My Last Hipster Run

(Photo by: Han Vance)

My hair was overgrown, so I took out my peanut and shaved the sides up – way up. I looked a bit like Crispin Glover as I made a deposit in my bank and quickly walked the rest of the way down Ponce to get my haircut. I wanted to make sure the sides were right, and the line was perfect. I trusted only myself. I had the rest done relatively short and usually left it product-mussed. I broke out my dad’s old cover sunglasses, as huge as any they wore in Manchester and Miami. I started wearing bright tight shirts everyday, which almost fit me, as I’d recently lost ten pounds. I longboarded as much as I could and strutted to the transit station or took cabs everywhere else, except on the weekend mornings when my curvy fiancee’ drove me to work at the Euro-cafe’ in Midtown. Those mornings, I would finish a can of Coors Light in the bath to rally. Then we would sit in her car and make out while I swayed about to the space age Athens weirdness of Of Montreal. Then I would walk inside and make myself a double espresso. I was drunk in bars with thirty-somethings, with twenty-somethings to the point of belligerent incoherence and laughed and talked too loudly. I proudly peacocked amongst fellow urbanists whom would never have my flair for extravagantly varied fashions or my honed way with words. I worked a final lunch shift, had a huge late lunch, walked back to the cafe’ and had my free birthday shot, a Strega. Shared a toast with the definitely-old-enough-to-know-how-to-live-way-better-but-still-clinging-to-it-for-some-reason bartender, had a drink with the actor Paul Walker as we discussed Hawaii and my California book and my afternoon pool party planned for the next day. Walked away and had a few drinks in various haunts with a career student. Met my love in our suite. Went out by taxi for sushi and for wine by candlelight. The city glowed around and for me, as we stumbled to the disco lounge without panic or pretense. An off night in the Southern sprawl of summer ATL, but an on one for me, I suppose. My last as a hipster. As she and I had done so many times in the old loft where we deeply fell, we sat perched atop our city as midnight neared. I counted it down like it was New Year’s Eve. Five-four-three-two-one. Suddenly, I was 40. And I went to bed.

We are champions, my friends

I have one ring. Well, not really a ring but one team championship. And I won it as quarterback of the Cowboys.

When I moved from the great Empire of Texas to the Southeast, Dad initially settled us into another state with great pride, South Carolina. South Carolinians, like Louisianans and Nebraskans, place value of state above most else.

Scary to think that I could’ve been a USC Cock and never a UGA DAWG. But we stayed in Carolina only one year, netting me my first little brother and Dad a YMCA basketball championship as head coach. I was around that team throughout the season and remember the oversized maroon jersey I wore to their games, and the pride I felt when the title was secured in a close final contest.

Both of my personal sports titles came the next year when we moved to a sleepy suburban Atlanta town called Marietta, GA. I hung around the Boys Club there all the time and won a basketball shooting tournament for my age group. I am and will forever be the 1976 Shooting Champion, and I still have the trophy to prove it – although the ball is no longer attached to the hand.

Before that, I played for the Cowboys. I’m a third-generation, diehard Dallas Cowboys fan, and I planned to play for them up through 8th grade, when I started exploring a few back-up options and stopped practicing twice a day year round. Wide receiver has always been my natural position, but in 1st grade the ball is not thrown much if at all, so Dad suggested I play quarterback that year in football. I did, and we ran the option and won the league. When the season started, Dad must have lobbied to get me on the Cowboys, but he never admitted it and only twinkle-eyed as he – I reckoned – lied in denial.

My best friend in the whole world and sandlot football buddy was an outrageous kid named Duke Lee Sharp Jr.; he went by Boomer. I saw him on weekends, when he visited his (practically our) Granny, in my neighborhood.

During the week, I went to Fair Oaks Elementary where I had two best school friends. A triangle of friends that were by far the top athletes in our grade. Lester Maddox was a descendant of the infamous anti-segregationist politician by the same name. Champ was the nephew of Larry Holmes, then the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world. And I was the offspring of wealthy hippies whom had only recently spent all the money my father inherited from my grandfather.

Dad asked me about my buddies at school. He knew those names and guffawed, then he sang to me: “The times, they are a changin’.” I’d never in a cognizant way heard of the champion of freedom named Bob Dylan, because my parents only listened to the Beatles and classical music. I liked that and much later became a poet myself.

