Tag Archives: santa cruz

Highland Way, Nisene Marks, 7.2018

Somewhere around 30 July I found myself in a car with a sleeping kid on 17, so I figured it’d be a good day to drive out to one of my favorite views in the world, southwest from Highland Way, which is in fact not what the Los Gatos crowd calls Summit Road, but indeed the road below it. At sunset the view to the south (left in the photo) feels like the end of the world. Not even the Hearst-Argyle tower is visible; just a curtain of pointy trees and the coastal fog.

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This photo was taken from the well-known lookout point about a half mile southeast of “Mar Vista,” only about 14 miles from the bottom of Buzzard Lagoon, as the sign indicates. Recently it has been polluted by what appears to be a truckbed full of household refuse.

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I wish I knew what that ridge to the south is called. I can only say that this deep valley heading toward the void Pacific (center of photo) is where the Hinckley and East Branch Soquel creeks slice down deep over the shoulder of Nisene Marks and help create the moat around the fortress of the Soquel Demonstration Forest. I went to a crazy crazy party up that damn muddy Hinckley/Amaya territory in 2007, let me tell you. But you wouldn’t believe it.

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As you can see, nature is leading a successful roadfighting campaign, probably from winter 2017. I’ve tried this on my bike when I was a wee little boy, from the Mount Madonna Road side, which is a fucking puker. Not knowing at the time that said road becomes Loma Prieta Way and not indeed Highland, I made it only as far as Croy Ridge Road before I turned back (still don’t bring food or water on rides), and now I see why. This was before Google Maps or practical internet in my house.

IMG_0308.jpgNow that I’ve seen it and counted the miles from the Los Gatos side, I’m excited to try the escapade again by bike, this winter, using my old pal the Los Gatos Creek Trail route. Living in San José has its perks!

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Hippies on Garbage: UCSC Dead Center

Went to visit the Dead Center at McHenry Library, UCSC, the other day, and was bedazzled by the print media shown there, which included old Rolling Stone issues (just as vapid as now only in a different way, a consequence of reliance on secondary sources) as well as Furry Freak Brothers and Zap, and the journal of the Diggers:

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Now this is what I call relevant writing from the summer of love! In the Diggers’ magazine from 1968 I found an article that really touched my soul as an avid collector of and despairer over garbage: “Garbage or Nothing.” Turns out it’s online right here, so my photo was useless. The argumentation is definitely in a poetic vein, but the message is right on. Who’s going to collect the garbage?

Those of you who insist on focusing your call-out culture on exclusion, representation, etc., without ever coming finally around to a practical discussion of and action on behalf of CLASS, the existence of this article and persistence of its problem are my challenge to you!

The young people want no part of [the problem of garbage], what with garbage their natural matrix and medium … Produce it? Collect it? They want to fuck in it!

Sounds like the line for the Genius Bar, the spectral trash heap of Snapchat exhaust! Turns out that environment wasn’t just Joni Mitchell’s thing. Here we have an article about how consumption was then and now visibly remains the axis of determination for class: the consumer class into which workers, owners, students, the incarcerated, the elderly, are all forcing themselves and from which we have to free ourselves in order for our movements for social and environmental justice to ever really gain traction in western society. At the time of publication, the movement in question seemed to be the famous sexual one. Now it’s the famous representation one, or whichever totally off-mark and irrelevant clicktivist movement one should like to choose before the militarized cops and the student loan companies crush it.

The article’s logic is ropy in places, and conversely needs a guide to really explain what people talked about then and what it has to do with the words used therein, but it’s still relevant as ever. Check it out!

Fare Thee Well Caffe Pergolesi

Here’s what I’m bringing to Perg’s tonight, as it’s supposed to close this weekend.

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Not that I ever really liked Santa Cruz that much. And I don’t know much about Caffe Pergolesi besides what’s available in the paper and the fact that it’s in a historic house owned by one Dr Miller. But of course I was in the scene for ever, a scene that didn’t so much as end as never really begin and then slowly fade with the comings and goings of those involved. And more importantly, I along with a lot of people are devastated that Logo’s and now Perg’s are closing at the same time. They’ve been stable while so many other promising spaces have come and gone.

The message from landlords, the Canfields, and the owner class in general is clear: come to Santa Cruz, consume, throw trash, give money to private property, and leave; this is no longer a place to start communities. A place to raise kids, but no place to be a kid, or have the values of free expression, inquiry and fun associated with kids.

The do-gooder rich can have their museums of culture: organic food, special-decial schools for their kids, et cetera. Ironically, it was the openness, free inquiry and will to be wacky that produced such as the organic movement, the Santa Cruz skate thing, and many other parts of Santa Cruz now condemned to be “artifacts” or worse “properties.” I knew about 2001 that it was going this way, but hoped never to see the logical conclusion.

