So here it is Saturday morning, and before I shamble off to find something to eat and then get my goofball hair lopped off, or at least shaped into something slightly more professional looking than the current mop, I figured it might be time for a brief meta-post and statement of intent for some other posts that I hope to follow with, this weekend and beyond. So, well, without further adieu, here goes.
The past few nights are still a blur. I saw my old friends Curt and Brian and a retooled version of the Authorities Wednesday night at the Plea for Peace Center in Stockton, which was a laugh riot. Ran into a bunch of old friends there. The next night I saw the Authorities open for a reunited Pavement at what used to be the Fox California Theatre in downtown Stockton, which was, as we used to say in Lodi back in the day, intense. Saw a bunch of old friends that night, too, plus some pals from Sacramento. It was an emotionally rich and overwhelming experience, and got to see my old partner in crime Gary Young pound the skins for the Pavies, as he used to call them. Then last night, I saw the Authorities play again, this time at the Distillery in Sacramento, which was a real mutant circus, in a good way. I was too tired to slamdance, and at my age it’s probably not recommended, so I hung out on the sidelines and laughed like a cartoon hyena.
I also haven’t blogged about meeting with my long-lost brother Jim at his daughter Amy’s place two weekends ago, which was a life-changing experience, too. Between that and working steadily again, things are really different, and life is good. I probably have some other long posts in me about being single and unattached, and about music, and art, and lots of other stuff. So I’ll get to that. My goal of landing somewhere professionally so that I can write as a sidelight, or moonlight, and create music as an avocation has been met, and now it’s time to put a life beyond my wildest dreams together, as the old cliche from the rooms goes.
It’s really great being the guy in a positive frame of mind. More later, I promise. —Jackson Griffith
Not sure how long I’m gonna be able to post here. I’m in a Peet’s in Stockton on a Thursday after work. It’s in this shopping center where I used to work, but Santa’s elves showed up and rendered the place utterly unrecognizable: Gone are the K Mart and the Prime Rib Inn and the Sherwood Plaza Cinema where I showed up high on pot as a teener expecting to see some dumb comedy and instead caught some flick no one knew anything about called The Omen, which harshed my buzz considerably that night.
This shopping center, however, is really constricting my high; the Peet’s is playing crummy overplayed classical music of the pussyass variety, and some graybeard community college professor-type and his shlumpy wife butted in on me before I’d gotten my coffee order with their dumb questions about how to make espresso and what bean to use, and then when my wireless didn’t work, and I wanted to ask a question, the musteline little Trader Joe’s bastard was still asking questions of the staff, had ’em all tied up even to where I momentarily envisioned myself kicking his casually dressed ass, and I had to wait at least one whole minute to get a barista’s attention and service.
Actually, the Mac’s acting up again. It still has a disc stuck in its drive, and now it just goes whirrrr whirrrr whirrrr three times and then tries to eject, and then sucks the disc back in and tries again, ad infinitum. I need to get it fixed, because it’s driving me nuts. It was engaging if I’d hold the thing upside down, which at least would stop the battery-draining ejection attempts, but that ain’t shaking now.
Sooo, well, last night I saw my old pals the Authorities play some place called Plea for Peace on Weber Avenue in downtown Stockton. I used to drink with the Authorities back when I was a drinker, and now all that’s left of them is Curt Hall, a singer who looks kinda like Steve Perry of Journey and sounds like a more punk-rock helium-infused version of, well, not Steve Perry, but someone. Me, you, I dunno. Anyway, my old pal Brian Thalken is the other guy left from the early days; he plays guitar. He was in Fall of Christianity, too, and also Death’s Ugly Head, the latter one of my few claims to musical fame. The other three guys were some random Canadians that Thalken knows, because he moved to Vancouver 20 years ago. Actually, the drummer’s from Liverpool, which I understand is somewhere slightly south of Scotland.
