Earthquake aftermath, Sherman Oaks
  • Earthquake aftermath, Sherman Oaks
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Getting rid of records, right, because of the goddamn quake. Like bricks, dead albums fall heavy. They fell and they fell — hard — and in five months of aftershocks have fallen some more. Less hard but still. Bricks I have too — I use them as bookends, as paperweights — and they fell, hard, loud and heavy, if not nearly as far. Less high on shelves, and less of ’em. I have THREE THOUSAND jazz albums, man, at least a thousand rock albs, and who knows how many hundreds of blues, reggae, R&B, folk, comedy, novelty, whatnot. Whew.

Seismograph reading, Northridge earthquake

Seismograph reading, Northridge earthquake

Dead I say because they’re fucking obsolete. I hardly play any anymore. Don’t think I’ve listened to 30 in the last year. When I’m sitting writing I can’t be bothered with in and out of sleeves, dust ’em, 20-minute sides, get up, turn ’em over, change and care for ’em.

Gas fire

Gas fire

Much as I try to evade such inevitabilities, like any other schmuck I’m a creature in the end of topical hands historically dealt. Easy chases out less easy. And although no audiophile snob, or audiophile anything, I admit the pops and cracks of long-loved vinyl bother me; the warps. Though my equipment is nowhere good enough to allow me to encounter/experience the true glorious wonderfulness of CD sound (if such biz be not mere hype but true), original digital recordings so far sound okay to me.

Freeway overpass

Freeway overpass

Then I think of all my poor records — how angry do you want me to be? I amass this massive stack — a collection, more than a collection, almost a library (people come over just to hear stuff; mags call me with “fact check” questions) — many many many of which will never be issued on CD I would bet my pud. Easy decommissioning less easy, they’ve become soundless bric-a-brac. Do they still even make styluses?

Lindley Avenue, Northridge

Lindley Avenue, Northridge

I pick ’em off the floor, restack ’em, shelf upon shelf, left to right, A to Z. Some cover damage but no breakage, thank heck I’m not 20 years older and they’re 78s. But what an empty chore, what an everlasting gig — it dawns on me — like I’m saving/preserving dusty, crumbly museum pieces. Feeling like a Flying Wallenda (speaking of all-fall-down), I flash on that line from their penultimate crackup: ich kann nicht mehr halten. One Wallenda tells the others he can’t hold it no more — just prior to dropping them — and I can’t keep this up much longer myself. If I can imagine having nothing — move the epicenter a dozen miles and we’re talking Nothing — I can live with less of Something, a lot less something, easy. But dropping to this less rather than that less could be one tough slide. (Better keep a ladder and a net.)

Some choices are snaps. Any LPI haven’t played in 13 years, or played only once, back when I first got it, or that surprises me to see now still around at all. Like the Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson Quartet, Dancing on the Tables, an import on Steeplechase, with Dave Liebman, John Scofield, Billy Hart. Did I even play it once? The guy’s a passable first-unit European bass player, no Oscar Pettiford but what the hey, kind of at times an old-fashioned joke compared to contempo Euros like, for ex., Peter Kowald and Maarten Altena, but he’ll do. He’s on ten billion albums, behind everybody from Bud Powell to Lee Konitz to Anthony Braxton, he’s consistent, dependable, blah blah blah, but I picked this up (used) only because it featured him as leader. Which is no reason in even the laziest of times to keep something — spinning once and forgetting — and no reason nohow now.

Or the eponymous Codona — Don Cherry, Collin Walcott, Nana Vasconcelos — on ECM. Sitar (Walcott) in a front-line jazz setting? C’mon. This one I don’t think I even got through the first listen, and kept it only ’cause it’s long been my wont to be a Don Cherry completist — hey, he worked with Ornette Coleman, played some great seminal trumpet in the late ’50s, early to mid ’60s — a luxury I can no longer afford so fuck it, g’bye, G’bye too to Don’s mid-’70s Hear and Now on Atlantic (annoying neo-fusionish bullcrap) and Brown Rice on A&M/Hori-zon (ditto and worse). And speaking of Ornette-derived completisms, Charlie Haden’s Folk Song (with Jan Garbarek and Egberto Gismonti, on ECM), g’bye to that too. And Exploring the Scene by “The Poll Winners” — Barney Kessel, Ray Brown, and Shelly Manne — on Ornette’s original label, Contemporary, which I’ve saved unplayed for the last 11 years on one pretext only: a tepid run-through of Ornette’s “The Blessing” (along with “So What,” “The Duke,” “Doodlin’,” etc.) cut in August ’60 — possibly the earliest recording of an Ornette tune by somebody else: ’bye.

