Lured Underground

 The year was 1995, I was twelve. I had a slumber party at my house with a few friends from soccer and church. My mom picked up some new release movies from Hollywood Video. We moved from original East Vallejo into a brand new cookie cut house in a new track development in North East Vallejo to be closer to the new elementary school in town and the future new high school. My mother had impeccable taste and designed each room in our immaculate house herself. Most kids that came to my house were intimidated by it and asked if I was rich. I would give them a break down my moms take home and that my dad made about ten grand less. Yeah, I was spoiled. Back to the party, everyone got their soda on, pizza and napkins in laps, let the show begin. Popped the VHS tape, plastic casings turning, accepted by the flickering motor, the miniature fan vending the aroma of tingling magnetic tape gently warmed and cooled as the film begins. What doesn’t say pre-teen slumber party more than an R-rated dark comedy? I can’t recall if it was one or two that called their parents to get picked up and go home. Sufficed to say, it got weird. Our featured presentation hand selected by my mother from the Springs Road Hollywood Video was Serial Mom. I already knew I was weird by the standards of the ‘norms’, and that night confirmed it even more, I was baptized by John Waters. I thought the film was brilliant, perfectly satirical. Beverly Sutphin as played with insane grace and pristine comedic timing by the great Kathleen Turner who delves into the psyche of the criminally insane, she really does mind about the little things and loves her typical suburban family so much she’ll kill for them. Lethal items used for her killing spree include her car, an antique fire poker, a pair of scissors, air conditioner, a telephone and a leg of lamb all with Barry Manilow’s “Daybreak” playing in her head. I was sold, I need to dive deep into more Waters.

  My first job at sixteen was working at Hollywood Video on Sonoma Blvd. Vallejo, CA. I loved that job. That particular store was huge. It had over a million titles at the time still mostly VHS, but with an expanding DVD selection. I was told by the store manger that I was the only one that passed the pop-quiz movie trivia test when I was hired. I loved answering people cinematic queries. “I am looking for a movie with Bruce Willis and a number in the title.” I slayed at six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Going out to the movies every Friday and staying up watching T.V. for hours on end seemed to finally be paying off. Stocking the “New Release” wall was a piece of cake, but it was the “Floor Titles” that was a thrilling adventure through Hollywood cinema history. I was so captivated and impressed by the vast selection of independent, foreign, directors cut and cult classics. One section in particular I would feel a glimmer of lust and curiosity every time I would pass. Simply marked ‘Cult’ I got to hold history in my hands. Well worn over sized plastic clam shell cases or slight slim fit faded matte finished cardboard covers is what lined the shelves like glory holes into the bizarre and kitschy, a shot in the eye of motion picture entertainment. In a sea of celluloid I always found myself breaching the surface for a lung full of controversy. I enjoyed films that presented the wonderment of natural dark human behaviors in an amusing subversively witty and satirical fashion. Mankillers, They Live, Toxic Avengers, Pink Flamingos, Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension , Polyester, The Big Bird Cage, Brazil, Blue Velvet, Beyond the Valley of The Dolls, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Female Troubles,  Beach Babes 2: Cave Girl Island… to name a few, ok maybe not so much the last title, but a fan none the less. Getting to re-watch some I hadn’t seen since grade school.

