The epic and awesome story of how I began to write again is as follows:
I wondered out loud to myself “what could possibly be more redundant, obsolete, and ridiculous than my own life? I know! Ill write a review of So by peter Gabriel, on cassette!” the layers of uselessness and wasted time peeled like a floppy steamed artichoke. I began to see myself as a bit of a writer god, creating whole universes of facebook friends, I decided to tour California reading poetry, im still waiting to. then I just took off, crazy days, long benders. Why do I even have these stupid cassettes? I decided to write a communique back to every musical artist represented in my small collection of tapes.
-So ,by Peter Gabriel
I thought I liked this song, “sledgehammer”. Im not so sure now. It was one of my favorite jams on the slurry that is easy listening hotel radio. Why is there seriously a minute in between every track on this album? Way to use the silence peter. The next song is called “don’t give up” and kate bush is being compressed into mush. She sings “don’t give up, cause you have friends, don’t give up, youre not the only one, don’t give up, no reason to be ashamed”. Peter Gabriel takes stands on shit like giving up. This song is actually tight “that voice again”, Manu Katche is the drummer and the beat is stealably rightous. Im sure that’s an overdubbed snare sound though. Side a complete, meh I gave it a chance.
-Krossed Out .by Kris Kross
“Cant stop the bum rush” is a marvel, a solid foundation for a whole generation of backward clothes wearing scamps who rap and rob people. The beat for the next song is all glass breaking and intimidating whooping sounds. “woop woop”, these kids were like what, 14, 15? Theyre stoned! Get these kids in an afterschool program. Where I can SCHOOLem on how to riproprippityRAP. These flows are hilarious! “i learned to never miss the bus again”. Once again the beat is killin it, no wonder, its Jermaine Dupri!
-Sixteen stone ,by Bush
Oh ya, I remember this song “breathe in breathe out etc.” his voice is distorted sometimes, randomly seeming, I think theres a lot of studio editing involved in making this band sound radio saturation ready. It turns out I didn’t really suck at guitar when I was 15, i was just made to listen to bush. Hahahaha is that a saxophone? Oh now hes singing “I am a whore, got a big old gun”, sheesh gavin, do you like nirvana? The drumming sucks bad, the singing is all cut and paste with cheesy effects, the guitar riffs are juvenile and d1 distortion mud, the lyrics, it sounds like he was just repeating “monkey on a drill” over and over, now hes shouting it. The song literally fell apart in a very uncharming way there at the end. Oh a ballad! I think I found the furthest backest of nicklebacks ancestors in this song “glycerin”. The guitar just got distorted but not louder, oh the palm muting. At least they had to hire out for some talent on this record, I hope the chamber orchestra were paid well.
Im into factoids. Im gonna write some toids right now.
BULLET the Indian tribe that lived here in the American river valley were called the Nisenan and they were freakin awesome. They didn’t have war, they had dance offs, and whoever got served hardest had to give the victor the spoils. Thus is the natural order of things. Mostly they were into eating stuff like acorn mush, deer flesh, and fishes from the river. There were more than a dozen species of fish native to the lower American, most importantly salmon, which are huge, and tasty on acorn mush crackers. The Nisenan were part of the larger Maidu tribe, peaceful shell and feather folk who lived in partially subterranean huts. When a dude wanted to marry a girl, he had to move in with her folks and help them hunt and keep the house clean. Once hed payed up in labor and shells and whatnot he could take the girly away to live with his family, where theyd stay in a little shanty in the backyard and pretty much fuck all day. I think that’s a pretty cool style don’t you?
