"You're Nobody Until Somebody Kills You."
I just finished another leg of this Bang Ditto tour which has felt like, at least for me, a great success so far. This past week I did 5 shows from Oakland to City Lights Book Store and ending at Beyond Baroque in Venice last night. Each show had it's own unique charm- whether I got to finally meet the crazy guy whose been writing me through Rebelasylum.com for over 3 years, sending me a picture of his cat Amber each time, or whether I was reading poems about my Grandmother's death under the hairy, naked, cupped scrotum portrait of Allen Ginsberg. Each place brought about a Mélange of feelings and interesting experiences. In Oakland, I got to sit and have pre-show coffee with my Mormon cousin who I was closest to growing up, though we have little in common since our adulthood besides lineage and a love for hazelnut. He is definitely the person I am closest to on that side of my family and he is a kind, generous man. We got to talk about the things neither of us sees eye to eye on. Those types of conversations far surpass, for me at least, talking about the things that can be agreed on. I found his soft spot for Cowboy poetry. He got me to agree on a few positive George Bush points (by “a few” I mean half of one half of one). The New Republic magazine was a nice neutral ground. Everyone can agree that the extinction of fish by 2043 because of the gaming industry is bad news, am I right America?
After coffee, he walked me to my reading where I read all the poems I could never say to his face. Afterward, he said simply, "Good job" and we both went our separate ways.
I stayed with Jack Hirschman as I always do whenever I'm in the Bay. His kitchen window looks out onto Alcatraz. At night, I’d have dreams about getting my last remaining upper right wisdom tooth pulled while laying in a High Sierran mustard seed field. The dentists, all down in the dirt with me, drilling away. All that beauty eclipsed any pain. When I'd wake up, Jack's wife Aggie would be ready with a pot of coffee and a French almond bar to dip in it. I tried to write some poems while there but had a bad falling out with my handwriting over a year ago and haven't been able to mend it so far.
I drove back down Highway 1 with poet Mindy Nettifee who had performed with me at City Lights for the last Bay Area show. We decided to stop in Big Sur for the night. It occurred to me that one can never really appreciate Kerouac's writing without actually having been to Big Sur. His writing never resonated with me, until I went. Even still, I’m not a fan. I'm just not into another dude's journey through the 60's. Emphasis on dude. (I’ll save my feelings about the lie known as the “sexual revolution” for a later blog).
Mindy and I stopped at a place in the middle of nowhere to eat what the sign swore was "The Home of the Locally Grown Famous Fried Artichoke Hearts!" They were indeed, incredible. With those in our bellies, a glass of Chardonnay and some Bobby McFerrin songs for the ride, the rest of the drive into Big Sur felt like we had drank Peyote tea; a crazy vertigo altering aphrodisiac.
We stayed at a place where they have "Modern Yurts" and young surfer mountain climber types can get away with coming onto you with phrases like, "Hey ladies! You wanna party like a rock star?!" As neither Mindy nor I are into the whole date rape thing, we declined the invitation to Chillax in their fucktent*. Instead, we ate delicious sushi in the main house, drank a bottle of red mud and sat in a Jacuzzi, drunkenly yelling up at the stars for a couple of hours.
"WE GET IT!! YOU'RE AMAZING!! OUR INABILITY TO FIND THE RIGHT END-OF-SUMMER-SANDALS AT A REASONABLE PRICE IS FUCKING EMBARRASSING COMPARED TO HAVING TO BE THE ETERNAL REPRESENTITIVES FOR GOD!!! WE GET IT!"
"WHY MUST YOU TAUNT ME WITH YOUR BEAUTY?! WHY DOESN'T US WEEKLY TRY TO DRAG YOU DOWN WITH THEIR WHOLE, "STARS… THEIR JUST LIKE US!" COLUMN AND TALK ABOUT HOW IMPERFECT YOU GUYS ARE!!" (Clearly, I yelled this one.)
Cooked to the gills, our organs simmering in a now red wine reduction sauce known as blood, we sang up to the sky "Goodnight, Irene" and crab-walked back to our eco-hut. The next day we briefly visited the Jade Festival down the road, bought matching Jade earrings, got our faces painted and were once again picked up on by some creepy backwoodsmen with bad manners. Contrary to popular hippie belief, there actually isn't a little Burning Man in us all.
We left for Los Angeles, bumping Notorious B.I.G. in the car, eating In-N-Out burgers and planning our sets for that evening's Beyond Baroque show (Oh, youth). I performed with my mom which is always extra sweet because we sing together, judge each other’s scarves, threaten to take each other to Judge Judy then sing again. After the show, my adorably sloshed and most favorite Uncle on my dad's side approached me. He’s got a weepy eye that cries no matter what’s going on, which usually makes you feel his sincerity even more, but can sometimes be deceiving, depending on what’s about to come out of his mouth. He said, "Did your cousin get to hear you read any of these poems you read tonight when you read in Oakland? Did you read the one about your dad? I wish I could sing the way you do."
*Thank you Mindy, for the term “Fucktent”. I shall buy you a star at starnamer.net and give it this name, in your honor.
Actress and poet Amber Tamblyn was born in Venice, California. She is the author of the poetry collections Free Stallion (2005), winner of the Borders Book Choice Award for Breakout Writing, and Bang Ditto (2015). She self-published the poetry, art, and photography collections Plenty of Ships and Of the Dawn, and...