I laughed my ass off. The songs were great. Most rehashed punk rock played by veterans of the scene now in their 40s or 50s leaves me with a firm desire to go sit in a bowling alley lounge and hope there’s some Domenico Modugno or Dean Martin on the jukebox. Al Martino, even. But this was the shit from start to finish. I mean, from “I Hate Cops,” penned by the late, great Nick “Slurb” Kappos, who met his end in 1989 or so in the bathroom at the downtown Stockton Greyhound depot where he’d temporarily retired to fix some shit he probably, uh, copped on the bus, and they found him nodded off to eternity with a spike in his arm and one supposes a smile on his face, and how classic a demise is that, not even Robert Johnson can lay claim to that, much less any of these other wankers: “I hate cops/ They’re all fuckin’ piggers/ They all got mustaches/ They squeak when they walk/ I hate cops.”
The yoks were nonstop: Thalken’s “Radiation Masturbation,” slowed to a dirge then sped to a monkeyfuck gallop; “Nobody Likes Him,” which sent the guy it was written about storming out of the club in a snit, 30 years later; “Achtung,” “Shot in the Head,” and a bunch of other tunes whose names I didn’t recognize. I kinda remember writing the lyrics to three of the songs: “Slam the Ham,” which me and Thalken wrote once after drinking a bunch of Regal Selects and Kessler; “Jarhead,” which I think I had a part in; and the evening’s showstopper, “Teenage Piss Party.” The latter culminated with Hall onstage with Vince Voodoo from Hot Spit Dancers, the Slurb’s post-Authorities band, and Eric “Sprinkler” Engelken, frontman for the Young Pioneers, which later was became the Straw Dogs.
If I remember right, one day me and Thalken and this other guy named Theron Knight, who was in Fall of Christianity with Thalken and Gary Young, who also was in Death’s Ugly Head with me and Brian and Kelly Foley and Sam Harvey, were driving around the insta-ghetto duplex-hell suburbs of north Stockton one overcast day in Thalken’s dad’s Dodge Coronet smoking cigarettes and drinking from a bottle of Old Overholt rye whiskey, when we found this band in a garage. We decided to take them under our wing, Malcolm McLaren style, and I think Foley and Jeff Clark from the Mixers and later Shiva Burlesque got involved, too, and we renamed them the Young Pioneers, and we wrote a bunch of bogus communist firebrand songs for them like “Teenage Piss Party” and “Running Dog Lackeys of the Bourgeoisie,” and I was so hammered and pickled I can ill recall the other numbers. But anyway, um, the played that shit for a while and then they revolted, because their bass player, a quiet kid named Steve Malkmus, thought we were a bunch of assholes and that they might be up to making some art.
Anyway, tonight the Authorities are opening for Malkmus’ later band, Pavement, at the Bob Hope Theatre for the Performing Arts or some shit, which we used to call the Fox. Our old drummer Gary, who recorded Malkmus and Scott Kannberg when they were trying to get something going 20 years ago or so, is gonna pound the skins for Pavement. If it’s anything like last night, it’s liable to be epic. —Jackson Griffith
Sorry I haven’t been around here much. I’ve certainly got grist to write about — the visit with the long-lost brother I’d never met, the new job, a few good shows (like last night’s Sea of Bees/John Vanderslice/DoomBird gig), even more stuff about the friend who passed away suddenly a week ago, and a whole new raft of thoughts triggered by the stabbings at the bar around the corner Friday night, and how this area of town has gotten out of hand. But I’ve just been stymied, and my first priority today will be to finish a piece I’m writing for the SN&R. Then, laundry; it’s kinda like my favorite paraphrase of that chopping wood carrying water line. Before enlightenment: doing laundry and carrying groceries; after enlightenment: doing laundry and carrying groceries.
