7:45 a.m.- My Volvo is Emma Thompson from the movie Wit; confident, invulnerable, and then something else. At one time she rested less than 25 feet from my bedroom window like a dark blue lioness, indifferently perusing the local environment with all of the certainty that the top of the food chain is accorded. Like Emma, there was no part of her that I would not happily lick. But now she is excreting various rainbow inducing fluids, dry-heaving sluggish billows of blotchy smoke, and seeming to be looking to me for answers; answers that we are both certain do not exist.
8:05 a.m.- I vaguely feel as though I am embarking upon a tremendous adventure, carefully tying the shoes that I almost never wear and meticulously arranging, the way a Spec Op surely would, the necessary tools- iPod/headphones/wallet/do I need the Leatherman?- but catch myself and immediately feel ridiculous. I head out wondering if there might be some chemical explanation for all of this.
9:15 a.m.- Walking sucks. I feel as though I should somehow be above this. When we are young we are often puzzled by the fact that each person we
admire seems to have a different version of what life ought to be, what a
good man is, how to live, and so on. The two drunken teenagers who seem to have established permanent residence somewhere within my consciousness and who have clearly been designated to debate 'important matters' are going at each other over whether or not I should have chosen The Denial of Death as my early morning walking soundtrack. Both of them are wrong.
10:23 a.m.- Is it possible that someone has poisoned my feet? Can you do that? I feel as though I am walking upon Belladonna infused pillows of calculated revenge. Who have I wronged to such an extent? Clearly a frustrated botanist of some sort; someone with access to my teas.
10:37 a.m.- I pretend to not heavingly lunge into the Convention Center light rail station, at once overjoyed by the fact that I will soon be off of my poisoned feet but dismayed by the fact that I will still have a 30 minute walk, after the final stop, to my trumpet lesson. Non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere.
11:13 a.m.- I smugly walk through the doors of Music-Go-Round, a local music store, fairly certain that I have accomplished something remarkable. No one seems to notice and I am too much of a gentleman to bring it up.
11:45 a.m.- I have a great lesson with an awesome nine year old who is going to be far better at the trumpet than I ever was.
12:47 p.m.- The fact that I am nearly out of cigarettes makes me want one in an almost sexual fashion. There is a liquor store down the street from the music store. I decide to switch to music for the walk home. Hey, I guess you're lonely, when I gave, you only took. So then it's stranger than its ever been. I guess it's what you wanted. If it was cloudier I would be happy. Still, I am something close to happy.
1:05 p.m.- For a guy who is legitimately misanthropic I have a great rapport with local shop owners. The guys who run the 7-11 by my house are virtually kin, and the dude at this place smiles at me as though he has been waiting months for the opportunity. It is the summer of my smiles - flee from me Keepers of the Gloom. I grab a bottle of grapefruit juice, a pack of American Spirit Menthol (for no sociological reason whatsoever, although I sometimes feel as though it may help) and a small bottle of Vikingfjord Vodka, which I would never have bought if not for Joe Rizzi; fucking marketing.
1:25 p.m.- It's not easy to fill a bottle of grapefruit juice on a busy public road in the middle of the day without drawing attention. Yeah, in tight bursts is the lyric I use to muster the courage. Once again the teenagers in my brain are restless.
1:45 p.m.- Stalactites, stalagmites, shut me in, lock me tight... it seems early, but it's on. Oh yeah, I forgot to eat. Something about the blood barrier in the stomach. My feet no longer hurt. Neither do my perennially chaffing thighs. Damn good thighs. If my Volvo was my thighs then this story would not exist. No knock on you, Emma.
1:58 p.m.- Last week fucked around and got a triple double. This lyric has suddenly made me acutely aware of the discrepancy between how I am viewing myself (prowling the streets with an intentionally reserved bad ass menace) and how I am viewed by others (he doesn't appear to be homeless, but something's up.)
