Hanfest

(Photo by: Han Vance)

The day I moved from Marietta proper to the more distant suburbs, a punk rocker juvenile delinquent named Chris Damico was building a small wooden skateboard ramp in the street that led to my new culdesac. Though I had never ridden a skate ramp before, I’d picked up street skating about a year earlier as the sport hit a second wave of major national popularity in the mid 1980s.

It was the heat of a Southern summer, and most of my like-aged friends were living closer to the Marietta Square. I was living way out in the vast stretching sprawl of what had been previously rural, then exurban, and finally suburban Cobb County, in what was then known to be the fastest-growing civilization in the history of mankind: greater metropolitan Atlanta.

My siblings were a good bit younger than I, and I found myself with no one cool to regularly hang out with when I was not at work as a fine-dining busboy at The Planter’s restaurant. By mid-summer, my friend Doug got a Chevy Nova and was the first to get a license. He started picking me up, and I was back hanging with my old crew of friends. Before that, I skated with Damico everyday.

We grew apart, Damico and I, but we talked from time to time. Then when I was a senior, his mom moved out of the school district, and he talked my brothers and folks into letting him ride out the school year living with us. I thought it was a terrible idea, but the decision was made before I had any input. He bunked with my brothers.

For the first time, we became truly close friends. My epic high school career was winding down, so we decided to have a huge graduation party as a last hurrah. We set a date and gathered friends from neighboring schools, like Dave Weiss, at my house for a meeting and told them to tell their friends and friends of friends from many of the schools across the county.

A week before the party my parents went out of town for one night, so we threw an impromptu gathering. Hundreds of kids from my school showed up and lined my entire street with cars and trash. I paid my brothers to clean up the mess after, but I was immensely worried. We didn’t have access to enough space for the coming big graduation party, and my folks’ plans to go out of town again were suddenly cancelled. We were screwed.

My mom and stepdad’s yard at the time led to a stretch of woods that eventually led to fields behind a huge western store called Horsetown. Damico came up with the idea to rent these fields, and in a meeting in which the outcome still baffles me to this day they agreed to lease us the property for a night. We paid them a small amount of money and assured them it would be a calm affair.

As the day approached, I distributed flyers amongst the upperclassmen at my school listing my address as the location for an “Adult Graduation Party.” A teacher found one and said I could not go on with the plan, but I scoffingly told him I was eighteen and the party was the day after school ended. It was out of his jurisdiction.

My friend Todd Smalley’s band the Wild Onions agreed to play the event, and I made him promise not to reveal the real location of the party to anyone at our school. He kept my secret at Lassiter; meanwhile we called our party planning colleagues and told them to tell everyone to be at my house by 5:00 p.m.

We hung a sign on my basketball goal on the day of the fest that said: “Go To HORSETOWN.” We were there well off the street and obscured from visibility with the rock band playing as the thousands and thousands of kids began to show up. As the sun set, the traffic continued to stream into the fields. We positioned paid parking attendants in the drive to charge admission for vehicles and made hundreds of dollars over the field rental. Interestingly, Damico and I both later worked for years in the management of the parking industry.

Of course, the cops came that night. We heard it told that for a few hours they could not find the exact party location. When they did attempt to bust the party, it still went on for over an hour as they simply directed traffic out while making very few arrests for underage drinking. When the crowd finally started to thin, we grabbed as many cute girls as would follow us and led them back through the woods to the relative safety of my house.

For weeks after, we were the reigning stars of the county. I began to commonly hear the term “Hanfest” and wondered who’d coined it. About a month later, I was hanging out with my artist friend Mike Tom. He told me he’d hand-painted a sign at the entrance of the Horsetown fields that said: “HANFESTIVAL.”

“Certain beauty to that”

After my shaded Druid Hills, I walked through Candler Park itself and the neighborhood of the same name, under intermittent sunshine, toward the train station. I saw some old wooden furniture left out for the taking or the trash. “Certain beauty to that,” I had said aloud, as I contemplated the impending summer in the South.

