The New Normal

A stroll down Main street at dusk on one of those glorious Summer Solstice Eves.
The sun refusing to go down, an overtired toddler fighting the pull of sleep.

It’s about 50/50, people wearing masks.

A flock of teens walk from the beach brushing sand from their foal long legs, not a care in the world, nothing covering their vaping mouths.
Denied prom and graduation. Heartbreaking voids to be never filled, they are defiant to enjoy this, at least.
There is no thought of Summer School or-hah- finding a job, just the promise of long days by the pool and punishing their parents for their existence.

Out front of the shuttered Walt’s Wharf, a busker strums on his capoed Taylor and sings a slow folk version of Bare Naked Ladies’ One Week.
I can barely make out the lyrics through his N95 respirator, and for that I am grateful.
Tip him two bucks.

We think back to those first days, the empty supermarket aisles and alarming news reports on the hour.
Zoom and TikTok, social distance and ventilator. Fauci.
A new language is learned.
Those White House briefings: real time musings from an idiot saying the kind of things we may have briefly thought of while brushing our teeth, but would never dare speak.

But now people are unable to park in their garage due to the stacks of Charmin Ultra Soft.
We switch off any mention of the Virus on the local news, watch a rerun of Real Housewives Atlanta instead. On commercial break, another syrupy advertisement comes on, reminds us the the heroes at Papa John’s are there for you.

Things are moving fast now.
Local councils lifting bans just ahead of the people storming the stores and restaurants, regardless.

We’re eating out again, masked like robbers til we are seated, reading wee menus off our own filthy smart phones.
Utensils are sealed in plastic, salt and pepper come in druggy little bindles.
Here comes the Chicken Marsala in its own sealed plastic bowl, quarantined apparently from side vegetables or even a bit of pasta. No offers of a Parmesan sprinkle, no red pepper flakes sit on the table.
But goddamn. Feels nice to be sitting in an actual restaurant, pretending things are quite fine.

I’d like to think we are ready for what’s next.
Perhaps we will no longer roll our eyes at the masked Japanese tourists on Melrose, the germaphobe wiping down his tray on the flight to Akron.
Perhaps we’ll all become responsible citizens of a new world, til we can get the old one back? Perhaps?


So I’ll leave this here, one last entry in these Covid diaries for the last couple months.
Because I guess we’re moving on, is that right?

I will miss the empty streets, the blessed pause we allowed the Earth to just take a breath, one not polluted by our human stink. The dolphins came closer to shore, the stars brighter in a sky unmasked by smog.
There were ugly accounts of mismanagement and system failure, sure.
But we pulled together in other ways, the curbside graduation ceremonies, the gems of human courtesy that only seem to sparkle in the darkness.
Racial injustice was called out with a heartening dedication, a disaster within a disaster that was not allowed to slide.

Hell, maybe this was the dress rehearsal for the real disaster, foreshadowed by the vertiginous second erections depicted in those 1918 Spanish Flu graphs we’ve all seen.
But this next time, we’ll be prepared, right?

And by prepared, I don’t mean going out there, piling toilet paper to the rafters and cornering the market in hand sanitizer and sourdough starter.

Maybe we do this again, prepared with grace.

Wild in the Streets

There’s always that scene in Batman movies, start of the third act.

Joker has gained control of Gotham.
Batman absent, maybe tied up upside down over a vat of acid.
It is chaos in the streets. Minions dressed like Cirque washouts skip around downtown, beheading the statues, spray painting the marble walls.
Yeah, this feels like that.

But instead of Batman swooping down to clean up the town in the final 12 minutes, we have a President that scurries out of his bunker long enough to hold up a Bible in front of a church.
Offscreen, peaceful protesters weep not just from anguish but from chemical sting.

Rage against the murder of a black man on the ground, pleading for just a breath of air.
This after months of isolation and unemployment, the very real fear of a killer still hanging invisibly in that air.

The avenues that were empty just a week ago are packed now.
These masks, protective devices now cloaks against government trackers, or worse: the cowardly disguise of bandits.
For the criminal element had to take advantage of the protests, using the cover of mask on the crippled businesses to go on a shopping spree.
There they go honoring George Floyd again, this time with size 10 1/2 Old Skool Vans and a 52 inch Flat Screen from Target.

The current administration seems unable to detect the difference between protester and rioter though, and urges the governors to gas em all.

Our friend Norman was hit with a rubber bullet in Minneapolis, the non lethal device fracturing his skull and bruising his very brain.
But Norm’s a tough old bird and will surely pull through with Alisha by his side our help.

Seeing the posted photos of the wounded punker bleeding over his bomber jacket, it reminded me of earlier skirmishes in the streets.
Times of violence on the asphalt and police abuse, long before cell phone cameras.

