December 26, 2003

GV Time

Grass Valley time is a weird phenomenon that usually only affects my family during the holidays when we have nowhere to be early in the morning. Since my mom & stepdad's house is a ways out of town, there's not much around and this time of year is pretty cold, so we usually stay inside, a little tired from the 7 or 8 hour drive. Dinner's usually later as well, and so no one goes to bed til around 2 or 3 am (last night Bryn waited til 4), and then wake up at around noon.

It's easy to do this if we get caught up in a book or movie or something like that, but hard to readjust to once we're back in Santa Barbara. Still, until then all we have to do is lounge around in the same clothes for 3 days without a shower (which gives them all the time to attract as much pet hair as possible) and we're in the perfect Grass Valley time state of mind.

Ah, sloth. It's the American way.

December 18, 2003

Happenin' Tunes 2003

In which I contribute to a particularly odious form of festering crap: the Year In Pop Music list. However, since I'm hopelessly behind trends and fads about 90% of the time, there are of course several entries from last year that I finally got around to hearing and enjoying.


"Good Morning Aztlan" by Los Lobos. An actual January heat wave went along with these bright-and-shiny tunes. Faced my first month of unemployment with a frantically pathetic attempt to gain admission to the writing programs at UCI and SFSU. Bombed.

"No One Knows" by Queens of the Stone Age. Okay, so KJEE played this one to death, and Brian had this album for weeks before I finally figured "hey, Josh Homme has a cool singing voice!" Better late than never I guess.

"Ego Tripping At the Gates of Hell" by the Flaming Lips. Same story what with friends being into this before I was. Shaun, Bryn, and Brian jumped all over Soft Bulletin and then Yoshimi a long time ago. Makes me wonder what the hell I was listening to when they were doing this.

Tossup between "Inside of Love" or "Hi-Speed Soul" from Nada Surf's "Let Go" album. Made not a few drives from SB-Oceanside for baseball games and whatnot, and for whatever reason these songs remind me most of doing that.

"Ventura" by Lucinda Williams. People have been going gaga for Lucinda over the last 5 years like they're trying to make up for relatively ignoring her. Some tracks on this album are a bit overdone in the bloozy sense but this one really sounds like that drive between Carp and Ventura.

"Restraining Order Blues" by Eels. "Ask Uncle E" is one of the more hilarious features of the Eels homepage, so go give it a gander. This song is more mini-road-trip backgound music. Great title too.

"There There" by Radiohead. In which Bryn and Brian exact their revenge for my lackluster interest in the previous 2 Radiohead albums (which no amount of qualifiying re: how awesome some of those songs in fact are). Curses. Foiled again.

"Everything Is New" by Frank Black & the Catholics. FB&C make frequent appearances in Santa Barbara, ever since the tour for "Dog In The Sand" 2 years ago. I actually like that album better, but they're on a roll toward becoming the best bar band in the country, so this matters little.

"True Nature" by Jane's Addiction. Car song: whether driving up PCH in Huntington at noon or up the Salinas Valley at sunset, I couldn't get this bastard (and others from its parent album) out of my head. I could make those lyrics even better, though. Really.

Tossup between "Fugitive Motel" and "Switching Off" from Elbow's "Cast of Thousands" CD. Guy Garvey's voice is great. Still hasn't been released in the US, so V2 needs to get their butts in gear.

Tossup between "Stop" and "In Like the Rose" from BRMC's "Take Them On" album. You know how some people play songs over and over and over and over and it drives you bananas? I'm one of those people, but I do it on headphones, so you'll be happy and I'll be deaf.

Anything off Meshell Ndegeocello's "Comfort Woman". Silly title, and less cool bass playing than her previous albums, but she's still fantastic. That's all I got right now.

So as you can see I've got little taste in terms of what all them hip kids are listening to, but they all live in New York or LA and read Spin and then grow up to be bitter, sniping, hipper-than-thou monsters. Write more than I do though. Meh.

December 11, 2003

Creeping Nostalgia, part XXVIII

There are days when I’m not so keen on living in Santa Barbara. I know, I know- for everyone else in the world, that’s bordering on psychotic blasphemy, especially those who live anywhere east of, say, Nevada. Still, bear with me, cause it’ll make sense at some point, I promise. Today was not one of those days.

Anyway, I was minding my own business and eating a burrito (gee, how many times have I started an idea that way- like Bryn’s drinking stories, I guess) at this place called Tucker’s Grove Park in Goleta, on a gloriously bright and fantastic December day (cue more hate from back east). I suddenly drifted into one of those “smell the flowers” moments when I came back to my new job and parked underneath some trees that were changing color. Despite the close proximity to fleets of cars just over on Calle Real, things were very quiet, and I could see the red and orange leaves sway gently in the afternoon breeze. Really.

Seems trite, I know, but I was absolutely transfixed by a sudden enormous pull of unsolicited nostalgia, and it took me a while to figure out what the fatal combination was that caused such a wide rift in the space-time continuum. What happened was the convergence of afternoon sunlight, a soft breeze, relative quiet, and the ultra-specific visual texture of buildings constructed during the late 70’s and early 80’s (but aged a few years), namely, Dana Point when I was growing up. Every house I lived in there was up a hill, which was great for biking, but also made for instant access to sea air on the move.

One reason I’m such a sucker for Bryn’s reverb & echo-laden guitar is that it evokes images like this for me. Big wide spaces of sky balanced out by the undulating ocean, with the sliver of land in between. It’s not really like that all the time, of course, and less so now, even when we went back for Labor day in September and crashed at the San Clemente Westwind Mansion. Still, the power of it knocks me on my ass whenever I think about it.

December 02, 2003

Billy's Email Survey

(over Thanksgiving weekend)

Well gee, that was stupid. Now I've effectively doubled everyone's spam. Oh well. My answers were really cool before I accidentally wiped them all. Crap.

Anyway, stand back- here comes version 2:

1. WHAT IS YOUR FULL NAME? Jean-Keir DuBois. Used to be preceded by "The
Omnipotent Genius", but then I woke up and hit my head and Emily laughed at me. Thought up a great idea for a Flux Capactitor, though.

2. WHAT ARE YOU WEARING? A toupee. Yeah, bubba, just picture that.

3. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The yapping of small yappy-type
dogs. My mom's dogs have a unique ability to hit the higher, ear-splitting trebles that make every other animal species go "Holy blabbering Christ! Shut up, just shut up!!" wait, no... that's just Bill O'Reilly. Hoser.

question is this? I mean, if you're a stalker, you'd still be frustrated, right? People who know the first 3 numbers of my handle don't use them anyway. No, no, that's not true. Sometimes Bryn calls from the Old Country just to say dirty words onto my answering machine, and laughs hard since I'm usually not in a position to do anything about it.

5. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Chinese. Food, not people. Jeebus.
Yep, gastrointestinal gagga galore.

6. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Melanin. Changes colors in the sun, don't you know. Also helps avoid the occasional embarrassing
"flesh-tone" issue, and I use the phrase "flesh-tone" in the most racially neutral, PC, non-Hannibal Lecter way.

7. WEATHER RIGHT NOW? Sub-arctic. A high pressure zone in Alberta, Canada
has forced the polar jet to a viciously low altitude above Nevada County, California. I'm shivering in my little booties.

8. LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? God. No shit, I really did. I
know I know, God's not really a person, if you, you know, read the Bible or anything, but trust me- the dude jingled my jangle and sayeth "Yo yo yo, y'all in some deep shiznit now, dogs- been perpetratin' centuries worth of wackness in my name!" Fucked me right off, I'll tellya. It's gonna be worse for, say, all those snake-handling yahoos in Alabama. For sure. Hell, once they find out the Almighty can speak jive they'll get right down and beg for mercy after pissing themselves.

9. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT THE OPPOSITE SEX? Well, since I’m spoken for I guess I'm not supposed to notice anything about the opposite sex. I know it and they know it, and usually the trouble starts when they don't know it. Anyway, uh, the discriminatory nature of this question offends me. Um, yeah.

10. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? If I say no then I have no band, as Billy, Brian, and Bryn have in that order blessed me with this particular offering.

11. HOW ARE YOU TODAY? I too am SUPER, thanks for ASKING!! Can't improve on that, and if you can, get in touch with me. If there's something better then super I'd like to be it.

12. FAVORITE DRINK? V-8. Many of you may not know this, but if I don't have my daily v-8 I'm condemned to walk this earth at a spine-punishing 35 degree angle. One time I offered to endorse their product but the v-8 people scoffed me out of their office before stealing my angular walking idea and running with it to the tune of 85 grand. Yep. One other time I drank too much V-8 and instead of subsequently walking at a normal, 90 degree perpendicular angle, I ended up at a gravity-defying 146 degree angle! Yeah, take that, Isaac newton, you delusional, senile old virgin, you!*

*It's true- Newton prided himself on his sexual purity, the freak.

13. FAVORITE ALCOHOLIC DRINKs? V-8 and Red Bull. Makes me a slavering
boozehound. Wait, that’s not alcoholic. Um, switch the V-8 to, uh, Chinaco Anejo or something. Say, why is it that the addition of Red Bull to anything automatically makes it Hip and Cool? I mean... oh hell, Keir, why didn't you make this point back when people still actually did this sorta thing? It's time for you to move on to other abominations, such as the Crooked Trucker Hat syndrome currently affecting the young MTV kids these days. Yeah. Yeah, Ashton Kutcher sucks and all that.