BULLET in sacramento, theres a few superfund sites. If you don’t know what that is then you don’t know jack about Al Gore son. Basically he wanted to pool a bunch of money in a super-fund, and then, use that money to clean up super-fucked places like Mather field, and the old train yards downtown. The thing is, sacramento has a short but intense history of environmental damage doing. Remember, there were only about 400-500 people living around these parts before the miners came, enslaving the nisenan and peeing in the river. When Johnny Sutter’s boys found gold, all hell broke loose. Within 10 years the hills above sacramento were crawling with dirty, dirty men, scraping the river beds and crapping all along the banks. Then some guy invented this thing they called “the monitor”, which was a huge water cannon they used for leveling hills and finding precious precious gold. In order to run these things they had to build dams and redirect millions of gallons of water through hundreds of miles of sluices and aquaducts. The dirty men didn’t think much about what it might do to the valley below, blasting away whole hillsides and draining it all into the rio de Americano. Really they probably knew, but they didn’t care, cuz they were making bank and getting laid. All the silt and dust they deposited in the river washed away bridges, ruined farmland, flooded the new towns, and made the upper American impassable by riverboats. Whoops! Now how are they gonna get all their supplies up river? How are they gonna get all their lumber, granite, cobblestones, and precious precious gold downriver? No problem, they’ll just ship in some trains from the east, and use hundreds of reused emigrant covered-wagons to ship freight in the meantime. Better build some roads, better lay some tracks, better import some Chinese labor. Soon the valley was crosscut with roads, ramshackle seasonal bridges, and the tracks of several upstart train companys. Including the sacramento valley line, the sacramento-placer-nevada line, the California central line, the central pacific line, the western pacific line, and the northern electric. Central pacific built a bridge across the American in 1862, and 5 years later it burned up. They replaced it with another wooden one, then a steel one, the steel one fell into the river, taking a loaded train with it. Bridges collapsing was no big d in those early days. It was almost expected and people started to hold their breaths when theyd cross. All this crazy transport infrastructure called for a great big central railyard, and if youre from here you know this spot as the ghost yard. Nationally, its known as one of the worst polluted spots in the country, and a fine example of 19th century industrial practices like: burying metal shavings and busted train parts, dumping paint into giant pits, heavy stuff falling on peoples heads, heavy stuff rolling over peoples bodies, and fires starting. Once some friends and I got caught drinking box wine there amongst the rusted and busted train corpses, and some of my friends got taken to jail. I chased the cop car for a few blocks, thinking I dunno, id flip it over and save my friends. But they lost me, so I went to the arrestee’s house and crashed on their couch and drank the rest of the box wine. They were really pissed that I did that for some reason. That morning when they got back from jail, I got a few phone calls. One of the phone calls was from my girlfriend, she had slept with some other dude the night before and thought we should talk about it. The next phone call was from my job at the restaurant, they needed to fire me because they had me on camera stealing a bottle of olive oil. The next phone call was from my mom, telling me she was kicking me out of the shanty, I forget why, i think I just accepted it and hung up. After all that good news I decided I needed to mark the occasion, so I got a tattoo in my friends living room. The tattoo says “it was a mistake”, which is a really funny thing to get tattooed permanently onto your body and into your forever. You know, I don’t regret it. But I do regret all that terrible shit those cowboys and 49ers did to this place. We are living a legacy of destruction and greed in this valley. No matter what we do now, weve already paved paradise, weve already killed off dozens of useful and awesome native species. Now if you want to marry a girl you have to go out and get some precious precious gold. No girl wants to live in a one room partially subterranean mud thatch hut with me. This city is two stories sunk, and it smells like poopoo sewer here in the summertime. They still repaint sutters fort every few years, and if you fill out the junior ranger scavenger hunt ditto at the “American Indian” museum outside of those white walls, they’ll give you an authentic arrowhead.
Coffee shop again, instant energy, instant inspiration. A moment ago I stood awkwardly at the front of the line, deciding what kind of soft food pillow id give my steamy bean broth. I was lucky, it was the right moment to be indecisive, the cashier was a bumbler. He removed the receipt covering and 10 yards of transactions popped out like snakes in a can. After a minute he gave up on rolling it all back in, tore it off and started over. Another minute passed as he consulted his coworker, the real barista, and unrolled a pack of quarters. By this time the people standing behind me, one of them legendary-to-me drummer zach hill, were laughing at something elusive to me. “hey dude” says one with a rat tail, “you’ve got a cockroach on your back, want me to flick it off for you?”. I played it cool, “really? Gross, I better flick it outside” and I walked to the employee only back door a few feet away. “hey dude dont go out that way” says the bumbler. I didn’t respond, trying one door, locked, then the other, and aiming my powerful fuck-you-finger, I launched the duffy vermin from my backpack. Good riddance, I think I’ll take a chocolate chocolate chip cookie.
