Posts Tagged ‘Lou Reed’

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae: Mudhoney part one.

October 7, 2015

Mudhoney part one.


High Street in the mid to late 1980’s probably resembled most college town strips, rows and rows of bars serving pitchers or even plastic buckets of beer, beers for a quarter, tacky named drinks like “Sex on the Beach”, “Flaming Dr. Pepper”, $.50 shots of bubblegum flavored schnapps and Jell-O shots because who wouldn’t want to have a nice slimy sickly sweet mound of rubberized alcohol with luc-warm keg beer in a plastic cup? As the moon settled over the brightly lit destination, it would become overflowing with every type of stereotype of American, as young tie-dyed women with long flowing hair bounced off the curbs, twirling Eddi Brickell curly long hair into the night, vying for their attention were thick-necked and thicker-skulled frat boys arms bulging from weight sets next to dorm refrigerators fueled by twelve-packs of Old Milwaukee, they were here to score pussy damnit!, trying to be innocuous were the punks and burgeoning Goths, silently blending into the fabric of the concrete street with darkened mascara eyes, fishnet stockings and towering mohawks, and on the further outskirts were the other misfits, the soon to be called Gen-Xerox indie-rockers, we with jeans and rock concert tee-shirts, clothing picked fresh from the plentiful thrift stores, where the 1950’s and 60’s were not so long in passing. There would be rows and rows of shiny button up shirts for men, pill-box hats for women and even rows of formal dresses that would make Jackie Onassis proud. Bars after bars vied for all of this attention, with the vast majority catering to the white middle-class students, there was one bar on the strip that catered to the African-American students and of course, Crazy Mama’s that was the cauldron of Goth-punk-indie STD stew, where punk rock guys really did go out with new wave girls.

College radio was the invisible string the tied the huddled pockets of punks, new-wavers and the black mascara crowd together across campuses around the country. Meager, tiny sounds emanating from silver metal radio towers, perching high on libraries, gymnasiums and English buildings provided small budding scenes with a fuel and energy that encouraged the sharing of music, ideas and romance. Major labels would devote entire departments to market records to this small crowd of passionate fans, although none of them appeared to care to much to bringing many of these bands to a wider audience as mainstream radio was rife with payola and the white-bread sounds of Phil Collins, Lionel Richie, Hall and Oates and on the hard-rock stations, it was Def Leppard, RATT and genteel versions of ZZ Top and Van Halen (i.e. “Velcro Fly” and “Jump.”) It wasn’t until the overwhelming success of R.E.M. that was built town by town, show by show, record by record over seven years that the major labels decided to spend a bit more even then the popularity of “college” rock was relegated to university campuses, record stores and the midnight 120 minutes show on MTV. Unknown at the time was the importance of struggling but essential gateways to this music, which was the independent record label. It would be difficult to think of music today without the heavy stone foundation laid by bands such as Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, the Replacements, Scrawl, Husker Du and the Bad Brains, all of which sprung from the indie-label scene.

It was upon this stage that many of us sowed our oats, filling our young pockets with the vibrant echoes of music that could transform a day of idleness to one of pure creative output, with fingers clutching onto the cardboard sleeve of our favorite record at the moment, transportation came the moment the needle struck the grooves. The secret handshakes were the concert tee-shirts we wore, the rolled up fanzines we stuck in our back pockets and the glee of live music, as the notes invaded our ears, we caromed off one another, bouncing to and fro from the bars, dance floors and into our beds. The smell of sweat, alcohol and sex pressed against our faces and loins the next morning, it was a far world from stuffy and the conservative communities many of us had sprung from.

Drinking was as present as air, a bottle clutched in my hand as sure as I wanted a hand to hold onto my heart, it was the next best thing–a solid glass method of fending off loneliness while at the same time energizing everything I did, a record simply sounded better with a drink and a woman was easier to humor with a wry smile and a the floating bubbles of beer. Talent is a young person’s urge, stepping out of adolescence, kicking off the insecurities of early and awkward sexual experiences, leaving behind pimples, oily skin and bodies that were never quite what one wanted–I stalked away from my teenage years with no regrets and an acute sense of relief all the while finding out that my passion play with music, painting, and writing. A body couldn’t walk down High Street without bumping into someone who was busy recording, making and breathing art, wearing the passion the burned inside fully on the outside, carrying canvases, guitar cases, bundles of notebooks, and knapsacks stuffed with methods of creating and collecting thoughts, ideas that were day-glow in nature, screaming from clothing, hair and even the make-up we wore.

Pacing my walk, counting my steps while I read the paper in one hand, a bulky Sony Walkman in the other, it was a minor miracle I never knocked anybody’s teeth out nothing could hold my attention. Music helped focusing, notes to lead the way as I shuffled through life, barely lifting clumsy feet through days filled with the afterthoughts of nights that never turned off, even now they are like streets lights made of wax paper, filtering into nothingness, pulling around the edges as if roasted in an oven. My walks were the same, from whatever apartment/house I lived in to the store, then to Larry’s, to Bernie’s, the corner carryout near 15th, Buckeye Donuts and then to Staches. Repeat, sleep, repeat. There were some weeks when I never drove, there wasn’t a need, opening the car door, a small blast of stale hot air would billow out and engulf me, wavering from the slight stench, plopping in the front seat making sure the correct tape was in the player, turning the key and the sweaty vessel was transformed into an instant feeling machine, never mind the dry air, the empty beer bottles on the backseat floor or the scrunched up McDonalds bag on the passenger side. Nodding to myself as “Flat out Fucked” blared into the late morning sun, the car was another home, a clubhouse of my own.