The Punk riots of the early 80’s seem almost quaint by comparison.
I mean, what was at stake, the right hold 40 oz of beer in public and to see The Exploited play a decaying ballroom?
Was it all just Cowboys and Indians cosplay on the deserted downtown streets, tribes going at it without witness just because?

But the violence was just as real, the cops just as bent on breaking in heads. Outside of Mendiolas Ballroom, we saw cops walking down the streets, breaking in store windows with their batons. The damage all to be blamed on the punk rockers running for their lives.
The monster movie thrill of running from people trying to hurt you, hiding behind walls while trying to control your breathing.
The bruises yellowed just as much, those streets also glittered with the gem of broken glass.

My daughter texted me these images of protests in downtown LA.
Our sons and daughters out there navigating the fucked up world we’ve given them.
In the month they should be celebrating graduations and proms, they brave airborne disease to say: enough.

You’re bursting, sitting there in the darkened multiplex.
The 32 ounce Diet Coke was only fifty cents more after all.
But there’s no way you are leaving your seat, not just yet.

Batman is wriggling his wrists now, fingertips just inches away from some little device that will free him.

With a faith that has been gifted in consolation, you wait for rescue..
You have hope.

Practice in Place

You know, this social distancing thing, I’m all in.
Back the fuck up, buddy. Hell, that’s been my mantra for decades anyway.

The facemasks? The hand sanitizer? All good.
Who doesn’t want to walk around Target looking like Rorschach?
And it took a fucking worldwide pandemic to teach people how to wash their own hands.
Maybe next crisis we’ll learn how to balance a checkbook or use our turn signals.

But it’s funny, the things we miss. Awkward hugs with strangers, eating shitty Italian food in overheated diners.
And what about band practice?

The math is scary, if we ever cared to attempt it.
Been in the same band for 40 years, we’ve played a thousand gigs, which means we’ve got together to practice….damn.

How many times have we played I Got a Gun?

I mean, yeah. We have to play it to close out every show.
Oh, we’ve tried mixing it up in the setlist a few rare times, only to discover half the crowd is already out the door.
They came here to see the one CH3 song they know, so now it’s time to smoke American Spirits on the patio til Youth Brigade comes on.

You would think there would be no need to practice these old songs over and over.
But muscle memory quickly atrophies, the lyrics fade like memories of a summertime crush.

We’ve gathered in those garages and damp rooms, studios rented by the hour or basements paid for with shameful favor. Mom’s garage to Kimm’s Rec Room.
The glory days at Hully Gully, where we would work in a small room between Los Lobos and The Cramps.

It’s usually weeknights, practice.
You get up off the couch long after dinner, most of the time it would be damn nice to just grab a Drumstick out the freezer and return to the couch for an evening with Rick and Morty reruns.
But no.

You made the comittment to meet the fellas, you gotta get down to the room, haul out the gear, stack speaker boxes and amp heads.
It’s like assembling an Ikea bookcase every time.

And then you run through the setlist, hopefully not making any too many glaring mistakes.
Maybe you throw out a new song idea, work on that a bit.
Someone chimes in that they can’t rehearse next Tuesday will Wednesday work?
Out come the calendars and phones, each of us searching for the sweet spot: a blank square of the calendar, unmarred by highlit reminders of back to school nights or dinners demanded by the wife.

And before everyone leaves, there’s some show offers, a tour coming up in a month’s time.
We untangle the sticky guitar cords from the last gig, make note of what to pick up at Sam Ash before Saturday. Roll up the merch, decide who is taking the bass cabinet, what time to meet for soundcheck and what’s good to eat around that club.

You get together to practice the songs, yeah.
But you’re really practicing how to be in a band.
To nurture the living thing you have committed half your life.

It’s been so damned long since we’ve done this.
We compare face masks and laugh at our hair, as unruly as children in late Summer. We catch up on how we’re been dealing with it, the long days and fast weeks.

We try to talk of things other than the Virus, but it has taken over our lives, kept us apart.
There’s so many things to catch up on with these friends, finally back in the same room.
We finally get around to hanging guitars around our necks, and play.

I’m home now, and the ringing in my ears comforts me.
So great just to laugh at shared memories, catch up on life, play guitars really loud and just out of tune.

I give into the temptation and turn on the news.
There is rioting in the streets, another black man has been murdered by a racist cop.
The president calls for a shutdown of the social media he has so dearly abused.
New and horrific accounts have relegated this virus to the second page.

It feels like we’re fucked, again.

It feels like we’re almost back to normal.

A Separate Peace

A long shadowed October afternoon.
Jimmy Carter is still President, the Sex Pistols have already broken up.
In Mom’s garage making noise before an evening shift of folding corduroys at Wild West store.

We’d been at it a few weeks, Kimm and I trying to get the hang of electric guitars through amplifiers. The garage rang with feedback and ungodly clang; asbestos leaden particles floated down from the rafters.
We were creating weather, not music.
Somehow the open chords we’d domesticated on the acoustics became wild animals, unleashed somewhere in the 1/4″ shielded cables between pickup and speaker and free to howl.

