Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Nuts in White Satin

I touched my first breast to the dulcet tones of “Spirit of Radio” by Rush. We were making out on her bed with a poster of David Bowie (circa “Let’s Dance”) gazing down on us in boredom from the ceiling of the bedroom in her parent’s house in the suburbs of Tucson (which is like saying it was the suburbs of the suburbs. Can a city be almost entirely suburbs and still call itself a city?). It was in one of those planned communities where all the houses look like they were less constructed than extruded from a tube onto the scraped earth to quickly gelatinize and then harden in the blazing desert sun. She let me lick and suck at her nipples until she grew tired of it, sighed, said “That’s enough,” sat up and pulled down her shirt.

A few years later, I lost my virginity to the Moody Blues Greatest Hits Volume 1. Specifically, if I remember, side 2, which included “Nights in White Satin”. The concrete block walls of my dorm room were cold and the tile floor chilly and my bed springs creaked in protest as she lowered herself onto me. I did not love her, and was barely attracted to her. We ended up going out for a year or so after that, mostly out of my own sense of guilt. (As an interesting side note, I also used that album to listen to while I was having my wisdom teeth pulled. I was given a local anesthetic and a muscle relaxant. I listened to the Moody Blues and fell asleep before they were done.)

My friend Roger read a poem last night during the Slam at 13 which spoke of calypso music as being the sort of template for love making among his people as well as the substrate of a repressed culture preserving its integrity. I saw quite clearly in this brief instant the absolute bankruptcy of white suburban culture, and I was sad. He spoke of calypso, writhing and passionate, double twitch hips and the language of resistance.

Compare and contrast, if you will, to Rush and the Moody Blues. Intellectual pretensions, half-assed ripping off of older Western music traditions, but without any real connection to, skill for, or understanding of those traditions. Not to mention being practically impossible to dance to. This was the music of my sexual awakening…

Is it any wonder I started taking drugs?

Friday, November 18, 2005

My Collected Works, Ages 5-18, and What Became of Them

First, a word about Kaufmann. I met him through a mutual acquaintance in college when I mentioned that I was looking for a guitarist with whom I could collaborate. I thought he was a bit dim (as I have mentioned, for a good portion of my youth I always believed myself to be the smartest person in the room with an arrogance that was almost shocking in its complete lack of self-awareness. I could never understand it when people seemed to dislike me. “What did I do?”), a terrible singer, and an amazing guitarist. He was playing with his girlfriend at the time in a mostly lame acoustic duo (a side note: why do guitarists always do this? Paul McCartney is, of course the classic example of an excellent musician so blinded by love that he allows his clearly musically inept girlfriend/wife to sing on his records when obviously she should never have be left alone in the same room with a microphone. Just saying. His girlfriend wasn't as bad as all that, but she clearly didn't have a gift for it.). We chatted a little, and eventually became roommates, then friends, then band mates, and finally that weird, co-dependent thing that sometimes happens between men who work very closely together without having clearly defined personal boundaries. We never had sex, or were even romantically involved, but the relationship had all the intensity of a married couple, with as messy and unpleasant (in some ways) a divorce.

But all that came later. Kaufmann was not, in fact, dim at all. Not even close. Though he may have sanded some of the sharper edges off his mind with the liberal application of certain recreational pharmaceuticals, he was (and remains) one of the most intelligent and creative artists I’ve ever met. I was completely ignorant in my youth of the concept of other types of intelligence beyond the verbal, and so I had to learn, slowly, that this man had some pretty amazing depths.

So, originally a physics major, he, like so many of my friends, dumped science and went into the arts. Kaufmann actually majored in Studio Art, specifically painting, but his real goal was to be a ROCK STAR! In the meantime, he was a skilled and powerful painter, with a very interesting way of archiving his work. He told me this in the very impressionable months directly before I went insane in earnest, and I was smitten with the idea.

