Someday we'll all get outta here

apocalypse

... ruminations of a horrified social distancer on his evaporating way of life in the shadows of the green death plague.

"I hate graveyards and old pawn shops
For they always bring me tears
I can't forgive the way they robbed me
Of my childhood souvenirs.." - John Prine
 
"They tried to get me lots of times and now they're coming after you/ I got out and I'm here to say, 
Baby, you can get out, too"  - Johnny Winter 
 
"Love is land..."  -Duran Duran 
 
"Hidin' out and layin' low ain't nothin' new to me..."  - Guns N Roses 
 
Every morning brings bad news. I'm worried for Marrianne Faithful, John Prine has passed and a couple no-name rocknroll underground legends and personal friends you ain't never heard of. Alan Merrill of Vodka Collins and the Arrows' passing was a sad day, indeed. For years now, I've noticed how it's an annual tradition, almost a law, that some university bona fide but tragically lazy professional journalist writes an obligatory cover story at every entertainment weekly, each year, about the next big girl group, that suggests Joan Jett wrote the 70's glitter anthem, "I Love Rocknroll" by Alan Merrill and the Arrows, a really fabulous, bubblegum glitter stompin', unsung glam gang, and it kinda always makes me feel a bit conflicted about the perennial Jett-Lagg myth-protecting and gives even more credibility to those other Runaways gals who testify about Joan's management always deemphasizing their contributions to her worldwide brand.
 
Now I love Joan, and agree with Kim Fowley, when he compared her rhythm playing to Malcolm Young or Steve Jones, or John Lennon, or whoever, she is an undeniable icon, "Fake Friends" is one of my top 10  favorite songs of all time, probably; I still try to dress like her, she's one of the last performers I bothered leaving my self imposed exile to witness, nine or 10 years ago, but as a songwriter, I always kinda felt Jett Lagg's media narrative about her being the sole underdog in the hero-story was kinda undermined, everytime they knowingly failed to give credit where it was properly due. Now it might not be Kenny Laguna's job to correct every cub-reporter "women in rock" article that ever righteously heralds Joan's significant contributions; while flat-out mistakenly implying she's the author of all those cover-versions she is most famous for, and I know the Rolling Stones sang, "It's The Singer and Not the Song", and she was undeniably the voice, the face, the commanding presence, the tight black trousers, the Thunders girl-shag that launched 1,000 garage bands, of both snarly hoodlum planet boys and rebel girls. But the crunchy-granola, animal-knit-hatted college people who insist she wrote "Androgynous", with her unique insight and sensitivity, just weren't really paying attention, that was Paul Westerberg from the Replacements, they are just imbuing their idol with every virtue to advance a martyr media maverick mythology. I remember in the slacker 90's, the popular media trend during the Grunge/Alternative music marketing hoax, was for every media celeb to not wash their hair and present the acquiescent and eager to please NYU journalism grads with a "woe is me", cotton pickin' blues yarn about having lived under a bridge, of how they came from extreme poverty and duress and overcame every hard-knock obstacle on their long journey from the private schools and millionaire relatives, to the cover of "Spin" magazine. Jewel, Beck, the Beastie Boys, the Chili Peppers, in later times, Lady Gaga, everybody was supposedly a hard up homeless person living out of a shopping cart, squatting in an abandoned hotel on 14th street with nowhere to go, smoking homeless junkie's cigarette butts and scrounging for a piece of Famous Ray's pizza, even Guns N Roses insisted they were just these nobody street urchins who crawled out of the gutter, those stories about Slash's mom dating David Bowie, and how he grew up around people like David Geffen, just very simply never, never appeared in the pages of Hit Parader or Circus magazines, until well after their capitalist singer seized ownership of the brand name, and kicked out the drummer, and hired 25 personal assistants, and started indiscriminately yelling, "You're Fired" all the time, like Donald Trump on "The Apprentice". Now those brand-name tattooed millionaire ex gutter punks are charging fans for handshakes. Or they were, before the PlagueTM. Fuck off, Gene Simmons. Fuck you, Bill Gates.
 
