Tag Archives: Santa Cruz

Radio ON.

I’m sitting on my bed listening to a recording of my old radio show.  My main one.  “Dancing Barefoot.”  It aired once a week on KZSC Santa Cruz from 8:30PM to 10:30PM.  It began in June 2008 and ended in June 2010.  Sometimes it was on a Tuesday night and sometimes it was on a Wednesday night.  For about 10 weeks, it was on Tuesdays from 6:00AM to 9:00AM.  It wasn’t a dance music show.  It wasn’t a Patti Smith show.  It was both.  And neither.  But there was still a formula.  There definitely was.

The recording I’m listening to right now is dated May 11, 2010.  The disc says “Part One.”

I just heard my 23-year-old self say the following:

“You’re listening to KZSC Santa Cruz!  Under the moonlight!  THE SERIOUS MOONLIGHT!  MY SHOES ARE OFF!  TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF, DANGNABBIT, AND DANCE!

Then I played “Walkin’ on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves.

That was actually pretty cool to hear.  To hear me.  Me, being loud and bold and silly.  Good for you, 23-year-old Steff.

Yoga is great.  Walking is great.  Running is great.  Meditation is great.  Fine wine is great.  Hot baths are great.  Chocolate-dipped Animal Fries are great.  (I assume.)  But there is no stress relief in this world quite as affective as hosting a fucking radio show.  It’s absolute catharsis.  It’s romantic exorcism.  It’s energizing.  It’s soothing.  It’s stressful.  It’s a fucked up Zen garden riddled with nerves and noise.

(“Planet Claire.”  Good for you, 23-year-old Steff.)

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would rather blow off steam by drinking and screwing, and those activities do have their place.  For me, though, there’s nothing like talking into a massive microphone, addressing an attentive-yet-invisible audience and challenging yourself to play a series of three (or four…) songs in a row that flow together perfectly…and end right at the exact moment you have to go on the air and give the Bat Time and the Bat Station…

You can’t ignore things when you’re hosting a music program.  You can’t force yourself to forget things when you’re hosting a music program.  You can’t move on to the next thing when you’re hosting a music program.  You can (and have to) put on your best “I’m chipper!  Let’s rock!” voice, but after you’ve hit “Play” on a certain song and there’s nothing for you to do but listen and wait, you are gonna sit and think about exactly what’s inspired you to put on that certain song.  And it will be loud.

The air room.  The motherfuckin’ KZSC air room.

This recording.  It’s killing me.  In a good way.

“Just Like Heaven.”  I played “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure after making a brief announcement.

I am now sitting on my bed, at age 26, singing “Just Like Heaven.”  When I was 13 (unless I was 12), I sat up in my bed rather late listening to this song on repeat (on a Discman, no less), deliberately memorizing the lyrics.  And on May 11th 2010, 23-year-old me felt it necessary to play this song on the air.

Wow.  I must have been in a serious 80’s mood the night of May 11th, 2010.  I followed “Just Like Heaven” with “Love My Way” by The Psychedelic Furs.

“Love My Way” is on the first volume of The Wedding Singer soundtrack.  Adam Sandler was my first love.  By listening to the soundtrack to The Wedding Singer, I felt like I was somehow close to my beloved Adam.  I was 10.

And now I’m 26.  And I am singing my heart out to these songs alone in my room while listening to a recording of my 23-year-old self spin these synthesized love ballads for an attentive-yet-invisible audience.  I had a slew of problems back then.  I have a slew of problems now.  I guess I also had problems when I was 13 and 10.  What’s nice, though, is that sitting here in my bedroom listening to this recording is helping me remember that Stephanie Callas, regardless of age and life experience and whatever bullshit gets played on KROQ, has always been the same damn person.  Will always BE the same damn person.

“Age of Consent” by New Order.

I wonder what I was thinking about the night of May 11th, 2010.  Well, lemme take that back: I know exactly what I was thinking about that night.  For the sake of time and not turning this post into a total downer, I’m gonna keep the secret to myself.  Still, as I said a moment ago, Stephanie Callas is still Stephanie Callas.  Still sorting through the same stuff.  Still reflecting on stuff and healing from stuff and listening to New Order when necessary.

“I had a Patti Smith request.  Someone wants to hear something off ‘Easter.’  So, here’s the first track off of that album.  It’s The Patti Smith Group with ‘Till Victory.'”

You either like Patti Smith or you don’t.

I saw Patti Smith in San Francisco when I was 21.  I had been in L.A. that weekend.  I had to make it to S.F. by a certain time.  I was driving a minivan and I got a speeding ticket somewhere outside Montecito.  I made it to S.F. in time.  The show was incredible and I was standing right against the stage and at one point Patti Smith sat down and held my hand and looked straight into my eyes.  I mouthed “I love you.”  It was during the interlude of her song…called “Dancing Barefoot.”

Again.  You either like Patti Smith or you don’t.  Because Patti Smith is never going to be exactly what you want her to be.  And nothing upsets shitty people like disobedient women.

The disc is over.  Maybe “May 11th 2010 Part Two” is somewhere in this CD case.  The recording ended with “(Sittin) on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding followed by “Oh! Sweet Nuthin” by The Velvet Underground.  I think that transition encapsulates what I was always tryin’ to go for — unlikely harmony.

Unlikely harmony.

