: Victor asked if I could close for him. Victor was the driver who was scheduled for the closing shift on Wednesdays and Sundays, but in the preceding months it had become commonplace for him to ask me to cover him so he could knock off early and get some rest before beginning his other job at four in the morning. I never had any problem with this; I didn’t have to be up in the morning, and the longer I was at work meant less time at the dismal apartment, and thus less risk of hearing Arr yelling at his little angels like they were dogs.

The order was almost up when I got the call from Josh. His Dad had been found dead; suicide. I told him I had one more delivery to make and that I’d be over as soon as I could. Time started moving very slowly as I told Victor and my manager what was up, it seemed like hours before I was in my car heading towards Emeryville with the delivery. The address was a huge apartment complex that I’d only been to a few times, but those few times were enough to dislike the place. It was one of a handful of addresses where there was always some sort of nonsense that accompanied the delivery, so it was no surprise that it took three calls to get ahold of the person once I was waiting at the front and then another ten minutes waiting for them to come down and meet me.

I sat in the front lobby of the complex for ten minutes thinking about how helpless I was to make the person whose dinner I was delivering come claim it faster so I could jet out to Brentwood and be with Josh and his family. I thought about my friend’s band out on the road, somewhere in Montana. I wondered if there was any way the person on their way  to meet the pizza guy could know that their lackadaisical behavior was keeping me away from a friend in need, and furthermore, if they knew this, if they would tip accordingly.

I later heard that one of the foremost concerns on Josh’s Dad’s mind was money woes, and it’s sick that dough worry has the power to destroy people. As the year progressed, I got sorta tired of the job, and restless for adventure. I couldn’t stop thinking about Montana, so towards the end of summer I made an essentially stupid decision to quit my job so I could go out and have fun again. I took a train from Portland to Chicago, and woke up shortly before dawn the first day of the journey at the western edge of Glacier National Park. I recalled the photos from my friend’s band’s tour from back in January, four feet of snow around the van in Billings. Now there was nothing but green, and light, and if I’d been in Montana back in January, I wouldn’t have been around to be with Josh when his Dad died.

I recently read a great essay by Betty Smith, the author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The essay was entitled “Fall in Love with Life”, and these are the concluding lines:

“To live, to struggle, to be in love with life- in love with all life holds, joyful or sorrowful- is fulfillment. The fullness of life is open to all of us.”

It’s crushing, losing people. All you can ever do is make the most of what’s left, and there’s so much. I’ll meet you high up in your anger, of all that is waiting and hoping for you.*

Peace.

-3:15PM, 7/31/12, home, confused, ecstatic. Blind archer in the Olympics. Jeffrey Rhodes, four and half years gone, but not forgotten. Sun’s out, again. Lotsa sun this summer…

*Neutral Milk Hotel, Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone

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One-thirty

Posted by ilbebe on July 16, 2012

In October 2003, things were rolling along pretty well for me. I had realigned with K, who I’d dated briefly earlier in the year, and we were well into that illogical second-honeymoon period where since both of you are happy to be with somebody again, yr both totally oblivious to the reality that the problems that drove you apart the first time around are still there, lying dormant, waiting for the days to get shorter before they rear their ugly heads again. My desk clerk job at the hotel had yet to turn brutal; I was still getting enough hours, and recently I’d had the opportunity to dress up and greet people attending a chamber of commerce mixer at the front door. The story of the acquisition of the costume is good:

There was a costume rental shop, the only one in the county, just a few blocks away. My boss had called ahead and reserved their porter costume. The idea was to have me dress up in a vintage mid-century porter’s uniform to give the hotel an air of class that was completely unrepresentative and out of sync with the actual character of the hotel; it was general manager’s  keen awareness of the actual shabbiness the place that inspired this ridiculous greeter scheme in the first place. Anyhow, the day before the chamber mixer, my boss covered the desk while I walked over to the costume shop to get the uniform.

The shop was in a warehouse, and I stepped inside to find it filled quite literally to the ceiling with costumes. There was about six square feet of open space by the front door, other than that, every conceivable inch of space in the building seemed occupied by some costume or accessory. Ballerina’s gown’s hung from the ceiling in formation. It was fucking surreal.

I called out twice to see if there was anyone there. A minutes passed before a very short woman, like 4 foot 8 or so, emerged from the forest of costumes and said “Woah! You’re tall!”

I agreed, and explained why I was there.

“Oh no, that costume’s not going to fit you.”

“Huh?”

“I mean, that costume would be way too small on you.” (I’m 6’4″)

“Oh…”

“It’s okay though, we’ll find something else for you to wear. Let’s go look at tuxedos.”

The tuxedo section proved devoid of a tux in my size, and I was starting to get a little irritated fighting my way through the shop’s crowded “aisles” following the wood sprite when inspiration struck her.

“Ah! I know just what you need.” She directed me deeper into the morass of costumes, but the trek became worth it when we arrived at a costume I have always described as Indian Prince circa 1935. Stark white with red pinstripes down the pantlegs, it also featured a gold sash at the waist and elaborate red epaulets on the shoulders fringed with gold tassels. It was freakin’ comical. I happily accepted the costume and had one of the finer hours of my life the following evening as guest after guest walked into the hotel and laughed out loud, much to my boss’ chagrin. Later that night I wore the costume to a party at Garrett’s place by the Vets Hall, and returned it to the costume shop reeking of cigarette smoke and Steel Reserve.

Then Arnold Shwarzenegger won the gubernatorial recall election, and I began to completely lose my grip on reality.

