Wednesday, November 14, 2001
Being in large groups of people makes me nervous. Especially at Digital Showcases where the people seem so aloof. To me, at least. I’m aloof myself, I guess, but that’s because I’m nervous. And the cycle continues… I just don’t know what to do with people sometimes. I like you and I think you’re cool and good and I want to know you but I just don’t always have that much to say and when I don’t have much to say I don’t like to say much… Ugh. Two people told me they’d read my Blog recently, though — it’s good to know people in my “real world” read this crap and not just strangers searching for “gloryhole girls” on Google.
Anyway, I had a long conversation with Joe from Iowa tonight. I think he was kinda drunk because on one trip up the stairs to the loft at Texture, he blurted out that he wanted a Texas girl and that what Digital Showcase night needed to spice it up properly were girls dancing in cages. I have to admit, Digital Showcase seems like such a family affair right now, I have to admit. It doesn’t drip sex or strangeness — it’s digital musicians hunched behind laptops and gear and video projection artists who either hunch behind their gear or set their work in motion and then go into the crowd. And the crowd is groups of two-to-six people clustered together talking about whatever or “networking.” (The Austin Chronicle gave us an appropriate award: “Best Digital Networking.” They didn’t mean that our computers communicated clearly over distances…) Joe wanted the event to jump out at the audience more, to not be passive and ambient but to be more there.
Before I start criticizing, I’m not going to diss Todd’s job putting these things together. He finds good musicians and (with the recent help of Ginny) video artists and I probably don’t know half of the actual prosaic work that goes into putting the whole thing together. They’re solid art events. But I think Joe had a point…
I talked with people for most of this show and for most of the last Texture show (in September) and I didn’t really pay much attention to the music except every now and then and just simple awareness of it existing in the background of my conversations. I could give a few words about each artist and tell you which I prefered over the others (tonight the crown went to Flowchart), but if pressed I wouldn’t be able to give an honest reading of the musicians’ skills… I mean, there’s more to music than just the sounds being created at any one moment — the juxtaposition of different elements, crescendoes, decrescendoes, developing sonic ideas… You just can’t hear these when the music comes to you in several second bursts between comments in your conversation about “Waking Life.”
I become worried that all of this “art” isn’t real. That the reason we get together at Texture or the Red Fez isn’t primarily to experience new art — it’s to meet people and hang out in a trendy environment. (Not that there’s anything wrong with hanging out in a trendy environment, but I already have ways to do that without having to move risers at 2:30 in the morning.) I almost feel the music is almost arbitrary to the event — anything providing a hip backbeat might do. I remember being disappointed after first playing a Showcase because I got almost no feedback. I’d taken some time to put pieces together in a certain way to achieve certain effects. Afterwards some people applauded but only a couple people tried to say anything to me about what they heard — and even that wasn’t much. There’s a famous John Cage quote: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Maybe that’s true for talking about music, as well. Especially when you’re talking to a weird tall guy you don’t really know…
I don’t know. It’s 4:30 in the morning, now, and the Joy Division CD just ended and I think I’m launching into deep space without a real point. I wasn’t in so many conversations at the last Digital Showcase — I listened to the music more and felt I got a better idea of what the artsts were doing. Rich Bailey did some cool shit, as usual, and I liked what I heard of Mr. Projectile. Their art jumped out at me for some reason like girls dancing in cages would. (Well, sort of.)
I feel like I’m drifting into negativity and I don’t feel negatively about the event at all… Maybe I’ll think about this as I sleep and will have more to say about it tomorrow. Maybe I should do less “saying” and more “doing.”
Monday, November 12, 2001
In our continuing coverage of the music production occurring on the other side of the house: Kurt’s working like a madman getting his track together for the split 7” with Lusine ICL. This has been going on since at least Thursday, for at least five hours a day (maybe I exaggerate) and I’m getting to know this track so intimately that I almost feel it’s my own. The track’s good, though, so I’ve asked for an mp3 copy when he’s finished and I might post it here just for fun and just because it’s been a part of my daily life since I got back from California. Since it will be for an official, copyrighted release, I might have to make sure that’s okay, first, though. Bloing plarnk buwing.
