Monthly Archives: November 2006

Townes and me

I’m sitting here listening to Townes Van Zandt…drinking…wondering what it means to be a genius. However megalomaniacal it may sound I always rather hoped it was within me, and it is egotistical of me, I admit it freely. I want to be a writer, and my heroes are JD Salinger and Joyce and Toni Morrison and Shakespeare and Toole and so what less can I expect of myself? I know I don’t have the great novel inside of me yet, but I always hoped it would come…but is it something that just comes along? And it is worth it to me if it does just waltz on up and say hello? Townes Van Zandt once glued all of his teeth together sniffing three tubes of airplane glue, he once fell out of a fourth floor balcony just to see what the moment between stability and falling felt like, he gave up everything to write songs and lived drunk in a trailer even after fame arrived…was he a genius because of these things or in spite of them? All I know is that I want to write words like his, that can reach through skin and flesh and eat into the cords of the heart’s own heart. Like this.

My days they are the highway kind
They only come to leave
But the leaving I don’t mind, it’s the coming that I crave
for the sun upon the ground
stand to throw a shadow, and watch it grow into a night
and fill a spinning sky

Well I don’t know too much for truth
but my heart knows how to pound
my legs know how to love someone
my voice knows how to sound
shame that’s it not enough, shame that it is a shame
follow the circle down, where would you be?

Well you’re the only one I want, and I’ve never heard your name
let’s hope we meet someday, if we don’t it’s all the same
and i’ll meet the ones between us, and be thinking ’bout you
and all the places I have seen
and why you were not there

That my sadness should be his sadness should be the sadness of so many others, who lives such sadness more fully? Words of raw power and strength and beauty seem to grace the burned out frames of addicts like cherry blossoms.

Fuck it, I’m just going to give up on what I was trying to say, it’s resisting my feeble efforts. The inspiration for all of this is the rejection of my novel by the agents who asked for exclusive reading rights, though I started thinking about it last night with no inspiration whatsoever…almost good enough but not quite and I know I should take it in stride and believe me I will tomorrow but not tonight, it’s a crap novel anyways, but I was quite hoping it could be considered a decent sort of crap. Even if all I’m good for at the moment is crap, it shall be the very best crap it can be, so I shall work on the fucking pacing and resubmit. But tonight? Tonight, I’m all for drunkeness and Mr. Van Zandt, I’m halfway to drunkeness already, I started early. If I’m still depressed tomorrow I might move on to my other favourite addict self-destructive singer songwriters…I shan’t start sniffing airplane glue however, no fears.


Things that make you say hmmmm

I’m desperately seeking distraction from a rather grim reality, and today was agood day for distractions…first I was horrifically busy, had a big tenant meeting this evening, a nice 12 hour day will always take your mind off of things. But look what Bev brought in:

Pickle Puss…dill pickle flavoured bubble gum in a container strangely reminescent of…of…well, you know. It is astonishing what some people consider a good idea! I’m glad someone out there created such a thing however, it really made my day.

I also had a good metaphysical conversation with Chanoch, our bookeeper. he’s an orthodox jew, though he wears the most astonishing patterned shirts and sandals. He spends his time studying the Torah and that’s all…works as little as possible to study the Torah as much as possible, and I really love such people. Just trying to schedule a meeting is an adventure, he told me today that all time is illusion, and didn’t I agree? I said dear me no, time in fact was ticking away and work piling, steadily piling up. What did he mean? Well, in reality, in real time, actions and consequences are not separated because you will always suffer these consequences. And therefore all these slumlords we are fighting against are living as though there are no consequences but in reality their punishment is as real as anything else, and this reality makes time and the separation between act and punishment an illusion…I think that’s the gist of it, it requires more thought, and I should have taken notes! He teaches Kabbalah classes which I am strongly tempted to attend, but sadly they’re in the valley or West LA, might as well be in Arizona I’m afraid, the physical impossibility fo reaching such places during rush hour boggles the mind.