Things had been showing signs of cracking. My hours at the hotel had been cut as the tourist season died down, the honeymoon phase of my second go-round with K was nearing an end, and me and my friends had been getting into painkillers more and more. I had bought a hundred somas in TJ the day after Halloween, taken four of them alongside two copa de nadas, and later been “arrested” by two cops driving an animal-control truck in Rosarita. They seemed somewhat unnerved by my willingness to submit to arrest and climb in the metal box in the back of their pick-up, and I’m sure my case was probably in the top-ten most time-consuming shakedowns of the month as they finally got frustrated and “took me away”. This is to say they finally drove off and around the corner, where my friends flagged them down and gave them sixty bucks for my release. I got in a half-serious argument with my friends over repaying the bribe money, saying I wouldn’t have minded spending the night in jail and finding my own way back. The argument continued all night as we lit off roman candles on the beach and blew open a water main to get our money’s worth of municipal Rosarita.

This sort of savage thinking carried on throughout November, as I woke up every day thinking “Pretty soon they’re going to swear in Kindergarten Cop as the governor of California”, taking a bong rip and a soma, and triple-checking what time I had to be at work, since my mind was sorta turning to mush. My friends made plans to record a Christmas album on Thanksgiving, so I showed up at Erin’s place as soon as I got off of work and took four car-bombs in a row to get the creative juices flowing. We hit record and began improvising a take of “All I Want For Christmas” that lasted fifteen minutes. This was followed by a stab at November Rain, and I was passed out within in the hour.

The level of brutality was upped the following week when three different close friends went through bad break-ups, so I decided to join the sadness gang and break-up with K, fully aware I was putting myself in a delicate position since she lived in the same apartment complex as me. Two jobs I thought I had a line on fell through, one with the post office and another with the County planning department, and I started to feel desperate and trapped with the ever-declining hours at my gig with the hotel. The beginning of the end was when the schedule for the last week of the year was posted. My boss walked up next to me while I was examining it with her usual obnoxious smile.

“Hey, I gave you New Year’s off!”

For whatever reason, the boss, who I did not respect whatsoever, had decided I was her favorite. However, why she thought that giving me New Year’s Eve off but scheduling me at 5AM on New Year’s Day would excite me is beyond normal reasoning.

“Yeah… thanks.”

That New Year’s Eve, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling and pondering the mess I had made of my life until a phone call informing me I officially did not get the job with the County finally jarred me upright. I screamed FUCK at the top of my lungs and sat down in the chair next to phone to brood. On cue, a few minutes later K knocked on my door to confront me about how I’d disappeared a few weeks earlier, and all I could tell her was sorry. She told me that was shitty and left unsatisfied. I went over to Kaydee and Ces’ place and started drinking rum around 2 in the afternoon.  They put on The Hours, which I was in too foul a mood to make it more than half an hour into. I passed out around eight in a terrible mood, the only ray of light being that I had successfully gone to be early enough to get a decent night’s sleep and make it to work in the morning.

The howling wind woke me up at 3AM, and I lay in bed listening to holiday revelers carousing outside my window. I tried to fight my way back to sleep despite the noise and my anger, which I should have known was pointless, and by the time I threw in the towel and went downstairs, no one was around. 2004 came in like a cloud of shit, and I found a strange mixture of comfort and disgust as I cruised down the highway in the pre-dawn fog that morning in knowing that our governor was a former movie strongman. I decided I would find strength in the illogical bend my life had taken and overcome the idiotic position I’d fallen into, which is why by the end of the January I’d no-called no-showed to my job and taken to sleeping on the living-room floor.

The tone for the year to come was set.

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One-twenty-eight

Posted by ilbebe on July 4, 2012

This will attempt to recount how my initial distaste for reggae landed me in a sticky,  racially-charged moment in a bar when I was twenty-seven.

I didn’t hear much reggae bumping out of cars in Brentwood  in my teen years. If I had to guess, I’d say I’d probably heard no more than a handful of reggae songs ever before I moved to Arcata to begin college. I don’t even remember anyone wearing Bob Marley shirts in high school, though there must have been a few mixed in there with the Tool, NIN, and Nirvana shirts. My stance on reggae upon entering HSU was pretty similar t0 my stance on any “world” music that I was mostly unfamiliar with; a stance best encapsulated by the timeless teenage shoulder shrug/ “Whatever” combo. However, it did not take me long to start hating reggae.

Those unfamiliar with the term ‘trustafarian’ must consider themselves lucky, as the people described by this term are really some of the most contemptible young people I’ve ever come across. The defining elements of trustafarianism are a wealthy and privileged background, the escape of which results in a deeply flawed understanding of the message of traditional rastafarianism that manifests itself in an enthusiasm for reggae music and tattered clothing much moreso than the belief in a universal spirit of love and self-empowerment. This misunderstanding is then combined with an obnoxious and heavy-handed proselytizing attitude used in dealing with people who don’t like reggae that is actually no different than the common contempt any stripe of rich kids feel towards anyone different than them. The insidious part of trustafarianism is that these fucking asshole rich kids that are dressed like paupers from a Dickens novel will give you no end of shit if you dare say anything crossways about reggae music, or wearing garbage, or blatantly smoking weed in public while waiting to get into a show at a venue that has very nicely asked you to keep the weed smoking low-profile.

Thus did I come to associate the tones of reggae music with people I loathed. There was also an element of oversaturation at work; reggae can at times be inescapable in Arcata, and hell, sometimes yr just not in the mood. Once I was eating lunch with a co-worker at the cafeteria and he audibly groaned when ‘One Love’ came on the sound system. What’s Up, I asked. I Can’t Take Much More Bob, Man, he said. He continued to explain that the only CD that lived in the sculpture lab where he spent almost half of his week was Legend, the Bob Marley greatest hits collection. It’s As If The Wheels Won’t Turn Unless It’s Playing he said, sadly.

