Category Archives: Music

Just for One Day.

For me, it went like this.

At 10:30, I turned off my bedroom light and got into bed.  For reasons beyond my immediate comprehension, I saw pink, winged ponies when I shut my eyes.  The sight of them was strange, yet strangely comforting.  I soon fell asleep.

At 11:25 (or what must have been right around 11:25), I woke up to go to the bathroom.  When I got back to my room, I saw that my phone was, as the kids say, blowing up.  Three different people had sent me text messages.  14 text messages.

I opened one.  It said, “Bowie. Gone.”

At that moment, I was only about 3/4 of the way conscious.  What was my friend trying to say?  Was he up late listening to old Bowie records and feeling reflective?  Was he so blown away by Low he felt his mind was “Gone”?  Did he really hate Blackstar?

I remembered I had 13 other texts to read.  Then I woke up.

I have 14 texts because people are trying to tell me that David Bowie is dead. 

I opened up another message.  It was a group text.  Two of my closest friends and I have been babbling to each other via text about anything and everything nearly every day for several years.  All three of us love using caps lock.

“ARE YOU HEARING THE REPORTS THAT DAVID BOWIE DIED.  I’M REALLY FUCKED UP RIGHT NOW.”

I Googled it.  BBC News confirmed it.  I gasped.  Loudly.  Then I heard my name from the other room.

“Steff?”

One of my roommates came to my door.  I joined her in the hallway.  She had just read the news on social media.  “I heard the noise from your room and figured you just got the news,” she said.  I looked up at the wall and saw the sepia print I bought in San Francisco 10 years ago of Bowie and Lou Reed looking rather friendly.  I’m not a religious person, but I do love the idea of happy reunions.

david_bowie_ziggy_lou_reed_kiss

I sat back down on my bed and contemplated staying up all night.  I wasn’t even sad yet; I just knew I was in for a long one.  At this point I was wide awake, but I felt like I was dreaming.

My phone rang.  Another friend had heard.

It was at this friend’s house that I first saw Labyrinth.  We were 10 or 11 and Bowie’s crotch had completely taken over our slumber party.  We returned that VHS to Blockbuster pretty damn worn.  Years later, we traded in Labyrinth for Moulin Rouge! and sang “Elephant Love Medley” with the sort of crazed abandon that can only be produced by teenage girls, particularly those who are hopelessly in love with a significantly older, married celebrity.  Aw, Ewan McGregor.  “We can he heroes / forever and ever.”

courtesy of 8tracks.com

courtesy of 8tracks.com

I picked up the call.  I didn’t even say “hello.”  I just said, “Dude.”

“I’m sorry.  I hope I’m not waking you up.”

“You’re not.”

“Do you know why I’m calling?”

“Yes.”

We expressed our mutual shock and confusion.  Then there were a few more moments of, “Dude” and “I know” and “What the FUCK, man?”

“We both got to see him live,” I reminded her.

“Yes, we did get to do that.”

My friend started to cry.  I was numb.

“I’m still in disbelief,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t know.  I just…I never met him or anything, but…he was just always around.  I associate him with, ya know, with you guys.”

I thought about the time my mom drove a group of us to San Francisco for spring break.  We were in 11th grade.  The minivan broke down at one point just outside San Luis Obispo.  As my mom waited by the van for roadside assistance, my friends and I stood on the side of the highway.  Arm-in-arm, the five of us sang “Ziggy Stardust” at maximum volume.

“I know,” I told my friend.  “I get it.”

We talked about our concern for a friend of ours who had undoubtedly gone to bed before the news broke, and how unfair it was that she was going to wake up in the morning and find out her hero had died.  Eventually, our conversation reached a lull.

“Ok,” said my friend, “I’m just gonna listen to Bowie and cry some more.  Goodnight.  I love you.”

“I love you so, so much.”

I hung up.  I thought about when my friend and I first watched Trainspotting.  We were 14.  Frickin’ Ewan McGregor.  We knew literally nothing about the movie besides the fact our loverman was the star.  Christ.  We struck gold that day.  How often do you fall in love with an actor and then learn — by accident — he’s notorious for getting naked in his movies?  What luck.  We rewound that tape like we were two 10-year-olds watching Labyrinth, only this time there was no mystery.

What was that song, though?  The one from the opening credits?  And what was that song from the scene were Renton ODs and sinks into the floor at the Mother Superior’s house?  Those questions haunted me so much I went out and bought a copy of the soundtrack.  The song I fell in love with was Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.”

“How’d you learn about Lou?” my dad asked me one evening.

“From the Trainspotting soundtrack.”

“You saw Trainspotting?”

“…No.”

“Have you listened to any Velvet Underground?” he asked.

“No.”

“Look for them next time you go to download songs off the internet.”

That was the moment dad officially became my guide.  He played me Lou’s Berlin for the first time and told me it was the perfect thing to listen to when you’re depressed.  He played me weird Iggy Pop songs and drove me to a little record store one afternoon and bought me a copy of London Calling.  He put on New Order one slow Saturday night and we danced our hearts out to “Temptation.”  For Christmas I was given a small turntable and I fiendishly raided his record collection.

One night he came into my room and handed me his copy of Marianne Faithful’s Broken English.  “Put this on next time you really feel like you hate men,” he said.

I was just a bit proud of myself when I picked up a copy of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars from the Sam Goody in the Thousand Oaks Mall.  I was 15.  It was the summer before 10th grade, and I was desperate for a distraction from my assigned reading.  I had already spent half the vacation listening to Raw Power — David Bowie seemed like the next logical step on my teenage rock and roll adventure.

Is there a stranger opening track than “Five Years”?  And what’s with the aliens?  And what exactly is a “rock and roll suicide”?  I had no answers, but I still felt like I had found the key to everything.  (Take that, Aldous Huxley.)

The day after I turned 16, my dad played me “Life on Mars?”  He called it, “One of the most beautiful rock and roll songs ever recorded.”  A little over a year later, he took me and two friends to see Bowie in concert, where he sang “Life on Mars?”  Beautiful, indeed.  So beautiful, in fact, that I stopped doing my homework for a good month and a half.  I had no time for homework — I was too busy listening to Bowie and perfecting my eye shadow technique.

Wait, wait, “Life on Mars?”?  That was it — that was the song I needed to play to begin mourning Bowie!

I jumped off my bed and ran to the corner of my room to plug in my ancient turntable.  I queued up the song, turned up the volume, and stood in the middle of my room waiting for the deluge.  I was ready.

Bowie sounded like a robot that was powering down for the night.  Was the speed wrong?  I tinkered with the settings.  Nothing worked.  I turned off the turntable and crawled into bed and listened to the song on my iPhone.  It wasn’t the same.  I cursed the modern world and I did not cry.

This morning was a flurry of texts and facebook messages.  Everyone was sad and no one was ready.  We reminisced about important moments of our teen-hood for which Bowie was cosmically present: driving through Topanga Canyon on a Saturday afternoon; convincing our theater teacher to play “Let’s Dance” during our annual holiday play; improvising an interpretive dance to “Space Oddity” in my parents’ driveway.  I sat at my desk at work and answered text messages and read opinion pieces and news briefs and wondered how one person could inspire so many.

I was clad in black from head-t0-toe, but I still hadn’t cried.

My phone beeped.

It was dad.  He had sent me a YouTube link.  “From the tour we saw,” he said.  “I’m getting a little choked up as I’m remembering you and your friends holding hands and crying to this song.”  As I listened, I, too, became a little choked up, but there was no time for real tears.  Not at work.

I’m home now.  I’m sitting on my bed in my pajamas and I’m looking at the clock wondering how I managed to stay up this late.  I’ve been in this exact situation before — up past my bedtime feeling too wired to sleep and too tired to relax and too anxious about everything I’m doing and not doing — and it’s actually nights like these where Bowie sounds the best.  I couldn’t say exactly why —  maybe something to do with the night sky increasing a spaceship’s visibility.  Perhaps I’ll sleep with my blinds open.

