Because it is there. Because it is here. Because I must write. Something. Every day. Because there is a ghost in my computer. Because it is a big angry cat that will eat my soul if I do not write something. Because the music in this place is too loud. Because I hate the Smiths. Because I want to roll around on the floor naked with the woman sitting directly in front of me. Because I am laughing at the two new-age nitwits sitting next to her, the doofy hippie and the woman with dyed blonde hair and several facelifts and way too much Arizona-style jewelry. Because, I dunno.
I don’t have any good stories today. Today was kinda boring. I worked. I wrote. I didn’t feel all that great. I started falling asleep toward the end of the day. I thought about rolling around on the floor naked with a friend of mine during an important business meeting. I thought about some other things. I read about how some scientists in Montana and in the Army or Navy collaborated on solving the mystery of sudden hive collapse among honeybees. I read about big-headed ants in Florida, and several species of cockroaches in California, and flies, and beetles, and fleas, too. I looked on Google Maps and found the big ugly red reservoir of aluminum byproducts in Hungary that killed several people and wiped out at least one small town. I played with some crickets in a plastic bag. I drove home. I came directly to this coffeehouse. I ordered some herbal tea. I started typing. This.
The music is too loud. The hipsters are hilariously aloof. I kinda fit in, but really, I don’t. —Jackson Griffith
I don’t like football too much anymore. And some Mondays, I don’t like them too much, either. Today was one of those Mondays. I mean, it started out okay, and I got up, and did my prayers — i.e., turning the show over to what I call “god,” who is like “the great whatever” — and meditation, and ate some breakfast, and then got cleaned up and out of the house and over to Peet’, where this guy I really don’t want to label as “crazy” rambled on and on like some character from the pages of a Harvey Pekar-Robert Crumb collaboration, and then I hit the road. The new Interpol? It blows, pretty much. Then, Lodi, computer, meeting, fire under seat of trousers, yeah.
I don’t know what it is about these little things that send my fragile sense of security spiraling head over shopping cart into the weeds next to the bitter water in the roadside drainage ditch, but there you go. Maybe it’s because, over the past couple of years, I experienced my own personal version of the Great Depression, the kind of thing where you’re too embarrassed to tell anybody you’re half crazy because you’ve been stretching the couple of bucks you had left on a supermarket gift card as far as you could, and you finally broke down and bought a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread with them, and now your stomach is growling because you’ve had nothing to eat in the past 72 hours but PB&(No)J sandwiches, and your brain just isn’t working right. It doesn’t take much — a weird tone, a look from a supervisor, a feeling — to take me back to that place. But fortunately, I guess, I’m not as nutty as my mother and some of the other elders in my family, who got all loopy about rationing toilet paper and recycling weird little household items. Which, or at least the latter, may not be such a bad idea these days.
So what made the day kinda suck is that I thought I did everything perfectly this morning, or darn near perfect for a Monday, and then I was cruising through Galt (D2 Trailer Sales.com!) and suddenly realized I didn’t have my phone. I’d left it on the bed, or on my guitar case, where it serves as an alarm clock. Now, being middle-aged or old, when you stopped remembering phone numbers, because all you have to do is find a person’s name in your phone’s address book, you’re sunk. I couldn’t call anybody. So I hunkered down, listened to a steady trickle of bad country-music cheese product, wrote, revised, looked stuff up, wrote some more. Finally, after five, I hit the road, got home, laid on my bed and fell asleep for a couple of hours.
And here I am again, trying to get into the discipline of writing my own stuff. It was a mighty big temptation to pick up the old guitar and run through versions of Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” and Charlie Walker’s (actually, Harlan Howard’s) “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down” and a few of my original tunes, which I did, but I managed to knock this one out. Got a bunch of half-written musings and rants on the death of the music business and a few other topics, too, but those’ll have to wait. Ah, heck with it, gosh darn it. Maybe I’ll amble off to the Co-Op and get some stuff to eat, because it’s too late to go mano-a-mano with all the entitlement cases at Trader Joe’s.