Other “affiliations” that can go: Double, Double You by Kenny Wheeler (played straight man a couple times for Braxton, but his sound, his tone, has always made my skin crawl); Expansions by McCoy Tyner (so what if he turned cartwheels with John Coltrane, ’s no way I feel like hearing him this week with Hubert Laws and Gary Bartz); Night Music by Woody Shaw (who recorded with Eric Dolphy a year before Eric died, and thought of himself — even if it rarely showed — as Coltrane-influenced, but other-wise/even so...keep it).

There’re some people I was never a completist for, or if I was I didn’t mean to be, like Stan Getz — nobody needs 24 Stan Getz albums. Especially post-bossa nova trash on Columbia — Another World; ’80s repackage The Lyrical Stan Getz — and RCA — A Song After Sundown, with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. Or okay, Horace Silver, 17 albums, fine, but 19? So I jettison Silver yn Wood, featuring “The Tranquilizer Suite,” and That Healin Feelin, the one with him in a turban, nice cover — but he’s also on electric piano, and oh those vocals (ulp) by Andy Bey.

Speaking of which, vocal albs I’ve saved just for the backup musicians: Helyne Stewart, Love Moods (Contemporary), with Teddy Edwards, Art Pepper, Jack Sheldon, Frank Rosolino (pleasant but really no big deal); Vi Velasco, Cantando Bossa Nova (Means Singing the Bossa Nova) (Colpix), with Zoot Sims (she’s Filipino, looks something like Connie Francis, sings bossa nova versions of “I Got Rhythm” and “Cheek to Cheek”); Sandi Shoe-make, Slowly (Discovery), with Tommy Flanagan (worst vocal version ever of Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite,” and that’s including the famous bad one — with Parker himself — by Earl Coleman). I hardly break a sweat parting with these.

Acone; no, a narrow isosceles triangle, rotated so its vertex is pointed at 196... 5. It’s pointed at ’65 and possibly ’64 but pointed from (and in) ’66, where it. I. She. Whom I needn’t specify—first or second love — it doesn’t matter. Stick-figure knee bent.

Down. From standing you’re sitting. Kneeling. Knees buckle under me. The violence of the shock, the shock of the admission, have canceled my underpinning. She is “seeing” her dance teacher — “taken up” with — it doesn’t matter. Bottom. Fall down all Downfall. Twenty-one years until kneepeat. Till the next kneetime. Jolts-to-come and jolts come, many shapes and sizes, but no bends, measurable and involuntary, till the first aftershock to the first earthquake big enough, I don’t remember how big, numerically — not a big one — I had the hap to experience in vivo; intense enough to make the wood not only creak but smell, the beams, the foundation being rattled, battled, everything held up by old failing timber — a toothpick in the wind. And ever since.

But then. That quake like this one I was in bed. Woke me. No time to get up under, whatever they tell you, a doorjamb. Car alarms off in the street. The TV moved two inches. Paint chips on the floor. Particles settling in the walls. An hour later, another one. My knees shook — slackened — what they held shook; I hadda sit down. I’d been on boats before, I’d lurched, rocked — this was totally different. The sea supports you — they call it “buoyancy” — but not (I now knew) land: solid was no longer solid, and terra firma something less than firm.

And every time since. For weeks after a quake every tremor, every little baby rumble — every time a truck goes by — I feel in my hinges this is It Again. The bigger It tho, it for Real: this time it’s all coming down. On these hinges hang the limits of my courage on earth — this slaying planet — nothing not killed by it — but it’s not death fear we’re talking, or dying fear, or rather: nothing is added in the process to my rocksteady awe of annihilation, to an already metastatic dread of lousy endings.

