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One Way Ticket Outta Palookaville

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One Way Ticket Outta Palookaville

So my self-promotional whoring tour stopped by the El Cerrito Patch this week for a cozy, ain't-I-a-regular guy piece, written by Lip Service West alum Kyrsten Bean. You can read my slice of aw shucks humble pie here: Really appreciate Krysten asking me to do the interview for what is essentially now my hometown paper.  I really love this shit, the pretending to be a normal dad, just schulffin' along down the road of life.  If all you knew of me came from this article, you'd be thinking, "Wow, that guy doesn't seem nutty at all.  And look at that picture and how big his biceps are!"  And half of that would be correct.  Plus, the Rialto Theater, where you really can get a beer, is pretty fucking cool.  Not that I've ever had one.  I don't drink beer anymore.  Just straight shots of grain these days...


It's a double edged sword, this trying so hard.  On the surface it looks like a good thing.  Often the people who knew me from my fuck-up days like to point this out, as though effort alone deserves credit.  Mostly this is because, I fear, I set the bar so low for so long.  But once you get past the 4th grade, there really are no more Most Improved Swimmer Awards.  That's not entirely true.  There's always an MFA program.  For the most part, however, we are judged by hard numbers.  

There was a certain, if perverse, satisfaction I took all those years in lying down and avoiding putting myself out there.  As a junkie friend of mine once famously said, You cannot fail if you do not try.  

Of course you can't succeed either.  But when you're milling around, nihilist pouting and holding your breath until the world gives you your way, you don't really think about that sort of thing.  

I am in the process of compiling my entire musical catalogue, going all the way back to 1987, as I set to release the long-awaited Joe's Greatest Hits package the world's been clamoring for (at least, I think that's the sound).  My first band, Something Like Paisley, recorded a couple demos, the still awesomely titled "Youth in Asia" and another record I can't fucking remember because of all the drugs I did after I left CT.

I recently asked the engineer, Jeff Franklin, of Jam Tonight Productions, to remix about 16 songs.  Because I once, foolishly, returned to CT, demanded all the DATs (with plans to release my entire musical catalogue back in 1996), and Skipper Nick's crazy alcoholic Indian girlfriend found them one dark night at Hepatitis Heights and burned them all in a bonfire sacrifice to the Pineapple God*

* I don't know if she really made a sacrifice, but the whackjob did steal all my DATs.  It's really true about Native Americans and alcohol.

Throughout the years, I recalled that first band fondly.  In fact, I always considered it the high point of my musical career.  Which is strange, considering I was a born again, straight edge, close-minded dipshit who could barely play an instrument and who was given to prolonged fits of spelling winter without the "t."  (No shit.  The first "poem" I ever wrote was called "The Die Is Cast," and there were, like, seven "winters," and goddamn, if they weren't all missing their "t"s...)  

When I got a hold of Jeff, who wasn't exactly champing at the bit to work with me again, given what a raving, delusional addict I became, and I convinced him I really was off the sauce and had actual money to pay him, I was half expecting to be woefully disappointed.  I must surely be sugarcoating what had to be, at best, a novelty.  I mean, how good could these old tapes really be?  

Pretty fucking good, it turns out.  

I got some rough mixes back last week, and was amazed at A.) how high my voice used to be, and B.) just what a terrific little college band we were, like a mix of 120 Minutes, heavy on the Connells, with some 'Mats, Smiths, and touch of Floyd mixed in.  I'm not kidding.  You'll hear the stuff soon, since Joe's Discography is in the works, and you'll be forced to agree.  Which might be hard to say, since such a decided dip when I got to SF, and only recently (very recently) has it begun its slow ride from the ooze and ashes.

This is what I'm really talking about.

Or to put it in more musical terms...

How can you not ask these questions?  What if I'd have stayed in CT and kept going with that band?  I don't know what makes a band a band, why you can sound terrific, then replace a drummer or guitarist, and suddenly suck.  A band is a sum of parts greater than the whole, really and truly.  Something Like Paisley was this neat little outfit that didn't play beyond its capabilities.  Despite my penchant for pretension, I wrote relatively simple lyrics and catchy tunes, of which I only sang on half, the other half going to my songwriting partner, Chris Judd.  The only one who could play was Noah, lead guitarist.  I wasn't much of a bassist, so I wrote simple little lines, likewise the drummer, and so on.  We had a sax player who knew about four notes, but they were good notes.  But the secret I think was Judd.

Like the Jews now have Jarret "Secret Weapon" Cooper, back then we had Chris. Of everyone I've played with, all the faces and guitarists who came afterward, he was the best goddamn musical partner I ever had.  We complimented one another perfectly.  Didn't know that then.  How could I know that then?  How could I know that once I left CT, I was going to go on a twenty-year detour?  (And that Chris would develop schizophrenia and balloon up to a Brian Willsonesque 400 lbs.?) Ah, hell, if I'd have stayed I'd probably be married to a plump, helmet-haired maven named Dorothy, and be bald and almost as fat as Judd, with my guitar collecting dust next to the ham radio in the basement I fiddle with on the weekends looking for signs of extraterrestrial life (atop the giant stash of nudie magazines tucked in the floorboards).  I wouldn't have Holden.  I'd have another variation, and without Justine, who the fuck knows what that kid would've turned out like.  Certainly wouldn't be as cool or have as cool of a name.  Plus, he'd be like 18 by now, which freaks me the fuck out.  No doubt, I'd have a soul-sucking job (probably working for the phone company, where dreams go to die).  

But maybe... Maybe I'd have the same tenacity I do now, the same drive, the same willingness to whore myself to get on top, the same clawing desperation and need to succeed and not be remembered as a bum.   Maybe my hip would work.  Maybe I wouldn't endure these long stretches of depression, convinced I've contracted an incurable, debilitating disease, which has my feeling for lumps in my mouth for hours a day (ooh, there's one!).  Maybe...

But everyone asks this, from time to time, I suppose.  No different than Uncle Rico, talking about if only coach had put him in, they could've won State.  

(Speaking of which, am I the only person excited about the new Napoleon Dynamite cartoon series coming to FOX?


What difference does it make?  This isn't a crappy Gwyneth Paltrow movie.  You either believe in fate or you don't.  And I do.  So it's a pointless question.  Either way, I'd still have my hair.  My beautiful head of hair, just like Morrissey...

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At January 11, 2012 at 12:39 PM , Blogger Soybean said...

(probably working for the phone company, where dreams go to die)...a slow and agonizing death. Quite right, quite right.

At January 11, 2012 at 11:59 PM , Blogger cmb said...

Adding Creeping Charlie music too?

At January 12, 2012 at 8:15 AM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

@Soybean: But not anymore. Congratulations on a successful escape...

@cmb: a little (a very little)...


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