Slipping from my corporate record store job everyday day around three, with my best rumpled dress shirt, brownish off the rack pleated pants and a bulky name tag stuck to my chest I would venture to Used Kids, and soon after Dan and Ron would offer me a Black Label, and feeling like one of the crowd I was soon talking records with them. Gerald Moss, worked there, par laying his own passion for music to rise up in the Koch Distribution corporation, he and I would discuss Phil Ochs, Richard Thompson and classical music. A full-blown passion for records had exploded when I got to High Street, living in small town Ohio, record stores consisted of the clean lines of chain stores, where posters and cassette tapes lined the walls. Getting underground music was a chore, where as a fifteen year old I would peruse the racks and buy records depending on their labels or even by their album covers. It was as if a fat man walked into an ice cream shop that sold more than vanilla or chocolate, I didn’t want to leave and I wanted to try everything. The dollar bins were bulky, stuffed with an assortment of titles, based not just on the redundancy of previous year’s sales (Bad Company, Peter Frampton, Heart, easy listening) but also by condition or cut-out bin titles, one could easily find semi-beat Replacements, Soul Asylum, Breaking Circus, or Salem 66 records in the cut-out bin, I bought my first Guided By Voices record, “Self-Arial Nostalgia” record for a $1, sealed. The music that the Ron and Dan played was always good, making an impression on ears that gobbled up music like the desert does rain. Sucking the notes out of air, an appetite for melody that was as much as an addiction as the alcohol I was consuming at daily and afternoon intervals.

Summer was bleeding Ohio dry in the summer of 1988, the pavement was so hot that the soles of tennis shoes stuck to the sidewalk, waves of heat shuddered in the thick air and if one did not have the luxury of an air conditioner, nights were spent with a fan blasting away on naked sweaty bodies, cooking on top of damp sheets. Discount Records, since it was a corporate store, complete with carpet that was replaced every few years had air conditioning, but we also couldn’t play a lot of the music I wanted to. The manager didn’t approve, we played mostly jazz, classical and non-offensive pop music such as Tracy Chapman, James Taylor, and soft R&B, when he agreed to play 10,000 Maniacs or the Rolling Stones he was being adventurous but for me, it was better than working at Sears, United Dairy Farmers or lawn-work. Used Kids had no air conditioner, the best way to cool off was to grab a beer from one of the always laughing men, and hope that it wasn’t too crowded, propping open the door the store felt damp, sticky and with the scent of sweaty men and hippie oils in the air, I would thumb through the records. Suddenly Ron put on a single, eyeing him from the corner of the dollar bin, he held a bottle to his mouth, nodded and smiled as he put the bottle on the counter, his left hand wheeling the volume knob, the sound came blurting out of the speaker above my head, a fat-squishy and ragged blast of noise that asserted itself as not just new but primordial in the best sense of the word and the singer’s voice cackled out as if where a comic-book burp, “blarrghhhhh!!!!” and when the chorus hit, something had transformed me, the sloppy and crusty sound, bellowed out like an lion, albeit a drunken, soiled and rabid lion, but a lion nevertheless.

“Touch Me I’m Sick” was the first single by Mudhoney a soiled diamond of a song that for many of us, changed everything. It was one of the few songs that I remember where I was the first time I heard it, along with “Everything Flows” by Teenage Fanclub and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, but it was another revelation that music was ugly, beautiful and comical all at the same time. Lyrically it was brilliant, nobody was singing songs like this—at least to my young 20 year old ears—a stab against the clean bullshit of hair rock, the pastel sounds of Whitney Houston and Huey Lewis, the soft-light videos of dancing candles that framed the clean cut faces of Phil Collins, the Police and that ilk.

There are moments in life where perspective switches, an inner shift where the world changes, for some it maybe discarding matchbox cars, putting the doll in a box, or taking a last drink of alcohol. At other times, the shift is subtle, a slow movement, wading into the ocean as the waves crawl up around chilly thighs, small pushes against a body not quite ready to change—these changes happen in slow motion. Punk rock hit me like my first orgasm, it made total sense and a part of me asked myself, “why didn’t I know about this before?” The world changed, there was no longer a hierarchy to art, no longer a manner in which someone had to dress a certain way or for music to be used to sell anything other than pure emotional, either frustration, anger, joy or confessional sloppy love (sex).

