January 2009

it’s a balancing act
and I can’t balance
and I can’t act too well
apparently, apparently.

should I act to the crowd
should I put aside feelings, for acquaintances
should I feel lucky to be part of the wheeling and dealing
no matter what is said
no matter.

shake hands and smile and
hope for the best
as they size you up
to see if you can pass their test
pass their test.

it’s a social science
it’s crowd control
to get real good at it
you have to learn to pretend again and again.

should I act to the crowd
should I put aside feelings, for acquaintances
should I feel lucky to be part of the wheeling and dealing
no matter what is said
no matter.

it matters, it matters, it matters to me,
it matters, it matters, it matters to me,
it matters, it matters, it matters to me.

Peter Prescott and Volcano Suns
“Balancing Act” from The Bright Orange Years – 1985

We should take a brief moment here to discuss some of the music that I took the trouble to drive in to see during the late eighties as the train is not an option for shows that end around 3 or 4 in the AM, long after the last train has left.

Also the train does not go from Westchester to Hoboken where Maxwell’s is located and before Hoboken was “discovered” and yuppified, Maxwell’s, along with the old Ritz on 11th St. and CBGB’s down in the Bowery were the prime places to find those bands that played what has been called various names over the years including punk, new wave, post-punk, underground, and alternative and no matter what it was called, until Nirvana came along, no band, with the notable exceptions of the Replacements and REM ever made any money at it.

And as the band Cake has asked the question, “How do you afford your rock and roll lifestyle?” I will answer straight up that during 1987 and 1988, I worked variously moving furniture, as a substitute teacher, and as a telephone representative for Bank of Manahttan’s mortgage telemarketing department.

Somewhere in the haze between the summer of ’87 and the winter of ’88 came several incredible shows involving those bands which had led the underground scene in Boston throughout the late ’70’s and early ’80’s and were now struggling mightily to rub two coins together.  At some point (I think this might have been during the summer of ’87), me and Jim Maddox convinced Dudley to go down to CBGBs to see the Volcano Suns which was the band put together by Peter Prescott, the former drummer of Mission of Burma, who had been forced to break up due to the the tinnitus of guitarist Roger Miller back in the spring of ’83.

I can’t remember the first time I ever went to CBGBs, but it requires driving as the shows tend to start around midnight and end around three or four in the AM.  So, me and Jim are very into Mission of Burma and Volcano Suns and all that.  Dudley is a little more mellow, but he enjoys the show just the same.  The major factor in this show is the volume.  At some point, the three of us all walked outside and realized that we could still hear the band just fine from the sidewalk, and I guess I understand why Roger Miller’s hearing was starting to go.

Roger Miller was still playing music but he just couldn’t take the extra amplified sound that Mission of Burma was known for, and he had put together a band called Birdsongs of the Mesozoic which Jim had been to see a few years before this with my brother and several other folks while I was down in Virginia.

Anyway, sometime in ’87-’88, Birdsongs came to play at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, one time with Volcano Suns and once with the Neighborhoods.  Bobby D., Jim Maddox and I had made it down there for both shows and the Class of ’84 crew of Ken Shaunessey, Mitch Caplan and “Jari” Nichols were there for the Birdsongs/Neighborhoods show.

Now the Neighborhoods had been to Port Chester (over on the Long Island Sound, but still in Westchester) during the summer of 1987 to play in a bar down there, and a group of about ten or fifteen of us including Jim Maddox and Bobby Devlin, Eddie Alarcon and Steve Collins all made the drive over to see them.

I went over with Kathleen Ryan and we had a good time, but at the end of the show it was pouring rain.  I’m talking one of those mid-summer thunderstorms where the skies just erupt in torrents of water.  So we give Eddie Alarcon a ride over to his car, and he stumbles out and runs over to his station wagon to drive home.  Kathleen tells me at the time, “Mitch, he’s wasted, he shouldn’t be driving.”  But the alcoholic’s maxim is that if someone says they can drive, they can.

So we drive away and end up skinny dipping at the swimming pool in the apartment complex where my friend George lived overlooking the Hudson River while thunder and lightning crash all around us.

