Chalk it up to early exposure to Mad Magazine, perhaps. I grew up having a hard time taking anything too seriously. And even now that I’m old enough to ask for a discount at Denny’s on those coronary-occluding “Grand Slam” breakfasts, I still tend to view current events through the lens of looking for a punch line. Factor in the many “duck and cover” drills in grade school, with the ever-present fear that the Russkies were going to roast our junior capitalist asses on the playground with their big ugly nuclear missiles, and then the promise that incipient stoner culture might allow us the opportunity to segue from that harsh reality to full-time cartoon existence, and I had a hard time knuckling down and getting with the program as a result.
Reality, man: It’s like a bummer, but it’s totally where we, like, live and stuff. Translation: My attempted transition to the world of Bugs and Daffy and Elmer was largely unsuccessful, although there are times I can pontificate like Foghorn Leghorn. But I think I’ve made it into the present day mostly unscathed, although I’m sure you can find detractors of mine who would argue that I’m full-tilt bugnuts crazy. Perhaps. But one crazytown express I did not climb onto is the Tea Party bus. And given the examples of Tea Party logic I’ve seen, especially since the more unhinged members of conservative America lost their collective fudge after a mocha-colored Democrat got elected president, I’d have to say a lot of the people riding on that bus have had some grim experiences with psychedelics.
Which isn’t limited to the wingnut class, of course. What’s important is how you deal with these bad trips, or “bummers.” If you’re willing to explore why you have the kind of primal fears that tend to get triggered and distorted by artificially induced consciousness change, it’s possible to grow toward more elastic and three-dimensional models of thinking. But if you get locked into atavistic modes of reasoning and responding, or you crawl back into your lizard brain and operate from there, it would seem that you’re going to have a much harder time dealing with the accelerating changes and shifts we all are experiencing. Clinging to the past is one thing; clinging to a hallucination of an imaginary past is another. And from what I’m hearing come out of the mouths of right-wingers in the past couple of years, I’d have to say that most of the people you see featured on Fox News Channel have unresolved psychedelic experiences, as any cursory listen to Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin will attest.
As the old saw goes, it takes one to know one. And I can recognize an old burned-out tripper, especially one who elected to thump the Bible or the Book of Mormon rather than do a little hard and painful psychic excavating, and this whole resurgent knee-jerk conservative convulsion has “acid casualty” written all over it. What makes me an expert? I’m not. But I did make a few mistakes in my younger days, and there was a period afterward that I’d describe today as a rough time. But out of that came a transition to a more nuanced and three-dimensional model of thinking; instead of binary black-white perceptions, events and ideas became more complex — as an example, the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching demonstrate that there are 64 different combinations of black and white, when you use a figure that contains six lines (a hexagram). And as a result, every problem no longer was a nail, and I needed to find tools other than a hammer to deal with them.
I’m not advocating drug use here. Since the end of the summer of 1992, I stopped putting any intoxicants into my body, and I’d ceased dipping into Hunter S. Thompson’s bag of party novelties years before. But the small-L libertarian in me believes that individuals should have the freedom to decide whether they want to alter their consciousness at will. No, I don’t think people should take mushrooms and go driving around — “set and setting” is how one of my psychedelic explorer friends describes the approach to venturing outside of Jack Webb consciousness — but I do think that adults should be able to get high, if that’s what they want to do, without getting busted by The Man. To me, the so-called drug menace is a public-health problem, not a criminal-justice problem. And maybe if we as a society became more tolerant of altered forms of consciousness, we might begin to progress away from the binary, black/white, hammer>nail, Manichaean model that has vexed us for what seems like all of my adult life.
Friends, if we really want America to lead again, we’ve got some growing up to do. —Jackson Griffith
The end is near. Stephen Hawking recently went public with the idea that space aliens may not have our best interests at heart here on Earth. Couple that observation with the idea that there’s got to be a few spaceship-loads of hungry carnivorous aliens riding around, looking for a free-range human dining experience, and it’s a short leap to the shuddering realization that our days are numbered on this planet, and allow me to douse myself with this 28-ounce bottle of Sriracha Rooster Sauce with the faint hope that I am making myself repulsive to the alien palate. As someone from the Eagles once etched into the runoff groove of an album: “He who hesitates is lunch.”