At one point around this time, I started going out with Sharon, her quiet mysterious manners, her steely beauty and the fact that she was as big of a fan of loud guitars and spitting, sputtering, saliva spewing vocals only helped to make an up-to-that-time world a bit more clear. Sharon, who had lived with J Mascis, hung out with Sonic Youth and lived in Alphabet City, had eyes for me and the punk-outcast-arrogant me felt a “I fuckin-told-you-so” to the small town Ohio, that I had thrown off my shoulders just a few years prior. Sharon went to art school in NYC, although she was from Columbus she too, had shed her own upbringing and made herself anew-the person she was. Astute, coy and with a wise eye for detail, Sharon loved fashion, at one point we argued about the idea that I had a great sense of fashion, which I found absurd as I usually wore tee-shirts, jeans and thrift store button-ups. Many of the latter were from the 60’s and early 70’s as those decades were not so much in the distant past, were now, as I stand on the verge of 50, those decades appear to be faint wisps of smoke disenagrating in my mind. Fa-la-la-man. Sharon took me to Barney’s and other stores that would bludgeon my eyes with their price tags. Later when I met my wife, herself fashionably acute, and also an artist I gleaned some idea of fashion and style although it was more about how these lovers had used them. My style was comfort and easiness, and the idea of punk while married to fashion was more about being creative, of being confident to make and live life as you could carve it out, perhaps by plucking a guitar or bass, transforming a body that was at one time abused into a walking, breathing canvass or painting your hair purple, or green or cutting off the entire fucking mop.

Mudhoney contacted Jerry one day, asking Gaunt to open up a few shows for them, Steve Turner was/is one of the most passionate music fanatics I have ever met, and he had heard Gaunt and loved them, soon he convinced the rest of the band to allow Gaunt to play some shows with them. Another by-product of this wonderful indie-world was constructed around the idea of creative and no hierarchy it was common for well known bands to pick and choose local bands to open for them or to tour, Pavement had the Ass Ponys open for them several times in Ohio, Superchunk toured with Gaunt a few times, Billy Childish asked the New Bomb Turks to play with him in Columbus and the list goes on. The only requirement I needed to go to a show was to be loaded, which was a pretty easy task.

I drove with Gaunt to Bogart’s in Cincinnati, it was on the edge of the University of Cincinnati and the Over-the-Rhine, a mixed neighborhood that had been kicking and screaming into the idea of gentrification. It was a hotspot for racial tensions, poverty and drug use—and it was not uncommon to read about police shootings and high crime. We drove a small mini-van, Jerry, Brett Lewis and I drinking the entire way, it was as if we were ten year olds driving to Kings Island Amusement Park instead of our twenty-something selves on our way to a punk-rock show. Jerry was loose, cracking jokes and bahawing all the way on the 100 mile car ride, we giggled uncontrollably and right before we got there Jerry got his serious face on, one where he felt the need to wear the weight of the free-world on his shoulders, pumping cigarette after cigarette into his lips he would suck one up and start another. Brett said, “relax Jerry, we’ll have a good show.” Nodding Jerry stammered, “I am fucking relaxed dude!” Eyeing one another, Brett and I laughed again.


this is pretty great:



Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae: Michael Galinsky & Suki Hawley

January 4, 2014

(not edited)

I first met Mike Galinsky in 1991 or 92, I had stumbled across his band, Sleepyhead, via a Shimmy-Disc compilation titled “Chinny Chin Chin” which consisted of four NYC bands. Perhaps the best known was Kicking Giant. I gravitated towards Sleepyhead, that sounded like a fast Superchunk, if something like that was even possible. Somewhere along the line I got a hold of Michael, and his two band mates, Chris O’Rourke and his then girlfriend (now wife?) Rachel. I have a vague recollection of maybe Bettina Richards or her Pier Platters cohort, Otis Ball giving me Michael’s phone number.

Anyway, soon enough, I had booked Sleepyhead to play a weeknight show at Staches with Gaunt. Nobody came to the show but they didn’t care, they were happy to be playing with a decent rock band, and besides, they were impressed that Gaunt was going to be on Bettina’s fledgling Thrill Jockey Record. Michael was tall, and very thin with one of those skinny man Adam’s apple that made his neck and face even more pronounced. I, on the other hand had a triple chin to look forward too as I grew older (not yet though) thanks to the fat Hungarians in my family. Michael wore red cut off jean-shorts and talked a mile a minute, I was intrigued by Rachel as she drummed and I only knew of few female drummers at that time, Georgia from Yo La Tengo, and Janet from 11th Dream Day both of who also shared singing duties along with their significant others.

The next time Sleepyhead came to town they had just signed with Slumber land Records and came with an opening band. The art-slop damaged Dung Beetle who made a racket of a noise at Bernie’s, fronted by the novelist and writer Sam Lipsyte, Dung Beetle was more of an beer fueled art experiment than the fast-paced guitar sounds of Sleepyhead. Again, no one came to the show but we all got smashed, my alcoholism at this time was only a murmur, blanketed by my outsized humor and a yearning to please. Every time that Sleepyhead came to town, I had a different woman and the carousel of sweethearts would be as constant as the Jim Beam, Makers Mark and Budweiser that I clutched tightly to. Michael and the band grew very fond of my two small dogs, Richard and Istvan. Richard was incredibly lovable and Istvan was a dick, he ate everybody’s food was prone to biting if someone tried to say, get a loaf of bread from him or just as easy piss of the floor after eating the “g” section out of my record collection (all my Giant Sand and Gibson Brothers have Istvan scars.)




