Tag Archives: Leonard Cohen

Strange Bedfellows.

Last week, my parents discovered they had bed bugs.  In their bed.  Only their bed.  I wasn’t bitten up and my brother wasn’t bitten up; just Steve and Barbara.  They don’t know how it happened.  They’re both rather fastidious people.

On Monday morning my mom had someone spray the house with all-natural, yet highly allergenic whatnot in order to kill the little bastard bed bugs.  The night before the insurgence, my mom brought a gray suitcase into my room and dropped it on my sofa.

“Ya may wanna pick up the stuff piled next to your bed,” she said.  “They’re gonna be spraying your carpet.”

I took her suggestion.  The suitcase is 3/4 full.  Its contents?  A veritable cornucopia of Dorky.

I shall now list for you the “stuff piled next to my bed” that has now been transferred to a gray suitcase on top of my sofa.

1. The Godfather Trilogy DVD Collection. 

Fully remastered.  The bouquet Johnny Fontaine sends to Don Corleone is so damn COLORFUL.

2. A Bag of Crackers

My mom brought this to me the night I came home from work after spending nearly two hours in the nurse’s office battling dehydration and low blood sugar.  Mom had also brought me soup, but I kept the crackers in case I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like a twitchy, malnourished mess.  Rather, still feeling like a twitchy, malnourished mess.

3. A Burned DVD copy of A Streetcar Named Desire

No one, but NO ONE, is sexier than Marlon Brando in his skin tight t-shirt.  I fell asleep to this movie every night for a good six months.

4. The Complete Works of Arthur Rimbaud

It has the English translations and the original French.  I memorized “Sensation.”  I was determined to memorize it in French, too.  I still haven’t done that.  I bought the book last October.  Damn.

5. An Illustrated Copy of The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle

Some people keep The Bible by their beds.  And so do I.

6. A Green Journal with a Butterfly on the Cover That I Bought at Logos Bookstore in Santa Cruz, CA

Page One:

2-20-11

In Santa Cruz for the weekend.  This paper is incredible.  I can’t tell if the guy next to me is cute. Ya know, this bar isn’t ideal for writing.  Well, the vibe is, but the position I’m in is slightly uncomfortable.  I saw an absolutely beautiful guy downtown.  He was playing guitar and singing his heart out.  He looked and sounded so gorgeous. 

7. The Favorite Game by Leonard Cohen

Picked this up last November.  I found it on eBay.  The last time I picked it up was one day in December when I was sitting in the waiting room of an Urgent Care in Westlake Village waiting to talk to a doctor about a bizarre ailment I was convinced was killing me.  It didn’t kill me, and I never finished this book.

8. Planet News by Allen Ginsberg

I bought this book of poetry in San Francisco.  I was there last February for five or six days.  I spent my first day there walking around North Beach.  After having a few beers at Cafe Vesuvio I wandered over to The Beat Museum to ask if they had copies of the poems I submitted to them for a poetry contest they held back in 2007.  They didn’t have copies, but the guy behind the counter searched the internet archives for a good twenty minutes trying to help me out.  I felt kinda guilty for making him look, so I bought something.

9. A Black, Ringed Journal My Parents Bought for Me at Citylights Books When I Was 19

The opening lines of “HOWL” are printed on the front cover.

Page One:

3-06-06

When I get angry I feel my shoulder blade muscles tense up and form a knot that hurts for days.

I can feel it pinching back there whenever I try to write

or type

or just fucking hold a book.

I once tried to work out the knot by wearing Icy-Hot bandages at night

But they just soothed the area around the hubbub of angst.*

I’d peel the bandage off in the morning and my skin would

smell like chemicals.

God knows what kind of cancer it’ll give me.

Maybe the doctors will prescribe me some pot.

Then I could sell it on the streets and use the money to hire a masseuse. 

(*I feel like kicking my own ass for “hubbub of angst.”)

10. Light Blue Journal I Bought from Paper Source in Santa Cruz, CA

I’m not sharing Page One.  I can’t.  I will, however, reveal that it was written on Friday, October 16, 2009 at 12:54pm.

It was interesting to read Page One of this cute little unfinished journal, because it’s my retelling of the beginning of what turned out to be a very frustrating, rather sad story.  It was all so seemingly innocent at the time, but now that I’m looking at these scribbled words written by the 22-year-old version of myself, it’s obvious that this very frustrating period of my life left a rather sad impression on my ability to trust people.  Perfectly sweet people.

Perfectly sweet male people.

That Fucker.

