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fillmore west 1970

I spent a month in the summer of 1970 living out of a church in San Francisco with my friend Dub Debrie. We had just graduated from high school, and thought to try out the city scene, a few years too late for the Summer of Love, but it was the best we could do. We were gonna get jobs and move permanently into The City, but instead we just goofed for a month until we got kicked out of the church. We had some fun, though, ordering delivery from Magnolia Thunderpussy's and walking the streets.

One night we decided to meet up with some friends at Fillmore West. I bring it up because it was 35 years ago today, give or take a few days (the bands we saw played from the 25th through the 28th, and I don't recall which day we went). For those who wonder what the music scene was like back in the day, here's the bill for that night: Sha Na Na, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks.

It's unclear how these acts fit together, but that was the point, wasn't it? Hicks was retro, but in a Western Swing meets hippiedom way, unlike Sha Na Na, who were retro in a 1950s way. Meanwhile, PG&E were a blues/soul-rock band with a hot gui-tar player and a soul-shouting vocalist named Charlie Allen, who had a gospelish hit later that summer called "Are You Ready?" Sha Na Na was weird ... the Woodstock movie had been out for a few months, but I can't remember if we'd seen it yet, and this was long before they hosted their own teevee variety show. Dan Hicks was the most famous act on the bill, far as we were concerned. Everyone played two sets, which is how it worked in those days. It was the third rock concert I had ever attended.

sara in brazil

I spent my 31st birthday in a small town in France. It was my first trip outside of the United States, and I've only been out of the country a few times since then (twice to Canada, twice to Europe). Which is perhaps why I have a hard time believing that my daughter Sara is in Brazil, from where she sent us an email yesterday to let us know she'd gotten in OK. Sara traveled to Europe by herself ... well, I want to say when she was still a teenager, but maybe she was 20, I can't remember. She's been back a few times. She's a traveling fool, that girl! I'm so proud of her, even if I can't actually picture her being in South America. It's like when my sister moved to the East Coast ... I still get emails from her, still IM with her, still see her on many holidays, so it's like she hasn't really moved, even though it's been years now.

So Sara, on the off chance you see this, your dad is thinking of you. Have fun at the Maracana!

friday random ten

Here we go again:

1. 2Pac, "When I Get Free." They can release 2Pac albums for a hundred years and he still ain't coming back.

2. Willie Nelson, "Always on My Mind." I always thought this was a lovely song, but try listening to it with Robin some time ... she thinks the singer (not Nelson, the guy in the song) is a jerk who shoulda been around more so he wouldn't have to sing this song. Fuck being on your mind, get yer ass home!

3. Peter Murphy, "Deep Ocean Vast Sea." I don't have a whole lot to say about Peter Murphy or this song. AMG calls it a "sleeper classic," but it mostly just makes me sleepy.

4. Traffic, "Forty Thousand Headmen." This probably isn't any better than the Peter Murphy song, but I grew up listening to this one, while Murphy represents a type of music I rarely had time for. I thought most Traffic lyrics were mush, but liked when Winwood and Mason would play dueling guitars. The primary instrument here is a flute.

5. Ini Kamoze, "Here Comes the Hotstepper (Heartical Mix)." Now this is a catchy tune. Another one where I don't really care what it's about. Really insinuates itself into your brain, so don't listen to it if you don't like it (duh, I know).

6. Graham Parker and the Rumour, "Howlin' Wind." This is a live version from a show Robin and I caught at the Old Waldorf back in '79. He was terrific, Old Waldorf was small.

7. The Time, "Jungle Love." Another band that was great live, The Time might be the best opening act I ever saw. Well, there were all those Days on the Green where bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd would play before the headliner, so maybe I'm wrong. Over time, Morris Day seems more tiresome, but the band still gets it.

8. The Waco Brothers, "Poison." It's not that there's anything wrong with a band like this, it's just that I prefer the Mekons.

9. The Game, "How We Do." I don't know, I think I like 50 Cent better here, which isn't a good sign considering it's a Game album.

10. Graham Parker and the Rumour, "Soul Shoes." Well, somebody fix the shuffle play. From the same Old Waldorf show mentioned above, and even hotter. At least the song is. Since this is a bootleg, and since "Soul Shoes" was the last song of the regular set, I get about 3 minutes of music and then 3 minutes of me and Robin and our friends clapping and cheering and whooping for an encore while some dork from KSAN jabbers while he, too, waits for Parker's return. (They sang "I Want You Back" for their first encore.)