Tomorrow I’m off to Arizona for a little turkey with my parents, my ex (long story that) and my uncle chuckles and family…don’t let the misnomer chuckles disarm you, I dubbed him uncle chuckles in face of his decidedly unchucklish qualities. He is in fact a strongly conservative religious sort of man who works for the Army Corps of Engineers in Dallas…we fight, a lot. He makes simple discussion rather impossible. As impossible as an enjoyable holiday. I’ve packed up all my stuff that I want to keep and won’t be taking with me…only four boxes, I am doing well on getting rid of everything, I shall be as the lillies of the field I believe…maybe rather better dressed. A tear or two was shed, a very lowering sense of desolation competes with the contentment of a job well done and one more thing checked off of my list…I am drinking rather heavily and that’s helping take the edge off.


It’s a hot day, beautiful, the sky is cobalt blue, the air is actually clear and you can see the mountains…it’s glorious in fact, and I spent the morning down on Venice beach surfing for the first time ever. Shan’t be the last, it was fantastic! I have mastered getting in and out of a wetsuit (even that was hard), lying on the board and drifting, and sitting on the board and drifting, and hanging onto the board while mostly in the water and bringing my feet up on the other side of the board…a good days work I think! I still got pounded a bit by the waves, and inhaled a bit too much water…cause all kidding aside, surfing is damned hard work and I came nowhere near anything close…you have to wait on the right wave, when it’s coming up behind you paddle like hell lying straight out on the board, then at the right moment lift yourself up by your arms and bring your feet up under you in one quick fluid movement…ha! Damn difficult, and requiring more upper body strength than I currently possess I believe, I did make it to my knees once or twice at the exact right moment and without tipping over, and rode the wave all the way in to the beach and that was marvelous, like flying on top of the water, and I understand the zen rush it must be to be standing…hope to go at least once more before I leave, so perhaps I’ll make it to my feet!

So now I’m happily lazily exhausted, my shoulders sore, arms tired, and it’s off to work on the house…imagine I shall be unhappily exhausted by the end of the day, so i wanted to capture some of the exhiliration and happy contentment i’m feeling right now, life is so fucking good in spite of everything, I’m so glad to be intensely alive.

street art graffiti art and art etc.

I’ve gotten over myself finally and am almost back to sunniness…and I’m sitting here pleasantly tired, think I biked over 10 miles today, almost bit it too, made me happy about the small things in life like a face, and no broken bones of course. Some stupid city official felt it necessary to cut a square out of the road about 1X3 feet and I’d say a good 6 inches deep…hitting that at high speed on a road bike almost brought on a strong attack of religion. As I flew I swear I prayed, but I hit the ground safely though my front wheel isn’t so happy…That was in South Central off course.

Anyways, I’m back to things I love about LA because I’m leaving I’m leaving I’m leaving (I’m singing this, I’d like to write a ska tune about it, with lots of horns and a mellow reggae section in the middle). I believe this is graffitti, though I could be wrong, somehow, though, I don’t belive it is a city comissioned art piece though it’s kept up…

I like it though, it’s just around the corner from the Morrison Hotel on Pico. I suppose when the building finally sells it will get painted over. These two are from Pico Union, but Selena has definitely seen much better days

She used to be directly opposite from a mural of Princess Diana…I always wondered what exactly Lady Di was doing in the heart of the largest Central American population outside of Central America…she did get painted over years ago, and I still regret that I never got a shot of her. But they have painted this mural which is beautiful

I shan’t get started on the war or who exactly are the Americans fighting it, they’re all recruited from this neighborhood though, fucking recruitment centers in high schools, immoral is what it is.

And art etc? Check this thing out

What is it?? I have no idea…it looks like one of the forts I built with my brothers back in the day…much nicer though, we didn’t have access to that kind of material. I like building forts, how long has it been since I built a blanket fort in the middle of the living room? Might be fun to do, I’d take in a bottle of wine, lots of pillows and a couple of good novels and just chill…

Anyways, here’s my contribution, a little still life

Bet that kid is sad he ever forgot his toys and let me get my hands on them! Hope he comes back to collect them, nothing sadder than toys ownerless and unplayed with!

blah blah blah

A lifetime’s like a fine-spun thread

The road goes up by the rope at the edge
When he pours his libation of tears to the ghosts in the stream
The ghosts gather, a shimmer on the waves
Meng Chiao 751-814

When your tears pour out to rain uncollected, to pool on the end of your reddened nose and sparkle on your eyelashes, is there still a gathering of ghosts? I suppose you simply can’t tell in the harsh bright phosphoresence of SAJE’s bathroom, it’s not a good place for such experiments though that couldn’t stop me today. Still, I would have liked to have seen one, might have scared me the hell out of sadness, I think I’m wearing thin, getting stretched taut, my smooth happy surfaces growing rough and jagged and becoming unfamiliar terrain. I’ve never been through such sustained and unending constant though low-level drama, will I last three more months? Three months and I’m gone, not a day longer, I’m afraid my bones will break out of my skin and my heart will just break beyond repairing. Today I felt like crawling under my desk and sitting curled up in the dark, listening to sad songs…it’s brutal to laugh and smile and work and play at normality.

The wind and waves know no pity for for the frail pond-chesnut’s branches
In the moon and the dew who can sweeten the scentless cassia leaves?
We tell ourselves all love is foolishness –
And still disappointment is a lucid madness
Li Shang Yin 812-58

Brutal, but what else do you do? You can’t really refuse to go gentle ino that good night, rage rage against the dying of the light while at the same time making an appointment to visit yet another poor family in yet another roach filled slum building to get some really good photos of cracked plaster, broken plumbing, and if you’re really lucky, a rat or two. I’m hoping for rats, we’re going early so they might not have emptied the traps yet…I need to round off my power point of horrors, and will all this work make a difference? If my analysis is correct (and in all modesty, I am almost always right) and unbridled capitalism is essentially the problem, then fuck me, I doubt it. It requires poverty and a desperate uneducated work force to cook clean and serve, though you’d think that rich people would care that their cooks and nannies live where TB still roams free, where women suffer from mysterious rashes, roaches in their ears, rat bites, lead poisoning…

Well then, now I’m more angry than sad, that’s good. Maybe I’ll return some of my friend’s phone calls and come out from under the table (two attempts at humour now! I’m writing myself better thank god). I’m a naval-gazing idiot as well, probably need a good shaking more than anything. Might just be the lack of someone to give me a good shaking that’s the problem, take my mind off things, girlfriends don’t tend to do that for you. It would, however, destroy the precarious balance currently existing in my house and I certainly couldn’t take 3 months of despair and fury so I believe it’s out of the question. If I wasn’t so well balanced I’d pick a fight I think. With a yuppie. I’ll just be dreaming of the promised land of Scotland and my freedom…

Step inside this house, girl
I’ll sing for you a song
I’ll tell you bout just where i’ve been
it shouldn’t take too long
Show you all the things that I own
My treasures you might say
couldn’t be more’n 10 dollars worth
They brighten up my day

That’s just about all I own
and all I care to I guess…
Lyle Lovett, 1957 –

Joshua Tree and the Salton Sea

Went camping the last two nights at Joshua Tree and it was beautiful, beautiful! Just look at these plants, they are amazing.