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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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The Scuzzy Sons-of-Bitches Who Light Up My Life Part VI: Jack Kerouac

Scuzzy Son-of-a-Bitch #6:


Jack Kerouac

My Future Be-Bop Boyfriend

(2004)

My high school boyfriend bought me a poster of Jack Kerouac during our senior year.  I had never even read any Jack Kerouac — I was more into Allen Ginsberg’s homosexual rages and Charles Bukowski’s drunken stupors.  Nonetheless, he found a Jack Kerouac poster and thought of me.

He brought it to me one night when all I wanted to do was sit around and feel sorry for myself.  The school year had begun with a bang, to say the least.  I was Drama Club President (go ahead and laugh at me), as well as Co Editor-in-Chief of the high school newspaper (laugh harder).  I had to prepare for our school’s upcoming “Cabaret Night,” as I was hosting the prestigious event and I wanted to do a good job.  There was also the issue of mandatory play rehearsal until 5pm on top of writing a Goddamn play for the spring Murder Mystery Dinner and performing in improv shows every other Friday night.  Add to all this the horrible fucking reality of college applications and yeah, I was one angsty 17 year old.

I was sprawled on my bed moping about how I was losing touch with my friends and blah blah when I heard the familiar knock at the door.  My boyfriend always knocked — he never ever rang the doorbell.  My mom let him in, and he came upstairs and presented me with this awesome fucking poster.

“Where did you get this?” I asked.

“Cost Plus,” he said.

“What were you doing at Cost Plus?”

“They have the coolest chocolate,” he said.

He then procured a small tin of green tea chocolate and offered me a piece.  I didn’t fall in love with it, but I could understand why he did.  It was the same reason he chewed clove gum and ginger gum and got excited whenever he was in a place that carried Beeman’s.  He dug the weird sodas at BevMo and always opted for anything infused with chili powder or licorice.  He loved used record stores and antique stores and was always giving me dusty old Tom Jones albums because he knew my friends and I thought Tom Jones was funny.

I thanked him for the poster and told him why I was sad.  He gave me a back massage while I laid on my stomach, my bedroom door wide open for my parents’ peace of mind.

During Christmas vacation, I tried to read On the Road.  I got as far as Sal Paradise’s affair with the beautiful Mexican woman and their adventures in cotton-picking.  It was all very beautiful and very Beat, but once school started and it was time to focus on the next project, I had to put Jack down.

(2006)

During my freshman year of college I nabbed a brand new boyfriend who also gave me cute presents.  On Christmas he gave me ceramic figurine of a hummingbird, which was an inside reference to my very first panic attack — an event he got to witness one morning before the sun was even out.  On Saint Patrick’s day he gave me a ring that he had found when he was in middle school and vowed he would one day give to a special girl.  On Easter he sneaked into my room and hid candy eggs for me to find, which made some of the other girls in my dorm “Ooooh” and “Eeee!” and “You lucky bitch!”

He had never heard of Jack.  He didn’t read poetry.  He didn’t read.  I tried and tried to at least get him to read “Howl,” but he always refused.  One night, I finally got him to lie down with me and listen to a recording of Ginsberg reading it.  When it was over, the only comment my boyfriend offered was, “I liked the part about the watches.”  I tried to talk about societal revolutions and war and change, but the conversation didn’t last long.  I refused to give up, so I tried showing him Easy Rider.  When the movie was over all he had to say was, “You’re such a hippie.”

He also didn’t want to watch all the Beat Generation documentaries I rented on Netflix that year.  I couldn’t even get him to watch No Direction Home, even though his roommate had exposed him to Bob Dylan’s music, which my boyfriend claimed to like.  For the most part, anything having to do with poetry or music or counterculture was anathema to him.  This led to many nights of,

“You should come hang out downstairs.”

“No.  I wanna watch my movie.”

“Well come down afterward.”

“Nope.  I’m sleepin’ in my own bed tonight.”

“But I wanna see you.”

“Then watch the movie with me.”

“But I hate hippies.”

“The Beats weren’t hippies.”

Eventually he would go to his room and I would go to mine.  I would watch something about The Beats and he would do something else.  When the movie was over I would lean over to turn on the light, and Holy Metaphors!, I would be face to face with the Jack poster.

This behavior led to writing sentimental journal entries and scribbling short poems in the margins of my lecture notes and drinking way too much coffee and hoping that one day I would meet someone who really got me.  We’d go to San Francisco on the weekends and eat seafood and drink red wine and wander the streets tossing dimes to the bums and scat-diddly-dat-dat-datting back and forth in crazy love.

In August, one month before sophomore year started, I gave all the cute presents back and called the whole thing off.   One day, I came across some old CD’s of Jack reading his poetry with Steve Allen playing piano in the background.  I knew that we owned the CD’s because I had seem them in my mother’s bedroom before, but I had never thought to steal them.  Newly single and newly inspired, I brought them up to school with me in September and listened to “October in the Railroad Earth” while I pinned pictures of Johnny Depp to my bedroom walls.

Soon after school began, my mom took a trip up to Santa Cruz to visit me.  Well, okay, she wanted to check on me.  The split with the hippie hater had been a tough one, and my mom didn’t want me to spend my first weekend back in Santa Cruz sitting in my room and crying about some guy.  She drove up on Friday and spent the night, and the next morning she drove us to San Francisco.  We stayed in a small room at the Hotel Bohème in North Beach, and mom took me to City Lights and bought me Beatnik postcards.  We wandered into The Beat Museum, where we were given a tour by the owner.  He also showed us THIS:

On Monday morning, when mom drove home and left me to get on with my life, I felt absolutely cured.  I didn’t give a shit about boyfriend or ex-boyfriends.  Everything was going to be fine.  Everything was fine.  All I wanted to do was write poetry, and all I needed was my Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen CD.