Nevertheless, if marauding and hungry aliens are indeed hell-bent on coming to Earth and chomping and swallowing their way through humanity and they’re taking suggestions, I’ve got a pretty good place for them to start. It’s in West Hollywood, it’s loaded with celebrity humans, if you believe its tireless promotional efforts, and it’s called Millions of Milkshakes. I would posit to aliens that celebrities taste better than the rest of us mortals, and it’s not like these aliens are doing us a favor by gobbling all our celebrities, because we’re also on the menu, but if we’re going to die miserable deaths by being masticated by the drooling mandibles of insectile extraterrestrial horrors, please give us the entertainment of watching celebrities get devoured first, okay? Aliens, imagine the gustatory delights of ripping the flesh off of a celebrity that just finished concocting a gooey and sweet milkshake delight, and is loaded with sugary goodness. Mmmmm! And here’s a bonus tip: Paparazzi, those guys with the flashing lightbulbs, taste great, too!
Curious about this Millions of Milkshakes, I went to Wikipedia looking for an entry on it. Wikipedia has everything. But there was nothing on Millions of Milkshakes. And there was nothing on Millions of Milkshakes’ founder, Sheeraz Hasan. And there was nothing on one of Hasan’s other enterprises, a website called Hollywood.tv. How can this be? A shamelessly famewhoring business in shamelessly famewhoring Hollywood, one that’s definitely on the radar of every skeezy cable TV chronicler of famewhores doing their famewhoring, not to mention all the gossip columns taking delight in ripping apart famewhores doing their famewhoring, and no Wiki page?
My first encounter with Millions of Milkshakes was when I saw it mentioned in conjunction with Jon Gosselin, the toady co-star of the so-called reality series Jon & Kate Plus Eight, whose Ed Hardy-clad gallivanting and skankbanging exploits after separating from his now ex-wife Kate Gosselin made her, a woman with a personality that public relations executives might describe as having “high negatives,” actually look good. That’s some award-winning douchebaggery there, and it was mystifying why Jon Gosselin was getting so much coverage as a celebrity, when all he was doing was showing up in public clad in the latest Christian Audigier-designed sartorial abortions and moping about, sucking on Marlboros or hitting on random skanks. So when I caught a report of Gosselin creating his own milkshake at something called Millions of Milkshakes, I figured this was something special, kinda like Planet Hollywood colliding with Tastee-Freez in a special hellchamber of future human tortures.
I have to admit that I was surprised by the absence of footage featuring celebrity famewhoring couple Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, who would show up at a casket opening if it got them on TV. But perhaps Hasan is smart, figuring that those two are already over, or maybe he got them early, before he started posting clips on YouTube of all his milkshake exploits. But Hasan did get land a second appearance of future 2010 obituary fodder Lindsay Lohan, this time with her preternaturally aged and now-Kahlo-eyebrowed sister Ali in tow, and the elder Lohan — fresh from a lifetime 86 at the nightclub Trousdale for tossing a drink at the head of her former girlfriend, DJ Samantha Ronson — received some special Millions of Milkshakes award, a trophy, for being the first putative celebrity to create a second milkshake. Such are the demands of stardom.
Given the sheer starpower of Millions of Milkshakes, I was frankly quite surprised that Gavin and Joe Maloof, owners of the Sacramento Kings, haven’t created their original milkshakes there yet. But I did find footage of one of their former employees, Ron Artest, now a power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers. Not sure what goes into a Ron Artest milkshake, and I don’t think I want to find out — milk, yogurt, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, taurine, random steroids, dog blood, uh, help me out here? (Actually, compared to Gosselin’s mess, Artest’s sounds quite drinkable.)