But, back in Port Chester, Eddie is arrested for DWI and brought down to the jail.  Meanwhile, Steve Collins is trying to sleep in someone’s car while he waits for them to come back and drive home.

In the process, he accidentally knocks the car out of gear into neutral and the car rolls out into the street.  Steve gets into the driver’s seat to move the car back into the parking spot and as soon as he starts to back into the spot, he’s busted for DWI and is brought in to keep Eddie company.

But, the Birdsongs of the Mesozoic shows at Maxwell’s during ’87 and ’88 are astounding, they are playing keyboards and percussion along with a saxophone player and it all blends so beautifully.  I go running up to Roger Miller after the show all drunk and reverent telling him it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard, some wonderful combination between jazz and whatever, man.  He is very gracious and asks if he can use that expression himself sometime when he’s asked to describe his music.

I had an extremely unfortunate experience at the Dylan/Dead show at Giant’s Stadium in the summer of 1987.  Anyone who remembers that summer in the New York area must remember the weather of that summer, as it was ultimately the worst pollution weather I have ever seen.

I made it a point to stay as fucked up as I possibly could so that I would not have to face up to the fact of how tremendously depressing this weather was to deal with.  It was like Blade Runner, but without the rain.  95 degrees and 95% humidity the whole fucking time, and the sun very rarely shone other than some kind of Soylent Green glow behind the pollution haze.

I spent a lot of time that summer going around telling people that somebody had set off an atomic bomb, but forgot to tell us.

I had had an rather disquieting experience with mushrooms toward the end of April down in Virginia just prior to graduation, (which involved falling down in the mud repeatedly, being left by my friends and getting a ride home with the cops) and was in no physical condition for anything more grueling than beer and pot in a backyard lawn chair.

So, the drive to Giant’s Stadium takes like four hours because of the traffic and, as I mentioned, it is 95 degrees that day with 95% humidity and I drink about 10 beers before we even get to the show.  Mostly the concert is a blur, but I do remember being passed a pipe and smoking something that may or may not have been marijuana.

Whatever it was, the next thing I knew I was on the ground with several deadheads surrounding me asking “dude dude, are you OK?” Luckily someone had a bottle of water and I got a drink off of that, and Jim helped me over to the edge of the “scene” where I could sit and get some air and about 20 minutes later I got my color back and survived to drink another day.

(Down East, Me., 1998-99)


two ladies in furs
windowshopping for diamonds
blind man sells pencils

(Manhattan, 1989)

Also during the blur of the summer of 1987 was the punk matinee at the Pyramid Club to see some some local boys play, but even though it was a matinee, we treated it like it was another Friday night and drank until we couldn’t see, then came the drive home.

So we were way downtown at the Pyramid Club in Alphabetland and the show gets over at around 4 in the afternoon and we are WASTED!  So I’m driving, and we pack Bobby Devlin, Jim Maddox and Jimmy Meyer into the car and head on up the FDR drive.

Now, Meyer wasn’t going back to the suburbs with us, he was headed back to West 189th St. or somewhere up there in Inwood where was living at the time.  I told him that I would get him as close as I could to Inwood, but that we were going out the East side and I couldn’t promise him anything.

He was just as drunk as the rest of us and just said OK, OK.  So up the FDR we go without too much trouble and we’re getting further and further north and closer and closer to the Third Avenue Bridge which will carry us off of Manhattan island and into the Bronx and I’m giving Jimmy periodic warnings about our location and I don’t know if he is paying attention or not, but so anyway, finally we get across the bridge and officially off of Manhattan island and we’re approaching the Major Deegan Expressway which is pretty much the point of no return between suburbs and city and I tell Meyer, hey Jimmy we’re not in Manhattan anymore, are you coming out to Westchester with us or what.

