A view from the other side…

Last night we played a show at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. 15 years ago, I used to fantasize about going to some of the awesome pop-punk shows there. Life is pretty crazy like that. I still feel awkward as hell on stage, but people enjoyed themselves which is what really matters.

I just need to make time for music. I really enjoy it. (Thanks for the pic, LBZ!)

Violence inherent in the system? History repeating itself? #occupycal

IMAG0489, originally uploaded by urbangarden.

Right now I’m sitting in Brooklyn, at Larry’s kitchen table, trying to follow what’s been happening today at my Alma Mater and employer, UC Berkeley. Earlier, students tried to set up an encampment outside Sproul Hall, the main administration building. Riot police moved in to break up the tents:

Then there was this sickening scene of UCPD beating students who were just standing there with no provocation:

Both the Daily Cal and Cal TV have been doing a pretty good job covering the protests. #occupycal is also a trending topic on Twitter right now, and major media outlets are paying attention. On a night when Penn State students are demonstrating in support of Joe Paterno, who was fired for failing to do anything about his former defensive coordinator sexually abusing young boys. That’s some perspective.

Here’s some more. Students are being asked to pay more in tuition and fees again. I thought the fee hikes when I was in school (2000-2005) were excessive, but now it’s just ridiculous. Especially when you look at the compensation of the UC top brass. We have more and more executive administrators making very healthy paychecks, when students are being squeeze dry and services are disappearing because staff is being laid off or leaving for greener pastures. (Disclosure: I was laid off and then brought back on part time because of budget constraints. The library I work in went from being open M-F 9-5, to T-F 11-5 due to our decimated budget.) The campus is not a happy place right now. Everybody is uneasy, but that doesn’t excuse or explain the use of force by the police today.

I don’t want to act like there were halcyon days to return to, but I also hope that the campus community can repair these wounds. The administration will have to go a long ways to establish trust with students, faculty (one of whom was arrested today), and staff. We are a public university whose mission is to educate and generate new knowledge for society. Yes, we need to be able to afford it, but we also need to have compassion. Right now, I’m not feeling that.

Be safe tonight Berkeley. I’ll be glued to Twitter.

It’s a man’s world apparently…

Best Store Window Ever, originally uploaded by jnoriko.

So today I happen to be in Sacramento for work. Immediately I was stoked to go record shopping at one of my favourite record stores – Phono Select. After I got out of my meeting, I cruised over there to really dig in the crates. Normally when I go, I have Dr J or family members in tow. They get bored when I go through each section looking for stuff. Dr J is one of the nicest men ever, not only did he give me health insurance, but he’ll hold my records for me so it’s easier to browse. That’s love folks.

Anyhow, today I was in there and this couple walks in. They were a bit older than me, and the man was pretty dismissive of his female companion. Clearly she was bored within moments of walking in there and he was trying to get her out of his hair so he could browse in peace. Totally understandable. But then he had to take this totally dismissive, chauvinist tone about the whole thing. “Let me do boy stuff.”

If there was ever a time for the sound of a needle scratching off a piece of vinyl that was it. I couldn’t stop myself from looking up and giving them guy a death glare. Seriously. I might not be the cute yuppie girl he was with, but I’m totally a woman and I’m the vinyl collector geek in my relationship. I don’t even know how record buying is supposed to be gender based, other than perhaps selective affirmation bias and boys being encouraged to buy and spin vinyl. To each their own… but seriously… record collectors aren’t just dudes. Don’t act like I’m army candy.

My skewed reality.

This is a story in three parts.

Part 1: The Kinks vs. The Beatles

I may have told this one before. I was 10, almost 11, and hanging out on the playground in 5th grade. A bunch of us were talking about this “sock hop” we were going to have at the end of the week to celebrate the end of the school year. All of us started talking about the oldies bands we liked, and somebody mentioned the Beatles being “the biggest band ever”. I spoke up insisting the Kinks were the biggest band ever. It stood to reason because my parents had 20 Kinks records and 4 Beatles records, so of course the Kinks were bigger. The argument escalated, there was some harsh words, the teacher came in, and I got a citation. My mom later explained to me that the Kinks may be better than the Beatles, but in the court of popular opinion the Beatles were bigger.