Anyway, if any of you aliens are cruising the internet right now trying to figure out where to start that human dining experience, here’s another link to the Millions of Milkshakes website, and there’s a map there, too. Happy eating, and hopefully by the time we see you up here, you’ll have full stomachs or whatever your digestive organs are called, and you’ll be tired of gnawing on humans. Here’s hoping. —Jackson Griffith
So Stephen Hawking is advising us that any space aliens we might come into contact with here on Teegeeack might not be warm and fuzzy Reese’s Pieces-gobbling buddies? As they say down in San Joaquin County where I used to ramble: blinding flash of duh, there, podna. Of course those aliens are going to be the kind of peripatetic space trash that fouled their home planet so badly that they went in search of new environments to despoil, and they were smart enough to load up on giant ships to zoom across the universe to find us. So the big binary question is, do they just want to zap us, or do they view our planet’s captive herd of humanity as a food source?
If it’s the former, we’re all pretty much screwed, and there’s precious little we can do about it except hide. But if it’s the latter, there are other questions we must ask. As a start: quantity, or quality? Are these aliens giant ravenous lobsters — or reptilians, or chitinous bug-eyed apparitions, or slimy sea-things out of the pages of H.P. Lovecraft — whose appetites for things human will be best served by going for the largest concentration of the obese, or is there some kind of gourmet component, and what might that be?
If it’s the former, I have to say I feel somewhat safe I’m in California, rather than, oh, the American South, where so many years of downmarket Caucasian cuisine with its emphasis on batter-fried everything — chicken, hush puppies, shoes, brains, political theories — and inability to recognize even the most basic salad ingredients have resulted in a target-rich environment with lots and lots of overfed people. Given the sheer amount of human tubbage involved, I smugly figure that it will take those aliens at least a week to munch their way through Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, South and North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, Kentucky, parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio and Indiana and Illinois, not to mention Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and of course the Mormon West: Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Wyoming. True that there are parts of California that might suit these hungry aliens’ fancy, but if these aliens are smart, they’re likely to start at Bakersfield and move north up the valley, which gives us time to head for the hills, where the large unhinged crankster population might serve as somewhat of a deterrent.
Complication: gourmand aliens. What if they fancy arugula eaters? Or, gulp, vegetarians? Again, we must presume a modicum of superior intelligence on their part, which means they’re likely to venture to places with large amounts of fit adults whose diets will make them attractive as prey. Which means, of course, that we’re pretty screwed in this part of California, what with the bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables we have around us. Luckily, here in Sacramento, there are enough drive-thru diners mixed in to the fresh-food-eating population to make it more difficult for diet-specific aliens to sort through us all.
Then again, they may not give a damn, and they may just come for us all. Keep a big bottle of Sriracha Rooster Sauce on your person at all times so you can douse yourself with it, in case the aliens have issues with hot food.
There’s a religious angle, too. What about churches with a strong millennialist component, ones that prophesy the return of God and angels to usher the faithful into a new paradise, while damning the rest (read: probably you, me, all our friends) to that great civet coffee-bean roaster at the center of the Earth. What I hope, for some of those churches, like, oh, that big one in Utah, is that when the heavenly mothership is floating over Salt Lake City and the Tabernacle Choir is assembled underneath, that the aliens turn out to be not hungry extraterrestrials with a ravenous appetite for all things human, but celestial expressions of Parliament/Funkadelic circa 1978, and that the head aliens, like an otherworldly George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, hit those crazy pink humans — who were expecting a bearded and long-haired Charlton Heston in a white robe with a holy Winchester rifle — with their bop guns: “Dance, sucka!”
Actually, that’s what this whole wretched Tea Party charade needs. You’ve heard about those secret camps set up by the Cheney regime in cooperation with Wackenhut, or Halliburton, or the Xe formerly known as Blackwater, to herd all the Bushophobes in for reprogramming and Lee Greenwood listening sessions? Here’s a chance for President Obama to use them for the public good. Now I’m not recommending that these Tea Party people be fed mass quantities of psychedelic mushrooms, or that they then be exposed to a 72-hour nonstop jam by reformed versions of Parliament, Funkadelic, Cameo, what’s left of James Brown’s Famous Flames, plus any “free” or outside jazz musicians playing in the tradition of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and Sun Ra; I’m just putting the idea out there, to see if anyone might be interested. ‘Tis only simple and humble suggestion from yours truly.