Today Robin and I attended a workshop at Kaiser designed to give us a basic overview of bipolar disorder. It was good to be in a room with other people who had similar problems, but there's also something a bit disturbing, realizing that no matter how special you think you are, you also fit fairly neatly into a recognizable pattern. In fact, as the various symptoms of depression and hypomania were listed, I understood that on my first visit to the shrink, she was playing a version of Twenty Questions with me. She'd ask something, I'd answer, and whatever I said would eliminate certain possibilities and lead her to the next question. Eventually she had me down. I don't know ... it doesn't bother me that an expert system on a computer might diagnose gout from a list of my symptoms, but it's kinda weird that the same thing might be done with my brain.

I won't be going to any more meetings. I don't imagine I'd do well in those groups. It was nice to have Robin there, though, and fun to see her smiling or laughing whenever someone would shout out some symptom that she'd gotten used to from living with me.

i hate you

Sometimes while I'm working, a song comes on and I have to stop what I'm doing and listen. That happened today with "I Hate You" by Scott Henderson and Thelma Houston. Henderson is a jazz-fusion guitarist who switched to the blues in mid-career; Houston is the voice behind that greatest of disco anthems, "Don't Leave Me This Way."

"I Hate You" starts off mellow, with a spoken intro from Henderson just like a thousand others:

Sweetheart, you know it's been awhile
Something that's been on my mind that I really needed to express to you
I must tell you how I really feel

And then Henderson comes with the first verse, a female doo-wop cooing in the background:

Oh you are an angel
An angel sent from hell
Your mouth like a sailor
Your cheap cosmetic smell

To which Thelma responds:

Darling you are a loser
It's you I love to kill

And then they duet:

Darling you ruined my life
So I hate you and I always will

Henderson again, with the doo-wopping chorus singing "Youuuuu Suck" in the background:

From your implants that failed
To the milkman that you nailed
It's been you, it's been you
That's tried to make me lose my mind

Thelma belts it out:

Well, you come on so tough
And then you can't get it up
And if you do
Then it's still hard to find

At which point Henderson cranks out a killer guitar solo.

They go at it for a few more minutes. Thelma hits home ... "You no workin bum / You never made me come ... It's too bad your mama wasn't on the pill." (To the latter, Henderson replies "Leave my mother outa this.")

Check it out, on the album Tore Down House ... Houston's in great voice.

rescue me season premiere

Tim Goodman's got another fine column today ... what else is new, it's like I said in an email to him, as with television in general, Goodman's excellence is often undervalued because all he writes about is teevee. The topic this time is the anti-hero, of which we have many fine ones on television these days. Perhaps it's no coincidence that every anti-hero Goodman mentions is on shows I like (besides his Top Five, there's Andy Sipowicz, Gregory House and Jack Bauer). It's also no coincidence that there are no women or people of color on the list ... "minorities" are still required more often than not to be positive representatives of their group, with fewer of the shadings that make for a strong anti-hero. (The best possible examples of minority anti-heroes would include many of the black characters in The Wire, one of whom, Stringer Bell, gets a shoutout from Goodman, and perhaps Brian Kinney of Queer As Folk, a character that is hamstrung by the show's soapish plots and tendency towards positivity, but who nonetheless has made it almost until the end of the series without quite reforming ... although they may have him finally capitulate before this season is over. Oh, and an honorable mention for Glenn Close on The Shield this season.)

I have no quibbles with Goodman's Top Five, all of which are great characters. Tony Soprano is the most famous, of course, Jimmy McNulty is the least-appreciated (because he's on the show no one pays attention to, The Wire), Al Swearengen the best of this crop, Vic Mackay the most surprising (for who would have thought a cop series on FX featuring Michael Chiklis would be so engrossing?).

The fifth anti-hero on Goodman's list, Tommy Gavin, is the central character of Rescue Me, which had its second-season opener last night. Robin and I had watched Six Feet Under earlier in the evening, and it was probably a mistake to pile Rescue Me onto that. Six Feet Under is one of the most relentlessly downbeat shows ever ... all of its characters are miserable, self-absorbed, whining depressives. It says something about Tommy Gavin to note that if he somehow turned up on Six Feet Under, the people on that show would seem pretty normal in comparison. He's a NYC fireman still traumatized by 9/11 ... he's a vicious, continuous drunk (far more abusive in this regard to himself and others than Andy Sipowicz ever was), he hallucinates dead people, his wife has left him and absconded with their kids, he has alienated his workmates, his family, and the random passerby on the street. He may well have fewer redeeming qualities than any major character on any show I watch. Tony Soprano tries to be a good dad, Vic Mackay is saving society from bad guys, Al Swearengen likes to help cripples, but Tommy Gavin doesn't like anything, he's a crappy dad who uses his kids against his ex-wife, and while he was once a good fireman, now he endangers his co-workers. And while Denis Leary turns on a lot of people, to me he's more a perfect fit for his character: rat-looking, stringy hair, blurred eyes.

