JUNE 30TH 2015.
I arrive at my friend Jim's house around 12:15. The day is blue and splendid and promising. I walk into his apartment (his place is very streamlined. No TV, just stereo, and instruments, and records, and recording gear). The simplicity of his place, along with the harwood floors, is calming. The first thing I say is "What's up dopers?" I say this because Jim and Ray are passing the bong, and this gets a laugh. Today the three of us are going to Astoria. Jim has set up a show at the Voodoo Lounge, and this is a good reason for a road trip. Raymond is a new friend or acquaintance if you prefer. Like Jim he is a solo singer and songwriter. I've heard Ray play before, and I really dig what he does. Got himself a great voice, and songs to back it up. Now I've know Jim for about 7 years? (I'm guessing). I also really enjoy Jim's music, and hanging out with him. It doesn't take long to load up our guitar's, amps. and hit the road. I tell the guys we got all day, and will be taking out time getting there. After all the journey is the arrival.
I decide to take highway 30 instead of I-5. The guys both aprove of this decision. The drive, and sharing this drive together, will be the highlight of the day. It's comradery I crave, and i've made many music related trips. Almost always the time spent with each other, laughing, sharing a meal, talking about our favorite albums and books. That's always the true experience to embrace. Usually the gig is underwhelming. The road ahead of us is open and scenic, and we drive into the wind, and into country. I love all the farms, and animals we pass. Jim plugs his ipod in and we listen to some selections. It's a girl punk group that he just discovered, and it's good. I don't remember the name of the damn band though. I don't know during the drive, but Jim's on two hits of acid. He's so used to it that you don't even know he's on it. I'm not sure this is a good thing, and I worry about his intake of pyscadelics. He's a grown man, and can make his own decisions. I'm not sure I'd even want to take two hits of acid and not tell anybody. My acid days are well behind me though. Wether Raymond is on acid as well I'll never find out. Both are well behaved.
As we drive through Scapoose the conversation turn to animals. I say,
"It's odd to me that animals stopped their evolution after they learned to acquire just what they needed. Their needs, not their wants. But us humans are driven to think we need more, and more. So we clog our existance with a deep drive to acquire more than our fair share. The crow, for example, learned to use a few tools, and how to function in a group. Then they just left it at that"
After a few head knods, and some silence we drive on. Leaving me to feel as though I haven't made a clear point. Making me sound like I'm the one on Acid.
There's some small talk on this subject, and we hit a nice stretch of open road. I choose some old Animal Collective, and we listen. Volume up, talking down.
Farms really call to me these days. That's what brought up the subject of animals. Jim asks, "Do you think you could live in the country, have a few animals, you know, like a little farm" I say " In a second, I think I would like to have a bunch of old horses, and cows, and dogs. Be able to give these animals a nice place to live out their lives" We all give this some thought. Ray says, "It's probably a lot more work than you think. It's not all just hanging with cows, and petting old dogs on the back porch." All nod in a show of unity. We drive on.
Some time passes and we pull into the town of St. Helens. I say, "When I was a kid and we lived in Longview, coming to this town was a fun time. Mom would pile us in the car, and we'd come here just to have some Burgerville"
Like today, we'd huddle together in the car and go. Arm length being the longest distance between us. Killing fear, loneliness, and that empty feeling in one fatal arrow to the heart. Jim says, "Did you guys make the trip a lot?" "No" I say, "Money didn't provide that we throw caution to the wind, and drive down willy nilly. That's what made it such a speciall thing" As i say this we drive right by the Burgerville, and I point. "Looks a little different, but that's the one". Watching the speed limit, we drive on.
With St Helens in the rearview mirror I roll my window down, and take the last sips of my coffee. Just a bit before you get to Ranier you come to the old Trojan Nuclear Plant. As a kid the Trojan plant was something that hung over us. What if we have an earth quake? What if they have a melt down? Will we all be stricken with radiation? The Tower was a nightmare regular. We come to the park first, and it's a beautiful park at that. a man made lake is surrounded by lush green landscaping. They stalk the waters, but as kids we never wanted to eat a fish that lived in radiated water. We pull in, and right away I'm confused because I don't see the Tower. This was the reason I pulled in, I figured the guys would get a kick out of it. Driving around it's obvious that it no longer exhists. There's a couple guys hanging out at the park and I ask them. They say it was taken down 7 or 8 year ago. One of the men points of into the distance. We all follow his direction, and it becomes very obvious that there's something missing off in the distance. You can see where the trees stop, and a big open, empty, chunk of the horizon is empty. "That's where it used to sit". We all nod, and one of the guys turns and walk away. Leaving his friend alone with us three hoodlums. We use the Porta potty, and Raymond smokes a spliff.