Hell, why not invite the Tea Party to this year’s Burning Man? We could start a public donation for all the cool drugs it will take to help Die Tee-Partei get down with the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit. —Jackson Griffith
What? Parrots swearing and whistling like my drunken relatives in the fookin’ lowlands? I guess there are a bunch of these “parrot swearing like a hammered Scotsman” videos. I mean, kee-rist on a fookin’ crutch, how many fookin’ swearin’ parrot videos can you have?
Apparently, a fookin’ assload, mate. It’s fookin’ Friday. Enjoy. —Jackson Griffith
File under things I don’t understand: Fiat takes over Chrysler, suddenly has North American distribution for a vastly improved car fleet — which includes such storied marques as Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati and Lancia — from the days when Fiat and Alfa left the U.S. market, tail between their legs. Fiat’s nuova 500, aka the Cinquecento, already a hit in Europe, will be available to American premium small-car fans by the end of this year. All well and good.
But the real halo car is the redesigned, third-generation Alfa Romeo Giulietta, which launches in Europe now, and for which Alfisti and other American car fanatics will have to wait until 2014? This, after rebadged Mopar SUVs (the current Jeep Liberty-Ram Nitro hooptie) with the Alfa arrowhead grille will hit American dealerships. When you have a car as solid as the new Giulietta, why do you want to wait four years to launch this hot hatch in a market you’re stating is important to revitalizing the marque, after selling some less-than-stellar vehicles with the name grafted on?
Talk about leading off with the wrong foot. —Jackson Griffith
Must’ve been the spicy food. I had a whole bunch of weird dreams the other morning, vivid psychedelic dreams. In one, I was told by a sidewalk psychic that my dog was in danger of being sliced up by an expert swordsman lurking nearby, but not to worry; a moment later, the swordsman materialized, but the dog danced around the attacker and his swinging blade, repeatedly lunging up and chewing his face off in the process. We left the fool’s shredded body in the gutter, covered with a black blanket.
In another part of the dream, I was walking through a video gamescape, like an early Renaissance European city, and I wandered off the main course to examine a glint in the shadows. Next to a huge set of double doors, like a cathedral entrance, was a sparkly beggar, an Easter egg in the game, and when I reached out to touch him, the prize added to my inventory was a “magic porno carpet.” Suddenly I was airborne, naked, en flagrante delicto on a flying carpet, ravenously and gleefully humping away with a beautiful genie while, below, a Merrie Melodies version of the cityscape from The Thief of Baghdad whizzed by. Then I found myself back before the double doors, and where the beggar had been was a huge glowing gold cross like the ones on the sails of Columbus’ ships, which I touched, and the doors opened, and a glorious, luminous cathedral beckoned me in. “Not my time to go yet, San Pedro,” I said, then I shambled off down the road, looking for the next glint from the shadows.
I wish I had a magic porno carpet. Gosh darn, I’d settle for a simple old magic carpet sometimes, if it would give me temporary escape from this town. Not that I want to leave this town, mind you; I like it, and I like the sense of community here, and the friends I have and the people I know, but there are times when I have what are impolitely called “WTF moments,” and I wonder what it is that keeps me here, and why the hell I just don’t pack up what little I have and try for better luck somewhere else.
Case in point: There’s a nightclub up the street from where I type this, Azukar Lounge, which caters to the kind of oontz-oontz Hummer-limo crowd that, well, it just isn’t my thing. It’s the kind of joint that I really dig in principle, because its clientele is pan-ethnic and out to have a funky good time, a place where the mooks and mookettes from Jersey Shore might land if they deigned to host a Chicken Cutlet Guido Fist-Pump Night in our fair city (which just might motivate me into visiting Azukar if I could get by their stringent-for-hippies dress-code enforcers, but that’s another story). Azukar, perhaps Sacramento’s shining exponent of the Maloof aesthetic, recently got into a bit of a messy tête-à-tête with some skanky subterranean nightclub booking agency over a scheduled appearance by the spectacularly multi-talented Kim Kardashian, whose non-derriere-related assets somehow escape me, although I’m sure they’re there somewhere. I mean, when Spencer Pratt wants you to be the first non-Heidi artist signed to Heidi Montag Records, you know you’ve got some stellar assets, right?