Saturday, November 10, 2001
I’m in my room back at the Merrie Lynn house listening to Kurt construct his latest blip-collage. (Kurt’s “the Buddy System,” for those of you tracking the scene.) It’s, oh, 12:15 and I’ve been listening to the same riff slowly evolve for the past couple of hours. I like it. It’s good — and I think Kurt cranks out some damn fine work — but I have to laugh at it a little, too. I do the same thing. Any artist works like this, I suppose: concentrating on their work one piece at a time in a way that might seem agonizingly boring for the common human. One of the reasons I moved in here with Kurt was to learn some about the working habits of a musician like myself, so I’m happy. All is well.
My family’s throwing me a little party at my parent’s house this evening. My uncle Brian and parents will be there, probably. My birthday’s been a slow process more than a single event. On my actual birthday (October 27th) I spent most of my time preparing my costume for the Halloween party in San Francisco. The only “happy birthday” to it was a phone call I made to my grandparents in Pennsylvania (my mom was there, also) and one to my dad. And Melissa and Samantha singing me “happy birthday” at the house in Berkeley. Abby sent me an electronic greeting card and I got a voice mail from Claire the next day. My parents gave me their gifts when I got back from Cali Wednesday evening. Besides funding another year’s cellphone service (a good chunk of cash), they got me the sort of usual strange gifts… Two large plastic containers of chocolate-covered cashews and almonds and some scented candles and a candle holder. I must send out information that I don’t know about or something. Gifts from my family are amusing. Brian gave up a while ago (like the ninth grade) trying to buy me music that I didn’t specifically ask for and started giving me money (although one gift I remember very well was his gift to me in the eighth grade of R.E.M.’s “Out of Time” tape and an Amy Grant (heh!) tape). Mamie gives me little gifts quite often, usually something like origami paper which I’m fine with since I like to fold origami and little cranes and critters make clever adornments for cards and packages for friends. My grandparents have very strange tastes — oftentimes giving me stuff like canned soup and socks for gifts in addition to more creative paraphenalia and money. My gift from them this year was just money. Helpful, considering these times.
Anyway, I don’t know. Birthdays have never been big events for me. I’ll probably call a few close friends and try to go out and get a few drinks or something next week as a little celebration, even though by that time my real birthday will have been several weeks long gone. Oh well.
The bleeps still pour out of Kurt’s room (and now the phone’s ringing). Well, now Kurt’s on the phone and everything’s stopped except for a low resonant bonbobong. Kurt’s melodies usual sound very atonal and strange but they work — they’re catchy. I don’t know if the atonality is Kurt just putting notes together that sound interesting without worrying about making proper chords or if I don’t have the music background to understand what he’s really doing. I would hope the former because I think one of the benefits of this era of DIY music is not having to worry about the formal structures and just being able to play around with what actually feels good. (As in music, so in life…)
Tuesday, November 6, 2001
Daud — or “Dave,” as they call him in California — said I should name one of my posts “Beer and Nuts.” A couple of evenings ago I thought it funny that we had three beers and a sack of mised nuts in the trush… It doesn’t seem so funny now, but at the time, well. Anyway.
The bigger issue would be my finally getting try surfing, after a somewhat dramatic couple of days of thinking I’d blown my chance. You see, when I checked my financial situation on Thursday, I realized that I’d been overspending and that spending $70 to take a surfing lesson would be out of the question, unless I didn’t want to eat or take the bus back to LA for my flight home. Argh. I made some quick calculations to see how much I would get for, say, selling the books I’ve read ont he trip and some of the older clothes I brought with me… Nothing close to $70, for sure. So, well, I just went back to the hostel and grumped to myself and watched a couple of movies with the people at the hostel (Adam had checked out “Simon Birch,” “Taxi Driver,” and something else from the library that morning). I enjoyed the movies — “Taxi Driver” more than “Simon Birch,” though the latter has that wholesome New England sentimental sparkle that makes everything seem noble, and played a game of chess with Adam.
Warren, the 36 year old Brit with short, bleached hair and a loud voice, gave us some commentary on the moral ambiguity “Taxi Driver.” “You have a hero, you see,” (not his exact words, but my imitation — read with thick accept and hand-gestures) “who does the wrong thing, but ends up accidentally doing the right thing and getting lauded for it. It’s morally ambiguous. How do you judge what he’s done?” “Taxi Driver,” for those not paying attention, recounts the tale of one Travis Bickle (de Niro, of course), a solitary sort of guy who drives a cab in New York City. He decides to assassinate a presidential candidate named “Palantine,” but fails. Instead, he ends up using the same resources he built up to kill Palantine (guns, gun skills, money, strength) to rescue a twelve-year-old prostitute (Jodie Foster) from the clutches of a pimp named Snake (A young’n’buff Harvey Keitel). (Been reading too many movie blurbs, have you, Josh?) British Warren compared it to another movie he’d seen in which a man rapes a young woman who has been in a coma for years — and the trauma brings her out of the coma and back into life. Is he a good guy? Is he bad? Was the action good, bad? It’s a simple little mental-moral game, I suppose. I had some other thoughts about “Taxi Driver” that came from my government class last year and have more to do with the idea that people have the will to express themselves upon the world, and channels must be made available to allow this to happen constructively or else it will happen destructively. I could write more, but not now.