’Cause if you want death fear, I could show you some death fears — A-bombs, polio — how about tetanus? — and all they’ve ever done is freeze the hinges. The flaps. Immobilized, I couldn’t stand even as a prelude to falling. Rigored without the mortis. This seismic baloney leaves room for collapse — flaps oiled — fold — like a ton of potatoes. But greater than potatoes or meat is the weight of a troublesome image, and I ain’t talking beams on my skull in the bath, a cantilever or two thru my thorax.

Which occurs to me, yeah, you bet, and yeah it’s unnerving, but the vivider aftermath, from where I stand-and-fall, is not me in rubble but — there’s a lotta buts in this section — all my goddamn contingent things; not my own death or dismemberment but the tenuous safety of my discs, my books, my favored flannel shirts, the strew and spew of all my damn hobbies. My precious junk with no roof or walls to protect it. The awful burden of property come home to roost.

The time, the time, who’s got the time? Too many objects of the round plastic variety demand special CONSIDERATION, won’t let me part with them before at least one final listen — “just to be sure” — no weed-out without a spin....

Stephane Grappelli, I Remember Django (with Barney Kessel) and Young Django (with Philip Catherine and Larry Coryell). Never my favorite violinist, and I’ve got 98 percent of everything he ever did with Django Reinhardt anyway — who needs simulations? — so I play ’em... not much... begone!

Elvin Jones, The Ultimate (with Joe Farrell and Jimmy Garrison). In the years he was with Coltrane, Elvin took the p.o.v. of jazz drumming a full half-step beyond Philly Joe Jones and kept it there, but since Trane his playing has never been the same. Not to these ears anyway, not on this one.

Tomasz Stanko Quintet, Music for K, on a Polish label (Muza) with a flimsy black-and-white cover. Don’t remember anything about this, let’s see...quasi- (or pseudo-) free playing by trumpet, alto, tenor w/bass and drums, sort of an alternate Art Ensemble of Chicago using Count Basie horn sonorities (and licks)...I’ll live without.

Flip Phillips, Phillips' Head. Bass clarinet — ho hum — theme from Love Story...go ’way.

Earle Spencer and His Orchestra, The Almost Forgotten Pioneer of Modern Big Band Jazz, issued by the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors. Art Pepper’s on here, Lucky Thompson, Jimmy Knepper too, but the full band SINGS verses to “Oh! You Beautiful Doll” — yowch — cancel the almost in Freeway overpass this household.

Now this should be fun: Hampton Hawes. Starting with 18 LPs — most of which I found in bargain bins after reading his autobio, Raise Up Off Me, a good one, although good books, good stories, ain’t good playing, though actually he did play oke, oke enough, even if it tended to be a little florid and prechoreographed — I weed (in a week) down to four. Yay.

Basie: I get rid of 26 (from 63 to 37). Albums backing up singers (Tony Bennett, Kay Starr, Billy Eckstine, Sinatra, the Mills Brothers), a James Bond tribute, almost everything from the late years on Pablo. But I save (for perversity sake) Basie on the Beatles, with notes by Ringo.

Not too many people at this point are exempt from weed-down: Ornette, Parker, Dolphy, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Lester Young, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, and — or so I thought — Duke Ellington. But the Duke’s session with Teresa Brewer, It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing, screams for review. I was an Ellington completist, I’m still an Ellington completist — got 118 by him — and this is one of his last studio recordings (Sept. 4/73), but I don’t EVER again wanna hear Teresa sing “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good”.. .pshaw!

Formerly exempt: Dizzy Gillespie. Drop a sad needle on The Melody Lingers On, a piece of shit from ’66 — covers of “Winchester Cathedral,” “Cherry, Cherry,” “Cherish,” “Bang! Bang!” and such generic perennials as “Tequila” and “Portuguese Washerwoman”...the fucking nerve.

Three more Don Cherrys with a tad too much fartin’ around “Eastern” style, main offender being Organic Music, a two-record set with vintage psychedelic art (swans and elephants holding flowers, boys and girls with third eyes living in harmony with their geodesic dome) and 16 tons of drone-y pap…unlistenable.

Nine Mai Waldrons since ’70 can go go GO: ponderous monotonous; if I hadn’t seen him live once with Philly Joe I’d never’ve acquired these.