“you guys going to that party across the street tonight?” I ask the gigglers. They hadn’t even heard of it. “ya I guess it’s a carnival party, with booths and bands and costumes and stuff, at the co-op house”, cool, they say. “thanks for the insect warning”, “no problem, it was on your back at first”, “ya its these old buildings, I don’t think ill tell my girlfriend that I probably picked it up at her house”. Coffee finally obtained, I sit down and pull out this computer, the bustedish one my brother brought home from Indonesia.
A few minutes later a bookish looking hipster sits by me, and we ignore each other politely. I glance up from the first paragraph a few times to look at summertime legs and cool looking t shirts, to watch the cops come in and wonder if its for something besides coffee, to smile at the suspender-clad asian girl approaching. “hey, this might sound weird, but do either of you want the rest of this hummus? We didn’t do anything to it I promise”, she asks my silent bench partner and I. “I would love your hummus” I stuttered, a phrase I must try again sometime in different context, “we’ll share it cuz you offered it to both of us”. Im just now looking at the last bite of lucky garlic bread and chickpea mess. Something would feel wrong about eating it, as if I should pay it forward or something.
As my bench partner studys a text book im getting jealous. What have I to study? My own inner life is the only thing that gets me writing these days, my only class, my own professor of me. What have I learned this semester? Ive learned that my body takes a very real summer vacation, and shuts itself down to ideas of schedule and productivity. This morning (2:30 pm), in the shower, I thought of something that I would think of, being me. I thought, the balance is in, the world is paying me back for the slights I perceived as a teenager. All that time I thought I was uncared for, all that time I thought my future was a starving and struggling wasteland that I wanted to avoid, all that time I thought my country didn’t give a shit about me or my friends, the times are easily proving me wrong. The federal government is turned around 180 and doing everything that us liberals have been screaming at it to do for decades. Im receiving checks of free money in the mail for my “hard times”, and ive been given a card with which to buy good quality local organic food for myself and my friends. Its as if the universe is saying “see? Youre taken care of! It really is up to you to take it further! You can be anything and do anything that you want! We’ll take care of the basics, and you, you prove that youre worth it”. It’s a relief, and it’s a challenge, maybe its turned me around, I sure don’t feel like smashing the system anymore, although id still never consider shooting someone to uphold it. I just said “never”, have I learned nothing this semester?
Coffee shop after coffee shop Ill struggle to write more things down. I’ll struggle to punctuate, spell, phrase things better, with more oomph. Wherever I am, ill be trying harder to give more of myself, the music I make, the ideas I carry around. I’ll try to hook it up, to help it out, to make the connections to make it happen. Most importantly, I’ll try harder to forget completely about the reward, because I’ve already got it, free coffee, and free hummus. Love for is better than love from, its more dependable.
Time to write a letter or two.
I wasn’t a very athletic kid, nor was i sharp with whittling or tying knots, in fact i quit cub scouts when i failed to make the webelos by dint of not carving an owl out of balsa wood, but i, like other kids, had to find somewhere to go in the summer time, my parents simply would not have me loafing around the house while they were at work for 2 and a half months of the year. So it came to be that between 4th and 5th grades, after my month in summer school, in which i probobly did make-up math classes, i elected to join my buddy Alex at Computer Camp.
