I Explain…

Behind His Eyes

One evening I went to see my friend Kevin play with his band at the Coconut Teaser and was joined by my friends Cheryll and Kelly. While we were waiting for the show to start, I spotted a young man across the room. He was either Hispanic or Native American,long,shoulder length black hair and the most vacant,crazy eyes. If on cue,he approached Kelly and got in her face. He proved to be very much under the influence and extremely persistent. Kelly’s boundaries were violated and she dealt with him well. She shared that the same thing had happened the evening before with a different man. I thought I had the corner on the Psycho Magnet market! The lack of definition in his eyes set me to thinking and I reflected on how crazy I must have looked in the bad old days.

Corners I Should Slow For:

This poem began as an image as I drove home from Burbank“the Back Way”;down the 5, up Los Feliz,down Western and right on Fountain. Late at night it’s clear sailing and a nice route home. As I began up the hill from Riverside,I flashed on the back ways into Boston;Soldier’s Field Road,Route 2,the beautiful curving streets that have so much more personality than the Expressways. In the past few days,the image of all incoming freeways having the same characteristics in most cities and L.A. now joined that list. The idea of the road being an opening sentence in a conversation with a city came from the similarity of the curves of Los Feliz and the Boston suburbs,the same opening line as it were. I have been reading a book by Kandinsky which compares the basics of art(points,lines) with the basics of writing(words,punctuation). It came to mind.
The second image came in the form of a memory of returning home late from band rehearsal while living in Boston with Debbie Jennings(nee Hayes). The streets clear,the drive was always a breeze. Coming in quietly for my sleeping girlfriend’s benefit had the added tension of the guilt of not spending time with her and the shame of being wrecked all the time. I remember that going to sleep without saying anything to each other was a relief and a sign that communication was falling apart:but love still kept us together(or was it co-dependency?) Often what seemed to be sleeping and snuggling was a cover for silent weeping and frustration. The image of intimacy with all of Los Angeles being easier than a one on one relationship is a sign of my reluctance to open up again I guess.

Crossing:

I went to visit my friend Jay when he was working in Laughlin,NV.
The trip from L.A. is 295 miles long,taking the 10 to the 15,then the 40 to the 95 and finally the 163. The 95 in no way resembles the 95 on the east coast;it is a small straight two lane through the desert that rolls like a roller coaster. It has a few corners and pertinent to this poem,a set of railroad tracks. Both times I was driving was around 10:30-11:30 at night. I had to wait for the train to pass both times. To be made to wait two nights in a row in the middle of the desert seemed crazy and appropriate. Ironically,this was the same stretch of road that Sam Kinison lost his life on(see the last part of “Wind”).

Wind :

Returning one evening from a meeting on Sepulveda,the winds kicked up coming through the pass. As I drove up Santa Monica Blvd. through Beverly Hills,the smell of evergreen hit me. I couldn’t remember ever smelling a natural smell while driving in L.A.I figured that the rich folk were the only ones who could afford good smelling trees. The image wanted to be elaborated upon, but I fell asleep before completing my idea. Following the execution of Robert Alton Harris,my feelings about capitol punishment needed reviewing. The last paragraph shares my sorrow for the death of Sam Kinison on a desert road at the hands of a drunk driver. Between the accounts of his last moments and my own experience with that road,I wrote my eulogy for Sam.

Rollins:

I wrote this after reading “One From None” by Henry Rollins. When I read other writers who seem to be so good at expressing emotions,images and in Rollins’ case,anger and rage,I question if I am in touch with my own feelings. His over the top,blatant honesty is untouchable. I wondered if my own work needed some of what his delivers and realized that my voice is my own,if I feel anger I will translate it the way I do and that my style is my own;this will not stop me from admiring how others convey what they see and feel. I can not give that which I do not have.

I Hate Where I Live (part 1):

I spent a great evening with Michael and Shannon at their new home in Mar Vista the evening I wrote this. Such a quiet,adult neighborhood it seemed to be! Before dinner Michael and I went for a bike ride on the beach. I remember saying to him as we passed the apartment buildings,”People live here? And they’re not on vacation? They wake up to this?” Driving off the 10 onto Arlington,I began to seethe with dread for my neighborhood,it’s streets,my apartment…everything. I finally have reached critical mass in my need to move. This proves to be ironic as the companion pieces follow…

I Hate Where I Live (part 2):
(A prayer for Los Angeles)

April 29,1992:the verdict in the Rodney King trial is read and L.A. explodes in anger. The whole vibe on the street when I went for my bike ride scared the shit out of me. I returned home and was glued to the T.V. watching the city burn. I felt such sadness for the whole city and it’s people,especially those who were doing the damage.

