Category Archives: Memoirs

Clowns

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Clowns

I am a grown man and I collect clowns. Statues, dolls, paintings, photographs, knick-knacks, flower vases, ashtrays, coffee mugs, music boxes, picture frames: anything having to do with clowns, I dig. Now, I am fully aware that this is not typical behavior for a somebody my age, and if I had one clown item for every time a friend, family member, or girlfriend has voiced this sentiment, well, I’d probably have the same amount of clown items that I do now. Which is a lot.

I keep clowns everywhere. I have so many clowns in my room that people who know me have dubbed it “The Clown Room,” a title that I probably find more endearing than it is intended to be. I even have a couple in my car: a painted statuette of a magician clown nestled in my center console and a clown on a swing that I rigged up from the rear passenger window so that it actually swings while the car is in motion. The latter is an exceptionally cute little conversation piece:

“I just love your Cadilla—Is that a clown on a swing?”

“Yes. Yes, it is.”

“You know, where I’m going isn’t too far of a walk. You can let me out here…”

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No Nostalgia Sundays (Time Travel Edition II): Welcome To Berkeley*

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No Nostalgia Sundays (Time Travel Edition II): Welcome To Berkeley*

I moved to Berkeley in the summer of 2006 to attend university. I had never been to the Bay Area before, but I somehow knew that I was meant to go there—whether I liked it or not. You see, Berkeley had been the stomping ground of a lot of my childhood heroes, and I desperately wanted to inject myself into that paradigm: Aaron Cometbus, Billie Joe Armstrong, Allen Ginsberg, Jeff Ott, and Gary Snyder all came out of the B-Town existence, and that’s where I wanted to be, man.

To me, Berkeley was where poets and punks came from or, if they weren’t from there, went to do some damage. And I aimed to do a lot of damage.

As a teenager, I collected records compulsively, especially ones by East Bay Punk bands like Crimpshrine, Operation Ivy, and a slew of lesser known Gilman Street regulars. I had hundreds of them, and I would even hunt down different pressings of the same release for completion’s sake. I would spend hours and hours listening to them and reading the inserts, fantasizing about how radical it would be to actually be a part of the whole scene and see all these bands play 924 Gilman Street, which was pretty much fucking Mecca as far as I was concerned. Later on, when I discovered Ginsberg and all those other beat cats, I felt the same wistful longing to be involved with that scene, despite the fact that it too was decades removed from me.

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No Nostalgia Sundays: New Shoes (And Real Old Poetry)

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No Nostalgia Sundays: New Shoes (And Real Old Poetry)

Summer of 2003 was not a good one for me: I had lost my first love, caught my first pair of handcuffs, and was just generally blowing it all around. I had been an adult (on paper, at least) for just a handful of months and I had already begun to muck things up pretty badly. In hindsight, however, it may have been one of my better summers out of the ensuing decade. Not to say that this one was good, because it totally fucking wasn’t, but the sad reality is that I was merely getting started with my misadventurous journey, the trend of which would be things growing ever worse (and never better).

I had turned eighteen with little fanfare, from others or myself. The only thing that seemed to change for me when I hit that dull milestone was that I became a little more aware of the fact that I was expected to figure out what I was to do with my life, or at the very least make the appearance of doing so. But I didn’t really want to get a haircut and I wasn’t really qualified for a real job, so I had to pick something that was more aligned with my lifestyle back then.

Basically, something that would complement the odd hours I kept and the bad habits I was into, but also had some semblance of respectability. The obvious choice was to become a writer. It seemed to me that writers were encouraged, perhaps even obligated, to live a reckless existence, and I, all of eighteen whole years, was already way ahead of the curve on this one. Yes, I thought to myself, I will make a fantastic fucking writer.

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No Nostalgia Sundays: Pistolwhip’s Passing (And Poetic Parlor Tricks)

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No Nostalgia Sundays: Pistolwhip’s Passing (And Poetic Parlor Tricks)

While attending university, I spent more time in barrooms than I did in classrooms. I don’t think this was a conscious decision on my part, it’s just that classes were held on set days for predetermined periods of time and bars weren’t. Most students seemed to prefer boring places to study like the library or cafes, but I was always of the opinion that bars were the best places to get schoolwork done– even if I’d end up getting so drunk that I’d forget my completed assignments when I left.

The funny bit about all of my bargazing was that I hated all the bars in Berkeley, and yet I found myself at Kip’s and Blake’s and even the fucking Bear’s Lair nearly every day. I mean, the Bear’s Lair didn’t even serve liquor, for Christ’s sake (as in the Japanese wine, which they also did not serve).

I would usually choose Kip’s out of the bunch because it was the scummiest and I preferred dive bars over the more frat-friendly establishments. The bartender there also made an all right Irish Car Bomb and, after becoming accustomed to my drinking habits, would oblige me when I would order two or three at a time for myself. One time though I walked in there at eight AM while the dude was cleaning and tried to do the same. He looked at me funny and told me that he didn’t open for six hours or something and that I would have to come back. I was really perplexed; why would a bar not be open that early? When I moved to Oakland the next year, I found that the people there seemed to agree with me, because the bars were always open around sunrise when I needed to treat some shakes.

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Dear Dionysus XXXVI: Beansprout Dracula

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Dear Dionysus XXXVI: Beansprout Dracula

Dear Dionysus,

I don’t want you getting the impression that the only women we interacted with over there were prostitutes. That wasn’t the case at all. After a week or so of trying and failing to have any sort of meaningful interaction with German girls (solely for Franky’s benefit of course), we started to have a bit more luck.

