March 12, 2008
A couple weeks ago I got interviewed by Aaron Cometbus of the legendary COMETBUS fan-zine. Aaron is another one of those guys I consider “from the class of ’82.” One of those teenage punk kids who was profoundly influenced by the whole punk scene at the time. That whole scene died for me by 1984. But, apparently, its still going. Spotted a review in the latest EAST BAY EXPRESS about Aaron’s “legendary punk band” that was making a “rare” appearance at Gilman Street. The line stretched down the street, some people had been waiting all day in the hopes of getting in for the show. Aaron’s band features the front-man from Green Day — Billie Joe Armstrong. So that shows you how plugged in Aaron is to the whole scene. He’s sort of the literary rock star of the scene. Regularly referred to as a “punk rock Kerouac.” The thing — COMETBUS — mostly goes over my head. Probably because I’m 10 years older than Aaron and have already “been there and done that” by the time Aaron gets to it. But I’m impressed by how much the kids of his generation relate to his writiing. And he’s an undeniable “star” in a scene thats produced precious few of them.
He caught me at a flat moment. We sat there on the sidewalk by “my spot” on Telegraph & Haste and I chain-smoked and tried to think of something signifigant, or at least clever, to say. And mostly failed. I’m always intimidated by handsome guys. Even when they’re nice guys like Aaron. Aaron Cometbus always reminded me of the cool guy in high school who effortlessly hung out with the coolest of the cool crowd. But never looked down on the un-cool kids. Which only made him seem cooler.
“I always thought your 25-cent book vending table idea was a stroke of genius,” said Aaron.
“More like a stroke of desperation,” I said. “Somehow, I never pictured myself at age 51 selling junk on a street corner.”
He asked me about the exciting Telegraph Avenue scene.
“Its pretty much turned into a skid row,” I groused.
We gossiped a bit about the old fan-zine scene. Darby Romeo, of BEN IS DEAD zine, was rumored to have completely dropped out and turned into a recluse and joined a weird religious cult. Turns out she’s in Hawaii working for a school that teaches young girls how to surf. Which seemed exactly right for a former SASSY afficionado. So there’s your fan-zine up-date.
Aaron and I chatted some more. I don’t know who gets more props: Me, name-dropping him. Or him, name-dropping me. Probably him. He’s got way more “Google search” hits after his name. Which is the new barometer for fame. Myself, I’m sort of a weird, minor-league legend in certain circles. Which is nice. But it doesn’t help pay the rent. Or alleviate this persistent painful rectal itch. So, in other words, I’m fucked.
Araon asked me about some obscure, sappy comic strip I had done about a Paul McCartney album (“Red Rose Speedway”) back in 1987. Which is weird that he would remember it 21 years later, it was only published in one place, the UC Berkeley college newspaper. But I guess thats why he’s the Kerouac of punk. Kerouac, of course, was known for his attention to detail. Had a bit of a photographic memory.
Anyways, we concluded our chat, shook hands, and went off with the rest of our lives (as horrifying as that prospect can sometimes be).
Now I’m at Raleigh’s across the street, drinking a pint of dark beer and watching a dull college basketball game. I’ve wasted this whole day. I’ve wasted so many days. And yet, I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing. What ARE we supposed to be doing? I’m surrounded by bums who never do anything. They sit around and get stoned and drunk all day long and make noises (“socializing” I guess its called). Others of them hang around coffee shops all day doing nothing. Zombies. Then there’s the ones who camp out at the public computers on the campus playing mindless computer games all day long.
Then there’s the drones who work at the local establishments. Frittering away their hours, “watching the clock” until Friday when they can sit around and watch TV all day.
Then there’s the hordes of Asian college students swamping the campus, just looking to slot into the machine like mindless clones.
And then there’s me. I guess I’m a zombie, too. Water seeks its own level, right? But then, I did draw a memorable comic strip about Paul McCartney back in 1987, so at least there’s something on my resume.
I kept looking for a “scene” to plug into. And when one wasn’t there, I set out to make one myself. And that turned into an even bigger horror.