He snaps back to reality and all of a sudden says No wait! Let me out.  Right in the middle of the street in the Bronx, Meyer gets out of the car and starts to walk back across the bridge on his way back to the far northwestern tip of Manhattan island.  Now, I should point out for those unfamiliar with Manhattan geography that for my friend Jimmy the white boy to walk from the Bronx back to his apartment he had to walk almost directly east to west crossing Harlem, Spanish Harlem and Washington Heights before reaching his own neighborhood.

Besides this somewhat perilous journey, Jimmy was shitfaced beyond belief, but it was still light out he managed to make it home without incident.

Meanwhile, Bob, Jim Maddox and I continue on out to Westchester.

We get out there around six and I drop the boys off on our friend Alvin’s front lawn.  They roll out of the car (literally) and I jump back on the highway to go visit Kathleen as this was the last summer we would be together, and I still drove up to Connecticut to visit her occasionally although we both knew that things would be ending soon.

So, she’s working at a restaurant somewhere along the Merritt Parkway, and it turns out that she’s going to be working a little later that she expected, so she stashes me in the bar and tells her bartender to take good care of me, and I sit at the bar drinking Bailey’s and Jameson’s in rocks glasses and watch Oliver Stone’s Salvador beginning to end for the first time on the bar TV.

Later that evening we went to see some Connecticut Dead band.  There were too, too many experiences like this that summer, driving all over the New York metro for parties, concerts and who knows what, just keeping in motion.

Included in this were the Echo shows, one at the pier and one over at Jones Beach.  Again, these were driving experiences.  For Jones Beach, I drove into Manhattan to pick up Bobby at Madison Square Garden (as he was coming off of the subway at Penn Station from downtown where he was working the bond interest desk at Coleman Bierkhouse) then across town to the Queens Midtown tunnel and out to the Jones Beach Theater.

Then for the show at the Pier, we drove all the way down the FDR to Peter Stuyvesant Village the rent-controlled haven on 14th St. where Nik (Jim’s sister’s boyfriend and my older brother’s age, Taconic High Class of ’81) was living at the time.  Then it was over to West Side for the show.

Driving around in Manhattan in the summertime with a car full of drunks can be somewhat nervewracking.

Regarding the actual music at these concerts, suffice it to say that Echo and the Bunnymen are not the kind of band that should be seen outdoors.

But then, in November, it’s the Replacements at the Beacon Theater and we’re right down front and the show rocks except when they stop towards the end of “I Can’t Hardly Wait,” which is a favorite of mine (ashtray floors, dirty clothes and filthy jokes), they never start again, and I have to wait 16 months before I hear the end of that song at which time my 20 months of celibacy begins.

But anyway, in December of that same year (1987), we go to see The Butthole Surfers at the old Ritz down on 11th Street.  Now THIS is a concert experience.  Me, Jim, Bobby, several friends of mine from UVa. all book downtown for the show and what a show it is.

Gibby is insane, running all over the place and stirring up a crazy sound with a bullhorn and what seems like three or four drummers while a naked skinhead girl dances up front and movies of car wrecks, human cannonballs and penis reconstruction surgery are flashed on the screen behind the band (here’s someone else’s description).

Jim worms his way up to the very front to get a better look at the naked skinhead girl and manages to pass out in front of a speaker.

After the show, we are all separated and file out.  I get the car and pull up front and everyone gradually finds each other except for Jim, who is the very last person to walk out of the Ritz looking somewhat dazed, as though he had been asleep for several hours (which he has) and holding one of his shoes in his hand.

He gets in the car and explains that he passed out in front of one the speakers on the stage and didn’t wake up until every one in the place had left and some bouncer shook him awake and said, “Here’s your shoe – go home.”

So Jim wanders out, not really sure what’s going on or where we are (it’s around 3am) and he comes down to the front of the empty club and there we are parked right in front smoking cigs and waiting patiently for him!  (This very similar to when Dudley had been arrested at that beach in Ct. on July 4th 1986.  As he was being released, the cops wished him luck getting back to New York as there was no way we would be waiting for him.  As it turned out, the other ten of us who had made that unfortunate trip to Ct. were sunbathing on the front stoop of the police station waiting patiently for the Dudley to be free!)

