Friday, October 18, 2002

Hello, My Melody:

Is it just me, or are the hippies getting dirtier and dirtier?

I was in Berkeley last night and yo, Telegraph Avenue has never looked so cruddy.

Look. I believe in every American's God-given right to sleep on the sidewalk and sell beaded crack pipes, don't get me wrong. I think the cops should give poor kids a break and let them stink up the neighborhood and trouble tourists and roll the auric dice for spare change all night long if they want.

I even believe in the right to form sidewalk drum circles, if kids wanna go ahead and embarrass themselves and their families like that.

But strictly in terms of style, I gotta wonder where these kids are coming from. It takes so little money to be young and fabulous and interesting. So why would you do anything else? If you're gonna be broke and street-bound, wouldn't you want to put a little energy into it? A little flair? Wouldn't you want to make the normal straight people slightly jealous?

In my day, the street scene in Berkeley was colorful and energized. But last night, it seemed downtrodden and ineffectual.

People's Park was all fenced off by a black iron gate too. Weird, man. It's just a vacant lot.

What the hell is going on?

The saddest part is that the street just felt unloved, like the ghetto parts of Hollywood, as if the city had just given up its sense of civic pride.

Maybe it was just an off night, though.

Anyway, I was there for a really fun reason. I got to do my first book-reading type deal, at a really great place, Cody's Books. The reading was for the new Da Capo Best Music Writing 2002 book, which contains something I wrote. It's cool, cuz the editor, a sweet Brooklyn boy named Jonathan Lethem, put it third in the book, so prolly a lot more people will read it. What's exceptionally cool is that he also included the breathtaking Onion piece, God Finally Gives Shout-Out Back To All His Niggaz. You must pee before you read it and, if you're like me, keep your inhaler nearby.

I like my article, but I'm starting to feel a little like Right Said Fred. I mean, at a certain point, they probably felt kind of bad that they only had one song that everyone unanimously liked. The problem is, if they pull a Tone Loc and try to reproduce their hit--say, "Look Who's Too Sexy Now!"--it's bound to be gimpy. Plus, it won't be very interesting for them, you know--creatively, and all that.

Anyway, it was fun to be the only girl up there, and to get some recognition for writing in a supergirlistic style within the non-girlophonic realm of music writing. Jonathan wanted us to read from the book, but I just couldn't do it (way too nervous). So he read for me, which was an enormous relief. I was embarrassed that I actually laughed at my own writing while he was reading. He was reading this part about Video Hut, and the words "Video Hut" just killed me. My video store is actually called Video Hut. Can you imagine? For a while, maybe a year ago, I tried to start a new fad of referring to everything as a hut: The bank would be the Money Hut; the grocery store the Food Hut; church the God Hut.

The pizzeria would be... um, the Pizza Hut.

(haw haw)

I'm going to try and give this fad one more try. Maybe you can help me out.

One person at the reading asked us to each name our favorite song. Eric Davis, a sweet and complete metal geek, chose Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song." This touched me. It takes a big man to admit that "The Rain Song" is his favorite song of all time.

I wanted to say "Days" by the Kinks, but I didn't. A little voice said, Kate, this will pass. This is something to do with your past. Pick something timeless. So I chose "Here Comes the Sun," a song that is as familiar, and as endlessly surprising and delightful, as the sunrise. (Note to Self: This is how my husband will be, too; OK, got it.)

One great thing about Cody's is that every writer who reads there gets to take home one book from the store for free. Any book. Naturally, Eric and I were eyeing the $150 world atlases and 70-pound dictionaries, but that just seemed too tacky. I deeply wanted a book about Monet's gardens, but apparently this book of my dreams doesn't exist.

So I chose a really cool yuppie book on decorating called The Home Zone. (Rock it.) Just the kind of book I want to eat for dessert with pot au creme, but would never spend forty bucks on.

My special angel Jim Walsh came along, and afterward we went dancing at a college bar with a techno situation in the basement. I had all this funny cash in my pocket, so I bought us round after round of Bushmills shots and lemony fizzy water, and we broke the dancefloor with our heavy motivation. It was like the Jonathan Richman song, where he says, "They're all in my trance when I dance." We danced for each other and for the cause, and witnessed the Love that Loves the Love in a remix version of Nina Simone's happy new day song. Everyone in the room then remembered why the cavemen first invented the shim-sham-shimmy. There are parts of the soul that don't get expressed in any other way.

It's a funny thing, but in my experience, most music writers aren't very lively partiers. You'd think people so immersed in the mystery would be blossoming with joie de everything. You'd think they'd want to cut loose and "live the questions now," and give the music what it wants: movement, freedom, sexism (tee hee).

But so often they're trapped inside their skulls. Masters of walnut shells and all that.

I feel like an asshole for saying this, because as a writer and an Irishman I understand about depression. It's a demon that attacks the sensitive, the intelligent, the literary and the musical. It's no fun and if you've got it, it's not your fault.

Then again, some people just think it's somehow not rock-criticky to succumb to the music and the drama and glamour--you're sposed to remain objective-shmective. Which is, of course, an insult to the rock.

It's harder and funner to try and do both. It's like what Nietzsche said in "Ecce Homo": "Don't fear the funk. Live the funk. You are the funk."

Today I tagged along to Jim's Existentialism class at Stanford and learned about the risky mountaineering of Nietzsche.

Jim is completely psyched. He gets to take Existentialism by day, then sit in a hot tub at night and look at the stars. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Today me and Jim and Jean (Jim's fantastic wife) and her friend Lisa and their splashy youngsters all went swimming and hot-tubbing under the mild autumn California sun. The pool was heated to about 80 and I wanted to swim around in the depths forever with Henry, like merpeople.

Yo, It's midnight. Time to go.

Another fad I want to start, though, is for everybody to make up their own "J. Lo" name, the lamer-sounding the better. After the book reading, people asked us to sign their books, which seemed really cute. (Isn't that cute?) So I tried to give people names, like "T. Fo" and "D. Mill." One guy's name was Ian MacDonald or something, which turned into "I. Mac."




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