It took years for my opinion on reggae to soften, but it did. Then my friend Shawn became obsessed with Joe Strummer’s version of ‘Redemption Song’, never my favorite Bob song to begin with. It became a running joke between us where he would put it on at every possible time, and I would sigh and pretend to hate it, then sing along with gusto at the brilliant line “emancipate yourself from the chains of mental slavery”. After numerous listens, I finally grew to like the song, and I now smile when I see the bumper sticker with that lyric on it. However, there was to be one last awkward moment between me and the ghost of Bob Marley, and it happened at McNally’s on a dead Thursday night in the summer of 2008.

Shawn and I were there with a few other people, and other than us, there weren’t many other people in the bar. The jukebox died, so Shawn went to put some money in. I called after him “Yeah, put on Redemption Song!” and laughed derisively. He laughed over his shoulder as he walked towards the far wall where the jukebox was mounted, but another guy at the bar didn’t think it was funny. “What’s so funny about Redemption Song?” he asked.

How could I explain the entire personal history that had led to this stupid inside joke to a very pissed-off looking black dude with dreds in a bar in Oakland on a Thursday? My mind got stuck, and all that came out of my mouth was “Uhhhhh…”

“I’m waiting for an answer,” he said, “What have you got against Bob Marley?”

Shawn walked back over from the jukebox and intervened on my behalf. “Oh, it’s just a joke we have.”

The dude was not amused. “I don’t see what’s so funny about that song. It’s a great song. I’d love to know why you don’t like it.”

Now Shawn was stuck. “Well I do like it, it’s just a, um, you know, a joke…me and him have…” He trailed off.

Unsatisfied, but apparently now willing to let the matter be, the dude shrugged and turned away.

What the fuck? Confusion reigned. Bob woulda been mad dissapointed, and Joe Strummer probably would have as well. Anyhow, now the tale has been told.

Happy Independence Day. Burn forth.

7/4/12, 2:20PM, home. Still confused about the true meaning of ‘One Love’…

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One-twenty-nine

Posted by ilbebe on June 21, 2012

As you judge this life, consider the nature of judging.

Whatever yr notion of judging is, consider the flattening fact that if yr reading the words I’m writing, yr thinking in English.

Yr thinking with somebody else’s words. Do you mean that now?

What I aim to say is that life as I have known it is best gauged in a light that acknowledges the primacy of YR vision. The essence of he etymology of the term homo sapien sapiens is that we are not only aware; we are aware that we are aware.

This is to say that we must learn that the way we see things are very, very similar to the way other people see things. However, they are literally entirely unique, and we are of a specie that has the capacity to acknowledge that we can realize that however much we have in common, we can never be certain that we truly know what the other person thinks. Further, it is damn near impossible to know what somebody means when they say something; anything whatsoever.

This is my plea for peace. May God damn what we say. We strive for brilliance, we walk in the ruts of what is to come. When we come to realize that what we are, and what we could, some Goddamn day, do together, is why there will be no end of tomorrow unless we collectively will it. i, me, would like not to will that. i hate uncapiailized personal i’s, but i have enough faith to realize that if i start intentionally missing the shift key, i doubt it will affect the world much.

i hope one day to meet you. For what it’s worth, i wrote this in hopes of using language to influence a greater of love and peace in yr heart, but if y’ get me, then y’ know what I’m saying here is that I’ll never know you-

Yet I still want to meet you!

Let’s start with a hug, before words get in the way.

Luv,

Landon

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One-twenty-seven

Posted by ilbebe on June 14, 2012

It seems to me now that the primary underlying struggle in the transition from childhood to adolesence is the sheer horror of yr first mature perception of the world around you. Some of us are lucky enough to be living lives of fine sand at that point, but I think it’s safe to say that most people’s reality at the dawn of adolescence doesn’t entirely measure up with their childhood dreams.

My hypothesis is this: When we are very young, nothing makes too much sense. We learn to rely to certain things that are more-or-less predictable; our parents’ presence, hunger and satiation, the daily path of darkness to light to darkness. Then we age a bit.

It does not matter what culture on Earth you are from, or how extensive your ‘formal’ education is. At a certain age in childhood, you start to understand a little bit about how the world works, on a strictly practical and experiential level. Based on this, and perhaps with a the aid of some subconscious underpinnings that know the dread that awaits, you form the ability to dream of things you have never seen. These things are of all nature, and some are bad, some evil, even, but mostly there are good- they are about a world better than the one you are in. A Fantastic world. This, with any luck, is a period of maximal joy. At the dawn of conscious imagination, we are all cartographers. We map out our dreams to the smallest detail, because we have no idea that it not always productive to dream.

This bliss ends. Half as fast or twice as slowly, we become aware that our lives do not sync with our dreams. This house is OK, but it sure ain’t no palace. I do like playing in the creek, but this Central Valley dirt town isn’t Paris. I don’t have as many friends as I thought I would by now. I’m hungry. I’m not hungry any more.

Seemingly overnight, a worldview of possibility and grace mutates into “I’ve had enough”. Ennui is the place where the ghost of you thinking you could be the President mopes. This ghost rolls around in the basement of yr brain and moans once a day, right when you were just about to fall asleep…

The linear confusion of having yr world turned inside out by yourself, for reasons you don’t understand, leads you to feel alien in yr own body, and the first apearence of the staggering notion of feeling alone on a crowded planet. Nostalgia creeps in at some point. Yr visiting yr youngest sibling’s elementary school, and you walk in thinking “Pfff, this place.” But now yr looking at a dinosaur poster, and thinking When I was my brother’s age, and I went here, I loved that poster. It made me happy. I wanted to be a dinosaur. Now that sounds stupid. I know that’s stupid.

