Acoustics

Every day it’s something new.

Today it was acoustics.

“Sound,” he said, “is what they’ll get wrong.”

Nobody designs spaces for sound. We design for look, but sound is feel. Sound is mood, is a companion.

An apartment or flat with hardwood floors simply feels different. Not just when playing music. The tap of steps across a hardwood floor. The clatter when something falls from the counter.

In a theater, in a recital hall? There’s so little sound it feels something’s pushing on your ears. No sound feels like pressure.

In Hollywood they take the ambient sound in a room and then filter it out and then put back sound that sounds more natural. How’s that for nurture over nature?

Fly

“Flight attendants, take your seats.”

The pilot – good one – eases the plane onto the runway, cutting the corner of the taxiway, he knows just when the call is going to come. Never stops rolling. Punches it. Thrust. Heads back in seats, Gs, whitecaps on the Bay zipping by. Faster, faster, acceleration, exhilarating, the fuselage shaking and tray tables rattling. Then into the sky – into the sky! Into the gloaming. The last of the orange out the opposite window, orange glow over summer fog bank. Silver cities below, and the lights of ten thousand cars becoming ants as we head higher and higher. Into the night, above the night, one with the night, a place where everything might be alright.

And I’ve never lost my little boy’s delight in flying.

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Making Nocino

Mid June, PNW

Pouring down I-5 into downtown Portland, an endless mid-June evening, river glassy, brick city, top down Camaro and I’m flinging from one lane to the next and onto the offramp towards Morrison Bridge, Belmont St, east Portland of chestnuts and maples.

Another morning. Walking to Oblqiue to meet my friend for coffee. Rush and bustle of annoyed commuters heading up and down Belmont, heading out of this East Portland. I walk by the cafe and see the tables set for dinner tonight and think of James Joyce in Paris, think of young Hemingway looking into a restaurant window and seeing Joyce and his family delighting over a chicken. Hungry young Hemingway.

Laying in the yard. Dreaming. Dreaming 2009. Dreaming 2008! Abbie Berry. Creative Cusp. Dreaming 2006. LifePro. Bill Z and Ned Dear and Dave and my Blondes. Sitting in the side yard. Looking out at the Olympic Range and the finely defined river valleys: Hamma Hamma, Dosewallips, Duckabush. “a bottle of white wine. a table made of wood.” Listening to the buzz of bees. Looking up to see if a vee of geese are flying overhead, northbound to Canada. Looking all around at all this nature just fecund and alive. Looking, looking, looking.

Emily Dickinson:

A SOMETHING in a summer’s day,
As slow her flambeaux burn away,
Which solemnizes me.

Trying to write about Marseille. Sitting at my window seat at the Whiskey Gulch Cafe, Port Orchard WA, looking out at the silver sky and silver ships in the Bremerton Yard and the silver Sinclair Inlet and the foot ferry taking the men to work. The well-wishers wish our barista a happy high school graduation. Window’s open, the stray kit-kat bellering out on the balcony, can’t feed him though or I’m the bad guy. Consider the flavor of people here, the gravel in the man’s voice, the dress she’s wearing. Considering calves. Sitting over my macchiato and strawberry scone. Trying to write about Marseille.

Kant and his walks. The same route, the same time, each day. Me and my macchiato (plural ought to be macchiati). “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”. Moment as a collection of moments and how to singularize: of all the moments being experienced right now, the most interesting is this one moment in which I’m having coffee and writing. Cars are flinging by up and down Hawthrone, Joy Division on the stereo, the bang and phuss of the espresso machine, there’s conversational topics and Twitter and Facebook on the phones, there’s a meeting going on in the corner, there’s ants in the dirty and flies on the ceiling and termites in the walls all in their extraordinary moments, but what I want is one. Just this. To have coffee. And to write.

2014. Mid-June and the fruit is set. Early summer peeling away, the June growing diminishing each day, the majesty of mid-summer approaching.

Tony Sly

Tony Sly died two years ago. And I’m not over it yet.

I don’t get too worked up over celebrity deaths, but there’s a few that get me. Crocodile Hunter, strangely, really broke me up. Jack Lalanne, because I thought for sure he’d make it to 110 at least. Judy Rodgers last year. And Tony Sly, leader of the South Bay punk band No Use For A Name aka NUFAN.

