My email is email@example.com. My phone is 323-420-7410. I do a lot of short writing on Facebook, and really short writing on Twitter. I’m all over the goddamn internet and all over this goddamn town.
I notice that the Rosebud Sioux are suddenly heroes of the left. That act of war speech got people all excited. The fact that the average life expectancy of a resident of the Rosebud Sioux reservation is lower than that of Haiti–47 years compared to a Haitian’s 48–doesn’t get mentioned at all. Or that the unemployment rate on the neighboring Pine Ridge reservation is about 85%. I could rattle on with a lot more depressing statistics but those two numbers sum things up pretty well.
What we have now is people on both coasts cheering on the Sioux because they are championing a cause that Progressives have all decided is a matter of life and death. Actual life and death issues on Sioux reservations mean little to any of those people, however. And when the Keystone battle is over and won, and Big Oil goes off with its tail between its legs, the Left will go on to the next big issue and abandon the Sioux all over again. Indians–real Indians, tribal members, not all the wanna be Indians who pop up every Columbus Day–are, as always, just little pawns in the game, to be used and tossed aside when they’re of no use to anyone’s agenda.
A few of us–not many–have a personal stake in the peoples of the Sioux nation. But for most people they’re little better than cigar store Indians, just old photos to put hip slogans on and post on Facebook. No one ever bothers to see if the person in the photo had a name, a history, or even what tribe they belonged to. No, it’s just a cool gnarly looking Indian with a funny slogan. A noble savage. Dig those crazy feathers.
Republicans or Democrats, liberal or conservatives, progressives or Tea Partiers, there’s not much difference when it comes to the Sioux. Both sides just exploit them in their own way. You’ll all forget about them in a year’s time, and those dreadful statistics will remain the same.
The flag of the Rosebud Sioux tribe. About half of the nation’s 566 federally recognized tribes have their own flag.
I was in a tater tot riot once. A huge tater tot food fight. A packed club in a blizzard of tater tots. The walls were caked with processed potato. We stood on the balcony and watched the scene below, tossing any strays that came our way back into the vortex. My favorite album release party ever. Band was called the Tater Tots, of course. Though the only thing I remember about them was the food fight.
That was sometime in the late eighties, I think. It was at this pretentious place called the Probe. Everyone hated the Probe so the tater tot flinging was especially enthusiastic. Manic and enthusiastic. I recall seeing the manager looking on, livid and helpless. No one followed rules then. We were all punk rockers or ex-punk rockers anyway. And the tater tots were inedible even by tater tot standards. Big money had not been spent on the catering. But the little inedible things made perfect bite sized projectiles. They were all around on tables, thousands of them. You could scoop up a handful, fling them rapid fire at random across the room and grab another handful. The more nimble probably managed thirty tater tots a minute. We slipped and slid on mashed tater tots, found whole tater tots in our clothes, shook crumbled tater tots from out hair. And that was the last time I ever saw tater tots served at an album release party.
Back in the 80′s we had one of those answering machines that used ordinary cassettes. I was quite the archivist then and of course saved them. There’s three. I just listened to side A of the first tape. Appears to be 1988-89. I must have been deleting messages as I went along and saving the good ones. If you were hanging with us then you’re on there. Wild times, man, and a lot of smart asses. Some of this stuff is hysterically funny. And damn, there were a lot of shows back then. Also sounds like we threw a party or two. No more than one a week, anyway. I’ll have to listen to all three tapes eventually, but it’s a little overwhelming to relive your life a quarter century ago. I cannot believe that we’re still hanging with almost everyone on there. It’s amazing how lifelong friendships are. Especially considering who those friends are. Sheesh. No wonder I never got rich. Well, one of them did. Must be a jillionaire. The one we all lost touch with. He knew better. He and his dinosaurs.