(2012)

A few months ago, I quit my job and went on a road trip up north.  Before I left, I checked out an audiobook of On the Road.  I listened to it all the way to Santa Cruz, then a few days later I listened to it on my way to Menlo Park.  When it was time to drive to Alameda I put on The Dresden Dolls, and then when it was time to drive to San Francisco I listened to my new copy of Let Love In.

In San Francisco I ate dim sum in Chinatown and wandered around North Beach drinking Espresso and taking pictures of graffiti.  I had drinks at Cafe Vesuvio and scribbled in a notebook I bought on Valencia.  I was alone, and I was free, and I was happy.

One evening I crashed into the Beat Museum and asked the guy behind the counter if he had access to the Poet of the Month archives.  I told him that I had won Honorable Mention twice in 2007, and that I would like to have copies of my poems.  He explained that he didn’t have physical copies, but he could try to find them for me online.  He worked on his computer for about ten minutes before saying, “I found your poem from April.”  I said, “There’s one from May, too.”  He looked at his computer, then said to me, “That page has been corrupted.”  My face fell.  He said, “I can recover it.  Give me a second.”

About twenty minutes later, he announced that he had fixed the problem and I now had web access to my poem.  I thanked him profusely and bought some merchandise so I wouldn’t seem like a total asshole.

I was never able to find my poem online, but it’s okay.  Somehow, I feel that if I ever found it and read it, I would only see the stupid mistakes and the dorky word choices.  I would criticize myself, and I don’t want to do that.  Instead, I prefer to think that a perfect poem written by a romantic 20-year-old girl is somewhere out there floating around in the informational abyss, never to be seen by human eyes.  I think Jack would like that.

And I never finished listening to On the Road.  I think Jack would like that, too.

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The Beat Goes On III, or: I Think I Get It Now.

What’s there to live for?
Who needs the peace corps?
Think I’ll just DROP OUT

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco.  Progressive Grounds.  I had two mugs of black tea when I woke up this morning; I don’t need this giant cup of coffee.  This stuff is SERIOUS.  I’ve been nursing it for nearly an hour and I haven’t even finished 1/4 of the thing. With every little baby sip my heart starts racing like I just broke bread with George Jung.

I’ve been away from home for 11 days.  (Wait, Holy Cow, really?  I’ll have to celebrate…)  I’ve been in Santa Cruz, Menlo Park, Alameda, and, now, San Francisco.

Santa Cruz was a lot of  fabulous silliness that was briefly interrupted by an afternoon of dismal introspection catapulted by the misunderstanding that the bastards who stole my iPod from my car also stole my most prized nostalgic possession.  After Santa Cruz came a brief, much-needed low-key interlude in La Selva beach, where I got to spend two nights in an actual bed.  I also spent a lovely afternoon in Monterey taking pictures of headstones and crying underneath cemetery trees.  (Did anyone else just think of this song?)  Menlo Park was a brilliant afternoon and evening of Chinese Food and Catch Up.  I was back on the couch, but the couch was a comfy one.

When I got to Alameda I was ready to get silly again.  I stayed with a friend I hadn’t seen since July of 2010.  She studies Molecular Biology and she loves Judas Priest and Bridget Jones’s Diary.  She took me out for bratwurst and sauerkraut and I stole a drink coaster.  After lunch we bummed around downtown for awhile and eventually walked into a psychic shop.  We asked how much it would cost to have our palms read.  The cost was super cheap.  I went first.

The woman took me into a little room and sat me down.  She asked me my full name and date of birth, and then she looked at my hands.

“You have a long, full life ahead of you,” she said.

I was unimpressed.

“I don’t see any death or tragedy in your family.”

Cool.  Still, I was unimpressed.

The woman paused for a moment, and then her voice took on a more serious tone as she said, “I will say this: you’re procrastinating.”

I looked at her.  She was younger and prettier than I usually imagine psychics to be.  She had all her teeth and her skin was perfect and there wasn’t a single gray hair on her head.

“You’re creative,” she said.  “Every thought that comes into your head is creative.  But you’re procrastinating when it comes to work and school.  I don’t think you’re done with school.  But what you need to be doing now is focusing on your writing.

I stopped breathing.

“I definitely see a book in your future,” she continued.  “You already have it completely planned in your head — you just need to get to work writing it down.

I took a breath.  I whispered, “I know.”  My eyes welled up with tears.  I apologized for being emotional and laughed at the contrived profundity I seem to encounter everywhere I go.

To give me a break from the heaviness she was layin’ on me, she talked about my love life.  She didn’t have anything monumental to say — she basically confirmed my suspicion that I’m actually completely fine with the fact that I’m single.  Once that was out of the way, she went back to the main issue.  She said, “Take a creative writing class.”

I held my breath again as I remembered an email I received a few days before my trip.  An author I met in December wrote to me and said she would love for me to participate in a creative writing class she was going to be starting.  I didn’t respond to her.  Why?  Apparently I’m a procrastinator.

The psychic asked me if I had any questions.  I asked about my location, and she said, “I’d like you to be closer to the water.”  Totally not weird.  Because, ya know, I never EVER fantasize about moving to Santa Cruz or San Francisco or Seattle…

She ended her reading by saying, “Write your book.”  I ended by saying, “How the HELL did you know all that?”

She only asked me for my full name and date of birth.  I didn’t show her my ID, tell her where I was from, tell her that I do, in fact, want to write a book and that I do, in fact, spend less time working on my writing than I should and that I do, in fact, want to live near water.