Kaufmann had a horror of repeating himself, and in an effort to not rest on his laurels, to always be striving ahead toward new ideas and better execution, he would, at the end of every year, get ready for his retrospective show by digging a pit, either out in the desert or in some convenient vacant lot. Into that pit he would place all of his paintings, sketchbooks, drawings, prints, etc. from the past year, and set them on fire. Once that was all taken care of, he would take a jar, carefully label it with a piece of masking tape with the words “Collected Works” and the year, collect all the ashes, seal them in the jar, and that would be that.

Wow. Several things appealed to me about this idea. Firstly, the irrevocability of the act appealed to me in a huge way. I love commitment, even in wrong actions. The beauty of action taken wholeheartedly, without reservation, excited both admiration and longing in me. I had been, for much of my life, drifting at the whims of: parents, friends, teachers, coaches, bosses, church, etc. All of them wanted something of me, and since I didn’t know what I wanted, I went with whatever they said. I never really developed a sense of who I was.

Another reason involved the extremity of the action, the way that you could never take it back. My favorite moments in life, even now, involve that moment that comes when one is unable to do anything but what one is doing. When one starts the race, knowing that one now has no real choice but to finish. The instant of jumping off the high dive (I have a slight fear of heights), knowing that there’s no place to go but down. The relaxation of tension that comes from surrender to the moment. So.

Now, I had, in a box that I had carried around with me since I was 5, everything that I had ever written in my life. I had decided I wanted to write since I was about that young. I loved stories and poems, rhyming and music. I published a few things in college magazines when I was in high school and junior high, and I was a compulsive journal keeper (“diaries” were for girls. I kept a “journal”, full of feelings and dreams and crushes and the boring minutia of my days. No, it was not a fucking diary. There’s a difference! Well, if I have to explain it to you… oh, fine, whatever. It was a diary.). Everything. From the poem to my mother in first grade, to the story I wrote in high school to amuse my English teacher to my most recent diary. All of it.

I was finally becoming myself. I was out of the dorm, living on my own, I’d had sex (with a *woman* finally!), I’d gotten drunk, I was skipping class if I wanted, I was my own person! Yes, I’d had a remarkably sheltered life – no small contributing factor in the insanity that followed. I realized that if I really wanted to become myself, I had to get rid of everything that I was. The simplest solution? Burn that shit.

So on a prearranged night around sundown, with much solemnity and thought, I took a few pages, fed them into the wood burning stove in my house, and lit them on fire, gradually adding more as the fire caught the pages. It took me over an hour to burn it all.

I’d like to say I mourned, but mostly I just felt sick to my stomach and horrified. I still, to this day, don’t know if I did the right thing, but I burned every last page. I took the ashes, and I buried them in the front yard at the Adams house. I was no longer what I was – no longer a child, and sure as fuck not a man.

I was about to embark on a journey to the depths of myself. No net. I didn’t know enough at the time to be scared.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cars I have loved

1. The Pinto – ’70 something, Ford, Avocado Green, full back window on the hatchback (not like the half-windows they had on most models). Never rear-ended, and, subsequently, never exploded. This was probably the most poorly made car I have ever been in. The Arizona sun did not agree with it, at all, and the plastic and vinyl interior began to disintegrate almost immediately upon our moving to Tucson. By the time my mother got rid of it, the seat belt buckles had dissolved, leaving a blossom of metal springs and brittle black plastic shards. I used to ride to school with my mom while she was getting her Ph.D. and this was the car we traveled in. Less like a car, and more like the furniture of my very young childhood.

2. The Matador – ’76, AMC, beige, station wagon, brown interior. This one had door handles of shiny textured metal that were inset in the doors. My sister learned to drive in this one, and, as a teenager, ran it up on the median on Oracle Road driving me home from swim practice one rainy afternoon, with me screaming all the while “We’re going to die! We’re going to die!” She denies everything, of course. Of course, she is lying. A real piece, but memorable and beloved in the same way one might reminisce fondly on an old family pet that growled at shadows, barked at crickets, and farted.