Four by Sonny Rollins on Milestone, in their own right as big an embarrassment as the Dizzy LP. He doesn’t even “have a way” with unlikely standards anymore, no more irony, likewise no more “great literalism,” just dreck: “Dancing in the Dark,” “I’ll String Along with You,” “I’m Old Fashioned” — painful.

Then I come across these, um, what to call ’em: documents of human pathos (Jazz Division). Never the basis of, or occasion for, anything exactly akin to sonic experience, just weary objects kept (and kept!) lest the bloody bleeping world scream and cry. Spotlight on:

Bobby Timmons, Little Barefoot Soul, his first album on Prestige after leaving Riverside. The notes talk about how only Bobby and bassist Sam Jones showed up for this ’64 session (a quintet date!), phone calls all over town finally got ’em, Ray Lucas on drums — pretty uninteresting fare, coulda been called Little Shallow Soul (cover is a quasi-pretty hair-straighted black woman sitting in picnic grass) — saved it all these years for the sheer, yes yes yes, poignancy of the operation. Does anybody else still own a copy of this? You want it, you can have it. (Bobby died of alcoholism in the mid ’70s.)

Roger “Ram” Ramirez, Lover Man (French RCA). One of three hyphenates credited with authorship of “Lover Man,” here he’s featured in trio settings with guys like George Duvivier, Oliver Jackson, Ed Shaughnessy. Got it cheap (accidentally marked $3.98 although an import) but I’ve only played it once until now — just a pale gamut of colorless pianisms — sorry, Ram, this is adieu.

George M’lely, The Soloist. Ugly cover, not bad but not especially distinctive. Half a step up from a vanity pressing (on Alternatives in American Music, an Albany label with a P.O. box), and one cut, “Village Scene (Greenwich 1961),” suggests he’s been at it for ages.. .boo hoo, hate to be mean, but so long, sailor.

Ich kann nicht mehr halten, and likewise nicht mehr carry all this matter on my back. To the next place, wherever the hell that is. Slimming down my load in prep for Finally leaving this gigglepit. I don’t wanna die here, but that’s hardly it: I don’t wanna live here. Eighteen years in one crummy town is bad enough; 18 in L.A. has been like 81 in Alphaville. I know, I know: I’ve said it before. This time I swear it. I’ve had enough.

What clinched it — natch — was local broadcast coverage of the thing. For all of us not dead, maimed, or homeless, this 6.8er was dubbed a “loud, rude wake-up call.” By the numbers were listed all the standard familiar right moves to make in preparation for “next time” (and the ongoing unending after-math of this time) — stockpile plenty of water, flashlights (w/spare batteries), a good, sturdy pair of shoes, stay away from power lines, under doorjambs, turn off the gas, etc. — everything but eat your spinach — but no mention was made of road maps or airline schedules OUT OF HERE — none! Not one “newsperson” even suggested making plans to move. (Imagine the impact on property values if people “prematurely” started selling; on the 100-plus-year-old Pyramid Scheme that is L.A.) Seismologist Kate Hutton came on to tell us, well, this freeway collapsed, that one lost so many off-ramps, some other one severely buckled, but it didn’t happen to all of them, mind you, so freeways are (dig this)! Crowd control as per usual... self control (the town that knows How!).. .ho-fucking-hum. Oh, does this place love to lie to itself!

Shoot — I’ve wanted out for at least 15 years, but as fate would have it I’m involved with — addicted to — someone who likes it here, or if “like” is too strong a word she works here (and is addicted to it). An actress. The “real” kind they don’t even want here, don’t write parts for — an open sore at a cocktail party. When she’s turned down for the parts they do write I tell her, “You should be grateful Hell doesn’t want you,” but she scoffs. Now even she wants out, but it’s tenuous. The longer we go since the last tremor, the closer we are to the next — right? — but to her it means a longer-forgotten sensation of terror. (There are days she wants to stay and be rejected.) Her beat and battered apartment building — there’s a big bulge in one outer wall — meantime seems just one more significant aftershock away from being condemned, if not collapsing.