The third time Sleepyhead came to down was in support of Half Japanese (and maybe Moe Tucker?), there is a very nice photo the Mike took of Jad Fair and Istvan having a stare-down near my grill that appeared in Option Magazine. Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, loved Richard so much they had her photographed taped above their van’s rear-view mirror next to the Queen of England and thanked her on one of their records, for “inspiration.” Mike took more photos this trip and my favorite picture of the dogs is one he took of them, side by side after they devoured an entire bag of Sleepyhead’s cough drops. On this trip, their van was in a crazy accident, as Chris opened the driver’s side door and car drove by and tore it off. Kept on driving, as is the Columbus tradition for night-time drivers (i.e. see the death of Jerry Wick). There was a mad scramble the next day to get the door back on.


There were several more trips to Columbus by Sleepyhead, on one Mike filmed the only known Gaunt video. Soon, as the nineties came to a lurching and (for me) wasted in, Mike had married Suki Hawley who I believe had played or toured with Ruby Falls another NYC band I had booked at Bernie’s. They had made a mad-dash of a film, called Half Cocked which involved members and cast-abouts of the Louisville and Memphis music scenes, it was a burst of black and white along with improvised dialogue and a nugget from that era of indie-rock. Mike brought the film to Columbus and we showed in on a screen while Tim from Two-Dollar Guitar and Sleepyhead opened it up.

A few years later, I was in NYC with my soon to be wife staying in Brooklyn and Mike had just gotten married, and he invited us over for the celebration. I remember sitting on the phone and wanting to go but my wife had a big art opening and I knew I could not trust myself to go to a party and maintain my wits for my wife. I would get too loaded so I quietly demurred.

Mike and I remained in contact, and when I lived in Gainesville he sent me a package of his films on DVD, “Half Cocked” and “Horns and Halos” a documentary involving President George W. Bush, and a man, JH Hatfield who wrote a biography on President Bush that claimed that Bush was arrested for cocaine. Hatfield later committed suicide, in 2001. I terms of what Mike was doing in NYC, I felt left behind, as I picked up the shards of my life that I had not just figuratively but also quite literally smashed upon the hard wood floors in one sad epic afternoon, the anger, frustration and stupidity of my life was slammed into the walls and floor, splintering into a million cracked, pointy specs of things I held dear. I felt adrift, or perhaps I was adrift and had come crashing into the rocky beach? Mike and Suki had taken the ideals of the indie/underground movement, the true ethos of DIY that had given me and so many others the propulsion to exit our tired, and at times, a hopeless grey future and gave us permission to carve and whittle our own lives through our art. We had taken whatever talent we had musically, artistically, and romantically and fed it into the festering creative engine that burbled inside of us and forged an identity. Burnishing ourselves with the confines of notes, paint and typewriters and effervescence conversations, that spilled out of our collective mouths like coffee percolating we forged ourselves with the parameters of nothing except ourselves. As I galloped into my early thirties, so many of my friends, dead, or left for dead as addiction and mental illness chewed not only their talent but also their souls alive, I knew I had lost my way.

Mike and Suki were an inspiration, casting aside the music that had propelled him in his early twenties he rediscovered or more appropriately turned his attention to the visual world. The making of “Half Cocked” must have been liberating and soon they were making award winning documentaries, and as of this past fall releasing several books of photography. Mike’s first book of photography, titled “Scraps” is a black and white time capsule of east coast indie rock, mostly concentrating on New York and the Simple Machine crowd, the book is cover to cover with young kids piecemealing a life on the road, living in conversion bands while banging out three chord stutters of love and longing to a roomful of twenty people at best most nights. Bands such as Versus, The Grifters (who I have written extensively about), and 1/2 Japanese, who would all in some way touch my life as well as my couch stare and smile slyly as Mike borrows a small piece of their essence to be stained onto a white page.

Mike and I connected on Facebook, an avenue of connection that I make no apologies for, it is exciting to be able to touch someone whom I always held an affinity for whether it was only through a shared passion for Paul K., Joel Phelps, Daniel Clowes or the passion of helping those less fortunate than ourselves. Mike updated me on his life, he had just finished a documentary called, “Battle for Brooklyn” which was made over an eight year period documents the struggle over the Atlantic Yards and the Barclay Center where the New Jersey Nets now stake as their home. It was a revelation in terms of rank unrestricted capitalism and how in even a liberal bastion like Brooklyn, politicians and those with money can snuff out the small guy. The same issues are being repeated across the country, most notably in Atlanta where the baseball Braves will shrug off a publically built stadium less than seventeen years after the public paid for it, in Columbus during the 1990’s the citizens voted several times stating collectively and unequivocally that the public would not pay for a hockey arena on the spot of the historic Ohio Penitentiary (that once housed O. Henry, David Allen Coe and Johnny Paycheck). The city and the powerful Wolfe family teamed with Nationwide Insurance and just last year the city gave the arena to the Columbus Blue Jackets (owned by the…….Wolfe Family and Nationwide.) It should be noted that the Wolfe’s are archly conservative, and the editor of their newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch, has almost tea-party beliefs, have been against most public services such as affordable health care, higher funding for financing um, wars but are quite alright for the taxpayers to pay and then give them an shiny new revenue generating arena.