14. FAVORITE SPORTS? Yuppie-punting. Yep, still love to kick the shit outta them yuppies. I would have said something normal like baseball, but unlike baseball, yuppie-punting never goes out of season. I've become quite good at it, and have won several championships in 24 California counties- even participating in competitions as far afield as Nebraska and Kentucky. Aha, and you thought there were no yuppies in the American Heartland. Well, sonny Jim, you'd be wrong. People everywhere love to bup the yups, and soon we'll inherit the earth on the strength of our combined class-defying abilities. Our ultimate goal is the dismantling of the British class system. Damn limeys.

15. HAIR COLOR? Uh, these questions are funny, and they never seem to go away, do they? I used to think they were tiresome, in my own selfish way, until I just now discovered the perfect answer: Melanin. Get it? haHA! Yep, changes color in...oh never mind.

16. EYE COLOR? Puce. No, no that's true. Haven't looked me in the eyes lately, now have you?

17. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? I'd be happy to, despite my 20/20 vision, but
every time i think of contacts or eyedrops or anything like that, I become a teary watery mess. Wait, that happens for other things, too. Maybe I should seek professional help.

18. SIBLINGS AND THEIR AGES? My brother is the world-traveling bum is 25 going on 14, and my sister is 23 going on, um, 24. I can say this with impunity cause I'm the Big Brother, and I rule with an iron fist. Or at least I used to, til Bryn and Lis hid the iron fist, and so I no longer rule with an iron fist. I simply Rule.

19. FAVORITE FOOD? Burritos. Didn't think it was such a cool favorite food until Ozzy started publicly gorging on them on TV. Hey, he had to get addicted to something safe if he was gonna be on prime time. No, my favorite food is really OxyContin. I gobble them pills at a rate that would make Rush Limbaugh puke and Jack Osbourne die. Dig that hillbilly heroin, mm-mm.

20. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Mystic River, I think. Poor Tim Robbins gets knifed and shot, which I know lots of Republicans would love to see. The commissioner of baseball might dig that too. that crap about liberals running Hollywood is a lie. Arnold runs it all now, which is why flabby Democrats like me wet the bed in fear these days.

21. FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR? Friday Flip-Up Day. What, they don't observe
this Day in your fair city? Well, can't fight city hall I guess. Still, you should petition for Thursday Opposite Day then, or maybe Wednesday wedding day. You could be cool and progressive and try to make it Wednesday Civil Union Day in the latter case, or even Wednesday Domestic Partnership day, and then laugh derisively when this does not in fact prove to be the moral undoing of these United States. Oah Jeah. Anything to annoy
Rick Santorum and the rest of those sniveling pricks who voted for the Defense of Marriage act.

22. ARE YOU TOO SHY TO ASK SOMEONE OUT? No, but I'm not supposed to do that either. Actually, when I ask Emily out she's usually too busy being a Teacher these days, and conversely when she asks me out I'm too busy doing...uh.... .... um, what the hell have I been doing this year anyway?

23. SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer. Better outdoor gig weather. Not like I've
booked anything, though.

24. RELATIONSHIPS OR ONE NIGHT STANDS? I'll take a relationship over
a night stand any day. I mean, night stands don't even talk back, now do they? How can a night stand provide the care, comfort, and acceptance of a Committed Relationship? Hell, all night stands to is hold up other things, like lamps and alarm clocks and (in my case) loose change and dirty socks. Why the hell would I want that instead of a relationship?


Oh. Oops.

25. CHOCOLATE OR VANILLA? Chocolate. Vanilla is for cowards.

26. DO YOU WANT YOUR FRIENDS TO WRITE BACK? Sure, even if all they say
is "You're stupid for sending a blank email and then not even following it up with something halfway funny, you fat bald pendejo!" and I'm afraid they'd be right. I'm most definitely in decline when it comes to Email Survey Hilarity.

27. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Bryn. He'd do it just to call me a pendejo.

28. WHO IS LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Emily. No, maybe she'd want to
call me a pendejo as well.

29. WHAT DID YOU DO LAST NIGHT? Drove like a bastard from Santa Barbara to
San Jose, only to find my sister's apartment unlocked and abandoned in favor of the Boyfriend's Parents Anniversary Dinner, in which Lis accompanies Nick to an evening of fine dining and raucous fun with the Kurns clan! We love you Nick. You know that right?

30. FAVORITE SMELLS? No, no, olfactorialness is not my forte. Really, I mean, have you seen my nose? It's teeny-tiny. Yes, I know I just made up that word "olfactorialness", but hey, who's the grammar geek, me or you? I thought so.

31. LIVING ARRANGEMENTS? You know how in some cultures there are Arranged
Marriages? Well, I have an Arranged Living, and this allows me to live or not to live according to any arrangement I may choose, and this varies from day to day, or even minute to minute. Like right now for instance. Instead of my preferred arrangement (sharing a clean, well, lit cardboard box with a gorgeous babe), I am 8 hours away, typing an unfunny Email Survey merely for the sake of not looking foolish for sending a blank email. It's not the arrangement I would choose, but I'm not living in Baghdad as a
bombed-out victim of a war between corporate greed and totalitarian penile envy.

32.WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? "Fear And Loathing On the Campaign Trail
1972" by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. What with conservative nutbags in the press claiming that the Democratic nominee will be stomped like a toad in 2004 just like McGovern was by Nixon in '72, I thought I'd go to the source and see what the good doctor has to say about it. "Lo", he sayeth: "Conservative pundits are raving gas-bags! Nixon played in a league where George W. Bush would never be anything but a batboy!" Yes yes, I know
this. How does this apply to 2004's Democratic primary? "What? Oh, uh, how about you pass me that joint first, then I’ll tell you." Huh? "Listen, kid- these will be two very different elections, so don't listen to anything those whimpering bastards on TV tell you."

Oh, ok. Well, that's not the real insight into Modern American nut-cutting politics that I was looking for, but it's a long book, so I'll keep looking and get back to you.

WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? A half-naked mermaid. No really, it's true.
This is my mom's computer. What that has to do with half-nakers fish-chicks I have no idea.

34. FAVORITE BOARD GAME? This. I'm starting to get bored, but I must Press On!


36. WHAT INSPIRES YOU? The groveling pain of immorally powerful people.

37. FAVORITE CAR? The Pope Mobile. Gotta get me one of them.

38. FAVORITE FLOWER? The artichoke.

what? I don't have a favorite flower.

39. HOW MANY KEYS ON YOUR KEY RING? 182. 4 for my house and 178 for my
secret super-hero hideout.

40. CAN YOU JUGGLE? No. Can you tell me what the capital of Tadjikistan is? Didn't think so. Who's the geography geek here, me.. oh, never mind (again).

41. IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I would change my underwear. Haven't showered in like 3 days, yo.

That's all, folks. If you've made it this far you're some bored mofos, dig? Either that or very very masochistic.

August 22, 2003

You Were Always My Favorite Maniac

From: Roy Reed
To: Olivia Arroyo
Sent: Friday, August 23, 2003 11:17 PM
Subject: Re: You Were Always My Favorite Maniac

Goddamn Olivia, I gotta say first off that it’s never fun to be on the receiving end of a sardonically vicious kick in the balls, but in this case the shameful pain is slightly mitigated by two factors: 1) it’s you doing the kicking, and 2) I probably deserved it. So I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that, in reply to your first question, all that glorious and thick hair of mine submitted to stress, dye, and bleach, but the nail in the coffin was probably genetics. The fact that it's gone and not coming back is (hopefully) an indication that I'm not as mind-numbingly vain as I used to be.

No no, don’t apologize—I’d like to think I’m not a jerk anymore and can talk to anyone about anything. Life is good right now, I guess. I quit the magazine in December so I could get my shit together for grad school, which I should hear yay or nay about in April. Meantime I’m prolonging my arrested adolescence in yet another talented but introverted Santa Barbara rock band that’s not getting anywhere but which is still the best I’ve been in yet since the B-Nuts. To her vast and unflappable credit, my girlfriend Simone has patience with such silliness, especially since it helped grease the wheels of music journalism; you may have read the profile I wrote in Under the Radar of our old friends the Screaming Mimes. It was neither in-depth nor hard-hitting, and that was it between me and those elitist snobs at UTR.

And yes, I did actually hear from some long-forgotten source that you'd become an excellent photographer. If that's really true, though, then don’t give me that self-conscious bullshit about packing it in after the perfect shot. You never were one to rest on your laurels, no matter how glorious they might be. I can relate, though; I’m not sure I’ll be able to top my three or four best lyrics anytime soon. I don’t remember everything it takes to set up a great shot but if I keep working at lyrics the way I used to I’ll get nothing done for weeks.

Used to be the payoff was a great lyric, eventually, but they don't come so easy anymore. That's not a problem, except for te fact that the other three guys churn out great tunes, and they'd rather have me take a crack at words before they do (though that's not the only way it works). I also do the album covers.

But enough about that. What I’m really interested in is why the fuck you changed your hair color. Highlights don’t really compare with straight black. For my money, anyway. Why, Liv, why? Oh, kidding. Jesus. And of course I don’t hate you. I did for a little while back then but that always happens. Hell, you haven’t even called me “the boy toy” even once yet, and I appreciate that. Some people probably still think I’m a psychotic bastard, sure, but I can’t blame them for those conclusions, now can I? I can get pretty weird on people as you know.

These days I'm very much into stitching up cut connections- one at a time, but still. I'm into this thing now of showing everyone what they missed- not in a "so there" way, kind of in a "I've been doing great things all this time, are you impressed?" way. For some reason I feel like for years people have been excited for me about all the great things I could do or could become, and I don't like the idea of letting them down by not keeping in touch. Does that make sense? I'm not naturally someone who likes to keep up sophisticated neworks of acquaintances, so I guess it's like I swoop back inot people's lives briefly and then let them go about their business. "Who was that masked man? Roy? No, didn't have enough hair, couldn't have been..." The last song I wrote had kind of a simple chorus- just "if only you could see me now" repeated twice, but all that stuff is wrapped up in it.