(Photo by: Han Vance)

Ponce Crush (and skate and stroll)

CRUSH-CRUSH. So the Ponce Crush – the hot new art crawl that roams in and around Ponce de Leon Avenue in The ATL – unofficially starts with Angel Poventud accidentally redialing me from the International Pillow Fight of Atlanta in Freedom Park. Longboarding down from the high land and then back up Ponce, through the fun seekers, the crack dealers and the cars – way too many cars. Not me. I’m just being free.

First stop is Beep Beep Gallery, fitting since a car just honked at me. I greeted a seated Mr. Poventud, bench outside the cute space on Monroe, right across from where Boulevard is becoming something entirely different, the Old 4th Ward shifting to Midtown. Gallery co-owner Mark Basehore welcomed me with an almost-cold, free can of Miller High Life, the champagne of beers, as Angel made a $2 cash donation on my behalf before being called into work.

Mark’s suit and popping bright tie show the seriousness of expression this growing community has for local art. Allen Taylor and Andrea Sanders display a two-person art endeavor, filling the space with color and energy. And the window has a smoke machine meets art screen video montage that invites and excites, while it moves to the music. Sanders’ work was far too dark in subject matter for my taste, but I did enjoy Taylor’s colorful patterned drawings. Co-owner James McConnell offered a warm smile and firm handshake and dressed the part as did his counterpart. Color me impressed with these guys and this space. I believe in space and movement.

So, I was off again. This time with my girlfriend in tow, and we’ve slipped into ’bout to elope soon land, so she’s my fiance, I’d have to say as of that day. What a balmy spring first Saturday of April it was for an art adventure in the city too busy to hate. Next stop was Kibbee Gallery, behind Fellini’s Pizza off Ponce. Big, beautiful house filled with art and beer and food and people hiving together in a communal bonding of appreciation. I most-appreciated Yana Dimitrova’s check to-do list paintings. We all have these lists, and I couldn’t help but crack up at what Dimitrova had done on a large physical scale, here in a piece called The Greatest Achievements. “HALFAWAKE” was the title of the show itself, and the range of vision expressed in these paintings moved me. I also just adored Sarah Daly’s small, bright cityscape paintings in the back of the gallery, sadly finding the one I wanted to buy out of my current price range.

Finally it was time to get crushed, and no place better for that than Young Blood Gallery, near the Highland Inn on N. Highland. Now, the freaks were out. Now, the crowd was revved. Now, I could hardly find a place to stand with such a long skateboard. Can someone invent a lock for these please? I digress, to here mention that “Medicina” as a show did impress. Kris D, from the Classic City of Athens, GA, has teamed with David Hale to show that “all things are connected, all things are one.” This mostly neutral-colored show was voluminous in prolificness and expressed its soothing message in figure-after-figure and pattern-after-pattern. My favorite were the birds, and they alone were remarkably numerous. Over 300 total works were on display. I enjoyed meeting merchandising entrepreneur Brandon Craig who does the new Medicina shirts on my way out, as I’ve also been known to dabble in lowbrow fashion and the commerce thereof.

Night was complete with a snack and cocktail from the pretty patio of Cafe’ 640 next door, while I stared into the face of my true love. Thinking to myself: I have to agree with Mr. Poventud’s earlier gruff-voiced whisper of a statement to me, “I love my life.”

Next Ponce Crush is May 7th (FIRST SATURDAYS!), when I’ll be a bit busy – day after I get married in the American Riviera, Santa Barbara, California. But I’ll definitely be there for June 4th. Please help support local art and this movement that matters.

(Photo by: Han Vance)

Athens Burning (and rising)

Man, I saw the Pixies – my favorite band at that time and still one of my all-time favs – at the GA Theatre. And I saw rapper Ice T and the legendary Colonel Bruce and a quirky band called Phish (for $4) and those intense Austinites called the Butthole Surfers and a little hippie band called Widespread Panic. I saw the DAWGS lose and win on the big screen there while Larry Munson gravel-spoke to rally the troops and intensify the pain of the fans. I danced and sweated and laughed and loved. GATH was part of college, and college was a big part of my life. And tonight I walked up the block and saw a great little documentary at the historic Atlanta movie theater, The Plaza, on Ponce. This piece of art, entitled ATHENS BURNING, documented the rise and fall of that classic venue in the Classic City. When it burned, nearly to the ground, a piece of ourselves died. But the Athens community and the dedicated will of those whom would not stop believing have made it happen. Georgia Theatre shall rise again, to new heights. Any fan of the heralded Athens, GA music scene should see this fun film.

