Tonight they rain down on all these sensitive thugs,
no one's locking doors, we're taking turns shooting up.
And nobody sorry for nothing that they done.
Nobody's laughing; it's a different kind of fun.
They're peeling kids up off the pavement;
we're looking for someone's name we know in a magazine.
And no skinny art student gonna hang out here;
there's no token cripples drawing ordinary ships.
Welcome to another misunderstanding.
Where did everyone go?
I didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings...
That's from a song called "Welcome to Another Misunderstanding," from the Wandering Jews' (very very) underground 1996 record Clean Living. Unless you're this guy, however (http://tinyurl.com/3tg2umo), there's a good chance you never heard it. Which might not be the worst thing. It was recorded, as the lyrics subtly hint, in the midst of some pretty bad times, and the result, while displaying flashes of...stuff (brilliance? competence? insanity?) is wildly uneven, at best. But a few tunes stand out for me still, and this is one of them. In fact, when we played at the Blue Macaw last week and needed another song to round out our set, I chose this one, because, despite being, as Pete describes it, a "funky little number," the lyrics still ring true for me.
A lot of what I wrote back then, immature glorification of an immature lifestyle, simply cannot be played. It's an embarrassing reminder for having made such a mess out of my life. And, yeah, I know this song, too, references drug use, and it is hardly apologetic, but it also serves as a good jumping off point for the trip I took to...the Dark Side. Or to drop some advanced college degree knowledge on your ass, it is a...liminal moment.
Songs like this are, for me sort of musical breadcrumbs, a way to link my past with my present, take stock of what's changed. And what hasn't.
I remember writing "Misunderstanding" as a response to a series of...difficulties...I was having with...people. On the surface (and even digging pretty deep), one can probably safely speculate this was because of the drugs I was a taking. And that would be a fairly astute observation. But trying to "fit in" with mores and folkways and convention has always been a challenge for me. (There is a reason Sartre said what he said.) One of the reasons I think I lingered so long in a certain lifestyle in SF was because of the people in that lifestyle, many of whom are among my best friends today.
I always described us as "sensitive thugs," saying that we might steal your hardware and guitar equipment, but then we'd write a very tender and heartfelt poem about it afterwards. I suppose you could call this group the Gluehead Army. In it was Glue and Kelp, Jason and Dan, Troy, Big Tom, and many others, but it also extends to guys like Tom Pitts and pretty much everyone I knew in San Francisco during those years whom I considered friendsa. Amazingly enough, all of these guys quit using, are sober today, too. Or they're dead.
In a lot of ways it was unfair to everyone who came after this group, because they were held up to a higher standard, which again I know probably seems odd to a lot of people reading this. Drug addict tends to equate to "bad person." And there were a lot of "bad" people back in those days. But I always felt blessed that if I were to fall down that rabbit hole that I'd do it with these guys.
Or as Tom Pitts said when we finally reconnected after all those years, "I see you made it out, too."
Not sure the impetus for this post. I think it is because someone wrote a comment that I was a literary bully. Not sure about that one. I'd sure hate to think this blog makes me look like one, since most every post is supposed to be funny (then again, as my ex-partner Andrea Askowitiz used to say after I'd be certain my latest Lip Service [Miami] piece was a sure-fire laugh riot, "Joe, you're a good writer. But you're not funny.") I strive for candid and forthright. Still, I can see how some of this might come across as snarky, which is only a hop/step from mean-spirited, an outlying county in Bullytown. Then again, maybe everyone, including me, is just a little too fucking sensitive.
I used to have a boss before The Fall, and when something had been fucked up, and after everyone was done pointing fingers, when Bob wanted to drop the situation and just start moving forward, he said, "Well, it seems to just be a misunderstanding." No one's fault. Not mine. Not yours. Not his. Although we all knew it was really probably Alan's. Fucking Alan...