Not to make you feel any less unique for your efforts. It’s flattering, cause no one else has really come looking for me. Guess I didn't really affect people all that much. No really, this is good. People get frozen in mind as these cartoons based on who they were when you last saw them, which isn't fair cause people change. I like being able to demolish my cartoon when people let me.

I also say that you can put all that "caustic vixen" business to bed. I never ever thought that, and whomever told you that was a malicious lying punk. That was not the vibe with us, was it? Forget about it, and forget about what people might misinterpret. Guys see what they want to see, and there will always be shameful depravity there. Anyway, I can’t say I have a similar experience with hot Brazilian men (fucking hell Liv, what have you been reading?), but I will say that it’s no fun to discover that the half-Japanese girl you’ve been dating has cheated on you with some haggis-brained frat guy. After going completely ballisctic, I retreated to 12 units a quarter with class on Tues & Thurs only, so my guy friends and I got perpetually stoned for most of spring quarter- dong silly tihngs like playing cards and arguing about music in a barn overlooking the ocean.

That summer was when R.J.'s class finished at Dana, so I went back Mr. Hep College Guy and showed them a thing or two until I got slobbering drunk for the first time in two years and passed out in the street. It didn't feel like fun at the time, but I'm proud of myself for defiling a pristine Laguna Niguel suburb on my own terms. After that it was mostly alcohol (pot really fucked us up whe nwe tried to play gigs- I can't imagine how people do that). It was the Year Of Decadence And Depravity, but on Roy's scale, which mostly meant it had to do with some substance abuse and some intense relationships. It was a very incestuous group of "friends"- I'll put it that way, and that was only '97.

But mostly I've been good & responsible too. Hell, at 8-5 for the last 3 years I've had to. I've only ever come in to work hung over once. R.J.'s quote was something like "Nothing's epic anymore!" Not like we;re up nights contemplating this. We all have better things to do, apparently. Next question? For my part I'd like to know how long you and Nadia thought I was a blithering idiotic she-man. I didn't like the idea of having enemies at the time, but I didn't care to know if I'd actually accomplished this, and thought no one would want me to ask anyway. Of course, it's far too late to project an aura of invincible cool-ness, even though I am now Invincibly Cool, albeit at a Safe Distance.

No, really. Tell me about your odyssey with Media Law. When did this infatuation begin? Your masterful wielding of the 409.5 must really be something to see; I'd love to be there when you give attitude like that. Cops scare the living piss out of me at most and annoy at least; here at UCSB/Isla Vista they get free reign to do whatever suits their fancy, since most eveyone doesn't know a thing about what to do & not to do. Down here they're all named Officer Whatthefuck. Seems like this is the first beat that county officers get assigned to, and I swear I recognize some of the younger guys from some of my early classes.

Anyway, media law sounds like fun, actually, in a gonzo sort of way. For years I'd been trying not to get into the media cause I didn't want to contribute to the rising stew of crap that threatened to engulf civilization, but yeah, I realized that was a bad rap a long time ago. I hold on tight to the times that I've done interviews and written columns/reviews about music; it's the only thing I've done that I liked. Besides the drugs, of course. Kidding. Sorry. I’m actually surprised that you’re so scandalized by my previous intake of controlled substances both legal and illegal. Your antipathy to nicotine is shocking to say the least. Speaking of escandalos, though, I've got something else to say that might gross you out: I have a tattoo. It's a bass clef about the size of a dollar-coin on my left shoulder blade. Nothing ugly or nasty, and not where a judge or cop can see it! One more reason for you to detest nudity.

Oh yes, I figured you’d hate it. What is it about living up there among granola-heads that’s stripped you of all that reckless abandon, babe? Honestly, the tattoo is not sick at all. And yes, one must be sober to do this- alcohol thins the blood and causes a slower healing process. Besides, R.J. has 3 already, along with a history of brow and ear piercings. Come to think of it, I like shocking folks like this. "Roy? No! He was such a nice boy, what the hell happened?" As if people forget my sordid history.

Please. All this silliness about "just because depravity no longer suits us does not make us boring" is just neo-Catholic bullshit, Liv. What, are you regressing to some weird inner dogmatism that I never knew about? You forget, I'm in the Main Nerve for such thinking & behavior- as you were once too when you followed in your sister’s footsteps to Chico. Here it's not like someone isn't cool if they're not depraved- though there definitely is that- it's more like "well, okay, we're gonna go have fun doing this- hope you have fun doing what you're doing".

Like one day when R.J. and four friends wandered off hopped up on at least 5 different substances simultaneously, and I stayed at home finishing some recordings. I mean, they're not Hard Core Drug People, and there was no pressure for me to go with, but they had too much collective fun to dismiss it as depravity. I don't see the world through morality-colored glasses. I thought you’d remember that. I don't deny I'd be a total headcase if I was single- the chemicals would surely beckon. You're jumping the gun on this one- I don't mean to gloat- I would get nuts, I admit it. So, I don't plan to do anything that will jeopardize that, even though it is, like you said, luck. I either misspoke or you misunderstood me or both. I never had fucked luck on a scale like you descibe in July; it was always April or February.

I actually find it mildly interesting that you’ve been in NYC for a week—including Ground Zero—and you’re still hung up on a guy that dumped you A MONTH AGO. So I won’t talk anymore about that and instead will make the hard right turn to the other happy topic. Namely, I'm not the kind of person who was altered by 9/11 for any period of time- that's not what I meant. I knew pretty much why it happened and I wasn't swept away by giref or hatred, even though I apparently was connected via family/friends/work to people who died. However, I'm not real keen on revisiting images of people jumping 110 stories to their doom. I'm more revolted by the way the president and his staff have appropriated this as a political issue, and the way they threw away the massive international goodwill the U.S. received in the immediate aftermath.

My little sister, for instance, is not a big flag-waver. During that time she was just ending up her 6-month stay in Wellington, New Zealand. She said that when she turned the corner one day and saw a mountain of flowers in front of the US embassy with the flag flying she felt very good and very different about that flag in such a context. Things like that choke me up. Also like the time in the UK when the US national anthem was played during the changing of the guard or aomething like that (a ceremony that is usually never altered from its very English nature) and all the British and Americans and whomever else watching it outside the gates just wept like children. Images like that are tough to keep composed through.

For better or worse I'm getting well into this 2004 campaign, especially since Wesley Clark entered. A new variable to fuck with the gamblers as it were. I have a terrible fear, however, that if Bush wins this time it will be a 1972-style morale-breaker, and that everyone who's been energized by opposing Republican fascism will give up and go home. Hopefully I'm wrong on that one.

Funny you should mention Cusack. No, I never thought I looked like him. It's just that I'm baby-sitting R.J.'s copy of High Fidelity (among other various dvds) while he's in Europe (I put him on a plane to Paris yesterday). When I read that book years ago I laughed and cringed and had to admit to myself that yes, I was the most horrible mixture of Rob, Barry, & Dick (music-critically, I mean). First step to recovery. My FAVORITE scene is the one where the one customer calls them elitist snobs. "Y'all are snaaabs" -just the way he casually demolishes them is awesome. That movie plus my faltering songwriting put the kibosh on the vast majority of my pop-music elito-fascism; once your own stuff starts to get torn multiple assholes by other elitist snobs, you learn not to be an elitist snob. Shit, is that enough elitist snobbery for one email? Sorry.

I'll thank you to not be so amazed at the byline of "Arts & Entertainment Editor." I’m not actually The Man at the News-Press, but “Editor” is technically the pay scale that I'm at. At this point I'm okay with that. Especially if you've converted from a hot-shit photographer into a designer. Your outrage about the faux-roughing it of the Nor-cal granola-land is funny but I daresay something of an overreaction. The main problem with most of those people up there is that they're Giants fans. Like my recently-transplanted Editor-in-Chief (a longtime SF resident) and my guitarist (who calls it "the greatest city in the world", but he's also a single vegan). Ah well. You can pick your friends but not, uh, your band. Or something. We're making a killer new CD at the moment, believe it or not.

Man, you really went off about all those dirty bisexual hippies, with their REI/Patagonia complexes and their damnable grade-less UCs and all. Well, you had to live up there for all that time and, AND, I seem to recall us discussing this VERY thing in the dreaded April of 1996. Not that you're contradicting yourself, cause you're not. Just saying- I still live at the beach, where I like it. Sorry you can’t say the same. Really. It's fine to realize you're not who you're trying to be. I do that all the time. I like it much better when I find this out for myself before further outside damage is done and I have girlfriends or band members or family members asking me what the fuck is wrong with me. I wish I could say this kind of embarrassing, head-slapping revelation doesn't happen so much these days but that's probably not true.

Of course, that's not The Point. Nor is it that SoCal-ers aren't big fuck-off posers too. They are. My brother has been reminded of this fact since April, when he moved back to Huntington. The Point is that in this big thing you wrote to me seems like you're trying to justify or clarify something when you don't need to. Just say "well, I used to want to be like that, but I figured out that's not working cause I'm really like this". No qualification necessary. If you like where you are then dammit, stay there for a while and drink it all in.

But none of that matters right now, because I’m sick as ten dogs. I’ve been completely consumed by the feral bastard offspring of migraines and coagulated snot. I get short of breath but when I take a deep breath I cough like a mofo- dry, lung-chucking spasms- exacerbating the pounding of my clammy bald skull. I sleep it off for a few hours and wake up caked in sweat and smelling like a dingo, and pathetically pray for heaven's mercy. How's that for colorful metaphor? English major moron, my ass. I'm quite happy I majored in English, Liv. I wiped the floor with my English classes and wrote some fucking good papers, thank you very much. Plus English girls are easy. Or so I was told. Not like you hot-blooded fractionally brown girls, of course. Never that.

