Oh, goody. It’s summer again, and it’s Sammie season, which in this age of social media means that some of us are getting inundated by people begging us to nominate them, or their band, for the Sacramento Area Music Awards. Let me just say that I’ve got nothing against the Sammies; I used to work at the Sacramento News & Review, and while I never was the most over-the-moon believer in award shows, I’ll admit that they do help focus attention on this town’s music community — well, some of that community — and that a lot of people seem to like the awards.
So who am I to complain?
Where I get a little crinkly is with the begging. Now, come on: If your music is so darned wonderful, don’t you think the whole town would be beating a path to your door? Why do you have to beg people who don’t even know you that well to nominate you, and then turn around and beg them again to vote for you once you’ve gotten yourself nominated? And should you win, what does it prove — that you’re a better politician than everyone else? More like, oh, Tracy Flick with a guitar.
Then again, I have a problem with social-media hype in general, like, say, people coming onto my Facebook page and hyping their stuff. It would be like me coming over to your house and pounding a ten-foot-tall billboard into your lawn with my face plastered on it. You wouldn’t like that, would you? I mean, if you’re going to come onto my page and beg people to listen to your band or nominate you for a Sammie or sell your book, at least have the decency to send me a message and ask permission first. Anything else is just so goddamned gauche.
Yeah, I’m a grump. Sorry. I just got some devastating news two nights ago from somebody who has been finding fresh ways to say “fuck you” to me for over 20 years, and it’s still slicing me inside like a pizza made from rusty nails. I’m finding it hard to be happy, so stupid little things are setting me off: cutesy-poo couples burbling their affectionate little sweetnesses to each other in public places (this means you, yuppie couple in the bulk foods aisle of the Co-op this evening), idiotic entitled drivers (you bints in that white Isuzu Rodeo by the Weatherstone? Fellate me), dumbfuck fat-tire bike riders in Midtown who ride on sidewalks at night with no lights, ad infinitum. Then again, I’m just a grumpy asshole who needs a big hug.
But I’ve always thought the Sammie beggars were Kardashian-level tacky. —Jackson Griffith
Occasionally, I’ll scan the headlines during the day. And every once in a while, something will jump off the page and send me gibbering like a macaque with a fresh belt of nitrous oxide. Like this one today, in the New York Times: Facebook Campaign Supports Mormon Leader’s Speech. Of course, it wasn’t the headline itself; it was what I happened to read after I clicked the link.
Ahem. Apparently, the second-oldest white guy in the hierarchy that runs the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka the Mormons, an 87-year-old named, I kid you not, Boyd K. Packer, felt led by the spiritual powers that be to make a pronouncement on Teh Gayz. You know the drill: Gay people should not be allowed to marry, gay people should just get over this homosexual thing and, y’know, change their minds and get married like everybody else and be fruitful and multiply and make little meat tabernacles for spirit children.
Naturally, when word got out to the public at large, that large segment of people who aren’t inside the LDS bubble, a few of them took umbrage with Mr. Packer’s remarks. They made public denouncements. Some of them in a certain western state, already smarting at a tax-exempt religious institution that poured a ton of money into California to finance the successful campaign to pass Proposition 8 a couple of years ago, got quite rankled.
Now, getting upset at an elderly Mormon leader for not understanding that the world has changed is kinda like getting butthurt at the seasons for changing. Breaking news: Wait for it — water is wet. It would be a monumental astonishment if one of these guys would come correct and just say, “You know, after much deliberation and prayer, the church general authorities have decided that we have this gay thing all wrong.”
Here’s where it gets dicey. Apparently some younger, “hipper” Mormons, who were savvy enough to grasp the importance of social media, launched a Facebook campaign: “I support Boyd K. Packer.” Because the LDS Church is a hierarchy, this kind of stuff has to pass through multiple levels of scrutiny before it goes public, and one wonders if anyone had the cojones to step up and say, “Um, guys, maybe if we’re going to roll out another anti-gay message, we should find someone in the church who’s name doesn’t get this one filed under ‘some jokes write themselves’? Because we’re gonna get reamed on this by all those snickering homosexuals in the media.”
Perhaps someone did wisely 86 the idea of calling the campaign “I can get behind Boyd K. Packer. Who knows?
Read the following in an Eric Cartman voice: “Stan, Kyle, it says here that some old guy in the Mormon church named Boy Gay Fudgepacker got his magic underwear all wrinkled in a bunch and he told teh gayz to get over teh gay lifestyle because God does not intentionally make people go homo.” Adding after a beat: “I am so glad someone in au-thoritay agrees with me.”
Somewhere, a guy named Larry Craig is tapping the floor, pensively. —Jackson Griffith
Sunday, and I’m, how you say, really laid back. Sitting here, drank some mid-afternoon coffee after what we shall say is a late and sweetly decadent start to the day. I had all sorts of ambitions, but those have been scaled back. Especially any ambitions that involve shopping. Not that I’d be at risk for environmentally administered butthurt at, say, IKEA, because I’m so mellow as a cello right now that I just don’t give a rat’s patootie. So there.