I don’t think I can continue to distract myself from doing what I really want to do.  Why it took a psychic to convince me that it’s time to get serious and declare myself a fucking writer is something I will never understand.  We’re all different, I guess.

Intermission.

That night my friend and I got in trouble at a Tikki Bar for causing a ruckus.  We were mainly disturbing the bartender, Jared.  At first we both thought he was a total babe, but at some point in the night when we asked him for more drinks, he told us he’d have to ask his manager first.  “Why can’t we have another drink?” asked my friend.  Jared gave us a list of things “polite customers” — customers who deserve their handcrafted Tikki cocktails! — don’t do.  He said that polite customers “don’t steal.”  My friend and I fell silent.  You see, I’d been sneaking pieces of pineapple when no one was looking, and I also had a purse full of Tikki God cocktail stirrers.  Jared then added that polite customers, “don’t say ‘The F-Word.'”  We fell even more silent.  You see, my friend had been saying “The F-Word” quite loudly, and quite a lot.  When the lecture was over, she said, “Fuck you, Jared.”  I took another stirrer.

We still got our drinks, and we still stole shit and swore.  It was all in good fun, and no one else at the bar seemed to be annoyed by our shenanigans.

That night we went to a house party in Oakland to see a band.  They played “DARK FOLK.”  They also wore long, black cloaks, which looked a good deal like long, black Snuggies.  I kept screaming, “YOU LOOK LIKE NICK CAVE!” at one of them.  The sight of their guitars made me miss my ukulele and I cursed myself for not lugging it with me.  Lord knows I could have at least busted out a mediocre rendition of “Creep” and made a few nickels on Pacific…

The next day we went to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley and bought CDs and ate Indian Food.  I also bought a Rolling Stones T-Shirt in a thrift shop (and I’ve been wearing it for the last two days).  That night we went downtown and drank dark beers and I stole another drink coaster.

The next day we drove to Oakland to check out Lake Merritt.  We rented a paddle boat and rode around in the lake chasing seagulls and fantasizing that the pieces of wood we saw floating around were actually sea monsters.  Every time we saw a piece of trash floating by, we vowed to one day return to the lake with a giant net.

After one last meal together my friend made it clear that it was time for her to face the fact that she had homework to do.  This meant it was time for me to hit the road.

I’ll go to Frisco
Buy a wig & sleep
On Owsley’s floor

I had bought a copy of Let Love In by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds while I was at Rasputin on Telegraph.  I was so amped while listening to “Loverman” that I drove right passed the toll booth when I crossed the Bay Bridge.

Can You Blame Me?

My first night here was spent watching Mad Men with my cousin and eating Chinese take out.  The next day, yesterday, I walked around Valencia and bought a coffee mug and a t-shirt and a note pad.  I grabbed a taxi to North Beach and got out on Columbus avenue.  I turned the corner to Chinatown and got some Dim Sum, which cost $1.30.  I was good and full, so I bought a book at City Lights and sat down inside Cafe Vesuvio to chill out.  Two guys sitting at the bar were singing “Ghost” and I felt completely at peace.  When they were done singing some freaking Decemberists song came on and Good God I will always be team Aeroplane.

Walked past the wig store
Danced at the Fillmore
I’m completely stoned

I was broke so I went across the street to The Beat Museum.  I asked the guy behind the counter if they were still doing the “Poet of the Month” contest, and when he said “No” I asked if there was any way I could check out the archives.  I said I was awarded Honorable Mention twice in 2007, and that I could only find one of the poems online.  He was really sweet and spent a long time searching for the May 2007 results, and when he found that the web page was corrupted (or corrupt?) he fixed it for me.  I felt bad for making him do all that work, so I bought some Allen Ginsberg poetry and was even more broke.

I tried searching for the poem earlier this afternoon.  I still can’t find it.

I’m hippy & I’m trippy
I’m a gypsy on my own
I’ll stay a week
& get the crabs
& Take a bus back home
I’m really just a phony
But forgive me
‘Cause I’m stoned

When I got back to my cousin’s place we went out for Vietnamese.  We ate garlic noodles and prawns with spicy green beans and more garlic.  Then we went back to her house and watched the last four episodes of the third season of Mad Men.  That show only gets better every time I watch it.  This time I enjoyed it all so much I was almost impressed with January Jones’s acting.

Still, it’s always been about this big hunk-o-gangsta.

I had a bizarre sex dream last night, and when I woke up this morning I kept my eyes closed so I could remember all the crazy details.  They’re still a bit fuzzy, but I do know that at one point in the dream I was very mad at the young man I had just spent the night with because he was ignoring me during a screening of Lawrence of Arabia in 3D.  This confused me, because he was more than willing to skip the screening of Cat People the night before just to be with me.  I think that the preposterousness of it all demonstrates a new all time high in Dorky Dreams.

When I got out of bed I thought I’d maybe go to Haight Street…

Every town must have a place
Where phony hippies meet

Buy another mug or three…

Psychedelic dungeons
Popping up every street

Instead I got up and went to a donut place near my cousin’s house, where I ate a maple bacon apple donut.  And It Was Good.

I never made it to Haight Street.  Instead I creeped inside a tiny coffee shop and did some writing.  And ya know what?  I had a great time.  It was fun and challenging and I feel like it’s time to take a walk.

I definitely see more writing in my future.  I also see Don Draper.  And an ice cream cone.

GO TO SAN FRANCISCO
How I love ya, How I love ya How I love ya, How I love ya Frisco!