We soon learned the barre chord was the way to go, and after a few tries were able to start and stop a whole song together. As we hit the final A-D-A there was just a pause, a silence more meaningful than a note, and we grinned at each other.
We just played Blitzkrieg Bop.

The feeling of pioneering accomplishment, probably shared by a thousand other boys and girls in their garages at the very same moment: We are all, to start, in a cover band.

I’ve always been surprised and really honored when someone chooses to cover one of our songs. To be sure, those events have been very few, but maybe that’s what makes it such an honor, no?
I mean, ya think Leonard Cohen still got a hard on every time another joker butchered Hallelujah?

But for us, to hear brainy indie heroes Yo La Tengo cover Out of Control, hey now!
That’s a big deal for us.
And though I was prepared for a bit of patronizing smirk in their version, it comes across as earnestly rockin’ enough, and if nothing else got some of the goddamn wags from Pitchfork to finally acknowledge our existence.

So when our pal Zoli from Ignite called and told us his plans to reinterpret Separate Peace with his new project, we were flattered. Besides being one of the most solid cats out there, Zoli has the vocal chops that put all of us hardcore screamers to shame.

His take with the new band Ocean Hills is a cranker in the alt-metal vein: musically years different than anything we might think up, a reinterpretation rather than a cover.
And the lyric video kills me, a nice platform to see some words I haven’t really considered in a long time.

A pretty heavy story of a family in disintegration, no one escapes the blame in this cheery little Christmas newsletter.
Indeed, it is written in the form of a letter, social distancing way before its time.

I remember my Mom fucking hated this song. The mother in the song is a car wrecking drunk, and though Mom never touched a drop, she was afraid that people might digest the words as non fiction.
And no, my brother did not OD and die.

I’ve been asked if I ripped the title off the John Knowles’ book of adolescent angst, but it really comes from that Hemingway notion in A Farewell to Arms.
Our man Henry is on the train to Stresa, dressed as a civilian now, giving absolutely no fucks to the consequence of escape.
A truly separate peace. I liked that.

Posh put the track on the third Rodney on the Roq compilation, I got a copy to give to my Dad.

I went down to his office in LaPalma, hoping really to just drop it off with the receptionist and make it away.
But he saw me in the hallway, between patients, and waved me back to a private room. We seemed to be family now only by those shared awkward moments of Father and Son separated by divorce.
Meeting the new girlfriend, pretending to care what the other was up to.
We shook hands and smiled, I handed him the album and pointed out our track in the lyric booklet.

He looked over the lyrics and then looked at me.
You got a lot of anger in there, he said, pointing at my chest.

No, I said.
I don’t know.

Dear son, how’ve you been? I got your card and the bottle of gin
What’s new, let me see
Seems there’s no love left between your mother and me
She gets half the house, I’m getting my share Of half this life we’ve built in twenty-three years
But there’s no guilt, I’ve opened my cage
You’ll like my new girl, she’s about your age

Can you blame me? Separate peace
I’ll do what’s right, what’s right for me
And I’ve found my separate peace
Understand me, can’t you see, I don’t care

And son, your mother’s just fine, I see her in the market from time to time
She got drunk, wrecked the car
Trying to get home from the corner bar
This life’s too cold to be straight
I guess a little drink, it helps her escape
She’s gave up, disillusioned in men
But in that little bottle she’s found a new friend

Understand me, can’t you see
Let me go, just set me free

Oh son, I almost forgot Your brother left his body in a parking lot
I guess it happens all the time
These goddamned kids cross the needle and line
What happened? I can’t understand
He left so early, he was such a young man
Oh well, now he’s just gone
And are you coming home for the holidays, son?

Gates of the West

I got to the Roxy at 8:30. Traveling light with just a Telecaster in a gig bag and a Sugar Free Red Bull.

I took a swig then tossed the can.
The caffeine and taurine in the Austrian swill had no effect on my already over- stimulated being.
I’d been bouncing around the house all the day, trying on a dozen different shirts and shouting into the mirror: Needlessly memorizing a song that I knew by heart for decades

I rack the guitar and head up the backstage stairs, hoping to just find a quiet corner to stay out of the way until I’m called out.
Halfway up the stairs I look up and see Duff McKagan and Jakob Dylan.  They stop their conversation and look down at me.
I stop and turn back down, not wanting to interrupt them, and bump into  Fred Armisen.  He’s coming up with Clem Burke.

I am sandwiched, it seems, between celebrity.
And for a moment I wish for nothing more than to just be out front of house, where I really belong, a fan.


Ya know me, you know our band, you know how much The Clash means to us.

We can trace it back to our very first songs:
That heartbeat guitar push in Got a Gun, the background Ahh-Ahhs in Manzanar?
Loving tribute or straight ripoff, those musical cues came straight from our heroes.
The Clash albums became our songwriting 101 handbook; they taught melody did not have to be sacrificed in the name of rage.