 

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)

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.

Fashion Night Out (with TI)

A late summer Friday evening and I’m at Strivers’ Row men’s fashion boutique in the Virginia-Highlands section of The ATL. Pretty people: black, white, asian and the cameras click while we sip free cocktails and the gear is on sale.

I tried, I tried, I tried to stay in and edit tonight, but out of coffee saw me longboard skating to L5P, where an ice coffee with honey led to a mood to good for home. And I recalled my friend Will – he manages the shop here – had said event Friday. It’s fashion night out. I’m a fashionista. I couldn’t stay in.

DJ MLK spun a solid mix of old and new hip-hop and our heads bobbed. T.I. co-owns the shop here and made his grand entrance, daughter in-tow. When he had a free moment I stepped to him to introduce myself. He’s more cordial than you may have guessed and more humble than he comes across in rap.

The night wore on before we wore out, the jeans sold, the drinks flowed. The Mayor no showed, but it didn’t seem to matter much because we’d all already had a nice time by 9 pm. And with my lady away on business and balmy weather, it was perfect for a boys’ night out, accomplished four-deep via foot, because safety comes first, and this is my side of my town. Glory to The ATL.

More Fame Ass than BOB

Back when I was in school in ATHENS, GA, we used to listen to this heavy art rock band named BOB – not the same as the current ATL rapper but same city of origin, same name. My buddy Rob Vance – not a relative but same hometown, same drunken college town, same last name – found a BOB record – RECORD, not tape or CD – at a yard sale and bought it because he liked the cover art. I love free writing like blogging because – unlike a book – I can quickly go way off into tangential writing – like this – without concern. Anyway, we formed a small unofficial BOB fan club amongst our group of close friends; our universal favorite was called “Pope is…”  That song is better than anything on rock or college radio today.

We road-tripped to ATL to see BOB play on Memorial Drive with several other local bands. Maybe a year later, BOB played in Athens at the famous 40watt club and came out to a small but overly-enthusiastic crowd … of us. We knew every word and riff to every song; we danced and swayed and rocked out hard, and they loved us. They were like, “Holy shit, fans.” For that one night, amongst our small cool group, they were stars – HUGE STARS playing rock music in an American headquarters of alternative rock music. Lead singer dude had this written on the back of his pants: “FAME ASS.” He never made it … but I will.

Guitar sensation, near-infamous tabloid media darling and world famous pop star, John Mayer certainly did. In Philips Arena the other night, he said he dreamed of selling out Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, then he dreamed of selling out Variety Playhouse in L5P. Philips Arena was sold out, beyond his wildest dreams of stardom.

I never exactly plan to sell out Philips Arena like Kobe Bryant does when he comes to town. But I will: have a best-selling book like F. Scott Fitzgerald did, speak to a full audience at the Cobb Energy Center as David Sedaris did. That’s right, fans and friends, your good dude Han Vance will someday be way more Fame Ass than BOB. I have no second thoughts about saying it aloud, because I have more talent than most, and much more importantly, I won’t ever stop until I get there, and when I do, I will say I told you so …. SAY IT AND DO IT!

Mountain Men

Copyright © 2008 HV

 

“So you’re a friend of Hillbilly,” they all say.

 

Brian Southard is Hillbilly, and the answer is one of my best. He owns the company. They sell protection for “yer ass.” Pads, man. Some of us need them. Not me. Not today. I ride longboard all the time. I skate, but I’m not strapping one of those on tonight. I’ll leave that to the pros.

These boards have bindings for your feet. Mountain bike-like, shock-bounce and wheels that appear almost as if those of a Jeep had been shrunken, this is the board of the future.

And, as I mentioned, the pros are here. From Utah and P-A and outside Johnson City, Tennessee and parts unknown, they are here to ride the course, to spin and twist and flip off the ramps, the tallest of which is on the ceiling of the DJ Booth. Rap only and it pounds out, much of it of The ATL variety, of course.