And one of these days, I’ll be back up to speed as a writer. Maybe. Y’know? —Jackson Griffith
Don’t get me wrong. I love what some people call “real” country music, and as such have done a pretty good job at avoiding the stuff by that name that gets played on radio — what gets branded as “new country” — like the plague. But, as some of you readers may have gleaned, I started working a while back. What I haven’t talked about much is that now I share an office with a guy who likes to listen to country music on the radio. Unfortunately for me, the country music that gets played on the local station he likes, the CBS-owned affiliate KNCI, is not the hard-swingin’ Buck’n’Merle shitkicker music I grew up listening to on KRAK radio, 1140. Whose AM frequency, ironically, is now occupied by a sports talk station, and its sister station, KNCI, is parked on the FM frequency once occupied by KZAP, originally a free-form rocker before it got taken over by fat guys with walrus mustaches who foisted midwestern mullet-headed rawktwaddle like Head East and REO Speedwagon ad infinitum, along with Night Ranger, Journey, Styx and the rest of the late ’70s major label satin jacket brigade.
I like my job, and I like the guy I share an office with, and I’d like to think I’m a lot more mature than I used to be. Time was, I’d get all butthurt and rattled and demand that my office mate listen to Trout Mask Replica in its entirety, or maybe some Lotte Lenya singing Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht songs in German, but I don’t roll that way anymore. I get curious. It’s like, well, what makes this tick? The easy-to-grasp thing about KNCI is that they have a rotation of about five songs, and they play them over and over. And over. And over.
So there’s this one song getting lots of airplay right now that sounds like a flaccid-weenie rewrite of Hank Williams’ “Kaw-liga,” in a minor key and shit, and it’s wedged in my craw pretty good. The singer’s got one of those skanky-chick voices like those crepuscular ladies who might’ve been hangin’ out at some dealer’s house when you went to cop some of the bad shit circa 1978 or 2005 or so, sitting there hitting off a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and blasting Lynyrd Skynyrd records and babbling about weird orgasms she had on midway Rock-o-Plane rides at the San Joaquin County Fair while you waited for your appointment with the man.
“No more biscuits and gravy. No more tochis and nay-nays. Take me down to that little white church,” Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild sings in that abraded-sphincter white gospel style that seems to be quite popular wherever corn dogs are sold. “No more beej’s on Mondays. No more freebie vajayjay. Take me down to that little white church.” Yep, you know, the house of worship where the guys in the white Spy vs. Spy suits roast the big cross on Friday nights and stuff. Mm-hmm, sanger’s been livin’ in thayut see-in, and Reverend Virgil-Bob Sneedleroy’s gonna make an honest woman out of her, thus ending the poontang parade for yet one more relationship, ’cause you know that married people ain’t gonna be gettin’ any, or at least the doing of the deed falls of precipitously after that visit to the little white church. Ah, this song must be good country music, because it sure makes me want to drink powerful liquor, and I don’t do that anymore.
The other tune wedged in my craw opens with a Jim Beam-hangover headache of an oop ba-doop ba-doop guitar line and proceeds to delineate a reasonably unenthusiastic life. Nope, sometimes I don’t feel like doing much work, either, and if I drank beer, well, maybe that’s what I’d feel like doing, too. That said, this song doesn’t quite ring true, and its lyrics cynically try to connect with Mr. Regular Joe: Hell yee-haw, ahm purty good at drankin’ beers, too, and I wish I could do thayut an’ get paid f’r thayut kinda gig.
Too bad songwriter Troy Jones then namechecks a cerveza by brand that completely shitcans his credibility. I mean, Bud Light? Oh, man. C’mon, lads, that swill ain’t even dog piss; it’s chihuahua piddle, and it ain’t even ‘Murkan; parent company A-B InBev is headquartered in Belgium and Brazil, to which the Frank Booth character in Blue Velvet would have six little words: “Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!” That’s the trouble with these Nashville songwriters like Jones, who penned this butt nugget for Billy Currington: They sit around in their Nashville backyards staring into their navels or thinking too much about what musically ultraconservative programmers like whoever it is at KNCI who green-lights this stuff — “Ooh! Sounds like warmed-over Skynyrd mixed with old F-150 ad jingles? Yep, that’s country” — and they’ve lost touch with the zeitgeist. I mean, Bud Light.
I’ve heard that Currington cut for like every hour of the work week for months now. Talk about your tired. But at least it’s catchy; far worse is a Carrie Underwood track whose chorus sounds like some “nyah nyah na na nyah” playground taunt, which worked in 1982 when the Waitresses did it (r.i.p., Patty Donahue) but blows now to such a degree that I have to leave the room whenever it comes on. I mean, Simon Cowell should have nothing to do with anything related to music, much less country music. Pure vomit. Same goes for another song by some guy I won’t even bother to look up. Um, if you’re gonna sing “na-na-na-na-na” in your chorus, just do the world a favor and stick to covering other less-lazy writers’ tunes instead. Please spare us the misery of your lazy songwriting.