Thanks, Ewan.

Thanks, Lou.

Thanks, dad.

Thanks, Bowie.

Finally — tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Someone Else Noticed

Nick Cave wrote another book.  It’s called The Sick Bag Song, and tonight at The Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, he read selections from the book to a live audience.  I was there, of course.  I arrived at 5:45pm and stood in line with all the young goths.  My younger brother arrived at 6:30pm and bought us each a Schlitz.  A security guard came around and asked if we already had tickets.  I nodded that yes, we most certainly did.

“Then why are we in this line?” my brother asked, innocently.

“Because the seats are unassigned.”

“And this starts at…8:00pm?”

I smiled.  He smiled.  I was happy he had agreed to come to something few people would be interested in seeing with me.

I don’t yet own a copy of The Sick Bag Song, but based on what I witnessed tonight, I can confidently describe it as poetic exploration colliding with memoir.  Nick Cave wrote the book during his tour of the United States last year, and, as he said tonight, the narrator is, “A guy who also happens to be on a tour of the U.S. and looks a lot like me.”  Each chapter is titled after a different city visited on the tour, although the chapters aren’t telling a story with a beginning, middle, and end.  At least I don’t think they are.

The selections I heard were mostly depictions of actual events told with Nick Cave’s signature fantastical doom.  In a story about meeting Bob Dylan at Glastonbury, for instance, Nick Cave writes that the torrential rain had formed a lake that separated his trailer from Bob Dylan’s.  Naturally, Bob Dylan climbed into a boat powered by a bag of wind to cross the lake — or as Nick Cave said, “moat” —  and say “hello.”  The boat bit may not have happened, but I have read about Nick Cave meeting Bob Dylan in the rain at Glastonbury. The chapter titled “Los Angeles,” however, is more of a fever dream about a woman on a bed in a hotel in West Hollywood.  The narrator calls himself a “small God,” and then, after the woman raises her “gash” to the sky, the narrator becomes an “erect God.”  Those are the only details I can recall of the writing.  Jim Morrison would have loved it.

(To change things up a bit during the live reading tonight, we were shown a film of Nick Cave reading this chapter.  I admire and adore this man, but there are times where I find him downright hilarious, regardless of whether or not he’s trying to be.  This film was one of those times.)

Nick Cave himself was in a comparatively pleasant mood.  He smiled more than once, and didn’t even get too cross when his headset was having technical difficulties.  “It works for Madonna,” he cracked.  He also seemed very excited to read from his book.  An interviewer sat on the stage with him and asked him questions to keep things moving, and Nick Cave always went back to asking, “Shall I read some more?”

Finally, we reached the Q&A section of the show.  I was at a different Nick Cave Q&A last July, during which he seemed horrified to be the star of the evening.  That night, I managed to summon every bit of courage I had and ever will have, and asked him a question using complete sentences.  He answered it, but I only remember my question and not his answer.  I remember speaking clearly into the microphone and thinking, “Holy shit, I’m not fucking this up!”  When I was finished talking, I steadied myself on the seat in front of me.  My heart was racing and I was sweating underneath my new Free People dress.  “Nick Cave is addressing me,” I thought, as I concentrated on my breath.  According to my dad, who witnessed the entire thing, Nick Cave gave me a very thoughtful answer.

“I think he really appreciated your question,” my dad whispered.  “No one else has asked him anything good.”

I didn’t feel like putting myself through that kind of stress again.  Besides, I still haven’t read The Sick Bag Song.

No one in the audience asked a truly great question this evening either, but Nick Cave did a truly great job of remaining dry and funny as opposed to dry and dour.  Someone asked him about what he said earlier regarding the narrator that “looks a lot like” him, and whether Nick Cave the man is different from Nick Cave the rockstar.  He confirmed, “That just becomes who you are.”

Nick Cave wears fierce suits.  Nick Cave is married to a model.  Nick Cave idolizes Elvis and has not yet quit smoking cigarettes.  This is who he presents to the world, and this is who he is.  Amanda Palmer once wrote a great blog about meeting Nick Cave in a hotel after he had picked up his dry cleaning.  To me, her anecdote authenticates the whole thing.  Nick Cave isn’t being handed a rented suit by a stylist before each show — the suits that transform him from Skinny Australian Guy into Nick Cave are his own Goddamn suits that he drops off at the cleaners.

I wonder how he feels about wire hangers.

More questions went by.  “What’s a movie you saw recently that you loved?”  “I saw that movie ‘Foxcatcher.’  Fucking amazing.”  “How do you feel about music streaming and art no longer being tangible?”  “I have a manager that handles all that.”  “Are there any new bands that you follow?”  “No.”

A young man stood up to ask a question.  He was wearing a red sweatshirt.

“I drove here all the way from Alaska to see you,” he said.  Nick Cave was sweet.  He managed a, “thank you.”  The young man continued, “What I really want is to ask you about Gladiator Part II, but instead I’ll ask you about what you said about being the man versus the mask. Does that get difficult? I mean, Tom Waits does it and he does fine with it, but it killed Hemingway.”

Dorky, for sure.  Not only was he asking a question that had already been answered, he also referenced Nick Cave’s fabled failure of a Gladiator Part II screenplay.  I cringed.

Nick Cave didn’t care about any of that.  Instead, he immediately became serious and snapped, “I don’t wanna say anything about Tom Waits.”  The guy tried repeating the question with greater clarity, but Nick Cave cut him off: “I can’t say anything about Tom Waits.  I don’t wanna go there.”

This absolutely fucking alarmed me.  “I don’t wanna go there”?  Go where?  Is Tom Waits a “there” that you cannot go to, Nick Cave?  What’s the T?  Spill it, Nick Cave!

Earlier in the evening, someone had asked Nick Cave why artists “stop growing.”  He said that he didn’t know because things are “different for everyone.”  Could it have been that Nick Cave didn’t want to speak about Tom Waits because he felt he’d be speaking for Tom Waits?  Or did he want to avoid the subject of Tom Waits at all costs because he was afraid of letting loose and tearing Tom Waits apart?

Nick Cave got quiet again.  “Do you wanna ask a different question?” he said to the young man from Alaska, who replied, “What happened to Gladiator Part II?”  Nick Cave didn’t crack a smile as he said, “That’s between me, Russell Crow, and a trash bin.”

The Q&A ended.  The theater emptied.  My brother and I made our way to our cars.  We were in separate lots on opposite sides of the street, so we hugged on the sidewalk and parted ways.  As I walked toward my car, I spotted the guy from Alaska.  I recognized him instantly, thanks to his red sweatshirt.  He was fishing something out of the back seat of his car.  I decided to talk to a stranger.

“He got really strange at the mention of Tom Waits, didn’t he?”

He looked up at me, startled.  A wad of chewing tobacco peaked up from behind his lower lip.  His eyes widened as he realized what I was referring to.

“Oh my God!” he yelled, doing his best not to spit his chew in my face.  “I’m so glad someone else noticed that!”

“Yeah,” I said, becoming very pleased with myself for deciding to stop and chat, “I wonder if he didn’t wanna talk about Tom Waits out of respect, or because, ya know, he doesn’t like Tom Waits.”

“Exactly!” he shouted.  “That would be so weird!”

“Well, you can’t Google search one of them without finding a picture of the other, I said.”

He spat tobacco juice into a cup.

“It’s Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, and Tom Waits,” he said.  “I mean, that’s it.  It’s them.”

“And Leonard Cohen,” I said.

“Right!”

He paused.

“Can I hug you?”