So, anyway, Alan Merrill has died from the Coronavirus, apparently, and it's a sad day for lifelong rocknroll aficionados, as he was a nice man, and frequently, people who get the money do not stay nice. One of the forgotten comets I saw shoot by in my youthful Sunset Stripper daze was a one in a million glam guy named Alicestarr who sang an all too poignant and still resonating lyric about how they wanna, "eat your face and be you". We see a lot of that in rocknroll-people who make careful study of somebody else's style, or persona, and peddle it falsely from a higher platform, it used to bother me when some deep cocaine pockets frat boys would steal some lonesome troubadour's back-story, way of walkin', personal catch-phrase, or whole ouvre, and sell it shamelessly to the sports dummies. Madonna is said to have made an art out of appropriating subculture and making it popular among the rom-com Ellen watchers of secretarial middle-Murkkka. 

"I'm on the verge of a massive karmic breakdown" is a memorable line from the "Desperately Seeking Susan" script that Mark Blum gave me as a kid. Mark was a kind man, some old guru said, "mankind needs to become kind man, again". I loved that guy, because he was just so real and gracious and generous and down to Earth. I think I was 14, when I first met him and he would very patiently and attentively feign interest in all my childish, pain in the ass, obliviously self absorbed, postcard-shoplifting, textbook defacing, juvenile delinquent, styling gel and rosaries and Sony Walkman, New Romantic problems. He was one of the first really cool adults I ever met. Blum was this very worldly, erudite, charming and literate actor who knew about Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky and dated very famous women, but who seemed to sincerely, somehow, care about my bad makeup and Cyndi Lauper bullshit. I thought we had shit in common, because I could call him up and talk about "Smash Hits" magazine and Charlie Sexton and Sigue Sigue Sputnik and wanting to form my own revolution-rock band like the Clash and Ramones.
 
He was always so, so lovely and encouraging, and always happy to advise and affirm all the impossible guttersnipe punk dreams I still harbored in those infinitely more innocent hours. Greenwich Village, in the '80s, was still a groovy bohemian paradise, back then, and I'd spend hours trying on clothes at "Love Saves The Day", the retro boutique featured in his Madonna movie, and even though the older goth people who ran the stores all around St. Mark's Place could all easily recognize I had no real money, they would indulgently treat me like a rich girl trying on clothes in a Melrose mirror. I loved NY, and met so many fabulous people there and none of 'em acted like stuckup dickhead poser V.I.P.'s, everybody still casually adhered to genuine punk rock ethics of equality and community. This is significant because the people in the neighborhood who were still there back then, were the actual originator's and figureheads of the punk movement, unfailingly modelling exemplary, always gallant "Gabba Gabba Hey!" examples; very unlike the snide velvet roper, idle heiress, rent-gouging, stop n frisk, rich kid sons and daughters of CEOs and hedge fund managers who steadily squeezed the working class artists out and eventually replaced them, 25 years later.
 
The past five years has been crazy-every artist, every rockstar, every reliable character in my private world, everybody I thought was cool is disappearing from this whole scene. I'd sometimes still see pictures of Mark Blum and our common friends and family members at restaurants, smiling and laughing, just like yesterday, and I always took for granted that when I made it back to Manhattan, "someday", we'd be in those photos, together. Again.
 