Perg’s was the rarest thing in public-space-hating Santa Cruz: a private space that still believed more or less in free-for-alls, a place for kids to post up their art, a place to hear real music made by real people. I never tried their coffee once, since I was usually there at beer time. And only rarely had I the money to hang out there regularly, but I’ll never forget the shows, and the good times.

Is there a hopeful future? How do we get past the issue of merciless foreign rents and pig NIMBY ordinances? Someone can comment below to give this post some sunshine.

Since I Laid My Burden Down by Brontez Purnell

Video by Nick Taplin, Post-Consumer Records

Saw a video a few months back of Brontez Purnell reading from his up-and-coming book Since I Laid my Burden Down and had to get a copy as soon as it came out. Tried to read it with his voice in my head. The book has been doted upon with a marvelous thick library jacket by New York City University’s Feminist Press.

The punk rocker, performance artist and otherwise notable Oakland figure, whom I remember as one of the few interesting people on Earth in the vacuous universal hell of 2005, published the zine Fag School beginning in 2003. He has also published the Cruising Diaries in 2014 with the collaboration of Janelle Hessig, from whose Tales of Blarg I first heard of his exploits, as well as 2015’s diary-style Johnny Would You Love Me if my Dick Were Bigger. Since I Laid my Burden Down is sort of a Bildungsroman framed in a memoir. Is there a word for that?

DeShawn, blessed with the emotional receptivity that marks a faggot amongst his church-centered community, reflects during a funeral trip to his Alabama hometown of his trajectory in making his life meaningful, and not wasting his faggot people skills in the office of a rural preacher. Regardless of his shifting relationship with his mother, there is the feeling that he thinks his mother has limited her life becoming a preacher herself.

DeShawn is drawn as a product of generations raised by women, with men absent or devoid of father quality. The protagonist seeks mentorship and trust naturally, nevertheless, through his everyday channels, even through an older married lover. Despite making his own way, fleeing Alabama for California, DeShawn never really feels like he can stand the weight of his life on his shoulders, and has problems with memory and scale. Like a lot of us.

The book is full of family, church, death, sex, and the perverse distortion of time and place unique to being in one’s early thirties. Particularly rewarding are the terse but deft descriptions of family members, such as “DeShawn’s mother always spoke recklessly when it was unnecessary, and coolly when it was greatly needed.” Wait –how do they ever know when is which? Does the narrator mean this in hindsight or…?

Throughout the story DeShawn visits two funerals and relates cleaning out several dead people’s houses, visits the gracious and lovable mother of both an early lover and an early abuser, and wears out the patience of a girlfriend in New York, all the while taking stock of the relationships he put on hold or fled when he left Alabama. Along the way he sees some ghosts that grow more vivid and some that thankfully fade.

The prose is unadorned and direct, more diary-like in the beginning, with creams of sly humor beaten in. The back of the book features quotes that I personally found a little hysterical, such as “foul-mouthed and evil.” Perhaps these refer more to Johnny. Purnell’s narrator swears a lot, but only in that the book irreverently records the living language, and is meant to be read out loud. This, in my opinion, is one of the book’s greatest strengths. Anyone obsessed with Pitchfork-level simile-spraying could find any great oral art in corners of Brontez’ sentences, from beat literature to Henry Roth to … I don’t even know, I hate that phony free-association name-dropping stuff. Altogether I appreciated that the prose, though steeped in contemporary slang and naturally-occurring humor, betrays none of the lascivious revelry of Johnny but rather a deep and true affection and understanding for most of DeShawn’s characters, regardless of whether he gets along with them.

He knew feeling good was a setup

Reading the sexual escapades and mentions of a youth steeped in punk rock, it was kind of hard for me, at least, not to place Brontez himself in for DeShawn –as he placed himself as close to the fictional glass as can be in Johnny –so I recommend the reader enjoy the book first and then go cyber-stalk the poor, highly-exposed author. The night their post-Loma Prieta freedom punk warehouse gets closed down, even a fictional lover tells DeShawn “everyone knows who you are.”

I also appreciated how Purnell manages to fit the realities of Deep South life into the story in tiny but excellent bites. This stuff is unimaginable for us west-coast types with our Hollywood-deadened intellects, and the author even points that out in a funny moment. He relates how the principal at the school would remind DeShawn, when he got in trouble, that “your great-granpappy used to raise chickens for my family…” This is the medium of DeShawn’s family’s story that must never be overlooked: in the south there are these horseshit relationships that can be evoked as if to show loyalty, but are really just threats of force. In turn, the protagonists internalize this doublespeak and wield it on each other with varying degrees of purpose (we’ve got this out west with Latino immigrants too). Maybe I just found this insightful and brilliant as a dumb Californian beach bum. What am I gonna school the reader with, the abusive roundabouts of various pelagic fish?

