Nah, I haven’t been on vacation or anything. I just went through a period where I didn’t have a whole lot to say that wasn’t about some navel-gazing crapola about me me me, so I decided to take one of them hiatuses until I could sort things out. I still haven’t sorted it out, but I’ll probably be back more regular-like, especially when I figure out how to post recordings of some tunes I’ve written and recorded.
Lately, I’ve been working. That, and practicing guitar, trying to bring my playing up to the point where I’m too damn good to ignore. That may take a while. Other than that, I started circumnavigating the park up the street a few laps; I try to do it several times a week, if not every night. I wish I were that perfect, but no. Some days, the time just seems to slip away. Oh, and I’m eating way more salads. Huzzah!
The best part is that my formerly heavy mood has lightened considerably. Till nest time. —Jackson Griffith
Some people go to bars. My typical M.O. is to swing by Phono Select, that swell little neighborhood record store in Midtown, on the way home from the office. Usually it’s Dal or Nich or maybe the lovely Christina, or a combo thereof, invariably with Downtown James Brown, headphones clapped over his ears, checking out either Famous Flames videos or, today, Google-searching stuff like “Christina Aguilera naked pictures.” Ha, James is diggin’ on some porn, somebody said. “Naw I ain’t lookin’ at no pornos!” he yelled, triggering laughing fits around the store.
Today I found a record in the $1 bargain bin. I don’t usually spring for the cheapos, but once I took a gander at the liner notes on the back of Trini Lopez Live at PJ’s, on the Reprise label, I had to have it. Penned by Mike Connolly from not only The Hollywood Reporter but syndicated by the San Francisco Chronicle, the notes had that yabba dabba doo swagger that could only come from the aftermath of a four-martini lunch at Martoni’s or perhaps Vesuvio’s, depending on in what end of the state Connolly was imbibing, I mean, writing.
I relish writing like this. I’m not going to attempt any kind of critique; I’m just going to string together some of the fine similes and metaphors, and let them do the talking, and let you stand back or sit down and be as totally impressed as I was and still am: “Like an anchor in aspic … as exciting as Bingo in a church basement … stronger than tacos in an Olvera Street sidewalk stand … as disorganized as Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody arranged for harp and trumpet … just like Saturday night at the Paseo de la Reforma.”
The trouble with these kids today is that they’re putting out albums and singles and whatnot, and they’re not hiring half-in-the-bag scriveners to liven up the back covers with prose like this: “That crazy beat, P.J.’s trademark, is showcased typically in Trini’s ‘La Bamba.’ No dancing is permitted at P.J.’s so the customers keep time to Trini’s Latin-scattin’ vocals with their cocktail jiggers, their glasses, their fists and their feet.” Sounds like a good time to me.
So I bought this album just because I needed something to write about this evening. I could talk about almost getting run over twice by the same bus — Sacramento Regional Transit Bus No. 2379, first when the driver ran a yellow-turning-red light at approximately 6:43 p.m. while speeding east on J Street at 25th Street and nearly clipped me at the southeast corner as I stepped into the curb and he or she swerved into the lane to access the bus stop, and then later on J Street at 20th at around 9 p.m., much less of a close call this time, but still, same bus, as I was about to cross at 20th Street — but I wouldn’t want to get the driver into trouble for trying to get to Jimboy’s before closing time. Those tacos can be pretty tasty. Still, being a pedestrian in this town sucks sometimes.
Didn’t have any cool dreams about dark-eyed beauties, either. So, this. —Jackson Griffith
I’ve been sitting in this cafe for an hour. Came here after parking the car, attempting a little James Taylor transcription on the guitar, walking over to visit Nich at Phono Select, stopping by Body Tribe to visit Allyson Seconds’ dogs Lulu, who likes me, and Hank, who’s still too bashful to move into my zone, and then I left there and walked a block up 21st to the Weatherstone. Ordered a salad and and a mocha, sat down, pinched my flab and decided more exercise might be a good thing, and why not walk to McKinley Park for a couple laps around, then home. What the hey. No. I need to write something.