I don’t want to bag too much on this. It’s country-flavored product, what Velveeta is to real cheese. Lots of people like Velveeta. And I wouldn’t even bother to listen if I wasn’t a captive audience, and even then I’m not vehemently objecting (unless that execrable Carrie Underwood comes on, at which point I usually make like Paul Desmond and take five), because it’s just wallpaper. And corporations serve up poop all the time and call it food, like marketing “smooth jazz” as jazz or “active rock” as rock or Fox News as news. As long as there are bucks to be churned and chickens to be plucked, someone’s gonna do it.
Anyway, as for the headline, for any of you friends who might be worrying about me, well, my drinking habits can best be described as Mormon, one day at a time, although I do drink the Cokes and coffee so I guess no Temple Recommend for ol’ Jacky Boy. My underwear is normal, too. However, what’s a real cool time to this lad is sangin’ and pickin’ old-school liquored-up hillbilly shit when no one else is listening — “There Stands the Glass” by Webb Pierce, “She Thinks I Still Care” by George Jones, “She’s Actin’ Single, I’m Drinkin’ Doubles” by Gary Stewart, “Honky Tonk Amnesia” by Moe Bandy,”I’m Not the Man That I’m Supposed to Be” by Lefty Frizzell, “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down” by Merle Haggard, “Playboy” by Wynn Stewart, “Pick Me Up on Your Way Down” by Charlie Walker and a million others (boy, that Harlan Howard could write, couldn’t he?) plus some other stuff, which doesn’t exactly pass muster with the Word of Wisdom crowd.
Then again, what does? Clearly, not the 100-proof shit. —Jackson Griffith
“Izzat Kenny Bloggins over there?” Some guy just yelled that at the guy sitting behind me, Dana Gumbiner, inside the Miners Foundry in Nevada City. I guess Dana once had a blog called that. I guess I should feel like a dweeb because I’m sitting here “blogging,” but fuck it. I have a commitment to fulfill. Because I’ve dropped the ball on this whole blogging thing, so I’d better get on the good foot or the lickin’ stick or whatever it is and write some shit.
Sorry. It’s dark. I can’t even see my fucking keyboard, so I can’t see to find any of the great 19 or so short movies I watched today. I’m at the Nevada City Film Festival, which is run by my old pal Jeff Clark along with Jesse Locks and this other guy David. So I posted this other really catchy pop song. I’ll write more later. It’s rude to sit here posting with all these other people around. Later. —Jackson Griffith
Some of you know I’ve joined the world of the employed lately, and for that I am very, very grateful. For a person who spent years getting paid to listen to music and make judgment calls, or to work tangentially with music and art, the new world I’m immersed in on a daily basis is much different. And, as it turns out, it’s a subject I’ve been interested in since childhood, when I used to fry pillbugs — which are small crustaceans, and not insects — on the sidewalk with my glasses, and would spend hours watching aphids making honeydew, or ants building colonies. Work just woke up the dormant nine-year-old boy in me, which isn’t a bad thing.
I was at a music event a couple of weeks ago — Sea of Bees, John Vanderslice and DoomBird at the TownHouse, to be specific — and they were projecting this French documentary called Microcosmos on the wall. It’s got bugs galore, even snails having sexytime, and I dug it enough to pay attention when the credits were rolling, and then found the whole thing online. Enjoy.
Before I started at my new gig, I couldn’t have told you the difference between a drywood and a subterranean termite, or what an alate was and why they call it a “swarmer,” or why Formosan termites are seriously problematic, or the interesting thing about Argentine ants is that they take over and dominate other species not through bellicosity, but via superior social organizing skills, or a bunch of other things. Did you know that there’s a wasp in the Far East that will sting a cockroach in the thorax in a spot that will paralyze the roach long enough for the wasp to deliver another sting, in the roach’s ganglia, or brain, that will disable its escape impulse, and then the wasp will snip the now-docile roach’s antennae off at the halfway point, then will suck out some body fluids through an antenna like a bug mai tai through a straw, and then the wasp will lead the roach like a dog on a leash back to its lair, where it will lay an egg on the zombie-fied bug, which will provide a living host for the wasp larva to burrow into and then burst from like an alien facehugger when it’s done feeding? I mean, how’s that for a cool horror movie plot?
Yeah, you could say I’m digging this new line of work. —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
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