But I’m not happy.

Some people go their entire lives without ever thinking about being a dinsoaur ever again. There’s a lot of people who think about it every now and again, and a good amount of people who think about it on a fairly regular basis- often enough to be sane, and cool, and content. Then there are the people who forget about being a dinosaur for a while, then remember, and really go for it.

I’m a triceratops. I am not kidding.

12:11AM, 6/14/12, Mom’s house. Cut the lawn today, cleaned the garage. Now it’s Flag Day. How do you celebrate that? How do you celebrate that?

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One-twenty-six

Posted by ilbebe on June 11, 2012

It was a drunken night in Arcata, circa 2002 or maybe 2003. Josh and I had moseyed back to my place, where we were going to watch the Royal Tenenbaums. En route, we had started talking about In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, my favorite album.

“You know it’s about Helen Keller,” he stated.

“Huh?”

He nodded sagely. “Yeah, you know ‘Holland, 1945’?”

“Uh, yeah, but wasn’t Helen Keller American?”

“Nope. Killed by the Nazis.”

We both fell asleep on the living room floor with the Royal Tenenbaums DVD stuck in an infinite loop on the title menu screen. I woke up in the middle of the night, turned off the TV, and fell asleep back on the floor where I was. Josh was asleep sitting up in a chair. In the morning he was gone. Arcata times. The next time I saw Josh, he said “Hey, you know what I was saying the other night about Neutral Milk Hotel and Helen Keller? I meant Anne Frank.” I told him Yeah, That Makes A Lot More Sense.

If you feel the reckless amounts of pain this world dishes out to both the deserving and the un- is too much, so much that yr life would be better lived outside your own body and observed from afar (…a star/that’s right above from where you are…), feel it, feel the fuck out of that feeling. There you are.

Do stars look better from Earth than the Earth does from the heavens? Doesn’t matter. Few of us will ever get the chance to see our world from outer space, so I think our time is better spent appreciating the view from down here, the view from within ourselves. The view that allows in our friends, and the amusing misstatements they sometimes make, and the love we share. Fuck a star, dead space shit. Earth is where it’s at. Yr heart is of this Earth.

Yr heart is this Earth. Desolation Row is a state of mind necessary to fill out the spectrum of emotion which allows for joy, and while that doesn’t mean you should revel in unpleasant experiences and pain, hopefully they hels remind you to see things for what they are-

of this life, this Earth-

of yr heart.

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One-twenty-five

Posted by ilbebe on June 10, 2012

Personal choice- what a concept. Personal responsibility- what’s that?

In February 2007, I was at my wit’s end. I was being overworked at my job, had been since someone left before Thanksgiving and wasn’t replaced. One night my Dad took me out to dinner at a pub and we got drunk. I was trying to make conversation about a linguistics article I’d recently read, but he was more interested in throwing stupid double entendres at the bartender. After he ungraciously excused himself  (“I guess if I’m embarrassing you”) and declined my offer of a goodbye hug, I switched to gin. Gin? the bartender asked. Yeah, I said, My Dad Fucking Pisses Me Off Sometimes. I Don’t Talk To My Dad Anymore, the bartender told me. I don’t remember going home, but I must have.

I woke up in bed the next morning, showered and dressed, and walked to the train. I’d been getting this awful nauseous feeling for weeks as the train pulled in, thinking that rather than getting on, I’d be happier falling in front of it. But I didn’t, and when I got to my work, I had the scheduled meeting with my boss I’d arranged the day before to address my workload. I told her that I was being overworked and that it was driving me bonkers. Is There Anything Else? she asked. I broke down crying. I’m Not Okay, I said. She told me to take off as much time as I needed, and to go get some help.

I went back t0 my desk and called Kaiser to request a same-day psych appointment. This was deemed impossible based on my lack of an existing psych relationship with Kaiser. So What Should I Do? I’m Feeling Suicidal, I asked. I was instructed to go to the ER if I wanted attention. Did I Need An Ambulance. No Thanks, I said, I’ll Get Down There On My Own.

I thought it might be more pleasant to go to the ER in Walnut Creek versus Oakland, so I left work, got back on BART and rode out to Walnut Creek. En route, I called my friend Garrett to leave him a voicemail wishing him a Happy Birthday. I was walking down South Broadway in Walnut Creek towards Kaiser feeling like wet chalk and trying to will myself out of existence when I decided I wanted a pack of cigarettes. I went to a 7-11 and bought a pack of Natural American Spirit yellows. Not Camels, which my girlfriend at the time smoked, but yellows, which my ex-girlfriend K smoked. I smoked one and got dizzy, then continued on the ER.

Several hours later I’d been 5150’d and was being given an ambulance ride to Fremont. When we pulled up in front of the hospital, the ambulance man said Hey, If You Wanna Smoke, Now’s Yr Last Chance. They Won’t Let You Smoke In There. He seemed pretty solemn about this minor breach of protocol, which I thought was sort of funny since I didn’t really smoke. I had bought the cigs because I needed calming down, and it crossed my mind that cigs calmed people down. What I didn’t grasp is that cigs only calm down people who smoke and are craving a cig. For the non-smoking population, they have a negligible-at-best effect. But I figured I shouldn’t dismiss the ambulance man’s generosity, so I lit one up. I asked if he or the driver wanted one. They both got pained looks on their faces, and he explained that they had quit, together, the week before. Oh, Okay, I said. Inwardly I chuckled at their struggle.

