Saturday, September 19, 2009

Never saw my home town until I stayed away to long…

Where do you live and Where are you from are two completely different questions to me, with different expectations, intent, and answers. I live in St. Peters, MO. I don’t even say St. Louis when asked. I feel like the burbs always take a beating, so I like to proudly rep my little Western oasis of convenience and more-for-the-money housing. Sure my neighbors are semi-hoosier, and I have gone out on my front porch to find a gutted dear laying legs up on a snow bank in their lawn, but I can see a 7/11 sign from the same porch, trading the bad for the good I suppose. Even though I have now lived here for longer than any other city, I still do not consider it where I am from. I lack some key St. Louisism, like I cannot be sized up by my high-school because Palm Desert High-School means very little to anyone in this city, although I once ran into a girl from my graduating class at a buddy’s wedding. With that goes the lack of community, which is truly the best thing about St. Louis. I remember when EKe and Whiskey Daydream were around we’d get booked on bills with local bands that would literally bring half their high-school class to every show they played, and these dudes were only like 2 or 3 years younger than we were. Having grown up somewhat nomadically, raised by a gypsy mother, I would kill for that kind of stability, those tenured friendships, that sense of support from people that saw you go from centipede to butterfly, but I do not have it. I draw from work relationships, amazing people whose calendars are already filled with family and friends.

Where I am from, for me, is where I became the person I am today, and that was San Diego. It had all the makings of a life altering sequence. I was in the Navy, truly alone without Mom or barking Sister shaping me. The city was vibrant and pedestrian, and the weather meant complete freedom to do anything any time. We were a band of misfits that probably should have never volunteered to defend our country.

We did our jobs proudly but bathed in the hours, days, weeks, of Liberty Call spent haunting ocean cities from Carlsbad to Imperial Beach. The majority of our time, the time that saw us being born beneath the intoxication of a caffeinated moon was spent in downtown San Diego between 7th and the Gaslamp district. Back then it was an organic city, lots of Mom & Pop cafes, restaurants, and bars. We’d see the same characters, daily, as we bounced between venues hitting up every open mic in town. It was when my voice was finally recognizable on the page.

As Tom Waits sang in “San Diego Serenade,” I never saw my home town until I stayed away to long. So a couple of years out of the Navy and one failed relationship behind me, I followed my buddy Warren back to the Midwest.

(Warren with my dad at Ten Mile House)

I never really saw myself as a Californian, moved there in 1989 from the burbs of Chicago, and for all its wonderful weather and diversity, it was plastic and shallow and judgmental, and I was more than willing to leave all that behind. Unfortunately, as the scales have balanced out, pros and cons shifted, I still miss it; so, I go back every couple of years.

In 2005 coming out of a divorce, I needed it like a baby needs its mother’s breast. So my buddy Jeff and I went back for a triangle tour of LA, Palm Desert, and San Diego.

I have always hated LA, but my buddy from high-school, Jared, lives there, and I needed to see him.

At the time my mom was still in the Desert and she was calling me home for Thanksgiving, and I cannot go to the West coast without going home to San Diego. Jeff and I have traveled together frequently. Our temperaments are complimentary. We come from the same socio-economic beginning and both managed to pull ourselves out. Plus, he is a sleeper, and I am not. Inevitably one our two days he is going to decide to sleep in, which affords me the freedom to roam alone, which is something that my pen and I need. This poem was written as I was posted up at a little café on 5th street near a Trolly station.


Returned to the womb
found her wild and nappy
barking obscenities into a brisk November

Her authentic shine
replaced by corporate facade
and an inability to establish eye contact

Sampled her flavors
experienced something familiar
in their sauces and textures

Her diverse appearances
varying shades and hues
still speak with intoxicating tongues

Left the womb, again
appreciating the life she gave me
and the me apart from her

You see the city changed, many of the places that I loved were overtaken by chains. What used to be a quaint coffeehouse where you could order a huge bowl of granola cereal for $1.50 was now a Starbucks offering a Mocha for 4 and a quarter and the same Marble Loaf that I can get in Missouri. It was a disappointing visit.

Then last year I decided to head out to track down some friends I had lost contact with (Diane and Chris)

spend some time with another friend from high-school (Caroline)

and I wanted to play a show with my buddy Dave who was gigging with me when I was first starting.

Making these human connections was amazing, but the city…they city had lost its soul.

The Womb Revisited

Returned to the womb
found her new homogenized high-rise streets
lined with chains offering the same resolve


The city
when too numb to look at it

But I am sober
and I am disappointed
the hallowed stage of Johnny M’s
where I watched Bill Magee
pour his soul through six strings and tube amplification
now a Hard Rock that doesn’t offer music
just exploits its mystique

Walk shattered and soulless shiny streets
so much of me lost to revitalization
the desire to beautify what was already beautiful beneath the surface

But Café LuLu reminds me of what used to be
her tired pawnshop sofas dingy with Life’s little spills
still smell of smoke from when the city was free
her chalked menu
like a photograph
reminds me of when I haunted these streets
bouncing from the base station Gas Haus
to every Caffeine Chapel from the Convention Center to the danger zone
grabbing lonely microphone
to tell the world just how much love was trapped inside me and how much that hurt
reminded me of a time when the city lived beneath the surface
reminded me of a time when a band of 20 somethings believed art WAS life

corporate decor permeates every pixel of my picture

The city saved me and I desperately want to save her
but she doesn’t want my salvation
having traded her spirit for paper emeralds long ago

Returned to the womb and realized she is no greener

I will always love San Diego, it's amazing weather and cultural diversity, but I miss the San Diego that gave birth to me.

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