Hell, we relied so heavily on the background ooh and ahh it sounded like Mick Jones was being pushed off a distant cliff during almost every song we recorded.

And Joe being gone so soon, he has attained saint-like status.
Indeed, we’ve been guilty of spreading those dangerously sharp metal Strummer Stars around this country like tin knocker Johnny Appleseeds.


Joe has luckily avoided seeing us huddled in our houses, isolated.
A quick look at the Socials find little of the brotherhood he always fought for.
You’d have to wonder what he’d be calling for now:  leading the charge to riot in the streets, or pleading for shelter and calm?
Willing his troops to stay healthy to fight the true enemy another day?

Duff shakes my hand as I remind him of a gig we played long ago in San Francisco, back when he was in The Fartz.
I really don’t want to take too much of his time, but he seems happy to chat there on the stairway.
It’s just another hang backstage it turns out, and though these people may be more used to the backstage now being the visiting team locker room of Madison Square Garden, they surely all remember the dim lighting and funky smell of the Hollywood clubs they put in their time.

Before Christmas Paul from Sheer Terror sent a message, asking if I’d be interested in doing a song for Jesse Malin’s Gates of The West show at the Roxy.

The week of the show I met up with Jesse and his amazing band at a North Hollywood rehearsal studio.  We exchanged a few pleasantries, tried to remember the last time we’d met up, if at all, in the decades past.
I knew Jesse mostly from the D-Generation glory days at Coney Island High club, but he has gone on to become a proper roots rocker and Lower East side champion in the last decade.

We strapped on guitars then and ran through the song: Wrong Em Boyo!

The band effortlessly hit the swing and groove of the song.
I realized this was new only to me, that they had of course played this song dozens of times all over the world already: just the lucky chump out front singing  the only variable.
We finished with the same heartbeat of a pause just before the tonic resolving chord, just like on the record.
It sounded so proper I half expected to hear the chiming chords of Death or Glory starting up after a proper 2.5 seconds pause.

I could not stop grinning then, to be acting in a movie that I’d watched so many times.  Jesse said it was all good, unless I wanted to run through it again?
Hell, I would’ve stayed there and played it a hundred more times, never wanting the day to end.

I keep looking at the set list taped to the wall, though I know this album by heart.
The track listing is embedded in me, deep as heartache.

I know that after Fred Armisen (!!) sings Lost in the Supermarket  Duff sings Clampdown.
 Then I am to go to side stage while Gregg Foreman does his heavy version of Guns of Brixton.

I go up and do it, starting out safe, playing the wrong chords on the guitar which I didn’t think was going to even be mic’d.
Just something hold in my shaking hands, really.

But then we start swinging, it sounds so great with the horns joining in.
I’m standing there, and I’m thinking it’s just like the record.
That record.
And it’s over too soon.


I go backstage to pack up my guitar, Jakob Dylan actually walks past and gives me a good job.
I resist the urge to whip out my phone and take selfies with him and every other goddamn person back here.  Haven’t had a drop, but I am drunk.

I pack it up and towel off, and then hurry back out front of house to join the crowd on the packed dance floor.
To get back out where I belong, a fan.


The CH3 Test Kitchen: Popeyes Chicken Sandwich



Two cars up, there is movement.
The Honda Civic creeps forward, just one car length but that is enough.

The Town Car in front of me does not budge though.
The driver is head down and surely scrolling though Murder Hornet TikToks or witnessing his E*Trade portfolio sink to new depths.  I consider a tap of the horn, but really, we got nowhere to go. 
The poor guy is probably missing a ton of Prom work this year, so I wait until he finally raises his head and pulls up.

I’d seen this since Fall, the impressive lineup of people getting on the latest food craze: Popeyes Chicken Sandwich.  Oh sure, it was easy to feel superior, coming out of Stater Bros with my reusable shopping bag filled with Sockeye Salmon Filet and Organic Kale. 
Look at those slobs, disgusting! 
To fall into the fad, line up at a temple of corporate fast food like cultists clutching empty Dixie cups.
To give in,  eat half your weekly Sodium allowance and all your daily calories in one shameful meal.

Yet here I am, surrendered to the line up like a starless Sneetch.
I’ve ventured out of the shelter, masked and sanitized, just wanting some sense of community and comfort in a world lacking either.

Comfort Food has become more than just a guilty pleasure after a tough work week.
We’re not talking about the occasional Papa Johns Meatball Pepperoni after a spartan week of clean proteins and dark leafy greens.  We’re talking mental survival.

These past weeks we’ve had to work at it, not get too fucking crazy with the Frigidaire always humming its siren tune just meters from our at-home workplace.
To not uncork the Malbec at 11:30 am, to not have dessert after both breakfast and lunch.
Food becomes the weapon, not just the fuel.  To not, our new mantra.

