Monday, September 14, 2009

In the ol' memory bank

Remember these?



     I was a big fan of these cards when I was a kid, and had collected quite a few of them over the years. Fortunately, I was smart enough not to sell them when I got tired of them-- I kept them all in a box and forgot about them until recently when I was rifling through my old bedroom's closet in my parent's house. I say fortunately for two reasons: 1) though a meager amount, they are still worth something, and inevitably their worth will continue to rise, and 2) they're one of the few things that I kept around from childhood, so they carry an even deeper nostalgia than any other thing that I own. The latter part of that sentence makes it seem like my box of Garbage Pail Kids is my most treasured possession, which is not the case, I promise. It's just that they take me back to my old run down house; to the corner-store that was run by the very friendly, but extremely hyperactive hippie lady with hair down past her ass; to when a quarter was a substantial amount of money for candy or a package of GPK. They take me back even further in memory than, say, watching an episode of Twin Peaks, or reading the letters from an ex-bandmate, who unexpectedly fled back to the East Coast while we were still renting a practice space. An explanation is in order, I know.
     When I was living in Medford, Oregon, I was commuting to Ashland (the nearest southbound town), to work as a line cook at a restaurant called Brothers. And a guy named Stephen, one of the cooks at Bros., turned me on to the Twin Peaks series. At that point, I had vaguely remembered bits of it on the USA Network, but had never actually followed the story. Stephen and his girlfriend Nora were both David Lynch fans, but were especially keen on Twin Peaks. They even had this Rolling Stones cover hanging in their bathroom:
 
