Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Before You See the Light, You Need to Find the Socket

When I saw The Pixies at the Greek last Sunday afternoon, I thought there'd be more young people there. People in their 20's. I don't know why-maybe I expected the same crowd as when I first saw the Pixies, on July 24, 1989, at the Fillmore. I was 18. Somehow I thought that audience would be transported across the bay and through fifteen years. It wasn't something I thought about consciously; otherwise I would've realized what a stupid idea it was. I wasn't even aware I thought that way until I walked in with my date-gorgeous, 36, and like me, a parent-and my mind surveyed the scene and said, “What are all these old people doing here?”

Maybe it was because the only person I'd talked to about going to the show was a 24-year-old friend of mine, a friend I'd been crazy stupid enamored of a few years back, as I cut the ribbon on my 30's, jamming the shovel into the permafrost at the groundbreaking ceremony of my impending old age. Obviously, I was clinging to my twenties, when being crazy stupid in love still sounded like an option, not an affliction. At the same time, I employed clever euphemisms like “enamored” as a sign of my imminent 30-year-old maturity.

But she'd bailed on her PIxies tickets to fly to Kansas after a boy, another Dorothy caught up in a cyclone of love. Scratch one person in her twenties.

Maybe I thought the new generation of kids would be there to pay homage to a band so joyfully deranged, to scream along with Black Francis (once again): “You are the son of a motherfucker.” To get that melty feeling when Kim sings, her voice so sweet after all the years, the bouts with drugs and bands that just weren't as important. But if there's one thing “the kids” don't necessarily appreciate, it's music that's important. Or great. I left my office the Wednesday before the big Pixies weekend to see kids lined up in front of the Concourse Exhibition Center at 7th and Brannan for Franz fuckin' Ferdinand. How lame is that? The Pixies birthed mclusky; Franz Ferdinand will give us what? More insipid eurodisco to wipe off the soles of our shoes, if anything. I guess there are people my age who'll admit to buying The Wonder Stuff tickets, but to my way of thinking there hasn't been a decent band out of Scotland since the Rezillos. It's like seeing kids shooting smack: you want to take them by their shoulders and shake them: there's something real, you don't need to indulge in that shit.

Which left the rest of us, the thirtysomethings. We'd bloomed into our thirties like flowers on a windy hillside, all the more beautiful for having been battered, stronger for having to cling to thin, rocky soil. We'd stopped moving across country to find love or escape; we were Zen by default. We'd long since realized wherever we go, there we are. And look, there's our baggage. We had to pay extra for it, because it was over the weight limit, but it made the trip.

We'd been transported through time, all right, but the old-fashioned way. The hard way. We had the scars and blown-out tattoos to prove it, our bald spots shining gloriously in the sun. But we had new tattoos with our kids names on them, tattoos that weren't done in our friend's bathrooms while we were drunk; tattoos we paid good money from good jobs for. We were a little thicker around the middle, sure. We had gym memberships-and we needed them-but we also had better things to do than go to the gym. As Francis said to Joey while admiring his shirt: “Do they make that in a husky size?” Three out of four Pixies had their heads shaved, no longer content to stand idly by and watch their hairlines run away like wild horses over the hills. No more denial for them, or for us. No more us, no more them, for that matter. The band, the crowd, we were one, and we were in fine form, I'm telling you. We had better friends, even some lesbians; when we got bored, we moved to California-but not chasing love. We were fucking glorious; the Pixies made us feel young again, without going through all the torment of being young.

This was our show, our time in the sun. We'd become the balanced, level-headed, ponchy punkers we hated a decade back. And we had this to say to our former selves: Fuck you. What the hell do you know? Our twenties selves didn't know their assholes from light sockets until they plugged in the clock radio-and even then it was a toss up. They hadn't been through what we'd been through. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

A reminder: we should be gentle with our past selves. Take our reckless, feckless, drunk-driving, heartsick, naturally scrawny selves under into our sagging wingspans, give ourselves a hug, pat our own backs like Dee Dee Ramone at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and whisper, “it'll be okay.” That girl-don't be so upset. Maybe you don't need to buy her that skateboard for her birthday-in three months you'll be broken up, and in four there'll be someone else. And hey, stay on the meds-the prescription kind. Maybe even up the dose, and half the dose of that “other” kind.