I had a good idea

(Photo by: Han Vance)

I wanted to get my haircut. And it was time to shut up and pay up. An online conversation about how UGA had clearly passed Tech in strength of basketball programs, led to a challenge of one-on-one for money, which led to the formation of a league team. Magazine writer Charles Bethea and I had made it happen – the team would happen. Time to pay and sign up. And we were set to meet at the coffeehouse in the Virginia-Highlands. First at noon, then he postponed to 12:30, so I walked down Ponce to the salon and went high and tight. I texted back postponing to 1:00, and he said he had to leave for Athens by 1:45, and I said, “Can I go?” Next stop was the Classic City, home to a dense and cute downtown, thriving local music scene and the nation’s oldest state chartered university. Stopped first in my stepbro’s restaurant, 5 Star Day Cafe’ – left my number to have him call me. Took Charles to the GA Bar, out and through the alley that was once a wild nightspot of its own, through the back entrance to the Road House, where we had a beer as I recounted glories past to him. Stepbro called. Busy but he hooked us at the restaurant, so we walked there and met Charles’ girlfriend – a Phd candidate at UGA – for meats, starches, veggies and refreshing Cheerwine. Saw the art, heard the music – this is Rockville – and told them the story of my book about California in the most detail I’d told it in some time. We split up, and I skipped the baseball game and went to Allgood for a beer – had to support my friend Damon, the owner of many local watering holes. Walked the lower, more hipster part of downtown next. Then I headed down Pulaski to my old neighborhood. Hung with a neighbor on his porches, in his living room amongst great art. Other old neighbor stopped by, and I tried to ignore his stutter like I always do when I see him and just give love. It can be hard for a Speech Comm grad not to cling to and overanalyze language and speech a bit too much. Stepbro called and then showed up, and we went to his place. Drank the magical green fairy for the first time ever and spoke of literature and marriage and art and sex and life. Drank more and felt moved. Consoled his wife on some personal issues she’s been dealing with, and she cried and then felt good. All three of us are writers, so we talked how writers talk when they are amongst themselves, which is always in a way, but more so then. Slept and woke up admiring the dancing new sunlight. Had coffee and visited with my step-niece and step-nephew. Had pancakes and eggs and got a ride back downtown. Asked my stepbro to drive up Chase and saw the old party house there and reflected aloud. Went to ERC where I once worked, for a carrot cake. Walked onto campus and my heart just leapt with joy just to have gone to school at such a place. North campus aglow. Visited the folks at the Speech Comm school and asked to contribute some encouraging words to students. Down, down, down that drained river valley to that big ol’ football palace and the Tate Student Center, where I worked for three-and-a-half years. Met the new folks there. Climbed the back exit and loved on the stadium some more. Saw an O-lineman in regalia and said, “Go Dawgs.” Walked up Lumpkin and saw a rehabbing linebacker in full regalia on crutches and gave him a thumbs up, which was cordially returned with a smiling nod. Then cut back up into the Founders’ Garden where I wrote this. Nice work boys, with the whole public college thing. Now that…was a good idea.

My 1st Critical Mass

I used to be a super-sharp dressing and fast-talking parking and transportation regional operations manager, planner and staff writer. Did that relatively obscure mess for eight long years, until I suddenly walked the F out and then wandered Cali for half a summer and wrote a book about it.

I came to know and love trains in that former line of business and had always envisioned myself as this New York-San Francisco-type urbanist, who had never lived outside of the Southern United States of America and lived periodically in suburbs, country, small cities. I’d always liked the notion of not driving everywhere, never drove until I was around 25, and don’t drive now again and am simply much happier and calmer because of it. I guess you could say that I dance to the beat of a different drummer than most of y’all around here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I moved to the Classic City of Athens, GA for school in 1990, I finally found a society where I could fully thrive without getting rides. I walked or rode my bike everywhere I went, and I was constantly on the go and in the know, you know. I managed the Tate Student Center Set-Up Crew, threw epic parties, played basketball everyday, ate at T-stand, lived off campus, watched the Dawgs, met a few cute girls and Michael Stipe, made some new friends I’d always cherish, even studied some. More than anything, I had fun.

At age 40, I’ve finally seen my ATL gain some ground on the rest of the world in terms of becoming a bike-able city. I recently purchased a new-used bike myself, and on my first free Friday in, like, years, I joined up with my dear buddies Angel Poventud and Jason Jarrett and a cast of hundreds at Downtown’s Woodruff Park for my first ever Critical Mass.