I haven’t been camping in so long, forgot how much I loved it! We arrived Sunday and went for a short hike then up to Keys Point for the sunset

The wind was blasting and we were chilled to the bone and stayed that way for approximately 24 hours, I have never been so cold for so long. As I lay in our tent shivering with no feeling in my feet the guys at the campsite next to us were drinking beers, talking loudly, farting, talking loudly, belching, talking loudly…that was the worst bit of the trip though the funniest thing to think back on since both bev and I were lying awake listening to these assholes, some quotes are “have you ever had the palpable taste of shit in your mouth? I mean, so thick you can actually taste it?” he was talking about staying near an outhouse…”I can’t believe you forgot the mayo! You know why this shit is so good? It’s 100% saturated fat, that’s why, nothing better.” “I fucking hate the lakers! I can’t believe you hate the lakers too!” “Hotdogs! God damn I love hotdogs.” And on, and on, and me shivering all night long and the marrow of my bones beginning to ache…

So the next night we went over to walmart and bought some fleece – a purple princess blanket for me and little booties, stopped over at the crossroads cafe where we were able to rationalize breakfast every morning in fact, and back to hiking. Here’s Ryan’s Mountain…

and then over to Cap Rock…when Gram Parsons died in the Joshua Tree Inn, his parents sent for his body to be shipped home. Two friends stole it from LAX airport and brought it all the way back to be burned here

Now, there isn’t even a plaque or anything to let anyone know this facsinating piece of musical history, but if the park rangers had an ounce of humour, they would use the following sign

Cap Rock

But they don’t…ah well, I suppose it might be considered in slightly bad taste. Second night was better, very quiet and toasty, took a last drive through the park, through the cholla gardens which were incredible

and then we were off to the Salton Sea in search of Salvation Mountain and Slab City. We found Salvation Mountain…it’s amazing!

Mr. Leonard Knight has been building this thing for years, and lives right behind it, right on the edge of slab city…which used to be a government outpost. When the government left, the people moved in, and now it is an outpost of people who are united in their dislike of civilization, here’s a view over Salvation Mountain

Salton Sea is an eerie place as well, made famous by the Val Kilmer movie which I must admit I have not seen. We were on the North shore which was abandoned to all intents and purposes. It was filled in 1905 when the Colordao broke through a levee, and now filled with pelicans and herons and gulls and other birds…but along the shore we found these

Never a good sign, and this picture frightens me even though I took it. There were hundreds of them, I have no idea what could have happened to kill them all, and there was no one to ask…

So that’s the photo bit done…I really wanted to go to the desert because I am thinking thinking all of the time, cannot stop my mind, it runs on and on and will not cease as my future looms up and the past looms up as well and i feel like I’m in some kind of trough between the two and I do not like it, it’s like treading water or walking up an escalator that’s going down, i cannot progress and I hate this effort to do nothing but stand still, like Alice in Wonderland I am tired and out of breath at the end of the day and have not left my square. I wrote, a lot.

Some places when you arrive you feel welcomed, held by the hills and the earth itself, a homecoming. Even though this is desert, not so far from my very own desert where i know every rock, every cactus, love every line of light and wind that breath and sing over the stones…still, it is foreign. There are no answers for me here, and so emptiness wells up a bit, the familiar and much loved song of the quail in the dusk, the coyotes in the dawning, they bring tears to roll silent down my cheeks. Some places comfort you like a mother would, and that is what I wanted. I lie awake, the wind is buffeting the tent and moaning across the mouths of the empty bottles on the table, I can hear it pouring over the rocks like water. It picks up one corner of the tent then another to send canvas against first my feet, then my side, I wonder if it could dislodge us entirely, send us bouncing across the desert the way I have done in my dreams, unhurt, almost flying, spinning and weightless. The flap speaks to me ceaselessly, rattling back and forth, and sand hits the tent, in waves like the sound of bees, and sometimes clumps, like a mischievious child dumping a small bucket of pebbles over us. Grit interferes with the slight scratching of my pen and the marrow of my bones hurts, my heart hurts…and the words still spin in my mind memories of the past and fears for the future, great excitement and great sadness and a great wondering of what exactly I need to be happy and fullfilled. What exactly I need to be able to jump out of bed glad to start another day. I shall find it I think, but not here, and forget all those sages who say that it lies only in yourself, because I think what I did find today was that some places hold you, keep you, make you well just being there, and the place I am, this place I have been? It does not.