3. The Celebrity – ’83, Chevy, black, automatic, 4 door. This was the car I learned to drive in, and the car in which I had my first accident (Grandma, sister, mother all in the car yelling as we plowed serenely into the blue VW Bug trying to turn left in front of us.) The sun in AZ is not kind to all black cars, and by the time this one was sold, it looked like it had been baked in an oven. The paint was utterly carbonized and starting to disappear in places. I also had my first blowjob in this car, from a nice Seventh-Day Adventist girl who never wore makeup, always wore skirts, and who never cut her hair. I eventually broke up with her because I was stupid. It was a good car, and it was my job to wash it every weekend, which I did with varying degrees of conscientiousness.

4. The Lynx – ’82, Mercury, grey, hatchback, standard transmission. This was the car I in which I learned how to drive a stick. Tangerine Road was long, straight, two lanes, deserted, and out in the north boonies of Tucson when I was in High School (now it’s fairly close to civilization, due to the unfettered development now rampant in the Southwest). Once, in high school, my parents let me take my friends out in it, and we stalled in the middle of a busy intersection while I tried to figure out the intricacies of second and fourth gear. My friends screamed as cars careened around us honking and making rude conjectures as to the nature of my parentage. Nobody died, but my friends were still nervous about riding with me, even a year later. Ingrates. A good car, but a little troubled. As was the tendency with my family, we rode it into the ground. Dad eventually cracked the frame in a fender bender, and it became useless to us.

5. The Rabbit – ’82, Volkswagen, brown, four-door, hatchback, automatic. My first car, given me by my parents. I nicknamed it Shadrach after my favorite Beastie-Boys song, and for no other reason. When I later went insane, I sold it to pay for (in this order): 1) rent for a summer, 2) drugs (mostly pot, with the occasional foray into mushrooms, acid, and blotter paper dipped in what was probably roach spray), 3) a motorcycle which I didn’t know how to take care of and which I then proceeded to drive into the ground. It was a good car. I should have kept it, but I was stupid, and since it was a gift, I didn’t value it. Because I was a shithead.

6. The Corrolla – ’81, Toyota, white, two door hatchback, 5 speed automatic transmission. I bought this car with my own money that I earned while living in a trailer park after deciding I needed to clean up and go back to school. It was fairly reliable, except for the time that I tried to drive up to Sedona with my girlfriend for a relationship saving vacation and it broke down about a mile outside of town. The transmission needed replacing, and since Toyota only made the 5 speeds for two years (80 and 81) we had to find a transmission in a junkyard in Phoenix, have it shipped up to Sedona and put in by a gentleman mechanic who recognized the signs of a self-destructing relationship in our eyes and was terribly kind to us in our misery. Other than that, a fine car which I sold to have enough money to come to New York.

Dad only bought American cars, if you'll notice. No purpose to this post, just a story I wanted to tell.

Monday, November 14, 2005

My most illegal post yet!

I asked everyone in the last post to let me know which of three possible stories they'd like me to tell in today's edition. And after a overwhelming response...

Your indifference is duly noted. Since no one seems to give a shit, I’m just going to tell the story I haven’t already told a million times.

Her name started with an S and ended with a long “e” sound. She was 16 when I met her.

A brief sideline seems to be in order, here. Of the girls/women that I have dated, the breakdown of names goes something like this.

1 Shelley - twice
1 Andrea
1 Debbie
1 Stacey
1 Sherri
1 Elizabeth
2 Stephanie’s (one with a “y”, one with an “ie”)

One night stands and unconsummated crushes excluded. So, anybody notice a pattern, there? That’s right - of the 8 long-term (over a month) relationships, over half were with women whose names began and ended with the sounds “S” and “EE” (long e). Admittedly, this is a small sample, and not necessarily out of line with the average phonetic breakdown of women’s names popular during the birth years of 1965-1975, but still, what the hell, right? Maybe, unconsciously, I knew that the women for me had this particular name (“Oh, man, I know her name was something like Stephanie or Sally, maybe Stacey? Shit, I knew this one…”) and so I dated variations of her until I found the right one.