2:15 p.m.- When you make a mistake walking it takes much more time than could be usefully utilized in a blog piece. Mine involved a psuedo-court and several diligent locals. They were pleasant, but I was nearly in tears when I realized the amount of backtracking that would be involved. I did have a plan. I was going to go to the bowling alley near Union Ave. There I would order a double vodka grapefruit and casually ask for a pen, as though I didn't have a care in the world, and sign my lesson check so that I could take it to the bank in the complex. I don't feel the way I ever felt: well, not quite true, but the song kills and made my questions seem irrelevant.
2:20 p.m.- I wrote my bro and Palladino what I thought was a penetratingly meaningful text regarding the futility of existence. It wasn't.
2:37 p.m.- Honestly. I'm not sure the bus is even coming. Do they run on Christmas Eve at this time? What the fuck are these people... oh, here it is. She seems uncertain. I don't know how long she has been a bus driver, but she clearly lacks the wound. Give it up to me, give it up to me, do you want to be my angel? I don't let her know.
3:12 p.m.- She turned out to be very helpful. Now I am waiting for the #60 bus, that she recommended, to take off. The new driver is clearly horrible. I ask him when we will leave. He says four minutes. I tell him I'm going to take a quick smoke. He says that's OK, just as long as you don"t exhale near his bus. Dick! He looks like Pruitt Taylor Vince's stunt double. I get back on the bus and sulk into a far away seat. Turns out he is an awesome dude. Lots of cool info about unions- paranoia, paranoia, everybody's coming to get me- and the general obligations of a VTA bus driver. I am in fine form. Am I? I could be worse.
3:45 p.m.- Home. Every part of me hurts. The interior of my right elbow; many unfortunate things taking place on a cellular level; my xiphoid process, disastrously. But it is obvious that I have won. Irony leaves no residue. I lurch down the hallway in mock celebration clutching at framed photos of people who are not my family: And I'll find strength in pain, and I will change my ways, I'll know my name as it's called again.
4:45 p.m.- Christmas(ish.)
Sunday, December 23, 2012
From the $3200 ostrich-lined mesh unitards to the boyish good looks of Kate Moss, the world of high fashion has always been an impenetrable enigma. It is a world populated by exotically mute Vikingettes who distantly tower over you from every magazine cover and who seem, somehow, to lack bodily fluids of any kind. They exude a mixture of allure and decay that can only be explained by years of dietary heroin suppositories and three day weekends with 'funny uncles.' And they cast no shadows; they are the perfect Tabula Rasa. Advertising executives bank on the fact that we will project our many unreachable masturbatory fantasies onto these glossy black-and-whites as we deliberate the relative merits of Old Navy and The Gap.
This, of course, is precisely what we do. But why? If a nation as intelligent, sophisticated, self-aware, grounded, subtle, profound, disciplined, keenly observant, and self-actualized as ours can be so easily manipulated, then surely a force with uncanny power must be at work. Fashion Moguls and Demiurges are notoriously reluctant to discuss such things. But in an effort to find answers, I came across a genuine rarity. A model, an insider, who was willing, and had the capacity, to speak.
Sitting across the table from me, at Sunnyvale's impossibly posh Fibbar MaGees, he looked almost normal. You would never have guessed that he was modeling's "Next Big Thing." He was clearly nervous, as evidenced by the fact that he had barely touched his free-range salmon cubes that were marinated in mango chutney and placed atop a bed of pine-nut infused mixed greens, candied olives and pan-seared marshmallows and that had a cloud of whipped cream, raisins, and corn floating a full three inches above it, (which reminds me of another article I'll have to write for this fucking thing.) He had also insisted on taking a seat that faced the entrance and I knew I would have to be extremely gentle with him.
"It's the hands."
His voice was barely audible and had a furtive, resigned quality. For reasons that should be obvious I will not use his real name. "Mark Schnittker" was introduced into modeling, through the Boy Scouts, at the relatively advanced age of thirty-seven. But his lack of experience was easily overcome by a kind of vulnerable innocence and a tremendous shock of thick red hair. He quickly moved from Sears catalogs to the cover of Seventeen and this is when he had his first encounter with the Fashion Cabal.