So yeah, it's wonderful to hear from you, and write back whenever you wish. Just don't forget to appeal to my planet-sized ego, and I'll make sure to always behave with appropriate crazed enthusiasm. You're welcome.



July 08, 2003

Beyond Mere Chemical Enhancement

The bedroom door opens and Jake comes back followed by the two people who just showed up outside: the mop-haired quiet one from the Civic last night and another guy with a shaved head who shuffles along with terrible posture. They shiver a bit as they join us all in the crowded room, and Jake ducks in the closet to get the little pipe and baggie he’s hidden inside a drawer. Voices murmur and laugh in the low light and I can hear two people making out on the other side of the room. Jake emerges again and steps over the long, powerful legs of the two girl volleyball players and winks at them, but they just glare back at him in annoyed acknowledgement. He shrugs to himself and turns around back to his guests.

The motor-mouth from the Civic is talking to the girl next to him (his girlfriend, I think) about the other girl Hannah I saw last night on the hill. He says he was in sixth period with her when she started freaking out yesterday afternoon, and as he does so looks for validation from the mop-haired guy (who was there too), gets it, and rolls on about how it’s kind of a bummer but not all that surprising and I want to tell him it’s not like that, that she was assaulted, but then that’s exactly what he says next before getting cut off, gently but forcefully, by the girl’s friend, another chick who’s leaning heavily on Cody (who should be more uncomfortable but he’s not) and who says she doesn’t want to hear about this stuff right now and Josh can we please talk about something else?

Jake begins to pass the pipe around, first to the volleyball players, as Josh says okay and then zips off on a tangent about how he’s never masturbated before, which gets the precise reaction he thought it would and pauses while the others groan, for the moment forgetting about Hannah and wherever she is and whatever might be going on with her.

A sandy-blond guy to Josh’ right, another guy from the Civic, takes the pipe from the redheaded volleyball girl and before he takes a hit feels compelled to ask Josh, too loudly, if he feels like he should go take care of his novel inexperience right now and Josh says not until he’s stoned, Evan, so Evan passes him the burbler after taking a small hit and then Josh takes one too and passes it to a taller, skinnier guy who he calls Zach and who I recognize as the Civic’s driver, and he takes a bigger hit.

Cody’s trying to steer the conversation (which is still stuck on Josh’ jerking off) over to a party he’s planned at the Double Tree in Capo Beach and he’s double-checking that all these people will be there. I’m having trouble keeping quiet, so I decide to watch the pipe’s progress. By now it’s made its way from Zach to the slouching blond guy, whose name is Colin, and then to the mop-haired guy Derek, who apparently isn’t sure how it works and hasn’t been paying attention to the seven other people who’ve done it already.

The fool’s having trouble with the lighter and he’s holding up the line so Josh says for fuck’s sake, Derek, and lights it for him while he sucks weakly. Derek takes a small hit, but he’s coughing too much and clearly unhappy with himself, which no one fails to notice, and they laugh a little, but Josh decides to deflect that and while he’s up intentionally, and clumsily, steps over Cody and the girl that likes him (who protest) to go to the bathroom.

Jake’s room isn’t very small, but it’s rapidly filling up with smoke, so Derek, who’s closest to the window, staggers up and attempts to open it while Jake comes over my way, says Aaron just relax damn it, and starts digging around in the closet again, this time for a little fan that I can see but he hasn’t yet so I look the other way and don’t offer any clues when I feel him glace at me.

Cody’s still going on about the Double Tree shindig, saying he’d just come here from there, and that he’d been stocking it surreptitiously with liquor ever since, and looking around the circle of people, reminding them that they said they’d go tonight. I don’t know why, but for an instant Cody’s glance flicks back to where I am near the closet, but not at eye level, and I wonder if he even sees me as I notice him squint, focus, dismiss, and then move on around the circle again. Cody fails, however, to look in my direction again, so I guess I have to be content with that

He quickly seems to forget it, at any rate, once Josh returns from the can and plunks back down next to Evan, who asks him what took so long and Josh says, with a bit of volume, that he’s just finished masturbating for the first time in his life. Another round of groans sweeps over the room, punctuated this time by various sworn exclamations from everyone but the girl Alicia, who’s looking at Josh and scooting away as if he has the plague, while Jake attempts to shush everyone, saying his dad wouldn’t be happy to hear from the neighbors about any parties here. Some people quiet down and some say okay, sorry man, and I notice Derek’s eyes are like slits, even though a few of the others look a little more far gone than he is. The two volleyball players get up to go, saying they’ll go get some munchies to bring to the hotel thing, and everyone says bye and see you later.

Cody thinks he sees an opportunity to shake off the girl that likes him, so he makes his way out as well amid various promises to see y’all in a few and I think about following him as he drives over there, and about maybe forcing him to drive his Beemer off the road in fear, but then something clicks and I know I won’t be able to curse him out like I now desperately want to and I can’t bring myself to move from my spot on the floor. I just stay put and close my eyes, listening to the garbled gossip and jokes that people are now tossing at each other lazily, and the Tricky CD in the background is steadily helping demolish any remaining coherent, constructive thoughts, which have long gone beyond mere chemical enhancement.

July 05, 2003

Ominous Thoughts on Crown Valley Parkway

I'm in Colin's car on a Saturday evening and he's driving us up PCH to Crown Valley on our way to Jake's, cause J scored some weed from a buddy of his who goes to Santa Margarita. I’d made a stupid mistake and admitted I hadn't done it yet, so the guys were unnaturally keen to see what might happen to me once I inhaled. I have no opinion on the situation yet, but maybe that's because my mind's elsewhere already; Colin told me this afternoon that Alicia Montero would be coming tonight too (maybe her regular cheap weekend laugh fix took a rain check) and she'd be bringing all her hot friends and they'd undoubtedly become sickened or giddy at the sight of me high. Stoned. Fried. Completely Wasted. Utterly, pathetically debilitated.

It's getting tougher by the second to forget images of the different ways these gorgeous girls will involuntarily twist and disfigure their own pretty faces once I attain the expected state of idiocy. I could be overreacting, but there's no way to be sure. Jake seemed to care about it a bit less than one might think (or maybe it was just residual guilt or sympathetic indifference kicking in after thirteen years of friendship) and Ben didn't mention it at all last night, so all I had to go on was Colin's unnerving enthusiasm. If I didn't know any better (and shit, maybe I don't) I'd say he seemed to be taking a perverse, virgin-deflowering approach to the whole situation. Fuck, if I'm already this paranoid, how much worse will it get? How long will this goddamn night be?

Colin cuts off my rapidly derailing thought process with a mumbled question, and since Jeff Buckley is yowling through his car stereo at an epic volume I can't hear him.

"Huh?" I respond, a little too attentively. "Uh, nothing I guess," he says, deflecting something. "Just thinking out loud, man," Colin downshifts before continuing. I notice that his Jeep is crawling along at around 25 and suddenly remember that for some reason he's a complete slug behind the wheel. The song ends and a slower one starts so he turns it down a bit. "Yeah," he says slowly. "I love this album man- this guy's a fucking genius." He begins to tell me all about his new band, the Screaming Mimes, that's been playing tiny coffee-house shows and I have to cut him off cause I really need to know what his question was, like it's gonna take the edge off my night.

"What? Oh right," he says. "I was just wondering why the guys ditched you tonight, dude. I mean, you, Ben, and Jake usually show up together, so I just thought something might be up, like you got kicked you out of bed or something." He smiles weakly, misinterpreting my stare.

"Sorry, sorry-" he continues, now chuckling a bit. "I figure I have a responsibility to find out if there's some internal bitching that might break up the Stones before the big gig, you know?" He laughed a little louder, slightly amused. We were supposed to lip-sync to "Satisfaction" for some lame school activity, and of course Jake (who was to be Jagger) roped us all in for it, including Colin (an "extra bombed-out" Brian Jones, he promised). The fact that it wouldn't be happening 'til March didn't matter- I had to listen to the song a billion times and watch old Ed Sullivan and Ready Steady Go! videos that Jake happened to have in order to become my designated Stone (Charlie Watts). Colin is the only one of us who actually plays an instrument, so he'll let Jake have his show and go along for the ride.

I'm about to tell him I'm saving to get a bass guitar, but then I think he might not be too impressed (since I can't read music) or, worse, ask me what kind (I have no idea, but it's the one Sting has so I know it's uncool), so I revert back to my peremptory abandonment by the erstwhile Biggest Band in the World. "I don't know what's up with those guys sometimes," I say. "These days I don't know if I'm in or out- not like I worry about it or anything- but Jake is on his whole Homecoming King trip and Ben seems to be in on that too- did you know they smuggled in a dozen beachballs to the game last week that all said "Jake for King" on them?- and aside from the generally cool feel of fuckupedness that we always whip up I'm kinda not into this whole student-council-crashing super-coup they're trying to pull off." I stop, thinking maybe I said too much. Oh well.

"Yeah, man," says Colin, distractedly. Guess he wasn't listening. Cool. "Hey," he suddenly starts up as we finally roll into the Crown Valley stoplight (after what seemed an eternity). "Hear about next week's game?" he asks. Colin on football? "No, don't think so," I offer.

"This intersection just reminded me of it," he explains, and before I can give him a well-placed come again? face he goes on, "Nicole Brown Simpson's old place is in Monarch Bay that way." He points to the left. "O.J. bought it for her, I think." His lip curls. "Wonder if she used it for the love shack," he says before making a right turn. "What's that got to do with the game?" I ask. Might as well fill up the slow drive with something, even if it is about this shit. I can't stand hearing about it all day, every day but apparently someone does. Then I remember that Nicole went to our high school.

