(from a Facebook thread….)
I’m just a working class boho living the easy life in LA. My office is this iPhone, a red folder for a few bills, a calendar I scribble notes in, one drawer of a file cabinet, a few zines to be read, a zillion books, some records and cds, and a TV my pal Sarge gave us. My desk is a rock garden and a small army of trilobites watches me in silence. One side of the room is all windows, worth the rent all by itself; the million dollar view and weather are free.
Today the weather is blustering through every window in the house and swirling madly about, warm and a little humid with hints of a more southerly Pacific. It’s all so easy and unhurried. But then so are we. We’ve been here for thirty years and a hundred parties. We’ll be here for more years and more parties. We’re Silver Lake lifers, going on four decades, watching the old Beats turn to old hippies to old punks to aging hipsters, each loathing the generation just before them and venerating the generation that came before the generation they despise. So me, I’m nuts about the Beats. Their poetry, their jazz, their asshole attitude. I can dig that. Fuck you if you don’t. The hippies and hipsters just flinched. The punks grinned. That’s how it works. You want to see me flinch start talking about goat yoga.
Think I’ll spoon a little Bustelo in my coffee maker and have a cup, put on a record since the CD player died and the monitor to the PC is on the blink, and see if I can find something in my drafts that I can finish. I don’t feel right if I don’t write something every day. But I have to be careful now because I’m epileptic and words can set off seizures and weirdness (and if that ain’t Beat, what is?)
But then this’ll do. So maybe instead I’ll just get stoned and watch the sky turn slowly pink then red then purple then black and listen to the coyotes make their crazy music. Why not? It is Saturday, as if Saturday had any relevance to a retired man. The jazz is emanating from the record player and an obnoxious little zephyr just scattered paper all over the floor. It’s the wee people’s doing, my grandmother would have said, half believing it. And the banshees howl by night, looking for sinners and Englishmen.
That’s a wrap.
Forgot to take my spazz meds this morning, drank too much coffee, got a lot people pissed off on Facebook, remembered to take my meds and now sit here, neurons calm as a windless sea and watching you all yell at each other about Gomer Pyle and astrology. Life is good.
A vast hollow boom rent the silent night, followed by a ragged lseries of other booms, just as loud. The first one startled me, the others just made me smile. No matter how much they’ve gentrified Silverlake, there’s still little pockets of Mexico where somebody’s tio borracho breaks out the stash of unbelievably illegal fireworks he’d smuggled up from TJ or maybe bought off an ice cream truck across the river and sets them off in a ragged volley because, hell, Christmas Eve is a holiday like any other. Now Silver Lake is utterly silent again as I write this, even in here, where the Christmas tree lights throw crazy shadows on the ceiling and the entire room looks like a Van Gogh still life. Brick needs to take his seizure meds.
Merry Christmas, all.
The fires up north are 600 miles away. The ones around Lake Elsinore an hour away but the winds are blowing the smoke inland, away from us. Until the winds begin blowing from the east we’ll smell very little smoke here in Silver Lake between Hollywood and downtown L.A.
But when the winds do begin blowing from the east, they’ll be bone dry and our local mountains and hillsides will go up like tinder. Our eyes will sting, our clothes will smell like smoke, ash will come down like a light summer rain. By day the sky will be filled with palls of smoke and by night the mountains will glow orange with rippling flame extending for miles. It’s weirdly beautiful. Sometimes we’ll drive the freeways that follow the foothills just to watch the eerie sight of fires burning in the mountains all around us, like we’re a city besieged. All day long sirens follow caravans of fire trucks hurrying to the front and sometimes immense helicopters hover over the Silver Lake reservoir like dragonflies drinking their fill before soaring off to drop the water on some doomed foothill neighborhood. They pass overhead in a roar every ten minutes. Flip on the local news and you can watch them drop their load with Norton bombsite precision. Minutes later they’re back overhead. The dogs bark excitedly and the neighbors watch from their sun decks awed and concerned.
Fire season is an overwhelming sensory experience, even the coyotes pitch in to howl and keen at every screaming, honking fire truck, and the local television stations follow it all day and all night and it’s all anyone talks about. Fire season is as Los Angeles as Raymond Chandler and as unnerving as The Blitz. An earthquake would almost be a relief. But that is all still to come: the air is clean now and a tad humid with the sea breeze and we sit here nervously waiting our turn.
(Facebook post of August, 2018)
Been slowly getting the brain used to writing more, to see if I can be a writer again without spazzing and all that. It’s the only thing I know how to do, after all. So I push it a little at a time. I used to be the macho epileptic guy, the machoest even, just pushing myself to the max because that is what gnarly epileptic writers do. Seizure? Fuck it. Let’s drink cup after cup of coffee and write all nite and see what happens. And it happened….those long long paragraphs full of crazy rhythms and swirling roller coaster narratives. The grooviest shit. But they took their toll. This new excruciatingly dull mellow epileptic lifestyle is not big on gnarliness. It’s more goat yoga and being nice. Neither of which I will actually do, but whatever. Anyway, that explains the occasional verbosity on Facebook. It’s not that I like any of you. Well, OK, maybe a little. Maybe a lot even, some of you. Most of you. All of you. Whatever. But I’m not gonna go all Facebook soft and cuddly. Leave a punk rock jazz critic a little pride, sheesh. To quote Lee Ving—well, maybe not. Nor Miles. This is a family website. Fuck.
I remember a party here and some stoner in a Black Sabbath shirt kept requesting Iron Man. I’d never seen the guy before and he was way high and quite insistent about hearing Iron Man. I am Iron Man he sang, dum dum dum dum dum/da da da da da da dah/dum dee dum. I gave in. So you want Iron Man? Here ya go, and I put on Eric Dolphy. Ba ba ba da be da/da be da. That’s Iron Man, I said, and showed him the cover. He looked bewildered, even hurt. I almost felt guilty and jacked up the volume. Dolphy screamed a solo. He left. Jazz can be cruel.
I remember driving through Missouri River bottomlands on the Yankton Sioux reservation on the summer solstice. Dusk faded slowly and the air was full of fireflies as the sun took forever to set. We stopped by a bridge to get our bearings, reading the map by the last rays of sunlight. Somewhere past 9:30 it was finally nighttime and we slunk through Nebraska on the south side of the river in the dark, the air fragrant with loam and alfalfa and slow water.