Surviving punkers for the most part know about sacrificing their vices with time.
The bad habits fall by the wayside as we reach an astonishing new number each year.
We start to think about boring shit like hydration, blood sugar levels…sleep.
The days of Oki Dogs at 3 am are over now, luxurious drunken brunches have been replaced by dry Belvita crackers and Soy Milk-lightened Decaf.
And proper fried chicken?  No more Roscoe’s mate, it is enjoyed only as a memory now as we chew thru our air-fryer boneless and flavorless white meat.

But this is a war, right?  Aren’t we allowed just this, at least, a bit of delicious gluttony before heading back into the bunker?  

Besides, Popeyes has always seemed pretty cool as far as the franchise places go. 
Like JolliBee and their wacky Spam Sliders, Popeyes has crawfish poppers and red beans, foods that at least reflect some sort of regional palate.


We’ve been here 23 minutes now, our little tribe.
It actually feels good to be out, in a crowd of sorts.  Though we are socially distanced and separated by our cars, we are at least experiencing this same place and time.
We share this evening, the moon rising already, the blue paint of shadow spilled along the parking lot asphalt.

The Honda is up next, and when she pulls up to the window I feel included in her victory.   
A latex gloved hand hands over a bag, and then she is gone.
I imagine her walking in the door, the victorious hunter returned to family. 
Provided for, they will drink toast upon toast to her bravery as she tells the story of this adventure yet again. 

The Lincoln pulls up to the window now.  I’m next. 
I roll down my window and take off my mask, breathe in that drive thru perfume of french fried oil and car exhaust. 


One August day, seems like a lifetime ago, we were on an easy drive from Basel to Köln.
Nothing special about the day, one of those hot Summer weekdays on tour, just driving among the Sunflower fields, coordinating urination and petrol stops. 
A day when food becomes the subject in the van, each of us chiming in with memorable meals and the places we will hit as soon as we got back home.  

At the Cafe Westminster just off the 405, they serve the Midnight Special:
3 runny eggs over a brick of chicken fried steak, everything smothered by a peppery country milk gravy.  An insane and fantastic thing to eat at 2:30 after a long night at the Doll Hut. 
To sit in the booth after the plates have been cleared, check divided, drinking coffee though we should not.
Prepared for the night of heartburn fueled nightmares ahead, regretting nothing.

The van is quiet now.  We are all hungry.

We stop in Baden-Baden and sit at an outdoor cafe, eat airy schnitzels garnished with nothing more than a squeeze of lemon.  
A long communal table, eating and laughing while literally rubbing elbows.

Even then I knew that meal would become another marker in time. 
You are reminded again of what a meal with friends can be, a meal that can be remembered in future van rides, if we are ever fortunate enough to get back in the van again. 


I drop the bag on counter and call out to the house that food is here!
I barely have the patience to wash my hands for a single verse of Happy Birthday, let alone two.  

The sandwich is unwrapped, dissected, inspected, reassembled.  
I pause before taking the first bite. 
I know a queasy county fair feeling will surely accompany this meal, an ocean of salmon and a field of kale will be consumed in penance next week.

But for now,. back inside the house, this jewel-like souvenir of the outside world glows in the kitchen.

I take the bite, consider it.
Salt and heat, the smear of spicy sauce giving it a slightly curry-like kick. 
I am reminded of something, my mind searching for yet another tangent to a better time.

Then I am just thinking about the next bite, nothing more.


Unmasked and Unplugged

I thought I’d start this week’s entry with some snarky recap.

Oh, maybe a spotlight on the kooky #Openthisbitchup protesters. 
Freedom fighters who will not rest until Hooters re opens, thank you.

Or howsabout my favorite new sitcom, the daily White House briefings!
Open the beach? Don’t open the beach? 

You  know, I just don’t have the energy.
Our current state is viewed instantly from a million different perspectives. 
Opinion then regurgitated instantly, socially mediated, an algorithm of terror and bile. 
What else, really, is there to say?

We fucked up, we’re fucked, we’ll be fuckin back.

Let’s talk about something-anything- else.


We swore we’d never do it.
I’m talking about that term that used to make me queasy: The Acoustic Set.

Oh, I’m sure we’ve all been there.
You’re thrilled to see a fave act is coming to town, and what’s this?  Playing at a nice little venue?!   
But then your eyes wander down to the italicized fine print at the bottom and your heart drops:  An Intimate Acoustic Event…..!

You think of all those hoary Unplugged shows in the 90’s, most every band proving they could not pull off what Nirvana somehow could.  Your favorite band desecrating the anthems of your youth with instruments mostly identified with Burl Ives.
People:  Do we really want to see KISS reduced to an underground busker act?