Because a writer needs to write, like a guitarist needs to practice his chops and a ballet dancer needs to dance. So here I go. The last few years have been years of subtraction: First my marriage, then work, then a bunch of material things, then some core ideas about myself, like someday I will record an album of my songs or someday I will find someone who is really compatible with me or, most importantly, someday my now-grown-up daughter will want to have even a half-hearted relationship with me. Life is short, I’m not sure what matters and what doesn’t matter anymore. I know what I want to matter, but sometimes the world at large has other ideas, and one must flow with the current.
This life I lead isn’t so lonely, really. I mean, I must have gained some kind of oneness with the Great Whatever from four years of daily Buddhist meditation, because I don’t feel acute pangs of neediness; it’s more like what the Brazilians and Portuguese call saudade, which I’ve heard described as the longing or yearning for the loving bliss of the past. But Buddhist practice, in part, enables a person to move beyond that hankering for a state in the past by repeatedly bringing the attention to the present. So that’s life for me: a seesaw ride that alternates between the present moment and recurring waves of saudade. I don’t live much in the future anymore; I’ve kind of let that go. I’ve even stopped dreaming. Well, almost.
I had the coolest dream last night. The first part of it I remember (there may have been a preceding part I can’t recall now), I was in a big auditorium with a bunch of people. I think it was an recovery-type meeting or something. I got tapped by someone to share my thoughts, and I began going on about how people in AA talk about how they “don’t do relationships well” and stuff, but that I question that position as kind of a self-imposed limitation. There were people around me who were ignoring me, and I was upset that they were not validating me. I may have had my guitar with me, and I was asking them to be quiet so I could speak my piece and maybe play something, but they engaged in loud conversation which drowned me out. So at some point, I went to a corner of the room, and there was a woman sitting on kind of some steps, and I grabbed my guitar case and, I dunno if I asked her to accompany me, but we left together. She was this very pretty dark-eyed woman who I know from this place I visit some mornings on my way to work. So then we were riding in a vehicle like the one I drive, but it was hers, or her family’s, and she was letting me drive; it had like a Hemi V8, and I remarked something about how it had a lot of power and I was really digging it. I found myself driving on kind of a limited-access highway out of town, and she asked me if that was the way I wanted to go, and I said no, it didn’t have to be, and soon there was a place where I could drive up a berm and get back onto a city street to head back toward town, and I did. At some point, I reached over and touched her hand, kind of ran my fingertips across her palm and fingers, and she reciprocated and looked at me affectionately, and it felt very nice (that was the extent of any physical contact in the dream). We pulled up at this 1920s bungalow where an old roommate was living, and we walked toward the narrow driveway between this house on the left and the house next door, and we were greeted by a big calico cat. Actually, two cats, one a female and one a more dog-like male (which I understand male calicos are rare) and I think they followed me back, with my lady friend following, too; she was quite amused by the cats. There were one or two kinda sketchy hippie or druggie guys I didn’t know in the back, by a garage, and it was a mid-morning spring-like sky just after a light rain, so there were like old hibachis and microwave ovens and other things stacked up all around, and they were dewy or damp from the fresh spring rain. One old hippie told me that someone — the government? aliens? — had changed the lock and that my key wouldn’t work, but when I looked at the back door into the house, it had one of those long-loop padlocks, and the padlock was open, just looped through the hasp on the door. And that’s where I woke up.
It was a pretty nice dream, really. Anyway, maybe I ought to post this and go walk to the park? —Jackson Griffith
Postscript: The music clips here are by my good friend Sport Murphy, who in my humble estimation is a brilliant songwriter whose music I wish I could gift to everyone I know, that some of thos friends might grow and throb with ardor for his music’s many charms, like I have.
Don’t think I have any idea what I’m going to write about half the time when I open up one of these “new blog post” pages. It’s usually some combination of environment, mood, whatever has crossed my mental transom this past day, and, oh, I dunno, whatever the little six-legged people are whispering into my ears, or beaming into my third eye via telepathy through those busy antennae. Crafty little buggers, they are. Entire worlds we either don’t see, don’t care to see or don’t even think about.