This was the first time it was clear to me how much personal taste and skewed perspective can influence you. I am also sort of proud of fighting for the Kinks on the schoolyard. It’s a weird sign of devotion from such a young age.

Part 2: Cometbus vs. Green Day Fans

Abbey commented on my post about Green Day fans:

I totally agree with you that most Green Day superfans dont really give a shit what Aaron Cometbus thinks. They generally just dont like to be shit on, who does? Especially by someone that, face it, has piggybacked on Green Day’s fame for a long fucking time.

Umm… with you until that last bit. Cometbus is an institution in his own right without Green Day’s coattails. Of course though, I’m decent fan of his zine and a bigger fan of his music. I mean, he was in Sweet Baby! Nevermind Crimpshrine, Pinhead Gunpowder, Shotwell, and a whole host of other bands. Yes, this isn’t on the same level as Green Day (who are now rivals with the likes of U2 and Coldplay) but it’s like apples and oranges. I don’t expect all the Green Day fans to be Cometbus fans, but to act like he hasn’t done anything of renown is ludicrous.

But of course… I am not them. We’re into different things. There’s room for mutual respect and understanding. It’s a hard life as a super fan.

Part 3: Operation Ivy vs. Rancid

I know there’s a whole cult surrounding these bands, perhaps even more rabid and devoted than Green Day fans. Of course for the Lookout fans, these two bands were anchors of the past (whilst Screeching Weasel, the Queers and MTX were sort of anchors of the mid-late 90s, before the fall…)
Anyhow, recently I was giving my buddy Jim a hard time for liking Rancid. I was being a total jerk. He laid it all out. He wasn’t exposed to all the other East Bay stuff. Rancid found him at the right time and they’ve stuck. See, on those terms I get it. (Of course I may still be a little shit and opt for the more obscure Downfall.)

Growing up in Sacramento, the East Bay seemed almost local. It was close, it was accessible. Maybe it all goes back to my fighting for the Kinks, but I’ve always been interested in finding the small gems. This has nothing to do with the Hi-Fives. There’s nothing small about them. NOTHING. But I mean, how many people will brag about owning a Bumblescrump 7″? Not that many.

So the moral of this story is that I need to remember my story isn’t necessary typical. We all have our journeys of discovery. I can’t expect everybody to act like my anorak friends when it comes to records and bands. Hell, maybe I need to stop being the collector nerd and just enjoy some stuff.

How did I end up in the Potatomen?

potatomen outside of gilman 2000
In high school, my friend Jill once asked me if I ever listened to music with feelings. I was confused. Apparently neither the Hi-Fives nor the Smugglers had the emotional range she was looking for. When I moved off to Berkeley to go to university, I sort of got what she meant. I was depressed and lonely, and my record collection had nothing that really connected me with those emotions. What did you expect from a garage/pop-punk kid? I didn’t turn to the Smiths or Elliot Smith, I rediscovered the Potatomen like never before.

I’d had their records because I liked Larry and I was a dutiful Lookout fan. I’d listened to them, but never really connected to them, other than All My Yesterdays, mostly for the Brent’s TV cover. One night in early September 2000, I came home from my crappy job at Papyrus on College Ave, feeling utterly alone and cut off from everybody and everything, and I put on Now and it just clicked. The song just made me feel all right and I just laid in my bed, sort of zoned out listening to it on my headphones feeling lost. So for the next semester, I would mope about town listening to Now and Iceland. To this day, when I hear some of those guitar riffs to songs like “Gabe” or “Sam’s Song”, I’m transported back to that fall, wandering up and down Telegraph in a melancholic daze.

This picture was taken at a Potatomen show outside of Gilman. I think it was November 18, 2000? It was the first really cold weekend of the season and I walked all the way from campus and back. I hung out at Picante before the show with them before the set, stood on the corner and sang along, hung out a bit more, and then walked back home. I was shivering by the time I reached Shattuck, but I didn’t really mind. It was the best night I’d had since I’d moved to Berkeley. (The cheesy stix from West Coast Pizza didn’t hurt.) It’s weird how little nights like that can really stick with you.

