I left my heart in Southern California.

I try to update this about once a week, and I aim for Fridays. But lately, I've just been feeling pretty down, and I think a lot of that has to do with me having returned from Southern California almost two weeks ago.

I spent a decent amount of time out there, which is something I'd never had the opportunity to at length before, and the entire time felt like a waking dream. But nevertheless is also felt like, and was, a blessing.

Where I live is the death and absolute bane of human existence, and I say that with as little dramatics as I can possibly muster. It's a town called Arizona City, in...well, Arizona. Imagine that.

The irony is it isn't even an actual city. It isn't incorporated. There are a few businesses here and there, and somehow a Domino's, but other than that it's about thirteen miles away from the closest semblance of civilization. However, that town is called Casa Grande, and it isn't exactly the epicenter of culture either. That towns economic stability is almost solely resting on the shoulders of a Wal Mart, and a Wal Mart distribution center that employ, last time I checked, 20-30% of the towns working populous.

To paint the picture as clearly as possible, if you've seen the movie "Three Kings" with Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg and George Clooney, try your best to recall that landscape. In the movie, you're under the impression that it's the tale of four soldiers at the tail-end of Desert Storm at the beginning of the cease-fire agreement. Try and remember that landscape thats sold to you as Iraq and Kuwait.

That movie was shot in Arizona City, and Casa Grande predominantly.

But this is where I've spent most of my life, in this area. As much as one would think you'd get acclimated to it...you really don't. Not if you've ever seen, even at a glance, a picture of a great city like London, Paris, Toronto, Seattle, New York or San Francisco.

But the trappings are so strong here, those small town trappings. When I went to Casa Grande Union High School...which...top notch educational facility they have their (it was designed and modeled by the same people who make the prisons in Arizona. Looks like one, too. Bars on windows, impending gates and on campus cops and security guards outnumber most of the office faculty.)

But when I went to CGUHS, I took notice of something that I feel led to me having a break down, because it seemed like no one else noticed it: Most of the teachers used to be students at that very same school.

It's something to me that was very subtle. As subtle as having a dictator on a Nations currency, I feel. In the way that it felt like, man...if these educators didn't make it out...what fucking chance do I really have?

I've grown to despise and hate most of the faces I've known my entire life, because they are the same exact fucking people that were there before them. So many married young, had kids and discovered meth. Walking into the Airport Tavern for the first time this year, was one of the most depressing things I've ever done in my life.

Walking into the bar and seeing all these grimaced faces choking down gulp after gulp of some old shot they'd ordered a million times before, making passes at the girl at the end of the bar who's had five kids and should be at home taking care of them so they don't carjack me in eight years, or take me hostage when I'm at the Quick Trip. Instead, they are there at this bar thats ironically placed at the edge of town, a place they won't ever go past because of the great unknown.

And you sit back and watch this with a drink in hand, and you realize, the only thing that separates you from them is this passage you've built in your head that somehow you have more cultural wisdom and intelligence than they have; too afraid to admit it's most likely denial of the inevitable.

It's like the ship of the Damned in William Faulkner's 'Mosquitoes'. You realize all these other people are dead, you just don't want to accept the fact that somehow...you're just as much a cadaver as they are; you're every bit as damned.

So I wound up having an opportunity to cover the Warped Tour in California on August 17th. At first it felt like a passing idea, but as time drew much more near it became evident that this was actually going to happen.

The trip started off with a friend and I going to meet another friend who was in town (and being so fucking gracious in taking me with her to California, and even more so to let me stink up her futon.) We meet her and her mother and her mother's boyfriend. Some drinking ensued for a dew days, another pal stopped by for a while...more drinking ensued, there was a baseball game which was one of the best times I've ever had in my life.

Before we'd even left Arizona I was already realizing how much of a deviation this was going to be from my tomb of normality. I consider myself a person who handles (and thrives) on change. I feel I react extremely well to on the spot things, and everything getting turned on it's head, and I started to break out of this shell I've been building for myself for months.