Or worse than a drum solo, the bass player and drummer wander off mid concert, and here we go:
Ok, yeah, we’re gonna slow things down a little here.  Then out come the motherfucking barstools and capos. 
What you’re gonna get here, ya see, is a dirge version of your favorite rocker, but with mandolin and tambourine.  But why?

Nah man, this isn’t what we signed up for.
Last I checked, we committed to the snarl of the Marshall stack, the hornet hive buzz of P-90 pickups. Ampeg bass cabinets the size of Easter Island Moai.
A lifetime onstage, standing in front of an artillery of speakers and percussion. Or in the pit,  front of weapons-grade PA speakers to not just see the bands we love, but to also feel them.

It just doesn’t seem like you’ve been to a punk show if you don’t go to bed with ringing ears; you have been cheated if you’re denied the constant companion of tinnitus.
The sweet song that will accompany us to the grave.
And even then, a sweet high pitched tone will be discernible to our mourners above, if they just listen hard enough.


But there is another way to play it, that became clear.
Friends and heroes like Kevin Seconds and Steve Soto, they showed how their crystalline voices and easy strumming of open chords could bring out a new dynamic. 
Stripping punk bare naked: If you got something to say, let’s hear it.
Takes some balls to step out from behind the disguise of volume, to let the lyrics out there without the cover of mumble and snarl. 

And let’s admit it, we are getting to that point where we look for gigs that are unusual in some way.  Some angle that will keep our interest, something to give us the semblance of nerves– anything different, really, after 40 adrenaline deadening years onstage.

So when Crystal  & Eric sent yet another message inviting us to play one of their Sunday acoustic shows. we finally agreed.



We had to get together to actually think this out, cradling the awkward voluptuousness of  Ovation acoustics as we went through the set list for suitable victims.

I strummed a few chords on the 12 string.
An open D Chord farted out, flubbed by improper technique and pressure, decades of cheating on puny electric strings apparent.  I concentrated and tried again, twinned grooves cutting into fingerpads with thrilling pain.  
It became apparent there was no way to fake it, no distortion pedal to mask a sour note, no way to mute the strings for dynamics or fake it with lazy barre chords.

 We were suddenly back at Faye Ross Junior High, Kimm and I.
Mr. Misajon’s Guitars for Beginners after-school class, learning those first open chords on high arched nylon stringed boxes.
Learning a new language from blue mimeographed charts, the dots marked upon string and fret graphs like Morse code tabulated.
A treasure map to a fortune just there.


We went through songs 38 years old to us and discovered new colors. 
Lowered a key here, slow it down there, throw that one out.
Didn’t Know becomes a 3/4 time Beatles-esque waltz.
Separate Peace in a spare G-D-C, the holy template of any Dylan composition.  
We play it for 18 minutes, as it morphs into Knockin’ on Heavens Door, then I Shall be Released.    
Helpless melts into Here Comes a Regular,  and it suddenly occurs that we are having fun doing this.

Bourbon Street bar in downtown Fullerton is packed for a Sunday afternoon, it’s surprising.  Our old mate Eric Leach is up there now, an old hand by now at doing the acoustic set.  He’s got it down effortlessly, plays relaxed and sounds great, people are smiling.

Greg Antista gets up next, joined by Warren and Jorge, Frank Agnew…and it’s like we’ve been admitted into the secret clubhouse of OC punk royalty.  They play a set of songs melodic and heartfelt, well suited to the afternoon sun and gentle tapping of tambourine the only backbeat necessary. 
The crowd in the bar often drowns them out, as the people are getting happier (drunker) and hugging pals.  We greet each other in natural light for a change, don’t need to yell out drink orders as if we were in a hurricane.
This Sunday matinee thing, I’m telling you. 
Shattered veterans of the late nights, all of us.  We’re out among friends like regular people, the band playing at a volume that doesn’t force a shout to say hello. 
We’ll all be home early enough tonight to watch Westworld then fall asleep to John Oliver

Driving home we talk about it, that was fun.

Will we do it again? 
There’s possibilities here, how much easier it would be to tour without the amps.
Maybe give Nick some Bongos, a Guitarrón Mexicano for Ant instead of the Rickenbacker and Ampeg.  

But as I lay in bed that night there’s something missing. 
We’re had a gig but in bed by Eleven. The clothes in the bedroom are not rank with spilled beer and sweat.
But that’s not it.

It’s that ringing, comforting as rain on the roof, missed only by its absence.

Home Improvement

I had every intention of painting those fucking bathroom cabinets, really.
Hideous chocolate brown.  Their very presence has haunted me for years.

Somehow you live with these type of things for years, ignoring them as you would a hidden skin tag.  Or simply not even seeing them any longer, the daily familiar becoming invisible as a broken banister or a middle child.
But if nothing else, this weird little timeout has brought every nagging little project back into focus.
The palm beds have been weeded and mulched, the carburetors on both bikes cleaned of the syrupy kiss of ethanol corrupted fuel.

Only the cabinets remain.

