Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How cool would it be to get into a fistfight in a used bookstore with a guy that looked like Spencer from the Hills?

I opened the door to the punch line: “It was an adverb not an adjective.” The balding, never-left college man behind the counter let out a belly laugh and his co-worker, a diminutive woman with cat-eye glasses and a threadbare cotton t-shirt, chuckled, proud that her joke went over so well. Like all successful jokes she repeated the punch line: “It wasn’t an adjective.” 3 deep in line, the customers were privy to the joke, either giving a short courtesy laugh or nod that said “I got it.” I looked at all 5 and regretted leaving Border’s. I was out of my element and on the run.

It was a used bookstore in a college town. What did I want? The aisles were narrow and errant paperbacks were stacked vertically along the base of the shelves like molding. There were a handful of people in the store and we were all jockeying for position in the fiction section.

I wanted the book Middlesex by an author I couldn’t remember, but there was no way in hell I was going to ask the 2 behind the counter who wrote it. Even though the book was approved by the used bookstore intelligentsia and the subject matter was titillating and could be used as liberal leverage at parties or poetry readings, I was afraid that just asking a question would spawn conversation about books and I didn’t want that. I decided to go it alone, starting in the “A” aisle. It had a familiar cover and was popular book, so it wouldn’t be that hard to find.

It didn’t’ start well. Next to me was a guy in a Strand t-shirt, the CBGB’s of used bookstores. I glared at him and thought: “We get it, dude. You like books.” He bugged me already.

Since there was a little room to move past the book browsers, I bunny hopped sections, going around the back of the bookshelves. Ending up in the “S” section, I had yet to find the book and had already written it off. My eyes darted from book to book, mindlessly wandering the mosaic of fonts and colors that were in front of me, wasting time until my exit.

Two students passed behind me, parking themselves in the “P” section. I caught the tail end of their conversation: “Fuck’em if he was offended. He didn’t move,” he proudly boasted. He was young, good looking, taught and tanned. He had that rich-boy look that was intimidating and that said “Don’t fuck with me, I have something to prove.” I gave him a lot of space.

Pulling a book of the shelf, his friend appeared to be the opposite of him: mousy and non-descript with a best-friend-never-a-girlfriend vibe. It was easy to see that she pinned over him and was too dumb to notice or didn’t care.

“Have you ever heard of her?” thrusting the binding of the book toward his face.

“No, contrary to popular belief,” he said, “I’m not that well read. Who is she?”

What a dick, I thought.

She continued, “Well, she was a woman that was married to an abusive man. She killed herself. I like poetry like that.”

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'm in Michigan

See ya in a week

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Arbitrary Admission of Adolescence

By the time we got to Minneapolis, the word was out; at least our booking agent Ellen knew about it.

We were drunk - really drunk when some kid interviewed us for a local fanzine in St. Louis. We never thought that it would be published and distributed by the time we reached Minneapolis and, we assumed, no one would read it. Regardless, what did we say that was so bad or offensive? I found out it wasn’t what we said, it was what I said.

I wouldn’t have remembered if it wasn’t for the interview. It slowly came back to me - the sloppy grade school-like photo of both bands with beers in hands and over animated expressions, and all the responses to questions starting with, “Dude!” It reeked of intoxication.

And there it was, like big zit on your nose on a date, at the end of the interview: “Duuuude, I had sex before masturbating. I attribute this to my well being high school.” It came out of nowhere – an arbitrary admission that had nothing to do with the interview. It was like standing up in class announcing that you’re gay.

The admission was met with a chorus of “Bullllshiiiiit!”

Ellen asked me if it was true. Supporting the interview, I responded, “Yes. I attribute this to my well being in high school.” I’m not sure how this little anomaly is serving me in adulthood.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Picture of Freedom

My new symbol. When you think of me, think of this:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where the Doctors and Lawyers are Poor

While sitting in the bar area of the lodge of the fanciest ranch in Montana, the bartender asked, “Are you guys a flight crew?” IT was the oddest question and was said with such sincerity that it couldn’t be a joke. Just by the looks of us, it should’ve been obvious that none of us could fly a plane, let alone be trusted with one. We were not of this ilk.

“No, we’re the band,” we responded, wide eyed with bewilderment.

Realizing we had no idea why he asked us if we were pilots, he cleared things up: “Sorry, a lot of the guests’ flight crews stay here.”

“So, you mean people fly here in private jets?”

“Oh yeah, most people do.”

“Really? Wow!”

"Yeah, this is a place where Doctors and Lawyers are considered poor."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

You’re Like All Dads

I mean, come on, wouldn’t you be pissed if your dad distracted you from your Wii game and you lost because of it? I sure would. And wouldn’t you want to challenge him to a game and say, “I want to kill you at this?” Sounds pretty reasonable to me. Luckily I wasn’t the dad or I’d feel completely different.

While the 9 year old cooled down in the living room, my head laid against the shoulder of their dog. The dog didn’t seem to mind and it was quite relaxing. Testing out my pre-teen whisperer skills, I tested the tumultuous waters, offering her a spot next to me on the dog’s stomach. I was trying to be the cool dad or, more like, the cool friend of the dad. We would talk it out and everything would be alright. Fantasy, right?