“Battle for Brooklyn” won a litany of awards and ended up on Roger Ebert’s best of 2011 and was shortlisted for an Oscar. Mike’s films have been screened all over the world, on various network stations (Showtime, PBS, Sundance Channel and more) and his audience has found him, not vice-versa. Several years ago, Mike started a Kickstarter campaign for a book he was assembling. It was a book of photographs he took as he drove across the country in the late eighties and early nineties, all the photographs were taken in various shopping malls across the country, each one not surprisingly no different than any of the other ones. The book, titled “Malls Across America” (the title makes me think of Hands Across America, the charity driven failure that imploded when people realized not that many people live in rural America) was soon picked up by the Steidl publishing house after some of the photo’s Mike posted went viral. Mike had asked several writers, including myself to contribute essays to the book and I readily agreed. Mike has been a huge supporter of my writing and we have discussed another book of photography to accompany essays on some of the clients I have meet over the years.  A few of these essays are in rough form within this blog, “Ron the Surfer” and “Pearl Williams”. “Malls Across America” came out in the fall of 2013, and quickly sold out, it has garnered positive press in USA Today, The Week, and New York Times as well as being named one of the books of the year by Time magazine. And in the back there are two essays by contributing writers, and yes, one of them is mine.

Mike has a new film out soon, “Who Took Johnny” about the 1982 abduction of Johnny Gosch, a twelve year old paper boy from Des Moines, Iowa. My wife and I watched it last week and she was in tears throughout, it is a gripping and unsettling movie that closely observes the fears of any parent. And yes, many of those fears, sadly come true in some instances. Mike is launching another Kickstarter to help with distribution of the film, whose subject matter is not one film companies flock to. Please follow the link for more information, and to Mike and Suki, you have made a brilliant film. Thanks.


Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae “nothing in particular”

October 19, 2013

“nothing in particular” 1989–2013

The crackle of the needle would lift a sour mood into the upper regions of sesmatic joy, as the grooves of the black spinning  vinyl record would magically propel the music into the stylus, somehow by magic still to these ears I would be transported from the whatever displaced atmosphere was churling inside of me into somewhere brighter. It was the simplest escape I knew,  it didn’t involve medication, money or the awkwardness of feelings or sex. There were inherent aspects to hoarding and collecting records, some of which involved the sense of protection of security the music offered, the records subconsciously involving varying emotional states. Like a child who clutches his stuffed animals these round flattened globs of wax, provided more security than anything else I knew. Certainly more than the affection of others, who could be prone to discard my affections as if they were a Styrofoam cup.

The advantage of music and books over relationships was obvious, music didn’t hurt and there was no risk involved. During my teenage years, fraught with hours spent inside by bedroom reading Kurt Vonnegut, science fiction and heady literature, listening to R.E.M.’s “Murmur” and Lou Reed incessantly I burrowed deep into the past via my favorite companions, namely my stuff. I would daydream into the future, where I plotted my escape from oppressive small-town Ohio to the greater pastures of opportunity. Namely college, either in Athens or Columbus and maybe one, day New York. Reading Rolling Stone, Spin and music related biographies, fueled the idea that anything was possible. “for Christ-sakes,” I thought, “Lou Reed can’t sing a lick and look at him.” He had quickly become my hero, and when the Velvet Underground catalog was re-issued in the mid-eighties I gobbled them up. My senior year of high school, I traveled to Cleveland and saw Lou play the Music Hall and waited patiently with arms clutching half of his cut-out bin catalog for his signature. “Glad you’re a fan,” he mumbled as he scrawled his name across “Street Hassle” and “The Bells.”

Lou was much smaller in stature than I had thought, in my teenage mind he was taller, not only did I picture him as a taller, he had now had a larger-than life image in my mind. At that time, Lou was doing advertisements for Honda scooters and with his dark sunglasses he was the epitome of cool. He stood in front of me, shorter than me, peering over his sunglasses as beads of sweat poured down his face, and his hands slightly shook as he held my records. Looking back, he was in his mid-forties the same age as me and he was totally human. This made sense and did not diminish my attraction to him, it was the humanness of the Velvet Underground, and punk rock, in general that I found solace in. There was no fantasizing about the men and women who had provided me sanctuary, they were as real as my awkward seventeen year old feelings felt to me. Singing about everything but getting their dicks sucked and fucked as most of the bands on the radio sang about, I could relate to it.

Moving into the expansive city of Columbus, after settling in, moving around and enmeshing myself into the record store scene, the dreams of moving to New York or even attending college slipped away. The days were filled with records, and the nights were filled with live music. In between there was reading, writing, painting and long conversations about music and sometimes about music. Jerry thought politics were stupid and it didn’t take any prompting for him to offer this opinion. “It doesn’t fucking matter who is President, they are all fucking idiots. I think it’s stupid to even fucking vote.” When I offered that perhaps going to war was important as my brother was in the service, “not my fucking problem, dude.” Jerry would say and blow a long stream of smoke in my direction. “God-damnit Jerry, why do you have to be such an asshole?” I’d yell across the table at him, during the first Gulf War I had a good friend who was in one of the first battalions to have troops on the ground. Jon, called me several times from Kuwait, “shit man, I saw a bunch of burned bodies today. It was like something out of a movie, these people were just like charcoal. Some still had guns in their hands, they fucking never knew what was coming.” Jon would call me at Used Kids, and when I’d get off the phone I would pointedly look at Jerry, “that’s my buddy calling from Kuwait, he’s in the fucking war.” Jerry would look at me blankly, “not my problem dude, your buddy shouldn’t have joined the fucking Army!” and then he would turn tail and space out at the back counter.