They assured me that I wouldn't be disappointed in the show, and that once I started watching I wouldn't be able to stop. And then came the perfect opportunity to sit around and guiltlessly watch every episode: Stephen and Nora asked me to house-sit for two weeks while they were in Germany. And that's exactly what I did, plowing through all 29 episodes (the hours spent watching it almost equated a work week). I lived about a fifteen minute freeway drive away from their house, and this was a house-sitting job that involved feeding two feral cats, so it required me to stay there instead of merely checking up on the place. Like I said, perfect opportunity to sit around. 
     Oh, and a quick note on the cats: if you haven't ever had to deal with a feral cat, and you get the opportunity to do so,...boy, are you in for a treat. Shortly before they left, Stephen and Nora reminisced about the awful incidents they'd had with these two jet-black nightmares to, ya know, put me at ease. And they warned me that the cat with the white tuffs of hair growing out of its ears was the meaner of the two. Apparently, just walking behind "white tuffs" while it was eating its food was a threat to him, which would cause him to emit this gurgling, low Ohm-like sound and then turn around and swipe. The other cat did warm up to me a bit, and would even sit on my lap while I would be watching Twin Peaks. However, the minute I tried to get up from the chair, it would be a problem. Knowing that this was a feral cat, it kinda made the experience terrifying. So yeah, the experience soured me on playing with wild cats. 
     So, anytime I watch an episode of Twin Peaks, it takes me back to this specific period in my life. And so far, I can find nothing else, apart from actually travelling down to Ashland, that can achieve sort of the same effect. And even then, it's still not the same. It encompasses more than just the house and the cats: it includes the job, the town, my friends at the time, the general mood I was in, etc... So, when the Gold Edition DVD Box Set of Twin Peaks came out I considered it a worthwhile investment. 
     As for the saved letters from the ex-bandmate, those were from the period when I had just moved up to Portland. I had put up a flyer in Ozone Records, searching for a drummer to start a project with. Brainmower, as was his online pen-name, responded and even had a practice space in NW Portland where we could play at any time of the day or night. As a matter of fact, our first get-together was around 3 A.M., and we played till about 8 A.M. This we did a few times a week for the next six months, until we needed a cheaper practice space. Then onto Shurgard Storage, where we had a silent agreement with the manager, of that particular set of spaces, that we would never be there after 9 P.M., when the gates closed for the night. Mad dashes out of the lot before the gates closed were frequent, and made the whole thing kind of fun. But it came to an end when I arrived at the practice space one day only to find the majority of Brainmower's drumset there and a note bidding me farewell:
     "The music shit in here is yours. Use it well, Took some drum shit as you notice. Yo, if I go back to NY and start some shit, you have a place in my band, or with us at gigs. NY Hardcore roots beeotch! See you later bro."
     Apparently he was in Bellingham, Washington at this point, and later went back to his hometown of Albany, New York. From there he contacted me a couple of times before he went on to permanently live in Barcelona, Spain. Here is one of his letters, typical of his style: 
     "What the fuck is up son. Well, I guess you aren't actually my son, but if you were I would be proud because you are a real hard worker. Pardon my feeble attempt at humor.
     The CD in here is the 4 song At War With Shadows shit, called Healing is not an option. Its pretty fuckin' good, some nice riffs on songs 1 & 4 in particular.
     I'm playing guitar with this bands guitarist in a different band, we are pretty much a joke though, largely because I am in the band and my life is a fucking joke. Well, I'm not all that dismal I guess, but the whole east coast winter no money driving a falling apart '86 Taurus shit is a bit wack.
     I need a fucking new Benz, 7 sluts on my nuts, and a house in the Hollywood hills. Actually, what I really need is to be raped in a third world prison, until I learn the true nature of suffering. My little pussy life is no where near as brutal as it gets.
     You know My Little Pony? We need a product on the market called My Little Pussy. I think it would be a hot item.
     Anyway, I got to bounce, oh fuck, hip hop slang in my dome, cannot remove,
     I'm working on making some money on the internet here, but if that doesn't pan out pretty soon I might just go out there and start sucking cocks on Burnside. It would be a change of pace at least. Uh, well hopefully it won't come to that. That's it for now I guess, its fucked up man, it's too expensive for people to cross this fucking country yet they say the war with Iraq could run 60 Billion dollars! What the fuck man. We are supposed to be stationary tax revenue provides for the war machine. This country has all the fucking money in the world for fucking annihilating shit, but most our cities don't have one fucking community center where people can work on music, sculpting, whatever kind of shit. All of that is so within reach, maybe its not the government fully though, I guess most people are fucking selfish, afraid and not wanting to be a part of a group effort.
     Damn. Rambling on like a motherfucker. I want to write a book called This Country is a Lying Piece of Shit. Kind of stupid, but I want to make it readable from 5th grade to adult level. I'm going to back up all my sources though so it can't be dismissed by the academic types. Feel free to email me shit you think should go in it.
     Some fucking day, I will be in Oregon again, and I will shred mad East/West coast style. It's weird man, past, present, future, wow. I am going to write you a book right fucking now. If I had a penis the size of God's I would fuck the sun, and put out the light for these grovelling maggots and become their Lord.
     Maybe someday, see you later in the land of volcanoes and cappuccinos.   Brainmower."
      I still laugh when I read these letters, and they are yet another item that takes me back to a time period that I might have forgotten about, or at least would only have a vague recollection of, if it weren't for these things still in my possession. They help to flesh out the details.
     And in this whole convoluted mess that is my story, I guess I am placing importance on objects and their personal significance. Call it a defense of materialism. I've gone through many cleaning out periods in my life, when minimalism was important to me, and my possessions felt like pointless clutter, and therefore the majority of what I owned went into the trash or to a charity. Many times I felt like throwing away the letters from my friend, since I was already throwing away every notebook that I had scrawled lyrics into, every existing cassette tape of music that I had created (since I was embarrassed of it), every photo I owned, every book, and so forth. I'm glad that I didn't. More often than not, I find myself regretting that I deliberately threw something away out of immature modesty. Not saying that you should keep every little scrap; maybe just to have some foresight as to why a particular thing might be better kept than destroyed.
     I still underestimate the diminishing power of memories. 
     It's strange how this blog post morphed into something entirely different than what I had set out to write. I was gonna try reviewing Art Spiegelman's Maus, but instead got onto the subject of Garbage Pail Kids. I guess it's not too much of a stretch: he created Garbage Pail Kids. 
     Maybe next time.

( By the way, my computer seems to be a bit fucked right now, and so I'm not exactly sure how this post is going to look since the preview doesn't match up with my draft -- at all.)

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