We might've sat for the show, not being as young as yesterday, but we had no problem standing for the ovation. Some of my friends didn't make it: Alan shot himself in the bathroom with a forty-five at twenty-five. Justin nodded on smack for the final time; his band, Lithium Milkshake should've been as important as the Pixies. I'm sure there were others, too, whose maps got burned up while passing through the fire. They stood with us as we reminded our former selves: Follow what's good. The Pixies, like that girl, will be break your heart, but unlike her, they'll be back.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Refraining From Sexual Misconduct

So the ex just left. I was really too tired to deal, and I was trying my best to not answer her phone calls, but today was shite at work (see last entry), so I gave in, went out for a cup of coffee. I wanted to be mindful, you know, observe the fourth precept: "refrain from sexual misconduct," but I knew I wouldn't be. And what would the misconduct be? Knowing that I didn't feel that way for her, but that a warm body would be nice. Comforting. To quote the Soul Asylum song, "All the Kings Friends":

"Remarkably incredible, incredibly forgettable
I know this might sound strange, don't ever change
Amazingly unfaceable, entirely replaceable
There's nothing I would rearrange, don't ever change"

I guess that's not so bad, just wanting to get down with someone, but I just don't want to cloud my head like that. I don't want to return to a place when I'm convinced I'm in love again, when really I just got on the wrong bus. Oh, sorry--don't know the town very well. Where am I?

She's trying to buddy up to me because she's found her incessant partying and her fast friends of the past few months kind of hollow. But it's like my friend Jen said: "I don't need another project." I want to meet someone I don't have to hip to my favorite bands or tell crazy stories of my crazy jobs, or whatever. I really don't want to put in the work, nor do I just want to use someone to get off. Because when the haze has cleared, there you are, buck ass naked trying to fucking relate. How 'bout them Giants? I'd rather just rub one out and go to bed: I'm the ultimate cheap date.

So we had coffee, and hung out a bit, and we were in my bedroom, and I don't know. I just didn't feel the need. Ultimately, I knew I'd done the right thing by not tying our shoelaces together again. ("Look--we can't walk! How charmingly debilitating! We're codependent and in American culture, that spells L-O-V-E!") Of course, it felt the opposite--felt like I'd blown it by not getting down with that hot body again.

This too shall pass. I'll feel better in the morning

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Value of a Handshake

You know, I was going to start banging my head against this fucking social commentary I'm writing again, which apparently I can't get fucking right. But you know, “the pressure's off,” which is a euphemism for “we're fucking you out of 25% your paycheck.” So I'm just going to sit here and listen to Motörhead and front like I'm doing work. You know, when [boss] finally hands me a contract with [monetary amount] written on it, I'm not going to sign the fucking thing. When it works its way back up to [larger monetary amount], which is what we shook on, I'll sign it. What is a contract worth from someone who welches on a handshake? Despite the ethics chapter in his book, which equivocates anyway, and his big stand on tag lines, going back on a handshake sure is a spineless cunt move.

“Stay Clean” is on right now. How fucking apropos:

“So you see, the only proof,
Of what you are is in the way you see the truth,
Don't be scared, live to win,
Although they're always gonna tell you it's a sin,
In the end, you're on your own,
And there is no-one that can stop you being alone, Stay Clean.”

There it is, Mr. Kilmeister--you said it. I thought this was an ideal job when I took it a couple months ago, and I'm sticking with it… for the money. Who's the spineless cunt now? (That ultimate Sonic Youth quote: “Fuck you. Are you for sale? Does 'fuck you' sound simple enough?”) I know I'll work my way back up, but I've got to promise myself not to forget this. And in the meantime, I've got to commit to my own personal writing-getting my articles done, widening my freelance work, and writing fiction. No one gets any recognition--let alone self fulfillment--as the asshole who wrote the really bitchin' trash bag ad.

He told me: “We made a deal, and I'll stick with that…” but asked me to voluntarily drop down in pay while I learned the ad game. Yeah, it's a game all right, as opposed to reality, and I'm learning it from having the sharp end of the situational ethics stick rammed up my ass. He held to a handshake for a month, then had a personal friend of mine break the news that it's the pay cut or the door. Man, this is so fucked. I've cut down a lot on my incessant use of the f-word since Dolly learned how to talk and pick up phrases, but I really am too pissed off to come up with anything but “fucked.”