Jenny would climb aboard whatever make believe spacecraft she had hovering in her head, usually fueled by abstract ideas that had a modicum of truth in them she would click out and disappear. “Hey Laz, check it out” and she would lead upstairs to a place that used to be our bedroom and was now either a green house or a recording studio. “Where the fuck is our bed?” I’d stammer. “Oh it’s in the closet, don’t you like my garden. I think I can grow some tomatoes up here. I bought some grow plants, we can grow weed as well, but I know you don’t care for it. I think you have to hang it out to dry or something,” she would mention, her voice trailing off.

“How the hell did you buy them? With what money?”

“I got paid, dumbass.”

“We have to pay fucking rent, what the hell are you thinking?”

“Relax, you get paid this week so we can use that.”

“What about food, utilities and car insurance, are you out of your fucking mind?” I would blurt out, “God-damnit Jenny, what fucking planet are you on?”

“You know, this is why you will never get fucking laid when I leave you Bela,       you are so fucking serious, a fucking drag. It’s always money this, politics this, bullshit. You are no fucking fun, here I thought you would love to have a garden          in the house and you just bitch.”

“This garden is in the mother-fucking attic! Who the fuck grows tomatoes in their fucking attic, in fucking March?! and doesn’t pay their rent?!”

“Fuck you Bela, I’m going to go have fun and YOU are not invited!”

With that she would go to my wallet, grab whatever cash I had and leave. Later, after listening to records and having a few drinks I would mosey down to Larry’s and meet up with her. She would be surrounded by men, and as I scooted in next to her, glaring at whatever philosophy student was trying to get in her pants, all was forgiven. “Thank God, you got here, that guy wouldn’t leave me alone” she would say. This was shoveled into me and was swallowed whole, only to ferment for years on end.

The world was small and we all felt big, which is much different from how the days tumble and run roughshod over one another now, as they jockey for leverage every compact twenty-four hours elbow out everything else so that even finding car keys becomes a shouting match. Ideas flashed across the thick chunks of wood that made up the booths of Larry’s, all were brilliant until the gushed from dense alcohol breath and then they would splatter against the force of laughter or blown up into plans if they managed to catch aflame. At times, I felt like Zelig, the Woody Allen character who somehow appeared magically in every substantial event in the early and mid 20th Century except I was a Zelig to the people who crafted my record collection or shaped my books.

Most people never get to share a dinner with those who are the soundtrack to their lives and the community I felt fostered this, everything was approachable and in some way probably help lay the groundwork for the ability to communicate through the internet. Based on the fact that those who hide beneath the surface need the reassurance of their peers, whether it is the solace in listening to Skip Spence or reading The Offense, Conflict, Wind-Up or Chickfactor, the knowing of familiarity bought you your entrance into a better and kinder world than what was outside of your record collection, comics and paperbacks.

Madness abounds in all areas, what was viewed as the eccentricities of youth are now viewed the clinical expertise of years of social work practice and a $100,000 education. Examining the past through the perspective of craggy years spent on multiple bar stools, at the foot of wooden stages only inches from the ground and the muttering absent minded father that I’ve evolved in, is dangerous and laughable at times. The toll of mental illness has been staggering in my personal life, from my own sullen bouts of depression and need for absolute and constant affirmation (usually given through laughter, formerly offered through sex—as only the touch and freedom of bodies could relieve the doubt in a man who traversed the thin path of mortality on a daily basis), to those of my closest friends and comrades. Jenny’s consistent upheaval is obvious, as her passage through life has lead into something akin to a Hieronymus Bosch painting with a soundtrack by Brian Wilson, to the dark despair of Jerry whom I can recall vividly clutching a Black Label while sitting at a barstool at Larry’s one night, globs of bulbous tears pouring down his face while he shook and said, “I can’t quit fucking drinking.” I see the wreckage it has hammered to some of my closest friends even today who, it appears flock to me because of my profession. I witness it daily in my line of work, as I process the staggering rates of childhood sexual abuse to dropping out of school and then untreated mental illness and addiction into criminal behavior.

At the end of nearly every day I climb aboard an exercise machine, put my headphones on, and run it all away. I’m still running.



this is amazing:

new favorite, thanks to Matt Sweeney


Jerry Wick & Jenny Mae part 35: Songs part one-Now, back to the suffering.

July 31, 2010

Songs. Pt one: Back to the Suffering, thank you.

We collected songs the way some people collect comic books, baseball cards or shoes, holding each song close to our hearts-an immediate mood changer. Everything was about either setting the mood, matching the mood or of course changing it. Growing up, feeling separated the sounds of music provided an elixir to a sometimes utter feeling of isolation that helped many of us through the suffering afternoons and evenings of adolescence. An opportunity to escape in our bedrooms, or when we hit sixteen in our cars, feeling a sense of escape as bald tires lifted us from the mundane often cruel existence of high school, forming rapid distance from a parking lot of rusted junkers and peers that were only peers by age not interests. An album was like a vacation, a chance to step into the life of someone bigger than life, who told a story that we could relate to and at times only dream about.