Fuggit. All this talk about the “Big One,” our long-overdue 8.0 on the San Andreas, is so much diversionary claptrap. When every address in town has its own personal “minor fault” right under it, ready to rock with, oh, only a 5- or 6-point-something temblor, L.A. is the world’s biggest eggshell waiting to crack. At least it’s most massively populated. ...And crack.

Yes! They can happen anywhere! In St. Louis or Dover, Delaware. But they WILL happen here. So drop the bullshit. What sort of immoral slime allowed (encouraged!) construction/expansion/migration to continue (accelerate!) following the 1931 Long Beach quake (speaking of wake-up calls), inviting new rubes to live here and die, or their children and/or grandchildren die, and/or lose all instantaneous/forever? Read City of Quartz for the answer.

Meantime: aftershock reports on TV are getting more skittish, more I-want-my-mommy, as time rumbles on...’s getting harder for the monsters to lie (in real time) with a straight monster face.

Once a week I load my car with heaps of vinyl, drive to a 20-minute-distant record store and unload. The wonders of purgation: every unload feels like six months of shit expelled. So far I’ve parted with 700 jazz LPs, and the store guy’s comments always make for good two-way barbershop conversation.

How can I part with Dixieland Jam by the Eddie Condon All-Stars, he wonders in earnest. Vic Dickenson plays trombone on only half the cuts, I tell him, not mentioning also that I really can’t stand Eddie (one of his faves) and bought it in the first place only for Vic. Haven’t I listened, he asks, really listened, to Tom Harrell’s Stories? Okay, I say, he’s a diagnosed schizophrenic (and the cover shows him as a disembodied face in shadow), but his playing is so conventional — fine as such but so what. Why’d I ever buy the British reissue of I’ve Got You Under My Skin by Georgie Auld with Jud Conlon’s Rhythmaires? Well, it wasn’t for the cover (’50s-type dame with big tits, what looks like a suede blouse, attempted sleaze but it’s all too straight, flowers at her neck—she vaguely resembles Joan Crawford), and I haven’t played it in so long I don’t remember anything except that I didn’t like it, so my best guess is I got it after seeing Georgie at Donte’s and my gal Louise coerced me into buying it on a trip to Tower where I’d otherwise have gotten away with buying nothing.

I’m not even selling this garbage — I’m trading. For CDs of stuff I love and/or need — can’t imagine living w/out — which by virtue of their format should outlive (as potentially non-silent matter) the demise of the turntable and stylus. (Until the next forcible format change.) The good news/bad news is the conversion rate: 15 to 1 approx., LP to disc; what a sap I feel (though I certainly never intended this as an investment). Even hobbies, insofar as they’re perpetually feasible, are frigging pyramid schemes. (But less matter is less matter.)

I check the racks and find individual CDs of Eric Dolphy’s Outward Bound and Out to Lunch, Warne Marsh’s A Ballad Album, 3-CD sets of Basie, The Complete Decca Recordings, and Ellington, The Blanton-Webster Band, and have them order The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve (10 CDs), Thelonious Monk — The Complete Riverside Recordings (15), and John Coltrane — The Prestige Recordings (16) — that should eat up the rest of my credit slip.

Every day, lest I lose the momentum to get the hell out of here (to Austin? Portland? Albuquerque?), I make a point of reminding myself, not just intellectually but sensorially, of WHAT IT FELT LIKE, four-something in the morning, whatever time it was, the moment it hit. No movie, and that includes Earthquake, with the possible exception of The Two Jakes, has ever gotten the sound of it right. When I moved from New York I thought earthquakes would sound like moving subway cars. They sound like whatever space you’re in being played like a drum. My apartment drum began as loud this time as any I’d heard and got louder, and louder. And faster. And faster. It didn’t seem possible the sticks could play any faster without breaking, either themselves or the various drum heads — walls, ceiling, floor — so my assumption was they all were breaking by the second. I could also hear all kinds of stuff toppling, falling, but without a light (power went out instantly) I couldn’t gauge what or how much. Meanwhile there was this crazy bang-bang vertical thrust to it which I’d never felt in any previous quake. When I stood up to get under something I felt lifted; every step was like something at a funhouse, wherever my feet made contact the floor seemed to have lumps. (Later I would discover the water glass beside my bed to be empty, though it hadn’t tipped over.)