So apparently Azukar thought they’d booked the spectacularly talented Quim Lardassian for an extra-special appearance on April 29, but there was some kind of mix-up, and Ms. Kardashian will not be there to recreate the golden scenes from her famous video masterwork with former boyfriend Ray J, brother of actress-singer Brandy. Now, Mr. Ray J himself is no stranger to Azukar; having appeared there last November. No report on whether he displayed any of the talents demonstrated in his screen debut with Ms Quim.
I guess if there’s some factor of butthurt on my part related to a local nightclub booking someone who’s claim to fame is that she was a demonstratively lousy lay in a celebrity sex tape — and I use the term celebrity loosely, because she seems to lack that iconic status of a Charles Nelson Reilly or a Jaye P. Morgan, both of whom actually did something other than going shopping and getting peed on by some rapper to merit their fame — it’s that Azukar was willing to pay her $11,000, plus hotel suites for her entourage and black Escalades to ferry them about, to make an appearance in their club. To me, that marks Sacramento as a monumental embarrassment in the milieu of popular culture.
Okay, it is a weird little world we live in, and I guess I’m having trouble living in a city that will pony up eleven grand to some Los Angeles turboshopper with a large ass and putatively not large brains, but can’t seem to support an original local music scene. Yes, apples and oranges; the people who go pay for overpriced drinks in oontz-oontz joints are not the same people who go out to see live music, and the people who go out to see live music are sitting around watching Lost and talking about their J.J. Abrams is a genius fixations. Or maybe they’re just not interested in the current crop of local musicians, or they don’t know about them, or whatever.
I have a vested interest in this, because even at the ripe old age of 55, I’ve discovered that what most I want to do is play and sing the songs I’ve written in front of people, and go into the studio and record the songs I’ve written, and generally just make a little joyful music. The world may disagree, or at least feign indifference, but I think I write some pretty good tunes. One of these days, I’ll finally push that boulder uphill far enough that I will release an album of my songs. Maybe I will find some people to back me up so I can get bookings outside of the solo singer-songwriter ghetto. I’m gonna keep at it, because for me to give up, I’d probably die a little too much inside, and I’ve already relived large parts of the Old Testament Book of Job over the past few years, and, dammit, I don’t want to give up. I would like to avoid moving to Los Angeles, or Portland, or Austin, or somewhere that might recognize and respond to what I have to offer. But I will, if I get to that point where I realize that trying to make it in Sacramento is an exercise in futility. Some days, I think I’ve arrived at that place.
If you’re reading this as a humble call for some kind of help, you’re probably right. —Jackson Griffith
All right, I will completely admit I don’t know what I’m doing. You remember those songs I said I wrote in February? Last year when I did it, I was able to record all of them over the course of two days. Dunno why this year’s next to impossible — well, I do know why; the time I set for it in early March, my hard drive crashed. And then I just haven’t been able to finish anything.
But perseverance furthers, as it often says in the text of various I Ching hexagrams. And so, I think I finished a rough mix of one song, titled “I Will Sing for My Supper.” I was gonna try to do a better guitar part, but then the house where I’m staying started shaking, and the oontz oontz started bleeding through the mic, so I just said screw it and mixed it down with the wimpy and oh-so-tentative Jerry noodling I’d done.
Then I tried to post it here, only to find out that I need to do some WordPress “upgrade” — more like “upgrayedd,” with a double-d for exra pimpin’ — so I can post MP3 files here. Which is to say, um, sorry, once I figure this out or put some cash in my PayPal account, I’ll post some stuff and cut some other tracks.