"She was a, uh..." Colin drawls, "Homecoming princess, I think. Not even the queen, but since next weekend's Homecoming the media's making a thing out of it and so Hard Copy is coming to the game and the school's shooting off fireworks above the floats at halftime and the whole thing's shaping up to be a fucking circus, man, so security's gonna be tighter than your asshole." He winks. "Maybe we oughtta tell Jake about it."

"Oh, I'm sure he's thought of, like, a ton of non-lethal acts of domestic terror," I say. "I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to tell us about them all in the presence of many impressionable women that are all hotter than the sun."

"Totally," he agrees, laughing again. "I guess I should be sober enough to scoop them up when he loses them!"

"Yeah, man," I reply. "I just hope my sorry baked ass won't hold all your attention tonight. You gotta be up on this if you want to snag someone like Alicia. You know that I asked her out and got denied?" Hey! What the hell do you think you're doing, you fool? Admitting every crash and burn was not on the agenda for this evening!

"What?" he asks, coming back from somewhere else a little too obliviously. Oh shit, I realize, he's driving stoned. No wonder we've already aged three years in this damn Jeep.

"Ah, forget it, Derek" he says. "I know for a fact she's into Jake. No clue why, though," he sniffs. "Dude's passing off his whole routine as himself when it's just recycled Carlin lines. Nice guy though, I guess."

Gee, Colin's such a charming insightful person, I think. Too bad his new band sucks in spite of his fantastic ability and he knows it. Triple- A radio covers of Counting Crows are not stepping stones to king-hell fame and fortune (but then, neither is Sting, dumbass). Still, he eventually catches up with my previous gripes and turns off Buckley to say something else, but the radio immediately blares Cracker's song about pot, and Colin, startled, laughs knowingly, subsequently yelling the rest of the song (emphasizing the chorus with wild glances at me- "Hey! Hey, hey like being STONED!") as the Jeep begins its long climb up Pacific Island toward my date with an assuredly asymmetrical immediate future.

July 03, 2003

A Slow Climb to Dangerous Altitudes

The view is glorious up here, but I can’t really focus on that too well right now. I pass Cody the joint, saying “we’re probably gonna get busted for even being here, dude,” but he just shrugs.

“Better trespassing than a possession rap, Aaron.” I laugh at this and shoot back “That’s your problem,” but Cody’s just as quick. He’s all “Oh, it’s your problem now too, dumbass,” waving what used to be my sixty bucks in front of my face, before taking another toke. He grimaces. “Hmmm, maybe I ripped you off, man. This stuff isn’t that great after all.” I smirk and say “How about I take my money back then, asshole?”

“No, that’s your problem now too, okay? Get rid of it if you hate it so much. Toss it in what’s left of burned-out Laguna Beach, you chickenshit fag.” I tell Cody to fuck off but he just laughs like he’s in on some massive inside joke and I’m not, and then he takes himself and my money back to his Beemer and speeds down Talavera. I wait a while before moving. The sun beats down and I try to go carefully, watching out for poison oak. Dealing with that shit would just add another vicious insult to an already injury-prone year.

It began this summer, when my sister and I were at my dad’s place in San Gabriel. We’d met his new girlfriend and I thought she was okay at the time, I guess, but I don’t remember much else about her because there seemed to be so much more going on. There was an earthquake out in the desert, and though it didn’t level everything in L.A., it was still pretty bad.

It had happened at around four in the morning, and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Not out of fear, but because the damn futon had what felt like only a half-inch of cushion, and it was so painful to sleep on that I took my pillow to the only spot of open floor in the tiny living room. I put on my headphones but the radio sucked, and the only tape I had was Zooropa so I played it over and over until I fell asleep again.

I didn’t wake up until eleven-thirty the next morning, jolted into consciousness by the sound of the blender my dad was using to make another weird fruit-veggie-health-whatever smoothie. He asked if I wanted one but I said no, and went over to play Shufflepuck on the Mac Classic. Dad turned on KLOS, but Breakfast with the Beatles was already over, so there was nothing to distract him from asking me about my girlfriend, Alison, and when he’d get to meet her.

I said I wasn’t sure, cause she’s at cheer camp all this summer in Santa Barbara, but she hates it and might quit, so maybe I could tell her to stop by on her way home. He said “Well, let’s hope so son.” I hated it when he called me “son” and not “Aaron.” Did I ever call him “Mr. Haynes?” Fuck no, because that’s what his students and everyone else at school called him, even that asshole superintendent who thought being cool equaled wearing three shades of brown.

Later I helped Dad wash the Explorer, and I got kinda bent when he said that Mom didn’t make Amy and me do enough chores, but I got over that a few hours later when he let me practice driving it. It was kind of fun freaking him out by almost tearing through a picket fence off Foothill and then making like I was gonna clip his mailbox. I could tell he was really worried, but he just said “No wonder you didn’t get your license on the second try.”

I did get it eventually, though, later in August when I came back home, and that was handy cause I wouldn’t need Ali to drive me everywhere. Even better, I wouldn’t have to walk down the hill to work and then need Mom to pick me up afterwards. She was never too keen on us being out late at night, and sometimes I’d have to work after hours to earn some extra scratch for Prom or whatever.

I was almost eighteen and tired of Mom’s leash, though, so sometimes I would lie about working late and then go pick up Ali with my mom’s car. We’d drive up the Pacific Island hill behind her house and walk the trail after dark, and our parents never found out.

It was always so quiet up there, and no one else seemed to know about it—both plusses when seeking a prime make-out location. We were lucky to get to it when it was still routinely deserted, though, because after the fire everyone was paranoid about arson, and the cops stepped up their patrols, making a point to check the hilltop twice a night.

Admittedly that made sense, especially when I went up there a few days after the fire and slipped by a roadblock on Talavera to get a close-up view of the destruction. The air smelled like death, and when I got to the hill’s edge and looked out over Aliso Canyon, I could barely see the lights from Laguna Beach on the other side; most residents had temporarily fled the area until the blaze was subdued.

On my way back to the to the car that day, I’d run right into two cops and a fire crew as they were showing up to catalogue the debris. I was threatened with arrest if I didn’t leave immediately, and they didn’t seem to like my half-true reason to be there—my girlfriend lived off Pacific Island—so I bailed and didn’t come back until tonight. I’d told Cody that I didn’t think it was such a good idea to meet up here, no matter how good his weed was. He’d said it would be too risky anywhere else, and besides, anyone would be able to smell it on us unless we stayed outside for a while.

Cody was gone now, though, and most of my paranoia had left with him. There’s still some daylight left, so I decide to stay up here on the peak and use up my fair share of it.

June 05, 2003

Sound & Fury Archive, 2001-2003

A collection of quickie reviews for the Santa Barbara Independent. Each one was a nice challenge, in that I had to cram a whole record review into 90 words.

U2: The Best Of 1990-2000 (Island)
U2’s second hits package plays as revisionist history for casual fans, with a few bones thrown at diehards (some lifeless re-mixes and two bland new songs). There are some glaring omissions (“The Fly,” “Please”), but generally the present old tracks are worthy, especially the excellent “Until the End of the World” and “Gone.” However, the emphasis on songs rather than sounds seems like a forced apology for making more exciting, but less “commercial” material during the 1990s, effectively blunting the album’s “best-of” billing. 12/12/02

Elvis Costello & The Attractions: Imperial Bedroom (Rhino)
Costello’s 1982 magnum opus is reissued for the second time, including a 23-song bonus disc of demos and alternate takes of the album’s 15 tunes. If you take the nerdy step of playing the bonus disc first, the flat, bristling demos of tracks like “Beyond Belief” and “Man Out Of Time” explode into pompous technicolor in their final, more familiar incarnations. Most surprising is the initial, flashy funk version of “Town Cryer,” light years from its eventual home as the album-closing ballad. 12/19/02

Camper Van Beethoven: Cigarettes & Carrot Juice-The Santa Cruz Years (Spin Art)
Currently semi-reunited and touring Europe, these happy Campers celebrate their formative years of the mid-1980s with a re-rlease of four indie albums, each jam-packed with their trademark surrealist-absurdist folk. It’s a mixed bag, but not without great bursts of hilarity like “Take The Skinheads Bowling” and “The History Of Utah.” Most welcome is a live disc of later, major-label material, boasting the best live album title ever: Greatest Hits Played Faster. 1/16/03

Morphine: The Best of Morphine 1992-1995 (Rykodisc)
Unlike its European issue, this disc is noticeably lacking representation from Morphine’s recent excellent Dreamworks albums. However, Rykodisc manages Morphine’s range well, with some of the late Mark Sandman’s choice doses of slow, smoky beat-noir mixed with more uptempo songs that show how much this guitar-less trio could rock, especially on numbers like “Honey White,” “Thursday,” and “Radar.” The selection leans a little too heavily on 1993’s Cure For Pain, but it’s worthy nonetheless. One of the great under-appreciated bands of the 90’s. 2/10/03

Cracker: Hello Cleveland! Live From The Metro (Cooking Vinyl)
Included stateside with 2002’s Forever, this rollicking live disc sees alternate release as a UK import this year. Compiling highlights from a 1999 show, the performance catches David Lowery & Co. at a bizarre crossroads- halfway between a one-hit has-been and an indie-cult favorite status. Cracker illustrate their predicament with a fiery initial blast of rootsy fan favorites like “Been Around The World” and “Big Dipper,” before slowing into an obligatory romp through hits like “Low” and “Pictures Of Matchstick Men.” 3/28/03