Well I thought it was interesting, anyway.

So, S-ee was blonde, and attractive. And not very bright. She had a long, slightly horsey face that was made more lovely by her big blue eyes and high cheekbones. She was short, muscular, and curvy, with a little bit of baby fat on her. We met through a mutual friend at a Denny’s on Oracle Road in Tucson. I thought she was stupid (as was my wont. At 19 I believed that no one was quite as smart as I was. I’ve since found out otherwise…) but cute, and I was immoral enough at the time to take her number when she offered it at the end of the evening. She seemed smitten, and I was (constantly) lonely and (eternally) in need of reassurance as to my attractiveness after a series of romantic and worldly setbacks culminating about a year later in my being fired from a Dunkin’ Donuts for stealing eggs since I couldn’t afford food. I was not quite at my lowest ebb at this point, and so might have appeared to be somewhat of a catch at the time (neurotic, scraggly, slacker potheads always being so in vogue among youngish women determined to alarm and enrage their parents). I took the number and forgot about it.

She got tired of waiting and called me a few weeks later, having obtained my number through the aforementioned friend. We talked on the phone quite a bit over the next few days while I decided what the hell to do. She talked about her home life (miserable) her commitment to school (non-existent) and her dreams (more on those later). I was flattered by her attention (not to mention constantly horny and lonely), and immediately agreed upon a date after finding out that she had just turned 17.

I picked her up in the city in my 1978 VW Rabbit (nicknamed Shadrach) and took her to a movie the name of which utterly escapes me. We went back to my house and talked on the couch. I determined that I absolutely would not touch her (my suspicions aroused as to her age), but as the conversation became more and more personal, I started getting the idea that things were more than a little bad at home, and I finally got the confession that her step-dad hit her (and maybe touched her inappropriately – never really got a straight answer on that one). She kept telling me, over and over, she didn’t want to go home. It got later and later. My judgment (never super hi-fi when it came to women anyway) became increasingly clouded as we began to make out (that resolution not to touch her? Yeah, not so much.). Finally I agreed that she could stay the night, I’d take her back the next day. We agreed that we weren’t ready for sex, and slept chastely in my bed.

The next morning she straddled me like a horse and rode me to sweaty climaxes until I finally came, as well. We cuddled and made goo-goo sounds at each other for a few hours until our bliss was broken by a phone call.


“Where’s my daughter?”

Her step-dad had ferreted out my name and number from a friend of S’s and proceeded to let me know, in no uncertain terms, what he would do to me. I, being young, stupid, and… well, mostly just really stupid, didn’t have the sense to lie and say I didn’t know where she was. Instead I told him that she was with me and that she didn’t want to come home (!). So add to my list of transgressions kidnapping. Just so we’re clear, her step-dad was a fireplug, ugly and muscular, with a jaw like Popeye and a silent, sullen charm that only lifted slightly when he spoke of riding his motorcycle. You see, he was involved with a local motorcycle club that… oh, didn’t I mention he was a scary fucking biker? Must have slipped my mind. Yeah, a tattooed, muscled, construction working, backhanding, possibly molesting biker. And I just kept his step-daughter out all night, doing god knows what to her, and she didn’t want to come home, and aren’t I the noble fucking knight? Yeah, this was getting exciting. I hung up the phone, turned off the ringer and tried to figure out what to do with the blonde sex-goddess in my bed who it seemed was setting me up to get my ass kicked by at least one and quite possibly several scary bikers. Never mind the legal action he was threatening me with after he beat me to a wet spot on the sidewalk.

A half-hour later came the pounding on the front door.

Now I found sense. When confronted by the possibility of imminent death at the hands of a marauding biker, I huddled in the bed, listening to him curse, and indicated with my eyes to the lovely creature next to me that she must, must, must, must be silent. She was in this, as in so many other, infinitely more pleasant things, utterly compliant. Fortunately, I believe she might have been as terrified as I was. She knew what this guy could do.

