One of those Skip E Lowe memories . . . . I’m six foot five and at the time was strong as an ox and showed up at a Skip E. Lowe gig somewhere in Hollywood to see some friends’ band. This was the early 1980’s, before there was a public access station on cable but it was just like his show a few years later, just no cameras. Skip E. caught sight of giant me in the audience and gasped. He saw my five foot seven wife at the table with me and asked what it was like being married to a huge brute like me. He beats me black and blue, she said in a perfect deadpan monotone, and I love it. Skip E. was rendered speechless. And then fanning himself with a sheet of paper, he went on to someone else.
Accidental selfie. The geezer needs a shave. To think that a widow’s peak rivaling Bela Lugosi’s once stood where that lone and level pate stretches far away.
When the osteoarthritis kicks in hard for a few days and you hurt all over you can feel your life pass in every twinge. You remember all the things that fucked up this part of you and what wrecked another, sometimes you even remember the time you cracked that knuckle so hard on the edge of your ride cymbal or falling down the stairs or what fractured your spine one of the times you fractured your spine. You can remember all the the sixty pound boxes you lifted and tossed up onto your shoulders, thousands of them, all the furniture you helped girls move, all the movement that finished off your knee. You can feel where your flat foot stomped on a bass drum pedal every few seconds, like smacking a board with a hammer over and over and over. You can remember all the stairs you ran down two or three at a time hundreds of times. Your body becomes a big memory machine. Good memories. You even relish the hurt, because it brings back younger, stronger, fitter times, and how goddam much you dug doing all the things you’re paying for now, as you knew you would, the big old beat up geezers would warn you, don’t do what I did, as if you ever would do anything else, hell, you wouldn’t have changed a single thing. You do what you gotta do. You’re a big giant guy, you’re young, you’re strong as an ox and not much brighter sometimes, and you don’t worry about nothing. You’ll wind up a big giant crippled old motherfucker, but you lived the life.
I did the same thing with the brain, though, pushing it far beyond what the wiring could take, setting off seizure after seizure because, hell, that’s what writers do. That wasn’t a great idea, but there were no old epileptic writing geezers to say don’t do what I did, the ones that had done what they did were in institutions or hiding in bedrooms or medicated all to holy fuck and you never see those guys anyway. So I just pushed the limits. Paid for it. Still paying for it. Got some mighty pretty writing done, though, there’s that. And it’s never been dullsville. Weird maybe, but never dull. Ha.
Then the next day….
A lot of this thing was me having a ball writing rhythmically berserk sentences that any editor worth their Strunk and White would feel an overwhelming urge to correct, the high point of which was “You even relish the hurt, because it brings back younger, stronger, fitter times, and how goddam much you dug doing all the things you’re paying for now, as you knew you would, the big old beat up geezers would warn you, don’t do what I did, as if you ever would do anything else, hell, you wouldn’t have changed a single thing” which has all the grace and beauty of a drunk falling down the stairs. I was just letting that fucker roll, it kept tumbling, word after word, breaking all the rules and finally ending on a thing, one of my favorite words, though I couldn’t tell you why. That’s the fun way to write, just let the words roll out on their own, they’ll get somewhere eventually, and when they do just put a period down and hot damn, you got yourself a sentence. Also, I’d like to take credit for medicated all to holy fuck, but that’s actually Shakespeare.
You know you’re a loser when you realize you’ve been binge watching eight hours of Richard Norton Smith interviews on C-SPAN. Well, technically it’s American History TV, just like watching writers on C-SPAN is technically BookTV, but come on, it’s C-SPAN. I mean who’s kidding who. It’s a nice break from watching hockey shows, anyway. At some point I realized I’d been listening to a Hermeto Paschoal album while watching American History TV—OK, C-SPAN—and halfway through “Sereiarei” Hermeto’s got this whole cacophony of geese and pigs and cows and goats and chickens playing with the band and Richard Norton Smith is talking about Millard Fillmore and it was zen as fuck.
The retired life.
(from sometime in 2020) . . . . The eight o’clock howls began tonight with the shriek of a woman and some crazed percussion on a ceramic pot followed by scattered shouts and shrieks and whistles and ululations and frantic beating on bongos and boxes and beer bottles till literally hundreds of unseen voices join in, welling up from the hills like a drunken audience demanding an encore and then, suddenly, it ends and all is silence again.