Because we live in a fucked up world, I immediately took note of whether or not the back door of his car was still open.  I figured that if it were open, he could easily shove me inside and drive me back to Alaska with him.  Screw it, I thought.  Hug the Nick Cave fan who drove here from motherfucking Alaska and said the words “Gladiator Part II” to Nick Cave’s face.  Hug him.  Hug a fellow crazy fan who bought a ticket to this random fucking show at The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.  Hug the guy who is just as distraught as you are by the idea that Nick Cave doesn’t like Tom Waits.  Do it, Steff.  Just do it.  You’re safe.  Nick Cave fans don’t kill each other.  There’s no crying in baseball.  Goonies never say ‘die’.

I hugged him.  He hugged me back.  When we broke our embrace, he repeated, “I’m so glad someone else noticed that.”

We chatted for another minute about the show.  He spit more tobacco juice into his cup, but this time he apologized for his “disgusting habit.”

“I would love to ask Nick Cave if he ever hears from Shane MacGowan,” I said.

He chuckled briefly, and added, “I would love to ask him if he would give me Warren Ellis’s phone number.”

Our BFF moment was over.  He had changed the subject from Shane MacGowan to Warren Ellis.  I wasn’t disappointed, but there was nothing more to be said.

“Have a safe drive back,” I said.

“You have a good night,” he replied.

I turned and began to walk away.  Over my shoulder, I heard him yell, “I am so glad you said something!”

I turned my head and smiled at him, then continued to my car and smiled to myself.  I do hope he has a safe drive back, and I do hope Nick Cave at least respects Tom Waits, and I do hope that everyone gets to experience the occasional pleasant interaction with a stranger who is only as crazy as they are.

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My Back Pages.

This is a facebook post written to me by my friend, Ellanee, circa January 2008:

i hope that one day, i am as cool as you. i hope that one day, i make convenience store clerks fall in love with me while i am wearing pajama pants and i hope that one day, i own a [VHS tape] of malcolm mcdowell as a paraplegic. and that i can drink 500 glasses of water in 2 seconds.

I copied the post and saved it as a Word document.  I was that touched.

I can’t believe it was four years ago that Ellanee and I solidified our friendship one afternoon over too much Captain Morgan and too much burnt popcorn.  It was Sunday.  The plan was to watch the Tim Burton version of Sweeney Todd.  That was it.

“Want a drink?” became, “Want another drink?” which became, “Pause this, I have to pee” and, “Pause this, I have to smoke.”  Finally, it was, “Pause this, we’re out of popcorn.”

We walked down the street to the neighborhood liquor store.  At the time, I found it obscenely convenient to have a liquor store so nearby.  Looking back, it was just obscene.

The walk to the store was really something special.  It was raining and we looked ridiculous.  My hair was thrown up in a messy, greasy excuse for a bun, and I was wearing black pajama pants with hot pink bunny rabbits printed on them.  I also had on a black t-shirt with cartoon monkeys playing guitars.  I believe Ellanee and I were both wearing fuzzy slippers, but I may be thinking of a different occasion.  Ellanee was struggling to light her cigarette while avoiding puddles and remaining upright.  We weren’t just two tipsy college girls — we were poetic.  We were divine.  We were a scene from Withnail & I. 

We were Rain Dogs.

We exploded into the liquor store like a Ralph Steadman cartoon.  There was no one else in the store, which left us free to stumble down the aisles in our solitary fancy examining the tiny plastic bags of gummy sharks, debating whether or not we should buy apple rings, arguing about Swedish Fish versus Sour Patch Kids, etc.  We managed to look through the entire store without finding any popcorn.

I ran up to the counter and roared, “Do you have popcorn?

The hippie behind the counter smiled.

“Yeah,” he said.  “Over there.”

Our brief interaction was sobering.  I noticed he was young.  Then, I noticed he was wearing a beanie.  A beanie.  And he looked cute in it.  He looked damn cute in it.  A young, cute hippie in a beanie was smiling at me, the pajama-wearing, obscenity-spouting asshole who was drunkenly demanding popcorn at 3:00 in the afternoon on The Lord’s Day.

I managed to formulate a “Thank you,” and then stumbled in the direction of the popcorn.  I found Ellanee in the candy aisle.

“I know where the popcorn is,” I said.
“I want Red Vines.”
“Get some,” I said.
“Will you eat some?” she asked, raising her voice a bit.
“Maybe.”
“You have to eat some!”

I slammed the three-pack of popcorn down on the counter.

“You found it!” said the hippie.

“Yeah,” I managed.

He didn’t say anything; just smiled his hippie smile.

As soon as we were outside, Ellanee exploded with, “He liiiiiiiikes you!  He was kinda cuuuuuuuute!  He looooooooooves yoooooooou!”

I denied any and all accusations of winning the affection of the hippie behind the counter.

“It’s truuuuuuue!” she continued.  “He was lookin’ at you and smiiiiilin’ at yoooooou…”

“Bullshit.”

I used my hands to block the wind and rain from Ellanee’s lighter while she lit her cigarette.

“Nope,” she said.  “He fell in love with you.”

When we got back to my house we microwaved a bag of popcorn, mixed another pair of cocktails, and watched Johnny Depp kill a whole lotta people.

I was a junior in college and every little thing that happened to me was important.  All-nighters were news-worthy.  Class presentations were news-worthy.  I rewarded myself for making it to my 8am classes.  My idea of stress was having to write an essay and do laundry.  If I had a free evening, I spent it writing poetry or preparing for my radio show or watching some documentary about Bob Dylan or Nico and crying over music and history and my love for all that weird shit called “art.”

On January 17th, I will officially be 25 years old; my New Year’s Resolution is to act like it.  At the same time, I need to get back in touch with an earlier version of myself.  I don’t mean I’m going to casually get plastered on Sunday afternoons and start dating liquor store clerks (again), but I think it’s time I started taking myself seriously (again).  I want to think that what I do is important.  I want to reward myself for my hard work.  I want to set aside time for creativity.  I don’t want to cry about Bob Dylan and Nico because I feel shitty, but because I love Bob Dylan and Nico so damn much.

I hope that one day, I am as cool as 21-year-old Me.

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Neutral Milk Tradition.

On Thanksgiving, when I was 17, my big brother changed my life when he handed me a brand new copy of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel.  At the time, I only listened to bands who had reached the height of their popularity in the late 1960’s or early [to mid -] 1970’s.  My favorite movie was The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus.  I still felt buzzed from the David Bowie concert I had seen months earlier.  I had written my 11th grade research paper on the cultural influence of Punk Rock, for which I received — and didn’t care that I received! — a good ol’ mediocre 75%.  Why, dear God, did my brother hand me a copy of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea?  All he said was, “I think you’ll like it.”

I’m positive the only reason I listened to the album was because my big brother told me to.  We weren’t little kids anymore, but that didn’t matter; handing me that album incited the same sense of urgency and fear I felt when I was seven-years-old and he handed me a copy of Soundgarden’s Superunknown.  I was given a task, and if I followed through that would mean I was Cool.  I took my copy of Raw Power out of my CD player, and replaced it with the CD my brother had just given me.  What I heard was all at once everything I loved about my classic stuff, as well as unlike anything I’d ever heard before.  It was dark in a Jim Morrison way, but not at all Bohemian.  Could Bob Dylan have written this?  Leonard Cohen?  Patti Smith?  Maybe, yeah, in another world…but that’s not how things panned out, was it?

Somehow, the rest of my family got turned on to that album.  Perhaps it was because my big brother also gave a copy to my little brother — or was it me who did that? — and then it was eventually played for my parents.  Regardless of the real explanation, it eventually got to the point where all five of us were singing, “What a beautiful face I have found in this place…”.

(My family’s love for this song gives my love for this cover a bit of extra umph).

A few weeks later, when my big brother was home for Christmas, he handed me a copy of On Avery Island.  Similar to the Aeroplane phenomenon, the remaining family members fell in love.  I distinctly remember listening to “3 Peaches” as a family on our way back home from a car trip somewhere.  Was it Vegas?  How…appropriate?