Why do we like what we like in music? What is it about songs and styles that make us says I like this or I don’t like this? I’m a punk kid, I’m an EDM gal, I’m a classical guy. And more than that, what makes us say I’m a fan of a band, a fanatic, an irrational follower of this group who likes even their B-sides, even their one-offs, even the worst song on their sell-out album?

Simply put, NUFAN and their songs and especially their lyrics spoke to me. Speaks to me. Wherever Tony Sly came from? Same place I’m from. Same quiet, confused place I count myself lucky to escape from. Lucky to drain the poison from my blood. How else could Tony write about this stuff – how could I? – if we hadn’t been there, tasted that.

I’m writing this at Printers Cafe in Palo Alto. Funny that the one time I saw NUFAN was at The Edge, the club that stood not a football field from where I’m sitting this morning. They tore it down, you know – tore down The Edge. The sight of most of my minor triumphs, aged 16 – 20. The first concert I went to (Dramarama). The first dance club (all ages) I went to. The first dance club I got thrown out of (my friend Jimmy let his underage girlfriend have a sip of his drink). The first time I danced with a girl I didn’t know. The first time I got a girl’s digits. The first time I moshed, the first time I stage dived, the first time I stage dived and didn’t get caught and had to sit in high school class for weeks with a bruised tailbone and a wry grin. The time I danced with a friend’s sister and was in love with her for, oh gosh I don’t know, twenty whole minutes. NIN, KMFDM, Skankin Pickle. And the time – the only time – I saw NUFAN.

Tony Sly was way too young to die. That’s that. Everyone is way too young to die, but come on, Tony Sly was only 41. Yeah I know he partied. Yeah I know he didn’t take care of his body. Still. Tony was way too young to die.

The thing about NUFAN – and I’m not sure I even realized this when I was listening to them a lot – is how un-narcisstic the songs are. Most of my favorite No Use songs read like recovery. Maybe that’s why I was the only one of my friends who really liked them. It’s off-putting shit, at least to a lot of people. To me it was manna.

Get self-help from punk rock songs? Why not. When I was 19, 21, 23, I was a screwhead. I was a screwhead on his way to long-term screwheadedness. There were a lot of people who helped me get out of that mess of me. Some who knew me personally – those are the real heroes of my personal story, but I digress – and some I knew through their art. Tony Sly was one of the latter.

Songs like Fatal Flu, Exit, and Invincible resonated with me on a deep level. I recognized those characters. They were me, they were close friends, they were people I knew who I needed to get far away from.

Soulmate was their claim to fame, their one hit wonder, NUFAN’s five minutes in the radio airplay sun. When I saw them at the Edge, they segued into the song with the opening lick from the Beverly Hills 90210 theme. I thought it was such a cook thing to do, and I still do. Radio stars. Oh yeah. Yeah right.

And it’s still going. I don’t listen to much NUFAN (or any punk) any more. But one afternoon not long ago I found myself listening to Live In A Dive and suddenly realized what an ass I was being in a situation I was in. Just hearing a few lines of Chasing Rainbows and I thought “Holy fuck that’s me in the song, I’m acting weak right now and that’s how I’m releasing my anger”.

All I want to do is make sure you stop chasing rainbows
Letting everybody crawl inside your heart and mind
Kicking you is easy when you’re down that’s where the weak go
To release their anger on someone who will not try
To stand up, and give them a fight

Thank you Tony. RIP. Hope to shake your hand someday on the other side of that rainbow, man…

Bike

Back! in California!
hot dry air
desiccated lawns
a BMW, a Mercedes, a block party
long afternoons going slowly orange
to pedal a bike through
to let go the pedals
and enjoy the bathwater-ie ether –

but what I really like
is to fling the bike
drop the hammer on the pedals.
also I like to work the gears
as if it were a Ferrari
only me instead of horses
pinched toes and burning thighs –

distance athletes know pain
have relationships with pain.
I don’t know how you can ride
distance
and not be in a romance with pain
a ménage à trois:
you, your machine, your pain.