What’s nice is that I my mellow vibe isn’t polluted by television. Imagine what a crinkly old cuss I’d be right now if I’d spent the morning watching political chatfests on TV, which essentially is several trouserloads of Republican Party propaganda and spin. Even on MSNBC, which isn’t long for this world in its present incarnation — once new NBC Universal owner Comcast gets hold of the cable network, Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow and the rest will be getting the bum’s rush. Given the kind of game Comcast has demonstrated already on its flagship network E!, we can expect that the new czar of programming will be Ryan Seacrest, with Chelsea Handler and the various Kardashian sisters and hangers-on handling the interviews. “So, Sarah, when you’re in Los Angeles, where’s your favorite place to go shopping? Have you ever been to Dash? Come to Dash, and bring a camera crew!”
Did I mention how much I loathe those swarthy Gabor Sisters? Comcast and Seacrest, too. —Jackson Griffith
Gosh darn it. How did I miss National Ice Cream Sandwich Day? I’m not sure what I was doing that Monday, which was August 2, but I really don’t think I bit into a delicious cold ice-cream sandwich at any time in that 24-hour period. Had I known, had I only known. However, I do know that World Sauntering Day is tomorrow, Saturday, August 28. Which is to say that this is not a day where you want people to say, “he or she strode purposefully along the boulevard” — headed toward fulfilling that target objective with one-pointed precision, like an ant carrying a pupa back to the nest. No, you want the world to see you ambling along the stroll, or strolling along the amble — something that comes utterly natural to me. Heck whiz, I’ve lived most of my life at a cool saunter, barely breaking into a heated clip over anything. Which, in certain quarters, like the French, is thoroughly fine, while in others, is utterly unacceptable.
The idea that we might choose our daily behaviors according to whatever promotion some publicist or trade group is putting forth seems kind of ludicrous, but it might be fun to live one’s life for an entire year by that awareness. It’s National Creamsicle Day? Jeez, where do you buy those? National Smoked Link Day? Sorry, but I’m a vegetarian. As for tomorrow, as in Saturday, I can handle a good saunter. However, I understand it’s also going to be National Peckerwood Take Back August 28 From Those Uppity Black People Day, and I don’t think I can participate in that one. More about that later. Dogwhistle neoconfederate bigotry is one thing; snacks and refreshments are another.
Oh, by the way: Monday is National Toasted Marshmallow Day. I know what I’ll be doing. Do you? —Jackson Griffith
Jeez. And I swear from the outset that I’m not going to waddle around in lachrymose ramblings, but fuck it: What is it that I’m not getting here? Some background: I think I’ve landed this fairly cool warehouse job, although there’s a bit of a learning curve, but I figure they’ll glean I’m no dummy and keep me on for a while. Yeah, I estimate I had a couple of tough days, but today seemed to go much smoother. So I clock out of work, no one says anything, I ride over to this temp agency that did the hiring, turn in some paperwork they’d asked me for, and no one says anything, begin riding back to the train station, get a flat tire on the way, get on the train, walk home, and the phone rings. It’s the woman from the temp agency, who says that the place I’d been working for the past seven days will not be needing my services tomorrow, or any day going forward. I mean, what the fuck?
Look, I’ve been through a lot. A fucking lot. I lost a bunch of things in a fire when part of my house burned down, and then my mother died from Alzheimer’s after we took care of her for a few years, and then my wife, well, let’s just say she was Tiger Woods and I was that blonde Swede except there was some even gnarlier details involving a National Book Award winner from Sacramento not named Joan Didion and his enthusiasm for certain ancient professions and leave it at that. So I got run out of my own house by Sheriff’s deputies one cold January night and kicked to the curb by my now ex-wife and her wonderful family of origin and some dick she met through her ancient professional work, after she got done being the understudy of the National Book Award winner from Sacramento not named Joan Didion, and I got so fucking depressed that I let my house go. A year before, I’d left the weekly newspaper where I’d been working because I no longer could put up with the dour whims of an abusive editor, and I stupidly went to work for a startup digital music company, a horribly defective mechanical carnival bronco I rode all the way to the bottom.
It was precisely the wrong time to be losing a job, so I collected unemployment. I thought I was in love with someone very sweet after my nasty comedy of a marriage, but apparently she felt otherwise, so that ended one night in her carport when she coolly informed me that she needed to be with someone who “had his shit together,” and that person wasn’t me. Yeah, okay, I mumble, my heart bouncing into the gutter. And then came my year and a half of stumbling around like some goddamn aging hipster bindlestiff, trying to make it on the nickels and dimes I could pull in from my brilliant writing career, starving for the first time since a childhood bout with poverty, dropping from 260 pounds to a lean 190. I became a very fashionable bicycle commuter, except it wasn’t by choice; I’d stopped driving because I couldn’t afford the car insurance, and then the small SUV I’d bought four years before got repossessed, because I couldn’t keep paying on it.
I was in dire straits, sleeping on a massage table in the spare room of a friend, two floors above a nightclub with a loud, throbbing and often annoying sound system that somehow I learned to sleep through. Guess growing up next to a Western Pacific track had a few unexpected benefits. My clothes were all worn out. I was down to my last pair of shoes, my last pair of pants, my last two pair of socks. My trusty steed of a bicycle had two bald tires and frayed brake cables and a shredded seat. And then I got this job.