Camp Winthers is 3 miles south of soda springs off interstate 80 in the mountains, as a good summer camp should be, and we bussed there from our suburb all together in a unified school district yellow bus, huddled with our books and gameboys and comparing snack caches. the only candy i had were those little multi-colored sugar buttons that come on wax paper, this is my only memory of those candies, maybe because they are gross and i learned my lesson.
the bus ride was an excellent opportunity to show my awesome but somewhat sheltered friend alex some of the guerrila-war tactics i’d perfected in my long schoolbus career. i’d brought along a few drinking straws and q-tips, which seperate seem like harmless camp supplies, but together make a very effective blow-gun of medium-range accuracy. we managed to keep our identities secret for about 15 minutes as we terrorized the bus cabin from our back seat vantage point, but once we were outted it was full scale war. kids broke into factions, weapons were chosen, spitballs, jollyranchers, playing cards, some managed to deploy an airforce of paper airplanes. eventually peace was declared, and we turned our arsenal outwards to passing cars.
drawn by Juli Boggs
arriving at the camp we discovered that it was a multi-purpose facility, actually 2 summer camps in 1. emptying from busses across the parking lot was a large group of noticeably rowdier, generally taller, probobly older, and obviously healthier looking kids. turns out this was a combination computer/basketball camp. i think there might have been girls there too, but it didnt matter because they didnt really exist at that point. after our camper orientation and introduction to our counselor, Alex and i wasted no time in settling into our canvas tent. we had 2 other boys rooming with us who’s names i forget so let’s call them something fun like Porgy and Bess. Porgy was evidently rich, in kid terms, he had a cell phone that he would carry around, whether he had service or anyone to call or not i dont know, he was also chubby, and had a seemingly bottomless candy account at the camp store. Bess was a shy shy kid, either younger or just plain lamer than alex and i, always threatening to tell when we’d cuss, or crying when we’d tell ghost and murder stories at night. we decided we wouldnt spend much time in our tent. the next day, after a giggling farting night of half-sleep, we were introduced to the computer lab and led to our very own macintosh Performa 6400 to begin our programming education.
We used a program called Stagecast to create 2D games. basically the program allowed you to choose or create sprites or icons with non-graphical properties or rules that determine their behaviour and lay them in a 2D environment. for example, one could choose a very poorly rendered cartoon gerbil and set it on a line of “grass” icons along the bottom of the screen, then place an obstacle in its path to the right, lets say a cactus. the gerbil can be given a rule like “when there is no icon to the right of gerbil, gerbil advances right” then “when there is a cactus to the right of gerbil, gerbil advances up, then right, then right, then down”, hence jumping the dangerous obstacle and completing the adventure. we were in computer lab for 5 hours a day following instructions and programming sprites. at the end of the week my finished game consisted of a lazer-gun-wielding sheep that could skim back and forth along the bottom of the screen under an ever-shifting canopy of clouds. the clouds were inhabited by adult male gorrillas, and the icons would shift in a labryinth of targets. with patience and skill, one could shoot down each of the simians and win the game. i called it, creatively, “Monkey Blaster”.
drawn by Juli
The rest of the time at camp was spent doing outdoorsy type things that alex and i loathed. i particularly remember one episode of “fun” wherein we were woken up at 6am for a “polar bear swim” in the lake, from which i contracted giardia, a genus of anaerobic flagellated protozoan parasite that colonise and reproduce in the small intestines of several vertebrates, including me. The symptoms of Giardia, which may begin to appear 2 days after infection, include violent diarrhea, excess gas, stomach or abdominal cramps, upset stomach, and nausea. After 1-2 days of diarrhea, the opposite occurs, constipation for 4-7 days, still with acute gas production due to the parasite producing iron-sulfer proteins. basically i smelled and felt like a rotten egg for 2 weeks.
well thats pretty much the story, i left out some details but anyone whos been to summer camp remembers the motif, camp fires, dining hall spaghetti, hiking up mountains, performing skits, shooting a bow and arrow. I didnt fall in love but i did make one new friend, he was an older kid who had been going to the camp for years and alex already knew him, total goofball, he made us call him by his invented nickname “cap” but his real name was “Otzo” which is much cooler. Here’s a picture of Alex and I at our 8th grade graduation. He went on to get a degree in philosophy, which is awesome because we use to walk around the playground together at recess, playing imagination games and throwing around ideas like “what if the dinosaurs were actually super intelligent, foresaw their own extinction, and destroyed all evidence of their civilization?” calling ourselves philosophers. he works for google now, on the very edge of human evolution and technology. I work at a pizza place, but we still hang.