So today was decent. Took care of a couple of items that were generating mild anxiety, had a pretty productive morning and afternoon, and managed to cogitate on a few things. While according to the planetary-movement prognosticators, the world is going to hell in a handbasket this week — Mercury retrograde for the next three weeks, something about Mars opposing Neptune, then the Moon squaring Uranus and Mars, along with some other stuff, which may or may not have something to do with riots in London, rampant “Tea Party” neo-confederates all over America, et cetera, ad infinitum, post hoc ergo propter hoc, veni vidi vici, in hoc signo vinces, vincebus eruptum, cogito cogito ergo cogito ngognog ngogn — I’m feeling all right. Well, yeah. All right.
Thangs are pretty jinky, though. While President Barack Obama doesn’t seem to have the stones to tell Standard & Poor — a division of schoolbook publishing house McGraw-Hill, which is controlled by various members of the McGraw family, big contributors to George W. Bush’s campaigns — to engage in a sustained act of coprophagy, followed by an immediate assumption of room temperature and subsequent organic necrosis, word has it that the Prez is fixing to deliver the message to Bashar Assad, authoritarian government administrator of Syria, on Thursday that Assad and his regime have to pack up and go to whatever Red Sea resort where Hosni Mubarak and his chums are holding court, or maybe permanent exile in Dubai, or Las Vegas. Apparently, some people are much better opthamologists than they are brutal dictators. Yes, Bashar Assad is a bad actor, the Kim Jong Il to his Kim Il Sung dad, Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria with an iron fist for nearly 30 years. But those jizzstains who run Standard & Poor ought to get called to account, too. Michael Moore has gone as far as call Barack Obama a pussy for not arresting the chief executive of the ratings “agency.” I’m kind of inclined to agree.
But screw it. One can walk around in a permanent state of disarray and angsty angst over politics. I used to live there. I’m really not very happy about the condition of the world, particularly the class war waged on the rest of us by the Koch brothers, Rupert Murdoch and their army of sock puppets and dupes. I’m more interested in bugs these days. That, and playing music (I’ll be playing at Luna’s Cafe this coming Saturday night) and, occasionally, entertaining but generally useless fantasies involving me and sundry women in various stages of undress. Yes, I am an old ‘tang enthusiast, or at least a middle-aged alterkocker.
I’m told this is a good place to stop, a little north of 500 words. Till next time. —Jackson Griffith
Another Saturday night and I ain’t got no- … Wait a second. I got myself. I’ve got a full belly, and I’m sitting in my fave little neighborhood coffee joint with a fresh caffeine concoction, laughing at the chubby Hispanic woman sitting at the counter with her back to me. She’s wearing a white wife-beater, and it keeps inching up, exposing two large, moon-like gluteus maximus globes that peek out over her low-riding black jeans. In between the moons, there’s a big ol’ buttcrack, which makes her look like the plumber character Dan Aykroyd played on Saturday Night Live decades ago. I wonder if she’s got a screwdriver in there? At any rate, I tried to snap a smartphone photo, but it didn’t work because I’m a crummy photographer.
I guess I shouldn’t make fun of her. She kinda flirted with me when I first got here. Must be that cleaned-up butch I got at the barbershop today, which might make me marginally more attractive. Or maybe it’s the pranksterish mood I’m in tonight, which is what happens when you wear a plaid flannel shirt over a striped undershirt and walk through the, um, ghey district, getting the tsk-tsk eye from multiple passersby. Or, maybe, hey, I dunno. I sorta let go of the idea of me being any kind of player with the ladies a long time ago, or at least a while back, and so today I’ve got the love life to match my Buddhist monk butch, and I guess that’s all right. Don’t ask me to wear a saffron-colored robe, though, because I’m too damned tall for that. Anyway, it’s Saturday night. Anything can happen.