Everything I'd convinced myself I wasn't a fan of, I became receptive towards, and began to enjoy things I'd written off. The most obvious of this would be that normally I'm a proprietor of flight. Why? Because I hate, hate, hate...hate long distance travels. Even a seven hour flight to Chicago drove me insane, once. But one key benefactor is: I was basing all my hatred for long distances in cars and buses off of the fact that I usually travel solo.

When I rode with Velvet (the kindly girl whom let me hitch a ride and sleep on her futon) it was just a completely different experience.

Now, I've been to California enough times that I think if I go again I have to start paying state taxes. But I love California. Well, Southern California. I've not had the pleasure of heading up North yet. But I love California. It's a complete contrast: A different world than anywhere I've ever lived/been before.

I love Boston, I love New York City. I'm okay with Albany, NY. Chicago was great! Denver, Colorado Springs (birthplace, yo) are a lot of fun. I can live a hundred more years and never think of another reason to go to New Mexico and New Jersey again. We should give those back to Mexico, and England (respectively.)

But the point I'm trying to make is that, out of all the places I've ever been, Southern California as a whole is the one place I've ever felt completely alive and happy. It's honestly why I continuously make excuses to go there. Whenever I'm depressed with my life, when I feel I've hit a creative block or hit an emotional speed bump in my life, I've always found the love I felt I've never truly had in California.

Most people hate, with vehement passion, Los Angeles. They hate the contrast of 'glamor' and 'glitz' with the inverse of crime and degradation. Even me, myself, should hate the polarizing effect that a place like the Sunset Strip of Hollywood casts on people, because, well...I hate all things that are that fake, but for some reason it's a different beast of burden when I'm there.

In New York City theres girls with bent-noses walking down 42nd Street in tight-fitting, skimpy uniforms where they serve wings or "dance" for business men. This is their way of "showcasing" their "talent" in hopes of one day being asked to dance in a play on Broadway. Everyone has an education and a degree in self-importance, but most work at 'chic' hotels or fashion boutiques because everyone else has that same education and degree. Educated idiots drowning in a cesspool of the American Dream. But each and everyone of these people are 100% convinced that they will be a success. Men and women.

But you enter a place like Sunset Strip, and even though it's flooded with Japanese tourists and people with costumes of movie characters that maybe weren't even that great in the first place, theres the people who live there. Who breathe that uncirculated air of Hollywood's ghosts, praying to God that some how their lungs are gonna fill with Marylin Monroe's ghost.

Their birth place as far as they are concerned, is the sidewalk of Mann's Chinese Theater. Yet somehow when you look into the eyes of some bleached blonde, forty-something woman who's lived a much harder life than I ever will, you see in the back of that glossy exterior that they themselves realize that their final resting place is going to inevitably be Skid Row.

And for some reason, I love that. Not the abandonment of it all, but the people watching. The stories in faces that I couldn't ever fathom of putting to paper: They come to life when everything else seems so dead and gray.

And it's such an odd phenomena, to see something so over-polished and self-assured be so gritty and full of doubt when you scrape it with your finger nails.

I want to breathe that. I want to breathe the dregs of society; I want to bask in ebb and flow of humanities breaking point. Because when everything seems so disgusting, you can turn right around and see a street performer who probably works weeknights at Kinko's or the Comfort Inn, playing guitar just because he or she didn't feel like staying in. Somehow the expression of art is more affluent in the places where commercialization of culture won't ever touch.

And then you leave that area, and go to other great and fun places. Pomona, San Clemente...all over, and theres still so much to take in. It's such an odd thing for me, to see people who live there not even realize they are being inspected with eyes wide full of curiosity. How can they not notice, even after having lived there for however long they have, that where they are standing is the only place that makes sense in this entire country?

Perfect weather, a diversity of races combining to co-exist and create a mesh of cultures that really, I've not seen anywhere else.

I made some new friends this time around, and I got to be with old friends. I got to spend time with the one person who makes my whole existence seem somewhat validated, and I know I wasn't even deserving of that much. She's so incredible, it honestly hurts not to be able to bug her face to face now.

I started off the second leg of this trip (first being the days spent in Phoenix) at, really, for all intents and purposes is a frat house. Thai food, a crazy neighbor, three white kids not comfortable with the community. Read: Anyone brown they were weary of. A black room mate I barely got to talk too, but was still a rad dude. And one very on edge Editor of a certain magazine who became very anxious when I started saying, "minority" loudly. (Sorry man, sometimes I shouldn't be brought out in public.)