My bike’s back wheel didn’t hold up as well as my rickety-old-still-an-athlete body did, as we rode long and far and saw nearly every neighborhood this urbanity has to offer. Beautiful homes, rundown shacks, smiling faces, confused stares, honks, children greeting us warmly and feeling a part of something big while watching from their yards. Happy Friday is the call and the response is universally pretty good, though some people did want us out of their always SUV automobilized wrong of way. Even that’s okay; they are getting an education at least. We are here. We care. We ride. Happy Friday, indeed.

Appliance Smashing Party

I was famous in Cobb County for my graduation party.

Hanfest was – and by all known accounts still is – the largest graduation party in county history, so I understood the spotlight a good party could shine on a host and his host committee before I ever attended the nation’s oldest state chartered public university in Athens. The spotlight has benefits.

We, my three roommates and I, lived in an old rundown grey tarpaper house simply called Chase. In Athens, GA, party houses are affectionately entitled after the streets they are on, and Chase was nothing if not a party house. Chase eventually became synonymous with a row of several houses that shared a common gravel backyard, but back then it was primarily just us: Neilma, Weiss, Boggs and me.

Over a year before, Rogers had brought me by Chase after my first day of classes at UGA and introduced me to his roommates. It turned out I’d met one of them on a previous visit to the Classic City, the former Washington DC diplomat brat Chris Boggs – still to this day one of my closest friends.

For a year, I bounced around from Nantahala to Boulevard, to back home in Marietta with an overdrawn bank account, maxed out Discover card and a myriad of minor health issues stemming from a freshman year of college noteworthy mainly for an abundance of excesses.

Two months in Marietta was more than enough to recover and return in time to collect my financial aid and start back at work with the Tate Student Center Set-Up Crew. Consistently depressed and seeking, Rogers decided he’d had enough of the roommate wars at Chase and moved out, following the lead of his longtime Statesboro friend Kevin. Two rooms had recently opened up at Chase. Mookie had claimed one and I eagerly claimed the other. Boggs and Mookie and I had a mostly good time as roomies, until the collections agents were after the Mookster so hard for his rampant purchases that he figured it best to flee the scene and change addresses.

My good buddy from Marietta, Dave Weiss, was new in town and needed a place to stay, so he took over for Mook. And his friend Neilma desperately wanted in on our fun, so he moved into a large closet behind the yellow couch in the living room. Had to knock to be let out.

That part of town, you see, what is now called the Historic Boulevard District, was full of houses with revolving doors. Roommates moved in. Roommates moved out. Rent was cheap and every situation was temporary.

Resultant, the appliances were everywhere. You weren’t sure if the old toaster worked or where it came from, but you knew it must belong to one of your roommates, so you let it be. Then a funny thing occurred to me. I was watching a video by the Art of Noise called Close (to the Edit), an old favorite where they smash up pianos musically with power tools. Great stuff. We could gather and smash some crap for fun, make a theme party of it.

So we spread the word around the neighborhood and gathered stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. Washers, dryers, toasters, microwaves, a whole wall of broken television sets. And we cleaned our house and went out and recruited an assortment of friends and casual acquaintances and hot girls to join in or at least watch, and later perhaps sleep over.

And the Butthole Surfers was heavily cranking through my open bedroom window as the melee ensued. A freak in safety goggles pushed a broken lawnmower through the crowd of exhibitionists destroying the old appliances. An empty keg found its way into the TV screens. I was kicking my thrift store wingtips into this and that hunk of junk until there was nothing left but rubble. Rubble. We smashed it all into tiny bits of rubble. It was pure poetry.

One Night with Jucifer

Rock Lit Circa 2007:

Jucifer Live at Lenny’s in Atlanta

 

The lucid dream power duo, JUCIFER, lived in Athens from 1991 to 2001 and are now self-described to be nomadic. They stopped along their voyage at Lenny’s on Decatur Street in Atlanta on November 29th. Three opening acts warmed the dressed-to-rock, medium-size audience on a crisp, cool autumn evening. The twenty-four ounce cans of PBR beer cost only $3 and were worth every penny of numbness, for the pounding on stage was assaulting.

“That drummer is pretty good,” I said to my young friend.

“Yeah, he is,” she agreed.

I warned her, “If you think this guy is good and powerful, wait. Edgar is ten or twenty times that.”

