My live music superlatives so far

I’m getting old. I have a bad back. My knees grind whenever I take the stairs. My hair has receded clear off my scalp entirely. I’m starting to really feel the slow physical degradation that goes along with the aging process, every day of my life.

I tell myself that age is a construct, that it means nothing, that it has only the power you grant it. This is true to some extent, and while reminding myself of that does help, it only gets me so far. There is no denying my exterior travel casing is long out of warranty, and is starting to wear out.

To compensate, I try to do things old people do not do. I think of the oldest person I know, which is my dad. He has always been the oldest person I know. What would Dad never have done when he was my age, i.e., in his late forties? Would he have, say, spent a weeknight in a packed music hall while a hillbilly surf rock band threw fried chicken at the crowd?

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Southern Culture on the Skids @ Slim’s (RIP), San Francisco, CA (2019)

I think not.

But preventing myself from turning into my father is not the only reason I still go to shows. I go because I love them. I love the crackling energy of the good ones, especially in smaller venues. I love the unpredictability of the performances, the beer spilled on my shoes, the low-key seediness of it all. I love spending two hours in the same room as the people who recorded some of my favorite music, sometimes close enough to cough on them. Live music makes me feel like I’m squeezing the most fun I possibly can out of life. It’s one of the best parts of living in San Francisco. I make it a point to catch a show whenever a good one pops up on the local events calendar. Right now that means not at all, because, well, you know why. (For posterity’s sake: Covid-19. Duh.) But I mean before that, before that.

When I lived in Florida, I did not have access to the surfeit of shows I have here. Florida is not on the way to anywhere else, so a lot of bands just skip it entirely. Those that don’t will usually stick to one or possibly two of the Miami / Orlando / Jacksonville triumvirate, none of which I lived in and two of which I actively loathed (Miami is seriously underrated though). I appreciate what I have—or have had, I guess—here in San Francisco, I really do.

Going to shows is one of the two or three things I miss the most now that we’re in semi-permanent lockdown status. I’ve been thinking a lot about the shows I’ve seen in my life—the good, the bad, the unexpected, the disappointing—and I’ve compiled a list of the ones that have stood out for me, and why I still think about them all these years later.

Here it is.

Continue reading “My live music superlatives so far”

Last week’s Literary Speakeasy at Martuni’s

Thanks to everyone who came out to listen to all us writers last week. I’d never read there before, but it’s been a favorite local event of mine for the last several months. James always does a great job of putting it together. I had wanted to read something new but I couldn’t finish anything that I liked enough or was short enough, so I read an older piece, “Hugo,” which is in the collection I’m currently trying to place. Thanks again to everyone who came out, and I’ll see you at some lit literary event around town.

 

The books I read in 2019

This is a potentially incomplete list of all the books I remember reading last year. I was going to put it on Twitter a few weeks ago, but nah. Why should Twitter get all the good stuff?

So, in no particular order:

  • Everything Matters – Ron Currie
  • The Blurry Years – Eleanor Kriseman
  • Less – Andrew Sean Greer
  • Dirty Boulevard: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Lou Reed
  • Tales from Nowhere – Lonely Planet
  • Homesick for Another World – Ottessa Moshfegh
  • Love is a Mix Tape – Rob Sheffield
  • Cool Gray City of Love – Gary Kamiya
  • The Incendiaries – R.O. Kwon
  • Hark – Sam Lipsyte
  • 1Q84* – Haruki Murakami
  • Solaris* – Stanislaw Lem
  • Bukowski in a Sundress – Kim Addonizio
  • The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States – Jeffrey Lewis
  • A Thousand Distant Radios – Woody Skinner
  • Severance – Ling Ma
  • The White Album – Joan Didion
  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost – Rebecca Solnit
  • The Taxidermist’s Catalog – James Brubaker
  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle – George V. Higgins
  • Motherless Brooklyn – Jonathan Lethem
  • The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells – Andrew Sean Greer 
  • Bartleby – Herman Melville
  • Benito Cereno – Herman Melville
  • No Longer At Ease – Chinua Achebe
  • Favorite Monster – Sharma Shields
  • They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us – Hanif Abdurraqib
  • Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink – Elvis Costello
  • All the Sad Young Literary Men – Keith Gessen
  • Florida – Lauren Goff
  • Appointment in Samarra – John O’Hara
  • The Power of Point of View – Alicia Rasley
  • Story Genius – Lisa Cron
  • To Show and To Tell – Phillip Lopate
  • Bitches Brew – George Grella Jr.
  • Live at the Apollo – Douglas Volk

The last two on this list are those little 33 1/3 books published by Bloomsbury; if you’re a music lover and a particular kind of nerd, you should check them out. They’re tons of fun.

The three before that are writing craft books. I feel like I read more than just three of those last year; I should make a point to read more of them this year.

The books with an asterisk are ones I didn’t finish and probably won’t try to in the future.

As far as the rest of the list goes, there were a few re-reads (the Melville, the Didion and the Higgins), but I’m trying not to revisit many books these days, since there are so so so many out there that I want to read but haven’t. For 2020 I’d like to get the number of female authors up a bit, and I’d definitely like the next edition of this list to be less white.

New story published: “The Insomniac Traveler’s Guide to the Lost Pyramids of Quartzsite, Arizona” at Big Muddy

I have a new story up today, which makes two new publications in about five weeks (I also got another acceptance today, but I’m not going to crow about that until it’s actually in print). I’m a big believer in closing the year out strong, I guess.

Like the last one, this piece is also part of the collection I am trying to place, so if you’re an agent or an editor, or you know people like that who might be interested, hit me up.

Here’s the link. I hope you dig it.