Ten and a half years later, I’m the fifth Potatomen bass player. I was surprised and flattered when Larry and Patrick asked me to join them for a show in August (and beyond). It was weird playing songs with them at first because even though I didn’t really know how to play them, I sort of did because I had listened to them so much. That’s actually still frustrating at parts because I feel like I can’t really escape the recordings in my head, but then I can’t fully articulate them either. It’s a problem I’ve never really dealt with before. The other reason it’s a little weird for me is that they keep taking me back to those feelings I had as a lost 18 year old. Glimpses to the past that it seems I can’t fully escape. No doubt these feelings will probably fade or change as I play more, but this past weekend when we were practicing as a full band, they were definitely there. I know a lot has happened since that fall, which makes this all quite logical and perhaps expected, but if you had told me then where’d I’d be today, I wouldn’t have really believed it.

Not that my 18 year old self was all that wise or knew what she wanted, but these sorts of little reality checks are interesting. Is making a younger version of yourself happy a good thing or is it a sign that you weren’t aiming high enough? I can’t really tell, but it’s worth considering from time to time.

a grey day…

me at the footbridge, originally uploaded by kendrak.

neil took this picture of me on a footbridge at the salford quays by the lowry and the imperial war museum north.

when we were walking across the bridge, i told him i was going to get cancer some day, it was inevitable. a month later i found my lump. it’s weird to think back to that time.

this all just makes me want to:
1. go visit neil.
2. have a chip buttie.
3. be happy about what i’ve got.

A sixth sense?

Brent’s TV – Lumberjack Days, originally uploaded by kendrak.

Yesterday I felt like it was a good idea to go to Amoeba. Not just because I like record shopping, but that something I really wanted would be there. As I walked in and checked my pack, I got this sense, a spidey sense, that they would have Lumberjack Days there and it was mine for the taking. Lo and behold, they did. This is my 10th copy of said record. 6 more to go before I have 1% of all that were pressed. Yeah, I know that’s sick.

It’s weird to me that I’ve been getting these little premonitions before I go into the store that the Brent’s TV or Ne’er Do Wells 7″s will be there for the taking. It’s creepy, sad, but that’s like me!

I used to be “eerie, lost-looking” but I hope I’m better now.

some of my denery/imlay records, originally uploaded by kendrak.

The other day Larry wrote about Cometbus in China. It was good and I meant to get us a copy. (I usually make Dr J a copy of the latest Cometbus when I’m walking on the avenue.) Well, it turns out Cometus struck a nerve with hardcore Green Day fans, which Larry wrote about today. The post and the comments really made me pause and think about what it means to be a “superfan”.

Now, I can’t pretend to really get what it means to be a Green Day superfan, especially nowadays, but I do remember the weird feeling I used to get (and still do to a lesser degree) for another Lookout band. Of course I’m talking about the Hi-Fives. The Hi-Fives are still my favourite band and I’ll admit to getting a weird mix of emotions when I listen to their music, but I also know the mix has changed over the last decade. (It probably helps that they broke up.) I also don’t want to act like the Hi-Fives are on the same level as Green Day. I mean, yeah I like them more but they’re a very different animal all together.

Allow me to have a flashback. Picture it… Carmichael… 1997… I was at home, totally beside myself because my parents wouldn’t let go to a Hi-Fives show in Benecia on a school night. I was hysterical. I had to be there! I couldn’t not be there! My life was over. I felt a very potent mix of anxiety, anger, frustration, and hopelessness. It was insane but also very real. Over the next three years I swear I spent a lot of time doing things to win my parents’ trust and respect just so I could bargain my way to Hi-Fives shows. I opted to see them play three songs in SF than go to my senior prom. I don’t regret the decision, but I do sort of wonder how I could have been so single minded for such a big chunk of my life. It seems OK since I did make some great friends out of it, like Larry, and the band did seem to appreciate my support, but still… it’s a little weird looking back on it.