As I became a bigger fan, I learned that the band was formed in the 1990’s and that the lead singer’s name was Jeff Mangum.  When I learned about the band’s indefinite hiatus, I really, truly felt sad.  Bowie Buzz be damned, I wanted to hear “Oh Comely” live!

My prayers were answered, in a way, a year later.  I was a freshman in college, and my mom came to Santa Cruz to drive me home for Thanksgiving.  To keep us entertained during the six-hour-long trip, she brought a copy of Live at Jittery Joe’s.  She was especially excited for me to hear, “I Love How You Love Me” because it was “nothing like the original version!”  She also loved how the crying baby in the background punctuated Mangum’s performance.  “Isn’t it just so good and weird?” she said.

As a result of all this, Thanksgiving makes me think of Neutral Milk Hotel.  When Halloween is over and it finally starts to get a little bit cold (here in Southern California, that is) and people start thinking about ordering turkeys and learning how the Hell to make cranberry sauce, all I can think about is trumpets and Anne Frank.  Every morning, afternoon and night, regardless of where I am, I am either listening to, or thinking about In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.

***

On Thursday night, after all of our esteemed guests had left the building, the five of us sat down in the family room to decompress and digest.  I was on the couch between my dad and my big brother.  My Big Brother.  My Big Brother who wanted me to stop listening to my Ren & Stimpy CD and start listening to grunge.  My Big Brother who changed my life when he handed me a brand new copy of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

I turned to him and said, “Thanksgiving makes me think of Neutral Milk Hotel.”  “Oh yeah?” he said.  I then told him that he had given me that album on Thanksgiving years before, and what an impression that album had made on me.  He said, “I loved that band so much in college and I was so upset that I would never be able to see them live.  I once had a dream I did.  It was very…emotional.” As someone who knows all about emotional concerts and emotional dreams, I felt very close to My Big Brother in that moment.  “Brother see, we are one in the same…”.

My dad and I mentioned that Jeff Mangum played at Occupy Wall Street.  “No way!” My Big Brother said.  “He did a show?”  He wanted to know when, where, and how we knew.  We explained that we had seen a segment on Democracy Now! where Amy Goodman talked about Occupy, and that during the segment she showed a few seconds of Jeff Mangum singing “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” for a crowd of people.  This really blew My Big Brother’s mind.  He didn’t seem to believe what we were telling him.  “I’m sure it’s on YouTube,” I said.

My Big Brother found a forty minute and fifty-nine-second long video of Jeff Mangum’s Occupy Wall Street set, and, as a family, we listened to all of it.  We sang along to every song: “Holland 1945,” “Song Against Sex,” “Two Headed Boy Part 2,” “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” “King of Carrot Flowers Part 1,” and “Oh Comely.”  During “Two Headed Boy Part 2,” when all of us took a break from singing to just listen, my younger brother — who is awesome — couldn’t help but repeat after Jeff Mangum when he sang, “God is a place where some holy spectacle lies.”  “Wow,” my little brother said.  “God is a PLACE.”  At the risk of sounding like a sentimental nut, I have to agree; and maybe, just maybe, it’s a place I’ve been to.  All I know is that I spent the night of Thanksgiving sitting on my couch singing about “how strange it is to be anything at all” with the two people who brought me into this world and the two people who I will always be inextricably linked to.  Does it get much better?  You tell me.

It is now the evening of Sunday, November 27th.  Thanksgiving of 2011 has come and gone.  While I’ve had a great time eating mashed potatoes and pie and stuffing for the last three days (curse you, delicious leftovers!), I’m looking forward to tomorrow, when I plan on ingesting some green vegetables and going to the gym.  The food binge may have reached its end, but the feeling of thankfulness will continue.  For as long as I have my Neutral Milk Hotel CDs, what ISN’T there to be thankful for?

Thanks mom and dad, for the obvious.  Thanks, little brother, for the awesomeness.  Thanks, Big Brother for more than you know…

And thanks, YouTube, for the sweet covers.

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UKULELE ANTHEM!

So.

I saw Jason Webley’s 11-11-11 show in Seattle last weekend.  Yes, Seattle is a good ways away from Agoura Fucking Hills, but I wasn’t going to miss the show for anything.  ANYthing.  When he played the opening of “Icarus,” a song Amanda Palmer has covered on more than one occasion, I got kind of…excited.  I thought, “Is she gonna come sing with him?  Is this gonna be the best performance of “Icarus” to ever occur on planet earth?”

This is what I managed to capture.  That’s me saying, “There she is…Wait…” and then screaming “WHAAAAAA!!” when she comes out.  Well, okay, I guess everyone is screaming, but my scream is the clearest, as I’m the person holding the camera.

After they sang “Icarus” together, they sang “Elephant Elephant,” which was damn jolly good.  I didn’t get any of it on film because I wanted to just enjoy the moment (someone else did, though…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQD_MbhwCbM), but THEN, oh then, THEN Neil Gaiman came onstage and read a poem about The Night Before His Wedding, which I did catch on film…and it did make me cry…just a little bit.

You can hear me release an intense “I’m absurdly single” exhale at 1:50.  And I apologize for the shitty video quality — I should probably save up for a new camera.  It could take me a few years, but I’ll do it.

The show went on for a good three hours.  All was right with the world.  Like…ALL was right with the ENTIRE freaking WORLD.

This was Friday night.  I got back to Agoura fucking Hills on Sunday night.  It is now Wednesday night.  I can do whatever I want with my time — go to the gym, go out to dinner, paint pictures of dinosaurs, etc. — but all I can really do is think about that damn 11-11-11 show.  I’m not going to go into the show’s effect on me — those details (a bunch of crap about FEELINGS and ENERGY and THE UNIVERSE and GROWTH and LIFE) are for my diary ONLY. All I will say is that it was a great time, and I will definitely tell my grandkids the story of the time when their crazy grandma was young and vibrant and ditched work to fly to Seattle to watch a skinny man in a hat play the accordion.

Interestingly enough, I haven’t really felt the urge to listen to any of Jason Webley’s music since arriving back home.  I’m definitely not over it, but I definitely do need some time to reflect…and listen to something else.

The feeling is similar to the one I get after I watch The Godfather — I can’t just turn on the TV and watch whatever comes on after sitting through the greatest damn movie ever made.  At the same time, I can’t just start the movie over…

So, what have I been listening to?

I’ve been listening to this.  And it rocks.  It rocks HARD.  It rocks HARD and it makes me want to spend a lot more time making SPANK paddles and writing poems and painting pictures of dinosaurs.  I suggest you give this a listen.

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The Scuzzy Sons-of-Bitches Who Light Up My Life Part IV: Jim Morrison

John or Paul?

Jim.

Mick or Keith?

Jim.  With all due respect.

Page or Plant?

::Yawn::  

Jim.

 Hendrix or Clapton?

I want “Bold As Love” to be played at my wedding, and I don’t even want to hear “Sunshine of Your Love” at my funeral.  

Anyway, Jim.

 Cream or The Who? 

Go away.

Beatles or Stones?

Doors.  

Scuzzy Son-Of-A-Bitch #4:

 Jim Morrison

My Black Clad Leather Patronus

(2003)

Part One

“C’mon people, don’t ya look so down 
You know the rain man’s comin’ ta town
Change the weather, change your luck
And then he’ll teach ya how ta…find yourself “
 

My Jim Morrison idolization began on a hot afternoon in August, 2003.  It was the last day of summer vacation, I was sixteen, and I was about to make out with my new boyfriend for the second time.  It had only been 24 hours since our first kiss, and due to our youth and lack of experience (and, perhaps, to his Catholicism), we decided that one make out session equalled monogamy.  Despite our official relationship status, I was a bit nervous about that afternoon’s proposed itinerary, and my nervousness only increased when my boyfriend suggested we put on some music.  I sat down on his couch, and he began browsing through his record collection.  Of course I knew that the music selection ritual was a prelude to hormonal teenage madness, and while that delighted me, it terrified me just the same.  In my opinion, it was awkward enough that we both knew we were about to make out — why prolong that in-between phase of the process?  How was I supposed to act?  Seductive?  Casual?  What if he lost interest during his hunt for the perfect tunes?  What if he forgot what we were there to do?  What if he didn’t like the way I looked sitting on his couch?   Should I strike a pose?  I wondered.