I got up early this morning, as is my custom, and did my Double-A stuff that I do, which took me through noon or so. Went and got the haircut cleaned up, and then had plans to hit this picnic but, because I sleep kinda crummy in the summertime, being a wilty Scottish fellow who doesn’t do well in hotter climes, I fell into a mid-afternoon slumber to make up for those lost zzz’s. Actually, I started watching some old Dragnet episodes on the laptop, and next thing I knew I was zoned out for a couple of hours. Woke up, watched more Dragnet eps, sensed an unhealthy pattern might be developing, picked up the guitar and strummed out another troubadour-like love song to a woman I like to call Winky McFuckmepumps, and then got my act together and went out to eat.
Question: Why is it so many really attractive women are out on the town with totally douchey guys? This reality-show aesthetic has really messed it up for quirky gentlemen like me, because the standard seems to have shifted in favor of scummy dorks in porkpie hats and shit. I’mina halfta skeeze up my game to catch up with these shmoheims, because what I’m putting forth right now isn’t quite cutting it.
I wish I had a nice Gibson SG plugged into a Marshall stack waiting for me when I get home, because I feel like waking some neighbors with high-volume power chords. I’m in as much a mood to cause trouble as I get, which really isn’t much, maybe just a few more wisecracks as usual. I’m filled with great conversation, yet there’s a beautiful woman standing five feet from me talking to some assclown about shopping for paint for a house that he just bought. Which illustrates the old maxim, women care far more about security than they do about witty conversation. That shit goes back to Fred and Wilma Flintstone days.
Fuggit. I’m gonna kick it here for a bit, and go watch more Dragnet. —Jackson Griffith
Here it is another Friday night, and I’m sitting in a local cafe because I’m still too broke to get wi-fi at my apartment, and I’m living with what could be described as a lack of intimate yin energy in my immediate surroundings, or at least no yin energy that says stuff like, “It’s Friday night, sweetie, and I wanna see a movie.” So I go to the local cafe instead, alone, but not sad, because I want to write, but I’m too beat from a long day to fabricate anything remotely interesting. Usually, on Fridays, I’m toast, too crinkly to go out on the town and raise gosh darn heck.
I did not post yesterday. I got up really early so I could meet a guy from my company at a restaurant up in Roseville at 7 a.m., and I watched him go around and check out how the pest control was going. Then we went to this big LEED Platinum corporate campus, and I got to sit in on a meeting where they hashed out some details, and then I went out and watched a new route technician perform his services. Then, after lunch, I drove to Stockton to talk to the manager there, and then back to the office.
By the time I got home, I really didn’t feel like doing much of anything, so I never made it down to the coffeehouse to write. I’ve felt like I was on the cusp of coming down with something anyway, and when my body gives me those obvious signs that say: You better chill in bed and watch old Dragnet episodes or go to sleep, then that’s what I do, Even if I’ve heard that the original incarnation of Montrose fronted by Sammy Hagar is blasting out serious buttrock across the street, for free, or Buck Owens has come back from the dead to do an acoustic set. Or even if every hipster in town is at some special artsy thang at Bows & Arrows, and if I show up I might get my picture in Midtown Monthly‘s little who’s who section next month.
Fuggit, I’m whipped tonight. So screw you guys, I’m going home. More tomorrow. —Jackson Griffith
Never thought I’d say this, but somewhere a while back, I overcame my “ooh, ick, blecch” factor about six- and eight-legged things that crawl and fly and buzz, and I got really interested. I mean really interested. I think that part of that thirst for knowledge regarding all things squicky got kicked into high gear when I got a job working for a pest control company, and part of my task was to immerse myself in general entomology, arachnology and, later, from day-to-day contact with some people who are at least as internally twisted as I am, rodentology.
What is it about insects and spiders that creep people out? For me, I’ll guess it was the not wanting to know. I’d fried my share of pillbugs — a land-dwelling crustacean — on the sidewalk using my prepubescent pair of Mr. Science glasses, and I’d disassembled quite a few arthropods after unceremoniously killing them. But I’d bonged out of biology, and later on, just refused to consider the elegance of animals from the invertebrate world.
But who can argue with the beauty of caterpillars that feed on leaves and other plant material before spinning themselves into pupae, later emerging as butterflies and moths? Or beetles that complete their wormlike larval existence, pupate, and then turn into the amazing winged tank-like creatures of the largest order of insects, Coleoptera, more commonly known as beetles?