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The Beat Goes On II

Ya know what happened to me yesterday right after I posted my blog about how I had a total breakdown when I realized that my Powerpuff Girls CD case was stolen from my car?

I found my Powerpuff Girls CD case.  I also found the Kerouac.  They were hidden underneath a towel in the back seat of my car.  Ya know what?  I’m glad I hid them.  Sure, I was upset for a day, but in the long run…wow, man.  Such a relief.

The iPod, however, has probably been sold for crack money by now.  Oh well.  The thing was starting to act up, anyway.

I spent most of yesterday bumming around the mountains.  Those mountain towns have always had profoundly calming effects on me.  During my last year in Santa Cruz I would sometimes drive all the way to Ben Lomond just to buy almond milk and kombucha.  Their stuff wasn’t any better than what I could get downtown, but the surroundings…wow.

I went into a little ukulele store on Highway 9 near White Raven and Don Quixote’s.  I’d never seen the place before — I guess they’ve only been open a little over a year.  I was already missing my cute like ukulele, but when I walked into the store I felt 100x’s worse.  I could have asked the guy behind the counter for a quick lesson, or asked him for some tips on quick and easy tuning.  ::Sigh::  Instead, I just basked in the glory of all the cute little ukes on the wall.

I took a lot of pictures of Felton, then drove a little further inland to get some pretty shots of Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek as well.  Boulder Creek definitely looked the most beautiful, and I had an absolute blast wandering up and down “the strip” taking pictures of the old timey-lookin’ buildings.  I felt 100% at peace.  I don’t know if I could ever live in the Santa Cruz mountains full time, but if I’m ever filthy rich and can afford to have multiple homes, I will definitely have a getaway pad somewhere over there.  I’ll decorate it with Jackalopes.  And Ukelopes…

Call me crazy, but I think the ukulele guy is having a laugh at this fellow Felton resident’s expense.  I’m not choosing sides — they both enrich my life.

After my wilderness adventures I headed back to the city of Santa Cruz, during which time Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty made their way to New Orleans to visit Old Bull Lee.  All the talk of saloons and sex and Benzedrine made me realize how much I wanted a shower, so I stopped at a house where a few friends of mine live to ask if I could use their shower.  Luckily my friend Dan was there to let me in, so I was able to clean up and relax a little bit before heading back downtown for a last-minute “Happy Birthday” drink with a friend.  After I was all clean I put on Dan’s VHS copy of Annie Hall and got comfortable.  I teared up a few times, especially when Annie and Alvy got back together after he killed the spider in her apartment.  When I finally got up to leave, Dan turned to me and gave me a speech about living life to the fullest.  I almost broke down and sobbed.  I didn’t, though, and I was able to get to the bar on time with my mascara in tact.

I had a Shirley Temple to toast my friend’s birthday, and then I was on my way to Watsonville to stay with my dearest, most darling friend Danielle.  I stayed up late screwing around on the internet and feeling ever so happy that I was in my dearest, most darling friend Danielle’s house.

Today we went to Monterey.  Danielle had an appointment there, so she pointed me in the direction of a pretty park near a lake where I could hang out and take pictures while I waited for her.  I crossed the white bridge over the lake and found myself in a cemetery, where I ended up taking pictures of strangers’s graves and crying over all the headstones that said things like,

Baby Winter

January 30, 1946

I was most overwhelmed by the baby that lived for two days.  So overwhelmed, in fact, that I had to sit down and scribble a few notes.  While I was doing that, I saw a woman praying underneath a nearby tree.  When she finished praying she made the sign of the cross, then she knelt down and set something on a grave.  When she left, I tried to figure out which grave she was praying at.  I narrowed it down to two possibilities.

After an hour I made my way back to Danielle’s car.  I threw my stuff inside and we sped off to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch.  When I went to grab my coat, I saw that I had forgotten my purse.

Yes.

I forgot my purse in the cemetery.

We drove back, and my purse was on the bench right where I set it when I sat down to scribble and watch that woman pray.

Wow.

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The Beat Goes On.

It’s remarkable what nine hours of sleep on a firm mattress with lots of blankets can do for your outlook.

Today is Tuesday, January 24th.  I left for Santa Cruz on Friday, January 20.  During my drive, I listened to an audiobook of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  Well, I got to Disc 3, anyway.

I stopped at Pea Soup Andersen’s in Buellton for breakfast.  I find that kind of thing whimsical.  After my eggs and toast, I got into my car to hit the road again, and, quite suddenly, I felt that dreaded sensation I haven’t felt in months.  My hands tingled.  My heart beat quickened.  “Oh, shit,” I thought.  “I’m anxious.”

I had felt anxious the night before, too, but opted not to report it to anyone.  I was watching the 3D re-release of Beauty and the Beast with my mom and two of my best friends.  Suddenly, after “Tale As Old As Time,” I noticed that my arms felt tingly.  I tried to ignore it, but, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t.  I even made the deadly mistake of thinking, “If I suddenly have a stroke, someone in this theater will call 9-11.”  That is not the kind of thing I am supposed to tell myself.  I am supposed to tell myself that arm tingling doesn’t mean shit.  Why did I let myself get freaked out?  Out of all the voices that chatter all day long in my subconscious, why did I listen to the one that sounds like Woody Allen?  As I sat there counting down the minutes until The Beast turned back into The Prince, I made one more idiotic mistake.  I thought to myself, “I hope this doesn’t happen tomorrow during my drive.”