Lucinda Williams: World Without Tears (Lost Highway)
Lucinda Williams continues a fantastic run of albums by abandoning Nashville for L.A. on her latest effort, which is probably for the better even if this somewhat melodramatic and over-emotive collection doesn’t quite stack up to her previous two. Williams’ raspy drawl is balanced by some epic and brightly reverberated fretwork by guitarist Doug Pettibone, putting rockers like “Real Live Bleeding Fingers” and “Righteously” on a decidedly un-country stratospheric trajectory, while conversely lending extra depth to resigned ballads like “Ventura” and “Over Time.” 4/10/03

Golden Shoulders: Let My Burden Be (Doppler/Blackliner)
These Nevada City roots-rockers recently stomped through town to flaunt some crunchy pop songs spiked with the genial wit and sharp lyricism of frontman Adam Kline. Their album sounds like the last time you were brilliantly intoxicated, ambling (“Do You Know Who You Are?”) shuffling (“Genius”) and waltzing (“Spirit of ‘78”) through an assured, resolute set that doesn’t let up one bit- even closer “Time We Took Away” cannily makes the subtlest of tempo changes right in time and on a dime. 5/29/03

Eels: Shootenanny! (Dreamworks)
Eels main man E shaved off more than his bushy beard when making his latest album. Most of the jagged teeth present on last year’s “Souljacker” have been gently pulled in favor of equally stripped down pop-rockers like “Saturday Morning” and “Restraining Order Blues” that seem far more comfortable in their own skin than ever before. E shares credit with crafty henchmen Butch and Kool G Murder (an unflappable rhythm section) on many of the songs, but the frontman’s sparkling melodies remain the disc’s primary strength. 6/5/03

April 24, 2003

Positively State St: From Kountry To Klezmer

Originally from the Santa Barbara Independent. Featuring Earl and the Expanding Polka Funk Experience.

HIGHLY STRUNG PIANO: The high profile show of the week for many in town will be Tori Amos at the Arlington on Friday the 18th. Amos, supporting her recent "Scarlet's Walk" CD, has been performing a good chunk of that album balanced with a wide selection of hits and fan favorites from her considerable back catalogue. Scaled down a bit from County Bowl performances of recent years, the show is set to be Amos assisted by a small combo, including bassist Jon Evans and drummer Matt Chamberlain (but no guitarists as in the past). Still, Amos might find time in the set to go it alone, accompanying herself with a Bosendorfer piano (or a Rhodes or Wurlitzer waiting in the wings). Also likely on this tour, as on previous jaunts, will be a so-called "meet and greet" with the woman herself, usually undertaken pre-soundcheck. Incredibly lucky or persistent Tori-philes need apply only.

Opening the show will be a Texan named Rhett Miller, otherwise known for his job fronting the chunky roots-rock of the Old 97's. Miller's performances from his second solo outing, the "Instigator" LP, will probably bear little resemblance to that band, however; the lush, poppier arrangements of his solo material usually provide ample contrast to any of the (relatively) starker 97's songs that may be appearing in his sets. Fans of sharp lyricism and tight songwriting will surely dig the rollicking way that Miller flaunts these particular talents of his.

UNSUNG HEROES: More than a few of us owe our continual musical well-being to a man called Earl. Long a staple of cozy local venues like Bogart's and JoJo's (as well as countless others further afield), our favorite purveyor of frenetic fusionoid klezmer-boogie entered the studio last weekend to begin crafting a follow-up to the "I Am Next To You" album. Backing up His Earlness for this go-round will be stand-up bassist Jeff Kranzler as well as not one, but two extraordinary percussionists: longtime ally William Paisley on drums and new addition Matt Talmage on vibraphone. The latest combo, dubbed "Earl and the Expanding Polka Funk Experience" are set to show off the fruits of their labor on April 26, way up at the dizzying heights of the Cold Spring Tavern.

Gravity Willing's recent split seems to have left everyone from that band in limbo except erstwhile frontman Nick de Sieyes, who's charged off in a solo acoustic direction that was only hinted at before in parts of the band's fantastically epic sets. Should one assume that such rocking grandiostiy is incapable of quieter presentation, one would indeed be very wrong. See for yourself when Nick shows off his new stuff at the Wildcat on Tuesday, April 15th.

Also, on a more ominous note of local talent attrition, radio silence, or at least the web equivalent, has descended over the sites of a few Isla Vista recent stalwart rock bands like OJ Barbados and jammers Blue Room (whose site has been on the blink for some time). Call it mushy, sentimental, or whatever you like, but I never like to hear about bands breaking up (which, for lack of any information, seems to be the case for both of these fine lineups). Even so, at press time OJB is slated to play along with the Youngbloods on April 7 at the Coach House.

However, El Jefe is still a force on the move, and will be in town promoting their new disc "El Jefe's Amorphous Phormula". This high-energy group have made leaps and bounds in their continuing quest to refine the perfect mix of rock, reggae, and hip hop, and if you haven't heard their powerful authority since their days of yore in Isla Vista, then you owe it to yourself to catch them at Velvet Jones on April 12 with Pensativa and Tabularasa.

March 14, 2003

Lies, Damned Lies, and Press Releases

The Mojo Wire fails to get noticed, thanks to Keir's blatant revisionism and managerial incompetence.

For Immediate Release 11/22/01: Local Indie-Rock Band Mired in Name-Brand Confusion!

A nasty rumour seems to be circulating among our little circle of fans, claiming us Mojos are changing our name to, among other things, "Rumpleshithead" or "Ali Baba and the 40 Fuckheads." I'd like to state for the record that these allegations are absolutely false, and refer all reporters to our latest press release:

According to Mojo Wire bassist Keir DuBois, "the band re-naming situation has become a little more complicated." DuBois notes that first of all, Mojo guitarist Joe Zulli has publicly stated that any and all name changes must be, in his opinion, "better" than the Mojo Wire (messrs. Adam Hill, Joe Zulli, Keir DuBois, Bryn DuBois). "If any suggestion does not pass Joe's iron hand of justice, then may God's mercy be upon it, for we shall show none, and continue on as the Mojo Wire."

Also, drummer Bryn DuBois has abstained from any further comment upon new nomenclature and all monikers, because of the conflict of interest concerning his efforts to assemble a new band under his leadership with guitarist Brian Wolff. However, today Keir has speculated that in fact, his brother's retreat from all comments had more to do with "Bryn not liking anything I thought up" as well as "asserting that if the three of us couldn't come up with anything decent in four days, he would arbitrarily choose a name and we'd have to live with it."

The drummer (and one-time lead guitarist for the band), who has apparently tired of their current name, was responsible for first naming the group in 1996, calling them "the Clap" before collapsing in a fit of laughter and sputtering, beer-soaked coughing. The band settled on "the Mojo Wire" early the next year, after Bryn DuBois unceremoniously dumped The Clap, deeming it "unpoetic." Comments from his mother were not available at press time. Vocalist Adam Hill, who apparently approved that suggestion, now claims to be unfazed about his band's current debacle. "I couldn't care less," he opines. "As long as I keep getting my backstage riders of Corvasier cases and the Swedish bikini team, they can call us ‘Madam Adam and the Happy Mediums'."

Zulli was similarly inspired, commenting that his suggestion "Joe Z. and the Pussycats" was at least as good as Adam's. "This name problem is complete horseshit," said Joe. "What I want to know is why Keir's so worried about this crap instead of getting gigs!" Keir had no comment, and referred Joe to their manager, Keir, who also had no comment, whereupon Joe referred Keir the bassist and Keir the manager to his lawyer, Mr. Middle Finger. The problem was compounded by the discovery of "Mojo-Wire," a central Pennsylvania jam band hoping to slip in under the radar of our heroes, whose immediate collective reaction was "Damn! Now we really have to change that #($#)&@ name!"

Previous names under consideration (and since rejected):

Inebriatron: Discarded pending legal action from Geoff Beckstrom
Aldo's Italian Restaraunt: Joe loves it, the rest don't.
Boisterous George: Adam's favorite, but too close to "Boy George."
Miracle Max: Bryn endorses, with little support.
The Choicest Hops: Keir and Joe's suggestion that makes no sense outside the NFL.
The Allmighty Dollar: Keir's pick til Owen comdemned as "too political."
Fighter Hayabusa: Bryn's nostalgic Nintendo reference that Joe despises.
Covered In Bees: The Eddie Izzard reference that no one gets.
The Owies: Emily's choice, discared as "too childish."
Gotcha Last: Keir's suggestion, ditched as "too immature."
Evasive Action: Met with indifference, used later in lyrics.

For Immediate Release 12/27/02: Local Musician's Attempts at "Renaissance Man" Status Potentially Libellous

Onetime Mojo Wire bassist Keir DuBois has raised the ire of his former bandmates by shamelessly trading on his time spent with them, turning their collective experiences into, as he puts it "a half-assed work of fiction." The project, which began in a fit of creative and professional desperation, apparently attempts to chronicle the band in the period from May 1998 to June 2001, in great (and some say exaggerated) detail.

Dissenting complaints have piled up ever since December 15, when DuBois dispatched a sample of the text, entitled A Festering Epidemic of Island Fever (in which the band break up during a flight to their last gig in Honolulu) to several major universities in an effort to gain admission to various graduate writing programs. "The whole thing's been blown out of proportion," DuBois laments. "I just wanted it to be a fun bit of nostalgia, you know, on the popularity of which I might be able to ride to king-hell fame and fortune."