No, I don’t suck, but sometimes some people might think I do. —Jackson Griffith
The other night I went to hear Kevin Griffin speak. Griffin is a teacher and writer from the East Bay who has written a couple of books that integrate the Buddhist path with the 12-step process suggested by Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups as a vehicle for recovery. Griffin’s first book, One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the 12 Steps, really helped me through a major stumbling block that some of us who come to 12-step programs encounter: The G word.
Now, one of the closest G-word experiences I ever had was when I was walking down Divisadero Street in San Francisco about 15 years ago with my then-girlfriend, who lived in that neighborhood. We were looking for a comic-book store on a lazy Sunday afternoon, heard a live version of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” blasting out of a storefront church, wandered in and noted the name “St. John’s African Orthodox Church” on the wall, saw the painting of the iconic sax player with the halo hanging on the wall, done in an early Renaissance style, with flames erupting from the bell of his horn, heard the priest blowing spirit-infused shards of free-jazz sounds on a tenor while a chorus line of nuns shook tambourines and chanted “a love supreme, a love supreme, a love supreme” and a band built and maintained the scaffolding below, and thought, or at least I thought, well, this is the kind of thing that could get me going back to church.
I’d already gotten sober, and I’d already been faced with the G word. When you start going to meetings, and you begin hearing that stuff about “go to a lot of meetings, don’t drink in between meetings, and get a sponsor and work the steps,” and then you hear the 12 steps read at every meeting — “came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves,” “turn our will and our lives over to the care of God,” “admitted to God,” “were entirely ready to have God,” “humbly asked Him,” “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God,” “having had a spiritual awakening” — well, if you’re like me, you start getting really nervous that there’s gonna be some kind of white-trash altar call with Reverend Jimmy-Bob Sneedleroy from some cowshit-caked Okietown somewhere between Visalia and Bakersfield preaching about hellfire and damnation and sulphurous smoke and poisonous snakes on everything, and son, if you cain’t abide by the blood of the lamb, then you best getcher damned alcoholic ass back into the gutter from whence you came, because these here are God’s people, and you’re not.
Hell, I’d been thrown out of more places than I care to admit, because whenever I got liquored up and ignited by other substances, it was like somebody flipped a switch and I went from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Yabba Dabba Doo Live Wire at the drop of a trucker’s cap, and I really, really wanted to stay continuously sober. I knew I could stop, and I’d tried over and over: stop, start, stop, start, rinse the encrusted vomit off, repeat. Any idiot can stop drinking or using, but it’s the staying stopped — and navigating past the dark shoals and iceberg-laden waters of emotional pain and raw fear that arise as a result of taking away that liquid ease and comfort — that’s the difficult part. I knew that Alcoholics Anonymous had the best track record for keeping people continuously sober, but once I got into meetings, all that I heard was GodGodGodGodGod. “You’d better get yourself a God.” “If you can’t find God, you’re not going to make it.” “God is what this program is all about.”
I was stuck with the concept of God that got funneled into my head by Protestant religion — raised Presbyterian, made an adolescent foray into the frothy emotional waters of fundamentalist and charismatic Christianity as a result of getting dislodged and discombobulated by chemically induced overimagination — and had come to the awareness long ago that that particular fear-driven path didn’t make sense or work for me. I didn’t even know what God was, or is. How the hell could I pray? I’d hear this stuff preached at meetings, and occasionally would hear people “rocking the J-man,” as I like to put it, and I would get pissed off and leave. Fuck this, I’d think. I’m not gonna drink, but if I have to be a miserable bastard as a result, so be it. I’m not going to submit, and then have some authoritarian preacher tell me that my politics are all wrong, and that I need to support God’s Own Party, the Republicans, and hate people who aren’t down with that program.
For me, God was a lot closer to what I heard coming out of Mr. Coltrane’s horn than anything out of the mouths of preachers, televangelists or the God Squad-ers at AA meetings. Fortunately, there were times when someone started rocking the J-man at a meeting, and someone else would speak up: “I just want to tell anyone in this room that you can get sober and stay sober without becoming a fundamentalist Christian, or a devout Roman Catholic,” guys like the two Davids — M and C — would tell the groups. “There are people here in this room who are practicing Jews, and Muslims, and Buddhists, and Hindus, and even agnostics and atheists. The beauty of AA is that we each get to find our own path to God as we understand God, whatever that might be and wherever it might take us.”