After a few minutes he held up a record that had a dark reddish brown and yellowish gold cover.  “All right, herewego.  The Doors,” he said, pulling the record out of the sleeve.   He looked at me, and I feigned approval.  The truth was I hadn’t listened to The Doors since I was in 8th grade and wanted to listen to some “cool” music while I did my math homework.  For as much as I enjoyed “Break On Through,” I soon had to turn off the music and concentrate on pre-algebra.  Naturally, I didn’t bother telling him this — I didn’t want to say anything that might make him second guess his selection.  Plus, I had only been his girlfriend for 24 hours; it was too early to start losing my allure.

He admired the record for a second, and then, all of a sudden, he looked up at the ceiling and said, “Of course we bow down to you, Jim Morrison, in all your rock and roll glory.” He put the record on the player, set the needle down, and turned up the volume.  It was “L’america” — track one, side two of L.A. Woman.  Four minutes and thirty-eight seconds later, he skipped “Hyacinth House” and went straight to “Crawling Kingsnake.”  Whether this action was sickeningly smooth or just plain sickening is up for debate.  Either way, it worked; too well.  In the midst of all that was happening, I found myself wondering if my parents had any Doors vinyl at home.

When “Riders On The Storm” had long since ended and I arrived back at my house, I went straight for my dad’s record shelf.  Sandwiched between Donovan and The Dream Academy was the dark reddish brown and yellowish gold record.  I pulled it off the shelf and brought it upstairs to my room, where it remained for many, many years.


Something had shifted, and I knew it.  After that day, there was no going back.  I devoured the entire Doors catalogue with the kind of voracity that only a 16-year-old girl is capable of.  Soon, the aviator sunglasses showed up; then the boots.  I’d leave my hair wavy not because I was lazy, but because I realized I actually liked the way it looked unkempt.

For me, Jim Morrison’s music (and I say “Jim Morrison’s music” because it was Jim Morrison who made the music matter) was the perfect soundtrack for adolescence — dark, flawed, and endlessly libidinous.  When I felt fantastic I’d put on “Roadhouse Blues,” and when I felt like killing someone I’d put on “The End.”  This is not to say that Jim was the first musical artist to speak to my tortured teenage soul; for example, my first two years of high school would have been Hell without Lou Reed.  Still, there was something about listening to “Not to Touch The Earth” on a bad day that resonated with me in ways that made the second side of Berlin seem irrelevant.  For as much as I loved Lou’s weirdness, I needed Jim’s ferocity.  After all, I was a straight edged 16-year-old living in suburbia; a savage hero was a necessity.  

Part 2

“When the music is your special friend
Dance on fire as it intends
Music is your only friend
Until the end” 
 

While Jim’s premature death automatically made him a rock and roll legend, that does not appropriately explain his allure.  What it comes down to is the fact that even while he was alive, he was something of a supernatural being.  What other popular musician — and I mean Tiger Beat popular — sang about patricide?  And “dead President’s corpses”?  And horses being blinded with whips?  And dared to ask, “What have we done to the earth?” It takes guts to willingly scare the Hell out of your fans, and to do it without the use of fake blood or creepy masks or lighting effects, well, that’s just genius.  So much of Jim’s music is dark, and when it isn’t dark it’s twisted.

There are, of course, some safer Doors compositions.  Even when they’re safe, though, they’re not that safe.  “Light My Fire,” which was originally brought to the table by Robby Krieger, is one of the most well-known Doors songs.  Just because it is popular, however, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have teeth.  Jim added a verse to the song that rhymes  “wallow in the mire” with “funeral pyre” (From Wikipedia: A pyre (Greek: πυρά, pyrá, from πυρ, pýr, fire), also known as a funeral pyre, is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite. As a form of cremation, a body is placed upon the pyre, which is then set on fire), and his delivery is nothing short of primal.  When Jim wails, “TRY TO SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE,” there’s nothing safe about it.  He’s not just asking you to light his fire, he’s demanding it; who knows what he’ll do if he doesn’t get his way?

His seduction power, his theatricality, his animalistic passion — THIS is what gives The Doors staying power.  THIS is what sets Jim apart from other notable front men.  THIS…  ::sigh::

 

 Although it may feel like it was only yesterday, my junior year of high school was a long time ago.  I may not be 16 anymore, but I still wear big black boots, I still hate hair products, and I still love Jim Morrison.   I still look forward to the day I can listen to “The Unknown Solider” without feeling angry, I still recite “The Movie” to myself when I’m sitting in dark theaters, and I still listen to “When The Music’s Over” while I’m driving around at night.   Sometimes, I wonder what my world would be like if Jim were still alive.  Maybe he would have graced the cover of Rolling Stone one more time.  Maybe he would have had a minor role in Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.  Maybe he would have written a book.  And Lord knows, his take on George W. Bush’s presidency would have been priceless.  Would The Doors be worth seeing live?  Would Jim be giving Mick a run for his money?

For as phenomenal as it would be to hear Jim mutter, “Fuck George Bush” on national television, I have no illusions about the situation.  Jim was an alcoholic and a drug user, and everything I’ve read about him suggests that he had some kind of chemical imbalance (phrases such as “Manic Depressive Disorder” and “Bipolar Disorder” weren’t spoken as trippingly on the tongue during the 1960’s). Yet, somehow, by some miracle, Jim’s legacy is nothing but rockin’.  The image of him in tight leather pants will always overshadow the image of him in his puffy latter-days, and he will always be a vibrant young superstar and never a washed up burnout.  The fact that I will never see him live is overshadowed by the fact that I will also never have to watch him perform a painful rendition of “Touch Me” on American Idol.  As my younger brother said to me when we watched Bob Dylan mumble his way through his set list at the Santa Monica Civic in 2008, “It’s moments like this when I realize it’s better that Morrison’s dead.”  Yes, he’s dead, but he’s not dead dead.  He was so full of life he never really died.

Epilogue

“It hurts to set you free
But you’ll never follow me…”
 

One Sunday night in November of 2004, I sat down at my desk to fill out my University of California application.  At that point, I wasn’t completely sure where I wanted to go to college.  To be frank, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go at all.  Why move away?  Why leave all the people I loved?  More importantly, why move away and leave all the people I loved just to go to school?  I didn’t understand it.  To me, all college represented was “Goodbye,” and that was torture.

I got through the “Name, Age, Social Security Number” crap in record time, and then, suddenly, I was face-to-face with an essay assignment.  TWO essay assignments.  The first essay was only supposed to be around 200 words, and the prompt was so simple I don’t even remember what I wrote.  After I finished the first assignment, the doorbell rang.  When I opened the door, no one was there.  I looked down at the ground, and sitting on my doormat was a chocolate bar, a white envelope, and a Doors pin.  Inside the envelope was a note that said:

 “This fine European chocolate reminded me of your fine European figure.  
I hope Mr. Morrison keeps you warm on this cold evening.”
 

I smiled.  I knew my boyfriend had left me the present, but not because of the flattering note.  The Doors was still our band.  When I got back inside I read the note again, and, quite suddenly, the idea of going away to college seemed ten times as miserable.

Reluctantly, I went back to my room and sat at my desk.  The second essay prompt was glowing on my computer screen:

Open-ended

Rationale: This question seeks to give students the opportunity to share important aspects of their schooling or their lives — such as their personal circumstances, family experiences and opportunities that were or were not available at their school or college — that may not have been sufficiently addressed elsewhere in the application.