We drive on leaving the empty space were Trojan used to sit. No longer bringing fearful nightmares to young boys and girl. Vanished from thin air with only a big gap in the horizon, a green and lusch park, and radioactive fish to tell the tale.
We pass slowly through Raineer, and I don't bore anyone with tales of old. Though I do mention that we would drive across the bridge from Longview to get last minute beers. Oregon having been kind to us budding alcoholics, giving us an extra 30 minutes to buy our poison.
We climb a long winding hill, and looking over our shoulders we can get a great view of Longviews industrial area. Belching up smoke, and chemicals. We crest the hill and sweep through more country. The road ahead is not straight, but curved like a burlesque dancer from much older times. We pass a few deer who look at us like we should slow down, we do.
Now we enter the town of Clatskanie. This is where I was when Elvis died. My mother always took us to visit her friend from school days. Shirley I think was her name, and she had two sons named Ronny and Donny. Shirley also had a hard drinking husband, and they all lived happily ever after in an old farm house. Until Ronny shot Donny with a shot gun. Cutting him clean in half. I remember the boys taking my brothers and I out into the farm. I watched Ronny pick up a big tree branch and brake it over a cows head. Not something that would come natural to a young boy, not with out a little regret. We laughed uncomfortably. I also jumped out of the hay loft in the barn and landed on a nail. This was traumatic, and I remember the sour sting of the rusty nail. How when I tried to pick my foot up the whole board with the nail came up. I had to put my other down and hold it, then raise the foot from the nail. But we would come to Clatskanie in the summer and go swimming with this rural family, and it was fun. We all pile into Mom's VW bus, and were making our way to a swimming hole when the news came across the radio; ELVIS PRESLEY HAS DIED! Anyway I tell some of this to the fellas and keep some to myself. This is also where Raymond Carver was born, and he has a memorial in a park here. We stop for this.
This little town has all the charm of itself still intact. Damn the day is fine in this small town. The streets are empty save for a truck her and there. Things move slow here, and it pleases me. The grocery store we drive by looks to not have changed since the 60's. I find the park and we pull over. Parking in front of the Library. I've been to this Memorial once before, and the fact that it's across the street from a Library has escaped me. Raymond Carver only spent two years of his life here, but it's nice that this little town recognizes him. The stone and marble headstone looks like just that, something you'd find over his final resting place. It has his picture etched in marble with his name above. Below his picture it says: Poet & Short Story Writer, and below that 1938 - 1988. Next to the picture in quotes "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?. Under that in smaller letters at the very bottom: Born in Clatskanie. " I wonder how many people in this little town have even read that story. We take a picture of all of us in front of the Memorial, then walk over to the library. We check to see if they have any Carver memorabilia, they don't. Jim says he wants to check out this thrift store. The only answer to this question is "of course my friend".
We rumble around the store, taking note of odd hats, and other things. Raymond comes out from a little room in the back, and he has what you'd call a "find". What he has is a studded out, painted, crusty punk master piece. A leather biker jacket of our envy. It has all the required punk icons like, The Damned & The Exploited, and Toxic something or another. It has flurishing and faded red and white paint in places, and is a dream. On top of everything else it fits him to a T. The price tag for this Art is $100. Which of course gives Ray pause. I say why don't offer $60? He does, and she takes the offer. It's truly a score, but comes with a small dilemma. Do you lose some cred if you didn't craft the coat yourself? I mean it shouldn't matter, but does it lose some realness if all those band aren't your favorites. The names on the jacket are almost required, but do you really dig them. Spikey hair, The Exploited, rivets, studs, suds, and crust. Nowadays it almost has a "Hot Topic" feel to it, like you could buy a kit for a certain street punk look. Isn't it a uniform? It contradicts the whole "Individual" thing right? Fuck it! it's a cool jacket, and I say he made the right decision. Now he needs to go buy some Explioted records (or maybe he has them, I don't know).
