Seattle, now seriously. You are so pretty. And so sad. Like if Margaret Keane had painted somber landscapes instead of creepy, sad-eyed girls.
We've recorded our brains out. Finished up this latest session on Tuesday night last week. Fourteen songs in nine days. Feeling real nice and bonkers. Feeling calm. It is a rare thing when something you've long envisioned finally comes to pass in a positive way. Finding a light through the ghost wars labyrinth has been an angular journey. All pot holes, high walls, and right angles. That is, until now. Our sessions this time around were lovely. A real productive mellow lurk. Improvisational, well-paced, and hilarious. Even, dare I say, a bit mystical. Once you can see past the casinos, johns, and pushers, that crazy little VU Recording house is a special place. Fisher, Myers, and Kruckenberg were gems.
So with that said, here are a bunch of lame-brained photos taken over the past week or so. I can hardly form words, so if these sentences seem supz stoops, sorry. It is late.
Yes, this is a stuffed lizard lurking under the parked wheel of an excellent taco truck on N. Seattle's Aurora Ave. Within handshake distance of the hookers and meth headz. Aurora Avenue = bummer eternal.
A few people have emailed asking if we've backed up our recent recording sessions. The answer is yes, on four separate drives. I now sleep at night.
Clouds happen, especially in Seattle. That's the view out the window of my doctor's office. For ten years he's been trying to do his part to fix my body.
These days he just shakes his head and shrugs.
We both know the score.
"Write a song about it."
Mr. Kruckenberg helped. Thanks Kory. That brain of yours came in real handy. So did that piano.
One night late in our studio sessions, Goth Joel & I took a time out to see the band Feral Children. Andy Sells is now playing drums with them. That's him in the background. Bill is in the foreground. If you like Animal Collective, Passion Pit, and art rock bands with three drummers.... you'll probz love Feral Children. They've just made their first record. Haven't heard it yet, but it is probz bad ass. Lucky them, this wonderful lady works at their label—
Kim Warnick. Legend. Alive with pleasure.
A few nights ago, TT and I went haunting through my old Ravenna neighborhood. Skulking around like living ghosts in a dead ghost world. A spectral world. Revisiting old rites.
This is one of my five favorite places in Grungetown, USA.
[*Aside: The Honey Bear used to be in the Wallingford neighborhood off 50th Street, near the Home of Good Shepherd. The Shepherd's park has a massive perimeter hedge, back in the day making it the perfect wee-hour guzzle spot for teenage skateboarder guzzlebots. Many years ago while I sat on a 3AM swing set sipping a 40 oz, a kid appeared out of the dark.
There he was.
Overly friendly & obviously a menace, he asked for a guzzle off my Mickey's wide mouth. Handing it to him, he took a swig and then delivered a lightning fast roundhouse kick to my chest. Like, dude gave it the old 360-degree wind up before booting me square in the sternum. I was 13. Recall it clear as yesterday. Flew right out the swing set like pilot ejecting from a jet fighter! Laid my ass out cold. Chris & Andre ran screaming.
Dude trotted over with the 40 in hand, took another swig and said, "Ain't your 40 now, bitch." He couldn't have been more than 19. We couldn't have been anywhere else in the world. We each were exactly who we were supposed to be at that moment in our lives. Doing exactly what had to be done. All smiles, he jauntily jogged off into the night hooting and laughing like a motherfucker. At the time, it was a real drag. No air in lungs + foot-shaped chest bruise + vague humiliation = teenage bummer. A year or so later I became straight-edge, losing all sense of humor for several years to come. Ha!
Ha... ha... ha...
In hindsight, getting kicked in the chest is probably one of the funniest things that has ever happened in my life. In one kung fu move, a random kid absolutely fucked me up, contributing to an eventual reevaluation of my relationship with mindless guzzling in dark parks and empty parking lots. Incredible. Every time I'm in Seattle driving past the Home of Good Shepherd I think about that night. Sometimes strangers really do walk right up and change your life, but rarely in the ways we imagine.]
Anyway... back to Third Place Books in Ravenna. Back to the here and now....
Oddly, very few of my friends in this town have any idea this bookstore exists. This used to baffle me, but now I understand it is tucked too far away in an invisible neighborhood. Go there, you'll be glad you did. Thousands of books, lovely food, Illy espresso, baked goods, and fantasy beardos with ponytails quaffing "NW microbrews."
If you're ever feeling like getting annihilated, "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion is a must read.
Howard, you were a good man. You will certainly be missed. Thank you.
And J.D., it is true— you too will be missed. But definitely not for the same reasons as Mr. Zinn. He was a gentle soul and a true believer in human kind, whereas you were an isolated, sarcastic misanthrope to the core. A real hater. Nevertheless, I loved you both. Each man's writings cut through the bullshit. On politics, society, and matters of the heart, you fellas gave many much needed guidance.