One afternoon, a few of the room mates and I made the trek to China Town. Patrick (who's really hairy) Wesley (who's lived in Africa, but is somehow white) and his gal pal, who...I've forgotten her name. Sorry. And a Mexican named Hector, who isn't a stereotype whatsoever (living in Southern California, drives a van...name is Hector. It's okay, I'm half beans and rice). So we went to China town, and had some great sandwiches. Thing is, I love mustard, and there was this condiment bottle I thought was mustard (it was yellow-ish) and liberally squirted on my sandwich.

I should have known better. The Chinese are fuck crazy with their condiments. After being convinced there was an exorcism in my mouth, and the Devil was winning, the gentleman in front of me was wiping tears away from his eyes, and saying "I should have warned you, but I figured you knew." Yeah, funny man. I'm used to hot things, not nuclear garnishments. Fuck you, funny man. Fuck you.

But China Town can eat a dick. Everyone there is full of evil, and shoddy masonry.

The third leg of the trip saw me being put in a scenario, as good as I am with change...took me so far out of my element, I thought surely I would die. See, I'm 22 and love comic books. I've been a nerd for thirteen years strong. Futon crashing at a pretty girls house (a pretty girl who makes my voice crack, even though I've been done with puberty forever). She finds it all hilarious. I'm glad I could be such a source of the funny during my time in California, guys. So glad...

We had a lot of fun, and...a doomed expedition to the Warped Tour, which saw the casualty of her vehicle. To be fair, the expedition was doomed the second the term "Warped Tour" was thrown in the mix. So she had to tend to getting her car towed, I however was now all alone in the town of Carson, California, surrounded by walking advocation's for abortion. I hate the youth of today.

But I got a nifty press pass, and was allowed to walk backstage. Now, a few things come to the top of the list here. Meeting and watching Rise Against from side stage, check. Getting to hang out at length with Hunter from AFI/Hunter Revenge, and Aaron from Reel Big Fish, as well as getting to meet the legendary thrash punk band, DI, and getting invited on side stage to watch the most passionate performance I'd seen in quite a while. But two things really come to mind.

First off, it seemed like every other song on KROQ in California is "I Kissed A Girl" by Katy Perry. Katy Perry for those who don't know (and good for you if you didn't) is the latest record company creation to generate revenue from sexual ambiguity. Katy Perry however, has been in the music industry for a while. See Katy Perry, or Katy Hudson as she used to known, recorded albums in a previous life for a Christian label. I'm an atheist, but that rubs me the wrong way. I'd kill for some convictions in this modern world.

So I'm talking with Aaron from Reel Big Fish, and we're slapping our knees at having the same name, when this broad starts signing autographs. Now, I'd heard the song, and glanced at the video (in hopes of girl make outs, I'll confess.) but I couldn't, even know with a gun pointed at my beloved cat Rizzo's cute head, pick her out of a crowd. So I asked him whom she was, and he said he hadn't a clue (though I suspect he did, but wanted to see where this was going) so I said, "Fuck this. I'm going to ask her. Excuse me, who are you?"

Katy Perry: "I'm Katy Perry."
Me: *blank stare*
Rando slut-fan in booty gym shorts, annoyed: "She has a song on the radio."
Me: "I still have no clue who you are."
Rando slut-fan, more annoyed: "She's on MTV."
Me: "I still have no idea who this lesbian is."

Imagine the egg on my face.

The second highly notable event would be, a few posts back (What To Wear When Swimming With Sharks) I'd taken many pot shots at Max Bemis.

I don't hate the guy, I know major label bands don't make any money, and I do thoroughly enjoy "...Is A Real Boy", but that being said, I still take grievance at his new practices. So Say Anything was one of the headlining bands at this particular date, and I thought I'd make his acquaintance. So I do, and I introduce myself. I then go on to say I write for Racket Magazine, and of course here at Piss and Vinegar, and had written a piece about him.