Later that winter, we all go see Echo at Radio City in February of ’88, and that is the place to see Echo, right before they broke up and were rockin the night away with a stage set straight off the cover of Crocodiles (which I had bought at the FNAC in Chatelet-Les Halles, Paris in February of ’82 and then listened to ad infinitum for that whole spring of ’82) dancing up a storm just like we did for the Iggy Pop show in September of ’88 in Port Chester when Jane’s Addiction warmed up for them (we didn’t catch that opening act as we were busy drinking beer in the lobby).

In March of ’89, we catch up with the Replacements at the Beacon theater again, but this time the liquor license of the Beacon has been suspended for some reason so they are not selling beer and there is no re-entry.  However, some enterprising young usher has set up his own concession and has picked us out of the crowd as obvious alcoholics.

Bobby D. cuts the deal for us – at three dollars a beer, we can afford 17 of them and sit happily in our seats drinking our beers while the folks around us look on enviously or quietly enjoy their own bootleg budweiser.(And finally I get to hear the coda of “Can’t Hardly Wait” 16 months later).

For some reason there seemed to be a great difficulty with liquor licenses that year, as when the Ritz moved to Studio 54, they also were without a liquor license so that when we walked past one night and saw on the marquee that Sonic Youth were playing in support of Daydream Nation, I could not for the life of me get anyone to come inside to see them.

I was with Bobby D. and Jim and a group of five or six others.  We did not have any plans, and in fact were at that very moment right in the middle of trying to decide what to do with the rest of that evening, as I pointed at the sign and said, “These guys are great! – lets go inside,” but nobody would go because they were not serving beer.

I could not, at that point, break away from the crowd to go off on my own for something I knew was important, though I would later learn that this is exactly what I needed to do.

(Down East, Me., 1998-99)

3/1/90 – New York – 9:30pm – having already had dinner with my step-father Mel and visited my Mom in the hospital to see if she was o.k. after surgery, I decide its time to leave, leave, leave, to finally split and get the fuck out of New York, Westchester, Taconic Heights, NY and head on West to whatever is there – maybe nothing – but it won’t be New York and fer dam sur.

There’s no point in waiting until tomorrow to leave, my futon is already packed in the back of the car, and I probably wouldn’t sleep tonight if I tried (I didn’t sleep at all last night).

And so here I go, finally, though it’s a little late and the car is weighed down so badly that the back right tire rubs unmercifully when I hit a dip or bump in the road, but this is something I’ll have to deal with, I’ve got to get the fuck out of this place, AND NOW.  Tim Kosloski is waiting down in D.C., but he has to work tomorrow so he’ll probably be asleep by the time I get there.

Through Tarrytown, across the Tappan Zee bridge into Rockland County, then south to D.C. and points west.  Going down the Pallisades Parkway my tire rubs a little too frequently and I have sudden paranoia that I’ll have to turn around and go back, go crawling back to Mel because my “great move west” has sputtered and stalled less than forty miles from his doorstep.

But everything holds up, I make it past the Geo. Washington Bridge and on south to the NJ Turnpike and the thousand-odd memories of all the times I travelled this highway, back and forth to UVa., either with Mom or Tom Matuzzi among others.  My thoughts are mainly on gauging my speed so that when I hit a bump the tire doesn’t rub too long or too hard.  Having all my albums on the rear axle is not the most intelligent move, but this is not something I can change right now, right now I have only to concentrate on getting myself to Washington, D.C. (I can redistribute the weight once I get there).

I called Doug Boyd earlier tonight, it was really good talking to him.  It’s kind of silly how detached people become, but I shouldn’t kid myself – a lot this alienation and general lack of keeping in touch is a result of my own confusion and lack of direction, lack of desire for anything other than women, a woman, one woman, a wife.

Doug is getting married in July, and although Tim K.  told everyone when we were in NYC for the Kickoff Classic last Labor Day, it’s still good news.  Doug and his fiance Dana have been together practically the entire time I’ve known both of them.  They should be coming up to Washington on Saturday, after they help clean the wetlands in the afternoon.  It was good talking to Doug, I am very psyched to see them.