Addressing his detractors, DuBois displays amazing amounts of denial, hubris, and pretension. "It's not about the Mojo Wire," he claims. "There's significant resemblances to the guys in the band and others in and around the organization, but it's a work of fiction, and isn't meant to be a biography or memoir or anything like that." What it will most likely be, according to other band members (as well as friends and acquaintances), is a whitewash, and an extremely fictitious one at that. "The actual events don't resemble anything we did at all," admits ex-Mojo drummer (and current Honey White frontman) Bryn DuBois. "I mean, the tour he has us undertake for our third record was about three laps around California, for crissakes, which we frankly did not, nor could not, do at the time."

"That's not the worst thing about it," adds Mojo guitarist Joe Zulli. "The stupid bastard spreads his point of view over two characters- one that's kind of like the fat, balding, opinionated bass player, and the other is, I think, a younger, cooler, chick-magnet writer, which is of course totally ridiculous. I mean, who on earth would believe a skinny writer would ever be any kind of Cassanova?" DuBois counters that Zulli may be merely unhappy that his own doppelganger has a background as a Blink-182 roadie.

The jury is still out on the quality of the actual work, though- the judgement of which remains to be seen. "I won't know if I'm admitted until around April or so," frets Keir. "So if I'm not, stand back, cause I'm sure that everyone's gonna be intent on bloody vengeance for all of the supposed blasphemous libel in my writing."

For Immediate Release 2/21/03: One-Time Local Hero Secretly Revisits Scenes of His Fame

Erstwhile Mojo Wire frontman Adam Hill has returned to Santa Barbara, making an appearance in Isla Vista to cheer on his former bandmates in SB rock combo Honey White.

"It's great to be back here," commented Hill upon query. "I mean, I know this is Santa Barbara and all but you have to understand- Marie and I are coming back from Aliso Viejo, the soul-sucking center of Orange County's cosmic hell."

When pressed that surely, his last residence might not have been as purgatorial as remembered, he became visibly irked. "No no," he continued, "I meant what I said. When Bryn and Keir were down here a month ago they mentioned having a little culture shock returning to O.C.- but I think it's worse than that. The whole area down there is under a culture coma. It's that bad."

Hill would not comment on possible musical activity he might undertake while here in town. "I was thinking about getting my feet wet via recording some reinterpretations of Mojo Wire classics," he opined. "You know, like ‘Margarita' as heavy metal or ‘Your Mama's A Ho' as polka. The possibility is there, make no mistake."

However, he foiled a plan to get him onstage that night, hatched by Honey White frontman Bryn DuBois, who lamented "Adam sneaked away before we could ask him- I think he may have been tipped off, and when I find the scum-sucking fool that did it, they will indeed fear my wrath."

Drummer Billy Fedderson was less volatile: "I'd have loved it," he said. "Sharing the stage with the author of ‘Margarita' would be epic," to which his bandmates heartily agreed, and urged fans to keep their eyes and ears open for future collaboration.

For Immediate Release 3/14/03: Local Indie-Rock Band Releases Revisionist Retrospective

Mojo Wire bassist Keir DuBois revealed today that he is deep into a remastering project of the four albums made by that band in their six year history. "I like to call it ‘remastering'," he noted, "but it's really just an excuse for me to use some new compression and equalization software on our albums." Questions directed toward the idea that the Mojo Wire's albums are beyond any sort of studio help, professional or otherwise, were condescendingly dismissed.

"No, they don't sound like professional recordings at all," admitted the bassist. "We recorded them to analogue tape in mono, for crissakes- they're not going to sound top notch." "However," he continued, "they will now sound like they belong in the upper echelon of the bottom-notch, shall we say." At least one of the CDs, 2001's You're On Your Own will have bonus material.

In addition to the work done on the older albums, DuBois hinted at the limited release of a Mojo Wire compilation, "to put all of our more palatable stuff into one place." The album, to be titled Low Fidelity Favorites, will be augmented with a re-issued version of the band's rare outtakes album, Bedrock Crude. "It may not have the same track list, and in fact I'm not sure what will be on it- with a few exceptions, of course."

DuBois also confirmed that such notoriously bizarre Mojo tracks like "March of the Idiots" and "This is the Chorus" will sit alongside a few live recordings from the band's 2001 performances. "The quality is at the same level- the live stuff is about as chaotic and unprofessional as the funnier songs are dumb and crude." Comments from his ex-bandmates could not be acquired at press time. The albums are due to be re-released sometime in April 2003.

January 21, 2003

Disjointed Flashbacks and Cringeworthy Memories

I used to bike all over town when they were putting new roads in. I had to be the first one to bike on each of them- to lay a new streak down the virgin asphalt that had already been caked over by a fine layer of dust. Raw exposed earth was the symbol for Orange County back then and still is. One Saturday when I'd done a big loop from Del Obispo to Stonehill to Niguel to PCH to Crown Valley to Del Avion and back down Golden Lantern I stopped at Josiah and took a roundabout detour through the Bible houses—Mom always called them that cause all the streets were names from the Bible— Josiah, Jeremiah, Seth, Rachel, names like that.

We knew lots of families that lived around there, through AYSO and scouts and baseball and of course school. I had a prolonged, debilitating crush on a girl whose family lived on Priscilla and though I knew no one was home that weekend I passed by their house four times before I took off back down Golden Lantern with half and eye on the fence above me in case the LeBlanc's maniacal dog slipped his leash again and pounced on me from three feet above, but he wasn't there so I kept going and passed school and the worn out all-purpose field where I'd tried out for soccer my freshman year and been cut right away cause the coach was a new guy and my parents didn't know him so they didn't give the athletic department any money or at least it was something like that according to my grandpa when he asked me if I knew why I was cut.

Light traffic on Stonehill so I ignored the red light and streaked through the intersection, building up speed so I could take the immediate drop downhill at the highest velocity possible (or so it seemed). The iceplant (I think that's what it was) became a green blur to my right and in no time I'd also zipped through the Selva intersection and nearly killed an old man who I could still hear screaming “You belong in the street, goddammit!!” even though I was miles away by the time he finished the sentence and had forgotten it in any case cause traffic was starting to thicken up towards the PCH signal so I slowed as little as possible in order to make the hard right turn but still managed to miss the sidewalk and ended up in the bikepath instead which was ok since it's PCH and I was able to coast on all that leftover speed until the hill rose again after Blue Lantern but I only had to work a little to get up over the curved rise and then the road stretched straight until Niguel so I went north a bit faster while I passed a couple on 10-speeds wearing spandex and helmets and I remembered in junior high when Dad would drive us by cyclists dressed that way he’d say “ok Derek I’ll roll down the window so you can reach out and pinch that lady’s spandexed ass!” and I’d laugh nervously semi-shocked cause even though my parents were separated by then it was still weird to hear Dad say things like that cause he did have a girlfriend then (I think).

Mom says this section of PCH was supposed to be turned into a freeway like it is in Capo Beach and you can tell by the bridge that’s passing over my head right now and I wonder is it really that or do the people living in Niguel Shores just want the one road linking the two halves of their neighborhood to be inaccessible to everyone else and that’s closer to the truth in my opinion but it’s not as if it keeps trouble off it cause in elementary school I knew these two twins who used to launch water balloons off the bridge into oncoming traffic and they did it for three days straight until they got hauled away cause someone said they were throwing rocks and supposedly proved it with a shattered windshield. When I would hang around with them in junior high all the time I was half afraid I’d get busted for any manner of dumb shit they used to pull like the one night when they and I went along with this asshole they knew named Jody and his girlfriend Gina over to her neighborhood by Cook’s Park in San Juan, way down the Ortega out there in the dark.

That night we’d trooped through the wet grass where I used to play soccer as a kid in a bright orange uniform and the whole place had looked so different at night especially since the other guys’ voices were so loud—I couldn’t believe no one in the homes across from the park had called the cops on us yet even though it was so totally obvious to me that we were interloping over a silence that was supposed to be there and we should have got the hell out of there to go home or something cause this was so wrong and it only got worse when Jody and the twins said we should go swimming somewhere and Gina said she knew a house where the family was gone for the weekend and they had a pool so we went over there loudly except me cause I felt too weird making noise at that particular time and place and Gina kept saying “it’s ok Derek” like she was my fucking mother or big sister or something and I wanted to scream at her that I wasn’t afraid but then if I described how I felt she’d probably laugh and the guys would for sure.

I swallowed the scream and let her get away with this crap because she was wearing a tight Warrant t-shirt that was old, threadbare, and way too small for her but I didn’t care that I hated Warrant either cause I was staring at her chest and maybe in the dark she wouldn’t notice like she did yesterday in English class but then all she did was smile and turn around and it made me think ‘she’s not as slutty as people say’ even though she was going out with Jody at the time and I kept thinking that afterwards when a few months later I was ditched by my date at the eighth grade dance and the Priscilla girl wasn’t paying attention to me either so Gina felt sorry for me again I guess and she let me slowdance with her to some awful Janet Jackson song but I don’t remember anything else about that cause I was so terrified that she could feel me under my stupid baggy pants and for whatever reason I wasn’t surprised when I never heard about her again when we went to different high schools except once when some fat guy in my 5th period art class who was at Serra and Capo-by-the-Sea said that she’d run away from home and he laughed so hard about this that I couldn’t decide whether or not to deck him or ask what he thought was so funny but pretty soon it didn’t matter that much anyway.

January 13, 2003

Approaching Hannah

I shut out the frantic rush of another bleary, semi-conscious morning with a quiet flip of the doorknob, and leave home quickly across the dry lawn and overgrown junipers, stepping out onto a moonscape of smoky-smelling, marine-layer fog. The three-day-old wildfires on Niguel Hill have sprinkled a soft coat of ash on everything during the night. Trees, cars, sidewalks, streetlights, signs, and cheap Halloween decorations stand silent, all looking like they need to be dusted. It’s almost peaceful, until I remember that the carbonized remains of someone’s Laguna Beach home is blanketing the family Volvo. Their house on our car.