A light visibly went off in the crazy man's head, and even though I'd known he'd read the piece (several posts on AbsolutePunk, a reference in Punknews weekly Navel Gazing, as well as thirty emails and posts on his bands message board will ensure things like this) I was shocked he wasn't pummeling my face with his angry little fists. He smiled, laughed, and it seemed alright.

But the rest of the trip...yeah. After Velvet came back and picked me up (I would've left me to die) we went back to her place.

I bonded with her awesome turtle, Yertle. There were some bad jokes (told by me) and funny jokes (told by her) and a general havoc wreaking on my every attempt not to beg for her hand. Whatever, I don't want to come off as lame...

The last night was something with her/in California is something thats gonna be burned into my memory, until I've killed those cells with Sam Adams. But even then, I think I'll still have the feeling left, and to be honest...it was the best time, this whole trip, that I've ever had in my life.

Certain people have that ability in your life that can restore your faith thats been shattered. But even more few and elusive people can transcend that, and every once in a while you come across one or two people in particular that make every ounce of shit in life worth it. I have a hard time expressing this to people, but I wish them to know that I've never taken a moment of knowing them for granted. Not her especially.

Jonathan was a great host. I'll never look at Olympic gymnastics the same again. The other room mates are slightly less crazy, but insane just the same...and I hope that never changes about them.

Theres a lot of people I didn't get to see that I wanted too. Hopefully if there is a next time, I will.

The train ride home felt like defeat, but at the same time...it was beautiful. I read Robert Sheffields, "True Love Is A Mixtape" and at one point couldn't help but weep, when he talked of his wife's passing. I hope one day I can mean that much to someone.

But now I'm gonna end this post with the following: This right here is the second most honest thing I've ever (poorly) written in my life. Theres a lot more that happened than I'll ever manage to replicate in an online setting. I hope I never forget a second of it.

There was a lot of self-discovery. Theres a lot of emptiness at this moment knowing this right now in my life isn't what I want. But I'll have to keep going on, and on, and on, and on (to quote Against Me! *We Laugh At Danger (And Break All The Rules.)*) But I also got to experience the people I feel closest too, and for that, I'm more than grateful; I'm in eternal karmic debt. Thank you for that.

And in closing, I leave those I spent time with this play list. I hope they get the time to listen to the songs, and hear what it is I'm not gonna ever be able to say: I left my heart in Southern California.

Side One: I Know You're Leaving (Baby, I've Done The Same.)

1.) Lemuria - Pants (Album: Get Better)
2.) The Gaslight Anthem - 1930 (Album: Sink or Swim)
3.) Billy Reese Peters - Mexico (Album: Almost Heaven)
4.) Murder by Death - Spring Break, 1899 (Album: Red of Tooth and Claw)
5.) Chuck Ragan - California Burritos (Album: Loz Feliz)
6.) Manchester Orchestra - I Can Barely Breathe (Album: I'm Like A Virgin Losing a Child)
7.) The Velvet Teen - Radiapathy (Album: Out of The Fierce Parade)
8.) Alkaline Trio - San Francisco (Album: Goddammit)
9.) Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven (Album: Led Zeppelin IV)**

**For a very specific memory.

Side Two: I'm Barely Standing, But Standing Nonetheless.

1.) Tegan and Sara - The Con (Album: The Con)
2.) Billy Reese Peters - Almost Heaven (Album: Almost Heaven)
3.) The Gaslight Anthem - High Lonesome (Album: The 59 Sound)
4.) Alkaline Trio - Do You Wanna Know? (Album: Agony and Irony)
5.) Against Me! - Sink Florida, Sink (Live in London!!! Americans Abroad!!!)
6.) Bob Dylan - Forever Young (Album: World Gone Wrong)

Thats all folks! See ya Friday.


The Emperor said...

Editorial Notes:

The trip started off with a friend ... Some drinking ensued for a dew days, - few days.

Wesley's girlfriend is Hailey.

Phillipe's may be in Chinatown, but it's just known as an amazing place for Roast Beef Dips. Even Rachel "ho-bag" Ray did a show on it. The spicy mustard get's 'em every time.

Gimme a review of Warped already.

signals said...

i enjoyed this a lot man.