But here I am, still on this fucking turnpike, remembering now the last time I came down to Washington (Feb. ’89 on Amtrak) and the last time I the pleasure of driving this stretch of road (Sept ’88).

September 1988 – Labor Day – When I took off from New York, exact same route as tonight, a little bit earlier in the evening, driving that ’84 Honda Accord gray four-door (which I ended up crashing in the Bronx the following year).  Still living at home in Taconic Heights at the time, in the middle of this huge fucking rainstorm, hydroplaning all the way down the Pallisades Parkway, leaving around five in the afternoon after trying unsuccessfully to recover from that one bitch of a goddamn hangover that I just couldn’t shake (and telling Tim – “I’m either gonna shoot myself in the head or drive to Washington, so I’ll probably see you in about six hours.”)

Hungover from that keg party, still chasing girls who wouldn’t even talk to me.  So I ran away, down into Washington to see Tim K., Doug Boyd and the UVa. crowd, but also old Jeff Faircloth who was down there (and who I had called drunk as shit from the party the night before telling him I would fly down on Tuesday, but waking up Sunday and realizing I had to leave).

Mr. Jefferson – back from his canoe trip in Belize, still alive, still kickin, but most important of all for any kind of goddamn survival – still drinking.

So, on down I went looking for something like appreciation but mostly just wanting to see people who knew something about what was important to me.  And we drank and talked and hit bars and played softball those first days ’till the UVa. crowd headed up to Baltimore to see the Orioles game and I hooked up with Jeff, got tickets from Doug and made plans to go see the Dead at the Cap Center.

And of course the rest of that trip, which may or may not get explained later on including wine and acid at the Dead, as well as sailing and unhealthy death-knelling in the redneck haven of far northern DelMarVa, where the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers come within 30 miles of each other.

February – Washington’s Birthday 1989 – train ride down that time, still chasing little girls at the time, still living in THAT HOUSE (which Jeff called Party Central) with Jim Maddox, Mitch Caplan and two other guys.  The whole Shady Rest/UVa. crew comes into D.C. for the weekend, and we mostly do just random drinking etc., but what I remember most about that weekend was the fucking insane crackhead who went on a hit-and-run rampage the afternoon everyone got into town.

I have always wanted a copy of that newspaper – Washington Post from Feb. 18,1989 (or whichever date that Saturday was) with a diagram tracing his path, especially a favorite were the areas where he had chased pedestrians up onto the sidewalk and the place where he had backed away from a car, not to drive away, but to get a better shot at ramming it – true blue insanity.

But now I’m further down the turnpike, away from the exurban sprawl to the north, probably around that area where the clouds broke and I was treated to that unbelievably purple sunset on that drive down here in  Sept. of 1988.

I’m averaging 70 mph which is fairly safe at this time of night appx. 11:30pm, it’ll be another hour or so to the Del. Mem. Bridge, then another hour from there to Baltimore, and then another hour from Baltimore to Washington.

Over the Delaware Memorial Bridge now through Delaware and down into Maryland, I see the sign for DelMarVa.  Boy, what a time that was.  My first visit to Jeff’s place at the head of the Chesapeake.  Trying to think about it makes my head hurt.  I think my head hurt the whole time I was there – hangover headaches, drinking headaches, and slamming my head into the dashboard when we hit that boulder on the way home that last night.

I got pretty pissed off about that, not that my driving record is exactly clean of booze-related accidents, but it is quite a shock to be driving through backwoods Maryland, passed out in the passenger seat, only to be woken up by having your forehead smashed into the dashboard and realizing that the driver has also passed out and that we had been wandering all over the road like the totally sorry sodden saps we were.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have gone with the liquid dinner after doing nothing but drinking and sailing that little catamaran for two days.  That was all we needed was that boat and a box of drinks (fitting perfectly into the small plastic cut-out notch towards the “bow of the craft”).  This box including, but not isolated to half a half-gallon bottle of Jim Beam and a fresh fifth of Mount Gay with tonic and ginger ale for mixers (this being right after Jeff had sailed from Bermuda and was deeply into the rum/tonic and rum/ginger).