I remember standing across the street for the longest time watching pages from a zillion books billowing from the library building and flutter on fire through the air till they disintegrated. Words were falling upon us like rain, you could catch them on your hand and they’d dissolve. One fluttered down and landed on my hand, a corner of a very old page bearing a few fragments of sentences and quote marks. Some one was saying something, but the words turned to ash in my palm, and I never knew what or who.
In the wee hours of the morning I was sleepily walking through the kitchen with my arms full of laundry when the sinuses set off a sudden spell of vertigo which combined with my trick knee sent me tumbling backwards with all the grace and power of a falling redwood tree. Crash, then silence. I guess the knee isn’t as good as I thought, I said aloud, and laid there a second as I’ve done after a hundred falls, making sure I could feel and move everything. Nothing was broken save my wife’s tub of bird seed which kept my head from slamming into the wall. I will buy her a new one. Realizing everything was sound—limbs, back, brain, jewels—I clambered back up, took the day’s clothes I had left in a neat little pile on the counter mid fall and tossed them in the laundry basket and made my way without any more gravity issues towards the bed. She was sound asleep. Nothing wakes her up, not even crashing redwood trees. You’re going to hurt tomorrow I told myself, and I was right.
I had promised a doctor I wouldn’t fall down anymore. You can break a hip, she said. I didn’t tell her I’ve fallen those hundred times or more over a lifetime, that I fall like a stuntman, that I’ve never broken anything. I’ve been lucky, I said.
The gardeners show up, borracho. Shouting and laughing and singing at the top of their lungs, a little unsteady behind the leaf blower. The other guy is gonna hurt himself with that weed whacker. It’s like one of those end of the world movies, the streets empty and the only signs of life are drunken gardeners.
[written sometime during the pandemic]
Maybe 25 years ago we were at a yard sale in Los Feliz and saw a box of wine glasses. It was about fifty assorted glasses, the remains of many a complete set. Dude said some of them went back thirty or forty years. Five bucks for a couple generations of wine glasses. The people attending our parties had been rough on our nice glasses. Plus me being so huge I shattered a couple just holding them (true). One I put down on a table after a sip, misjudged the velocity and the fragility of your tiny world, and shattered the glass on the table, much to everyone’s surprise but my wife. He does that, she said. Anyway, the fifty new old wine glasses lasted longer than you could have imagined, considering my oafishness and the barbarism of our friends, probably because everyone is so old now that breaking things is hard, but we’re down to the very last one. So either we drink wine out of Dixie cups or buy some more glasses. I found some we liked on the website of one of the doomed but clinging to life big box stores and ordered them. Easy enough. They came today. Four in a box. Lovely things, though apparently I’d forgotten what a world of lushes we now live in and hadn’t considered the size of the glass. No mere Lilliputian wine glasses of old, these were big enough to fit a human head. And I think there’s four more coming. That’s eight human heads. Two quartets worth. Alas, we live in one of those early Depression era Spanish style duplexes atop a hill in Silver Lake with not enough outlets or closet space, and certainly not enough cupboard space for eight human heads worth of long stemmed wine glasses. We don’t even drink enough wine for eight human heads worth of long stemmed wine glasses, I mean I’m epileptic and she’s from Milwaukee. Oh well, the problems of the modern retiree.
[Popped up today on Facebook from 1988]
Aquarium is almost completely restocked and lush with plants. Still looking for a few otocinclus (impossible to find lately) because they devour algae like no other. And also three or four freaky spooky see through glass catfish for when we drop acid and become one with the pesciverse. Aquariums are Fish TV, no commercials and Trump free. If only I could see where the trio of ghost shrimp slipped off to. You can see right though them, just innards and legs and beady black eyes.
We’ve had a continuous aquarium nearly as long as we’ve been married, since 1983 or so. We were married in 1980. Sometime back in the ’80’s the dreaded fish disease ich struck and all our fish died but one, a black mollie, who got desperately sick but survived. She had the tank to herself for maybe a year when we decided to introduce some pretty but inexpensive fish. They were neon tetras, I think, and they thrived, so we restocked our tank around that one mollie. It lived for years. Thirty years later we still have a thriving fish tank. The filter wheel is probably twenty five years old. We’ve never had another epidemic and the fish live forever. Unless, of course, the danios go berserk and eat everyone. But they seem past that now, the Charlie Manson danio died after psychotically attacking a plant for days, and the other danios are back to their hyper wiggly mindless selves. All seems well. Weird how a marriage and a fish tank go together for decade after decade, somehow inseparable.