11. A “One Line A Day: Five Year Memory” Journal from Barnes and Noble

I am so bad at keeping up with this thing.  There is literally just enough space to write one sentence per day.  I thought it seemed interesting.  I haven’t written any memories in it since January 9, 2012.  I wrote, “First unemployed Monday.”  That was a fun day, actually.  Mom and I went to the zoo.

12.  A Tennessee Williams Collection

Includes Summer and Smoke, Orpheus Descending, Suddenly Last Summer, and Period of Adjustment.  It also includes a personal essay by Tennessee that spoke to me so profoundly the first time I read it that I literally threw the book across the room.

So much for the past and present.  The future is called “perhaps,” which is the only possible thing to call the future.  And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you.

13. Perfection by Julie Metz

A memoir I had to read for my writing group.  I was intrigued for the first few chapters, but the whole thing became so damn indulgent after a certain point that by the end I found the narrator annoying and stupid.  I must take great care to never become an annoying, stupid narrator.

14. Another Tennessee Williams Collection

This one includes Battle of Angels, The Glass Menagerie, and A Streetcar Named Desire.  I read this one on a flight from JFK to LAX.  Despite having watched A Streetcar Named Desire a dozen fucking times, I still teared up while I was reading it.  Tennessee may be damn easy to lampoon, but he’s also really fucking hard to beat.

15. The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 by Richard Brautigan

There are sex scenes in books that make you want to have sex, but not often do you come across sex scenes in books that make you want to cry.  Cry for what?  I don’t know.  Nostalgia?  Longing?  Loneliness?  Wishing and hoping that somewhere out there someone remembers you and your body just like Richard Brautigan saw this girl and her body…

It’s a hard decision whether to start at the top or the bottom of a girl.  With Vida I just didn’t know where to begin.  It was really a problem.

After she reached up awkwardly and put my face in a small container which was her hands and kissed me quietly again and again, I had to start somewhere.

She stared up at me all the time, her eyes never leaving me as if they were an airfield.

I changed the container and her face became a flower in my hands.  I slowly let my hands drift down her face while I kissed her and then further down her neck to her shoulders.

I could see the future being moved in her mind while I arrived at the boundaries of her bosom.  Her breasts were so large, so perfectly formed under her sweater that my stomach was standing on a step-ladder when I touched them for the first time.

Her eyes never left me and I could see in her eyes the act of my touching her breasts.  It was like brief blue lightning.

I was almost hesitant in a librarian sort of way.

“I promise,” she said, reaching up and awkwardly pressing my hands harder against her breasts.  She of course had no idea what that did to me.  The step-ladder started swirling.

She kissed me again, but this time with her tongue.  Her tongue slid past my tongue like a piece of hot glass.

16. A Light Blue Guitar Pick from Amoeba Music in Berkely, CA.

I’ve now been to all three Amoebas.  The one in Hollywood is The Best.

17. Jason Webley’s Only Just Beginning

This is his favorite album of his.  This is also my favorite album of his.  It’s just his best album of his.  “Music That Puts Everything Together” brings me to my knees.  Oh Jesus, and “Map.”  And “Icarus.”  And “With.”  And “Coda.”

Of course they’re all better live.  I’m damn lucky that I know that firsthand.  Jason Webley live is more life affirming than…anything, really.  Except maybe Leonard Cohen live.  Speaking of which…

18. Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen

This is a Hell of a novel.  There is a scene where two men — The Narrator and his friend, F. — are driving at top speed in F.’s car down a dark highway.  F. is pleasuring himself while he drives.

F., put it back.  Enough is enough.

Never put it back when it gets like this.

My God, I’ve never seen you so big!  What’s going on in your mind?  What are you thinking of?  Please teach me how to do it.  Can I hold it?

No!  This is between me and God.

Who but Leonard Fucking Cohen would come up with “This is between me and God”?

I had Jason Webley sign my copy.  I knew he was a Leonard Cohen fan and I wanted to impress him with my dorkiness.  Because, ya know, traveling to Seattle to catch his 11-11-11 show wasn’t dorky enough.

Stephanie

I’m glad I remember your name.

And I’m glad that you came so far for my concert.

And I’m glad that you like this book.

♥ jason

11-11-11

approximately

18. And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave

Nick, I love you with all my heart and soul, but this novel is no Beautiful Losers.

19. Scattered Poems by Jack Kerouac

Gotta love a poem called “Pull My Daisy.”

20. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita, light of my life.  Fire of my loins.

‘Nuff said.