I've been thinking a lot about advertising as an industry. Does it do any good for anyone? Does it let people in on the relative merits of products so they can be informed consumers instead of rampant spenders? You tell me-is there a corporation out there who wants consumers to spend wisely, or less? The first week I had this job, I went to Thee Hemlock to review a show for The Guardian. I walked in and the opening band, Fastpass, was on stage. Between sincere, if a bit naïve, songs about heartbreak, Tracy, the singer, swigged back some [brand of beer]--cheap and free to the bands performing. An anti-brand brand. Then I remembered the “marketing deck” for that very company back at the office.

You may be drinking it because it's anti-establishment, because it's cheap and there's no one from Anheuser-Busch ramrodding glamour girls in bikinis down your throat, to the tune of “drink this and it'll make you something other than a broke, out of work punk rocker,” but let me tell you what, Jack: They've got you sussed. Your bike messenger ass is delineated and deconstructed in a document in my fucking office. You can't step out of the stream of product placement, the ad men are in your fucking head, and deciding to choose against something doesn't mean you're not making a choice. (That's Sartre, fuckstick, not a Rush song.) Somewhere in an air-conditioned boardroom, some tool in a pinstriped suit is hiring some other slightly less out-of-touch tool to run your ass down. They're tiptoeing through your subculture trying not to fart too loud or step on any sticks. They're going to market your poverty and sincerity back to you as “cool,” then they're going to price it up 200 percent and sell it to the Marina crowd.

And then? When you've turned away from your old standby in disgust, they'll sell you the next thing you think hasn't been fucked over by corporate culture. Sucker.

What's the value of a handshake? Ask me the next time you see me. I'll be able to give you an exact dollar amount. I can also tell you, the value can be reduced by 25 percent at will.

Never shake hands without gloves on. You'll get shit under your fingernails

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Local Live

Hey, this came out in today's Guardian. It's kind of narcissistic to post it here, but whatever. In the words of Al Pacino as Scarface: "Fuck you. How's that?" Thing is, I hated writing this. It was a real struggle, because I couldn't write what I thought I was supposed to write, so I just sent my editor this (plus about 300 words). She liked it, and now I guess I kind of do too. Has our hero come to the end of his rope as a "music journalist"? Dunno. As Elvis Costello said, "writing about music is like dancing about architecture."

And if anyone is actually wasting his or her life reading a fucking blog, how do I get formatting on these fucking things? It says "to use the advanced editor click here" and the link sends me to the same frame, with a link sending me back to the original frame. Is this some sort of anti-Mac trip? Chuck D.: "This is what I mean, an anti-nigger machine." Is it presumptuous to say Mac users are technology's niggers? After all, no one got their panties in a bunch when Sylvia Plath compared her Daddy to

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.

Of course, Daddy trips are more important than computers. Without further detraction:

Local Live

Enemy You
12 Galaxies, Sept. 9

TOO MUCH INFORMATION : having a case of the Kaopectate blues, I arrived at the 12 Galaxies benefit for Meditate and Destroy, a documentary about Dharma Punx author Noah Levine, toward the end of Ghosts of Glory's set. The part I caught was crushing: taut, unrelenting hardcore with almost death metal vocals (not of the Cookie Monster-Napalm Death variety, but a little crunchier than your average punk band).

I was in time, however, to catch a surprise performance by the Poontang Wranglers, who ripped shit up on washboard, acoustic guitar, washtub bass, fiddle, banjo, and ukulele, all the while rocking matching red long johns. A fucking jug band! And a jug band without a jug! How punk rock is that! The crowd – rife with Buddhist punkers, the dharma-drunk, and the old-timey alcohol drunk – was baffled. "All the bands were good," one guy told me. "Except for the cult. What's with the red pajamas? Was that guy playing a broomstick? "

I found a seat at a table of hot women with two-tone hair and waited for Enemy You to come on. Once a week I meditate at Urban Dharma, the group Levine started and led until he moved to New York, and I'll tell you, the amount of good-looking women in that room makes meditation a real feat. No desire, no aversion – this is where the practice meets the road.

"You know a place is rad when they've got O.G. Spider-Man on TV and Phoenix and Tempest," Enemy You vocalist David Jones said as the band got onstage, scoring immediate nerd points for using the word rad and referencing '80s video games. His shirt read, "The Prequels Suck," in an Empire Strikes Back typeface. Sure, they suck, David, but be honest: did you camp out in front of the Coronet for three days dressed like Yoda?