Our luck started with kabob.

You see, Dionysus, we would stay out to all hours of the night drinking, and we’d inevitably get hungry, except the only spots open that late were kabob stands. They were like the German equivalent of Del Taco, except a little less accommodating to a vegetarian of my convictions. I didn’t touch meat then, mate, which meant that I usually A) sucked it up and went hungry or B) drank more beer because, after all, beer was food, really.

One night we were hanging around one of these kabob stands, and were already a little tipsy. Franky and Yorick were devouring their Döner which, despite it’s revolting appearance, was rather appetizing– according to them at least. We had been bar-hopping, although none of the bars were very interesting and we didn’t stay at any longer than a drink or two. We had no idea where we were going to spend the remainder of the night.

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No Nostalgia Sundays: Hanging With Mr. Carter (And The Acid Kid)

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No Nostalgia Sundays: Hanging With Mr. Carter (And The Acid Kid)

My first year at Berkeley, I resided in the Channing-Bowditch student apartments, which was a far less interesting place to live than the co-ops or dormitories. The apartments reminded me of the waiting room at the doctor’s office, only the magazine selection was a little worse.

I composed the following poem my second semester. My first semester had been largely spent doing every conceivable thing I could think of to get expelled so that I could return home with a (not really) valid excuse: I attended class infrequently, got written up for drinking dozens of times (a building record if I’m not mistaken), and acted erratically.

Basically, I was just being my normal, lovable self.

But I didn’t get expelled, and my second semester found me living with The Acid Kid* in room #233. Every apartment in the building had the exact same layout: two bedrooms with two beds each and an adjoining shared kitchen, living room, and bathroom. The Acid Kid and I shared one room, and these two real square kids shared the other. I think they were engineering majors or something equally lame, but they didn’t drink or smoke or curse or fuck or anything. They were there to study and better themselves and were, as you may imagine, not into the perpetual soiree of self-destruction that Acid Kid and myself had going on.

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No Nostalgia Sundays: All Allusions Go To Ante-Purgatory

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No Nostalgia Sundays: All Allusions Go To Ante-Purgatory

Oh, what a clever little git I was at the tender age of nineteen.

Here’s the deal: Circa 2004, I was attending community college and taking lots of Honors English courses. I was devouring volumes of literature and poetry, both for and outside of class curriculums. I had just begun composing poetry seriously, which in this instance means that I would dedicate a few hours each night to scribble drunkenly in those ridiculous little Moleskine journals.* Ninety-nine percent of the time, I couldn’t decipher what I had written the next morning and I certainly couldn’t remember what I had been trying to get across. I thought I was smarter than all of the other students (a debatable claim) and, furthermore, totally set apart from them, both by choice and by default.

I wanted to be just like all of those writers and artists and musicians I dug so much, and I thought this required a certain level of exile (self-imposed and otherwise). My peers didn’t understand me, but all these dead cats that I studied did: Dante, Poe, Shakespeare, et al were my pals, and I spent more time with them than my real-life friends. In fact, I developed a juvenile sense of jealousy about all those guys. Whenever somebody else would talk about one of them (as is likely to happen in, say, an English class), I would often grow indignant and offended: “How could you say that about Will Shakes?! You’re wrong! YOU’RE FUCKING OUT OF LINE, PROF!”

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Deconstructing Pinocchio; or, Will The Real Boy Please Stop Dancing?

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Deconstructing Pinocchio; or, Will The Real Boy Please Stop Dancing?

I don’t think Walt Disney intended for Pinocchio to be an absolutely terrifying experience for his audience, but to me it certainly was. Living wooden puppets with bugs for consciences and creepy old men who are really into making said puppets and also other creepy old men that are really into taking said puppets and turning them into slave donkeys and some fairy chick who essentially just popped in from time to time when things get especially fucked to say “I told you so” and bail?

I’m pretty sure that movie was my first drug experience.

I was about five or so when I first saw the film and heard the song “I’ve Got No Strings,” but it wasn’t until my early twenties that I got anything out of either (aside from sheer terror). In college, I developed a fondness for the Bildungsroman and picaresque novel, two forms of storytelling that I related to on a personal level. Read the rest of this entry

Tender(loin) Memories

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I just remembered I did this radical electro-thrash-punk project in 2007. We played gay bars in the Tenderloin and purloined drinks off of old chickenhawking men. It was pretty rad from what I remember (not much). Think Le Tigre with a couple more sex changes and some PCP.

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CLICK THE PICTURE TO LISTEN TO SOME JAMS AND TAKE A TRIP DOWN MYSPACE MEMORY LANE!

Scaredy Cats & School Buses

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Scaredy Cats & School Buses

Scroll to the bottom to play the song that this piece concerns.

It was summertime and I was riding the bus to Santa Ana. I was dressed in denim from head to toe, despite the fact that there were ninety degrees of dry heat outside and probably at least a dozen more inside of that bus. I was sweating straight through my denim, but it wasn’t the heat—I was fiending.

Riding the bus to go pick up is a hellish endeavor no matter what the weather: four hours of slow window-gazing, plus a couple of transfers and however long the runner makes you wait when you finally get there. Sing those shaky, sweaty, sickly summertime blues, kid—ain’t no cure but the cause, dig?

Yeah, I dig: unemployable, clothed in rags, carless, and reduced to hunting down highs on a glorified Greyhound bus.

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