Somewhere along the line, I either read something, or saw something, that sparked a raging interest in what has come to be known as eusocial insects — Hymenopterans, or wasps, bees and ants, and the Isopterans, the non-Hymenopteran eusocial outlier we know as termites, which some entomological research has traced back to the cockroaches. These insects often live in huge colonies that function as a giant brain, organized into castes with a queen at the top — sometimes with a loyal king but more often with a coterie of layabout gigolo drones — and then a massive amount of female workers that, depending on the age bracket, forage out of the hive or nest or stay at home taking care of the next generation from egg to larva to pupa. Oftentimes, there is a soldier caste to guard the workers.
Even cockroaches have a certain beauty and elegance — although you probably don’t want them around because they’re unsanitary as gosh-darned heck, and their appearance often means asthma and other allergic reactions among any human co-habitants. I lived around what I’d guess were American cockroaches a few years ago, and would watch them waving their antennae around and grooming themselves sometimes before scaring them off. But anatomically, they were a marvel, the way their flattened bodies could scurry to the safety of even the tiniest crack.
So now, it doesn’t bother me that Diptera — your two-winged insects (most insects have four wings) like flies and mosquitoes — spend their first three life stages in filthy conditions, and then emerge as winged adults to either throw up on your food and then siphon it up (flies) or suck your blood (female mosquitoes). Cockroaches — Blattaria — don’t bother me either. And give me a tank containing assassin bugs and throw in some crickets, which the assassin bugs will chase down, tackle and suck the juices out of with their long and sharply pointed proboscises, and I’m a happy camper. Yeah, call me twisted.
And don’t even get me started on spiders, which really blow my mind. —Jackson Griffith
The odorous house ant, according to the published literature, when crushed, gives off a smell somewhat like rotten coconut. I was out on my second day in the field today, putting time in so I can be certified by the State of California to identify pest species, do home and business inspections and, if called upon, perform the tasks of pest control — not that that’s what I’m going to be doing, but knowing how to do it should help me in my job. So there we were, me and a guy from my employer’s Rancho Cordova branch who trains a lot of new hires, with the hot sun beating down on us as we worked around several houses in suburban area east of Sacramento, just off the Highway 50 freeway.
By California law, as a not-yet-licensed employee of a pest control company, I can’t identify a pest or tell you what you can do to remedy the situation. But as a journalist, or at this point a guy with a computer keyboard who types stuff into his blog on a reasonably regular basis, I can report on what the other, licensed guy said, which was something along the lines of “This is an odorous house ant. Ever smelled one?” I confessed I’d read about them many times, but hadn’t yet caught a whiff of the rotted coconut.
“Go ahead, crush one, check it out,” he advised. I knelt down and pressed my fingers onto a concrete mowing strip that separated the backyard lawn from an overgrown garden. I raised my monster fingers, fresh with the smashed exoskeletons of several dead ants, to my nostrils and breathed in deeply, wondering if I’d perceive any aroma. Rotted coconut, it wasn’t; more like melted and decomposing Camp Fire Girl Mints sprayed with insect repellent or some kind of aerosolized sun block. It was a gnarly smell, but gnarly one or two on a scale of gnarly one to 10, with a 10 being the unforgettable fragrance of rotting human flesh. Not too bad, really; perhaps the next Kardashian sister or manufactured teen idol looking to pimp a new overpriced perfume can use a little eau de T. Sessile to give their witches’ brew that extra kick it will need in a crowded marketplace.
We’d been in the sun for a while, him recounting days of fighting the notorious Formosan subterranean termite while doing pest control in Hawaii, me looking for a shady spot where I wouldn’t wilt. Which I was, because essentially I am a big pussy, or an old dog who needs a big drink of water and a fresh hillbilly porch under which I can go lay in the dirt and collect a fresh crop of fleas. I have a newfound respect for those men and women who go out, five or six days a week, working pest control routes.