I Hate Where I Live (part 3):
(We’re havin’ a curfew…everybody’s swingin’)

Trapped in the place I have been writing about hating so much…God,you’re a funny entity! The fires,looting and violence get within 2 blocks of my oh so happy home .Many of my dear friends offered to put me up away from the action(thank you),but the instinct to protect my home/belongings/stuff raises and I begin the cabin fever vigil of the dusk to dawn curfew. It is the most restful,quiet and well behaved I have ever seen this place. The bizarre feeling of going to the supermarkets on Western and Sunset and seeing them all boarded up,closed and protected by the National Guard is unequaled. I felt as if I had returned to South Africa. Looking for a place in Utah doesn’t seem so kooky anymore.

Love?:

Having feelings for someone or something and knowing that by expressing those feelings you could push them (or it) away is a hard subject. There is someone in my life who I have an exceptional friendship with and only one of us would like it to transform into more: me. I have a need to express these feelings,hence the poem;yet I wouldn’t change what we have in fear of losing one of the best friends I have.

Darker:

After the L.A.riots,I began to notice an abundance of darkness all over the city. This gaudy,overlit town began to look different. Places that I would drive through in the evening were missing lights,cars headlights put off no real beams;or was it my perception? At the same time,I started to notice repetitive images:The bugs by the curb swarming the banana peel and the homeless man in front of the 20/20 video store at the local Ralph’s market. Night after night,they were still there and he was always standing watching the video screen used to lure watchers like a moth to a flame. I also had been having discussions with friends about rap and other kinds of recent music that they did not think was music at all. Listening to the band White Zombie and their use of dialogue and sound effects in place of guitar solos,I had an image of a sonic collage. For people of my generation and younger, we have been raised with the T.V. always in the background. Other bands have used this technique(such as B.A.D.,the Tubes,etc.)and I felt like spouting some opinions about this form of art that people even slightly older may not appreciate.

Hang:

I returned from a tour with Little Feat during the summer of ‘92 and during that time I did not write a single peep for over 9 weeks. I guess I was uninspired. ”Hang” was the first thing I wrote after this break. I pushed myself to write something,anything and used a few unusual images to start.I have been the only tenant in this building for nearly 2 years until this woman moved in the other day. Two days later she moved out:I did not take this personally. The other images were the latest homeless men behind the building and the growing number of drastically different coffeehouses in L.A. Just being back in this city is at the same time depressing,overwhelming and somewhat simulating. I dislike writing without inspiration.

A Part Of:

Cheryll and I were lucky enough to get tickets to the Lollapalooza Festival in September ‘92. It was the closest thing to a circus or carnival for our generation that I have seen. The crowd was large and the tribal aspects of the young warrior males slamming,circle dancing and setting the lawn on fire made me correlate it to pagan rituals of the distant past. The outcast posture of the alternative music scene today makes this large group of misfits feel as if they were “a part of” a larger,natural group with great strength.

Move:

The beginning of October saw a few changes for me:I moved to a small guest house on top of a hill in Agoura Hills,CA. This is a rural area about 30 miles up the 101 from my old Hollywood hole/home. Trees,animals,a view… a big change for me. Images began piling up for days during the transition;one evening the moon was so large in the sky over the hills that it looked like the huge pouring part in an iron smelting plant. I also had taken another stab at dating during this time,the groundhog coming out of his hole after a year and a half. I was waiting for one more element to start this poem…be careful what you ask for. I handle rejection poorly (just like everybody else) and some days no amount of logic,reason or reflection make it easier.

Awakened:

My first rainstorm at the new place;me and rain,it never fails. If you take time to listen,different places have very different characteristics. I like the ones here.

Cirque:

For a early Christmas present my aunt gave me a ticket to Cirque de Soleil,the Canadian circus troupe. It is unlike most others in that there are no animals and an almost new wave look and feel to the presentation. She describes it as theater and I agree. One of the performers caught my eye,reminded me of someone and I instituted an infatuation for the length of the show.

Visit:

For many years I have not remembered my dreams when I wake up. I was getting up before sunrise for work for a few days and had a visit from my childhood friend Mia. Mia and her sister Lynn were killed by a drunk driver one afternoon when we were in high school. I happened to be across the street from the accident playing in a losing game of football. Her visit in my dream was the most pure communication I have ever experienced in that her status made earthly needs and desires a non-issue. Within the dream my human flaws reared their ugly head and filled me with shame. She remained un-biased and basic,leaving me with a lesson I hope I never forget.

Malaise Avenue:

The holidays have never been a good time for me. It took two weeks of feeling nothing before I realized that old fashioned feeling was back. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. They say that spending time inside your head is like going into a bad neighborhood by yourself; I guess I have spent Christmas on the wrong side of the tracks many times.