Next, Public Enemy was on. The pre-game music was the Intro to their first of several groundbreaking rap albums, “Yo! Bumrush the Show.” We did not get “Bum,” instead we were reminded by N.W.A. to “F**k Tha Police.”

 

And then I saw her. What if Jim Morrison was a girl? What if Tina Turner’s thighs had played guitar and bass? Cloaked like a medieval witch or warlock, she sulked in the shadows getting the stage set just right. Twice she turned to the sonic breeze to cool her hot body. She was below the light next–a woman and her instrument barely visible in the almost dark. I begged for more flashes to illuminate her. Then the cloak was removed. The sexual energy was palpable as the noise started and she summoned her formidable powers.

And then her husband appeared, breaking my trance. The ripped T-shirt and Daniel Boone hat. The wry expression. Edgar is simply the most provocative and powerful drummer in the world, and he knows it. The beating starts. His physical onslaught reminds me of a linebacker or running back totally dominating a football game. He is Daniel “BOOM” pioneering an unfathomable tunnel of sound and energy.

“Nothing prepares you for him,” I said to my shocked friend.

 

They are but two and are seamlessly one. JUCIFER is not simply tight the audience gets through the many stops and starts; they are married tight.

Amber is the most overtly sexual rock star in America today. Her short, townie-girl dress comes only to here. Her powerful thighs make love to her instrument. I want to be the cut on her knee. I want to be her wristband, soaking up her sweat. At one point, she whips her guitar repeatedly in a feedback circle that would make the members of Sonic Youth blush. Her black panties are the only thing between the audience and pure rock and roll bliss.

 

Oh…it was as if I was in love. I finally got what a groupie gets. I got what it feels like to be in awe of and love with that control, that power, that energy. I had succumbed to unabashed gawking–my fandom overcoming me.

The drum kit illuminates to tell me that this is not a dream. I look over at a dude up front and center. I wonder what he is thinking about Amber. From the side of the stage I have the better full view of her, but she is in his face. I bet he loves her too.

Edgar works the cymbals while flashing his wife a pearly white “Hey Honey” grin. Their chemistry has no boundary; their unison has no division. They are one. JUCIFER is brutal and beautiful like life. They may be the best two person band of all-time. I am utterly enraptured, and it all culminates with the diva on the ground on her back absolutely screwing her instrument, her face an ecstatic baby doll alabaster.

Then she is up flash-dancing in perfect leather boots. Closing with force is a given for this pair, but the final encore, “Amplifier,” is easily the most melodic moment of the night. Amber’s singing is so lovely when she wants it to be. “I like Becky’s amplifier,” whimsically floats through the air. Then it is over.

She looks for something on the side stage behind the wall of speakers as I stare and wish for more. One lone roadie escorts her as she walks through the thankful audience to hang out at the T-shirt stand that has been sold out of JUCIFER shirts for the entire evening.

 

I wait behind one other fan then say, “Amber. Remember me…I used to always eat at The Grit.”

“Oh yeah,” she says. “Hey…It’s good to see you.”

“I’m Han.”

“That’s right,” she is saying as I hug her.

“I’m going to write about you…I think you are going to be the biggest star in the world.”

Currently listening :
Calling All Cars on the Vegas Strip
By Jucifer
Release date: By 21 August, 2001

20 great things about The South:

1.Southern Girls (and other friendly folks)

2.ATL’s ROCKET SHIP Architecture

3.College Football, y’all

4.N’awlins’ Food

5.Charleston Flavor

6.”30 A” Beaches of the Florida Panhandle – especially Rosemary Beach

7.The Smoky Mountains in autumn

8.Sweet Tea, Grits, Biscuits, BBQ

9.America’s Teams: (the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Braves)

10.Southern Literary Tradition: William Faulkner, Tom Wolfe, Gone with the Wind, the Decatur Book Festival, Grisham, urban ATL poetry scene, me

11.ELVIS (Memphis, Tupelo)

12.The BeltLine (Atlanta)

13.ATL and Athens Music Scenes – from Outkast to Mastodon to Rhianna to REM to SVA to Of Montreal to the B-52s, from the Tabernacle to Chastain to the 40watt club to TI to Music Hates You, from Pylon to Black Lips to “Superman those hos.”

14.Twilight Criterium (Athens)

15.Lowtide at Tybee Island (GA)

16.The Live Music Capital of the World  (Keep Austin Weird)

17.Mommas

18.Vulcan (Birmingham)

19.Deepdene Park -of the Olmstead Linear Parks (Atlanta)

20.Taco Stand (Athens)