Rescue Me balances this character with scenes of humor, few of which involve Tommy (none in last night's episode, which was even more bleak than Season One, if that's possible). Rescue Me might be a bit too proud of its anti-PC status, and it's hard to recommend a show with such an unlikeable character at its core. But Denis Leary does wonders with that character, and unlike The Shield, Rescue Me doesn't make you feel dirty as you watch it ... in The Shield, the world is a cesspool, but in Rescue Me, the world is managing to get by, it's just Tommy Gavin who lives in his own puke. It will be interesting to see if he ever gets rehabilitated.

saturday night's all right for fighting

This Saturday night will be an interesting one in San Jose. (This is probably a cat column for many of you ... I know I have readers who skip the sports postings, and even those who read them skip the soccer postings, but I think this one is a bit more interesting than most, although it is indeed about soccer.)

The San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer make for an odd tale. San Jose was chosen for the very first MLS match ever back in 1996, thanks in part to solid support for the San Jose franchise in the old NASL days. This was known as a good soccer area. Unfortunately, the team was poorly managed in its earliest days, resulting in several years where the team was an embarrassment on the field and at the turnstiles. San Jose was the worst team in the league in 2000, and their future looked to be in jeopardy ... in fact, after the following season, two franchises were discontinued, and rumors flew that San Jose would be one of those two.

In 2001, several things changed. Canadian Frank Yallop took over as manager ... he was joined on the team by new-to-MLS Canadian forward Dwayne DeRosario. Jeff Agoos, who had already won several championships in MLS, came to the club and instantly became a team leader and stalwart defender. And Landon Donovan, arguably the finest soccer talent America has yet produced, was assigned to San Jose. He was 19 years old.

What a difference a year made. Agoos was named the league's Defender of the Year, Yallop its Coach of the Year. And on October 21, 2001, in the league championship match, Dwayne DeRosario scored a goal in sudden-death overtime to give the Earthquakes their first MLS title.

The next year, Landon Donovan became almost a household name. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated (v.unusual for America) and he scored goals in the 2002 World Cup finals. In 2003, the Quakes found themselves down by four goals to their hated rivals from Los Angeles in their playoff matchup. Somehow, San Jose scored five goals to win what many have called the greatest match in MLS history. The Quakes went on to take the MLS championship for the second time in three years ... Landon Donovan scored twice and was named MVP for the final match.

After 2004, Donovan, who had been on loan to MLS from his club in Germany, finally returned to Europe, with the bittersweet thanks of San Jose fans for his four great seasons. Landon did not make it through the season in Germany, though ... he didn't play much, didn't always play well when he did play, and eventually, his contract was sold to MLS, allowing him to return in time for the 2005 season.

Well, MLS has very weird rules about where players are assigned. For a variety of reasons, Landon Donovan wasn't assigned to San Jose. Instead, he went to the Los Angeles Galaxy, the hated rivals of San Jose. Landon was ecstatic ... he has a Hollywood starlet girlfriend and he was born in SoCal. But Quakes fans were pretty pissed off. Donovan paid lip service to us, but he clearly wanted to be in LA, which may have made sense for him but was inexcusable to us. While in some oddball MLS alternate reality, the assignation of Donovan to Los Angeles made sense, for Quakes fans it was a slap in the face. Especially considering that MLS allows people to own more than one franchise ... and in fact, the company that operated the Quakes also ran ... you guessed it, the Los Angeles Galaxy. LA is a lot more glamorous than San Jose, the success of their franchise is obviously more important to MLS than is San Jose's ... and Landon's move hinted of shenanigans anyway.

Meanwhile, San Jose fans are hit almost daily with new rumors about the team moving to Texas. Whatever is true, it does seem clear that the San Jose Earthquakes, for many reasons, some of them perhaps good ones, are the ugly stepchild of MLS. Their fans are few in number but extremely vocal in spirit. And they have not taken any of this kindly.

