Archive for August, 2007

  • Rob Spectre
  • 23
  • Aug
  • 07

I have two images I remember every day.  One for years, and one for days.

I have to Google her to remember the year.  It’s not that I don’t remember when it was.  It’s just that every morning feels like the one after I first got the phone call.  It was a Sunday in December 2004, making it now nearly three years.  It’s the third birthday we’ve missed.  The third 21st of August that I call my mom in the morning either crying in my car or in my office or on a side street sidewalk to a sprawling metropolis many thousands of miles away.  People in polite conversation say my sister passed away.  It doesn’t feel like that at all.  It feels like she died.

“I remember it every single day” is a cliche, horribly overused.  I used it myself until I knew what that was really like.  People usually say it as a source of pride.  That there is something – something – in their lives to be miserable about, and that having something to remember every day means their existence is somehow more meaningful.  I said I remembered something every single day, but I never did until that Sunday.

It’s not something one sets out to do.  I couldn’t (or, properly, wouldn’t) have a sticky note saying, “Think about our sister today.”  Even if it could be like that, it would be a relief.  If it could be a circumstance that was repeatable, some expected set of conditions that reminded me of her, then maybe this would be a little easier.  But a person doesn’t remember something every single day like that.  One remembers like a catching a shotgun to the stomach coming around a corner in West Oakland.  One remembers like how men trip roadside bombs in Fallujah.  Ones remembers like how children get bombed in Gaza.  One minute your operation is routine and then suddenly and without provocation, in the middle of a meeting or dinner with a girl or beer with the boys your heart detonates.  While paying bills or doing laundry, while saying fuck off to a panhandler on Market or while picking up a slice to go on Thayer, the weight you carry becomes all you know.  In the cinema of your mind, only two frames play.

The first is when I touched my sister’s forehead in the mortuary.  I was ahead of my mother, I wanted to “get it over with.”   She didn’t even look like my sister.  She wasn’t ugly or beautiful.  I don’t remember her appearance much beyond the severe impression that it didn’t look like her.  I don’t know why I did it.  There are many days when I wished I hadn’t.  But, when I touched her forehead I knew – not thought, not believed – but knew with horrible certainty I would never see Vickie again.

Each day since I’ll be doing something, anything unrelated.  And without warning I’ll feel the coldness of her forehead that shot right into my gut.  I’ve felt that for three years now, every day wishing I hadn’t.

The second image is recent.  After work ma called and I asked her what she had done during the day.  She had gone to the cemetary and placed some flowers.  I am sure she prayed.  She had taken her chiuahua out and had looked after her horses.

And, lastly, she told me she had gotten my sister some birthday cake and candles.

That’s all she said about it.  But its all that I can think about now.  I imagine my ma in a kitchen alone, even the air still in reverence.  I imagine a cake picked above all others with my sister’s name in the icing.  Two place settings on the table with my mom in front of one and a terrible empty chair in front of the other.  With candles lit, my mom – the only family I have in this world -  sings my sister “Happy Birthday” through heaving sobs.  In my head she blows them out, crying like she did when I first saw her after the accident.

In my head I can’t see anything now but birthday cake and candles.

Every day since its like my sister – my Vickie – dies again.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 08
  • Aug
  • 07

Jesus. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19854489/

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 07
  • Aug
  • 07

In the middle of a conversation in Berkeley, California, I had to stop the person who was talking to me. It is a rude thing to do, interrupting someone, and something I am guilty of all too frequently. This one time, for a change, was merited.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening to a thing you just said,” I stated flatly.

Naturally, she was more than a little put off.

I tried to recover,”It’s not that I’m not interested in the conversation, it is because I am distracted. The couple behind you… The woman is wearing a dog collar.”

She looked at me like I had made it up. However, as she looked over her three o’ clock, plain as the slope on Bush’s forehead, they were. They looked devastatingly normal. They looked like every other ex-hippie yupster pair who had taken their 3 series beamer to the best jazz their poor taste could find. He had a button down shirt from Macy’s and she had a haircut that cost $60 too much. Nothing about them would scream S&M, save the taut grip he had on her leash.

And a plain collar it was indeed.  This was not the kind of collar fourteen year old Marilyn Manson fans pick up at Hot Topic.  This was not the kind of collar sported by forty year old men at the Folsom Street Fair.  It did not have bling, spikes, sequins, buttons, glow-in-the-dark visibility strips, or similar adornment of any sort.  This was not a dog collar one picked up in a people store.  This was a dog collar one picked up in a dog store.  Plain and nylon, a bright lime green I suppose in case she should go missing.  Clearly a Wal-mart clearance item, this pair weren’t trying to make this accessory anything other than what it was.  This man was taking what he perceived to be his dog out for dinner.