I’m so glad I feigned my way through smoking that cigarette. The whole night through hell in the psych ward, I could smell my fingertips, and K was there to give me comfort. You Shouldn’t Be Here. You Need Some Sleep. I Believe In You. All the reassurance I needed was in the air around the first two fingers and thumb of my right hand, and that’s a feeling I’ll never forget. Thank God for K, and for that particular scent.

I got out of the hospital after a night, and still had eighteen smokes. So I smoked them. Oddly enough, what I’d heard proved to be true: smoking is habit-forming.

Five years later, I went on a pretty good bender after the latest in a series of pointlessly severe break-ups, and started having persistent chest pain. I thought about dying, and how I wanted to do it. I think, after twenty years of consideration, I’m successfully over any notions towards suicide. But alleviating the tightness in my chest, was it worth walking away from my best friends over? Smoking had become my constant companion; a treat to look forward to after a long flight, a reason to stand outside in the cold, something to put in my mouth to staunch the flow of uncarefully considered words out of it. But again, I thought of K, who doesn’t talk to me any more. I thought about how she used to believe in me. I guess in her absence, I’ll have to believe in myself.

I’ll probably go back to smoking one of these days, I have a historically poor will. The only thing I’m good at is keeping secrets. Here’s that weak will in action: I’ll share a secret with you. I don’t want to die like my Grandparents did, from smoking cancers. That’s no tribute. Better to live, even if it means walking past people smoking on the street and going Damn, That Could Be Me.

I guess that’s what I have to look forward to after long flights now- going to the curb to wait for a ride or the bus knowing that I care at least enough about myself to not court a heart attack at thirty-one. That should suffice, and if nothing else, it’s cheaper than smokes. Which I guess cuts closer to the core of me…being cheap…ahh.

There’s something that might help me replace smoking-thinking about how happy being cheap makes me. A cheap life ain’t worth nothing- It’s worth taking every last breath out of. Deeply.

Peace.

-Sunday, 6/10/12, Noon, front steps of my place. Sunny and warm. If it were done, better it were done with anxiety!

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One-twenty-four: Tour Diary volume nine

Posted by ilbebe on June 8, 2012

Friday, January 12, 2001. Awake at 9:15, eat remains of pasta, hit the road at 10:15. Stop at Safeway on our way out of town for my daily French bread, we are informed that it’s the only Safeway without a bakery. White bread it is. On the road out of WA by 10:30.

Stop at the amazing GeeCee’s truck stop again, I purchase the reflective nut cover I’d foolishly passed on the first visit. [lug nut cover, that is] G discovers that they sell fried, battered chicken gizzards. Later we stop at a rest stop that has free coffee provided by a Lutheran Sisterhood. R and I make a donation in Canadian money, mwah-ah-ah. We make up an absurd number of variations on “sidewheeler” while listening to TASOH ad nauseam, without the nauseum.  [I guess what I mean here is that we somehow could not get sick of this thirty-minute tape. Lifesaver does not begin to describe.]

Eugene at 2:45, we stop at Kinko’s so G can check email. The D Blues sticker we placed on a lightpost earlier in the week is doing well. Over to Emily’s for a tad, we listen to our CD. [I think R was trying to show off for Emily. Just a guess.] Within a half-hour of us showing up, both Emily’s Dad and her roommate’s Dad show up to visit. As a rock band, we decide there are too many parental authority figures in the room and blow town around 4.

I speculate what a Family Circus-esque map of our voyage would look like. Ryan speeds like nobody’s biz. The tamboura on my/G’s alternating laps begins to disappear from consciousness, having become such a fixture. [Oh right, the tamboura. Yeah, whoever had shotgun had to put this huge stupid thing on his lap which made it almost impossible to turn one’s head without getting an eyeful of one of the tamboura’s bazillion tuning pegs. Made that day’s drive EXTRA special.]

Grant’s Pass at 5:45, Crescent City at 8:15 after a race with our Oregonian arch-nemesis all the way down 199. [Our arch-nemesis was a small pick-up with Oregon plates that passed us slightly outside of Grant’s Pass and invoked R’s ire. We then raced with him practically the entire hundred miles of 199, through the driving rain and occasional fog and the numerous twists and turns of 199. Stupid, but we made good time and lived to tell about it.] Silence reigns during the stretch from CC down 101. Oregon shore turn-off? Put in TASOH for victory lap around Orick, tape ends as we pull up to stop sign at Alliance and Foster [in Arcata]. We hit 2,000 miles for voyage shortly before Trinidad. Drop Garrett off, then me. Inaugural D Blues “tour” comes to an end at 9:45.

Final analysis:

Miles traveled: 2,000+

$ spent (me): 135 [holy shit, that’s all I spent? I forgot just how cheap I was back in the day…]

T-shirts and CDs sold: 0

Trips to Beaverton: 0 [Beaverton is a suburb of Portland. We decided a “trip to Beaverton” was adequate slang for getting some action. The zero here represents how R, G, and I were all talk, no rock in this department.]

Shows played: 3

Shows aborted: 3

Variations of “sidewheeler” proposed: numerous

Indians/babies murdered: 0 [hahaha, I spent a lot of time “joking” about murdering K2. No one appreciated this. Dunno why I mentioned Indian killing…]

Foreign countries impressed with: 0

Marriages performed: 1

Original members of Alvin George met: 3 [That would be Tig, Chuck, and…I don’t remember who else falls into this category. Thoren and Nathan were friends from Arcata, and besides, Thoren was and still is a figment of my imagination, since we never even saw the dude.]

Crippled Canadians: 3

Strange bathrooms encountered: also numerous

Really nice people in Mt. Vernon: at least 2

Number of people who like K2: 0 [“No one likes K2!” was a running joke that even her parents shared in, which is what pissed me off about not being able to joke about suffocating her, drowning her, chopping her up, nothing. Not even SIDS.]

“Dave Mustaine”s performed: 0, surprisingly

“Quimby”s peformed: decline to state

“IHOP and life to go”

Peace.

[This is the end of the diary. If I didn’t explain it before, “quimby” was a term we picked up from Tig in Eugene. It’s what you call to call the middle-backseat when approaching a car, and is based on the term for the guy in the middle in 3-person gay sex. I’ll leave it on that.]

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One-twenty-three: Tour Diary volume eight

Posted by ilbebe on June 7, 2012

Thursday, January 11, 2001. I woke up sometime early and tossed and turned- perhaps my body was unsettled by sleeping in a bed for the first time in a week. Official wake-up time for our bunch was 10:30ish. We argue aboot [Ha! I use Canadian vernacular to stunning comic effect.] plans for the day, O/K being in favor of Victoria, R leaning that way, me wanting to explore Vancouver, and G indifferent. We decide to eat and talk it over.

We go to The White Spot, we all get butterscotch martinis. [How Capote of us.] I have a shrimp sandwich, and start making lots of obnoxious comments about Canada as the martini takes effect. We find out that the ferry does not run from Victoria to Port Angeles at this time of year, so Victoria plan is nixed.  [If I recall, the reason we wanted to get to Port Angeles was to visit someone’s Grandparents, off of whom we could mooch for a little while before maybe going back to Seattle and trying to score a show. I guess I don’t remember exactly what our intent was because it doesn’t matter, as you’ll soon find out.] After eating we hit the “Dollar Surprise”, O is entranced by a logbook entitled “My Trip”. R gets shot glasses, Me: a postcard, St. Paddy’s green plastic hat, and a Canada back scratcher w/made in China sticker intact.

The group decides to appease my half-wasted-off-one-martini ass by heading to Gastown, ye olde part of Vancouver. As has been the case, getting there is a bitch, due to bad directions and ill-calculated “I’ll follow you” schemes. I am reminded of how funny the Canuck crosswalk guy is. We park in Gastown, O, R and K go wandering about. [For reasons I don’t recall, G and I stayed with the car. This, as you may have noticed was an ongoing theme of the trip.] I encounter a guy in a Raiders parka who rides up on a bike and talks my ear off about weed and hypercube theory. The rest of the gang returns to find me talking to this maniac and are unimpressed. Having seen nothing in Gastown, we leave, bound for Burnaby and Simon Fraser University. [Simon Fraser U was a school that played HSU in basketball. The standard taunt when they came to play in Arcata was “Cah-na-dah. Caaaaaaah-na-dah.” We were heading there solely to cause some ruckus on the campus of our semi-hated rival.] Loooong drive across town to get to Burnaby. Passing through Chinatown, we see a sign on a building: “Hangovers $9”. ???? Many yellow light fiascoes. [i.e. K blasting through yellow lights, forcing R to blow a red in order to stay together. It may be hard to remember, but in the pre-cell phone era, following someone in traffic when you had no set destination required the lead car to remember to not fucking run yellow lights,  as it was of paramount importance to stay within sight of each other. Sheez.]

We arrive at SFU 45 mins later, decide its an Aryan-producing labratory/factory. [Everyone we saw was blonde.] 3-way stop sign tickles G’s fancy. [Further evidence that road mania/sexual frustration was beginning to really skewer our thought processes. Also, G was still hitting the Nyquil pretty hard.] Throw the hazards on at an exceedingly bad place to take pictures in front of the SFU sign. We’re politely admonished by campus security. We then attempt to leave the country.

Canada has grown fond of us and does not wish to let go. We drive endlessly in the wrong direction, stop at Mohawk gas station, keep blundering along. R”s car dies again, is resurrected. I suggest group suicide as tension rises. Rush hour envelopes us along CA-1. After regrouping and getting a map, O and the Ks ditch us in a very pro move. I call “Let’s head west” and all of a sudden they’re gone. R is pissed. I devise a route and we start to traverse it, ever so slowly. [This is really the apex of everything that could go wrong going wrong: losing half of crew while in Canada, and having no way to contact them. Basically we’d been lost in rush-hour traffic for more than an hour and, perhaps subconsciously, I forced Ryan to look at the map with me while we were stopped, and when we looked up, the other car was gone. I was greatly relieved for the newfound autonomy this schism granted us, while R was pissed and worried and G was just exasperated and wanted more Nyquil.]

G screams to be released from this lame-ass, hockey-obsessed land while R stews and I pepper the air with asinine comments. Canadian pedestrians are consistently reminded they’re Canadian by me yelling, and I start counting cripples. “Where’s John Candy when you need him?” We finally pick up CA-99 south, head outta Vancouver, stop for duty-free beer, denied, try to change our currency, denied, I punch a machine. G admonishes me. [There was no discrimination at play here, it was just past closing time for the duty-free and casa de Canuck cambiar.]

“Let’s get the hell back to the US.”

