I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably the antithesis of a hipster, or what currently passes for hipster these days. That’s the inevitable byproduct of growing older, I guess, and I’m so old that my definition of “hipster” goes back to guys like Cab Calloway, Slim Gaillard and Slam Stewart. But rather than be some butthurt old hippie about it, I think it might be better to remain open to whatever is forming and shaping the evolving hipster aesthetic. Well, mostly, except for this yacht rock obsession: Please kill me first if you’re going to foist Toto and Christopher Cross in my general direction. But if you kids really want to fall down a rabbit hole of stupid, feel free to chat me up about the blow-dried universe of smooth jazz.
So this evening I was hanging out with my pal Ian, whose late dad Nick the punk-rock guitarist and Ventures and Throbbing Gristle and Dennison’s Chili enthusiast was an old friend and icon, until he passed away in 1989, a few months before Ian was born. Me and the kid hunkered down in the corner of the patio at a midtown coffee joint, and I tried to force him to listen to “Happy Egotist” by Womb, arguably the shittiest rock record ever recorded, 17 minutes and 17 seconds of Manson Family retardation and mutant asshole rock about a car wreck, kind of like Rashomon for glue-sniffing Brady Bunch rejects.
The kid commandeered my laptop and pulled up some French zombie shit with a nice throbbing electronic beat that cracked a cold beer for my inner happy camper; the visuals were the sort of runway fash-fash glamwank that might get a drunken Lindsay Lohan jilling off furiously, except it had way more dudes in it than femmes so that would be a wash. Nice. (And, yeah, if this is way past its sell-by date fedora to some of you sneeros, no biggums; like I said, I’ve got zero hipster cred, so consider me your clueless grandpa rambling, much doo-wacka-doo about nothing.)
Next up was some nice glammy boys from, I think, San Diego. “I’m gonna get you fired up on this Three One G shit,” the kid says. I’m not utterly convinced; while the vid has some laugh out loud moments, like with a small dog — what my former father-in-law the chowchow enthusiast used to call an hors d’oeuvre — getting hammered repeatedly as it pops up (so sue me, PETA, for laughing), it’s also got the usual bunch of lads posing in rawk-star moves, which isn’t quite as novel if you lived through the ’70s and were into all that English homo-rock swill like I was, because, well, having done enough shitty drugs while listening to Sparks and Roxy Music at ear-bleed volume, and that was before the whole punk-rock thing turned up the intensity and incoherence turned me into a complete vegetable, and it’s just another rerun, albeit quite a cool one.
The kid pulled up a couple more videos, including one with a bunch of hipster mouths chewing on hipster hot dogs, and another one that, well, I forget. It’s all good fun, but like I said, I’m old, so even though I’m amused, I still gravitate to old videos with static visuals, or spinning 78s, accompanied by the music of Blind Blake, or maybe something with Mississippi John Hurt on some 1960s TV show, or Lightnin’ Sam Hopkins in a documentary. That’s what really feeds my heart these days.
Funny how your tastes change when you grow older, no? —Jackson Griffith
Okay, I’m sorry. I’m still stupidly distracted and busy, so I can’t get down to any of the really ambitious stuff I have planned. Instead, I have to sit here on a Friday night after coming to from a semi-comatose state (read: nap) after work, after which I crawled into the shower and then trimmed my beard and brushed my mossy teeth and threw some clean clothes on and came down here to Weatherstone to try to wrap up a project that I just haven’t been able to wrap up. Perfectionism is a cruel master.
If I had a goddamn lick of sense, I’d … I’d … well, I’m not even sure what I’d do differently than sit here, munching on a salad and sipping on an iced mocha which will keep me up for a while but that’s the whole point: Stay awake, close the sale. Coffee is for closers only, and I’m not fucking with you. I’m here from downtown, and I am on a mission of mercy.
Oh. Have I got your attention now? Well, it’s fuck or walk. Have I made my decision for Christ? Am I not making sense? Well, watch that clip. David Mamet may have turned into a Dennis Miller-style wingnut tool, and Alec Baldwin’s a bit of a screwdriver, too, but this scene is utter perfection. I find it weirdly inspiring. Maybe it’s time I morphed into a reptilian asshole, eh?
Well, not really. I’ve learned too much to do that. Love is the answer, and I say that earnestly and unironically. We’ve got to come together and stuff. Like, maybe all pile onto a big cruise ship to the Bahamas with some saxophones and feel the love.