The only possible explanation I can give for this total abrogation of reason and good sense was… well, she told me that her only goal in life was to become an exotic dancer. Sigh. What could I have done? At my age. With a constant hard-on. And no plans. And she was cute!

Yeah, I was an idiot.

Anti-climactic-ly, that’s as far as it went. He left after about 15 minutes of sheer terror (pounding the door, threats, warnings of the imminent arrival of the police, rinse, repeat). I dropped her off at her house later that night. Met her parents about two weeks later (no one mentioned anything about it), and dated her a couple of months until I got bored and dumped her.

I saw her in the wedding columns less than six months later. Pregnant. The only other thing she wanted more than being an exotic dancer? Babies. Dodged a bullet on that one, I suppose.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Adams House

In response to this post mentioning in passing my old haunts at the Euclid and Adams house, my oldest friend in the whole world Rabbit wrote this:
Euclid and Adams! I have fond memories of that place, though I didn't have to live there. I do remember you lighting cockroaches on fire, but I also remember making plans to go to the first Lollapalooza.
Now that is the kind of note that gives one pause. “Lighting cockroaches on fire”? Really? My response was as one might expect –
Oh Jesus. Did I really light cockroaches on fire? Please do elaborate (though I must admit to a touch of The Fear).
His response was most illuminating:
I seem to remember you saying it was more effective than smashing them. and not as gross.
Lord have mercy. I do not remember that at all. Then again, a lot of weirdness went down at that place that I might have trouble remembering.

Perhaps a little background… while I was in college, I went insane. After moving out of the hellish extension of high school that was the freshman dorm, I moved into a small triplex north of the university (to the heated objections of my parents whom I deftly manipulated into getting me what I wanted anyway by procrastinating to the point where no other choice was possible). On one side of us in the –plex lived a lesbian couple (the more butch half of which would eventually score me my first mescaline) who routinely came home drunk in the wee hours to scream obscenities and thence to pound the living shit out of each other (I called the cops a couple of times). The lesbian community in Tucson at the time (early 90’s) had heard of the term “lipstick lesbian,” but found it slightly disturbing and really wanted nothing to do with it. These were muscular bruisers with short, spiky hair, plaid shirts, jeans, work boots, gutter mouths and wicked senses of humor, along with viscously short fuses and jealous streaks a mile wide. They were awesome, and frightened my skinny white Christian ass to death.

On the other side was a man with an indeterminate number of dogs and aluminum foil over all the windows. The less said about him, the better (“he kept to himself, we hardly ever saw him. We had no idea that he would….” You know the type.)

The construction was shoddy, the floors uneven. We had a claw foot bathtub, and a cast iron wood burning stove (which came in useful later. If this story continues, I’ll let you know). I was the one constant in this little gingerbread slum, with a parade of roommates and crashers. My first roommate was a tuba player/music education major who’s Catholicism rendered him incapable of telling his parents he was actually living with his girlfriend. He was the ideal roommate, remarkable only by his absences and his utter horror at my house cleaning habits, which could be generously termed “plague-incubating”. The comments above about my insect extermination experiments might give you a clue as to what I’m talking about.

So, this was the setting for the beginning of a breakdown in morality, manners, and mental (not to mention physical) hygiene, all (at least initially) funded by the generosity of the University of Arizona and my increasing annoyed, then angered, then worried, and finally disturbed and fearful parents. This was where I learned about all manner of illicit and dangerous substances, where I huddled in my room avoiding a statutory rape charge, where I determined the fate of my entire collected works (ages 5-18).

Since I might feel like writing about this stuff again, I leave it in your hands, dear readers, as to which stories you might enjoy. Should it be:

1) The drug story about mushrooms and the Smiths?
2) What happened to everything I wrote from ages of 5-18?
3) The almost statutory rape story?

Leave a note in comments suggesting which you want to hear, and thanks.

Also, come out tonight to CBGB’s if you get the notion!

