The Japanese Parasol

In 1985, my sister Jeanne was a working calligrapher in Washington, DC. She mostly made her living preparing formal documents and certificates for the various agencies and departments of our nation’s capital. She had her own art studio in the historic Atlantic Building, above the famous Nightclub 9:30 and right around the corner from the FBI Building. In that year she contributed this piece to the ‘Images for Survival: exhibition of American and Japanese Peace Posters’ and the ‘Peace Poster Exhibition’ featuring designs by 151 designers from 31 countries. The exhibition was shown at the Hiroshima Museum of Art in Hiroshima and also in Washington DC and New York.

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The posters were published in this book.

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This is perhaps what she will be most known for. You see, she died young in the year 2000, just after the new millennium began.

I remember visiting her in Boston. The year was 1991. Our country was about to invade Iraq, and I felt helpless and powerless, knowing intuitively that many innocent people were about to die.

I convinced Jeanne that her poster had some kind of magical power, and that we should make as many copies as we could, and that we should post them up everywhere we could. She went along with my madness. I took her to the Harvard Square Kinko’s and we made copies. Then we traveled around Boston and Cambridge and Somerville putting up the posters, using wheat paste, in the manner of the punk rock posters I used to put up on walls half a decade earlier.

When I returned to my home in Washington, DC I continued putting them up. I mailed as many as I could to politicians and the press. This obsession wore off slowly as the war came to a quick climax and then started to cool off.

It was crazy and not practical. It was a preoccupation and an obsession.

I’m not embarrassed by it at all. In fact, I’m proud of it. And I’m proud of my sister – Jeanne Garber. The Artist and Calligrapher whose life was cut short way too soon.

Another one of those stories.

The monsoon rains are pouring down on the metal roof of my pole building art studio, deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest Rain Forest. It is the middle of the night, or more accurately an early hour of the morning. All is dark as I listen to the raindrops pelting onto the roof and the sound of the runoff gurgling in the gutters and running down the downspouts.

I am laying on my back in my hammock, wrapped in a comforter. It is warmer now than those first couple of years when I was trying to survive the Winter in what is really nothing more than a barn. Now I have a heat pump in addition to the wood stoves and that is sometimes whirring and clanking noisily as it wrings a few more warm degrees out of the cold outside, and transfers it in to me via some fluids and gases in pipes using some kind of pumping system.

This is one of those quality times. My big black panther cat is sprawled across my chest. We swing together back and forth in the hammock. There is no other activity that has priority over spending quality time with your cat when he wants it. With this cat, such times are rare. He has not yet learned the dangers of the Ego, so our lovemaking is always on his terms.

I can’t move. I can’t get up to relieve my bladder. Instead I’m just laying here, stroking his belly and in return he pushes his head hard into my hand, demanding that I give some more attention to his ears.

There is no activity more important than Intimacy between sentient beings. After all, that is what we are here for. When he wants to be intimate with me, I must respond. There is no choice in the matter. This is what it means to Be Here Now.

I have learned this lesson hard.

I am pondering the theme of the last few days. Someone posted a photo of an old girl friend. I had not seen this one before. When I saw it, it took me aback. It was a shock to my system. Catherine will never be my “old” girl friend. She died of an overdose in 1987. Catherine will be forever young.

Up until recently I only had a few faded color snapshots of her — all dressed in black, black tights under that black cheerleader skirt, playing that oversized black electric bass, up on that stage in an obscure and now-forgotten punk rock band. And yet there is also that one publicity picture of her, in front of her band, that was published in that book — Banned in D.C.
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This new one is a close up — a head shot. Her head is laying down on what looks like the floor and her eyes are closed. Her hair is dyed a Manic Panic red, with a black scarf tying it up. Her neck is exposed above the collar of the black leather motorcycle jacket she is wearing, as if offering it up to a vampire, who is about to “turn” her. That is my favorite part of a woman – the neck below the ear and above the shoulder. I can remember smelling the leather of that jacket and tasting that flesh there.

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She is wearing a stud earring. I liked to chew on that and nibble on her ear.

She looks so young. And wickedly beautiful.

Over the years I have developed an idealized memory of her. I choose to remember the light, and the romantic drama. I choose to forget the darkness.

And so now, upon being confronted by this new picture, I obsess a bit on those idealized memories. I wonder again if there had been anything I could have done differently… Anything that could have saved her. Over the years I have tried to comfort myself by telling myself there was nothing I could have done.

At the time, I was under the impression that “Once a heroin junky, always a junky.” I had been told by those much more worldly-wise in these matters than me, that it was a slippery slope down into an endless abyss. Something you could not ever recover from.

I didn’t know about her problem right away. I was too smitten by that pearly skin and the high cheekbones and the witty repartee. Others warned me that she was trouble. I laughed that off, uneasily. I didn’t want to know. But then one day she got busted for buying on 14th Street. Tearfully, she asked me to come to court with her.

Her attorney owned the art gallery next door to the club where she worked as the day-time waitress. He was taking the case pro bono.

She was acquitted of drug possession due to a technicality. She was convicted of possession of paraphernalia and so she was sentenced to monthly drug testing and counseling. But I had decided to let her go. I stopped calling her. I stopped going with her to the clinic.

I didn’t do it well. How do we do such a thing well? I didn’t have much experience in these matters. Unlike others, I had only had a couple of loves before that. One I hadn’t yet divorced.