We watched these movies and stayed up and talked and then went to bed. I stayed up later than everyone else to read some silly travel essays before going to bed myself. My bed was covered in sand from my shoes Wednesday night, making me a little uncomfortable, but I slept.
The next day I got up and had my usual fresh pancakes, cooked in the hostel courtyard and served of a surfboard for a $2 donation. The weather stayed chilly in Santa Cruz the whole time, the mornings especially so. I had to take off by 10 AM, as usual, and walked out Cliff Drive to a bus stop to catch a bus up to UCSC (which I did not do, it turns out, as I wrote below in my UCSC post). The 10 AM rule comes from an agreement the hostel has with the city and the neighbors. The property is technically a city park, so between 10 and 5 PM the buildings have to be locked and the people out so that other folks can come enjoy the little park between the buildings. I don’t know if many people actually did this, but that was the idea. And then we had an 11 PM curfew and were not allowed ot have alcohol on the property to keep us relatively quiet as an agreement with the neighbors.
(Time to go put my laundry in the drier…)
So, yeah, I’ve written about my time at UCSC already. I got a ride up there with some business major kids and read a book about Charles Bukowski which caused some questions to come into my head. After I left he library I got sort of lost on campus — not difficult to do without a map — and wandered in fear and forest and dark and cold for about a half-hour before coming to a major road with a bus that (thankfully) took me right down to Pacific Avenue in downtown.
So I got back to the hostel, where Adam had two more movies (“The Red Violin” and “Under a Cherry Moon”). One of the desk staff, Cora (I think) sat and watched some of “The Red Violin” with us, which was really cool because she’s my age and is from Ireland and has big blue eyes and slighty bucked teeth and is really slim and cute and friendly… A couple other women, Jane and Anushka, joined us, as well. They seemed to be hostel regulars. “Under a Cherry Moon,” by the way, stars Prince and was written by Prince and is a big old fat piece of late-eighties romance schlock filming in hazy black-and-white. Silly. And Prince kisses terribly, it turns out. For the big kiss scenes he’d sort of slam his face into the girl’s and mush it around — looked like it might hurt. Maybe it’s a Minnesota thing. Beware, ladies…
I stayed up late, again, to flip through a book compiling the best advertising of 1984 and to read a couple more funny travel essays. At about 2:00 my phone goes off! It sat on my backpack in a room with five sleeping guys (I was out in the living room of the smaller house where I could have light). Oh my god! I stole into the room after a few minutes and took the thing out and turned off the volume and hid it, just in case it rang again and I didn’t want anyone to know that I was the asshole with the cellphone waking everyone up in the middle of the night. Javier the South American skater got up soon after and went outside to have a cigarette. “Someone’s cellphone kept ringing and woke me up.” Erp. Turns out Daud called and left a message… He was in Santa Cruz staying at a co-op at 316 Main Street which, it turns out, is right across the street from the hostel and had been talked about a bunch by Chris, who had been staying in town to fill out an application and attend a couple house meetings. The Cesar Chavez House, they call it. So I tried to call back but couldn’t get a hold of anyone so I just fell asleep on the sofa in the living room in my clothes. I don’t know — it felt right.
Tuesday, November 6, 2001
I haven’t written much about a few major vacations events. Whether the time or energy is right for me to write about them now, I don’t know, but I should at least mention their existence for my own memory of and because they might be interesting to the couple people out there (Cote’ and Brenna) who keep up with my blog.