He died, and the mass media was flooded with testimonials from all these mainstream-famous people, who also seemed to agree he was a total mensch, an exceptionally giving and funny and genuinely nice human being. I did not even know about a quarter of the plays, movies, and TV shows he had appeared in. To me, he was just my father's friend, who he'd known since they were 7, who was on the Sopranos, and knew Little Steven and stuff, and I always thought I'd see him again. I figured on inviting him to the Big Rock Show if my sleazy basement band ever played in NYC, ya know, that was my daydream believer reasoning for thirty years. Of course, none of my set to self destruct before our 15 minutes goth groups ever even made it back to The City for a visit. I feel bad that none of it ever panned out like I'd seen it in my head, I always wanted to make those cool cats proud of me. He knew me when I was a scrawny, scrappy, runaway brat who was running up everybody's phone bills in the years before cell-phones and free long distance, trying to stay in touch with my little Cure fan girlfriend back in hellhole white suburbia. I have not spoken to him in years, but he was someone I innately understood was always on my side, in my corner, distant relations, faraway family. I looked forward to exchanging stories and sharing a bottle and laughing with him again, "someday", so ya know, it's been a weird time for me. For everyone, I suppose. You know that old CCR song, "Someday Never Comes"?
 
In the later part of the 80's, one of my favorite bands was Lizmar Lounge legends, Circus Of Power. They were a modern day, Amerikkkan blooze-punk AC/DC or Rolling Stones, to me-the grittier, more authentic NYC hard rock heroes, in the headbanging Guns N Roses era. They'd open up for the Ramones and had Iggy Pop guest on their album, and wrote all these perfectly romantic, highwaymen, roadhouse blues anthems, like a cross between The Doors and Rose Tattoo, they were heavy and crunchy, cerebral and savage, with a John Fogerty knack for composing memorable tunes. They were a big part of my personal underground culture, my badly tattooed friends and I would travel ten hours to see them , no problem. I can only think of one other band who I might have seen play more times than Circus Of Power.
 
From the biker-hippie acidhead "Love" by the Cult swirling early drug experimentations to the kind of leather jackets we all ended up wearing, Circus Of Power were always right there with us-our lions in the street, grebo-bikerspolitation, freak flag waving, hairspray generation's most beloved all-night raver, whiskey sodden, full blast rocknroll band-what the Deadboys or whoever were to older people in the 70's-they were like, "our" band-the proletariat, the people's band. Relatable, and real, they really seemed to represent us, the "Freak Society", the stoners and the dropouts, in a way that almost no one else could in that era, and Ryan Maher - the engine room, drumbeat, heart of that band, was the one I knew the least. I met him and shook hands with him countless times, and he was always nodding in sympathetic recognition when he'd see me and my flowery bloused little under-aged bandmates approaching, hoping to mooch a backstage beer off them, but of all of 'em, he's the one I never felt that familiar with, but I was only 18 (liked it)and he was this badass, enigmatic, heavy metal thundering, "Easy Rider" folk hero to me and our gang of silver bracelet wearing Hanoi Rocks dolls . We all wanted the original line-up of Circus Of Power to reunite and make more music, because their first line-up was so magical, 'just the right mix of volatile hellraisers, Sunday hardcore matinee misfits, beatnik soul men,  barroom brawlers, and hellfire preachers.
 
So even though I was never close to the drummer, Circus Of Power was our band when we were growing up, and so it still felt very personal, like an intimate hit to the body when I learned he'd died, because in my comforting, make believe world, there was always that glimmering mirage of them reuniting in the future, that band was like a Peter Pan pirate ship for some of us greasy ruffians and wayward rock punks, their songs travelled with us from the hicktown record store I worked at where we first played their record, to our shitty bandhouse in the woods outside of town, to our many roadtrips to see them at the Ritz and Channel and Bogarts and Living Room in Providence, etc., etc., to all of us movin' out to Hollywood and some of us completely failing at rockin' is my business, underground rockstardom for many, many embarrassing years, to the polyester work uniforms and painter whites of knee eroding, bad back adulthood. I'll always love that band-when collector nerds ask me to name "a perfect first record", their self titled debut always comes to my mind. They are still massively important to me. Wherever we go, when we leave this place, I send my blessings and sincerest gratitude along with his right-on rocknroll spirit, God Bless You, Ryan. thank You for everything, for your service to rocknroll.
 