And we drank every drop of it, too.  Quite a tidy amount of liquor for two aspiring alcoholics.  Finally, after two days of drinking and sailing during the day, and drinking and playing shuffleboard and trying to keep Jeff out of fights in that redneck bar during the night, I felt a serious jolt of mortality and split split split ran away again got the fuck out of there before we both bit it and ran on back to New York, back to chasing girls, and back to work.

(San Francisco, March 1990)

Kick It Over

A Grooveshark Playlist

Coming through the Ft. McHenry tunnel now, under the Baltimore Harbor, still so new in 1990 that it looks like the inside of somebody’s bathroom with all the clean white tile.  Nobody else in the tunnel this time of night, makes me think of driving back and forth to college with Tom Matuzzi.

Tom, still working in Manhattan, still doin’ it, still keepin at it, working that job.  But he also has the romantic commitment, don’t know what he’d do without it.  He was always strangely solitary, but maybe that’s what it is to be grown-up, married, in love for the final and last go ’round.

I’ll always remember him best gunning the fuck out of that rental car as we crossed the Del. Mem. Bridge turning to me with this huge expository smile spread-eagled on his face saying,

“No cops on bridges, Mitchie EEE-HEEE!”

But that was before he cracked his arm in two or graduated from Comm. School or started commuting and working or lost his eye.  I think a lot sometimes about how beautiful and simple we were then, and I wonder if I’ll ever figure out what it is about his simple observation that captivates the way it does.

Another hour another hour the signs keep telling me to get to Washington, but I know it’ll take longer than that to get around the Beltway into Va.  I’ve got the directions for when I get off the beltway – I haven’t been to Tim K.’s most recent pad yet, but I’m closer now, closer and go and go, go I, keeping a very close eye on my speed, the other cars, and any possibility of cops.

I do not want to talk to cops, considering that I can’t really see out of the car, except for the windshield and the driver’s side mirror.  Speeding is not something I would care to discuss with any officer, particularly one of those yellow Maryland cops.

Coming around the Beltway, I think of Amanda, how beautiful she was and that weekend we spent together in D.C. with her friend Jeanine.  Christmastime freshman year at UVa.(’83), one of the last times I ever saw her.

Parties at the house of that engaged frisbee playing couple out in suburban Va., and at the immigration lawyers apartment in the District, and of course seeing the “Awakening,” one of the coolest sculptures ever.

And hitting briefly the Tune Inn up on Capitol Hill for a burger, so that five years later I would return there to spend the end of a long boozing night drinking 90-cent drafts and playin Patsy Cline songs on the jukebox, talkin to Jeff, tryin to figure out if Amanda left me for another girl or whether the distance was just too much or what, I’ll never know for sure.

Off the Beltway now, and into Va. A lot of history has gone down for me here, it’s strange, so strange to think of it all and try to come to some kind of understanding about it.  I’ve always been a visitor in this city, yet, in 1990, I knew it better than any other besides NYC.  Most parts of my life have passed through here at one point or another.

My grandfather Hamish Calderwood taught down here, in Montgomery County, Maryland.  His brothers Colson and Barclay both spend a good part of their lives down here, my father went to high school down here, and my Uncle David and his Cousin Lawrence still live in the area, but I’ve never been here with my family.

My experiences with this place began in ’83 with Amanda, but then there were also those early times with Brad (aka Bradlee Thornton), when he worked as a reporter’s aide at the Washington Post, then sophomore year ’84 with Brad and Dudley and his friend John (“and a black cherry”).  And Brad and Jefferson and Dudley in that reporter’s townhouse that Brad was house sitting for, and on through junior year and the drunken farmhouse nights out in Fairfax with Jeff, getting totally fucked up at those redneck bars or in the kitchen snorting Vivarin ’til it feels like you’re drowning in salt water (wide awake but drowning), then of course fate and senior year and Jeff again with Kathleen Ryan, the mushrooms and Halloween on M Street.