The human mind is…well, it’s bizarre, to say the least.  That little tiny seed of doubt was all it took to freak me out hours later outisde of Pea Soup Andersen’s.  I started the car anyway, but I was still feeling weird.  There I was, driving north on the 101, desperately trying to tell myself to chill out and listen to the soothing sound of, “The night air blah blah All I had was $3 blah blah Dean Moriarty blah blah Bottle of whiskey blah blah Beat.”

Had I made the wrong decision?  Was it really wise of me to take a trip rather than find a damn job?  Why did I feel I even deserved to do what I was doing?  What was the point?   

It was time for Woody Allen to shut up.  He was disrupting Jack Kerouac.

I pulled over in the tiny town of Los Alamos.  Yes, Los Alamos, California.  It exists.  There’s a gas station, and a Subway (as in sandwiches) that looks like an old saloon.  I usually stop there on the way to Santa Cruz to pee and get something to drink.  This time, I peed, got a drink, and took a walk.

Soon enough, I was back in the car, feeling relaxed and ready to kick the drive’s ass.  I turned off Jack, put on some music, and made it the rest of the way to Santa Cruz without a single hiccup.  It was a rather encouraging experience.  When I got to Watsonville it began to rain, so I put on Van Morrison and sang.  Loudly.

That was Friday.  Today is Tuesday.  On Monday morning I got into my car and saw that I had been robbed.  My copy of Blonde on Blonde was on my seat, which was not right.  My glove compartment was open.  The windows weren’t broken, nor was the lock broken.  “I…I think I left my car unlocked?”  I couldn’t believe it when I said out loud, “I’ve been…robbed?”

The bastards got my iPod.  Ya know what else they got?  The audiobook of On the Road.  Except Disc 3, of course.  Sal Paradise will forever be in Los Angeles with his beautiful Mexican girl.

After some anger and confusion, I accepted what had happened and moved on.  My friend said, “You’re handling this really well.  I would be crying right now.”  I took her compliment seriously, and even went so far as to say, “Hopefully I’ll be able to think of this experience in the future and tell myself if I can remain calm after being robbed, I can remain calm when other shit happens.”  Yeah.  I said that.

Hours later, I totally cried.  I realized that the bastards had also taken my Powerpuff Girls CD case, which contained the following:

  1. A burned copy of Nirvana’s Nevermind
  2. A burned copy of The Mother’s of Invention’s Freak Out!
  3. Pete Doherty’s Grace/Wastelands
  4. My friend Dan’s Woody Allen CD…
  5. Jason Webley’s Cost of Living
  6. Jason Webley’s live album In This Light (I will now have to buy this a third time…)
  7. A burned copy of the freaking BIG LITTLE DIPPER DIPPER ALBUM

THESE BASTARD METHHEADS STOLE THE MOST WORTHLESS CD CASE KNOWN TO MANKIND.  NO ONE IS GOING TO GIVE YOU DRUG MONEY FOR THE CD THAT HAS “HOCKEY STAR.”

Here are the four things that actually HURT me:

  1. THE BEST OF LEONARD COHEN
  2. THE DOORS
  3. SAM FRANCE’S GOD IS REAL
  4. FOXYGEN’S KILL ART

After realizing these CD’s were gone forever, I took a deep breath and then said, out loud, “With the exception of the live Jason Webley album, I have all of this music on my computer.  What is not on my computer is on a flash drive.  I can get all of this…”

Then I realized that the Powerpuff Girls CD case also contained what I consider to be the single greatest radio show I ever put on.  It was one night in April 2010 where Dancing Barefoot was just unstoppable.  My playlist was kickass and my delivery was ridiculously strong.  There wasn’t a single technical difficulty and I never said, “Ummm.”  I sounded like a happy, level-headed, stable fucking person who was having a killer time putting on a rock solid radio show.

I turned to my friend.  I told her what I had just realized.  We sat in silence.  I then said, “I’m going to cry in front of you now.”

As it turns out, I may be able to get a copy of that radio show after all.  Apparently KZSC’s archive of shows just might go back as far as 2010.  I shall see.   Regardless, I felt rather strange for the rest of the Goddamn day.  To be completely honest, I suddenly wanted to just go home.  Why bother sticking around?  My freaking back was killing me from sleeping on a deflated air mattress.  My last pair of contact lenses were completely fucked and the rain was fogging up my glasses.   I was tired, I was cold, and I was still unsure whether or not I deserved to be taking a trip.

Oh, and I was robbed.

Oh, and that Goddamn Woody Allen voice had made an appearance the other day.

As I sat on my friend’s bed after a delicious dinner at Charlie Hong Kong’s, all I could think about was whether or not I should call it quits on the whole road trip thing.

That, my friends, was yesterday.  Today, after finally getting a full night’s sleep on a firm mattress with lots of blankets, I am a new woman.  Screw Woody Allen, screw the bastards who stole my iPod, and screw calling it quits.  That is not what I want to do.  Besides, I just noticed that at no point did I mention that I’m actually having a great time…

Lock your doors.  Sleep well.  Wear dry clothes.

Time to start my damn day.  In Santa Cruz.

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COLLEGE POEMS II

It’s time to share another embarrassing poem I wrote in college.

This one is actually still kinda funny.  To me. 

I found it on my MySpace blog, and it says in huge letters:

Written whilst sitting on a bench at the Stevenson knoll.

“Whilst.”  Oh, Steff.

Now, the Stevenson Knoll is one of the most beautiful places on our planet.  It is near the dorms at Stevenson College at UC Santa Cruz.  It is a grassy knoll that overlooks the ocean.  It is the perfect place to sit and watch the sun come up.  Or read a book.  Or stare out into space.  