Not that I’m anywhere near enlightened. I’m just a blogger who gets himself spread too thin sometimes. I get entire blog posts in my head — like one about love and loss and emotional attachment and as a Buddhist meditator and silent observer of the mind’s workings I shouldn’t be falling into that trap but I still do sometimes, and what is the nature of emotional attachment, and why can’t I just be a human tabula rasa like the David Carradine character in Kung Fu, a hypothetical post that was triggered by the stupid (at this point) heart-dropping surprise of running into my last big emotional attachment and her new boyfriend on bikes yesterday in front of a salad joint that hadn’t opened up yet that we used to frequent together, mumble mumble, I think I probably came across as stupid, arrogant and frightened — but those brilliant hypothetical posts evaporate by the time I go to write them, or I’m too tired, or something. Sorry.
Anyway, I had big ambitions today, but I’m going to finish my SN&R piece, then wash clothes. I won’t be able to play Brian Wilson songs tonight at the Old Ironsides tribute that Jerry Perry is putting on, which you should attend because it’s likely to be brilliant, and I may show up, but morning comes early and I have to be up before sunrise to get to the job on Monday morning. This is a big adjustment, and I’m doing it to the best of my ability. But, like you and everybody else, or most everybody else, I’m not superhuman.
Or maybe I am, and just don’t know it yet. You, too. —Jackson Griffith
The evening started okay. Drove home from work in Lodi listening to and singing along with Lefty Frizell. Flirted with the nice woman at the bank, drove over to the Urban Hive to say hi to Brandon. Then, a hint of sideways that I’d rather not go into, except that I left feeling pissed off, like I’d been played by and patronized by one of those oily hipster types, one of Gram Parsons’ green mohair suits, another assclown in a social media circus populated by an endless sea of gladhanding jackoffs. Then, went to a coffeehouse, was texting someone who’d called me by mistake from another town, which I’d kinda turned into a mild flirtation. Logged onto Facebook. A message from a friend: Call me, I have bad news.
Look, over the past couple years, during a time when my life hit a real bumpy patch, I had the good fortune to make friends with a guy named Tommy Vanwormer. I’d known Tommy from this band he had with Tony Passarell and Kele Duncan called Hunting Game in the late ’70s or early ’80s, and then knew him from other stuff. Anyway, Tommy was one of those rare birds who, when it felt like this stupid town was serving me up one shit sandwich after another while promoting the usual parade of buffoonery, would pull me aside and tell me not to listen to these assholes, to keep on doing what I was doing, that eventually someone would figure out that it was of value, and the important thing was to keep going and keep creating and stop worrying about what the idiot philistines in this hapless burg who don’t know shit from Shinola think because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.
So tonight I called Passarell back, and he told me about Tommy’s death on Sunday night. That Tommy and some guys had gone drinking at the Fox & Goose on Saturday night, and they closed the bar down, and then instead of taking Highway 50 home to Folsom, Tommy had gotten onto 80 and got pulled over in Rocklin. That the cops figured he was something other than wasted, and that he got admitted to Kaiser Permanente in Roseville sometime around 3 a.m., and then sometime in the morning, either Kaiser had kicked him loose or he left on his own accord. That Tommy must have walked back home to Folsom, got his bike, and then went looking for his car, which had gotten impounded, and then something happened and he got admitted to Mercy San Juan, where he died Sunday night.
I don’t know. All I know is that losing someone of Tommy’s caliber really hurts. I sat in Weatherstone tonight, feeling progressively more numb. At some point, I called our mutual friend Mindy Giles, who hadn’t heard. Then she and her boyfriend Greg came down and we hung out and commiserated, which eased the pain. But still, I feel stupidly hurt and confused. And now I can’t sleep after trying to no avail, so I’m typing this.