I realized this was by far the largest whatsis I’d experienced and simultaneously thought, Oh shit — there goes today’s writing at least. When I thought to get my flashlight from the spot I always kept it, it had moved. I tripped over I knew not what en route to the only light in the place — the pilot on my gas heater (my stove has electric ignition), which to what avail I wasn’t sure (there being 12 units in my building, and a boom from one would no doubt be a boom to all) I shut off. Failing again to find the flashlight, all the while fighting the urge to go back to sleep, at least till sunup, I (or the Boy Scout in me) tripped a couple more times, put on my glasses, the shirt and pants I’d worn the night before, a jacket, tried in vain to get into a pair of leather-soled shoes with buckles, which was just as well since (it worked out) I’d be walking, managed to get into a pair of track shoes, and stumbled into walls on my way to the street.

Somehow remembering where I’d last parked my car, I groped through the trunk in total black (though some claim stars were as visible as in the country, I didn’t see many, and there wasn’t much moon) for a flashlight I’d never before had occasion to use and beamed it at nearby structures — nothing had collapsed. I walked a block north to the semi-major thoroughfare I’d be taking if I drove — without overhead illumination, open trenches from sewer work made things look hairy, if not in fact impassable — and too tired to mess with it, I walked on. Flicking the light every so often to avoid tripping over garbage cans, I passed a mile and a half of shattered storefront windows before turning off to Louise’s place.

Where I met and greeted her shock, dread, relief at seeing me, but no immediately discernible damage, no yet-discernible anything (it would be 17 hours before neighborhood power would be restored). The first thing I heard on her battery-powered radio was a report from the Valley where, in addition to fires, some news bozo had encountered “extensive damage to water mains and water coolers” — say what? So stiff an upper professional lip, or so California frozen cool, that the effort it took to speak at all vanquished any and all subsidiary effort to posit a thought while so doing: fuck this place. (Boy oh boy do I want out.)

Paring down my rock stash has thus far proven more difficult. The problem is, what’s currently there is the result of multiple pare-downs. It’s the one subset of my collection I’ve always periodically sought to reduce. Used to get promos of this junk, right, and my policy has always been when in doubt, dump. Still, some long-treasured titles do now scream, “Dump me already!” — so I will....

The Move, their first alb on Regal Zonophone, never released in the states; later they mutated into (among other things) ELO. Saved basically for one cut, “Fire Brigade,” with its big ironic Duane Eddy riff, and for the fact that my sister got it for me in England in ’68 — I was still interested in British Invasion oddities, even late B.I. — which isn’t enough for me to hold onto it another 25 years.

Ditto, the first LP by Pink Floyd, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which I actually gave the first U.S. review (in Crawdaddy; “Purpal Doodee” was my title) but haven’t played once since 1969 or ’70.

Nico, Chelsea Girl. Jackson Browne wrote a couple of the tunes and plays on them, and I used to go see them play at the Dom, spring ’67, when Jackson cut a great demo for Elektra (I still have a cassette of it), stronger and more interesting times 50 than the rest of what he would later record put together, but I’ve never really cared for Nico (any more than for late Jackson), in or out of the Velvet Underground.

Suburban Lawns. Late-’70s L.A. punk with the not-half-bad Su Tissue (who ended up in Jonathan Demme films), but the prospect of occasionally hearing her only fully decent cut, “Unable” (“I...can’t...bag-a your love”), does not motivate me to retain all 12 inches in perpetuity, let alone play it now.

D.O.A., Triumph of the Ignoroids. Kept mainly for its use of the famous “snatch photo” of Maggie Trudeau (to go with the cut “Rich Bitch”), that and the guitarist’s great name, Joe Shithead.

Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark. Ditto, name.

Max's Kansas City 1976. Nothing on here ever meant anything to me except the Pere Ubu cut, “Final Solution,” and that mostly because Peter Laughner (whom I used to correspond with — what a grim fuck — and Lester Bangs wrote an obit for) plays on and possibly cowrote it: “I don’t need a drug/I need a final solution” — indeed.

Love It to Death. Kept, long unplayed, the only Alice Cooper album I've ever owned, only for the obscuro "Ballad of Dwight Frye," not (ot not especially for the once-famous "I'm Eighteen."