• Is there anything you would like us to know about you or your academic record that you have not had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in this application?

I was flabbergasted.  “Is there anything you would like us to know about you or your academic record“?  This pissed me off.  Me OR my academic record?  In my opinion, those were two very different things.  What had I not “had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in this application”?  The application asked for my email address, my nationality, and my GPA — none of those things were a reflection of the real ME.  Just who the Hell did these UC people think they were?

I was so angry I could scream.  I was about to spend a decent amount of my precious time trying to convince people I already hated that they should let me into one of their disgusting establishments.  I took a deep breath, unwrapped that bar of fine European chocolate, and took a bite.   When I was ready, I placed my hands back on the keyboard and let loose:

Before I sink
Into the big sleep
I want to hear
I want to hear
The scream of the butterfly  

The End?

      

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Rain Dogs

I went for a walk this evening after burning a few CDs for my younger brother, Michael.  He had to drive to Hollywood for his weekly acting class, and he wanted some Pogues albums for the road.  Hollywood is only 30 miles away, but the trip can take two hours if you leave at the wrong time.  (Remind me why Carmageddon got so much publicity?)  I gave him The Pogues’ sophomore album Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, as well as their first album, Red Roses For Me.  He had requested those two — he’s been on a Pogues kick ever since he found my dad’s copy of The Best of The Pogues on the CD shelf behind the bar in the family roomThe third CD I burned him was a copy of a playlist I recently made, which goes like this:

Rain Dogs — Tom Waits

Stagger Lee — Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Bowery Blues — Jack Kerouac

Dharma Brains — Foxygen

Hard On For Love — Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

The Shower — Charles Bukowski

Tom Traubert’s Blues — Tom Waits

It’s A Motherfucker — Eels

The Moon Her Majesty — Jack Kerouac

The Stranger Song  — Leonard Cohen

Map — Jason Webley

Whiskey, Mystics, And Men — The Doors

Scum — Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Honey In The Hair — Blackbird Raum

Broken Cup — Jason Webley

Children’s Story — Tom Waits

Desperadoes Under The Eaves — Warren Zevon

Last Song — Jason Webley

Readings From On The Road & Visions of Cody — Jack Kerouac

Anywhere I Lay My Head — Tom Waits

Looking at the list all typed out makes me smile.  Honestly, it looks Just Like a typical hour of “Dancing Barefoot,” my old radio show on KZSC Santa Cruz.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I once did play “Tom Traubert’s Blues” followed by “It’s A Motherfucker.”

What’d I call the playlist?  “Rain Dogs,” of course.  I get a real “Rain Dogs” vibe from all of these songs — vagabonds wandering city streets and all that.

I left for my walk at the same time Mike left for his class.  I decided to go ahead and listen to my playlist to see if it actually worked as well as I thought it did.  I walked up my street and around the corner, which takes you down a long hill that leads to Kanan Road, a street that, by suburban terms, is loud and crowded.  Not crowded with people, of course — Kanan is crowded with SUVs and luxury autos and the occasional Prius.  Once you reach the strip mall with the Starbuck’s and the Ralph’s and the Carl’s Jr/Green Burrito, then yes, you see some people.  Mainly, Kanan is all hustle and bustle because it leads to the freeway.

I’m sure Walt Whitman could make it sound poetic; he’s dead, though.

During “Dharma Brains,” I turned onto a cul-de-sac, and after about one minute I started hearing this weird click-clacking sound that I knew wasn’t part of the song.  (I should know, for it is one of my favorite songs.  For serious.)  At first I thought it was due to my headphones being old and shitty, but after a few minutes, I felt that familiar “I think someone’s behind me” vibe.  I turned, and there were two 14(ish)-year-old boys walking behind me.  They didn’t scare me, but the sight of them definitely startled me.  I smiled at them, and then when I turned back around I saw a white plastic spoon land in front of my feet.  I turned around again, and, low-and-behold, the boys had run away.

The little jerks had thrown a spoon at me.

I laughed to myself and kept walking.

I thought about when I was in middle school and used to wander the same exact streets doing stupid things.   I used to walk around with a friend of mine writing bizarre messages on notecards and taping them to people’s doors.  On one notecard we drew a picture of an alien with a word bubble coming out of its mouth that said, “Hmmm…bagels…interesting.”  It nearly killed me.  I thought that it was the most hilarious thing that ever appeared on paper.

When I came to the end of the cul-de-sac and turned onto the street, I saw The Little Jerks looking right at me, plastic spoons in hand, ready to open fire.  I stopped walking, took off my head phones, and said, “How ya doin?”

“Good,” said the smaller one.

“What’s goin’ on?” I asked.

“Nothin’,” said the smaller one, thus establishing himself as the dominant Little Jerk.

I decided to just be blunt with them in hopes that it would freak them out.  After all, my bluntness has scared away men in the past, even when I didn’t want it to.

“Are you gonna throw that spoon at me?” I asked.

“Maaaaaaaaybe,” said the smaller one, shit-eating grin plastered to his face.  I didn’t let it intimidate me.

“Well, please don’t.”

“Okay.”

I put my headphones back on, disappointed that The Little Jerks had made me miss the first half of “Hard On For Love.”  I started the song over, and after about thirty seconds I felt the “I think someone’s behind me” vibe once again.  I turned, and, sure enough, The Little Jerks were there.

I stopped walking and said, “Are you guys seriously gonna throw those spoons at me?”

“Yes.”

Why?”

“I don’t know.”

I spread my arms out, threw back my head, and said, “I’ll give you a free shot.  Go for it.”

Nothing happened.

I looked at them, and the dominant Little Jerk stepped forward, wound up, and threw his spoon.  He missed me by about 10 inches.  When the spoon landed on the sidewalk, I bent down and picked it up.  “Next?” I said.

The quiet Little Jerk missed me by about two feet.  I picked up his spoon, too.

“How old are you guys?”  I asked.

“Seventeen.”

“You’re seventeen?”

“Twenty-one!”

“Thirty-four!”

“Forty-seven!”

“Fourteen.”

Pause.

“You’re fourteen?”

“Maybe.”

They were pretty cute, really.  Still, I was done with their game.

“You guys should go do something else,” I said.

This seemed to confuse them.

“Can we have our spoons back?” asked the dominant Little Jerk.

“No,” I said.

The quiet one laughed.

“You guys go on home, now,” I said, shooing them away with my hands.

They turned away and took a few steps, and then turned around to see if I was still watching them; I was.  They took a few more steps, then turned again.  I was still there, waiting for them to walk away.

I watched them as they made their way back up the hill.  Every few seconds they’d turn around to look at me, or spin around pretending they were spinning around just for fun.  For a good three minutes I stood my ground, staring right back at The Little Jerks.  I never wavered.  I waited and waited and waited until they were far away, and then, when they disappeared and hid behind a tree, I waited some more.

Finally, I put my headphones back on and continued down the road.  I didn’t hit “Play” right away — I wanted to be able to hear The Little Jerks in case they came back with their spoons.

I made my way down Kanan, passed the Starbuck’s and the Ralph’s and the Carl’s Jr/Green Burrito, and as I turned to head up Thousand Oaks Boulevard and back to my neighborhood, I hit “Play.”  “Tom Traubert’s Blues” came on.  I listened to it once the whole way through, and then I thought to myself, “I wonder if I know all the words.”  I started the song over, and sang at the top of my lungs.

