I had the honor of being invited to read a poem at The WALL Literary Journal’s event at Saddleback College on October 24. The poem, entitled “Experimentation,” was published earlier this year in the 2013 edition of the journal. I was admittedly a bit shaky going into it, as I had never done a reading in an academic environment (as most of my past readings were conducted in bar rooms, drug dens, etc. to mostly uninterested audiences). What’s more, I had no idea beforehand was going to be filmed and that they decided to headline me, so to speak. Anyways, it was a great time and, in spite of my nervousness and lack of practice (or perhaps because of it), I think I did all right.
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.
that’s the order of the day
in my fucking neighborhood.
Sometimes not even the most reasonable argument
or appealing remonstrance
will save your wallet
at 4 AM on Apgar Street.
I always fancied living in the Wild West,
playing Cowboys & Indians,
watching my back while I saunter down to the saloon
for some sweet whiskey and sour gash.
But I can’t buy a gun for another four years
(on account of trying to play Ezra Pound
circa ’45 or somewhere thereabouts).
And the streetwalkers out in front of the liquor store
ain’t exactly madams.
Besides, I wouldn’t get into a shootout over a 40 oz.–
that would be silly.