It’s a holy spot…  ::Sigh::

As SOON as the sun comes out in spring, it becomes Bikini Central.  Everyone suddenly switches gears from “Let’s go to the knoll and sing songs” to, “Oh my GOD I’m so PALE!  Let’s go to the KNOLL!”

One day, when I felt like going to the knoll with my notebook, I encountered a group of giggling bikinis.  After observing their behavior for awhile, I wrote this poem.

March 19, 2007

“Spring Got Sprung”

Skinny, bikini-clad girls are
all over the place.
Can’t escape ’em!
Everywhere I look
there’s another skinny white girl’s ass
in a skimpy bikini bottom.
BRIGHT pink, BRIGHT red,
and some blue or green.
I’m stuck in a tornado of tiny tits.
A scrawny chick in black is
playing with a lighter as if
to tell the world,
“I have every intention of
eventually smoking
a BAD ASS cigarette.”

I’d like to make her a sandwich
and take away her cell phone.

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COLLEGE POEMS!

I used to write a lot of poems. Like, a LOT of them. I’m not sure if they were good or bad, really. I may even go so far as to say that some of them showed potential.

Good or bad aside, they REEK of college. Absolutely REEK of it. They are all about, in the [poetic] words of The Rolling Stones:

“Laughter, joy, and loneliness
And sex and sex and sex and sex.”

I used to share these poems with ENTIRELY TOO MANY PEOPLE. ENTIRELY. I read them to my classmates, posted them on my MYSPACE BLOG, submitted them to poetry contests and WON…

…Well, ya know, I received Honorable Mention…TWICE!

Here’s one I just found. I will definitely share more of these.

Posted on my MYSPACE BLOG on March 19, 2008. At the time I was a junior in college, and I lived in a tiny blue house in Midtown Santa Cruz. I may have been dating a cannabis-growing, pot-selling convenient store clerk at this point — I’m not sure when exactly we started dating.

Anyway, I was a really happy, creative kid. And I wrote this poem.

“The Palace Flophouse”

A tiny blue house sits off kilter
at an angle
tucked between two much more substantial buildings.
The cars in the drive way virtually
tower over the beach shanty and
the blue paint is faded from years of
sunshine and rain
and the rust-colored mailbox creaks loudly
every time it’s opened.
The plants in the front yard
are sparse and shriveled.
They enhance…nothing.

The tiny, comfy living room
has an ugly white sofa
with a horrid floral pattern
and there are two brown corduroy chairs
on either side of it.
There’s always a glare on the television screen
because there aren’t any shades
on the gigantic glass windows
that make privacy impossible.
And the room is freezing…all the time.

A tiny, dirty kitchen
has a stove that never ignites
and a dishwasher that never works
and a huge, white counter
that’s never clean.
The floor is made of red bricks
and no matter how much anyone sweeps
it’s always dirty
and littered with crumbs, dust, hair,
and bottle tops.
It’s still swept everyday…anyway.

A tiny, horrid patio
has three white, plastic chairs
and two stools that have both been
destroyed by monsoons and heat.
There are green weeds growing like mad
between the slabs of gray granite
and they are slowly taking over.
A dirty shell sits on one of the stools
and it’s used for cigarette butts
and it’s always overflowing.
There’s ash…everywhere.

A tiny, stupid voice in my head says,
“How the Hell have you survived here?
“There’s no heating or air conditioning
and the bathroom’s full of spiders
“and the front door doesn’t really lock
“and your bedroom is so crammed
“and there’s really shitty lighting
“and the parking lot around the corner
is so damn loud at night
“and the beach is cold and windy
“and raccoons run on your roof.”
But I wouldn’t trade this place for…anything.

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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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The Scuzzy Sons-of-Bitches Who Light Up My Life Part I: Mark Renton

Yesterday, I got to have a good, long Skype session with my friend Zach, a former KZSC comrade.  Our conversation, I am happy to report, was quite brilliant.  We discussed the rise and fall of Microsoft and Nintendo, the inferior design of Facebook, and Yahoo’s inability to even try to compete with The Google Overlords.  During a brief moment of non-internet related banter, Zach mentioned that he was planning on teaching himself how to play the accordion.  I said that I could imagine him playing at The Poet And The Patriot; a bar in downtown Santa Cruz that only serves the finest beers and the cheapest wines.  We then got to talking about how fantastic it is to sit at the bar at The Poet and watch the frat boys and sorority girls order shorts of Jaeger and Patron, only to be turned down by the hard-assed, Irish bartenders.  “It helps keep out the riff-raff,” said Zach.  “If they want that shit, they can go to The Red.”

The Red is as trendy as it gets when it comes to downtown Santa Cruz drinking establishments.  There are drinks with funny names, or “signature cocktails,” if you prefer.  The girls are wearin’ mini-skirts, and everyone looks like they’ve showered.  The place smells of cologne and sugar cane, and it’s impossible for bums to sneak inside.  Despite all this, I could still walk in wearing jeans and a t-shirt and no one would glare at me.

There is a lower-level of The Red that is quite unlike its upstairs counterpart.  The lower-level allows smoking.  The lower-level isn’t as well-lit.  The lower-level isn’t the place to go for a neon pink “signature cocktail.”  The lower-level attracts girls in mini-skirts with tattoos on their arms.  The lower-level…just…feels more like home.  I used to hang out at the lower Red with my good friend, Ellanee, when we were in college.  We’d stay until closing time, having a blast being total assholes to all the poor fuckers who offered to buy us drinks.