One of my own best sadly unrecorded songs is kind of about a Honkytonkin' Hootenanny Heaven, me and all my friends just fuckin' loved that band so much. They were really good to us when we were just kids, and their songs are still timeless beacons, if you ask me. I always say those guys don't really seem to get, how important they are to some of us fans. They had a  lifelong impact and imprint on our lifestyle, value system, way of perceiving things, and songwriting aspirations. It ain't no secret how I still love Circus Of Power.

In the promising initial days of Occupy Wall Street, we were uniting the tribes under the black flag, and trying to bring attention to the problems of obscene income inequality and how rich people were never held accountable for intentionally, methodically unhousing millions of people, and how even in once liberal, supposedly "vibrant and diverse" sanctuary city, human rights promoting, virtue-signaling, save the whales, no nukes, college-towns, the mean ex Fugazi and Kathleen Hannah fans and ex hippies had abandoned any pretense of inclusion and were creating these elitist, sunglasses brunching, safespace enclaves for rich people where the gluten-free, P.C., faux-hips never had to lay eyes upon the unsightly, unwelcome poor. I could not stick around for many of the tedious "ground rules", camp song, twinklefinger and sage burning, fake rastamon, organizational meetings because they were immediately always hijacked by upper middle class, navel-studies, "me" people, the Taylor Swifters, the Just Me's of feelgoodist, updating my juicer, meditation retreat,  Namaste privilege. As Obama and corporate media took control of the Occupy Narrative, and coordinated police state crackdowns, and the pink-hatted, "blue-no-matter-whos" okey-dokey'd uniformed brutes beating up women protestors, and Fox blowhards programmed their horrible sports fan audience to yell "get a job" at all the homeless people in the rain, I was experiencing a lot of layered emotions and the baby-boomer Rainbow Family, pass-the-feather, purple yurt landlords kinda made me wanna not be involved, when they were always just handing me the mop, wanting me to "volunteer" to landscape their Buddha garden at the airbandb, and asserting their born to boss management authority, the one cool thing that came out of the whole disappointing debacle was the gorgeous people I met who weren't just trying to get something out of it for themselves. I found some real honest, fulltime, walk it like you talk it, radical grassroots motherfuckers, who were not just playing show and tell, but doing the work, of front-line organizing and caring for all the people, at building community and directly serving the human needs of even the most unlovable, least cuddly, the scarred and rejected and broken, the maligned and hated, the wronged, the wrong, the injured and the traumatized. Everybody in a gentrified community will rush to the aid of a needy bunny, but not everybody will deliver dry socks and tarps to the scary looking bearded boozers shivering in the mud puddles by the railroad tracks, and do their fucking laundry. And continue to. Like my heroine, Arwen DeSpain, who is doing God's work  
 
So yeah, one of the other really beautiful people I met in that era of consciousness raising and online organizing was this rebel poet high-priestess from L.A. named Yvonne de la Vega - she and I just understood each other instantly, I saw myself in her, in spite of her bright physical beauty, and my own self-evident, Frankenstein monster, beastliness, she and I were both sortof blessed and cursed by some of the same afflictions. Jim Carroll sang "I was cursed to be a singer, a singer of the flame, a thinker of the thought and a son without a name". She had summa the same conundrums and dilemmas as me, mortality, fragility, of aging, the call of duty and also the hungry heart-I never had to complain or explain much of anything to her, we were just always aware of each other, had this mutual appreciation, a solidarity, she was my comrade, it was deep. I knew I could call her up anytime, in the middle of the night, I could always seek asylum with her grace, if I ever remotely needed to, she was a haven for me, a rare retreat, a like-spirit, a 4-real soul sister. So of course, I never bothered her or asked anything of her, and in some hours when she would signal to me that she was having some vague life struggles, she knew I was open all night, she knew where I kept the key, it was "walk on in", with me, too. I would never betray her confidence, even now, or ever, and vice versa. I think it was just cool for both of us to have even a distant ally, who could and would always be there to affirm the others' mission, and inner-friction, and even harmonize with their funhouse reflection's pangs and aching. She was/is a holy lady. it was my honor to have been the recipient of  her awesome kindness, she was always thanking me for being me, I don't get a lot of that.
 