I thought it was going to be perfect. I got my confidence back. I can do this, I thought. Yeah, the learning curve is tough, but they’ll give me a little bit of grace to figure this out and make it work, because it’s meant to be. I’ve paid my fuckin’ dues, and it’s time for me to rebuild my life. No, I wasn’t dreaming of any castle or monster daily driver, really; I figured I’d get me a small pad with a warm bed and a place to prepare food and a hook to hang my bicycle, along with a quiet spot to practice meditation and get back into a daily yoga regimen, somewhere in Midtown close to the light rail line so I could use public transportation to get to and from work. I was just starting to plan for a nice, reasonably austere life, probably by myself because I just don’t seem to be relationship material anymore, considering everything I’ve been through with marriage and heartbreak and stuff.
I kinda had some medium-sized plans. That is, until the rug got pulled from under me today.
Okay, so I don’t want to wallow in bathos here. Pretty much every challenge I face has its roots in something I did or didn’t do, like finish college. I’m not blaming anyone else for my predicament. But what I want to do here is talk about some of those medium-sized plans I had, plans that an aggregate of daily work plus the occasional writing assignment might help me make tangible.
I was looking forward to getting a few paychecks down the line, so I could go shopping for some clothes. You have no idea what it’s like to be down to your last pair of pants, because the rest of your trousers have fallen apart. And it isn’t like I can just go down to Thrift Town and get some el cheapo dungarees, because I heard “Hey, where’s the flood?” enough as a kid, and I never want to hear it again. (For those of you who don’t know me, I’m six foot seven, which makes pants shopping difficult; I usually have to buy new.) Having a little extra cash, with knowledge that more would be rolling in as long as I suited up and showed up, can provide a wonderful psychological boost, and I’d be able to buy soap and shampoo and get my bicycle fixed and who knows what else?
Once I’d done that, and then once I’d found a place of my own, with a warm bed and a kitchen and shower and other amenities, where I could hole up by my hermit self and write my little pop music masterpieces no one will ever hear and sing them to the walls, and then once I’d made some headway with some old bills and obligations, I was planning on beginning a quiet course of financial amends to those who generously came to my assistance in my time of need. A lot of people have helped me out since my life took a downward swoop, and although maybe they’ve written off their contributions as money pissed away on some loser, I haven’t forgotten them, and I really was looking forward to giving back, little by little. And once I’d made some headway on my financial amends, I was looking to start paying my good fortune forward, too.
One such recipient would have been my daughter Ellie, who just graduated from Chico State. I called her yesterday morning while I was on break at work and asked her how big her college loan debt was, and told her that I wanted to help her retire that sum, because that’s what a dad who loves his daughter will do when he has the wherewithal to make that happen. Shit. Now I have to put that off for, well, when?
Anyway, I’m tired. I got up at five this morning, was on the train at six, was at work before seven. I put in a good day’s work, and I walked out of there feeling good, feeling like I was just starting to get the hang of things. I laughed off a flat tire and thought, well, if I can just borrow a few bucks till payday, and then make it through until the end of the following week, I might be able to put a nice positive run together.
I know that a lot of people have written me off as some kind of loser. Fuck it. I don’t care what you think. I know in my heart that I’m not a loser in any way, shape or form. In my Walter Mitty world, as delusional as it might seem, I know I’m a smart, talented, capable, resourceful, highly creative, loving, compassionate and occasionally funny human being. I’ve been through enough trials and challenges over the course of the past decade to kill Job and half the other characters in the Old Testament, and I’ll put my hard times and bittersweet life experiences up against anyone’s. I’ve been there, I’ve paid my goddamn dues, and I’ve got the character and inner toughness to prove it. And frankly, any company that boots me out the door, especially without having the cojones to tell me to my face that I’m not cutting it, is fucking stupid, not to mention pussyass. Because I’m good, and if someone will put a little goddamn faith in me and what I can do, they’ll be rewarded a hundredfold.
So, well, you know that bit about me staying in Sacramento? Maybe now that just isn’t in the cards. Hell, I can barely get a music gig in this town anymore, while I see the same people getting bookings over and over (although I will be playing at Dad’s Sandwiches in Freeport on Tuesday, June 1 from 6 to 8 p.m., if you feel like coming by and throwing your spare pennies at me). I got nothing going here, really, and maybe it’s time for me to try my songs out on people elsewhere, because people in this town just don’t seem to “get” me. Their loss, really.
Hell, I’m tired. I’d go for a drink, but that stopped working for me a while back. Maybe I’ll just go walking around, looking at the night sky, wondering. I’d consider praying, but that doesn’t seem to be working out all that great, and to be honest, if any of my recovery pals were to offer bromides about my higher power or God or whatever, I’m not sure if I’d sock them in the kisser or tell them to fuck off. Most likely, I’d wheel around and walk away, laughing the bitter chuckle of a man who’s tired of getting dealt hands so difficult to play for a win. —Jackson Griffith