And thus it is that we have all marked a special date on our calendars, June 25, when Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy make their first appearance of the season at Spartan Stadium in San Jose. Landon hasn't helped matters much by publicly questioning San Jose fans for not welcoming him back with open arms ... like many athletes, he has little sense of what it means to be a fan, and so is apparently completely clueless about why his move to Los Angeles has raised so much anger. He seems to think we should give him thankful applause during player introductions for those four great years and two championships, and then we can respectfully move on to cheering for our Quakes against his Galaxy.

You never know, but I suspect he's not going to get the reception he wants. My guess is, he will be booed when he comes onto the field for warmups, he will be booed when he is introduced before the match, he will be booed every time he touches the ball (you think I'm exaggerating, but this has actually happened in the past, to a man named Diego Serna who pissed us off for a gazillion reasons back in the day and had to listen to our noise every single time he touched the ball for an entire match). If he scores a goal and plays it cool, he will be booed. If he scores a goal and taunts us, he will be booed even louder. If he looks into the stands, he will see plenty of tee-shirts given away the last four years, ones with his name and number on the back ... only now, fans have put tape over his name, x-ing out his traitorous existence.

San Jose Earthquakes fans feel betrayed, by Landon Donovan, by our owners, by MLS. We are fearful that our team will be gone next year. This may be one of the last times we can let people know how we feel. And we're loud. Look for us on ESPN2, Saturday night, 7:00 Pacific time.

[ETA: Looks like some of the lads will be supplying a Landon Donovan pinata for pre-game festivities.]

so other than that, mrs. lincoln, how was your birthday?

Lots happened on my birthday, almost all of it mundane at best and irritating at worst. Luckily I'm immune to irritation these days, so it wasn't so bad as birthdays go. On the bad side, it'll take a few weeks to get a new, hopefully free, stereo deck in the car (and this morning, Robin's car wouldn't start, so we're just in suckville with automotive stuff these days). On the good side, it looks like the faulty cabinet design for our oven will be fixed at no cost other than labor, our new microwave seems fine and fits perfectly (anyone want an old but perfectly good microwave?), Doug got a good start on the kitchen painting, and the Giants won last night, although it took them almost four hours to do it and I got home after midnight.

So now I'm 52 years old. Which is pretty fucking old by my standards. Oh well. It does look like I'll be teaching a introductory survey course in American Literature at SF State in the fall ... should know today.

Oh, and in my summer classes, the movies the students chose to watch are ....

Garden State and The Life of David Gale.

it's my birthday

I made myself a lyric mixtape. Here it is, with thanks to Bonnie Raitt, Tim Buckley, Love, Amos Lee, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, Bruce Springsteen, the Steve Miller Band, Smokey Robinson, and Mary Gauthier. 

Your sweet and shiny eyes are like the stars above Laredo
Like meat and potatoes to me
In my sweet dreams we are in a bar, and it’s my birthday
Drinking salted Margaritas with Fernando

And though you have forgotten
All of our rubbish dreams
I find myself searching
Through the ashes of our ruins
For the days when we smiled
And the hours that ran wild
With the magic of our eyes
And the silence of our words
And sometimes I wonder
Just for a while
Will you ever remember me?

Yeah, I heard a funny thing
Somebody said to me
You know that I could be in love with almost everyone
I think that people are
The greatest fun
And I will be alone again tonight my dear

I am at ease in the arms of a woman
although now most of my days are spent alone
a thousand miles from the place I was born
but when she wakes me she takes me back home
Now most days I spend like a child
who’s afraid of ghosts in the night
I know there ain’t nothing out there
I’m still afraid to turn on the light

Then I'll be with you and I won't scare myself
Then I'll know what to do and I won't scare myself
And I'll think of you and I won't scare myself
And my thoughts will run and I won't scare myself

From a house on a hill a sacred light shines
I walk through these rooms but none of them are mine
Down empty hallways I went from door to door
Searching for my beautiful reward

Baby’s callin’ me home
She keeps on callin’ me home
Hate to see her cryin’
My baby knows I’m dyin’
But she keeps on callin’ me home

You're gonna fly away, glad you're going my way
I love it when we're cruisin' together
The music is playing for love
Cruisin' is made for love
I love it when we're cruisin' together

Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don't deserve it
But we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance
Dangle 'tween hell and hallowed ground
And every single one of us could use some mercy now