I find Tim’s apartment without trouble and bring my two smallest bags upstairs along with the half a bone I had left over in the ashtray, which I had been avoiding smoking all along the trip down the coast, five hours behind me now, I light up and get high in Tim’s living room.

He’s sleeping like I expected.  Very free and loose now, I lie down on the floor going over things Washington in my head, while my back throbs from the drive, and my mind goes over and over the many things and times and vodka shots and getting lost and drinking ’til we puked and lost our car and drove the wrong way around the Beltway, and the wrong way down a one-way street on the way up to the Hill to the Tune Inn to listen to Patsy Cline and reminisce with Jeff.

(San Francisco, March 1990)

So I finally arrived in San Francisco in the middle of March 1990, drove right on up the apartment Mitch Caplan had rented for us on the corner of Haight and Shrader, just a block down from Golden Gate Park, and, my, it was nice.

Right near the park, right on Haight Street, and the hills just like dear old Westchester.  This was a cool place.  So those early months, I get a temp job almost right off the bat – it ain’t difficult to get a job wearing a headset for a mutual fund.

Of course, I had quit Bank of Manhattan mainly because I hated Manhattan, but also because I wanted finally to teach.  This was something I hadn’t been able to bring myself to do in 1988 after college because of the prospect of going off to one of those damn boarding schools in the middle of nowhere and working 24 hours a day for like $11,000 a year while my classmates were hanging out and chasing tail in NY and either being well paid for their time or not getting paid so much but having their time free to hang out.

So I start exploring the coast a little bit, and exploring the city a little bit and man it’s hard to describe.

I worked downtown, caught a bus right on Haight St. every morning at 7:30 and it zipped me right on down to 50 California St. by 8:00.  Then it was on the elevator and up to 27.

Those first few months I faced out to the NNW and watched the Marin Headlands all day, then we lowly customer service types were moved down to 26, and before the mini-cubes were installed and cut off the view, we faced SE and watched the Bay Bridge and Mt. Diablo.

Here’s a brief tale for the ’90’s which occurred in April of 1990 right in the middle of downtown SF.

I used to sit and eat my lunch outside there during the first month I was working at 50 California, down in that little triangle where California runs into Market (although it was actually Davis St).

So, anyway, I’m sitting there in the beautiful California sunshine one day eating lunch, and a fairly normal looking fellow comes up and starts a conversation out of nowhere.

It turns out that he’s a born-again Christian, and talks some plain sense too.  So, we chat for a while, and he asks me what I thought Jesus would do if he came back then (in 1990, though this would still hold true today).

I told him I wasn’t sure, but Jesus “would definitely have to start small, because,” as I told him pointing around at the skyscrapers that surrounded us, “That’s what’s big right now.”

We both laughed, he gave me his phone number and said he played basketball over in the East Bay Saturday mornings with some of the other folks from his church (he also mentioned they had a singles group where he had met his girlfriend).  I never did call him, but I never forgot about that either.

But then I remember that morning in August when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and the markets fucking freaked out, and it stayed that way all that fall and finally bottomed out in October before the rally hit when the bombs started dropping.

I remember watching the carriers and destroyers moving out under the Bay Bridge for maneuvers while that war was on.

Jim Maddox moved out to San Fran during that Summer of 1990, his sister and her boyfriend were both out there already from the previous year.

So the first time I see him that summer, we spent a good old time just cruisin around and gettin fucked up at the Hotel Utah and all that part of the city – South of Market and over next to the water.

And that Fall 1990 we went to see Sonic Youth at the Warfield, and actually watched the warm-up band, some guys in flannel, and although it kind of sounded like heavy metal or like the Sonic Youth urban dissonance, this was very heavy but melodic and cool and just really really good, and I turn to Jim and Jim turns to me, and we say to each other, man, these guys are good.

So, as we’re walking out of the show, I ask Jim again, what the hell were those guys called again, and we look up on the marquee and it says in big letters SONIC YOUTH, and then in little letters underneath it, it says    nirvana.