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Tomorrow at CBGB's! Electric Open Mic!

As mentioned in yesterday's post - here's the info. I'm playing bass in the hizz-ouse band, and I'm really excited. Come out if you can!


CBGB's Lounge
Downtown Underground Electric Open Mike - Every Thursday at 8pm

Upcoming dates: 11/10, 11/17, 11/24, 12/01, 12/08

315 Bowery St., New York, NY

Hosted by jOff wilsOn/The Bowery Boys

15 min. slots. Backline provided, Drummers bring stix/snare. Great open mike for bands or solos looking to hook up with other musicians. No hardcore or metal because of similtaneous shows upstairs in the Gallery.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Where you been?

Busy. Oh my, yes. Tonight, I’ll be at Acentos, backing up the lovely and talented Eliel Lucero. It’s up in the Bronx, and if you can go, you should. Eliel has really grown in the time that I’ve known him, both as a writer and a performer, and I know he’s bringing his “A” game tonight.

But that’s only the start of the wonderment… there’s so much else going on. “What else?” you say? Let me tell you…

On a whim a few weeks ago, I answered an ad looking for a bass player for an electric open mic at CBGB’s Lounge. Do I play bass? Yes I do! I’ve played a couple of shows with synonymUS and I used to play when I was in college (deep in the mists of time). The fellow running the show liked me, it seems, and having checked out a few of my mp3’s online, said “The gig is yours, if you want it.” It’s every Thursday night at CBGB Lounge (313 Bowery, downstairs), starting at 8. I play bass, Joff plays guitar, and Riley plays drums – we’re the house band, and people can do their solo electric/acoustic thing, or they can tell us chords and we can play along. It’s fun, and poets are welcome (hint, hint).

So there’s that. I taught myself how to play bass back when I lived in this little house on the corner of Euclid and Adams in Tucson. I paid 150 dollars a month for rent (a price which, at the time, seemed a little high), had my own room, and lived with an array of roommates. I’d listen to Fugazi and Jane’s Addiction and try to play along. In an effort to get my chops back up, I’ve reacquainted myself with these bands, and I’m having a great time playing and learning. The band is good people, and the open mic looks to be a lot of fun. Come out if you can.

.I’ve also been doing Funkworthy Fridays with {audio genic} and this past week we did a show celebrating all our Scorpio friends. We had a make-up artist, a costumer, and a tarot reader, and we were all done up and pretty and lovely. It was a hoot. Here’s a picture of me that I think is pretty neat. I keep telling my friends to come out, and let me just say, those who know – go. It’s fun, it’s sexy. If you get the invite for next time, clear your calendar, make the trip, because it WILL be worth it.

I also agreed to do the next Nosedive Productions show of “A Very Nosedive Christmas Carol” as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Last year, I played it up as a harlequin, but this year, I think we might be using masks… I read the re-write of the script, and maybe it’s just me, but I think Jimmy keeps making me more and more pretentious, and maybe a little gay. Gonna have to talk to that boy… These are the same guys that brought you "Jesus is my Valentine" and "Bucket O' Chum" which, now that I think about it, qualify as some of the most terrifying pieces of performance I've ever done.

Plus there’s the regular synonymUS gigs (coming up next week on Wednesday, if you didn’t know), and the usual parties, friends, poetry readings, and, ummm, work. I do work, too.

I may need to retreat at some point soon. The cool thing is that the high level (and quality!) of activity makes it almost impossible for me to a) get in any serious trouble, and b) get depressed – which is sort of the same thing. The idle brain is the devil’s popsicle, or something. Anyway, I’m keeping up with my yoga regimen (30-40 minutes everyday) and a steady diet of recreational pharmaceuticals to stay physically and mentally flexible. So, I’m staying healthy. I don’t see my wife near enough, since grad school has effectively kidnapped her, and she’s got a show coming up at our church, so she disappears on the weekends.

Anyway. That’s where I’ve been. I’ll post details for the various things soon, so if you want, you can check it out.