It’s probably clear by now that my only challenge for Purnell for next time, should he decide to do a next time, is to work out before writing who the narrator is. This way the key emotion, be it sex-crazed enthusiasm or reflective love, can really shine through consistently. The reader also could really get cozy within the work’s world if Purnell takes the above decision, moving on some from the format that seems to have begun with Johnny. Finally, this will doubtlessly also address some nitpicky tonal issues I have with some parts.

Since I Laid my Burden Down is a document of a unique life within its unique time and place, an effective and efficient balance of the personal and the universal. Cut that self-conscious crap out about “I don’t recommend every book to everyone.” Get Brontez’ new book and have everyone you know read it!

I have to say, for myself, that I feel that more of these kinds of stories are auspiciously coming into my life. Not necessarily being written, but coming to my attention. Maybe I just don’t get out enough, I don’t know.
But anyhow, when I read Since I Laid My Burden Down, I enjoyed it in one way the same as I so immensely enjoyed Malae’s What We Are: in that the books are full of people I would be friends with. It’s not so simple as “an outsider,” because the question would be, outside of what? Rather it’s a member of a certain socio-economic group who has made certain socio-economic choices within the flush of cash of the Bay Area, a consciously growing and becoming, empathetic scumbag, with no time for the oppression of success, health or other bullshit. Stuck in a phenomenological spiral. The kind of people whose extinction I constantly fear after years of living in Santa Cruz and San José. When I read these books I feel like they were written for me!
Incidentally they both dropped Bukowski’s name, who may well have been highly empathetic besides being a scumbag. Some scholar can comment below about that.

I feel, further, that this book’s approach belongs at least in part to the great tradition of “pack all my youth into some stories so I can stop trying to remember every last bit of it and get ready for the all-out fuckery of maturity.” Brontez certainly demonstrates in Burden the wisdom and ability to handle time and memory necessary to do so, and he certainly has a fascinating maturity and decline ahead of him, unlike most of us. The Savage Detectives is also a great example of this approach, and even I myself, at least as concerns dialogue, am dumping all the silly shit I ever heard from fifth grade up into the mouths of my characters in Byebye and Shlort, the thing I’m working on. I’m excited to see what Brontez comes up with next.

Super Old 2-Strats #2

This one is dated 5/2005. 2-Strats talks about going and getting a seesh (little seizure’s pizza) somewhere in Santa Cruz County, like the one on Ocean in the beach flats.

Evident is my awareness of the KKK’s control of central California as well as an example of my disgust with the indie rock scene I was a part of. The guy in the second and last panels represents one of 25,000 junkies playing the Aptos Club in any given year until it closed in 2006 or so, thereby making it hard for my friends’ bands to get gigs. And Misfits lyrics on top of all that. These were quite the comics!

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Guadalupe River during Pineapple Express 1.17

Here are some photos of the Guadalupe River taken from the Virginia bridge in downtown San José on 11 and 12 January 2017. The river has risen during the “pineapple express” that has made major problems for Santa Cruz, Hollister and Gwairnville, to name a few. These are photos of the spillway, in fact, full to the ramp from the expansion of the river from the levee at west where it remains confined during most of the year. One begins to wonder why Coyote, which flows admirably for a creek, is a creek, when Guadalupe is a river, and flows no better than a creek.

Here is the spillway facing south on Wednesday, Harliss St at east:

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In all photos if you look close you can see the highwater mark in the grass from the early morning when it was still raining. At 3pm when the photos were taken each day, the water has slowed its roll. I wish I could’ve photographed the river form above by the lurid streetlight at 6AM when I drove up onto the 680 ramp and could see the river really moving in the rain, at its peak volume.

Here’s Wednesday facing north:

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Here’s Thursday to the south at about the same time and the same angle as Wednesday:

20170112_152506Only wish I’d picked up even more trash than I had all autumn thanks to you asshole landlords and gentrifiers making sure that our own neighbors can’t afford housing. One fun thing is that a lot of people were out just looking at the river same as me. A chance to get to know your neighbors, pendejos!

One not fun thing is the continued streak of uncritical incompetence on the part of the Murky News, who without a second thought parroted the grossly irresponsible suggestion by NOAA themselves that the drought in California is “over.” HELLO. You reading this just bought a bag of almonds grown with thousand year-old water drilled out of a mile-deep well in Tulare to make a salad that’ll impress your yuppie mother in law. That doesn’t refill with four inches of rain. Incidentally, KCSM played “I’ve Known Rivers” this morning…

This incompetent call shows the idiocy of our water supply measurements in California, which favor surface levels in reservoirs (luxury items) rather than considering the TRUE hydrological realities of local aquifers. In any case, California has no “drought;” we are a dry state and we use our water stupidly including paving the whole state so the rain can’t soak in and gets piped into the ocean. Break some pavement up today!