While on location in the Cayman Islands, "Mark" was asked to strike a pose that suggested power and confidence. He opted for the traditional arms crossed over the chest, feet slightly apart, method. An ominous hush fell over the set and children could be heard crying in the distance. He realized that something had gone horribly wrong but was unable to place it. It was then that several helicopters swooped down onto the beach. From one of them, a small old man, dressed in black and covered in blankets, was wheeled through the set by a gigantic Filipino woman and placed directly at "Mark's" back.
At first, he could hear a single voice speaking angrily in a language he couldn't understand. This was followed by a deeper resonant voice and a hand that came to rest upon his shoulder. "You have made a grave error. This shoot is finished." Startled, "Mark" moved to turn around, but the hand on his shoulder tightened its grip and he collapsed to the ground in pain and lost consciousness.
He came to, several hours later, and found himself alone on the deserted beach. Struggling to regain his bearings, he noticed what appeared to be writing in the sand near the water. He moved over to take a look and was barely able to read it before a rogue wave crashed onto the shore and obliterated every word.
Most of the crowd had left Fibbars and "Mark" was visibly shaken by the re-telling of this terrible story. His famous red hair was matted against the sweat on his forehead. He reached out and downed his pomegranate martini in one desperate gulp. Looking again at the clock, he said, "It was a rookie mistake; one that I'll never be able to get over."
He looked me in the eyes for the first time that night. He was nearly weeping. "When I struck that pose, I had covered my hands with my arms. You must show your hands." Abruptly, and without warning, he shot up from the table and ran from the bar, shrieking, "You couldn't see them! YOU COULDN'T SEE THEM!"
I have since done a great deal of research. The world of fashion is as tight-lipped as Scientology, and precisely as meaningful, but, through the Freedom of Information Act, and a couple of well placed indulgences, I was able to get my hands on their charter.
It is an ugly and severe document of more than 2000 pages and is not fit reading for any person who hopes to retain even a modest portion of their humanity. I made it one third of the way through the introduction before buying an incinerator, assembling it, and then throwing the damned thing into it. But it was too late. Right there, on page four, was this:
Regarding the assumption of, or request thereof, a physical gesture indicating power, confidence, or any related sub-virtue (cf. pp138), the subject must, in lieu of contradicting features, attendant to, but not limited by, said gesture, will, in accordance with addendum 9 to sec 3J-209.3, and in good faith, make visible, and in reasonable (as defined by subjugate protocol) time, said subject's posterior ancillary extremities, or "hands", the withholding of which will result in the de facto forfeiture of said subject's elan or vital fluids.
It is a sad and beautiful world. I have been unalterably changed. How does one maintain hope in the face of such obvious malevolence? As my philosophy professor, Joe Steinke, once said: Knowledge makes a bloody entrance. And it is easy, now, to understand why I have a closet full of Prada bags and Vera Wang shoes.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Jet Magazine; Issue 376; December 2012.
Early Thanksgiving morning I received a call from Jet magazine's long time entertainment editor, Dastephen "Drizz" Broadus, who was nearly in tears as he described an album he had come across and the immediate effect it had upon him. The album that produced such a reaction was 'Cinco' from a San Jose band by the name of Corduroy Jim. 'Drizz' wanted me to not just review the album, but to find out how such a work could possibly have human origins. I was solemnly informed that I would receive an unlimited budget and unprecedented access, and that the future of Jet magazine, and perhaps that of music, was now in my hands.
Raymond St. Martin had a vision; a serenely tactile sensation that started at the base of his spine and moved up, in soft metallic tendrils, through his heart and lungs where it gathered momentum, spiraling through his neck and finally exploding with inhuman light into his brain: "Cinco."
I first met Raymond on a rainy Tuesday morning as he was kneeling on a handwoven mat in front of his teepee, deep in the Santa Cruz mountains. He looked up at me with large knowing eyes and motioned for me to sit beside him. I had spoken with him earlier, over the phone, at great length about his process and the genesis of 'Cinco' and I was eager to hear more.
I had listened to the album several times on the drive up and was struck by the variety of euphoric sensations that it produced in me. From the sylvan rumble of "Home" to the plaintive lament of "Little Child" to the effervescence of "Purple Light" I found myself navigating unfamiliar waters of emotion and sound that were at once frightening and alluring.