Jazz geek that I refuse to admit that I am, my favorite thing about the classic flick Chinatown is Uan Rasey‘s trumpet tone. It’s perfection. Not that it’s pure–you can hear the breath in it–but it’s one of those utterly human sounding things that defies a digital replacement. You cannot create that sound again artificially. You can only create that sound with the exhalations of Uan Rasey. Alas, he stopped exhaling in 2011, and trumpet players being such fragile and irreplaceably analog things, you’ll never hear a sound like that again. You’ll hear re-creations–you can re-create anything digitally–but you’ll never hear Uan Rasey’s breath coming through the brass like that and creating something new and as haunting. Not that his breath itself was special, it was the same as the air we exhale too, 78% nitrogen, 16% oxygen, 5% carbon dioxide and a little argon, at 100% humidity. But our breath will never create that trumpet sound in the theme from Chinatown. We just breathe. He blew trumpet. And while there are zillions of trumpeters still torturing themselves on that miserable little horn–it hurts, a trumpet, a lot of pain–and some absolutely magnificent ones, each is an utterly unique analog thing. Some of those trumpeters are very special and a select few are uniquely perfect. And that is what I hear every time I watch Chinatown. I don’t even always watch it, I sit and write like now, or whatever, and listen. I hear Jack Nicholson says something noir and nasty, then an oof as the cop hits him. There’s a scuffle, shots, and the long, pure, disturbing tone of a car horn cut through the middle by the harsh soprano shrieks of a young girl. Forget it Jake, a voice says, it’s Chinatown. Then the room fills with Uan Rasey’s trumpet and I melt.
Faye Dunaway, looking like the theme sounds, her hard lines worn, haunted and tinged with blue. One of the great films about my town.
What this town needs is more Triforiums. Lots more. With more drunks for the harmonies. Though I don’t know if the Triforium still makes music. I know it’s still there. In World War 2 they would have torn it down and made a couple tanks. Though, come to think of it, they might have broken up a couple tanks to make the Triforium. It means something, the Triforium does, it symbolizes the interdependence of the three branches of government. That’s what the artist told City Hall. No, I can’t see it either. I just see this big poly-phonoptic thing. That’s what the artist called it, poly-phonoptic. Google never heard of it either. I have no idea what it means. But the Triforium has been poly-phonopticizing downtown since 1975. Is it art yet? Nobody seems to think so, but the damn thing is too expensive to tear down. I mean it’s worthless, but worthless is cheaper than tearing it down, and its negative worth makes it an asset. So it stands and chimes. If it still chimes. I think it does, at least sometimes. It used to chime all the time. Back in the 80′s it did. I remember stoned and frozen nights walking back from the Brave Dog and the air rang with electro-chimed christmas carols and the keening of winos and I’d stop and listen and it was all so fucked up. Ah, nostalgia.
The first time I ever heard Patti Smith was on a cool little FM station without deejays–they used to call them robot stations–in Orange County. KEZY-FM were the call letters. They played all this hip, edgy stuff–and there wasn’t much in 1975–among the typical freeform FM stuff of the day. One time I heard a few quiet chords on a piano–strange enough in rock’n’roll, that–and then this strange earthy voice traced a melody with the words “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” Wow. That was different. The piano kept chording, the singer followed, slowly at first, the tempo and words picked carefully. Her own sins belonged to her, she said, and the tempo rose a notch, and people were telling her to be careful. She blew them off. Their words were just-rules and regulations to her, the tempo notching up again, and she goes to this here party, but she just gets bored, yet the tempo is building, you can feel the guitar chomping at the beat, and there’s a girl that looks so fine but I’m getting this crazy feeling that this music is just for me, just for me, just for me. It’s frenetic now, and she’s off on some crazy speed chatter freak on the old Them tune Gloria, and it turns wild and nearly out of control and goes on and on, surging and crazy and seething