I have my Home Depot list in hand: TSP to clean, 150 grit paper to scuff.
Kilz primer, semi gloss the shade of dandelion fluff.
Pulls and hinges in brushed nickel, and hey—god willing?  some paper towels?

The car keys are in hand. a rare weight these days.  I have to put on the readers to check, as I can’t remember which button unlocks the doors with a chirping hiccup.

The dog looks at me, intrigued. You going out there?

But on the way out the door, I make the mistake of glancing at the flat screen, where the Firestick is now suggesting a few more music docs after last night’s Cadillac Tramps movie. 


image (1)


I went right from the sad tale of Johnny Thunders  to our hometown heroes’ heartbreaking rise and fall, Gabby passing just as it should’ve all come back together.
I surrender to bed then, no more movies tonight.
Fueled enough for the twisting night of dreams ahead, the missed opportunities and missed veins.


I actually am grateful for these movie recommendations, for I had no idea Amazon Prime possessed such quirky treasures.

That’s how it’s been these last few weeks, all these digital parasites becoming the most immediate virus of all. The invisible roommates, always there.

Alexa sits and listens, and after bitching about my aching joints the Facebook feed is nothing but knee braces and CBD gummies.
Kindle whispers to the Echo in the dark, gossiping about my fondness for The Band,
Suddenly It Makes No Difference is coming from somewhere in the house, bluetoothed from a hidden speaker.
Rick Danko’s plaintive cry like a wounded animal that must now be tracked and put out of misery.

Ah what the hell, I  surrender to the gravitational pull of the couch and click on the Fat Wreck flick  .
The dog jumps up next to me, satisfied that we are in place yet again.


It’s a worthy way to burn 90 minutes, and my respect for Propaghandi is renewed.
But more importantly, when I get up again another day is that much closer to being done.  And isn’t that what we’re doing here after all?
Hasn’t it become a waiting game, another sunset in this void bringing us that much closer to something?

I wander the paint aisle, socially distanced from the other shoppers disguised as bandits or interns on an archaeological dig.

A woman gives me hilariously wide berth as I pass by, hugging tight up against the cans of WD40 lest I invade her sanctuary of six feet.

At checkout, I stand on my appointed X, latex gloves snapped tight over my scalded hands.
My sunglasses, still on so I won’t commit the mortal sin of touching my eyeball, start to  fog from the breath diverted upward by my dust mask.
And these goddamn things, they tickle my nose.   I try to resist, I do.
But I finally have to surrender a satisfying sneeze.

People turn and look, shocked.  A Vietnamese couple simply drop their closet organizer kit and run for the door.
Shoppers give me double the distance now, backing away four meters, five, the orange buckets tumble in the chaos.
I expect the chant of  shame, shame!, feces hurled my way.

On the way home I take the mask off in the car.
At the stoplight an elderly lady pulls next to me, her face buried beneath N95  respirator and a plexiglass shield.
I turn and smile at her, my mouth naked and visible.
She flips me off.

No wonder the house is truly home now.
If haunted.
Connected by all these little electronic spirits, like fireflies dancing in the twilight, visible only by a single LED twinkle.  I am entranced, pulled close and comfortable, these guys know what I need after an exhausting adventure out there.

Amazon Prime suggests a study on Grant Hart’s final say.


And so it’s back to couch now, and I try to ignore the blue rolls of masking tape, just visible in the translucent shopping bags.
I absorb life in a van with Husker Du and the aftermath.
A life lived too short in Bob Mould’s shadow.

I get up now, stretch.  It’s past midnight again.
Maybe just take the doors off and unscrew the hinges, so shamefully painted over decades ago.  That will be a start.

But, what?
Hey, you didn’t tell me they also had that weird Replacements Movie,  that one with no Replacements music and no Replacements?

I sit back down, pat the spot next to me.
DeeDee rolls her eyes and curls up next to me on the couch, where we spend the next 2 hours watching our old pal Jack Rabid talk about a band bent on beautiful self destruction.
Trippy movie, the ultimate behind the music as the band doesn’t even bother to show up.


It’s late, feels almost a victory, another day passed.
The house is quiet excepting the occasional message chime from cell phone or a laptop blooping: new email.  We’ve become fluent in this new language, able to tell Instagram buzz from the tweet of a Tweet.

There is a synchronized vibration happening now, Ring tattles that there is motion at the front door.

Maybe that’s the most encouraging and terrifying alert of them all.
From out there?

I take a piss and brush my teeth, and a soft electronic chime pings from each device in the house, I imagine it’s just a soft goodnight.

I pause, toothbrush in mouth still.
A glance down at those cabinets at my knees, still brown.

Our Last Gig: Viper Room Hollywood

When was it, that this all started?
Maybe mid March?  I mean, I seem to remember all the St. Pats parties cancelled, but wasn’t that a lifetime ago?

