Scrapyard Lullaby

August 9, 2017

I always offer the first bite to my wife

and she always saves her last bite for me.

I enjoy cooking; it’s one of my favorite things

And I don’t mind doing the dishes either.

But, not until after the food is done – I don’t like cooking and washing at the same time.

I think only non-cooks believe in that.

When I was a teenager my closest friends called me Rusty.

I left my parents’ house at eighteen and never moved back.

My first concert was a Grateful Dead show at the Oakland Coliseum.

I had more fun in the parking lot before the show then I did inside – so less than halfway through I went back out until it was over. But, I did see Jerry Garcia perform before he died (even if just for a few songs).

The first album I bought with my own money was U2’s The Joshua Tree – I caught the city bus to the mall and got the cassette at Sam Goody. I can still remember the way that the liner smelled as I poured over the lyrics.

My dad is dying and my sister has been in and out of the hospital for years.

I know that soon I will be the last of my family – and I worry that I’m not ready for that.

When I first moved to the city I shared an apartment with four other guys on the fifth floor of a building in the Tenderloin. We had to go down to the stoop to smoke and would end up staying down there for hours; smoking and drinking. The buildings in that part of town all had these locking iron gates that separate those who can get in from those who can’t.

We would sit on the steps watching the underbelly of the city pass us by; pimps, junkies, whores, and us. The prostitutes would always chat us up and try to bum cigarettes by offering to show us their snatch. They all wore a ton of the same cheap fruity perfume. To this day when I pass a woman with that apple incense smell, I can’t help but wonder what exactly she’s trying to cover up.

I’ve traveled the world and have found few places that compare with a little stretch of highway on the California coast where the ocean meets the redwoods and the Tropic of Cancer came to die.

My first serious girlfriend was black. We were in junior high and it was perfect. She had good hair and caramel skin. She was the kind of girl that could take your breath away; she called me joey and I didn’t even mind.

When I was 20 (ish) a friend and I drove down to L.A. in the middle of the night, so he could see some actress he was dating. We didn’t have a whole lot of time because the next evening we had tickets to a very infrequent Tom Waits concert back in the Bay Area. We scored seats 15 rows back center from the stage.

I was in Santa Monica sitting at a Coffee Bean drinking a latte (or something), while my buddy did his thing with the actress, when I met this beautiful blonde girl named Suzanne. We sat outside at a table and talked music… art… food… life. She gave me her number before I had to hit the road for the trip back to San Francisco. I called her a few days later and we set up a date for the following weekend.

I flew in and she picked me up from the Burbank Airport. We spent the evening inside her car. Steamed up windows; fucking like cats in the backseat of her 1963 Ford Falcon. Biting and scratching as the rain came down. Afterwards, we shared a chocolate milkshake and she told me about an audition for a movie she had.

Before flying out I had arranged to crash at a friend of mine’s place in the area, (not trying to be too presumptuous about the date and all) and I was supposed to call him to let him know what was up regarding the sleeping arrangements. I asked her if we could find a phone so I could get ahold of my buddy. As we drove around not wanting our evening to come to an end she gave me a tour of places she deemed noteworthy. Along the way I pointed out a bar that I thought I could find a payphone to make the phone call at (this was before everyone had cell phones).

She told me, “Oh you don’t want to go in there, it’s a Mexican bar.”

And I replied, “No worries, I’ll fit right in then,” thinking nothing of it.

I ran in to make the phone call and when I came out she was gone. My buddy Sean and I spent the rest of the evening in that Mexican bar drinking Pacifico and shots of Bushmills. I didn’t see Suzanne again for years, not until she started popping up in movies. She’s officially the second worst blonde I’ve ever met.

When I first started learning bass guitar it was on the side of my house. My friends and I sat around drinking cheap wine and grilling; learning to play our instruments – together. So many nights we spent howling at the moon, writing tunes, talking about sex and heartache as if it was something we had already come to know.

By the time we got our first gig I was so accustomed to sitting while I played that I didn’t know how I was gonna be able to perform on a stage. The early shows we had I ended up toting around a cinder block to the venues. I would put my foot on it, to prop up my bass on my thigh, so I could play. For some reason, people thought it was “punk as fuck” for the bass player to bring a “big ass brick” to the shows.

They never knew it was because I couldn’t stand and play at the time.

I met Chris Whitley before he died. I talked my way backstage after a gig in San Francisco at The Bottom of the Hill. I gave him a demo tape and he gave me a hand-rolled cigarette. The next day he called the apartment and three months later the band recorded an EP in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I carried the cigarette butt in my wallet for years.

My senior year in high school I turned down a full ride scholarship to play baseball. My then-girlfriend and I were planning a life together and the idea was for us to live in Berkeley. That is until she was accepted to MIT. She went I stayed, it didn’t last. But, the impression she left did – much longer than I expected.

When I was young (like second grade) I was identified as “unique.” I was given an onslaught of aptitude, IQ, and personality tests. And when the dust settled, I had to say goodbye to my friends and was sent to a “special” school. We were introduced to concepts, theories and equations a little earlier than most. They emphasized thought and analysis and we were supposed to lead these extraordinary lives (I think the idea was we would grow up to cure cancer or find a more efficient renewable energy source or something). Some of the kids from the program went on to do things in quantum physics, molecular biology and one’s even a Superior Court Justice.

I suppose I would be what the program considers a failure; that weird little anomaly that throws the statistics off something awful. A blip.

The thing is, I was always more interested in discovering the living world; exploring the depths of humanity – the depths of experience. Not to say that I’m intimidated by the academic, quite the contrary actually. In academia the problems all have solutions. Real life is much harder. It is the ultimate puzzle; the only real mystery worth investigating. I think that is why I am the way I am; believe the things I do about experiencing life.

Eventually, a person has to ask themselves, what’s the point? For me, I won’t believe that life is supposed to be this pious existence of denying ourselves experiences in the hopes of one day being deemed good enough to gain acceptance into a spiritual utopia upon our death. Life truly is for the living.

I know that I am the exception. Most people, the overwhelming majority in fact, prefer the idea of denying themselves experience, folly, desire and the ability to live recklessly. They are content living their lives in preparation for what comes after; and I’m the crazy one

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