I’ll write more later. All I can say is that I’m sick and tired of reading story after story about some dumbass bint named Lindsay Lohan and why she needs to get it together and how she fucked up again and again and again and, lo, behold, she’s got another chance and another shot at some reality show and another wheelbarrow load of cash and another goddamn blank slate and fresh start that she’ll fuck up again and again and again, and yet guys like Tommy make a wrong turn somewhere and then all the people whose lives he touched are sitting here crying and wondering what the fuck, does god have a cruel sense of humor or what? Just take Lohan and her whole stupid family and throw them into the fucking volcano and even the score, deity. Please don’t take any more of our friends while these human cockroaches go on living, rubbing our faces in the sheer unfairness of it all.
Fuck it, I just don’t understand. I wish I could bawl like a goddamn baby, but I got trained by too many fistfights in the sixth grade that real men don’t cry, so those toxic tears are corroding me from the inside with their acidity, and I got no way to let ’em out. This is one of those nights when I wish I had some loving arms to gently coax them out of me, but instead I’m lying alone on this makeshift bed of a massage table two floors above a downtown club, listening to the usual cast of drunks talk on the sidewalk and yell in the street. Can’t sleep. Gotta type instead.
Last night, I was tired, took a nap, went and visited some old friends. Then, on a whim, I went by the Fox & Goose for open mic, having missed it for the last month. I figured Tommy might show up after Nebraska Monday at Luna’s, and maybe Sal Valentino might show up too, and the three of us would hang out in the parking lot afterward and talk about music.
Tommy never showed. I shoulda known something was up. Rest in peace, dear friend. —Jackson Griffith
Time sure flies, doesn’t it? I mean, my last post here was sometime last weekend, maybe Saturday morning. And here it is in the middle of the week, at 4:30 in the morning because I can’t sleep, and I realized it might be a good time to bring you all up to speed.
Okay, so I went to that party in Lodi last Saturday afternoon. Saw a bunch of old friends, made some new ones, heard some sad news (my roommate Jim from when I lived in Stockton before I moved to Las Vegas died the week before), played a few tunes and got out of there reasonably early. Didn’t go out and see any bands when I got home.
The next day, Sunday, I mowed the lawn of a female friend. Now, mowing a woman’s lawn sounds metaphorically tumescent in a blues singer kinda way, but I literally spent the day working a weed whacker and other garden tools. Which destroyed me pretty much, what with the sun and allergies and stuff.
Then, Monday, I went back to Lodi. I really do not want to jinx anything, but I went back there Tuesday morning, and I am about to go back there again in a few hours. What I will tell you is that it appears that life is good, and there is a considerable possibility that my life circumstances over the past couple years may be changing for the much, much better, and that I will be very happy doing what I will be doing.
So that’s the skinny. My daughter Ellie also found work for the summer, at the resort community where she’s staying. Her sister just landed a new gig, too. On Friday, or tomorrow night, I get to meet Jim, my one sibling I’ve never met, for the first time, along with Amy, who would be my niece, and her husband Frank and their two kids. So this has been a time of real changes.
Then again, change is the only thing you can count on, right? Or so I have heard, —Jackson Griffith
Well, this feels like some kind of turning point. In a few hours, I’m heading down to the 209 to hang out with some old friends in the mind-roasting burg of Lodi, California. Lodi was the more cleaned-up white-flight place to live in San Joaquin County, which for you non-northern Californians is just south of Sacramento County in the middle of the Central Valley, or as I tell people, the part of California that’s essentially Texas or Oklahoma with a more pronounced Asian influence. I grew up down there, kinda between Lodi and Stockton, but more Stockton, really, which is why my conversational abilities sometimes decompose into guttural grunts and cries to “take it to the bridge” over rhythmically strummed and hard-syncopated ninth chords.
I’m not sure of what I’m doing, but what the hey. If the conversation on the phone I had last week wasn’t a hallucination, I think I’m starting work in Lodi come Monday. So I’ll have to figure out if I want to live down there, or live here in Sacramento and commute. On one side, I have cousins here, but my daughter lives in Chico and I rarely see her, and I’m currently unattached to anyone romantically in this town, so maybe a move might be just what it takes to get life progressing in some kind of direction other than completely stuck. On the other hand, as a friend pointed out on Facebook, I’ve got lots of family here, or at least I’ve made a lot of good friends since I arrived in the 916 in 1984, which will make leaving pretty hard.