She's just so cool, I was just thinking about her one day, like I often am, and how I was looking forward to talking to her about that Ray Manzarek movie that was coming out, and her friend Iris Berry's new book, and what did she think about this and this and this, and just like that, she was gone, I've been listening for messages from her. I see her beautiful children and siblings and genius friends all paying these profoundly beautiful, deep tributes to her on youtube at celebrations and bookstore gatherings before the immobilizing virus clampdown and in their works that Yvonne influenced, I've been writing a song about/to/for/with her in my unguarded moments. I feel her presence in the long rippling fraternity of friends and fellow poets and weirdo activists she uplifted and inspired. Yvonne de la Vega! PRESENTE! I felt that chill in my chest and spine when I typed that. If I live long enough to finish organizing and preparing my own archives of songs and poems and "still too soon" memoirs, she'll be one of the characters you see walk through all my latter-day songs. I was flattered by her praise and devotion and will never forget her nurturing acknowledgements and nourishing spirit and beat cool mystic ways.

In the unseen, abovementioned book I started writing and abandoned because it was ultimately the feel bad hit of the never, about five years ago, I wrote at great length about race and class and media brainwashing and the corporate commodification and weaponization and dumbing down and honky-fying of music culture, for their own sinister, one percenter, divide and conquer ends, in recent decades, and the marvelously exciting and unifying cross pollination of hip-hop and punk rock and new wave culture in the eighties, and how my little gang of rascally, breakdancing, 12 inch dance remix carrying, big piece of cardboard and a ghetto blaster, dead end kids were beyond just motley-looking in our crazy mish-mash of Kangols and checkered Vans and parachute pants and Billy idol bracelets. It was the "Breakin'" and "Electric Boogaloo" era, when my black friends were turning on to Kraftwerk and New Order and that Vital Idol remix record and the Clash, and my scuzzy little new wave white friends were all evolving their entire worldview because of Run DMC, Michael Jackson, Newcleus, Whodini, and more than anybody else, probably, PRINCE.
 
We were Little Uptowns, in rising sun bandannas and British hardcore skull-belts. Some of my dear and close and lifelong friends were the only real early B-Boys in the Midwest and they were avant garde progressives-scratching, breakdancing, rapping, making mix-tapes, promoting little shows at rental halls, integrating heavy metal and punk rock influences, way, way before that was common. I sometimes joke that it is a little known fact that I was a sucky whiteboy rapper, before becoming a sucky whiteboy rapper was cool. One of the best Battle MC's I ever heard was this dapper dude in a sideways slanted hat and long tweed coat named Casper G, he could devastate sucker MC's five at a time, he was just ruthless, nobody could fuck with his fast wit and keenly observational improvisational rhyming abilities. We had been back in contact for the past few years and really getting to know one another as adults, who had been through loss and grief and divorce and raising kids and stuff, he was even cooler in his late 40's and early 50's, than he was, when we were in his mom's house making mixes in the late 80's. I felt really close to him again, we'd renewed our brotherhood through a mutual best friend forever, and it was gratifying, because as we age, we grow apart from so many of our former associates, the roll call gets small, whereas Casper G and I, we were still vibeing on the same frequency, we were still related. I like to remember how he always reassured me he was not really disappearing, it was just the form he was leaving behind, I have all kinds of different feelings about this shit at different times of the day. Sometimes, I'm at different stages of the grief spectrum. A lot of denial. I never wanna say goodbye to my ace pal, Cory Lott, aka Casper G. He was a statesmen, a wiseman, a benevolent teacher, and I am a poor student. It was my honor and without whom....! Casper G IS!