That was enough to keep me coming around and not let myself get run out of the rooms by the Bible thumpers. I’ve had an aversion to authoritarian religious dogma for most of my adult life, and just knowing that there were Buddhists, a path I was attracted to, and practitioners of other paths in AA was all I needed. I gravitated toward those people. And, over time, I’ve become much more loving and open-minded when it comes to accepting once-despised forms of religiosity. I have friends in the program who are devout Catholics and others who are deeply committed Christians, and others who are resolute atheists. Whatever works for you to get you outside of your self-centered addictive personality, so you can begin contributing to the stream of life as one among many, is all right with me.
One of the ideas about God that Griffin puts forward is that, for a Buddhist, God is the law of Karma, which is like the law of gravity. We can fight either one, but eventually we crash to the ground. The most important thing about God for us to realize is that we are not God. Yes, God may be within each of us, or Buddha nature as some of us put it, and it’s our job to bring that into awakening and manifestation via setting foot on the path and walking forward. But permanent and everlasting Creator of the Universe? Not me, dude. I’m only here for a while. You, too, I’d suspect.
Griffin was at the recovery and spirituality store Sunlight of the Spirit on J Street last Wednesday evening to sign his recently published book, A Burning Desire: Dharma God & the Path of Recovery. I’ll probably get ’round to reading it one day. I’m really slow, and fragmented sometimes, and it takes me a while. Even incorporating the Buddhist path — the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the Five Lay Precepts, Dependent Origination (or the idea that everything arises out of causes and conditions) and Impermanence — into my life takes time, and, like the 12 steps of AA, I don’t do it in consistently linear or perfect fashion. But I have been able to stay clean and sober, one day at a time, since September 1992. And I look forward to moving further along the path, and there’s lots of help for those of us who get turned off by some of the more overtly Christian aspects of 12-step programs — like from sites along the lines of Buddhist Recovery Network, for example.
Anyway, I hope this helped somebody. Cheers and blessings on your Friday and beyond. —Jackson Griffith
Twice chew lobster, hissing sauce. We are special golf make shop. For a moment let us ponder the aweness of its white silence, a timber in antiquity, corner the marker on turbo creation antipathy. Columnated ruins domino pizza hut hat hut chance of a lifetime. Channeling. Something. Something for a change.
I change my sunglass for style, dress for impress, let’s haircut and dance the fandango. There are times when the brain disengage and the fingers write what they want to communicate to other rebel fingers. Do not think. Live like dog. Smell through your nose sniff sniff and move toward what attract. Let’s olfactory direct, savings to you.
Not sorry. Joyous from springtime. Wanted to post something. Let’s happy happy! —Jackson Griffith
One of my favorite things to do when no one is around is play and sing covers of old country songs. Sometimes I fantasize about gigging under the nom-de-twang of Orvis Tinney, me in a rhinestone-bejeweled Nudie-style suit, backed by a stellar combo of killer country musicians, launching into hit after hit after hit of pedal-steel and double fiddle-fueled goodness.
I grew up pretty conscious of country music, because all the grown-up white men, as in dads, in my part of California’s agrarian Central Valley listened to KRAK radio, the AM station out of Sacramento. Which is to say that Buck and Merle, along with Hank Sr. and George Jones and Patsy Cline and others, were part of our musical consciousness, like it or not. But by the mid-1970s, country wasn’t doing it for me, because so much of it had become twangless countrypolitan fodder, box wine and cold beer at a time I was thirsting for sour-mash whiskey.