and just smart as hell. Damn. I’d never heard anything like it, ever, a crazy mix of rock’n’roll and words and art and energy and it was 1975 and I couldn’t believe I was hearing whatever this was on the radio. Who knows what my mind’s eye was seeing as I was listening, I had no pictures to go on, no nothing. Those were the days of pure unmixed media, radio was just sound, I can’t even imagine that now. I hit a couple keys in 2014 and up will pop pictures of anything I want to see, hundreds of pictures, Patti Smith pictures, Allen Ginsburg pictures, naked women pictures, anything. But back in 1975 it was just music and mystery and I was looking into the future and didn’t realize it and her name was Gee…Ell….Oh….Ar….Aye Yi Yi Yi….G-L-O-R-I-A! Gloria! G-L-O-R-I-A. Gloria! G-L-O-R-I-A. Gloria! G-L-O-R-I-A. Gloria! And it’s like that crazy verse crazy chorus crazy tempo crazy words going ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong. Ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong she chanted and I was wide eyed in the pitch dark of my room, big earphones clenched to my skull, the music crazy, the drums kicking up a whirling loose jointed stuttering shuffling rhythm and in the dark of my room I was on my ten speed again going down the steepest hill on Imperial Highway as fast as I could and G-L-O-R-I-A! bang! I hit a pothole and my hands fly off the handles and my feet fly off the pedals and my ass flies off the seat and I’m bouncing on the cross bar at a crazy tempo until–G-L-O-R-I-A!–bang! I hit another pothole and like a goddamned miracle I’m bounced back up and my hands are back on the handles and my feet back on the pedals and I’m flying down that hill and it was so good and it was so fine and I had to tell the world how I didn’t die didn’t die didn’t die didn’t die didn’t die because, Patti Smith said, Jesus died for somebody’s sins….but not mine. Not that day, anyway.
Rollerball was on. Cool. I was busy writing and wasn’t watching the television but within seconds of half listening I knew something was wrong. For one thing, the voices were all wrong. For another, there was no Bob Miller announcing. And there was a helluva lot of screeching. Tires screeching. Players screeching. Crowds screeching. I didn’t remember that much screeching. I also didn’t remember Rollerball being this mindnumbingly stupid. I looked at the television. Oh yeah, this was a remake.
I didn’t think I was going to hear Toccata and Fugue in D Minor anytime soon. Or Shostakovich. I think I heard Green Day, though. I didn’t stick around to see who the new John Houseman was. Caught a glimpse of some lady without a lot of clothes on. More loud music. Screeching. And LL Cool J. I remember when he couldn’t live without his radio. Rocking the bells with real bells on. And here he is twenty years later in an incredibly bad remake of a favorite science fiction movie of mine.
Yup, this was the Rollerball remake, 2002. You probably never saw it in the theater. It apparently shows up on IFC occasionally for irony’s sake. Unfortunately, by my age, I don’t feel that I have enough time to spend on irony. Irony is best left for the twenty somethings. Things are funnier then. I imagine a man of my reputation being felled by a stroke watching the remake of Rollerball. Staring dead eyed at whoever that is who’s not James Caan, Green Day blasting from the television. My friends wouldn’t remember what I’m writing now. No, they’d remember that I died watching the remake of Rollerball. You spend your life being an arrogant intellectual snob and they find you watching that. My mother used to warn me about things like this. Well, she said I should wear clean underwear in case I ever had to go to the hospital. You don’t want the nurses to know you wear dirty underwear. But the metaphor holds. So I don’t want people to know I was watching the remake of Rollerball either. I can just hear my smartass friends at my wake, snickering.
So I turn it off. The room fills with silence, nothing but the clacking of the keys as I write this. Though in my head I’m hearing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. But that’s not a pipe organ, it’s a Moog. Switched on Bach, Walter Carlos switching into Wendy Carlos. And before it mentally morphs into Hooked on Classics, I turn on the stereo. Afro-funk fills the room and brings this to a close.
James Caan in the original Rollerball (1975), which was set in 2018, incidentally.