21. A DVD Copy of the Remake of Alfie Starring Jude Law

I bought this from the Blockbuster in Westlake right before the damn thing closed down for good.  Ya know what?  This is a terrible movie.  It is.  But damn, I really get a kick out of it.  It’s so atrocious it’s funny and Jude Law is just POSING the whole Goddamn time, which is all at once hilarious and fucking hot.  He’s so hot I wanna punch him in the face.

22. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz

An award-winning play my mom read earlier this year that she insisted I read as well.  Still haven’t gotten around to doing that.

23. Writing the Memoir: from Truth to Art by Judith Barrington

I have a lot to say about this book, but right now I am completely distracted by the fact that the author’s last name is Barrington.  I purchased this book before that last name became such a significant part of my life.  Co-workers of mine who are reading this, I’m sorry.

24. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Patti Smith is really into this book.  I found a copy of it on my mom’s bookshelf on a rainy day last November.  I read the first page, and then I decided to go buy a ukulele.

I attempted to make a video for you of me playing the ukulele, but my mom interrupted when she came in to ask me if I wanted anything from Lassen’s.

25. A Blue and Black Leather-bound Journal Given to Me by My High School Journalism Teacher

Page One is humiliating.

Here’s something from Page 12:

12:00am August 10, 2005 Wednesday

I bought a CD today.  I’m listening to it now.  It feels great.  Not as great as kissing.  Music makes me think of kissing — probably because I sometimes kiss to music.

26. A DVD Copy of The Graduate

Two nights before I moved back to my parents’s house after living in Santa Cruz for five years, I downloaded this movie and bought a bottle of Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon.  At this point, I had already moved 99% of my furniture out of my apartment.  All I had was my twin-sized mattress, which was, at that point, pathetically sitting on the floor of my bedroom.  I sat on my pathetic mattress, drank my pathetic cheap wine, and watched Benjamin Braddock try his best not to be pathetic.  I cried a lot.

27. A DVD Copy of The Road to God Knows Where

Behind the scenes of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds touring the United States after Tender Prey was released.  They’re all so young and beautiful.  I fall asleep to this one a lot.  Nick is such a jerk to journalists, but not in a Bob Dylan in Don’t Look Back kind of way.  All the journalists that appear in this movie are such idiots that it really isn’t Nick’s fault that he comes off as so smart and so snide.  The people interviewing him really have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about.

28.  A DVD Copy of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

I will defend this movie until the end of time.  If, someday, I find myself with some spare time and some spare money (by the way, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!), I plan on writing an in-depth analysis of all four (or, by then, 15) Pirates films.  No one will publish it and no one will read it, so I’ll probably just send the manusctipt to Johnny Depp and wait for his reaction.  Maybe I’ll get to become one of his various best friends and I’ll start getting invitations to parties at Keith Richards’s house.

29. A DVD Copy of The Ruling Class

Just watch it.

30. The Complete Fawlty Towers

This show never got boring or bad because the British know when it’s time for a television show to end.  There are only 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers, but they are all perfect.

31. A DVD Copy of Blue Velvet

I watched this not too long ago.  I had a 103 degree fever and I was sitting on the couch in my empty house shivering and sniffling and coughing.

A video is worth 1,000 words:

32. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Live DVD: God Is in the House

It’s pretty good, but Warren Ellis had joined the band by this point, and it’s upsetting to watch Nick try to divvy up his affection between Warren and Blixa.  And Blixa just looks BORED out of his mind, even during “The Carny.”  It saddens me.

33. A DVD Copy of The Darjeeling Limited

I can’t listen to people criticize Wes Andseron.  It’s a sin.

34. A DVD Copy of If….

My Malcolm McDowell obsession was one of the best things to ever happen to me.  He made a lot of crap movies, but it doesn’t matter, because he also made If….

This movie should be shown to everyone everywhere.  Politicians should watch and be warned.

35.  The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

I read two chapters of this self-help book in May right before the training period for my new job began.  I had been diagnosing myself with various terminal illnesses every day for two weeks and I was losing my Goddamn mind.  I had been unemployed since January and I was at my absolute wit’s end.  Two chapters of this thing had me back to normal.  (As in, I was suddenly cured of my lung cancer, throat cancer, liver cancer, brain cancer, and Parkinson’s Disease.)

36. A DVD Copy of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Live at Brixton Academy, London Thursday, November 11 2004

As long as I can shut my bedroom door, sit down by myself and watch this shit, then I can never really lose sight of the fact that my life is rather good.  And that I’m a bad motherfucker.

So, yeah.  I’m thinkin’ I’ll just put all this stuff back where I found it — piled up next to my bed.