“Ya know what I always loved?” I said to Zach, “The lower-Red.  It’s scuzzier.”  Zach laughed and said, “You would like the lower-Red, you classy, classy lady.”  I knew he was being ironic, which I found rather funny.  I also found it a bit perplexing.  In what ways, I wondered, am I not perfectly classy?  I burp in front of people, and I don’t give a shit if I’m caught grocery shopping in my pajama bottoms, but I don’t consider myself especially unclassy.  I had to settle this.  I said to Zach, “You know what?  It’s because I’m too much of a chicken to actually be scuzzy, so I’m attracted to people who really are.  I live vicariously.  It’s like I’m Lawrence Ferlinghetti and I’m just chillin’ watching all the Neil Cassadys run around.  They’ll all die, and I’ll be an old person riding my bike to my prestigious bookstore.”  Zach just laughed and said, “Imagining you as an old lady on a bike is funny.”

***

Scuzzy people.  Scuzzy fuckin’ low-life people.  I love them; especially, you guessed it, the males.  Yes, I am a Good Girl who loves Bad Fuckin’ Boys.  Not just any bad boy, mind you.  I’m talkin’ vagabonds.  Drifters.  Rockstars.  DIRTY HIPPIES!  The poets, the painters, the shitty novelists, the song-writers, the filmmakers…All that bullshit.  I love ’em stoned, I love ’em drunk, I love ’em strung out in the street quoting T.S. Eliot.  I love ’em in torn clothing with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths and knowing smirks on their lips.  I love five o’clock shadows and dirty coats that smell like bourbon and old shoes.  I love long hair and bare feet and sage-scented panchos.  I love paint-covered hands.  I love foul mouths.  I love bar fights and run-ins with the police.

Oh, how we danced away all of the lights, We’ve always been out of our minds…

I know, of course, deep-down, that I could never ever have a meaningful romantic relationship with a scuzzy son-of-a-bitch.  I know that.  I really, really do.  However, until I find my sensitive, loyal, well-mannered family man who makes six (or more) figures per year, I plan on continuing to fall in love with all the wrong men — at least the ones I see on the silver screen and hear on my shitty speakers.

I am not sure what my love for scuzzy men means.  Is it purely voyeuristic?  And why?  Am I rebelling against my suburban upbringing by idolizing vagrants?  Do I think that I have the power to take a starving artist and transform him into a well-to-do member of society?  Do I just wish Nick Cave’s “Hard On For Love” were about me?  Is this my specific take on penis envy?  Again, I am not sure.  All I know is that pictures of young Marlon Brando are great, but stories about young Marlon Brando living in his dirty New York apartment with a pet raccoon excite me even more.  I can’t explain it; I can only explore it.

Let the exploration begin!

SCUZZY SON-OF-A-BITCH #1:

Mark Renton

The Derelict That Started It All

(2002)

Those skin-tight jeans.  Those red Adidas.  That thick Scottish brogue.  That foul mouth.  Yes, Mark Renton is definitely my kind of sexy motherfucker.   Add to the mix a debilitating heroin addiction, and I’m in Good Girl Heaven.

My friend, Melanie, and I fell in love with Ewan McGregor via Moulin Rouge!  It wasn’t long before we had the damn movie memorized (including the u2/KISS/David Bowie mash-ups) and were desperate to see more of Ewan McGregor’s work; I have no idea why we chose to watch Trainspotting after months of  singing along to the “Elephant Love Medley.”

It was a Sunday afternoon.  I was 14-years-old.  When I saw Mark Renton overdose on heroin and sink into The Mother Superior’s living room floor while Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” oozed through the room, everything suddenly made sense.  “This is it,” I realized.  “I’ve always loved this stuff, and I’ve never known it.”

 NOTHING was the same for me after that.  Eve6 and Blink 182 and Dave Matthews Band were replaced by Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie.  If a book involved heroin, I had to read it.  My poor mother had to listen to Nevermind The Bollocks everyday as she drove me home from school.  I found a dusty old copy of Naked Lunch on my parents’ bookshelf.  Everything that came out of the UK was kickass, and everyone who made music in the 1970’s was a God.

Conversely, everything that was popular sucked.  It sucked hard, and I wanted nothing to do with it.

Thanks to that period of my life, I own way too many obscure Ewan McGregor movies on VHS (if anyone would like to join me to watch Lipstick On Your Collar or Scarlet & Black, please let me know), way too many books about punk rock (still haven’t read Lipstick Traces), and way too many copies of The Velvet Underground & Nico (CD, vinyl, two-disc remastered, burned copy of the two-disc remastered…).  Clutter aside, when I think about what may have happened to me if I had never fallen in lust with a fictional drug addict, I get very Existential.  For example, if I hadn’t fallen in love with Mark Renton, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with old music, and if I hadn’t fallen in love with old music I wouldn’t have fallen in love with old records, and if I hadn’t fallen in love with old records I wouldn’t have fallen in love with Jim Morrison (MORE ON HIM LATER), and if I hadn’t fallen in love with Jim Morrison…Would I have gone to UC Santa Cruz?  Would I have had my own radio show?  Would I have met half the people I consider my friends?  Would I have seen Patti Smith live?

Would I be into GAGA?

Life is just extraordinary, isn’t it?  If it hadn’t been for a little crush on an actor that turned into a tremendous fascination with various human subcultures…I mean, there’s nothing else I can possibly say, really.  I can’t possibly add more profundity by writing a few more measly words, can I?

How about this: thanks, Mark Renton, for being so Goddamn tragic.  And HOT.

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