The Little Jerks never reappeared.  Maybe I really did scare them away with my confidence, or maybe they really did go home.  Maybe they found a different unsuspecting victim and lost two more precious spoons.  Regardless, I hope to Hell they have fun this summer.  I hope they ring a lot of stranger’s door bells and dial a lot of random numbers.  I hope they make a ton of noise inside of Rite Aid and get thrown out of Blockbuster for knocking movies off the shelves.  I hope they run home laughing their heads off after terrorizing some college kid who works at Baskin Robbins.  I hope they Double Dare each other to steal candy bars from CVS, and end up feeling twice the rush when they almost go through with it.  I hope they never forget this summer, and how badass they felt when that 24-year-old chick in the “Protect Our Oceans” t-shirt and ripped jeans threw her head back and said, “I’ll give you a free shot.”  Most of all, I hope they never forget how dorky and annoying and awkward and brilliant they were when they were fourteen-years-old — for they are Rain Dogs, too.

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Got A Machinehead Better Than The Rest, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Play The Drums.



Last night I dreamt that I had tickets to see Bush. I’m not talking about the corrupt asshole who shit all over the world for eight years — I’m talking about the post-grunge band. The post-grunge band formed by those guys from London. The post-grunge band formed by those guys from London who gave us “Glycerine,” a beautiful song of poetic proportions…


It must be your skin I’m sinking in
Must be for real ’cause now I can feel
And I didn’t mind, it’s not my kind
It’s not my time to wonder why…

…and “Comedown,” a song rich in symbolism, and…rhymes…

No one knows never will
Mostly me but mostly you
What do you say do you do
When it all comes down

…and “Swallowed,” a beautiful song about…something…

Warm sun feed me up And I’m leery loaded up Loathing for a change And I slip some boil away
All right, so lyrics were never Gavin Rossdale’s strong suit. The question of “Nirvana or Pearl Jam?” will never expand to become “Nirvana or Pearl Jam or Bush?” Never. Likewise, the question of “Kurt Cobain or Eddie Vedder” will never expand to become “Kurt Cobain or Eddie Vedder or Gavin Rossdale?” However, if the question were, “Would you rather spend the night with Kurt Cobain or Eddie Vedder or Gavin Rossdale,” I gotta say, plenty of people would answer….

“Wait, who’s the last person? His name sounds familiar.”
“The lead singer of Bush.”
“BUSH! Oh my God, I remember them! That guy was hot! So wait, what was the question?”

In my dream last night, Bush was playing in someone’s backyard. (Perhaps that was my unconscious’ attempt at wit?) A couple hundred people were in attendance. There was some BBQ action goin’ on and everyone was really laid back and cool. I think I was there by myself, actually, which is odd, because I don’t know how the Hell anyone could say, “No” to, “Hey, wanna come with me to see Bush perform at a backyard BBQ?”

I was hangin’ out against a white picket fence, eating and drinking and chatting, when the beautiful Englishman himself approached me. He said, “We need someone to play drums for us tonight. You wanna play?” I said, “I don’t know how.” He said, “It doesn’t matter. I like your vibe.”

The sound check started, and Gavin Rossdale and I got to talking. He was very nice, and as our conversation went on, I began to develop a bonafide crush on the guy. Gwen Stefani was nowhere to be seen, and, figuring she could have very well played drums that night, I jumped to the dream conclusion that she and her hubby were no longer together.

Sound check ended and Gavin Rossdale went to get some food. He said, “I’ll be right back.” Ya know, to reassure me that he wanted to continue our conversation. I sat down on the ground and leaned against the white picket fence and waited for him to return. Suddenly, a tall man in a white suit approached me. I looked up, and Holy Shit, it was Michael Jordan. He said, “Hello, there.” I said, “Hi…Michael Jordan…”. Suddenly, all the Bush fans became quiet and turned to watch the interaction between Michael Jordan and me. Also, the backyard was no longer a backyard, but a gymnasium.

Man, that Michael Jordan has a filthy mouth!

Michael Jordan wanted me bad — so bad he was willing to say the dirtiest, freakiest things to me to persuade me to ditch Gavin Rossdale. Now, in real life my dad once told me that the golfer Phil Mickelson and his wife were swingers, and that Michael Jordan had once had a playful evening with Phil’s wife. When I heard this, I wasn’t sure if my dad was referring to the basketball legend or a golfer by the same name. I said, “Wait, Michael Jordan? As in…”. My mom, God bless her, chimed in and said, “Michael Jordan. The basketball player from the Bugs Bunny.” Yes. She literally said, “From the Bugs Bunny,” implying that my only exposure to Michael Jordan had been through the movie Space Jam.

Anyway, in the dream I remembered the bit about swinging, and I got very nervous. I thought, “Shit, if he’s really into that stuff then he’ll stop at nothing!” I did my best to hide my nervousness and stuck to saying things like, “I’m flattered, but I’m having a great time here and I don’t feel like leaving just yet,” and, “Ya know, I can’t ditch these guys just yet — I have to play drums.”

I don’t remember exactly how I got Michael Jordan to leave me alone. He did, eventually, walk away, and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Everyone asked about what Michael Jordan said to me, but I didn’t want to repeat any of it. T’was too nasty.

I waited around for Gavin Rossdale to return. I waited. And waited. And waited. And that bastard never came back to me. I didn’t get to play the drums, I didn’t get to have my night with Gavin Rossdale, and I didn’t even get to hear “Machinehead.”
Oh well. In the end, I’d say it was an interesting evening.



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DON’T Hang The DJ!

Where are we going, Jim Morrison?

The Doors close in an hour.

Which way does your beer point tonight?

Ready?  Okay.

About a month before I moved back to Southern California after living in Santa Cruz for five ridiculous years, I experienced an unexpected life-affirming moment while shopping in a local hippy-dippy grocery store.

At that time, my favorite brand of Kombucha was being re-examined by the FDA (go ahead, laugh), and I was desperate to find a worthy substitute.  As I scoured the tea aisle for possible contenders, I heard “Riders on the Storm” come on over the speakers. I was beyond delighted that someone had the good sense to spin a Jim Jam on a hot summer’s day, so I dropped my shopping basket and danced by myself in the aisle. After a few minutes, the hippy-dippy grocery store suddenly looked a lot different.  Everything seemed special: the Kombucha drought, the rows of Guayaki Yerba Mate promising health and vitality, the sound of a seven-minute-long Doors song about “a killer on the road” oozing through the store while happy families shopped for baby bok-choy and slabs of seasoned tempeh; the realization that this was a good moment, which is all a person can really hope for.

Harmonious coincidences like these make me wonder how difficult it must be to be a [good] music supervisor. The Graduate, for example, is an undeniably great bit of movie-making, but can you imagine it without “The Sound of Silence”? Or Harold and Maude without Cat Stevens’ silky baritone?  And would Uma Thurman’s overdose in Pulp Fiction be as jarring if it weren’t preceded by her dance to Urge Overkill’s cover of “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon”?

When a music supervisor’s work is done, he has helped transform a few measly minutes of film into something deeply moving. When moments like this happen in real life completely by accident, it is important to listen.  Dancing to “Riders on the Storm” in the hippy-dippy grocery store reminded me that my time in Santa Cruz was limited, and that I should get to work enjoying myself.  I also felt reassured that the previous five ridiculous years of my life hadn’t been a waste — there had been plenty of moments of epic triumph, personal growth, and dancing in the aisles. There was no reason to feel that I was returning to Southern California because it was time to start over; it was time to continue.  As Maude would say, it was time to, “Go and love some more.”

I listen to the wind

To the wind of my soul

Where I’ll end up, well, I mean,

Who the Hell really knows?

It has now been about a year since my one-woman dance party, and while I do miss my Santa Cruz beach shack (and the enchiladas at Taqueria Las Palmas and the Hemp Ale at The Poet & The Patriot and the psychic cats on Pacific Avenue…), my suburban situation isn’t so bad.  There have been some great times and some not so-great times, and, in the grand scheme of things, I can’t complain. Sadly, the last few months have been of the not-so-great variety.

Fuck that.  They’ve been shitty.