And, yeah, I look forward to the next time I get to do a day in the field. —Jackson Griffith
Gosh darn it, it ain’t even Halloween yet, but around the corner from my batcave, there’s this house, on the northwest corner of 22nd and H Streets in midtown Sacramento. I walk by there all the time, and there are always a gawker or two on the sidewalk, pointing at the creepy-looking building and shuddering like they’ll completely soil their uns if an ectoplasmic apparition of decaying Don Knotts or Amy Winehouse comes flying at them from an opening in the attic.
Betcha there’s no ghosts there. Go a block and a half up the street if you want ghosts. I mean, the real deal. There’s this Victorian I lived in back in 1991-1993 that’s funner than a goddamn carnival ride hurtling at triple speed and flying apart after being wrenched together by San Joaquin Valley crankster carnies. When I was there, shit would fly routinely, and these white luminescent things would jump over me in the middle of the night and run down past the kitchen area to a door that would fly open and then slam shut as I reclined there, going what the fuck, the hairs standing up all over my body.
One summer afternoon in 1992, it must have been several degrees above 100, and I was chilling on my broken futon with a bottle and a bong, and I heard this conversation and laughing coming out of the stairwell, behind the aforementioned door, which went from my kitchen to the second-floor porch below via a secret staircase. So I tiptoed over by the door to hear the conversation a little better, and I was right next to the door, and suddenly it flew open and I got hit with a blast of Arctic air, or Antarctic if these phantasms were acquaintances of Cthulhu, and then the door slammed shut and I heard more laughter. I think I really explored the deeply sedative quality of the whiskey I’d been drinking rather aggressively after that.
Anyway, I’ve told this story before. So I tell it again. Boo! —Jackson Griffith
This memories of idyllic Stockton thread on Facebook has me all head-scratchy. On one hand, it’s really great to scroll through page after page of posts on places I’d half-forgotten. But on the other hand, it’s infuriating to see new post after new post about “Remember that guy who’d stand on the corner of of Pershing and Swain banging on a guitar with no strings and singing Elvis songs?” The way the page is organized, with zero indexing or search function, it’s nearly impossible to get all the comments on one subject together, so you’ll make a nice and thoughtful addition, and then it will disappear, replaced by another five or 10 “remember that guy …” posts.
Still, and although I’m not one for huge doses of nostalgia, I’m kinda getting off on reading some of the posters, like Terry O’Reilly, an old pal from the punk rock days, and Floyd Perry, Jr., whom I’ve never met. But sorting through the 8,400+ posts, way too many of them redundant as hell — which isn’t really the fault of the people posting as much as it is the inherently chaotic nature of the page — to read the interesting posts takes way too much time. It’s easier on a laptop, but downright impossible on a so-called smart phone.
I have a million stories, but damn if I’m going to waste them in a thread that disappears, to be replaced by 12 hammerheads who’ve typed out the same topic in all caps, or infinite variations on “remember when me and Betty Sue and Linda Lou cruised the avenue and ate burgers at the A&W?” or whatever. A little better way to index or organize the page, if that’s possible, and I don’t think it is, and it would be a lot more magnetic to people like me as a supreme time waster. Because I have a bizarre love-hate relationship with Stockton, and even though I’ll most likely never live there again, that town is a big part of who I am, moreso than I’d care to admit.
Not that the thugs and jocks and lowbrow fucksticks who made the lives of me and all my artsy pals so miserable want to read my take on the burg, which is a lot darker than some George Lucas beatoff fantasy — more along the lines of David Lynch, the Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese and more. Hey, remember the time we were on our bikes on Yokut(s) Avenue between Sears and Macy’s and we flipped off those National Socialist White Peoples Party assholes from Tracy who were riding in back of a Mercedes-Benz troop carrier wearing Nazi uniforms with swastika armbands, and the driver of the truck tried to run us off the road in front of Lyon’s? Remember the psycho couple in the Lincoln Village flattops who held us at gunpoint for several hours for stealing pomegranates from the tree in their backyard? Remember that guy who burned down the Church of the Presentation because, years earlier, one of the priests there had molested him as an altar boy?
Anyway, I got a million stories. But, hey: Anybody remember Peter Piper Pizza? —Jackson Griffith