We spend a little time looking for the historical society building, but can't seem to find it. We roll the windows down and hit the road. Our next stop will be Astoria, and we will share our music with friends and lame'ohs, and I will get angry.
We ascend into Astoria like a slippery gang of parasites. We are hungry parasites looking for a host. Maybe even grumpy parasites void of history of ourselves, and the ground we slide over. We find the "Voodoo Lounge" and make a brief appearance. We also stop in next door, and pay this record store, and the owner a little visit. The bearded gent that sits behind the counter is kind, and talkative, and seems supportive. He will be at the show, and I will remember him talking loudly with his back to the stage. Until I finish a song, and he turns to face the stage and applaud enthusiastically. Then he gives me his back, and goes again to not giving a fuck wether I live or die. We leave the record store, and the time is 4pm.
We hunt for food like I hunt for attention. With a hunger that can't be filled. We pass touristy breweries with burgers, and fries, and lots of people. It's not what we are seeking, it doesn't fit our intent, so we walk and keep looking. I see an Indian restaurant, and we decide to go there. As we walk up close you can see it's closed. Dissapointedly we walk on, and while we walk Jim is putting stickers on every sign and post he can find. The sticker image is of Charles Manson, and has Jim's logo on his forehead. This is in place of the swastika that Mr. Manson proudly wore. Ray and I smile at each other, and I can't help but think that it's vandalism. In a much smaller size, but still vandalism. This of course make me think of how I'm trying to fight of the rigid nature of growing old. I don't want to be old, bitter, and cantankerous (too late?).
Just as we leave the hub of the city we come to a Mexican restaurant. Jim's not really wanting Mexican, but he relents and we enter the place. This turns our to be perfect, and we are the only patrons in the place. This is nice, and we share a great meal that comes just in time to ward of the grump in me. This is good because i've managed to get the nickname "Grumpy Old Dad". Ray has given me this name, and when the waitress comes he says "Maybe you should order first". This gets a big hoot from me, and we sit alone in this place. We eat, and enjoy each others company, and we are ourselves.
"I want to see the ocean" I say.
Asking a local how long it takes to get to Seaside. He says, "You don't want nothin to do with going that way. Go on out and see the ship wreck, take you only 20 minutes to get there. You'll see the ocean, and not all the traffic" We thanks him and head back to the car.
Now Ray's got his phone all dialed in with directions to this shipwreck. As we progress he tries to lead us, and at first we follow his prompts. Then i get confused, and start to second guess him, and his fancy phone. I make an alpha decision, and turn left when he says right. In the end I must admit defeat, and re-trace out steps. Now following his lead we find the beach. We get out of the car, and the boys smoke some weed. Walking to the beach it is windy, and vibrant. We walk to this old ship. Actually it's just the front part, and it rises up out of the sand. Not much is left anymore, and it's not that impressive really. But I take deep breaths that fill my lungs with this salt air. That makes it worth the trip, and putting up with Ray and his technology.
March 8th 2015
I leave the house around 8pm. On the short walk to my car I feel the remnants of the warm pre-spring day. There's a chill in the air, but it smells warm, like I said, the remnants of this day. I catch myself trying to look at my reflection in the car window. I'm going out and I do care what I look like. I'm mostly in black though I do have a denim jacket on, the jacket being a standard Levis classic. It's vain I know, but I try to take care of myself, and I spend too much time not being happy with how I look. So being mostly pleased with my reflection is a good thing (Damned the vanity). I'm going to a Rock-n-Roll show, or a "Punk" show. Last thing I want is to be that old guy trying to look young, so a pair of black pants, black plain t-shirt, Black hat, and Denim coat seems like a good place to be. Honestly part of me just wants to stay home, watch some TV, have some more time with Amber, and finish the night with a bowl of ice cream. But some folks I know are releasing a full length vinyl tonight, and I want to support that. After all I know how much work that entails (and money). So I get in my car with a good attitude, and back out of my drive way. I get on the best road to take me straight into Portland Proper. This is McGloughlin BLVD. It's really highway 99, and will turn into MLK BLVD when I get into Portland. There's a stretch of this road that is something to see. It has about a 2 or 3 mile stretch that is almost like going through a tunnel of trees. It's a wide 4 lane road with a cement divider in the middle. Each side of the Highway is lined with big old trees. I would tell you what they are but I don't know, but they're old and big. So big as a matter of fact that they almost touch each other high above the middle of the road. It's' a real sureal trip, especially in fall. Going threw feels like your in a big tornado of leaves. All swirling around, and spinning violently, victims of the wind, and the ending of something, and begining of another. At night the street lights made it even more tunnel like, and ghostly. Tonight it's just calm, and a little underwhelming, but still a tunnel of old wise trees reaching over my head to hold hands and talk to each other about their day.