Golden Hits of the Shangri-Las. Purchased back when I was writing what became The Aesthetics of Rock, in which they garnered a couple-three pages of over-attention. I’ll miss it (but not that much).

And then there’s some I’d actually love to abandon — they’re just taking up space — but as I handle ’em they demand a listen, just one cut, half a cut, hook me anew, and I’m stuck with them, possibly for eternity: “Chihuahua” by Bow Wow Wow (on the See Jungle! See Jungle! album), “Carnal” by the Passage (on Pin-drop), “White Sport Coat” by Marty Robbins (on an otherwise worthless two-record anthology), and so many more, why even list ’em (I’m such a bourgeois simp).

And in what possible eternity — or plausible old age — will I ever sit and play 3 percent of all this crap?

Los Angeles magazine cover story: “200 Reasons Not to Leave L.A.” — what insidious tripe. What they oughta now be selling, advising, even the crowd controllers: proceed — slowly — to the prospect of leaving (relocation loans available: let the flicking developers, planning commissions and freeway contractors underwrite it); if you stay, don’t use a freeway or a mall; wear helmets to theaters if you must see Schindler's List (speaking of holocausts); spread the word.

Aside from which, it’s already over. On an average non-cloudy weekday afternoon, you’d have to look and look (and wait and wait) to spot three tour buses at the Farmer’s Market. The F.M. post office, once a teeming polyglot squirm for postcard postage, has no lines anymore. Outsiders evidently know something residents don’t — or do and deny. After the insurrection, the so-called riots, of ’92, sojourning out-of-town rats were still jumping on this sinking ship...well, no more. Whatever the draw ever was — “glamour”? a wall-to-wall “natural beauty”? The conspicuous, rancid display of “wealth”? — the spit that held that storyboard together is going, going, soon to be g-g-gone.

A projection: one more non-big one sufficient to disrupt filmmaking for even a week, to contribute substantially, for instance, to travel time (and hence expense) to shooting locations, to spook into departure enough resident beings whose faces and bodies familiarly appear in its product — not to mention its backers, makers, “creators” — and the film industry will as one, not piece by piece, studio by studio, project by project (as has been the case for years now anyway), pack up and leave for some Arizona or Carolina of the mind and/or map — gone, finis, end of routine. At which point this town without pity, minus its principal source of fascination and allure, and without the machinery to lead its remaining minions by the nose to not only topical x but to (and through) the very DANCE of being led, and is thus no longer even competent to lie to itself, stands revealed as the depressed, and depressing, wasteland it long has truly been, becomes at last an official dead city like (let’s say) Detroit.

In any event, money leaves (if not people) and it becomes Mexico City — and I don’t mean ethnically — as this parched strip of shit slowly but surely reverts to geologic, geographic type: first surface glitz (the “beauty”), then basic living conditions (water, power, sanitation, drivable roads — after one subway disaster scotches that anti-solution). Just WAIT till local symptomatic relief is deemed not a priority by the state, the feds, and the who-shall-live-and-who-shall-die’ers tell a decidedly unglamorous L.A., just as Ford once told New York, to drop dead. End of pyramid.

New sounds in my building. Its stresses and balance points have changed. Often there’s this tick-tick-tick, ominous though less like a bomb than a bug or a muted woodpecker, sometimes in a window frame, sometimes in the walls. And the buses and garbage trucks keep passing, jostling things and racing my heart like a poorly tuned ’65 Mustang, and even when they don’t: reminders. Vibrations you can’t even feel have an impact. Like the bubble-over of a geologic unconsciousness, this hooey loosens bulbs in their sockets — they begin to flicker, you check the fixtures, the wiring, finally you just tighten ’em. If only I could tighten the 40-watt bulb which illumines my life: a bag of sand ripe to run gut-open thru the cracks in the floor.

I don’t leave home these days, not even around the corner for a sandwich, without a satchel containing: flashlight, glasses, contact lens cleaning and wetting solution, floppy disc copies of everything I’m currently working on.

Not once since that morning in January have I had four hours’ continuous sleep.

Nor have I turned the gas heater back on (some nights have been cold).

Portland? This week it looks like Portland. I’ve never minded rain.

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