Theme is Tiki: long a favorite of mine. Opted out of my 1950’s green tiki shirt because we walked here from the train and it was 90 degrees out and late spring in the Deep South. Big thick white T-shirt sweats better, dries better, and I found out how much today on this sweatfest of a labyrinthian hike that Alex from Russia and I took.

By car, then foot, then bus, then train, then foot, then train, then foot, then even more foot we saw Atlanta in all her daytime, hazy glory. High Museum she said and Coca-Cola she said. The Fabulous Fox she said. Twinkle she said. Twinkle, gleam, twinkle…Traffic and pollution not so pretty, but the young Russian Foreign Exchange student saw the City at her shiniest and her less than, with a man “from here.”

From the Arts Center in Midtown we walked to Downtown. From Is-That-A-New-Building-Ville…to “Not so new and under construction anymore,” as I described. Then from the neighborhoods and park where my ex-wife lived when she was just my girl to Little 5 Points. That was only after pizza and the paper in the cushy confines of Peachtree Center’s food court and two train rides. We met a few nice folks along the way.

L5P for seven minutes of Russian victory soccer in the pub, then we were back on the streets, beating our soles to the heat that came in sheets, on our way to East Atlanta. Reynoldstown was there in between, in so many ways.

East ATL and Brian did not answer from the payphone back in Little 5. We don’t know where the party is. Ask at The Earl if they, by chance, know where the Mountain Board Compound is. They don’t. Can’t dial long distance on their phones and Hillbilly is (706). Payphones are not working if more than an empty payphone coffin. A cell would have been handy today. I usually use only my home/office phone.

Think. Tatoo shop. I know Guz and he is back now, I think, doing tats in East ATL, and he knows Brian. He is working today, looking lean and sharp, and he is as nice as always. Not getting off until 8 pm, but he calls Brian for me. Directions. We walk. More ATL.

I have been here, lived here in Greater Metro Atlanta since 1976, with a few breaks for Athens and one for a year in Orlando, so when I talk of her, I talk from experience. I have worked in every major commercial district in Atlanta in my former lives. Now: I WRITE but now, now, we walk.

We walk…We walk…We walk, now. Mile after – we are exhausted – mile. We are back in the burbs basically, just way southside which means a different socioeconomic world.

Then finally, we see the Hillbilly flags a flyin’. We made it. Probably just under 15 miles on the day by foot, so some water sounds good.

At the party, the Tiki bar hives with gregarious and generous folks, having a nice evening. The rum is flowing. The beer is flowing. Lots to look at with the flips and hips, the ramps, the ladies.

And my boy Adam was there. Big Ups, Doctor Adam. Some really cool people were hanging out I admired and of course a few loudmouths that I only liked okay. I was in element.

The scene was made and the sun shifted to shade, and we talked and mingled. Kisses all around for the select few. Digits to one early and from one late…I really like the second one and the first was also pretty nice.

Conclusion is late night boy banter, just like other post-sporting events. The athletes can’t hang too much until the event is over, see, and it was by then. I would be remiss not to comment on how nice and humble these very talented athletes are. And they are good. Skinny Kenny, Big Ups. Jason, Big Ups. All the riders, Big Ups.

Check the sport out live anytime you get the chance. Good Party. Great entertainment – thanks to all the very COOL hosts and my main man Brain Southard at Hillbilly Protection Gear.

 

JESUS NIRVANA LIZARD

Jesus Nirvana Lizard © 2008 HV

 

So, I love Kurt. Cobain had some things to say before he went away that I was already feeling. And he was punk, and he got pop catchiness. He hit home for me. I highly recommend the documentary, Kurt Cobain, for its words. Interviews and loosely associated imagery mixed with stills of the band and the man, the man talking, couple of years before his death.

            When they finally started to come up – Kurt’s favorite time in music  – he admired three bands: Scratch Acid from Austin, Texas; Butthole Surfers from San Antonio, Texas; and Big Black from Evanston, Illinois. And David Wm. Sims was the bass player and founder of Scratch Acid. He and singer David Yow left Scratch Acid and together formed the Jesus Lizard. Jesus Lizard was known for their intense live shows and Yow’s antics.

