assorted photos taken between 2007 and the present in the following places: Austin, TX; Niland, CA; Bombay Beach, CA; Shaver Lake, CA; San Francisco, CA; El Centro, CA; Alamogordo, NM; Los Angeles, CA; Half Moon Bay, CA; Grand Canyon, AZ; Monticello, NY; Bakersfield, CA; and London, UK.
Last night, I was outside of Men Oh Tokushima Ramen with a group of friends, talking about our mutual interest in seeing the recent, disastrous, Lindsay Lohan-fronted film The Canyons and waxing about how despised it has been by critics. (We watched it later in the night, and for the record, it is exactly as bad as it is claimed to be, not even so-bad-it’s-good.) On the topic of movies that got terrible reviews but that we actually liked, the 2000 movie The Beach came up. It was a crudely executed platform for Leonardo DiCaprio to run around all sexy and shirtless on a very scenic Thai beach, but it had a high entertainment value and a pretty great soundtrack for that era (Underworld, New Order, Blur, Leftfield, Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti even does a track on it with Orbital) and nestled amongst the tracks was Sugar Ray of all godforsaken bands covering this Eno/Cale masterpiece. Don’t believe me? Listen for yourself. And don’t tell anyone, but their cover is not half bad. Anyways, it reminded me to listen to the original, which is amazing.
2. Willie Nelson – Last Thing I Needed the First Thing This Morning
“What do you listen to?” “Oh, I like everything. Well, everything but country.”
No. Fuck you. Get some Willie Nelson in your life. Cozy up to a box of Kleenex for this one.
3. Gerry Raferty – Baker Street
I’ve taken to listening to the “Classic Rewind” station nonstop for the past week (I recommend weaning yourself off of Spotify’s teat of predictability and letting the gods of the radio airwaves endow you with whatever treasures they will) and holy shit, no one tells you how good saxophone-driven ballads sound blasting out of your car in Los Angeles after dark. Seriously, crank this with your hair swept back and do 50mph on Sunset and tell me that you don’t feel like a private investigator who always get his guy.
4. King Krule – Easy Easy
How is this dude 18-years-old? Kid’s got the deep guts of someone three times his age. He’s like Tom Waits, Billy Bragg, and Elvis Costello in the body of The Breakfast Club-era Anthony Michael Hall. I fell into a King Krule k-hole the other day and never looked back.
5. Van Halen – Why Can’t This Be Love
We’re all aware of Fleetwood Mac’s comeback in youth cultural vocabularies, as well as the Millennial adoration of Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, etc. So where’s Van Halen’s moment? Every single one of their goddamn songs is a stadium-worthy anthem. Listening to this song is like shotgunning a can of Red Bull on top of a mountain with lightning striking its pinnacle and the love of your life standing before you. I’m not even messing with you. I often wish rock ‘n’ roll was still epic like this and that 14-year-olds were having romantic moments to this kind of shit in parking lots instead of giving each other handjobs to Bruno Mars or whatever they’re doing. Till then, I’ll just be lip syncing to this on my own.
It’s 1:07am, and I’m driving down Sunset Blvd listening to Dire Straits, “Skateaway.” Crumpled in my passenger seat is a paper bag full of crumb donuts. I am heading home from a new friend’s backyard, where we ate watermelon and sipped beer by candlelight. And I can’t remember why I ever hated Los Angeles.
You know she used to have to wait around She used to be the lonely one But now that she can skate around town She’s the only one No fears alone at night / she’s sailing through the crowd In her ears the phones are tight and the music’s playing loud She gets rock ‘n’ roll / and a rock ‘n’ roll station And a rock ‘n’ roll dream She’s making movies on location She don’t know what it means
In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I’ve spent 25 of the 27 years of my life, Los Angeles is forever the butt of a variety of jokes. Too shallow or too crunchy, too smoggy or too gaudy, it often feels like our embarrassing, try-hard cousin that can’t seem to get a grip on reality. We see it as the kingdom of the Kardashians, the purgatory where overtanned lemmings with fake Prada sunglasses line up for 35 minutes to get frozen yogurt. An overhead map would reveal a bellowing cough of carbon monoxide air sludge hovering on Medusa’s tangled freeway system, with a cacophony of honks marking the collective frustration of crawling along in a vehicle that could, in theory, be going 160mph. In short, we feel too cool for it.
But I’m here to admit that I was looking at LA all wrong. Sure, there’s the traffic and the surreal celebrity aspect, but they are by no means the dominating feel of this sprawling, shape-shifting Southern California world. Instead, I’ve found here a more Lebowskian universe, one where there’s always a bowling alley open somewhere, where weirdos are welcome to indulge all of their lifestyle fantasies in a way far less pretentious than the freak show that is SF, and where it’s perfectly comfortable to be shopping for kitchen sponges at the 99¢ store at 2pm on a Monday. There is no rush, as there can be no rush. Time operates like honey being poured out of a jar in a slow, measured gallop—you’ll get there, but you learn to watch and wait. Everyone here likes to go on hikes, from my laced up friends who work at big-name studios to my thoroughly punk rock pals, and there’s space.
There’s space between me and the next person walking down the street, space for me to stretch on the living room floor, enough space in the 1-bedroom apartment we’re subletting that I have to shout in order for my roommate to hear me from the kitchen. There are floor-to-ceiling windows, scattered palm trees, warm breezes, taco stands, nail salons, and chihuahuas. I came home at 2am the other night to find half a dozen of my neighbors out in the street, shining a flashlight up a telephone pole to watch two raccoons fight to the death. It’s a place to make and tell stories. I can hear things off in space, echoing off the corners of different galaxies; I heard The Cars’ “Drive” softly from the distance at 4am the other night while I was sleeping with the windows open.
I know that it’s un-PC to like driving—whipping around in an exhaust-spewing thing when I could be biking or bussing or whatever. But I love riding in my car, humming along with my radio, looking for a diner that’s still serving when most of us are sleeping. I’ll soon be abandoning it for subways and leather jackets and bagels, but right now, this place ain’t half bad.