(Maybe Brenna would be interesting knowing what I’m doing in her bedroom while she’s away at class… Hmm. I bought a soft drink at a convenience store and drank it at your desk and I listened to Claire’s “Bravo [German Pop] Hits 28,” disc 1. Now I’m gathering laundery together to wash. After that, I think I’ll jump on your bed some and hide things in your shoes…)
Ahem. Before I get going, I added a hit-counter to the bottom of this page after seeing it in use on Brenna’s page. It’s hosted by Sitemeter.com and you’ll notice that it’s around 19 or 20 — that’s the count for the past three days. Besides the visits from Michael Cote’ and Brenna Reinhart (to give the full names for no good reason), I’m also getting pageviews from some interesting accidental sources… Well, the site seems to not be working right now. Sitemeter.com provides good statistics, but maybe (like Blogger a few months back) its popularity exceeds what the servers can handle. Anyway, some people have come to the site after searching for “Wevie Stonder” and “Gloryhole Girls” on Google. That Google puts A Late-Afternoon Breakfast high on the list of sites it returns for those searches highlights (to me) that search engine technology still needs perfecting. One of Jan St. Werner’s CDs (from below) was “Wevie Stonder” and “Gloryhole” gets used sometimes in reference to The Gloryhole Tape, in case you’re wondering. The Gloryhole Tape site receives hits from almost no one except folks searching for “gloryhole” on different search engines. And from the occasional “kool kieth” search. Gloryhole gloryhole gloryhole. Sexy young babes in tight thong bikinis. Sexy sex sex. Kool Keith having wild bondage orgies with Wevie Stonder! Let’s see how that affects things. So. On to more interesting topics…
Friday, November 2, 2001
I ended up just hanging around the library at UCSC. I wandered the campus for an hour in the sun and looked at different places including the simple little student center but couldn’t find much to do. Lingering at the McHenry Library and reading a bio of the Buk seemed just as worthwhile as anything else would be. So…
I’m not sure the appeal of Charles Bukowski to me. The bio I found (and forgot the title of — though I wrote it in my PowerBook) paints him in a much more realistic way than any of his books do and I wonder how much of his books are fantasy and how much reality… There’s a Buk quote from a Hustler article that 95% of his writing is real, the rest “improved upon.” I don’t know. I remember a crazy scene where Chinaski hooks it up with three girls in one night while staying on some guy’s boat while in his mid-twenties, and his bio claims he didn’t have “real” love-sex with a woman until he was 27. (He’d been with a prostitute earlier.) Maybe that 5% included the naughty bits.
I definitely got the image of Buk as a guy not above lying to make himself seem more impressive in front of company. The book tells an anecdote of Buk having drinks with some people at his apartment and as he gets more and more drunk his “I’ve killed five men” bit gets worn down to “four,” “three,” and then none. If he was posturing when writing the books, who knows what’s really been “improved upon” and what hasn’t. This sort of denegrates the work of a man heralded for the gritty reality of his works.
And, actually, I enjoy reading his books but while reading the bio and coming across direct comparisons between scenes from his books and scenes from his life, I realized that I have a difficult time remembering the content of the books after they’re through. I think the upside of Buk’s prose style would be the speed and easy excitement that comes from its spare style. The downside would be that he doesn’t organize his novels into stories as much as they are just the recounting of a series of events with little external commentary. I wonder if this makes them more forgettable than some other novels I’ve read that have stuck with me for years.
Charles Bukowski had a slow start, it sounds like, and didn’t have much early support and it’s good testimony about persistence and not being distracted by bullshit to hear about his rise to mega-superlicious-stardom.
Oh, and I wrote down the names of some of the places from his life — the bars, places he’s worked (the post office), and where he’s lived. If I really need something to do in LA for the last few days of my trip, I might track a couple down for no good reason.
Blah blah blah.
Friday, November 2, 2001
Wow, the University of California at Santa Cruz really is like a summer camp… The property is huge and forested in tall redwoods and the building seem to be mostly gray and concrete blocks nestled discreetly here and there amongst the trees. Nice, but even during the middle of the day here it feels empty and rather lonely. Anyway, I got a ride up here with a couple business management students. One was waiting for the bus with me when the other showed up and offered us both rides to campus. We talked about the university on the ride. Apparently UC Santa Barbara is a party school, whereas UCSC is not so much so. And they don’t surf — they snowboard. (Why do I assume everyone around here surfs? Not that many people I’ve talked to out here even seem interested in trying it out once or twice.) So, it’s not even noon yet and I’m really just poking around campus doing nothing in particular except trying to get a feel for the ambience out here. “Quiet” would sum up my UCSC experience so far.
Thursday, November 1, 2001
It’s the morning after Halloween, actually, and I’m in a library with some people from the hostel using the internet. I’m sitting between Chris and Adam, the two guys I spent my Halloween evening with (along with Amy and Claire, two 18-year-old English lasses who left for Monterrey on the Greyhound this morning). At the Santa Cruz Public Library we also ran across my hostel-roommates Warren (the 36-year-old Brit) and Javier (the aloof South American). Chris sleeps in the same room with us, as well. Adam stays in a different building.