It’s not like we had stumbled into the wrong kind of establishment (a tragedy I have managed to escape my first year in California, though narrowly).  The name of the joint was Jupiter and it fancied itself an upscale jazz bistro, with all the meaningless that description seems to carry on the West Coast.  A bass and drummer plinked out pleasant if technically unsatisfying long form jams while classically trained wait stuff hustled and bustled, shuffling another pint of expensive piss tasting microbrew to upper class lips barely aware of the difference in urine.  Jupiter is not at all the kind of place where this sort of thing happens.

It was for this reason, because I had not accidentally wandered into a place where such things were commonplace, that I made little effort to be discrete when pointing them out to my date.  I was not going to suffer an evening of the cold shoulder silently because Jiminy McYohan decided to take his freak show on the road.  If my train of thought (and subsequently conversation) were going to be derailed, she was going to know it wasn’t my fault.

The look the guy gave me I wish I could save forever.  Of course he heard me outing them and gave me this spectacularly irritated look.  Like I was the asshole for pointing out he rolled downtown with his lady on a dog collar.  Like I was a buzzkill for thinking that going out to dinner with a human being on an animal restraint is bat shit fucking loco.  Like I was the square who was not “with it” at Fonzie’s kegger.

I wish I had a photo of that face to show the whole world why California is so goddamn retarded.  To show them why I remain a stranger in a strange land.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 02
  • Aug
  • 07

Their cover has a dated photo found on the bedroom walls of teens all across the world, if today were 1987.  They have torn t-shirts, tight leather pants, and thick rubbery gloves clutching cigarettes in defiance of the photographer and American mores.  Their hair is carefully tossed and teased, for some to feature and for some to hide faces holding a pose so fucking rock and roll, one wonders if any before them had any legitimate claim to it. On the August cover of Rolling Stone, boldface type blares loudly “Appetite Turns 20.”

Making the cover of Rolling Stone magazine is a Guns and Roses record that is twenty fucking years old.

There aren’t any institutions in rock and roll.  There are only small collections of rich people so deluded by their wealth they think a pop / glam rock record greeting people to “the jungle” is something for which one has birthdays.  Records don’t have birthdays.  They have hit singles, they have platinum awards, and then, when the light from their gorgeous supernova finds another galaxy to go to, they have dusty clearance bins in Wal-mart next to underwear for five year olds.  There are tiny, irrelevant sets of former fans of music stuck in their adolescence with all the naivety that implies, hoping against hope that “their” music will “come back.” That “their” music belongs in a “hall of fame.”  Bands don’t have halls of fame.  They have the hall they are playing in that night and that night only, whether they are famous or they are not.  Rock and roll wasn’t meant to endure.  It was meant to give a temporary solution to temporary problems.

Some old coot that fancies himself a piano player laments in the morning news that the Internet is making rock and roll “a cold and impersonal world for artists to create music in”  The frost he is feeling is the fade of a warm illusion he wrapped around him like a blanket to ward the cold winter of a rocker’s career away.  In rock and roll, irrelevance is as inevitable as demise.  And that is as it should be.  Rock and roll is not a permanent solution.  It is a hasty, awkward, and furious reaction to the thousand discoveries one makes getting old.  It is like making out with the cheerleader in the back of the bus on a dare, as temporary as it is unskilled with everyone you know watching.

The only way rock and roll dies is when it stops producing offspring.  Rock is like evolution at light speed, like natural selection without the courtesy of waiting for the weak to die.  This month’s Rolling Stone is written for our mothers and fathers, if they hadn’t given up the ghost and started buying Celine Dion records.  Vignettes brief and unsatisfying force artists pushing fifty like french fries into a few column inches describing recording sessions that were irrelevant before they began.  Intense, thousand yard rock and roll stares from under receding hairlines and through heroin wrinkles inches deep stare at you from the glossy page.  Their expressions are as sparkly polished as the brass on the Titanic, faces they’ve been making for twenty years describing music they’ve been making for twenty years in a magazine that’s written about them for twenty years.

What Elton John really hates is that all this – this Magic Kingdom – is burning down around him.  The Internet is where you find new rock and roll, not Rolling Stone.  These halls of fame, these magazines, and these record labels count their money and platinum records while reliving in their heads a desperate dream that such things are worth celebrating.  Meanwhile, the real stars of rock and roll celebrate being on the frontpage of MySpace or Pitchfork, with 100,000 downloads carrying greater consequence (and, as it happens, wealth) than a certified gold record.

We are witnessing the waning relevance of Rolling Stone while having to listen to aged grandparents complain that the world has changed.  They wonder why Rolling Stone subscriptions get handed out with $10 shows.  It’s like if Playboy started fielding exclusively forty year olds.  The audience for the ancient is dying everyday.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati