New Year’s Song

This song was written by my best L.A. friend, Greg Franco. It’s about a New Year’s Eve party I attended, which was I think 1992-3. It was one of Greg’s “radio show” parties where we had a DJ setup and people did shifts as the DJ while backannouncing songs radio style.

Like most of the gathering then it was an emotional evening. We all had too much to drink and most of us were unhappy about the poverty, stupidity, and anomie of our lives as 20-something failures in the big city. We listened to underground music and old soul and Tim Buckley and hugged each other and guzzled cheap beer and bourbon. Most of us stayed up all night.

I have a very clear memory of dawn in that apartment in the Valley. Everything was grey, from the sky to the carpet, and it was cold. I had a mild alcohol headache and the cramps you get from sleeping on a too-small sofa. Someone was still spinning records quietly and I could hear Nick Drake’s “Time Has Told Me” from the next room. Dawn lasted for about three days. It’s one of those frozen moments I can look at any time.

Greg’s song captures that night and morning perfectly, I think.

Ferdinand – 31 (.mp3)

The Year in Review: Lists

Dear The Bloggers:

I understand the desire to emulate print media. It can be fun to write in the style of a columnist, assume the authority of an Op-Ed writer, and issue judgments about taste or politics in the voice of a successful journalist.

I also understand that you see journalistic types producing year-end lists, and that seems worthy of emulation too. Your model music reviewer or humor columnist or political analyst cranks out a Top 10 or 100 for the year, or the Cheers ‘n’ Jeers of the Yeer, or something like that. You want to be part of it, and as a self-identified journalist you feel it’s an obligation to carry through what you’d call a “meme”.

Don’t.

There is a reason for the “End of year list” phenomenon in journalism. The ink-stained wretches who are living out your dream want to spend a week with their families around now, and all but a skeleton crew of hard core news types do. The feature writers and columnists and reviewers all turn in their stupid lists around Dec. 20 and go off to open presents, drink, and reconsider their career choices. The lists suck, and they know it. It’s the lowest form of journalism. The only reason they exist is to give these poor bastards a breather for one week a year. Then it’s back to turning in the column and banging out the news for another 51 weeks.

So this year, feel lucky that you’re unpaid, and stop aping the survival behavior of exhausted journos. Your lists aren’t any better, and you have far less reason to dump them on us.

Naval Security, South of Da Nang

Talked to Trout at length last night. He showed me some of his photos from Vietnam, including him looking 40 at age 18, various sandbags and weapons, and the view of the landscape south of Da Nang that he looked at from his guard post.

Bob's FaceI also saw the “welcome back” letter from Reuters giving him his job in Manhattan again, in March 1969. That didn’t last.

Bob saw a lot of stuff that stays, even now. Mostly kids. “Those little black-haired kids, I still see them.” He told me about an orphanage he and his partner went by a lot, run by a convent. They’d bring food over for the kids every time, huge quantities of stuff from the base. The French nuns would whack them on the head for looking at the teenaged girls, and everyone was delighted at the stolen food they brought.

One time they came by and everyone was dead and dismembered. The VC had made a point, as their guerrilla manual told them to. There were a lot of points like that made, and a lot of dismembered kids. After 30 years and lately, some happy pills Bob can tell that particular story without crying now.

Bob is LoveLater on he and his buddy were sent into the jungle, heavily armed but not uniformed, to “fuck shit up” within certain map quadrants. They were dropped by helicopter near some people who needed to be blown up, or by boat near some people who needed to find out how well our new night sniper scope worked. A lot of “heavy shit went down”, as they said.

But it’s the kids he still sees. When he got back to New York he didn’t last too long at Reuters. He got a job working construction because he’s a big strong guy who doesn’t mind picking up joists all day. And he drank for 30 years, and other things. By the time he came out west in ’75, Bob was in full swing as a PTSD poster boy. A lot of other “heavy shit went down” in those years.

Bob has some advice for guys coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. “Paxil,” he says, “therapy. Happy pills and talking. Don’t drink, don’t smoke. It’s hard to really enjoy cocaine and heroin without a drink and a smoke. Mostly don’t drink. I spent thirty years drinking and denying, but the kids didn’t go away.”

Bob’s house up in the hills has roses and razor wire around it real tight.

White people are weird.

I made the mistake of clicking on a weird looking ad link in the Mark Morford column email from sfgate.com and ended up in this pavilion of what. I spent a good half hour trying to figure out if there was anything going on there.

It is not clear that they have ever done anything.

Looking at the self-submitted biographies of their founders, staff members, employees, and “conversation hosts” reveals that they are all wealthy well-educated Bay Area white people. They take care to mention that they have been to other countries for months or even years and that they speak foreign languages, and that they ride bicycles and use solar and hybrid power. They’re all well-off, cheerful, and in fine physical shape.

Anyway they’re going to save the world by talking about saving the world. I think technology is involved, and there are certainly oboes and wide, beardy grins. The stages are apparently 1) noticing that history and biology have happened 2) meditating and making your own brain better and ready to evolvulate and conversatify and 3) something they’re putting on the web site Real Soon Now that will be a social network.

I’ve got a better idea. How about all of them stop with the website and the neurocosmology and the self-improving oneness of spirit exercises and just make sandwiches, say, 20 a week, all at once, on Saturday. They all have lots of time and money, so this isn’t a big deal. Then, take the sandwiches to a church in a really poor neighborhood and give them a cooler full, and say “Hey, give these sandwiches to people who don’t have anything to eat, okay?”

If they want to Create a Space to be Thoughtfully Open or work on their Epic Journeys, that’s cool too, but not until the 20 sandwiches are delivered. Deal?