 Suddenly, my confidant, protector, songwriting mentor and boozy outlaw personal rabbi, Paul K. who had been one of my three most trusted and faithful friends since I was 25, has also abruptly left the after-hours party, and it's pretty hard to not take it personally. He was one of the best songwriters I ever knew, so brilliant and talented and gracious and longsuffering. A friend you never had to bullshit, or put on any airs for. I could be my most fanged and hairy werewolf self in front of that man and he never blinked an eye. I ran to him whenever I was lost or scared and he kind of provided me with a place of understanding and acceptance. He was never competing with me, there was no hustle between us.
 
He was very good at being himself, so he was totally cool with giving me space to be myself, too. Lesser talents and envious Fauntleroys might have been put-off by his non-negotiable, complete unwillingness to get involved with their rat-race, high school cafeteria bullshit, he was indomitable, sovereign, knew who he was, and did not seem to seek or require confirmation, or bourgeois permission, from show-biz social circlers or media-gatekeepers, he had no payola to bring, ba-rump-ba-ba-bum, but he did leave us, many hundreds of thoughtful, luminous, tear jerking, often profound songs that all of our cooler kids will fall in love with someday in the future, if any of us are left to take comfort from heartfelt and sincere rocknroll music. I spent several hours listening to him last week, it felt like I was still communing with his very loving and non-judgemental and wise and patient spirit. I don't know what I'm gonna do without him.
 
Our way of life is disappearing, the candles, booze and dawn's early notebooks and tambourines are all relics of a soon to be forgotten past. Everybody's leavin', just like that, maybe it's the rapture. I can't really grieve out loud, because I am responsible for the well-being of a person with a disability in quarantine from the pandemic, but inside, my little heart is like, "WHOA!" I can't really drink over any of it, I undoubtedly would, if there was any space or time, but Right Now is a sorry, sorrowful season for acting adult, slapping on my bravely man face, or whatever, keeping a stiff upper lip, doing the next right thing, hut-two, hut two, but fuck, man. My whole life's become that Depeche Mode "Black Celebration" record. Of course(!!!) I wanna fuckin' drink.
 
While rummaging through boxes of yellowing mementos, I found this old furry leopardskin phonebook, and almost everyone in it is on the other side now, a long procession of harrowing farewells, the few who are still alive are sadly estranged and incommunicado, possibly offended somehow, or still in active empire-building, rat-race mode. Absolute disillusionment and total alienation can be a deep gift,  after you realize you'd been lied to all your life, deceived, duped, hoodwinked and bamboozled, by the Man, you wasted all your time on frivolous bullshit and pointless approval seeking, you can start making different moves with the time that remains. It might seem like compassion, common decency, right action, and a humane impulse to share your can of beans and moonlit sonatas around the campfire are dead, in this poison hearted, fake democracy perception managed, by evil, greedy sons a bitches, but all that goodness and light and mercy and soulpower we loved on our teachers and forebears and acutely absent most beloved bozos and fellow travelers can stay alive in us if we withdraw our complicity from the crass competition me, first bully hate world and reinvest our raw power back into the common good.  That Leonard Cohen song, "The Future" is all coming true right before my tired old eyes.
 
Like some sortof terrifying Bible prophecy. Facing the inevitable is so draining, and now we can't even get back together, even if we both wanted to, because of the travel bans and escalating death plagues, all we can do is hunker down and try not to catch the plague. "Stare at each other and wait til we die", as the old Big Black song, "Kerosene" went. It's some fucked up, paralyzing helpless shit, just waking up horrified everyday, waiting for the plague. It comes a little closer everyday now. I love all my friends, here and gone, thick and thin, out or in, in my little heart, and all my unrecorded songs, they will all  live forever, thank you, friends. See ya at the dive bar behind the clouds.

 

 

 

Tags: joan jett, circus of power, fugazi, john prine, marianne faithful, mark blum, little steven, ryan maher

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