So, a dilemma. I’m not going to stew about it, though; I’m just gonna head down the 99 to the 209 today and see what’s up. Maybe I’m sitting here in this laundromat on a Saturday morning with a head foggy from two days of refinishing floors in a San Francisco server farm and three consecutive nights of cleaning office buildings for a friend who owns a janitorial service, and I’m just kinda slightly beat in a good way, and I shouldn’t think too hard about anything right now.
One thing I do know is that in the SMF since I’ve been here, I’ve watched tons of other people assemble projects play music together, but I’ve never been able to gather together any kind of people to play the songs I’ve written, while finding those people seems a lot easier down in the 209. That’s really all I want in life right now — a job where I can make enough to live in a non-palatial pad with a comfortable bed and decent kitchen space, and then I can play music and write and make art (drawing, painting) like I used to do. Maybe get a dog.
Oh, well. Time to fold clothes, then maybe go get coffee. Then, Lodi calls. —Jackson Griffith
Nothing like some good tacos to help make a man feel like all’s well with the world. So now I’m officially flat busted, at least until tomorrow, but a couple of good veggie tacos with salsa verde and a limon Jarrito soda, and I’m back in the land of happy campers for the time being. I was feeling nice, and thought about heading over to the Fox & Goose for open mic signups, but elected instead to walk up 16th Street to Luna’s, because the Nebraska Mondays jazz nights curated by Ross Hammond tend to be pretty sweet.
I didn’t have five bucks, though, so I felt loathe to hang even though the lineup looked really strong. And I could see Art Luna behind the counter, and he looked at me and didn’t wave or anything. What I should have done is walk up and say hi, but I’m still scratching my head about an apparent frost in the communication between us, which leaves me utterly mystified. I’m not sure what I said or did, but it’s gotten to be readily apparent that Art Luna does not like me much these days. Color me puzzled to the extreme.
I’d played Luna’s a bunch. I mean, for an original singer-songwriter in his 50s, there aren’t a lot of places to perform in Sacramento. What happens is you talk to bookers, and then you follow up by bugging them or contacting them, and what you generally get is this passive-aggressive mumbling about “check back with me later,” and then you see the same young hipster Handsome Family knockoffs or Regina Spektor clones getting booked time and time again.
I sort of expect that from most bookers here. I didn’t expect it from Art; I thought we were kinda friends. The last couple of times I played there, aside from the benefit show for the tuba-playing assembly candidate, I got some people to come out. Oh, yeah, my birthday show was kind of a wash for me, but the one before that, pretty much everyone there, I’d brought in, as the opening act for some guy from out of town who sang for his girlfriend, and then the trio with the kinda arrogant guy who looks like Jeff Buckley, who showed up late and brought nobody. But the past couple of times I’ve gone in during the day to try to line something up, I’ve walked out with nothing new on the calendar. Nothing but a shrug of Art’s shoulders. Mumble, mumble, toil and trouble.
What I’m about to say is not egotism, or arrogance; it’s a statement of fact. I’m a damned good songwriter, or at least I am in the context of who’s actively playing and booking shows in this town. I am really serious about playing my music, working to bring it to a place where I can do those songs some justice and put them across to people, and I am continually frustrated with my inability to get something going in this town. Yeah, I know I make periodic noises about leaving Sacramento, but this is what’s driving that impulse — the idea that I can’t seem to make anything happen here. This is what I love to do. This is what I want to do. I’m not getting any younger, and if I can’t make anything happen in the SMF, I’m out of this bogus excuse for an “arts-friendly” town. And I’m determined to give my music its best shot, which means there’s some tenacious level of determination there, and I can pretty much guarantee you that you’re going to miss me once I’m gone, and I start getting traction elsewhere.