Then Tim Kosloski and Bud (who had also gone to UVa. with us) decided to move from D.C. out to San Francisco and ended up staying with me and Mitch Caplan off and on, although with Tim it was mostly off, and with Bud it was all ON, man.  He never seemed to leave the apartment.  He got a job working the electron microscope at the medical research lab at UCal just up the hill and was there when I left for work every day.  He came back for lunch every day in the afternoon, and was there in front of the TV with a Bud Light every night when I got back from downtown.

Mitch finally moved out in December but I wasn’t really paying attention because by this time I was getting laid again for the first time in almost two years.  Wow, what a mess I made of that whole goddamn situation.

It is difficult to explain how we met, but suffice it to say that we met through friends but didn’t really know each other, and finally “got together” at an Election Day party where I got totally fucked up (at the time, this was a necessity for me to make any kind of a move, romantically) and woke up the next morning in her bed over on the other side of town.

This being the day after Election Day (a Wednesday) I had to be at work at 8, so I got her to run me back over to my pad to shower, change and get to work, and yes, believe me, after two years of being single, I will definitely call you later.

So this went on all through the rest of the autumn, and I even developed a kind of routine.  Sleeping over at her place on Russian Hill, having sex typically two or three times between 10pm and 6am, then jumping back into my car and zipping down Pacific to Divisidero then over to Haight and up to Golden Gate Park, park the car (no mean feat, believe me, I still owe over $1000 in unpaid tickets out there), shower and then down to work, etc. etc. and so on.

But then work starts getting crazy, and I’m working for some dick from Long Island and I can’t leave my chair and my desk isn’t even a cubicle but is actually about one-third the size of your typical cubicle and the phone calls don’t ever stop, for weeks and weeks and weeks and it’s like this, and one day I take nearly 200 phone calls, for reals, and talk to every one of them.

The next day, I just can’t take it anymore and start hanging up because I need a break between calls and these show up on my record, and so I show 300 calls that day, which everyone knows is impossible.

And now my love life is going shitty too, as we gradually get used to each other, she’s not quite as excited about me spending every night over at her place.

And over at my place, Mitch C. has moved out and Bud has officially moved in, and since I’m never there, he has also officially taken over and rearranged the living room furniture and hung his posters and Budweiser scarves on the walls, and is ALWAYS THERE.

So now my job sucks to the point where I cannot do it anymore, I see that it is coming to an abrupt halt, I am not cut out for being screamed at by irate individual investors and brokers from all over the country (at least not 150 of them every day with no break for months on end).

And so I quit, and they ask me for two weeks, and I tell them, Sure, it’ll take me that long to clear up the account problems I’m currently working on.

And they say no, we want you on the phone taking new calls for two weeks, and I tells them,  nuh-uh, not gonna do it.

And that’s it, I’m out of work at the height of the California Recession in February of 1991, and I don’t work full-time again until September of 1994.

But I spend several months living off my credit cards while I look for work in San Fran to no avail, and look into going back to school for a teaching certificate.

I remember applying for a job working the front desk at one of the hotels downtown.  There were 25-30 people there applying for the position when I went in and there was one guy who was there from Seattle, had ten years experience in the hotel industry and was willing to relocate his family from Seattle for the job.  Needless to say, I didn’t get that job.

Finally my Dad offers to have me come and stay with him in Oklahoma City. So I think about it for a while, and then Tim Kosloski flips his car over out in Sonoma so I lend him my car, and then Jim Maddox comes and picks me up to go and spend the weekend out in Stinson Beach to get out of the city for a while and WE end up in a car wreck out by that lagoon between Bolinas and Stinson, with Lo Mein driving (aka George Pappalardi – also from Taconic Heights, THS Class of ’81) and all three of us in the front seat because of the motorcycle in the back.

So Lo Mein takes the handlebar of the motorcycle in the back of the head as we flip over and he is seriously dazed and permanently affected by this injury and I get back to the city Sunday night, and I FEEL permanently affected, and I’m lying there in bed and realize it’s time to leave and whatever is there in Oklahoma City I don’t know but it’s at least SAFER than what’s happening to me here.

(Down East, Maine  September 1998)

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