I take a left on Burnside and go over the bridge into downtown. I find a parking spot pretty fast, and as I walk to the club it's real deserted. I see all these hip bars open, but hardly anyone inside. On the walk I only pass a few people on the street. I guess it is only 8:30. The real night life is still at home looking in the mirror. Approaching the club I notice it sure looks dark, and empty. If there's a show everyone's inside. I get to the front door and it's locked and nothing is going on. I walk to a nearby Mexican restaurant and grab a local paper. It doesn't take me long to find out I have confused my clubs. The show is at Star Bar, and I went to the Star Theatre. I ask the bar tender where the place is and he looks it up on his phone. It's on the other side of the river around 7th and Morrison. He starts to give me direction, and I want to stop him, and let him know I've lived in Portland for 30 years. I just tell my ego to shut the fuck up, and let him give me direction, and I thank him and head back to my car.
On the Southeast side I find parking pretty easy. I grab my ear plugs, and breath mints, and try and tell my ego to wait in the car, but he's having none of it, so I relent and tell him he can come, but he must be quiet. Walking down the street I can see the big star in the window of the "Star Bar". I also see all the Sid Vicious, and David Bowie wanna be's standing in front, and around the side. There smoking and hanging on each other, and the girls are in Black with lots of makeup, Looking like Joan Jett, and Wendy O Williams, and all kinds of gothy. A couple things trouble my heart here. One is that I'm so judgmental of this group. At one time or another I've wanted to look just like they look, to have a goth girl on my arm, to be drunk and part of a wild, street, rebellious, punk thing. I tried to spike my hair up, and wore the same studded leather jacket, and those creppers for shoes, and jewelry. I wanted to feel part of something, one with others who were like minded. To be drunk and standing in front of a club on Saturday night with my arm around another punk, and smoking a cig, and maybe doing some Coke. Now I walk up to this place and feel not a part of it. Like they look at me like some old guy who doesn't know shit about it, this troubles my heart. The reason being that it's my own illusion, and it's my self-centered soul giving me a hard time. I take a breath and try and let the whole world be, and with practice, I can do that, so I practice.
I see someone I know, and we have a little conversation. She tells me it's packed and hot, but the music is great. I go inside and see that she's right. I can't even see the band, and I look around, look for a way to catch the music. The first band is almost done, and I turn around and go back outside. I'm thinking I can just walk back in and buy the band album, and walk to my car and go home. I return to the friend I was talking with outside. She's much more into this than I am, but god bless her she talks me into going back inside and getting up front and watching the next band. I have a few short conversations with scene acquaintances, nod my head to a few others. This of course makes mister ego happy, and I tell him to get over himself. It's hot and the band sounds great. It's a couple guys from The Humpers, and they can do this kind of Rock n Roll in their sleep. They do it very well, and I have moment of having fun, but it all starts to sound the same to me. Everyone around me is having a good old time, but I'm in conflict. I honestly just want them to get done so the final band can play and I can buy there new album and go home. They finish and I go back outside. Again I catch myself mentally trying to tear down the people around me. You know the young and Sid Viciouses, the wild and original David Bowies. I try and smile and know it's a state of mind that only opresses me. Someday they'll all get to be soft in the middle, hair thining, aged.
My friend and I go back inside and return to the same spot. On the far end of the little venue, right in front of the action. The band starts, and my first thought is that they're a little rawer than the other band. A lot of this comes from the drummer who's just not as good as the other bands drummer. I do this dissecting all the time in music shows. Don't get me wrong I like raw, and this band has kind of a punk Venom sound. Venom being one of my favorite bands of all time, and I dig what I'm seeing. It's considerably much drunker around me now, and a little more aggressive. About three songs into the set it gets a little closer to a slam dance kind of thing. Looking around I also notice some guys exchanging angry glances, and one punk guy standing right next to me is yelling insults at the band (yes this is something I would have done. Trying to be the punkest guy in the room). Then someone run into me and pushes me up against this table. Then it comes, the thought hits me that's been coming all along. It springs to the front of my mind like a bullet, like a trapped animal in a cage who wants out. This is the thought "I want out of here".