US Customs lady is mean, but brief. Any idiot can get into our country, we had more problems entering Canada. Stop in Bellingham for victory cigarettes and phone calls. Thoren’s new place is too small, but Nathan’s well of generosity is seemingly never-ending. Destination: Olympia. We listen to TASOH and, inexplicably, spirits rise. Hit a tire, take a wrong turn in the middle of Seattle, nothing can faze us. [The wrong turn in the middle of Seattle was actually a pretty dramatic, multi-tiered detour which found us practically fucking crossing Lake Washington before we got righted.] We’re still carrying a buttload [now there’s a word I don’t use any more] of Canadian currency. Maybe we can make it to Portland…

Hit Oly at 9:45, less than 3 hours from Bellingham. [It just occurred to me that one of the strangest things about this day was being that far north shortly after New Year’s and having the sun set at like four o’clock. By the time we got to Oly it felt like waaaay past midnight because the sun had been down for so long, but apparently it wasn’t.] Nathan sez hello, we head into town for $ and phone calls. Chuck’s not home, we’ll stay in Oly. Back to Nathan’s, R buys his tamboura and receives a lesson. [Yes, our fearless and ostensibly broke leader overdrew his bank account so he could buy a fucking tamboura, which is a droning, stringed, gourd-based Indian instrument that’s about four feet tall. How we were going to fit this fucking thing into the Maxima was not of R’s delusional concern.] We cook pasta, I talk w/roommate Justin about the art of songwriting and Japanese folk music. Many intelligent questions and pretentious statements are spoken. Mmm Mmm pasta. [Yes, this was the pasta that R grabbed from his parents on our way out of Arcata. I guess I have to admit, I was gald to have on this strange, strange day eight.] Nathan returns from his homework cave to share pot and hilarious pot stories. That guy is great. Plus, his floor is carpeted! And he keeps the heat on at night! USA! USA! USA! [Keep in mind that this all happened a few months after the 2000 election, which is to say my patriotic sentiment here miiiiiight have been a little sarcastic.]

Notes from bottom of page:

-“That guy’s fat and Canadian, but he’s no John Candy.”

-New name for the tour: “Bad directions and stifled erections”

-G: “Are you sure this is the road to America?”

Me: “If it’s not, you can jack me off.”

-“California” pick-up line did not work at all. Punch Casey in face at next contact.

-This tour has also been one of weird bathrooms

-Coldplay/gestalt (word)/Kraftwerk/Cat Power

[Apparently these are notes on things to check out. holy shit, I had never heard of Coldplay when I left on this tour. Ah, innocence…]

-As of yet, none of us has gone to Beaverton to make dream catchers

-More “sidewheelers”: double teamer, anal reamer, orgasm screamer, unemployed beaner, parking meter, rodeo arena, window cleaner, Jewish Christina, fold-away sleeper, rave scener, overweight teamster, math teacher, puke heaver, basket weaver, horse stealer, girlfriend’s beaver, drunk preacher, Wally Cleaver, jungle fever, carabiner, tarot reader, amp’s reverb, Quimby seeker, cock teaser, clit pleaser

[Note the ever-increasing percentage of these that are crude and sexual, and draw yr own conclusions.]

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One-twenty-two: Tour Diary volume seven

Posted by ilbebe on June 6, 2012

Wednesday, January 10, 2001. Wedding Time! Me, R and G slept well. O and the K’s did not. We trudge out of Motel Six at noon and head to Snoqualmie Falls to revel in Twin Peaks fan nerdiness. G and I are to remain relatively clueless and underwhelmed for most of the day. [For those unaware, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks was filmed almost entirely on location in North Bend, WA. Snoqualmie Falls is not a town, but a falls on the Snoqualmie River nearby, where the lodge known in the show as The Great Northern sits. Beautiful waterfall, but shit, for someone who was at the time completely unfamiliar with Twin Peaks, I could not for the life of me fathom why we spent a whole fucking afternoon driving in circles around a little town of like 5,00o people, when the day’s later agenda involved visiting a foreign country that would sell my nineteen-year-old ass beer. Harrumph]

First stop: The “Great Northern”. The falls are cool, but soda at the gift store is two bucks. Bunk. Go to the observation point for O and K’s marriage! R=priest [R had become an internet minister just for the occasion], G=best man, K2=maid of honor, me=ringbearer/photographer. Ceremony is short, peppered with “uh”s and nonchalance. G reads from Gideon’s bible about subjugation of women. Kiss and move on.

On to North Bend, about five miles away. See some Twin Peaks locales, including the Double R, then go to Safeway for bread. Mmm bread. [The financial woes we were facing due to incompetent planning/bad luck had me eating primarily bread and soda, so as to eat for two bucks a day. Depressing, and when you consider I still hadn’t showered, slept in a bed, or jerked off in a week, you are only beginning to understand my mental state. I really wanted to get Canada.] Track down a gift shop where the over-zealous proprietors hook it up with a map of Twin Peaks places and grossly overpriced coffee mugs. More confusion ensues when we cruise around town trying to find the locales specified on the map, such as the Sheriff’s station, which is actually the HQ of a lumber company. Underwhelming to a TP non-believer like me.

Finally hit the fucking road to the frozen North at 4:15. Rush hour aggravation is downplayed by some deft use of carpool lanes. K proves she truly is from LA with super aggro driving. We get off the freeway in Mt. Vernon, WA for food. Our experience is analogous to earlier Leggett/Maxwell ventures. [These are two towns in CA that do not have gas stations where I had wasted precious fuel in the fruitless pursuit of more in the past. However, it turns out that Mt. Vernon is one of those towns where the first exit is at the far south end of town, where there is nothing, you just have to keep the faith and find the middle of town to find services.] We pull over at a food mart where K explains the sitch and her crucial need to pee, and christens the town East Buttfuck, WA, a name we will soon come to regret. It’s non-violence week at the high school. [According to the marquee out in front of it.]

Then Ryan’s car won’t start. A lady loans us cables almost immediately, and we return the favor w/a Datura Blues sticker. She is tickled pink. Get back on the freeway only to get off at the next exit, which is still Mt. Vernon, only a more developed and bathroom-having part. Food at Taco Time. Mt. Vernon is actually full of freakishly nice people. Graffiti in Taco Time bathroom: “Hi” “How’s it going?” “Life is good.” The cashier gives us free food when the food takes longer than three minutes, even though we weren’t at all complaining. I use an ATM for a $1 charge. Marx was right. [This may have been the first time I ever paid a service fee at an ATM. I was fucking pissed.]