At the end of my fifteenth year, as another Ohio summer slowly cranked the humid grind of days, I heard Lou Reed for the first time as I picked meat off of fifteen boiled chickens in the kitchen of a small hippie Mexican restaurant in Athens, Ohio. Within two weeks I had half his catalog and later that summer Polygram released the long out of print (only fifteen years or so at that time though) Velvet Underground records. Providing my achingly boring existence with colors I thought only capable by moving to New York City, which seemed a million miles and countless years away. From there, I discovered a mountain of underground sounds such a R.E.M., The Replacements, the Lyres and a host of other bands arising from the underbelly of the vapid clean sounds of commercial radio. I was hosting my own radio show at Wittenberg University by the end of the summer, where I was exposed to even more music such as the Minutemen, Black Flag and English pop like Echo and the Bunnymen, early Adam and the Ants and Joy Division. I was prone to like the more pop oriented stuff associated with the Paisley underground,  the Long Ryders, Beat Farmers, and Let’s Active, my punk-rock credentials have always been more of an attitude than a sound.

When Jenny and I began dating within a year and half of my musical revelation, I suppose I appeared exotic, at least as exotic as a lonely but confident seventeen year old can appear in rural Clark county Ohio can appear. After school, the gravel parking lot of Northeastern high school would be filled with the canned sounds of Def Lepard, Hank Williams Jr., and early bland banal sounds of early hair metal which in one fell swoop took any danger left in rock and roll and bottled it for the safety of every Spencer Gift shop in every mall in suburban America. It was the bane of my existence, and I took it seriously. Jenny climbed the stairs up to my bedroom on our first date, as I had no job, no money and nobody at home to watch what I did. We carried a six pack of Pabst Blue label and I opened her eyes to the sounds of early R.E.M., Lou Reed and early Bowie which she had never heard. I had about seventy records at that time, and 100 cassettes, she had never seen so much music. Perhaps it was the sound of the unknown that propelled her to fall in love with me. She had never heard any Rolling Stones besides the hits off of “Tattoo You” and “Satisfaction”, so hearing “Some Girls” and “Sticky Fingers” helped lay the ground for me to present myself as someone who I wasn’t quite sure who I was to the funny, eccentric girl of seventeen.

All most of us wanted to ever do was to listen to music, to have temporary deliverance from the reality of our surroundings, an atmosphere that at times inflicted tiny pointed darts of pain in all of our lives. Witnesses to the bruised and at times, bludgeoned emotional lives of our parents, music was (and is) the balm that allowed a mind to turn off and get lost in the wonder of being. It helped that our parents were either unavailable or scattered in the morasses of their own lives and insanity that they couldn’t pick up on the comical dangers of the Ramones or tender loss of the Smiths, it was our own secret. At times, this was the equivalent of hugging a building for redemption.

As the door to the bedroom or car shut, the stereo turned to ten, head bouncing, cracking-out-of-tune voice bellowing out the words to “Bring on the Dancing Horses”, I was fortified for moment. And when the song ended, it was back to the suffering.

Jerry and I met, we immediately found the kindred spirit of songs, of a hook that could flinch you away from now and fling you to there. There being, the space between emotion and dreams, of feeling pleasantly lost while three chords matched whatever feeling you had. For Jerry, his musical upbringing was graduate school compared to mine, by growing up in Parma, at the metaphorical foothills of the Terminal Tower in Cleveland, he had the luxury of hearing first hand (while in high school) such wonderful sounds as the Mice, Death of Samantha and Spike in Vain and was only a few short years removed from The Dead Boys, Pere Ubu and the Pagans. Jerry was a romantic at heart, whose hope for a life that only existed among the sung and written word would always tragically disappoint him. This romantic ideal would always show when he played solo under the moniker of “The Cocaine Sniffing Triumphs” (itself a homage to The Modern Lovers), as he always covered The Ramones “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.”


Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 8

August 30, 2009


I am standing at my locker, there is no one there for I am late to class which is normal for me, having already accrued enough credits to graduate I spend my time shuffling to and from class at my own leisurely pace, quite certain of the fact that the educators are as excited to see me leave as I am. Ducking out of class whenever possible and failing to show up on time many mornings as there is no-one at home to rouse me out of bed.  Inside my locker there is a calendar marking the end of days, only one-hundred and twelve days left of school. The relief will be comparable to the first flight of a gosling. Jenny’s locker was next to mine, we were seniors and even though our last names were only one letter apart we never really spoke to one another, I was comfortable launching my pot shots in the back of the classroom to humor myself, and she was more than comfortable to be the center of attention. She was also in all of the college-prep courses while I fled for the safety in regular education classes where the only expectation was that you were supposed to breath. Today, she is wearing a pin-strip jumpsuit; she explains that she had a presentation for the National Honor Society. She glances at the calendar, nods towards me and states “you really hate this place don’t you.” Smiling I reply, “Yup.” Just then a box of chocolates comes crashing down out of her locker, “Shit, now I really going to be late.” I help her pick them up; she must have a boyfriend I think to myself. I arrive late to English class and offer the explanation that I’m late because of Jenny Leffel. The instructor smiles and says “I understand.”