This is what happens when you’re too ADD to have anything to say. It will get better. —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
Blame it on the heat, or something. I’m baked. But just a little sun-dried, mind you, rather than bong-loaded full-on bakery baked, where every guitar solo or flash of sunlight on the leaves and flowers is completely maniac and way too intense and, um, whoa. It gets like this every year in the valley, when there are no double rainbows because rain is scarce, only the crawling out of the heat into a source of shade like an old tired dog waiting for the evening and maybe a little delta breeze.
I used to bitch about the heat every year, but now I’ve made my peace with it. There’s always nearby water, and if you can stay sufficiently hydrated and get out in the heat every day long enough to become somewhat acclimated, it isn’t as godawful as one might imagine. But the heat does sap the energy and incline a person favorably toward naptime, and sometimes a good nap is just what the old doctor ordered.
Unless you’ve got something to do. Me, I’m gonna go play some tunes now at Dad’s Kitchen, which is located at 2968 Freeport Boulevard, between Vallejo Way and Fifth Avenue, just south of the Freeport Bakery and Marie’s Donuts. I’m fixing to start around 6 p.m. out on the back patio, so if you’re in that particular neighborhood, please feel free to join us. I am sorry to report that the Cuban hotel orchestra that usually accompanies me is stuck in Havana, back in the year 1926, and on such short notice I was not able to marshal the services of an appropriate mariachi or jarocho banda, so it’ll be me and my guitar and whatever horny tomcats are yowling on the back fence.
Dunno how intense my double rainbow will be tonight, but feel free to check it out. —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
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
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
The good news is that old dad’s found a way to deal with the horrible snoring caused by his sleep apnea, where he no longer sounds like a lumber mill every time he catches a few Zs, thus waking half the neighborhood. Now, an exercise regimen of swallowing and chewing motions, plus random vowels along with a moratorium on Ben & Jerry’s, to reduce neck circumference (read: fat), and everyone is sleeping a lot easier. No more CPAP-related flatulence, either.
The bad news is that old dad’s taken up playing the goddamn didgeridoo, the blowing through of which is helping him strengthen and tighten those flaccid throat muscles, thus reducing and even eliminating snoring. Unfortunately, the aforementioned didgeridoo, known to law-enforcement officials as a patchouli-scented hippie magnet, has manifested as a massive neighborhood influx of bongo-playing dreadlocked burnouts and other bong-impaired vermin around the clock, not to mention the low-level aural pollution of didgeridoo and drum circle noises.
But the old bastard’s quit snoring, which is all that matters. —Jackson Griffith
“What a drag it is getting old,” Mick Jagger snarled at the beginning of “Mother’s Little Helper” in 1966. That was 44 years ago, and now Jagger’s getting a bit aged and crinkly himself, and Andy Rooney, who was 97 back then, is now a ripe old 141. Which makes Rooney’s attempts at pop-music punditry especially laughable, and if I was a muckety-muck at CBS, I’d be pushing to devote the final 15 minutes of 60 Minutes each week to playing Rooney the latest sounds the world of popular music has to offer just to get his impromptu reviews, because the dividends of unintentional comedy gold might be priceless. Dunno about you, but I certainly would be tuning in every week.
“I consider myself to be an absolutely normal, dead-center, average American,” Andy sez at the beginning of this clip (after whatever noxious advertising clip the mooks at CBS tacked onto the beginning, and sorry about that). Yep, Andy, when I think about paragons of normal, contemporary Americans, I think of you — you , and that guy who played Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace, perhaps. Then he goes on to comment on Lady GaGa, and The Human Foetus (some kid named Justin Bieber), and Usher. Um, hasn’t Usher been around since the 1990s? Someone gave Rooney a copy of Billboard magazine, and he didn’t see Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights or the Capitol Steps on the Top 200 Albums chart? Whoa. Big-B little-ummer bummer, man.
The only thing cooler would be to pair Rooney with a cartoon counterpoint: Mr. Magoo. Unfortunately, Jim Backus, the voice of Magoo, is no longer living. Perhaps Sacha Baron Cohen or Harry Shearer might be up to the challenge, or maybe they could create a whole new geriatric goofball character who could spar with Rooney. Something like this might get everyone tuning in each week — “Hey, Rooney and Magoo are reviewing the new Black Tambourine and Fall albums!” — and might help reignite interest in a moribund record industry.
And, hey. If I ever finish my album, I’d want these guys debating its merits. —Jackson Griffith