Hit the border and spirits are high. Our border check lady is harsh, and sends us over to the main border office for more questioning. O and K have no papers for K2, we all look and smell like ne’er-do-wells, and when R’s ID is run, an uncleared DUI from Arcata pops up. An elderly agent jokes lightheartedly about us “gun-totin’ Americans” on the other side, and tells O and K to get some documents for their kid while R is questioned about his DUI. He explains it was dismissed, and in fact, he recently got a job at an elementary school. [Both of these facts are true, but to have seen our crew, you wouldn’t have believed a word.] All is cool. We enter Surrey, BC, Canada, w/o further mishap. We stop at a Chevron for a logistics meeting, and the first Canadian we meet is American. [That would be the dude working at the Chevron.] I tell him I plan on littering in Vancouver, he is indifferent to this information.

We tune into 550AM, Christian radio. “It’s hard to baptize a man when he’s got a lit cigarette in his mouth and a flask of bourbon in his baptismal robe!” [Quote from the radio] We begin “raging” Vancouver around 9. [We had been use the term “rage/raging” sarcastically the entire trip after encountering a dude on our last night before leaving who was wasted on a whole host of hallucinogens and couldn’t stop using the word. Another key quote of his was “Direct the movie of your life,” which turned to be a String Cheese Incident lyric.] The pedestrian crossing are weird. Christian radio tells a tale that occurs in Imaginaryland. We do the drive around aimlessly routine we have been quite accustomed to over the past few days. Stop at a Travelodge to get a quote, and we try to comprehend the exchange rate. I litter. U-S-A!!

We eventually check into Bowman’s Motor Lodge, where I impersonate a duffel bag in order to get a good deal. [In other words, unlike the Motel 6 the night before, the clerk here was counting heads, so G got in the trunk and I was buried under baggage and clothes in the back seat.] O is irked that R, G, and I feel the need to shower [It had been a fucking week!], but we do so in quick succession. O/G head to the lounge downstairs to get the ball rolling. R and I catch up, admire, the velvet portrait of Monica Lewinsky hanging behind the bar, then we split. We roll through the gay district in search of a casa de cambio, G and I dropping “California”s liberally. [A friend of ours had just been to Canada for the first time over New Year’s, and came back reporting that “Chicks there love Californians. Just mention you’re from California, and you’re in. Spoiler: this did not work for us.] Exchange rate is approximately 1:1.5. We get some funny money and point our radar towards the Yale, a “dirty blues club” recommended to us by a homeless guy. Along the way, we hit our first slice of bargain pizza, 2$ Canadian. Pesto. Not bad.

The Yale is not dirty at all. Yale Ale: $4.75, pretty good beer, though I’m not thrilled about the price. [This was the first time I had ever been in a bar, not counting drinking a poolside beer with my Dad in Mexico when I was 15. I had no idea that drinking at a bar was more expensive than drinking at home. I was a damn idiot, and in many ways, I still am.] Shoot some pool, R spanks me. Molson’s is not any cheaper than Yale, goddammit, I’m on a budget here. The band starts up, I deem them blues for the corporate executive, i.e. completely soulless. We bounce. Stop at a porno shop- not too interesting. I find some coins on the street, one is of indeterminate Nordic origin. Strange. Back to hotel after playing  the split-up game. I read a gay newspaper on the street for fifteen minutes. [This was all because G and I were not registered to our room, so we didn’t all want to walk in together.]

Sleepytime – we resolve that tomorrow will be an orgy of booze, porn, and dollar pizza. Yee-haw.

**Notes from end of preceding day’s entry:

Mt. Vernon: Bony Pony Western Wear/Chuckanut Drive/Gay 90’s barber shop w sign in window: “Kids in the back seat cause accidents. Accidents in the back seat cause kids”

Contents of my pockets upon arriving at Bowman’s Motor Hotel: cassette tape, pen, copper bracelet, 4 packets sugar, two picks, one washer, earplugs, delusional dream diatribe from evening of 1/9, paper w/phone #s, K records keychain, my dorm keys, take-out menu from Indian restaurant, Ahisma magnet, mini application for Fife Taco Bell, yellow papers spray-painted blue (these were intended to become album covers for the copies of our new demo we never duplicated). And a healthy dose of rock and roll attitude. [This last line makes me cringe.]

**Notes at the end of 1/10’s entry:

– K’s remark to R right before starting the wedding ceremony: “Do you think it’s weird that you’ve made out with both of us?”

-G, on Canada: “Where do they get these stupid names?”

-R, to me, while checking in: “Shut up, duffel bag.”

-Drunk guy from the Vista, oft-quoted: “Woooooooo!” [This was the same dude I described earlier as having added “rage/raging” to our vocabulary for the week. We met him outside the Vista in Eureka.]

-North Bend had big mysterious building w/Nintendo logo on it [This is Nintendo USA’s main manufacturing facility, but at the time we wanted to think there was something far stranger going on there.]

-G sez I’m a walking Mad Lib

-Three best musical moments of tour so far: TASOH, Residual, D Blues show in Oly that I didn’t play in

-Fingers of the Sound [This was the beginning of a poem I was writing based on my first night in Oly. Couldn’t tell ya if I ever finished it.]

-New “Sidewheelers”: Boy Scout leader, porn theatre, Wal-Mart greeter, hummingbird feeder, first Marxist reader, handlebar streamer, non-dairy creamer, pipe dreamer, broken femur, Mary, Paul and Peter, misdemeanor, flaccid weiner, Charlie Sheener, chicken caesar, cake eater, pant pleater, vodka litre

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