Within a week we are dating, my car breaks down the first night of our date after I had coaxed her into the shower and dropped her off. Her father must have been suspicious because of her wet hair; he had to drive me home. I am sure he was impressed. He was skeptical of methat first day, not just because I brought his daughter home with wet hair just days before Christmas but for the fact that I was so very different from most of the other boyfriends she had brought home. I didn’t care two licks about farming, the Clark County Fair or what was on television.  I was interested in books, music and being a wise-ass, I showed little respect for people whom I had little respect for in essence I was somewhat of a punk. I had a funny name, wore big glasses and thought that I was more clever than anyone I knew.  I could drink a lot of beer though and this was the only bond her father and I ever had, we both loved beer.

I had always thought that I would attend Ohio University in Athens, where I spend the majority of my childhood, my father had taught architecture at OU early in his career. Jenny had her sights on Ohio State University in Columbus; she was going to be the first person in her family to graduate from college. She had a fantastic academic career in high school, National Honor Society, she placed and won several distinguished awards for Future Farmers of America and had scored high on her college entrance exams. She played first trumpet in the marching band since her sophomore year but drove the band director nuts because she couldn’t read music. He said that she was the most talented musician he had ever taught; he would frequently contribute trumpets to her cause many of which would be dinged and left behind in the various houses and boats she lived. She has also planned to march for the Ohio State Marching Band. By the spring of our senior year, after many showers together I had decided to switch from attending Ohio University to attending Otterbein College, located just north of Columbus. My dependence on Jenny was in full bloom in just a few short months together.

My home life was a mess my senior year, my brother joined the US Army and was living in Germany, my sister was living in Pensacola, Florida and my mother had left the Methodist minister that fall. She was living in Columbus and the minister had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for some time; I was pretty much on my own. I spent my afternoons reading and listening to music. Music was my savior, I had a cassette of R.E.M. “murmur” on one side and “recokoning” on the other.  I discovered Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground when I was fifteen and had purchased half of Lou’s entire 70’s catalog in a few days mostly in the cut-out bin at Woolworths and at School Kids records in Athens. “Street Hassle” and “Berlin” were particular favorites as well as the newly released “New Sensations.”  I could easily spend hours by myself with music. I would read and jerk-off.  That was pretty much my days. When Jenny entered my life, she was completely flabbergasted by the amount of music I had and the wide range of tastes I had developed at that early age. I suppose when you have little else you just tend to immerse yourself in what gives you release. She had never heard of Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, R.E.M., The Smiths or even that the Beatles had released a ton of albums.

We would spend our afternoons going to my house, fooling around, listening to music and laughing. We laughed like crazy, I suppose we were both heading towards the deep end already at that point in our lives. I totally regarded myself at the edge of the social scene in high school, I had a few really good friends (one of which was Chris Biester who would years later form Appalachian Death Ride) and was known as the pretty much the eccentric class clown in high school. By the end of our senior year Jenny and I were voted “best couple” and she was voted “funniest female”. Gas was only $1 a gallon.

One afternoon, shortly after we started dating she was showing me some of her photographs in her parents basement and I noticed an old organ, I asked her who played and she told me she did. She then proceeded to play several songs that she had written to help sing her young brother Tony to sleep. I was impressed. Looking back the songs were not too unlike some of the songs that Daniel Johnston wrote on his parent’s organ, the melodies were buried within the claustrophobic chords of the machine, muffled and blunted but strong nevertheless. I encouraged her to keep writing them.

We went back to her bed and she giggled, and said that she had something to show me, immediately I had the over-sexed thoughts of a seventeen year old boy as she reached under the bed. She then produced a giant burr-penis.  It was giant, made by her and her sister Rachel with about a hundred round prickly burrs found on their farmland. They had constructed a giant penis complete with balls. It measured roughly nine inches not including the nuts. I laughed, more at the brilliance of making a giant dick out of burrs then the creation itself. Rachel bounded down the stairs, laughed and said “no, you aren’t showing him the burr-dick are you?”  We all laughed and then Jenny’s mother Ginger walked in.  Ginger was as straight as straight is, a woman for whom the phrase “gosh-darn-it” was an offense. Ginger was horrified and immediately offered me an apology, saying “Bela, I’m so sorry you have to see that fifth, I told her to get rid of it.” Just then Jenny laughed and said “Oh, mom you know you always loved it!” with that she flipped the sticky burr-dick towards Ginger, where it immediately latched onto her chest.  She was horrified and as she tried in vain to flick it off, the burr-dick just seemed to become more entrenched in her blouse.  “Oh, Jenny you are horrible!” and then the absurdity of the situation hit her and Ginger had to laugh soon, “Just don’t let your dad know you still have this piece of trash.”

Jenny always had a knack for making light out of any situation, her wit was quicker than Hawkeye Pierce and because her delivery was so fast and fun loving she could get away with it. There would come a time when the wit didn’t work anymore, it seems that charm and brilliance can shrivel with age if it is not cared for, when a person’s circumstances and tragedies can engulf them and leave little trace of flash that burned so bright within them