So let’s get to now. Am I that bad? No. Am I completely normal? (Shut up, you!) Well, I’ll readily admit to compulsively buying Hi-Fives records still. If I see a 7″ or LP, I’ll buy it. Why? I feel like they need a good home. I used to pretend I’d actually give them away, but I’ve yet to be able to do such a thing. Instead I’m hoarding them. I can’t really explain it other than obsession. (Hey Larry, did you know I’ve sort of done the same with the Potatomen?) I’ve made concessions, like not seeing Sweet Baby at The Fest in 2008 because I had to start my new job and do school stuff, but I still have my weird habits. (Like owning 4 copies of It’s a Girl on vinyl.)

So I guess what I’m trying to say is I do sort of get what the Green Day fans are feeling. That a bunch of them self-identified with the type of fan that Aaron described and took offense. They named themselves as that type of fan. This is where I sort of feel bad for them… because really if they were totally secure in being a superfan, they wouldn’t really care what Cometbus says. (Though seriously, the ones asking who the hell Cometbus is are making me scratch my head. I mean, it’s Cometbus! That’s an important part of the East Bay punk scene, even if you don’t like what he’s saying.) It does remind me of the weird cohort of Lookout superfans in the late-90s, but I also don’t remember the stakes being quite so high. Maybe I’m just repressing more of my emotions though, trying to act like I’ve grown up some. I guess my record collection might tell a different story.

Reagen could have been 100, but I don’t care. I am much happier to still have Jerry Brown.

That’s the old California Governor’s Mansion, sort of. Reagan had it built in lovely Carmichael, which is some of the loveliest land in all of Sacramento County, because Nancy hated the old one. Nobody ever actually lived in it and Schwazenegger sold it, finally.

The thing is, on the eve of the Reagan Centennial, I just feel a lot of repressed childhood anger at the man resurfacing. It’s weird for me now as an adult to talk to people who actually like Reagan or the idea of him. Granted, I was raised by a couple of liberals, and while they didn’t force feed us their politics, it was clear that Reagan was not a figure to admire. No doubt, punk rock had a hand in it, but I just always had some weird sense that Reagan (and Thatcher!) were bad, selfish people, embodying the most selfish aspects of society, and ready to screw you over. To this day, when people speak warmly of the man or say “things were good under Reagan”, it makes me think differently about them. I’ll admit it, I’m prejudiced. Unless you’re a rich white man who got richer in the 1980s, I’ll think you’re a fool for liking Reagan. I just bite my tongue.

The empty Governor’s Mansion was a good symbol of that.

My mom would occasionally drive us past it (we live not too far from it), and point it out. Point out that Reagan built it, that it was a waste of money, and that nobody lived there.

Which gets me to the weird affinity and warmth I have for Jerry Brown. Growing up, hearing the stories of Reagan’s term as governor, there was usually the foil of Brown. He chose to live in a modest apartment downtown, rather than stay in that suburban monstrosity. He was a bit crazy, but was overall good. He wasn’t Reagan.

So this weekend, as people are going crazy for Reagan, I wanted to go back and look at Brown’s first term as governor. (I’ll admit it, I was excited to vote for him this past year.) I watched this video of news clips of his first term. Cutting the budget, raising taxes. Is it 1974 again?

I really wish the people celebrating Reagan would acknowledge the messes he created. I blame the boom in the homeless population on him. I blame the culture of fear on him. I don’t like what he did to this state or the nation. I’m not saying Jerry Brown is an angel, but I feel he’s much more realistic and put the state in a better position. I hope he helps us turn it around now.

Brrr. It’s cold out here.

Greetings from that nation’s capitol! It’s cold (for me). I’m going to spend the next 10 days experiencing a real Winter. Last time I had 10 days of Winter, I was in the UK going to football matches, watching Corrie, and eating chip butties. This time I’m going to conferences and working. How lame is that?

The highlight today had to be the falafel I got for dinner – it had kraut! Man, that’s the thing that kills me about falafel in America, the lack of kraut.

I’m now going to eat a Cutie (the best name brand clementine money can buy), ponder my existence, and probably listen to some football podcasts. I am a dullard.