All these years since I have been consumed by guilt. I pushed the guilt down into the subconscious and suppressed it.

I know now that one CAN go on and live a happy and fruitful life after a heroin addiction. I’ve seen it happen. I also know now that addiction is closely related to childhood abuse and trauma. And so, on top of everything else she had to deal with, she had to deal with the pain of me leaving.

This explains some of the crazy over-the-top drama that followed, over several years and several more of her lovers.

On balance though, I realize now that there was a darkness there. There was a rebellious, self-destructive undercurrent to who she was. Her talent wasn’t recognized and the world was unfair and blind to her brilliance. Finally she had enough of this life. She was through.

Fugazi wrote a song about her called “Shut the Door.”

Where does that leave me? I have all of this lingering guilt. This is one of my demons. I have tried to contact her. When I am alone, I have cried out her name in the darkness to say I’m sorry.

I know how to talk to angels and how to summon up demons and submit them to my will. I do not know how to find and talk to a spirit that has passed. I have never mastered that art.

If you know how, please share it with me.

 

Where Rock of Ages gets it wrong.

I finally watched Rock of Ages. I got the DVD on Netflix. The movie is set in Hollywood in 1987. Now it so happens that I lived in Hollywood about that time.

If you haven’t seen it, the movie is about a rock club on Sunset Boulevard called the Bourbon Club. Alec Baldwin plays the club owner. Russell Brand is his manager. And some young kid is a bar back who wants to be discovered and become rich and famous. Tom Cruise is Stacee Jaxx who is the big established rock star on the block.

It’s a fun movie. I enjoyed it, especially when Baldwin and Brand discover their gay relationship. Tom Cruise is a caricature.

Let me tell you how the movie gets it wrong.

In those days the hipsters were called the cool kids.

At that time there were rock clubs in Hollywood and on the Strip. Like the Whiskey and the Roxy. But that’s not really where it was happening. Where it was happening was downtown. On Sunset Strip the big-haired rock bands still ruled, like L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose. But by 1986 they were becoming passé to the cool kids. On the weekends where it was happening was at the Embassy Hotel. Punk-inspired bands were rising up to take over from the big-hair bands.

Scream was at the Embassy Hotel on the weekends. Scream was a couple of young L.A. deejays who took over the old hotel and made it into a club for a night. And the bands came to play who hadn’t been signed yet – like Jane’s Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And touring bands like Gene Loves Jezabel and Tones on Tail played there. The cool kids heard about it through word of mouth. And they came.

I worked the door at Scream. I was a celebrity doorman and I stamped all the kids’ hands as they came in. I worked the stage downstairs to keep the people from storming it. I was a witness as Perry Ferrell turned the place into a sweat pit. And I saw Flea and the Chili Peppers own that stage.

In another part of the old hotel was a theater and a stage. The theater had been condemned because it wasn’t earthquake-proofed. So you couldn’t have shows in there, but that didn’t stop you from doing a music video shoot there.

Axel Rose had merged his band Hollywood Roses with Tracii Guns’ L.A. Guns to form Guns and Roses. Guns and Roses shot a music video in the Embassy’s theater about that same time. The video was a song called Sweet Child of Mine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oobDQ0vdm8M.

Riki Rachtman had a club going in Hollywood about this time too called the Cathouse. That’s where all the big-haired bands hung out – the glam rockers. Like Taime Downe and his band Faster Pussycat.

Guns and Roses got signed. And then Jane’s Addiction got signed and the Chili Peppers too. Then you started to see them all on MTV. Riki Rachtman got a show on MTV called Headbanger’s Ball.

That was really where Rock and Roll was at in 1987. There was this tension between the punk-inspired bands like Jane’s and the Chili Peppers and the big-haired bands like Guns and Roses. Scream was on the fence about it. Glam bands like Gene Loves Jezabel and Faster Pussycat were welcome there and called Scream home.

The world learned to love Guns and Roses and so the big-haired rock bands still ruled the mainstream. But something was changing.

Into the nineties, Jane’s Addiction and the Chili Peppers tore it up on tour. Jane’s toured opening for Iggy Pop and then they started headlining. Ian MacKaye at Dischord didn’t approve of them. Why? Because Jane’s continued to glorify the excesses of the druggy rock and roll lifestyle. The Punk Underground continued to agitate against the status quo. For them “Rock” wasn’t cool.

Perry Ferrell and his girlfriend Casey put out their movie “The Gift” about this time. It was about Perry finding Casey dead from a heroin overdose in Venice Beach. For Jane’s, heroin was tres chic. For Ian and Dischord this was sick.

One of the partners in Scream was telling me then that the future was in Hip Hop. He went on to open up an L.A. club called Helter Skelter. My heart told me NO. The future was still Rock. But a special kind of new rock called “Alternative” – a synthesis of the best of old rock and new punk.

Meanwhile something was stirring in Seattle.

 

It’s not the Journey. It’s the Destination!

destination

The Chariot parked just off Sunset Boulevard in L.A.

The lesson of the day is… sometimes Spirit has a surprise in store for you.

I thought I had planned to take my time and make a real Journey of my trip to L.A., but Spirit had something else in mind.  Something possessed me and I drove straight through and we arrived here in Echo Park about 4 p.m. PST.  It wasn’t a record time, well maybe it is for my age.  It was 89 degrees and sunny upon arrival.  Crashing hard now.

blue star

At a Rest Stop in California.

radar detector

My “Radar Detector.” Works every time.