The shitty time started in March when I had a terrible panic attack while I was getting a haircut.  Now, I had experienced panic prior to this incident.  In the past, I had been able to link panic attacks to specific events in my life — I experienced them pretty frequently right before graduating from college, for example — but I could not, for the life of me, figure out why I freaked out during my haircut.  Sure, I would rather not have had to trim my wild mane, but it was nothing to panic about.

Days later I had another attack while lounging — yes, lounging — with some of my best friends, drinking beer and watching On The Waterfront. It was a Sunday afternoon, we were all wearing bathrobes, and we had just finished feasting on some seriously sexy food. Even in this downright Dionysian situation, my body still found a way to go into adrenal overdrive.

Things became scary when I started panicking in cars pretty regularly. No matter where I was going or whether I was the driver or the passenger, I inevitably felt like jumping out of my skin. Again, I had definitely felt panicked on the road before — most people who have driven on the 405-S in rush hour traffic have probably had nerve-related episodes — but panicking while riding shotgun on the way to the damn mall that’s a whole ten minutes away from my house… that was something new.

When I could no longer get through a whole day of work without having to go hide in the back room and steady myself against the Xerox machine, I figured it was time to get some help.

There’s a Callas on the road,

Her brain is squirmin’ like a toad…

I’ll spare you the details about the drug peddling doctors and the brief, yet powerful feelings of total despair.  In short, I eventually got help from someone who doesn’t deserve to be reported to the Board of Behavioral Sciences, and, after a few months, the panic waned significantly. Despite my noticeable improvement, however, the thought of “When will the next attack hit?” was always present in my mind.

Worse than all of that, I couldn’t write.  No matter how hard I tried to sit down and scribble something halfway intelligent, my writing was mostly limited to what Allen Ginsberg referred to as “unpublishable private literature.” Of course, his “unpublishable” scrawl was about drunken nights in Chinatown and wild sex with Neal Cassady, IE: The Good Life. My Top-Secret “unpublishable” portfolio of recent scribblings is so boring it doesn’t even deserve to be sacrificially burned.

And they brought me their comfort,

And later they brought me this song

O, I hope you run into them

You, who’ve been scribbling so long…

One evening not too long ago, I was feeling exceptionally down.  Utterly defeatedMorrissey defeated.  I was a twenty-something year old celibate nail-biter who couldn’t even write in her own diary.  Work sucked, panic sucked — I felt trapped and lonely and boring and I just wanted to go to bed.  Before hitting the sack I took a quick look at my facebook (Duh), and I saw that my friend Zach was going to be hosting his last radio show on KZSC Santa Cruz that night. Out of respect for Zach, KZSC, and Santa Cruz as a whole, I decided to tune in to the web stream for at least a little while.  At first, hearing Zach read the corny Underwriting Announcements and play the corny Public Service Announcements just made me miss my KZSC radio show, which didn’t help my mood.  As I contemplated turning out the light, Zach, that beautiful, bloody bastard, put on a tune called “Last Song” by an artist named Jason Webley.

Imagine if, while floating in the pool the day after sleeping with Mrs. Robinson, Benjamin Braddock actually heard “The Sound of Silence” playing somewhere in the distance.  It would have blown his mind, right?  Well, I wasn’t in the pool and I hadn’t slept with Mrs. Robinson, but dammit, when I heard “Last Song,” I literally felt something inside me shift.  Or stretch.  Or break.  Regardless, I felt profoundly healed.  Did I think Jason Webley was singing directly to me?  No.  I’m not deranged.  All the same, the song’s message of hope told through images of imminent apocalypse and waking up in alleys was exactly what I needed to hear that night.

And he shows you where to look

Among the urine, alcohol, trash and gasoline

And the flowers…

In search of Jason Webley’s discography, I visited his website. The first thing I discovered was that he’s been around for over a decade, which made me feel like a total dork.  Where the fuck had I been?  I clicked the “Concerts” tab to see if he was going to be touring at all in the near future.  What did I find?  He was on tour, all right; almost smack dab in the middle of his farewell tour. There were no L.A. dates on his website, but there was a show in San Jose on the schedule.  My first thought was, “San Jose?  Right by Santa Cruz?  Road trip time!” Sure enough, my second thought was, “How the fuck am I going to get there if I can’t drive more than a few minutes without panicking?” For a moment I considered flying, but then I wondered how panicking in an airplane would be better than panicking in a car…

I decided that there was no way I was going to miss the show.  I was going to get myself there, panic be damned.  I would spend a few nights in Santa Cruz with some of my favorite people in the world, and then I would see Jason Webley perform in a small art gallery in downtown San Jose.  Who was I to forbid myself from doing all that?

If I go there will be trouble,

And if I stay…

So, what happened?  Well, I spent a few nights in Santa Cruz with some of my favorite people in the world, and then I saw Jason Webley perform in a small art gallery in downtown San Jose.  T’was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I know I should probably say more about the show, but, true to the nature of the writing beast, I am suddenly at a loss for words.  I’m hesitant to dissect the evening as if I’m trying to convince people that he’s worth checking out. I also don’t want to make any grand assumptions about his artistic intentions — who am I to say what his songs are about, or to draw parallels between him and other performers?  All I know is that the show was well worth the trip.  I loved every minute of it.

There was an interesting moment — kind of freaky, really, but in a great way — where he took a break from singing and just talked. He thanked us for our support, he thanked the gallery owners for letting him play, and then he talked about his upcoming hiatus.  He reflected on how blessed his past 10+ years have been, and then — oh, then — he talked about how some people in the audience may have recently had their “lives turned inside out,” and how neat it was that we were all together “bearing witness to that.”

I kind of got chills.  I kind of felt exposed.  It kind of felt great.  Of all things for him to say, right?  And then, Jason Webley, the ever-brilliant music supervisor, played “Last Song.”

(I’m aware that I keep writing his full name.  I wouldn’t say, “Cohen,” I’d say, “Leonard Cohen.”  I wouldn’t say “Reed,” I’d say, “Lou Reed.”  I wouldn’t say “Smith,” I’d say “Patti Smith.”  And so on.  And so on.)

Yes, I got to meet him.  Yes, I got a picture.  Yes, I was terrified I would say something that would make me sound stupid, and yes, I’m sure my terror was obvious.  He asked me if I had ever been to one of his shows before, and when I told him I hadn’t, I somehow managed to mention that I had driven up from L.A.  He paused, and then said, “You drove all the way from L.A. to come to the show?”  I managed to nod and utter a nervous, “Yeah.”  Inside, though, I was beaming with pride.  I drove all the way from L.A. for the show, and I had no guarantee I wouldn’t end up hyperventilating on the side of the highway.  Go Steff.

I’m not the kind of person who chalks everything up to fate or destiny or God’s Great Plan.  I do, however, think that moments of eerie accidental profundity should not be ignored.  No, I don’t think that I was “meant” to find out about Jason Webley in order to take a roadie to Santa Cruz and prove to myself that I had the strength to fight this whole panic thing, but that is what happened.  In my opinion, the idea that it happened completely by accident is truly awesome. If I hadn’t decided to look at my facebook one bummer night before going to bed, I wouldn’t have heard “Last Song,” and I wouldn’t have gone to Jason Webley’s website, and I wouldn’t have read that this was his farewell tour. More importantly, I wouldn’t have found an excuse to get in the car and see what happened. Low and behold, what happened? Nothing. Nothing, except I had an excellent fucking weekend.

(By the way, in case you were wondering, Jason Webley has more than one great song.  For sure.)

Bravo, Jason Webley.  Bravo, Zach.  Bravo, hippy-dippy grocery store employee who wanted to hear “Riders on the Storm.”  Keep doing what you’re doing and continue to accidentally provide killer driving music and poignant road signs to weary travelers everywhere.

And Allen, “unpublishable private literature”?  Maybe not.

Just maybe.


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