Somewhere outside the neighborhood, faint horns honk over the distant hum of morning commuters, and as I begin making my way along the regular ten-minute walk to school I squint, confronted by the rising red sun. Across the street stands the Mendoza house in all its cream-colored, pink-trimmed glory. The only Mexican family on a street full of Anglos makes its presence known these days via their eye-popping take on modern suburban tract home style, a sort of 90210-via-Tijuana that’s refreshingly jarring on first glance, but it’s been painted this way for a year now, so I barely give it a second look.

Any contemporary fascistic Orange County homeowner’s association would have made mincemeat of such blatantly third-world tendencies in no time, but not in this corner of the universe. The neighborhood I grew up in isn’t much older than me at seventeen, but that’s still too mature to be completely baby-sat by extensive righteous taxpayer arrogance, and many homes have already gone through several re-modelings. That same quasi-gentrification process had already done its work on the dentist’s house at the end of the block; the stucco-slathered, red-tile-roofed formless cube had been re-built from the ground up, and as I pass by it looms up on the left, still lording it over the surrounding mid-seventies vintage homes.

I cross De Soto, watching for non-existent traffic, and with a dentist-mansion-free view I glimpse a girl named Hannah Haynes walking down Taxco a block away to the left. She’s making the same trek to high school, and doesn’t notice me, or maybe doesn’t want to, and I pace her until the oncoming houses hide her from sight. I get a violent, groin-powered urge to catch up to her and talk, mostly to apologize for slide-tackling her at soccer practice last night, but Hannah disappears behind a wall of homes just as I do the same.

A short walkway leads to the park ahead, and I’m suddenly closed in by six-foot fences on both sides, walls of safety that many years ago, protected my six-year-old self from the territorial wrath of a German Shepherd on one side and a Doberman on the other. The dogs would jam their noses through knotholes in the fence and howl like demons, and I refused to go that way for years until the monsters grew decrepit and harmless. I shove the ancient memories aside when the path opens up to a again, but instead of going left down the ramp I jump the wooden beams and stagger down the short hill into the park. Hannah’s still there, cruising along the edge of the park at the same distance as before.

Sea Canyon Park lies near the beginning of a mini-ravine that curves around the tract homes to eventually meet up with the larger Salt Creek Canyon, and runs to the ocean from there. The upper fourth of the park that I’m now stumbling through is a picnic area and playground that all us neighborhood kids played in while growing up. The old wooden tables are mismatched with garishly colored plastic toys, a hideous crime against nature that was perpetrated almost five years ago when we were all still in junior high. Coming home on the bus one day, we were all astounded to find the old wooden toys replaced with these hideous multicolored things, and all pubescent posturing cool had been tossed out the window as everyone charged over to break in this newfangled crap. The unconscious amazement at the proof of our aging was kept blunted by nostalgia long enough for all of us to regain the superficial posing of adolescence, but we still agreed that the new toys totally sucked before going home to what we thought were less childish things.

A car backfire brings me back to the present and I notice that Hannah still hasn’t sped up much, so I quickly thread my way through the sandbox, trying to avoid an automatic-sprinkler assault of reclaimed saturation out on the grass. The sand is fine and dry, and I think about maybe ditching fifth and sixth period later for the beach, of taking the surfers’ canyon trail out under PCH and ending up at Creek. Thanks to fire season, the summer’s been running late here in October, and the air’s unnaturally warm for eight a.m. Maybe Hannah will want to go. Maybe she will be anyway, and maybe I shouldn’t ask her at all, in case that’s true and she’ll be inaccessible behind a phalanx of elitist blonde surfers.

She’s still up ahead by about three house-lengths on Santiago as I step onto the wet lawn and hear it squelch loudly beneath my sneakers. Hannah turns around, notices me, and gives a little wave before turning back to keep going. Her family had moved into this neighborhood from somewhere else in town, and the sheer novelty of a new pretty girl around was still pretty magnetic even though I wasn’t really interested in her anymore. I always liked talking to chicks, though, and I’m not about to waste this one-on-one chance like this with anyone, let alone her.

Hannah had ended up on an alternate social plane from me in about fifth grade, thanks to the debilitatingly distracting early development of her figure—she’d had a real woman’s body at eleven, earning all kinds of lecherous attention from every slobbering boy within a mile radius. Now that we were both juniors in high school that gulf had grown a little more, but all that attention she used to bathe in was now focused on younger girls (though now that I think about it, I did hear once that she had a college boyfriend), and her personality had evolved into one of those bizarre mixes of simplistic thought balanced with limited, but explicitly detailed experience that you can only learn from the monomaniacal fixations of your elders.

The last time I’d seen Hannah on a regular basis was in eighth-grade art class, the great leveler that threw “gifted and talented” kids like me into the crush of the remaining student population, the ones who seemed to hate school and everything it stood for. I didn’t mind it though—close proximity to beauty hotter than the sun will do that—because she would always talk to me, as if the tidal waves of social-emotional change hadn’t washed away something in her that maybe thought I was safer, or more innocent, or cute, or whatever. If I was older, smarter, and meaner back then, I'd say I was slumming, but since I had no idea what that meant anyway, I simply went to art class and listened to Hannah and all her bad-girl flunkies talk to each other about foreign exotic things like dates, breaking curfew, sex, smoking, drinking, and drugs. Naturally, I passed the class with flying colors.

Since then I’d seen her exactly once, in a weird and unlikely situation: with her parents and younger brother at Capo Beach. Catching Hannah in that context, away from all the cool independence of friends and boyfriends, submitting to her parents’ willpower and a family day at the beach, was like a stolen revelation, and the reality we both knew each other under was inverted. That day at Capo I was the independent one, stalking in the whitewash with my little brother and his friends, and the urge to show off was irresistible, to rub it in that I knew this fantastically gorgeous girl, so I waved and said hey. Hannah burst that thin bubble, though; she was so startled to see me that she was stunned into horrified silence, like I’d seen her naked or something. I remembered that I thought it was good to see that her parents weren’t the same old rich Nazis that every other girl seemed to have in tow, and that I thought it was nice to know she wouldn’t be tooling around in a brand-new Cabriolet or Altima from Daddy on her sixteenth birthday.

Recalling Hannah’s look of shock from back then speeds me up some more, to the point where I’m close enough to pick out her tanned shoulders peeking out of an oversized, hand-me-down lavender sweater. Her lank, sandy-brown hair sways with each step, but the blonde streaks have no sun to glitter beneath in this ash-strewn atmosphere. My eyes move down to her thighs, a little thicker than they used to be, and clad in black, ankle-length spandex. She’s not chunky, just well-proportioned for her short stature. The top of her head might just about fit under my chin.

She’s hardly walking like an athlete, though; both small, Converse-clad feet splay away with each step, and it makes me wonder how she could have caught up with me to steal the ball last night at practice. For a brief second I get a vision of Hannah on her knees, covered in mud after I tackled her to retake the ball and we both ended up going down. Both our teams had been running drills for weeks, bashing out fundamental skills instead of each other, but occasionally we'd scrimmage. Our coach always said we were "looking for any excuse to bump up against soft female bodies" instead of working on basic stuff, which was of course the absolute truth. Hannah played for the girls' school team last year, which was about the only organized extra-curricular thing she did, but with that stride I couldn't imagine how she did it.

The ash is thinning as we continue down Santiago, but I know the school day will still be strange. Last night’s news said the gym and the mall at school would still be filled with people from Laguna who’d lost their homes to the fire. It was a weird, uncomfortable inconvenience to get around all day yesterday; the press of the buzzing crowd on their way to first period was thick and chaotic, a result of the overnight conversion for the building’s lower floor into a makeshift shelter. The students were confined before class to the upper floor and balcony, from which they peered over butcher-paper activity posters, staring down at the newly-homeless souls below, trying to stay sane among the many white cots strewn with clothing and sleeping children. I doubt it will be much different today; somehow the high school is supposed to throw together a Homecoming football game tonight, and a dance tomorrow, and I’m glad it’s not my problem to be involved in any way.

I check for cars before crossing a blind corner on Caracas. Hannah has already turned the corner ahead onto Acapulco, and again slips momentarily out of sight. No one else is out and about; the neighborhood is quiet enough for me to remember that we were late for class, and that all the other kids had already passed this way. Good thing too—it suddenly occurs to me that people might think I’m stalking Hannah instead of just following her, or maybe it’s just me who thinks that, when I turn onto Acapulco and see Hannah Haynes in a real woman’s body ambling uphill toward the school’s parking lot. I’m close enough now to have a reasonable conversation with her, or even just call her name, but I don’t do that. A guilty paralysis has clamped onto my brain, disabling all motor functions except the simple one that keeps me walking behind her.

The sun is getting insistent and I start to sweat, thinking about how impossible it will be to explain to Hannah, or anyone on the receiving end of my freakish behavior, that my intentions aren’t remotely devious, obsessive, or psychotic. I decide to just catch up now, but quietly. My legs ache below the knees, but Hannah doesn’t notice; she wades through the shiny, expensive cars in the student lot as the sunlight bounces off a windshield and right into my eyes, and I lose sight of her again briefly. She soon reappears, though, behind another ash-sprinkled, garishly bright plastic toy on wheels. Another house on another car. I squeeze between two parked cars for the last, muscle-ripping homestretch, and my soft body bumps against a rearview mirror. I call it a fucking bastard and dart away from the cars, a foot behind her when she looks back into the cursing maelstrom that is me.

"Wow, you walk fast." Her big brown eyes look at me sidelong, but she’s smiling.

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