(If you’re curious, you can come see me play Tuesday evening, June 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Dad’s Kitchen, 2968 Freeport Boulevard between Vallejo Street and Fifth Avenue next to Freeport Bakery. It’s free, which means you won’t be blowing a cover charge on me if you think I’m a musical assclown.)
Anyway, I bailed out of Luna’s tonight. I don’t stick around places where I get a strong feeling my presence isn’t wanted. That gentle high I’d gotten from those tacos at La Guarancha disappeared, replaced by a more familiar feeling of slight despair, that I never seem to quite connect, and that I’m just some kind of stupid misfit. Whether it’s girlfriends, wives, employers, club owners or just friends, people suddenly disappear from my life, and I find myself kicked to the curb once again, without the compassion of any kind of explanation. I’m not going to go all weird on anybody; I’m a big boy and I can take it when somebody explicitly tells me why things didn’t work out, or why they don’t like me. Lord knows I’ve eaten enough shit sandwiches in my life, and I’ve gotten deflated at depth by circumstances numerous times, that I can sit there and take the sustained agony of a good postmortem. I’ve lived with agony for years. What, you think I’m too brittle to handle it?
I love this town, but tonight I’m really close to bailing on it. Again. —Jackson Griffith
Yeah, the urge to capture life’s little nuances and vicissitudes via the miracle of blogging is tempting, indeed. But I’m kind of a wounded pup right now. Went to bed early, exhausted, got up this morning, scraped together what’s left of my current financial nest egg, borrowed an additional twenty, walked five or so miles east to the storage place out past where the Cattle Club used to be, dealt with some overstuffed blonde with a bad attitude, who wanted an additional sixty but settled for what I had, so I can keep what’s left of the stuff I still theoretically own out of the drooling mandibles of auctioneers for another thirty days, then walked through the college and along the levee of the American River, which gave me a good dose of privet pollen, and then west on H Street, stopping at the Rose Garden at McKinley Park for a half hour or so to take in some floral beauty and admire a very tiny middle-aged Southeast Asian couple, she in purple, green, black and white ethnic finery and he in a dark suit with a funny tie, a westernized younger woman who I assumed was their daughter snapping photos, and then I continued west, past the two lady motorcycle cops off H at 27th Street, waiting to ding motorists and fatten the city coffers for those infamous California rolling stops, and onward past a for-sale Victorian at 2307 H, where three women were discussing who was going to get what apartment when they bought the building, and I got to tell them my story of living there in 1991-1993, and how that house is seriously haunted. I moved there when I left the mother of my daughter, drank whiskey like a goddamn Okie ditchdigger for a year and a half, and then got sober and moved out a year later. During that time, I had some mighty strange visitations — eerie white things jumping over me, running the length of the house to a door that suddenly flew open and then slammed shut, voices in a secret stairwell, which when I would go to examine, the door would fly open and I would get blasted with a gust of ice-cold air on a 100-degree summer day.
And don’t you love old video games? Dunno how this guy captured my marriage experience, but it is a marvel, indeed. Anyway, got back here, fell asleep sitting up, woke up, went to the bodega catercorner from here, sucked down a Gatorade, came back. I’ve got enough to get me two veggie tacos at La Garancha over at 16th and U Streets, so gotta head there for now. I haven’t eaten all day. Got money coming in tomorrow, and some more janitorial work later in the week, plus a couple of days’ work in San Francisco stripping and refinishing a floor with my janitorial service friend. Oh, and I am playing music Tuesday, June 1 at Dad’s Kitchen, which is located at 2968 Freeport Boulevard, adjacent to Freeport Bakery, from 6-8 p.m. If you like my blog, maybe you’ll like my songs, too.
Last week at this time, I was still employed. This week? Nuh, mon. Life changes daily. —Jackson Griffith