"I was not always a child of this Earth," Raymond breathlessly said, describing his first conception of the album. The rain had stopped and two more of the band members, Richard "Richie" Thomas and Martin Rodriguez, had arrived with a twelve pack of Sierra Nevada IPA and what appeared to be a crystal goblet filled with verdant foliage.
Richie, who is apparently Australian, wrote the song "Little Child," which one reviewer described as '... an anthem, in 3/3, that is littered with 'prog-rock'." It starts off with Raymond's trademark Juno stylings and quickly moves into a syncopated Bacchanal, thrusting and churning with dark insinuation as a cloud of ethereal synth-nuances floats over a sophisticated, but not pretentious, guitar ostinato. Richie sings this tune with a worldly voice, as though acknowledging the inherent limitations of human striving while, at the same time, extolling the virtues of responsible parenting.
Raymond went on about his efforts to get his message out to the world through music, saying more than once and with great emphasis that he was much more than a "luxury" for this band, when a figure clad entirely in white emerged from the woods and silently sat down beside us.
Michael Palladino has been Corduroy Jim's drummer for twenty-three years and is universally considered the spiritual center of the band. I was informed that Michael had taken a vow of silence while he was continuing his studies at the Unitarian seminary. Looking over the group he lightly tapped his fingers over his freshly pressed white tunic and the rest of the guys laughed at what was clearly some kind of inside-joke.
"Home" is a Martin Rodriguez composition that clearly reflects his Appalachian roots. It is clean, forthright, and of the soil. Home is not a concept Martin takes lightly, and you can hear it in his subtle approach to the acoustic guitar. "I don't play the guitar," he has often said. "I let the guitar play me." And play him it does! This tune has been seen on the iPods of such luminaries as Griffen Dunne and Doris Kearns Goodwin, and now, thankfully, this very author's as well.
"Thief-The Ballad of Johnny Cat" is a Martin Rodriguez composition that clearly reflects his metropolitan roots. It is powerful, moving, and of the street. The song, as such, is clearly an interior journey through the vibrating unconscious self, speaking to you in the galvanizing tones of an, as yet, unwritten language as it guides you to an understanding that exceeds the human capacity for wonder. It also has a guitar solo.
Nick "Mooshie" Chargin drove up in a sort of orange-ish boxy thing and parked next to one of the many outdoor kilns. He is the band's long time keyboardist and vocalist and he looks as though he could be Paul Newman's less glamorous but equally charming second cousin. He is also responsible for the tune "Purple Light."
As a Dungeons and Dragons aficionado myself, I immediately recognized that the tune was about the Arch-Palladin Quentinal's treacherous odyssey into the underworld to retrieve the Violet Crystal of Wandering from the mad half-orc, Phino, who had stolen it from its rightful heir, the Prophet Esmerelda. Mooshie subtly references the ritual mythology of the Valyrician Society with the line, "Dancing in the purple light," and it is so refreshing to see this topic finally represented, in a serious work of art, the way it was meant to be. Bravo, Mr. Chargin!
The sun was beginning to disappear behind the redwood canopy and I knew this would be my last opportunity to find out what I could about this band's monumental achievement. As if anticipating my question Michael began to hover, ever so slightly, off of the ground and Raymond leaned in to whisper: The total is greater than the sum of its parts. A wolf bayed in the distance and the smell of vegan flat bread began to emanate from the warmly glowing teepee. I made my way to my car and was about to get in when I remembered something.
"Oh yeah, don't you guys have a bass player."
"Yeah, he's in my car over there," Nick said, pointing to the orange-ish boxy thing. "He hates this kind of shit."
"Didn't he write one of the songs?" I asked. "I haven't gotten to it yet."
"Eeets cowled beelowe," Richie said.
"What's it about?"
"I think it's about boating," Marty said. "Or maybe some kind of fishing, like net-fishing or something."
"I'm pretty sure it is about fly-fishing," said Raymond as he swung his arms in a mock fisherman's style.
"He likes fishing, a lot," said Nick.
And with that I left them to the night.
Back at my house I listened to the album again a couple of times. Not bad. Four and a half stars out of five and two thirds.