            The “totally unkind Liz,” as we referenced them, I saw them every time I had the chance. I saw them in Atlanta once and Athens, GA probably five times. You could see that Jesus Lizard loved playing Athens.

            Taking you there: And just look at her ass, Han, just look at that big bubble in front of you. Bouncing back toward you. “Whoops. I didn’t mean to get such a big handful.”

            White lace shows through a hole on the back left pocket of the jeans. So metal, you think: Perfect for tonight…And you broke up with her…Get her back, baby…Get your baby back. Um, she looks so good in those jeans.

            There he is. There’s that little fucker. He loves him some unkind Jesus Lizard…that freak…I wonder if Yow actually bangs him or if that is just for show? He dry humps the hell out of him. “Ha, Ha, Hmmm.”

He always gets under your skin. It’s awesome. You totally smashed that fucker, moshing last time these guys were in town. “I moshed on your ass.”

“What, honey?” Tiffany says…“Did you say something?” She is smiling and glancing back over her shoulder at me, sort of proudly half-looking toward her ass…gesturing to her big perfect ass which I miss so much.

“You’re looking really good, Tiff.”

“I know,” she says. “That’s what I thought you said.”

“You look good tonight.”

“I thought so.”

“You were right.”

I want to mosh now, but refrain, refrain, refrain. Get on this junk right in front of you. I love this part.

This is like dancing in a club. Fuck this. Refrain. You want to be with her. You miss her. But I have never not moshed at a Jesus Lizard show before. Like these sissies. Everyone cool… and rough is moshing.

That’s Pat. Fuck him. I should have kicked his ass. He deserved it. I refrained. Refrain.

“Fuck, Yeah!” I yell. “This is my favorite”…This whole album rocks…All their stuff rocks.

Pat’s back on the stage already? Stage diving in cowboy boots. Dangerous as fuck for the audience. I wanna punch him for wearing those. He deserves to be punched in the face…and you didn’t do it to him. I could totally kick his ass any day of the week if I came at him hard…and I know it. Fuck him. He turned on a friend. I hope Yow smacks him…Yow will probably try to hump him if he keeps coming that close.

Oh hell, here comes another button on Yow’s 501’s.

This is like moshing in place…With good company.

“Wowuugh!” I yell. That’s Big Al up there. They are just letting everyone stage dive.  Much more than usual…I bet the band told them to let ‘em go.

“Crowe,” I say in a half-drunken mumble when he jumps. He is a thick man to be landing on people…“Ha, ha.” He got dropped.

“Did you see that?” I ask Tiffany.

“He might not be okay.”

This song…I…“YEAH!”

“MARY!” “MARY!” Yow and I yell.

He wants to hump Big Al. Ha, Yow is in love with Big Al.

“He loves you!” I yell. Big Al’s scared of that.

Everyone’s getting a turn on stage with the maniac tonight…as many turns as they are up for…

“That’s Matt!” I yell as he goes. Nice flip.

Yeah girl. We are definitely hooking up. We are going home together.

“Can I come over to your place after this?” I ask, knowing the answer.

“Of course.”

Sex with the ex. That’ll be something new…It’s been a long time since Suz and I stopped doing that. And she fucked up your head. Oh well. You love Tiffany. You love her, dude. You love her.

Yow is on the crowd now sweating pure nasty rock from every pore as he body surfs and screams.

“Did you see that?” I yell-ask because a dude had climbed on stage and grabbed David Wm. Sims. Sims smacked him twice in the face with the head of his bass. Sims loves it. The look on his face is of getting away with it. And he knows how good he is. “He’s my favorite bass player.”

Big Al is back on stage with Yow, now. Is this his third or fourth time up tonight? Yow’s on him quick this time. Yow wants him – He better escape. “Get a room!” I yell.

This is fun. Cheer up because this is fun. A good show surrounded by friends and you know you will get laid tonight by someone you love. This is a state of bliss, really…Nirvana.