I’d read a review somewhere about an album by some sheetmetal worker from Florida named Moe Bandy, on an indie label out of Atlanta called GRC, which was owned by a porn king named Michael Thevis and had landed a hit record with Sammy John’s cheesy hit “Chevy Van.” Bandy’s album cover pictured him scowling and holding the busted-off neck of a whiskey bottle, the remnants of which were smashed on the jukebox behind him, and the title got me, too: I Just Started Hatin’ Cheatin’ Songs Today, featuring the hit “Honky-Tonk Amnesia.” That was enough for me. And the music was great, too — 100-proof country music with metallic guitars and keening pedal steel, just like I remembered I liked before Nashville went all soft and pussyboy. Bandy cut a couple more great records for GRC, and then he signed with Columbia and did a bunch of dopey duets with Joe Stampley on Epic. But his GRC stuff renewed my faith in country music.
Another review by the same guy who turned me onto Bandy, I think it might have been Chet Flippo, hipped me to Out of Hand, the RCA Victor debut of Gary Stewart, another guy with a Florida connection. Stewart sang like a hillbilly Roy Orbison, and his music was out of this world. I couldn’t get enough of the single “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles),” still one of my all-time favorite country songs. Stewart went on to cut a bunch of fine two-fisted drinkin’ anthems for RCA, and then his demons got the best of him for a while, and then Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg signed him to their HighTone label for a comeback, and then Stewart came to a bad self-inflicted end at his Florida home. He’s still worth checking out, and you should if you’re not familiar with him. Writer Jimmy McDonough penned an excellent piece on Stewart, if you’d like to know more.
In 1977 I got hired at Tower Records in Stockton. We used to get free promotional copies from the labels, and most of the in-demand stuff got cherry-picked by the day shift, leaving the dregs, usually unknown acts on major labels like MCA, which we called “Musical Cemetery of America.” One night about a year later I took home a couple albums nobody wanted. The next day, after I’d mowed the lawn at my old house on Flora Street, I cracked a beer, twisted a doob, put on one of the albums, titled Honky Tonk Masquerade, flopped down on the couch, sparked the umbage, toked deeply, and then the music hit. What the fuck? I had no idea who this guy Joe Ely was, but every song just killed: “Cornbread Moon,” “Because of the Wind,” “Boxcars,” “Jericho,” “Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown” — and that was just side one. Side two had “West Texas Waltz” and this killer track with the line: “I keep my fingernails long so they click when I play the piano.” I was completely smitten, and I played the record for everybody I knew. Had no idea who the Flatlanders were, or Jimmie Dale Gilmore or Butch Hancock, either. But that late-afternoon listening session was a life-changer. Still love all those guys.
Years later, had to be 1985 or so, I was working for Tower Records’ Pulse Magazine, out of Tower Records’ advertising office on Howe Avenue in Sacramento. I’d taken over a column called “Spins” from Keith Cahoon, who had moved to Japan to run Tower’s Far East operation. One day I got a box with six or eight records in it from something called Tabb Rex Enterprises in L.A.; most of the records featured the kind neo-Nuggets psychedelic revival bands that were popular in L.A.’s so-called paisley underground scene. But one of them was a six-song EP with a black and white and blue cover: Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. by Dwight Yoakam. We listened to stuff all the time on the office turntable, and when something was good, everybody’s ears perked up. Yoakam’s debut, on a label called Oak Records, was such a record; I remember heating up the phone lines raving back and forth with store guys like Joe Medwick and Larry King from Southern California, who already were selling the shit out of it and were smitten. And my boss Mike Farrace, along with some of the other countryphiles in the office — Tower seemed to have a lot of hard-core, whiskey-drinking twang fans in its headquarters — were flipping out over it, too. It was a short time later that Warner Bros.’ newly revived Reprise label signed Yoakam and reissued the EP, fleshed out to a 10-song album.
The funniest thing was that like a day before I heard the Yoakam record, the New York Times ran an obituary of country music by critic Stephen Holden, commenting on how utterly dead in the water the genre was. And then, Dwight, along with Randy Travis and a bunch of other new guys hit. So, well, just when you think something is dead in the water, like country music, it gets revived by some total unknown. Seems it’s time again, I think.
And if nobody else gets ’round to it, maybe my pal Orvis Tinney will take a whack. —Jackson Griffith