The band launched into "The Only One," which Jones called "a song about S.F." It's a solid hardcore number, and when I say hardcore, I'm thinking early-'80s SoCal (where it started), not New York. It took me a couple songs to come up with early, pre-suck Bad Religion and old Social D. as reference points.

OK, look, I'm having a crisis. At the Urban Dharma sittings, we talk quite a bit about being too judgmental, about clinging too much to our personalities and opinions. To quote the Buddha, "People who have opinions just go around bothering one another."

Were Enemy You good? Yeah, they were. Did they rock my boat? I don't know, man – I've been rockin' in this boat for so long, and I've seen so many bands, I can't discern the horizon line anymore. Which leads me to the question Is it "right speech," in a "Noble Eightfold Path" sense, to spout my opinions? Does it help?

I can set the scene. I can tell you Frank Chu, once named "Protester of the Year" by the Bay Guardian, was present at 12 Galaxies, which, I gather, was named after the top line of his sign. Not to be outdone in terms of sheer ubiquity, Fat Wreck Chords Floyd was up front for Enemy You's set. What does it mean when Floyd is at your show? It probably just means you have a guitar and you're within 100 miles of San Francisco. Does Floyd go to a show every night?

I can talk about women, which I usually do. They sort of inspire my "Horny Eye for the Lonely Guy" moments. About four songs into the show, I started scoping a porcelain-doll brunette in a slip dress with a flower in her hair, only to have Levine squeeze in next to her and get cuddly. Reminds me of the time I saw Bomb at the old new DNA, back in the days when someone as culturally irrelevant as Rob Schneider could be a social kingpin. I was staring at this women for the whole set only to have the show end and realize she was drummer Tony Fag's girlfriend.

But can I really impart what the band was like? I mean, you missed it. You can catch their next set and then tell me if it was worth your five or seven bucks. What am I supposed to say? Workmanlike? They were better than that. At times I wished there was a pit I could have thrown my sickly, dehydrated, rapidly-approaching-middle-age body into, something I currently reserve for yearly Motörhead shows, where I'm guaranteed not to be the only gray-haired fogy slamming about with a walker. But people are way too cool nowadays to start a pit at a nightclub, with the exception of Brianna, who was cooler than too-cool, pogoing about with her orange Mohawk, her shirt Sharpied with "COME HOME NOAH WE MISS YOU." (Duncan Scott Davidson

Monday, September 13, 2004

I'm Never Falling In Love Again

Meeting up with all these ex-girlfriends. I really can't shut the door, you know? One's moving to New York for a boy--having moved to Portland for a boy before that. I was going to marry that one, about fourteen years ago. Another's thinking of moving to Kansas for a boy. Kansas! Never move to a place people don't write songs about. (Wait…didn't Wolfgang Press write a song called “Kansas”? Oh shit, there was that whole 70's classic rock debacle. “Dust in the Wind.” Dust in the crack of your ass, farm boy!)

The last one--I was going to marry her too-recently told me she “gets her best ideas while on mushrooms.” This was as she was telling me about her idea for a line of designer toilet seats.

It's like revisiting graves--a little easier each time, and a little harder. You start to miss the fact that you don't miss them. You miss your memories as they fade. There were good times--weren't there?--and now you're denied access. And the bad times no longer hurt, the scars have faded--if you got a tattoo, maybe you got your money's worth. Otherwise, you've been robbed.

Was it really so special? Did you really “click” on “that other level?” Truth is, you could've fallen in love with anyone. Anyone who'd take the time to tell you you're special. All these interchangeable faces, assuring each other they're unique. Really--it could've only been you.

“In a Station of the Metro”

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

--Ezra Pound

I'm not unique, and neither are you. We're not even separate from each other. Why waste energy perpetuating a lie. I'm never falling in love again.

Famous last words. Then I hear the Velvets, “Over You”:

Here I go again
Just gonna play it like a fool again
Here I go again
Over you

There's the comfort: I'll go through this dance infinitely, over you and _over you_, you know? Going through it, and through with it, simultaneously. “This too shall pass.” There's no avoiding that fact. What changes is, as you get older, you take comfort in it during the ecstasy as well as the agon