Shelter in place, work from home, quarantine.
Whatever you call it, we each held onto own little notion of what these weeks would mean.

Oh, I thought. Piece o cake. A welcome break from routine, even.
After all, how often are we offered a chance to work from home-work on ourselves– and  shut out the distractions and temptations of everyday life?

When these stay in place orders came down, I was energized, not knowing which life goal to tackle first. I’m talking about those luxurious resolutions, long bookmarked for some mythical future place and time of leisure, just shimmering on the horizon like a reward.

Let’s see.  I have always wanted to be able to play guitar along to side two of Abbey Road. 
Or how about finally tackling Ulysses, and I’m talking about meeting Joyce on his own terms here, not just slogging through the streets of Dublin as plot driven narrative…..

Meditation perhaps? A whimsical return to the acrylic paints? Juggling?

So here’s what I have accomplished so far:


Yes, like many of you, these past weeks have descended into a harrowing dance of boredom and dread, gluttonous feedings at the twin troughs of guilty pleasure and anxious zeitgeist.

Days have melted together into a fevered nightmare.  Our new national discourse: Tiger King and Tik Tok
Clips of raccoons dancing to Lizzo. Raging debate on social media regarding white trash zoo keepers.   
Who wastes precious time on such stuff?  (But seriously. Fuck Carol Baskin.)  

I pull up a Youtube video on how to play Here Comes the Sun, all good intention that I will come out of this with something, goddamnit.

Then Netflix starts yet another 3 season series before you have a chance to cancel.
You sit back down on the couch, resigned.  Let’s binge just one more show, hmm?
This one follows  a subtitled detective around Oslo.
Are you still there? Netflix asks.   
Incredulous emphasis on the word:  Still?

I take a moment to think of my parents, faced with their defining moments.
Pop is on a ship moored just off the smoking finale of WWII, Mom huddles in a freezing boxcar on the way to an internment camp.  
Then a  heartbreaking loss on Golf Clash  has me hurtling the tablet to the floor. 
The Android chimes in that Door Dash has delivered.  Another pitiful day ends in melted cheese.
Mom. Dad.  Don’t look at me.

God, don’t you miss it?
Don’t you miss every mundane thing we took for granted, the traffic jams and standing in lines.  Crowded subway cars and video poker on germy machines, mere inches away from the strangers you detest. 

What about a dark and sweaty Hollywood nightclub, humid as a August night in Baton Rouge, fragrant as a marketplace in Mumbai.  


We stand on Sunset, it’s a Friday night. 
This was March 6 of this year mind you.  Seems a year ago for all that has changed.  

They stage us outside the club while Killroy wraps it up.  They load out quick, we load in quick, just time to tune up and plug into the club backline.   

Tiny stage tonight.
I can reach out and touch Kimm to my right, Anthony to my left, without straightening an elbow. 
I turn around and clank Nick’s ride cymbal with the Fender headstock. 
We are not social distanced, not by a longshot. 
Hell, haven’t even heard of it yet.

It’s a packed on the floor too, people here to see TSOL in a small club on their anniversary tour.

And people are also out tonight just because.  A giddy sense that things may soon change is in the air, the bar is packed 3 deep.
Uncontrollable laughter in the cellar while the tornado approaches, it feels like that.  
There’s rumors of cancelled gigs on the horizon, disturbing images from Italy and China. 

But for tonight we’re alright, we’re in here together. 
And we’re together by inches, brother. 
We play a quick set, the room bounces along.



We get off stage and load out straight back onto Sunset, visible steam rising off our sweat drenched shirts. The street is already quieter than it should be for a weekend night, but it feels great to be out here. 
We take in gulps of fresh night air, like surfaced submariners allowed their turn up the hatch for 90 delicious seconds.  

We lock the gear in cars and go back up the steps to catch the TSOL set, all the while being hugged by friends and shaking hands with strangers.
All thought of caution gone now.  We are resigned to share the germs alive or dormant with the others in this room, none of us knowing the sober reality that lies just beyond the weekend.   
Jack and the guys hit the stage, they roar into Abolish Government, the pit goes off. 
A girl licks a monitor on a dare.  Someone spits a  mouthful of beer from the middle of the floor.
Sweaty bodies collide and deflect into new slam pits, a pattern mutating like an  insidious virus that lurks just there. 


Tomas Tanaka photos

I think about that night now, so long ago, just a mere six weeks ago.

 I thrill at the memory of guitars turned up loud and just out of tune, then shudder at the thought of all of us packed together in that room, not a mask or latex glove to be seen.   When will it ever get back to normal, and what will that normal be?

So we’re asked to stay in place, knock this thing out as a country.
The math of the whole thing makes sense.

And really, what are we being asked to do in our moment of crisis, beyond staying in, being cool….. I dunno, not being assholes?   

The Netflix screen changes in my periphery, asks if I am still there.
Yeh man, still here.