I LOVE SEX, REALLY I DO.
It’s in my Top 3 of Life. It’s my path to enlightenment. All you need is love.
Turns out that “sex and drugs and rock and roll,” that ’60s rallying cry-mantra-lifestyle choice meant to tweak the minds and morals of the Establishment, was at least two-thirds good in the long run. But even as a young man, a willingly dedicated and loving father at 22, I knew that family was more important than drugs.
The drugs part was fun and could, like the other two, lead to enlightenment, but it was also problematic. You could get busted (a close friend of mine went to prison). People died. They’re still dying. Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, two weeks ago. Some are bigger artistic losses than others. Amy Winehouse. Coltrane. Billie Holiday. Jimi in his 70s today would likely still amaze; no telling where he might have gone (my guess, cozmic jazz).
So as much as I’m just fine with sex and family and rock and roll, I have to say the sex was my least favorite part of an overall moving and inspiring evening of poetry at the Ruskin Theater here Sunday night, their monthly event called Library Girl. But don’t get me wrong — the sex was very, very good.
Library Girl is the ongoing project of Santa Monica poet Susan Hayden, years ago a nightly regular on the reading circuit until love interfered and she decided being gone every night wasn’t the formula for a great marriage. So she cut back but kept writing, and then the unthinkable crashed her cozy world – her husband was killed in an avalanche in the San Gabriel mountains. Walked out the door to go backpacking and never came back.
She tried to cope by writing non-stop, and throwing herself into a frantic sequence of attending performances — poetry, sports, concerts, parades, you name it — with her young son, and found the healing value of being out there, rather than hiding away.
Each month’s Library Girl has a theme. Last Sunday evening’s was not sex, but it was one Hayden could relate to: “Any Rough Times are Now Behind You,” which is the title of one of Dave Alvin’s books of verse; fitting, as he was the featured poet, and why I was there.
I’ve followed Alvin since moving to LA in 1980, first in the Blasters, then X and the Knitters, then in a series of solo and collaborative works that were always interesting and good. I was only vaguely aware that he had written poetry, and knew I had to be at the Ruskin when I learned the last time he read was 20 years ago.
It was pretty wonderful. You’d think more songwriters would try poetry, they’re so similar. Alvin’s a great storyteller. His first poem was titled, “Chris Gaffney Hates Poetry,” about a telling conversation they had during a long car trip. Funny, and a great character sketch of Alvin and his close friend and musical collaborator, who died too soon, of cancer at 57. I love Gaffney’s work, especially the second album by his Hacienda Brothers, the singular, nuanced “Western soul” gumbo perfection of “What’s Wrong with Right.” Alvin’s final poem was about a visit to his father in the hospital, and he choked up right at the end. How often do you get such real emotion from a stage?
Alvin and Hayden were both singing the praises so mightily of their mentor Gerald Locklin, for 42 years a professor at CSU Long Beach, that I didn’t know what to expect when he took the stage, and that’s just what I got. He was charming, funny, confident, absent-minded, insisted on singing several times in possibly the worst voice I’ve ever heard (move over, Burt Bacharach), and when he finished I could understand the admiration. He said he needed a vocal warm-up and launched into screeching Pagliacci, told us Alvin was brilliant and could have easily breezed through a PhD in Lit, acknowledged the 100th anniversary of Sinatra’s birth by running through “Chicago” (with choreography), told us Elvis wasn’t it but Johnny Ray was (sang/spoke “Cry,” of course), and concluded (strangely, I thought — no, the rest wasn’t strange, it was marvelous) by croaking the lyrics to Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” after declaring, “Barbra and I sing in the same key.”
So, you’re still wondering — the sex? Well, that was the third poet, Alexis Rhone Fancher. Her credits are impressive and award-winning, and what I heard that night was a poet whose presentation was so captivating that I had to intentionally listen for just the words, separate from the delivery, to measure the naked writing artisrty (if you will). She is exceptionally talented, admirably economic, a vivid painter with words. But the paintings she chose to speak that night were all about sex, graphic sex, sex in cars sex in bars, and it was just a bit too much. I will have to catch her on some other night when she’s not so horny.
BEWARE PRIORITY MAIL!
So I’ve got this million dollar cashier’s check (well, a little less) I need to get to Albuquerque ASAP. I go to the Neilsen Way PO and get advice. It’s Thursday, almost 5 p.m. Priority mail, I’m told, will definitely get it there for Saturday morning’s mail delivery, guaranteed. Twenty bucks, please.
But first it took 24 hours to get to Burbank. I think I could have walked it there in that time. Then it was sent to Tucson. The lady I spoke to Saturday said, “I’m pretty sure that was a mistake.” She also said it will definitely be delivered on Monday.
Then it sat in Tucson for exactly two and a half days. Monday I call. There’s no indication it has landed in Albuquerque yet. It’s 450 miles from Tucson to Albuquerque and I think I could have skateboarded it there in that time. “It will definitely be delivered on Tuesday,” I’m told. It’s now Tuesday noon, and no word that it has hit Albuquerque yet.
So if you’ve got an important holiday package, consider Andrews’ Priority Delivery Service. Bike, skateboard or by foot, I guarantee delivery and I deliver on my guarantees.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Where words fail, music speaks.” – Hans Christian Andersen
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org