Walking into the bookstore, I'd been thinking about the passing of Zinn & Salinger that week. Both in their 90's, they'd experienced an awful lot of this life. The 20th Century was a fantastically fertile time to be a writer. A painful time. A stupid, soul crushing time. A time of modern conveniences, mass destruction, and miracles. Seeing that little remembrance gave me the goosebumps. Felt like I was staring at the makeshift shrine to two of my kind. Like, the bookstore was reading my mind... drawing me near... so that we could grieve and celebrate together. Uncannily spooktacular. Thanks bookstore!
Speaking of uncannily spooktacular, upon reading a few choice quotes from "The Catcher in the Rye," [hence the title of this post] I've surmised there's more of J.D. Salinger's influence in me than I'd heretofore imagined. It is a wonder I don't go around blubbering lines from his books like those assholes quoting Monty Python. Had his ideas not woven their way into me so greatly at such a young age I'd probably not be so convinced most everyone is a corny phony and that far finer things are out there in the fields & hills, away from the world of lurkers and dickbags. But he did, and I do. A juvenile point of view, perhaps. But oh well. Fiction friction.
Salinger claimed to continue writing. It was only the act of being a public writer that he despised. It is a shame he felt that way, but I get it. He wanted to be a real person. No artifice, no baloney. After all those years of self-imposed exile, I hope his estate & publisher reveal a trove of new stories and ephemera.
other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who
was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human
behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be
excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been
just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now.
Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll
learn from them - if you want to. Just as someday, if you have
something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's
a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education.
It's history. It's poetry."
The Catcher in the Rye
[Mr. Antolini in Chapter 24]
Thanks J.D., you came to me with those words when I needed them most.
Ah yes, Crumb's illustrated Book of Genesis. It is such a noble and hilarious pursuit, I can't say anything more about it. Like an anvil dropped on your head from a second story window or the voice of God, the project speaks for itself. NERD ALERT: If anyone knows of a first edition of the first printing for sale, please let me know. I would love to find one.
Ah yes (Part II), the writer Christopher Isherwood's work is having a bit of a resurgence thanks to Tom Ford's directorial debut. Despite Ford being perhaps the most unbearable jackass walking the earth, it is a surprisingly good film. Color me surprised to the marrow. But I'll take it. So long as Isherwood's books continue to find their way in the world, I'll take it.
In particular, "The Berlin Stories" is a good place to start. Life in Berlin before WWII was a hell of a thing. Without Isherwood's chronicles of that time and place, aging queens and toothless trannies in NYC and London would forever have the upper hand in claiming 20th Century gay club culture and "downtown nightlife" began in the 70s. Not so much. It began in the 30s in Berlin. As far as I'm concerned, without Isherwood's autobiographical tales to "set the stage" so to speak, there would be no Rick Astley, no La Bouche, no DFA Records, No Big Beat, no Donna Summer, no ESG, no Hercules & Love Affair. Indeed, no ABBA or disco era BEE GEES. His writing set the tone and struck the pose. Only 35 years later did others follow suit.
Isherwood was the first and perhaps only openly gay writer in the western world at a time when gay folks left and right were finding themselves shot, gassed, and blacklisted. Dead, poor, or closeted—that was the drill. But not Isherwood, he was OUT in ALL-CAPS from day one. Radical by birth, not by incremental calculations. He was no martyr, no drama queen. He just did his thing and did not give a flying fuck who knew what about it.
Sexual orientation aside, every artist should take a few pages from his play book. He was a ferocious writer and gifted screenwriter. Almost the entirety of his literary works, essays, and letters can be found in the archive at Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA. As well, the documentary "Chris & Don: A Love Story" about his life with partner/illustrator Don Barclay is fantastic. Here's the NY Times review of the film. All are entirely worth checking out. There you'll discover Isherwood was punk before punk knew what punk was. Cabaret on display every day to the max.
This is the bridge I used to pass over to get from my home to Ravenna's little shopping district. Every day, for seven long years. Beautiful and damn bleak.
It is a much nicer bridge with Totally Tamz standing on it.
A few nights ago, our friend Ryan Rasheed came to town with his band Prefuse 73. His wife Brooke Morris was very proud when I reported that her dude crushed minds. Loud and sketchy, it was the best bloopity-blip show I've seen in a while. Other notable electronic shows of the past 12 months: Dan Deacon, Growing, All Leather, and them two shirtless dudes from Philly who bash guitar pedals and swing gold King Tut medallions like helicopter propellers.
Seattle, our time with you is almost up.