Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Inner Bitch

The hag is not nice. The hag hates the word “nice.” Nice is a trap. It’s a bottomless pit of quicksand. There is no end to nice. When you put others before yourself, there’s a never ending parade of people waiting to jump the line. In pursuit of the ever elusive “Nice,” I negate my opinion, my passion, my point of view. I negate myself.

I’m sure that Rosa Parks was a lovely woman, but if she had been “nice” on the bus that day in Montgomery, where would we be now? Nice gets you nowhere.

Anger is power. When I suppress my anger, I suppress my power. I’m not always right, I make mistakes, but dammit, I’m going to speak my mind and take the consequences. If that makes people uncomfortable, so be it.

The leader of the organization I work for has a big poster over his desk that says “YES.” It irritates the shit out of me. No has power. No has meaning. It's easy to agree with everything and everybody; it takes an adult to say no.

I can already hear the whispers of “bitch” in the background. So be it. I hereby relinquish responsibility for other people’s feelings and embrace my inner bitch.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Trout Fisher

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Richard Brautigan's death. Well, not the actual anniversary; the police broke into his house in Bolinas and found his body on October 25, 1984, but he had been dead for weeks. Ten years earlier he had been one of the best known poets in America ("best known poet" may be an oxymoron), but the trajectory of his public persona was steep and brief. He died alone.

A child of extreme poverty and abuse, damaged beyond belief, he was committed to the Oregon State Hospital in 1955 where he was treated with electric shock therapy. The Oregon State Hospital is where One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was filmed and it was, by all accounts, a snake pit. He managed to survive and made his way to San Francico where he roamed the streets handing out his poems to passersby. This was years before the hippies came to the Haight. He published several slim volumes of poetry that posted almost no sales before Trout Fishing in America appeared in 1967. It went on to sell 4 million copies.

Despite his stunning success, his demons were never far below the surface and finally took his life. His work is mostly dismissed by modern critics, but it will always have meaning for me. I discovered The Pill vs. the Springhill Mine Disaster when I was 13 and fell head over heels in love with his brevity, clarity, wit, honesty, and strange lyricism. Rest well, Richard. You earned it.

Your Catfish Friend
by Richard Brautigan

If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of scales and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by one evening
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge of my affection and think
"It's beautiful here by this pond. I wish somebody loved me,"
I'd love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be at peace,
and ask yourself, "I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them."

Monday, October 19, 2009


Hamfist took a hiatus last Friday and Ham-Flu took the stage instead. Jon was barely vertical, Jimmy was on his way down, I had the body aches, in short we were a walking virus incubator. But we played through the pain and, despite ongoing technical difficulties with the sound system, we mostly hit our marks. The bar was packed and we raised about $700 for Rogue Valley Farm 2 School, the localvores’ insidious plot to indoctrinate our children in their organic agenda. The crowd was enthusiastic, supportive and actually listened as we played Neil Young's Harvest from start to finish. People usually talk, drink, dance and socialize while we play, which is just fine; we like it that way. During Harvest they paid attention to every note. It was almost unnerving. The recording will tell the tale (it always does) but I think we did ol’ Neil justice. I think he would approve.

That’s the last Hamfist show for quite a while. We don’t have anything on the calendar until December. Jesse’s going on tour with kites & crows, EZ is building two shows for the college, Jimmy and Joe are up to their eyeballs in OSF’s 2010 season. Time for a break. The hiatus does not bode well for me. I have a low tolerance for boredom and rely on my musical endeavors to keep me busy. Extra time on my hands almost always translates into trouble.

It dawned on me recently that Hamfist is kind of a boys club and I'm the token tomboy. We rehearse in Jimmy's warehouse, a quirky industrial space furnished with tools, equipment and the bizarre odds and ends that catch his eye. It's definitely a male environement and I'm the only woman in the room. I'm still that 10-year old girl who refused to be deterred by the "no girls allowed" sign on the clubhouse door. Don't get me wrong, my band mates don't treat me like a token. They welcome and respect my contributions and my opinion carries as much weight as anyone else's. It just strikes me as funny that I'm still that same tough little 10-year old who annoyed the boys. All I need is two skinned knees, white Keds with holes in the toes, and my Huffy Stingray with the bananna seat.