The Doors 40th

It was Wednesday, imagine, the Doors at the Whisky A Go Go again! I had my special VIP pass…here’s what the spot looks like, Sunset and San Vicente at the heart of the strip:

Tafarai and I waltzed past the people in the line, right up to the very large bouncer who looked up our names on the list, gave us wrstbands and opened up the red velvet rope…it was magic. We strolled in fashionably late, and grabbed some of the free booze being passed around by the waitresses. And there was Ray Manzarek keyboard genious, Robby Krieger on Guitar, John Densmore on the drums…John called us over, we’ve met a couple of times before and he came to our big action at the Morrison Hotel when we were forcing our way into the building. That day gave me a high I shall never forget! We met the band, they thanked us for the amazing job we were doing making Los Angeles a better place and preserving the rights of working folks to live in the center city, and they they went on stage and played and the place just irrupted…

No, wait, that was just what i wanted to happen! Except for having met John Densmore before…like Dougal from father Ted I sometimes have a hard time separating dreams from reality I’m afraid. We arrived late, really really late which generally isn’t a problem where you’re out on the strip but we missed the program. Partly due to lateness, but mostly because we were in the damn vip line for an hour and a half…in the words of the guy behind me, “a fucking vip line just ain’t what it used to be!” I lost a bit more of my innocence that day I’m afraid. It was good for people watching though I never recognize anyone having never had mtv in the 80’s. Here’s some faded rockstars, they were on the corner while I was taking the above picture so I got a surreptitious shot in, the guy on the left was going on and on about his friend the drummer from the Runaways, but I particularly liked the guy in the skinny pants, black and white tiger stripe top and rockstar mullet, they were about to head off to the Rainbow Room…all my stereotypes come to life:

The line was made up of industry folks all going on about famous people they had worked with, skinny girls in short skirts and too much makeup were cruising up and down trying to make friends, people who thought they were more important than the rest of us were trying to talk their way past the bouncer and making phone calls, two guys got arrested by the cops and were dragged off, Tafarai was checking the scores from the Clipper game and the progress of his fantasy teams, the real vip’s were getting let right in, a few more rockstars from back in the day wandered by in leather and/or spandex. Gilby Clarke, guitarist from Guns N Roses rolled up in his black mercedes…wouldn’t have recognized him but for the talkative guy in front of us who knew who people were, but sadly his wife was a real vip and he got in far before us. While at the very front I saw the white light guy married to Piper in Charmed, he couldn’t get his friends in which made me feel better, Robbie Krieger’s wife took about 5 minutes to get past the barrier even…but finally, we were in!

It’s a small place, must have been amazing back in the day! The vip’s were on the top level, clusters of very stylish folks talking importantly…that wasn’t so fun so we headed downstairs to be with the proletariat, here’s a view from the stairs:

You can see there’s no one playing :-(, but some classic doors was blasting over the sound system, and everyone downstairs was singing along and dancing…it was a very cool mix of people, Mexican families and punk kids and old hippies, Roadhouse blues came on and the place just went nuts. Here’s one of my favourite characters:

I could not tell you the whys and wherefores of the wizard costume, but it was very cool all the same. So it was Tafarai and I; he was my ride and sadly had to leave early to get the car back to his girlfriend. Why didn’t I drive damn it! I’ll tell you, it’s a small matter of a warrant I belive I have, a question of a small unpaid ticket but that’s a long story…anyways, since the Doors now all hate each other they were playing in different venues, so we decided to go down to Book Soup to catch Densmore but that was over, and the Cat Club where Ray was playing had another fucking long ass line in the face of which our vip wristbands were worthless so…we headed on home. So disappointing, I was so disappointed, but I suppose you can’t recpture the magic that was once the Doors…Jim Morrison dead and 40 years and a long acrimonious lawsuit later…seeing domingosiete the next night and being able to dance the night away was miles better, and I think perhaps I shall just forget about seeing my favourite bands from back in the day and let them live larger than life in my imagination…much the best place for them really as the current reality is a bit sad.