I see an opening and move to the back of the room (by the door). I look over at the mech table, and see the singer for the last band sitting there. For some reason I don't want to go over and buy an album while he's sitting there. And now I feel like the room has become aggressive to me, like guys are looking at me in a challenging way. I step outside, and stand on the corner, waiting for the Walk sign. Then the thought comes that, fuck it, I'm stepping back inside and buy the album and go home. The street sign changes to walk and I just stand there, looking at the club door. The sign cycles back, and says Walk again. And I walk.
All the way home I say I'll just buy the album at another show, and I mean that. Bottom line of it was I just wasn't having any fun. Like I just don't belong there anymore. That I don't need it, and don't have to belong, or not belong. I get home and change into some comfortable clothes, and dish up some Ice Cream.
January 23rd 2015
Publicity is bullshit, and hard to come by. I'm talking about the kind that makes a difference. And that kind rarely , if ever, comes your way. Everybody out there is looking to get some eyes on their "Thing". All of us looking for a big dose of approval. I look back on my music career, and can point out many times all things went my way. I got that great review by that great blog, and I got on that compilation that everyone listens to, and approval and praise from all the right people fell into my lap. I'm not sure any of it ever made a damn bit of good other than to beef up my ego. In the long run I didn't sell big amounts of records or have big sell out shows. I don't mean to lessen the hard work that a writer took to listen and write about my "Thing". I have a great respect for them, and have always been grateful. I'm getting to the point with this last release (Royal Violent Birds) that I didn't even want to share my reviews. I just started to feel like this big puppy dog. Like a little kid yelling from his crib "Look at me, give me attention, give me praise". Now the reviewer is doing the same thing you are. They're reviewing your record, and hoping you share the shit out of it (Facebook, twitter, etc. etc.). And that's ok, I get it, and I share it. But what I'm really doing is sending reviews out to poeple that either already have my album or are not into what I do. Either way I'm showing of right? It feels like "See I'm talented, and really good at what I do". Always trying to outshine, and feel a little superior.
It's never that black and white of course. The writer and the artist have a big part of their heart in the right place. We're expressing ourselves, and raising it to the sky. We want to show it to you, and share it. We want to see what you're up to as well, and want to help you and support you. Labors of love are a back biting bitch, and we all know it. It's just the game can really suck for all of us. I see it and feel it all the time. I read, and experience others trying to win at the game just like I am. Doing all the things I've tried, or thinking of trying. Just seeing them do those game moves makes me cringe a little now. It makes me recoil back a bit, and feel tired of it all. I'm letting go a bit at a time I think, and it's healthy. I started playing the game for real around 1994. That's when I got booze out of my life. I still wasn't in any recovery program so I needed a distraction. So I went whole hog with the band I was in at the time "The Jimmies". I'd been playing in bands for 10 years before that, but always left all the promo stuff to someone else. That's when I learned how much work other band members had put in. So I made a press kit, and wrote bios, and compliled all the record label address I could. I wrote letters, and included all the promo stuff I could. And we got on a little record label, and we played some high profile shows, and good things came. But in the end it got tired, and kept draggin its worn out ass for miles. Even though all signs said it's over. Then we finally ended it, and it felt good.
So running this little record label is another place for me to struggle with what to do to get my "Thing" out in the eye of the consumer. All I wanted was to help some friends make some real cool music, and release it in a real fun way. Just for the release show you know? I didn't want to worry about distribution or record stores or reviews (maybe just locally, but that comes with a bunch of bitter bullshit also). But I also want to really be a help to all that want to do a record with Gorbie International Records. So enters the conflict. I can't just sit and do nothing. It's always worth a try. So Jon Ransom is releasing a great record, and I'm getting ready to send out for reviews. I know it means a lot to him, and I'd love to see him succeed. But I want him to remember one thing: "Publicity is bullshit, and hard to come by".