Appearing to calm down a bit, she moved to lie down. Feeling pretty good about my parenting skills, I said in a loving manner, “Put your big head here,” gesturing to the dog’s stomach. She abruptly stopped and gave me a menacing look: “Big head? You’re like all dads.” And she stormed off.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Sign Replacement Program

A few years back I started the Sign Replacement Program at work. The concept was simple: replace hand written notes on poles, walls and doors of rooms in hotels in the Tenderloin and replace them the next day with type written, cleaned up versions of the original note. For Example: “Iron Broad For Sale, $10, nock on #223” would be replaced with “Ironing Board For Sale, $10, Knock on Room #223.” I would set it to fancy type and maybe even throw in a graphic. I would keep the original and we’d call it even.

The program came to an abrupt end when a co-worker was chased down 3 flights of stairs for stealing a note from Tenderloin hotel door that said “Don’t even think about knokking (sic) or will be boxxing (sic).” This was a very common note on TL doors (don’t knock) except for the boxing part. After this incident, I suspended the program.

Last week I was walking back to work after lunch and saw this young, junkie, homeless guy posting a note on a security gate next to a tranny hotel. He didn’t have tape so he finagled a rubberband around the joints of the security gate to hold the note in place. Given the look of the guy, it had to say something good.

I milled behind him, acting like I was either waiting for a ride or intently interested in something going on across the street, waiting for a glimpse of the note. I finally got a glance: “Suicide NOW, Do Not Wait.” What the hell does that mean?

I ran back to work and announced that the Sign Replacement Program was back in business. I went to my computer and typed, “Suicide NOW!!! Don’t Wait!!” When I returned, he was gone. I took the note and replaced it with the new and improved note.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jimmy Gestapo

An RV careened into the expansive parking lot, swerving left and right in a playful manner due to the amount of space. We could see the driver through the windshield and he had a big smile on his face. Counting our van, there were only 2 vehicles in the lot - the RV was the third. It came to an abrupt stop near the entrance of the hall. Figuring it was Murphy’s Law, we stopped what we were doing and eyeballed the side door of the RV, anticipating its opening.

Jimmy Gestapo was the first to exit, dangling a six-pack of beer by the plastic rings. Like a castaway on the ocean finally reaching land, he hastily distanced himself from the RV, throwing his hands in the air as if to say, “Finally, we fuckin made it.” Hours of driving will do this.

Harley was the next to exit. Just as notorious Gestapo - more for being 12 years old when he played drums for the Stimulators - he rolled out with a bottle of Jack Daniels in his left hand and a small 1-12 bass combo amp in the other. I had seen him when he was all of 14 at the On-Broadway in San Francisco. Full of confidence and bravado, he was in the audience leaning against the stage, hanging with San Francisco’s punk elite.

We cautiously walked over and introduced ourselves as the opening band, Short Dogs Grow. Gestapo was the opposite of his name: goofy, funny and slapdash, offering all of us beers. He said they had plenty more in their band rider.

Turning toward his band, who were exiting the RV, Gestapo, in the thickest of thick Brooklyn accents, he said, “Hey Guys, it’s fuckin’ Short Dogs Grow, fuckin’ Short Dogs Grow!” They ignored him. Harley walked over and stood by him, saying nothing and looked very intimidating. He continued, “It’s fuckin’ Short Dogs Grow, I love that name. Yabba Dabba Do!” His band mates were ignoring him but we were eating it up.

Judging by our perplexed expressions when he said the out-of-place “Yabba Dabba Do,” he explained that they had come from Jellystone Park. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a tchoski from Jellystone. As the night progressed, he revealed more and more Jellystone memorabilia.

Looking at their RV, I noticed that most of the bottom half the body had deep scratches from cutting corners too close. Gestapo saw me looking at the RV and said, “Yeah, we used that (RV) to tour with the Beastie Boys. We opened for them on a stadium tour across the country. They gave us new equipment – Marshall Stacks – and by the time we reached LA we had lost it all. Now we play with these small amps,” looking down at the combo amp that was now on the ground next to Harley; his other hand still gripping a Jack Daniels bottle. You would have to assume that alcohol had something to do with the damage to the RV and losing their equipment.

At the end of the night, we said our goodbyes to Murphy’s Law. Careening out of the parking lot in their banged up RV, they ran over a parking block. The vehicle swerved and lurched to one side, but the brake lights never appeared. I looked at Tom, smiled and said, “Fuckin’ Short Dogs Grow. Yabba Dabba Do.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Black Flag Kills Roaches

The glory days of punk were over and so were they. With songs like “Slip It In” and “Black Coffee,” both sexist and inane, Black Flag appeared to be going through the motions and cashing in on their credibility from Jealous Again. This didn’t stop us from seeing them, though.

When they played the dirgy “Life is Pain,” Jay and I pushed to the side of the stage. Rollins was front and center, crouched down, naked except for running shorts. His long curly-hair hung in his face, wet from sweat; his body taught like a twisted rubber band. He was a very tense, little man.

He picked up an empty Coke can on the stage and ripped it half. Going to knees, he pushed the jagged edge of the can into his stomach, carving the flesh. As blood trickled down his stomach, eventually reaching the waistband of his shorts, the enthusiasm of the punks in front of him turned from excitement to disbelief. Jay and I had a clear shot of the scene from the side of the stage and were laughing at how these hardcore looking punks were appalled at his behavior.

One of them reached his hand out, in attempt to wrestle the can away from him. Rollins was in a near animal state and paid him no mention. A skinhead looking guy did the same, grabbing his wrist. Rollins ignored both of them, proving that life is really pain. It was high-dramatics at the punkest level and I was happy to have witnessed it. The song stopped and so did the ceremonial cutting. Rollins played the rest of the show with a bloody stomach. Fuckin’ punk!!