So, what happened Halloween? Nothing terribly incredible, I guess, but we had fun. I ran across Chris as I came home from seeing Mulholland Drive — the rather dull, pointless, new David Lynch spookout — as Chris was putting on the knit-wool leopard-print dress that would be his costume for the evening (filled out voluptouosly with two t-shirts). Chris, for those of you home on the range, resembles old Jesse Norris in much fo his appearance and attitude towards the world but isn’t so over-the-top energized. He’s out here trying to get accepted into the co-op house across the street from the hostel — The Cesar Chavez Cooperative. Anyway, he was in the process of getting dressed so I asked if I could come out with him and whoever else was going out from the hostel.
I’m getting really long winded about all of this, so I’ll speed up some and leave out some of the silly “detail.”
So, we ended up hanging out at the hostel for a couple hours before taking off with Adam, who had his face painted white with brack circles around his eyes, and Amy and Claire. Amy had a cowboy hat on and a blue-jean jacket with a couple of black glittered horseshoes on her cheeks, and Claire just had some Union Jack sort of designs on her cheeks. They weren’t really prepared for Halloween, I don’t think, and they’ve actually been travelling around the United States since at last the very first of September (they saw NYC the week before the Twin Towers came down — lucky them) so they can’t really be blamed for not having planned this out better, but they did look cute and I can’t really complain about other people not having decent Halloween outfits — I just wore my big, stupid alien mask (on my head and on my hand, alternately, because it was rather uncomfortable on my head, not being able to see or hear very well with it on). Javier came out with us, too, dressed as a surly South American skater-dude, but wandered away from us at our first stop at the Saturn Cafe, where we stopped to get feuled on Espresso (Adam), Mocha (Amy), and Yerba Mate (Chris and I).
Have you ever had Yerba Mate? Seems to be a big deal around here right now, and in England too, judging from the girls. It’s an Argentinian tea-like beverage that provides the same energy boost as caffeine but without the jittery edge. I guess it worked that way — I felt more awake afterwards but who knows why for real. It tastes like grass-clippings, though — not bad but not the best taste in the world. The girls thought the stuff was disgusting. I enjoyed it. So there’s Yerba Mate for you. Look for it soon at your local hipster coffeeshop.
Back to the story at hand, now.
We got drinks at the Saturn Cafe, a space-themed restaurant on Pacific Avenue (where all the action was happening). We got them, talked, Adam took some black-and-whites and the girls took some photos, and we watched the strange people coming and going, including the super-tall skinny guy dressed in drag and fishnets, the sexy waitress with blood all over her front, really quite a few more lengerie/bikini-bare-all sort of outfits on girls than I would have expected, but hey — that sort of thing makes the Yerba Mate go down smoother, I suppose. And according to Adam Santa Cruz doesn’t have laws banning public nudity, so, well, there you go.
We walked, then, the five of us, up and down Pacific Avenue from the Saturn Cafe up to the end of the street (at a church, I believe) and then we came back down to the base of Pacific where we would normally have turned to go back to the hostel. Maybe when my mind is fresher (I’m a tad hungover from the part of the story I haven’t yet written about) I’ll be able to remember the specifics better, but for now it exists in my head as a swirly mess of walking and commenting on other people’s outfits and laughing when someone grabbed or hooted at Chris’ t-shirt boobs, listening to a drum circle and a xylophone circle (up near the church — very cool and Philip Glass-ish). I remember seeing a pair of breasts running down the street and Hunter S. Thompson on at least three different occasions. I remember seeing lots of guys in drag and lots of ladies dressed as a “sexy-(fill-in-the-blank).” (The Onion has a good infographic illustrating my point. It’ll be stashed away in an archive in a few days, so I won’t link to it; find in on your own!) Halloween is, for many people, I suppose, about being the version of yourself you’ve always wanted to be, as weird as possible and/or experimenting with your surroundings. Life gets rather Burning-Man-ish on Halloween, I’ve noticed, when people feel they have more licence to let the bizarre sides of themselves leave sticky trails all along the sidewalks. Halloween on Pacific Avenue worked like this, for sure.
I’ve only got five minutes left to use this computer (an alert box just let me know), so I’m going to wrap up for now and write about the rest of the evening — after the bottles of vodka got bought…
You’ll just have to fucking wait, okay?!