 

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COLLEGE POEMS V

I opened up one of my college notebooks to a random page.  There’s no date written on it, but a few pages beforehand I have the date March 6, 2007.  Scrawled in purple pen and separated by squiggly lines are the following musings:

(QUICK NOTE! DUE TO THE VOLUME OF COMMENTS REGARDING HOW BEAUTIFUL THE POEM ABOUT “VIENNA” IS — I DID NOT WRITE THAT.  IT’S FROM A POEM BY FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA THAT WAS TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH BY LEONARD COHEN.  I EXPLAIN THIS AT THE END OF THE PIECE, BUT HERE IT IS AT THE BEGINNING NOW, TOO, JUST IN CASE.  WHY DID I SCRIBBLE IT IN MY JOURNAL?  BECAUSE I LOVED IT.  STILL DO.)

“I could still make it to class

But it’s such a fucking

beautiful day.”

————————————-

“I don’t know what I’m doing.”

————————————-

“The song they’re playing right now

Is absolutely beautiful.

I can’t even understand

What the singer’s saying

but his voice is still great

And I love that I can hear

someone playing the triangle —

Or are they chimes?

Maybe it’s some indie band

that someone put on a CD

titled “Tuesday Afternoon Mix.”

If that’s the case, I would love to shake that person’s hand.”

———————————————–

“I don’t think too many people

look attractive in shorts.

I myself haven’t worn shorts

in public in at least five years.

I don’t have long, skinny, supermodel legs

and I don’t pretend I do

So I save people the terror

and always wear jeans.”

————————————–

“Now in Vienna

there’s 10 pretty women

There’s a shoulder

Where death comes to cry

There’s a lobby with 1200 windows

There’s a tree where the doves

go to die.”

—————————————

“I love you like

sitting outside at sidewalk cafes

watching people stroll by

while I sip at a mug

of coffee and scribble in my

notcebook.

I’m wearing sunglasses that

reflect back an image of

you smiling and then closing your

eyes to breathe

Just for a second.”

—————————————–

1.) I wonder what I was doing in that moment that was too good to give up for the sake of going to class.  I suspect I was sitting at The Kresge Cafe, because I know that’s where I was when I wrote the ditty about the “Tuesday Afternoon Mix.”  Was I somewhere else when I wrote the first blurb?  Was I outside, or was I just content?  Finally…did I end up going to class?

2.) “I don’t know what I’m doing.”  Whoa there.  What was I talking about?  Whoa there.  Don’t even get me started on that one.

3.) How funny that I just posted the final draft of this one.  It’s interesting for me to look at this draft.  I guess I didn’t change too much of it, but I still think the changes I made were the right ones.  Go Steff.

4.) Ha.  Oh, wow.  I still haven’t worn shorts in public.  I wonder why I felt the need to write this down.  I probably saw someone wearing shorts and felt inclined to write about…shorts.

5.) No, I’m not secretly a brilliant poet who’s been hiding her true capability from the world.  This is a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca that was translated into English and made into a song by Leonard Cohen.  This song was my JAM when I was 20.  My JAM.  I’m still every bit as hopelessly romantic now as I was then.  ::Sigh::  Only question: “12oo windows”?  It’s “900 windows.”  I mean, “TWELVE” doesn’t even SOUND like “NINE.”  If I had written “FIVE HUNDRED” I would have understood, as “NINE” and “FIVE” sound similar…but “TWELVE”?  Pretty dorky, Steff.

6.) I blame my love for Jack Kerouac and Ani Difranco.

Dear God, was I being serious about all of this?  Or was I just having fun?

Why am I evening worrying about it?

Aren’t I doing this for fun?

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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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Anybody Want Anything?

want |wänt; wônt|

verb

1 [ trans. ] have a desire to possess or do (something); wish for : I want an apple | [with infinitive ] we want to go to the beach | [ trans. ] she wanted me to go to her room | [ intrans. ] I’ll give you a lift into town if you want.

     • desire (someone) sexually : I’ve wanted you since the first moment I saw you.

noun

1 chiefly archaic; a lack or deficiency of something: Victorian houses which are in want of repair | it won’t be through want of trying.

     • the state of being poor and in need of essentials; poverty : freedom from want.

2 a desire for something : the expression of our wants and desires.

Ever heard of California Chicken Cafe?  It’s a restaurant chain here in Southern Cali.  Most everything on the menu involves chicken, and, rest assured, the items that don’t contain chicken contain avocado.  You can also add chicken to any non-chicken item for $1.75.

You don’t know what you’re missing.  Really.  ::Cough::

California Chicken Cafe is a popular lunch option at the office where I work.  I, myself, rarely participate in the California Chicken Cafe extravaganzas.  No, I don’t think I’m better than everyone, I just can’t be spendin’ money on shit that doesn’t bring me immense joy.  Plus, I spent all my money on baked clams and cannoli last week at San Gennaro in New York City.

I regret nothing.

Today, a co-worker was about to make a chicken run when he suddenly cried out, “Anybody else want anything from California?”

There was a pause, and then I asked, “From California?”

“Yeah.”

I thought for a moment, and then said, “I want a house near the ocean.”

My co-worker laughed.

“No, no, as in, do you want anything from California Chicken Cafe.”

I didn’t want any damn chicken.  I did, however, proceed to ramble about some of the things I do, in fact, want.  When it was time for me to shut up and get back to work, the rambling continued in my head.

I now present to you Ten Random Things I Want.  Some of them are unique to California, and some of them…well…

♥♥♥

Ten Random Things I Want

by Stephanie Callas

10.

I want a house near the ocean.  I will live there by my damn self until I decide I want company.  I have not yet decided the exact location of this house, but I know it will be North of Pismo.  It will be impeccably decorated, and feature a killer sound system.

9.

I want my car to be paid the Hell off.  No more monthly car payments.  None.

8.

I want a bulldog.  An English Bulldog.  I will name him Brando and he will be my buddy.  He will be a healthy boy, with no respiratory problems or hip dysplasia, and he will not die of heatstroke like so many English Bulldogs tend to do.  He will be chubby and cute and he will love The Godfather as much as I do.

7.

I want to know how to program computer viruses.   Ya never know when ya may need to rip someone off.

6.

I want the cryogenically frozen body of Walt Disney.  People will come from all over the world just to get a glimpse of it, and I will charge admission based on my personal prejudices.  60-year-old man in an Armani suit with a 23-year-old socialite on his arm?  $10,000.  Cute hippie-boy with a beard and a beanie who wants to stop and see The Walt on his way to Mexico?  Admission is free!  (This is, of course, not including the food and wine he will inevitably purchase in his effort to seduce me).

5.

I want to be able to travel.  I’m talkin’ far and wide.  I want to wake up, decide that I should spend the weekend in Barcelona drinking from a wine skin and speaking in an English accent and introducing myself as Brett, and then go do it.

4.

I want to be friends with John Waters.  I want to be on a first name basis with him.  When he’s not visiting me in my fabulous house by the ocean, he will be sending me funny text messages and buying me semi-perverted presents.  We will Skype every Monday morning while we’re having our coffee.  He will say things like, “Mondays are just such a DRAG,” and I will say, “Honey, you WISH you were a DRAG,” and he will say, “Honey, the world couldn’t HANDLE all THIS in DRAG,” and I will say, “Honey, you WISH the world couldn’t handle YOU in DRAG”…

3.

I want to speak fluent French.  I will go to Farmer’s Markets all over the world and ONLY speak French.

2.

I want a box of cannoli from Ferrara’s bakery to be delivered to my door every Friday night.  FRESH.  I want them to be all different varieties — regular, chocolate, Nutella, pistachio — and they will all have perfect shells and perfect filling.  I will serve the cannoli to all of my fabulous dinner guests.  Some parties will be small, and others will put Woodstock to shame.  Brando will be everyone’s favorite couch companion, and John Waters will bring out everyone’s inner freak.  Tom Waits will be playing the piano and Patti Smith will be playing the clarinet.  Peter O’Toole will be serving champagne and Leonard Cohen will be handing out white lilies.  Nick Cave and Barbara Streisand will perform duets that bring the guests to their knees in cathartic abandon.  My parents will be excited to be out of the house and my brothers will be happy to be away from school and work, even though school and work is treating them just fine.  All my friends will bring fabulous dates — no assholes, no losers, no fuddy-duddies — and those who do not will be more than thrilled to spend an evening unattached and irresponsible.  No one will get drunk, and everyone will get happy.  The next morning, I won’t have to do one bit of cleaning.  While everyone is driving home, not one person will be thinking about work problems or school problems or money problems or family problems or marriage problems or credit card problems or plumbing problems or love problems.  No one will think, “I should have just stayed home and studied,” or, “I should have stayed in and searched for a new job,” or, “I wish that guy had called me back,” or, “I wish that girl hadn’t been there.”  All they will be thinking is, “I can’t believe I got a picture with the cryogenically frozen body of Walt Disney.”

1.

I guess it goes without say that I want World Peace, so fuck it — I want Don Draper.

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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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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