 This year I have gotten to be my very own radical main attraction. It seems too I have made friends over the years with some very talented inspiring folks. I even worked up the nerve to do some modeling for the first time since I was a toddler. Including a series shot by Stephen Jacobson where I got to be captured as Serial Mom, antique fire poker and all. Melissa Dale is also one of those very talented people I know and get to call friend. I had seen her over the years going to Shannon & the Clams shows in West Oakland and S.F. I really dug her band Sweet Nothing, she and her boyfriend Ian were an awesome duo, best getaway music ever. I have enjoyed all the projects both she and Ian have added their flavor to over the years, including 9th Floor Radio out of Laney Collage in Oakland which podcasts worldwide online. One night last year during a show at Sugar Mountian in Oakland after spending 20 mins coaxing a can of Olympia out of the vending machine I carpe diemed the shit outta that moment and delicately grab Melissa by the shoulders to tell her, “you are a fucking awesome kick ass woman. And I dig what you do!” She then told me she felt the same about me and went on to shower me with compliments and had been itching to take photographs of me for a long time. She launched her photography and film business this year and this last weekend was our second photo-shoot. We get to catch up, play dress up, and just be our magical selves in her cozy historic building in Crockett, CA. Melissa lamented to me, playing in just shy of a dozen bands over the last decade, she’s kinda over it and her current band Dark Beach will probably the last. Reflecting on our patterns in life and what has driven our styles and attitude Melissa mentioned to me recently, “I think I will always be drawn to the underground.” I whole heartedly concur, the music, film, art, attitude. I also very much love Melissa’s current band Dark Beach. She and Faith Gardner are lovely gloomy surf punk babes who have D.I.Y.’d themselves to the max. Both aspiring women with much to give this world and I see them inspiring many other young women, and that’s what I want to spread more of, plus I have great fun getting down dancing at their shows. I have encouraged her to keep on truckin, she told me she was surprised how popular they were up North on tour, I am not surprised. I want girls in Vallejo to hear their tunes. One of the many reasons I started hosting a radio show at my community radio station, OZCAT 89.5FM KZCT. I host as Serial Mom with my co-host MisDemeanor, we share local stories, community calendar, and local music as captains aboard The Mothership. I am Serial Mom cause I am a huge John Waters fan and apparently have a complex with ‘man boys’. MisDemeanor and her partner in life Dr. G who host Northbay Uprising, Gathering of The Tribes, and MidDemanor’s Hit List on OZCAT. A little over a year ago I chatted with them about hosting a piece of their program, a segment focusing on women’s health, youth programs, affordable living, from our unique perspectives featuring local tunes that involve equality to those with lady parts and or world peace. They came back to me the next day and asked if I’d like my own show every Saturday 5:00-5:30pm, I was nervous as hell and didn’t know what the heck I was doing, but I did it! My friends supported and encouraged me and my community radio station has given me the opportunity to let my voice be heard. Now The Mothership lands every Saturday 5:00-6:00pm on 89.5 FM OZCAT Radio.

  Twenty-twelve was full of sparks and fizzles. OZCAT had a great new studio downtown in The Atrium for The Arts at 600 Marin Street and a lot of things seemed to bee lined up good there for a few months, but like most things in Vallejo, it don’t last too long. After just shy of two months after launching The Mothership, OZCAT was thrown off the air by someone with a motive and a chainsaw who broke into the transmission facility on Saint John’s Mine Road and removed very precise components needed to be on air. The radio station receives no money from the city, state, or federal government. Fully funded by community support. Needing to come up with around $8,000 to repair the damages that had been left over that year and replace stolen parts we were dealt with another blow, OZCAT Studios and any of the artists actually selected to be a part of the new artist collective, Atrium for The Arts, were all kicked out. OZCAT moved back home, under OZ.  Always keeping on, beaming the voice of Vallejo any and every which way it can. Same as it ever was, can’t keep OZCAT down. Been up and running with the voices of the people riding the FM airwaves all year with fantastic programs always able to get real, adapt, and find those like minded individuals that cherish what you do, that’s how you keep rolling.

  It’s motherfucking decorative gourd season y’all, which marks the anniversary of The Mothership on OZCAT Radio. The programs at OZ  run in 3-hour blocks managed by 30 or more DJs 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I have made good peeps at OZCAT and thanks to my burgeoning skills as a radio personality I’ve learned a lot about myself this year of The Snake, keepin’ it real, kicking ass and taking names. Be it orbiting this celestial body or deep underground, if you have a vision and a voice, get it out and be heard. Word. Oh and give a hoot, don’t pollute, and this mom won’t shoot.

“All I hear is dinosaurs sighing…”

I recall my ex-husband not playing well with others. I had discarded all my friends and moved to a new city for a guy who wanted to go the rest of his life without making another single friend. He had moved to California from the East Coast when he was eighteen. He had decided that all of his true friends and family were thousands of miles away and also happened to reside in the past. He had trapped himself behind a wall, thick brick, laid in the past. He couldn’t be present, but then again neither could I, so it only made sense our energies locked on to each other. Locked together living in past lives, hardly creating one of our own. It was like pulling teeth to get him to have any sort of social life. He hated doing things with my family, he had hardly any friends of his own, and then when we had a family of our own he then had new excuses why he didn’t want to do things as a family. He longed for the years of his youth, he always shared his distaste of California any chance he got. Yet somehow I was turned into a “nagging housewife” for wanting to go out for the weekend to the beach, go visit my cousins in Folsom, or gods forbid take a trip to San Francisco, he hated San Francisco and shared his distaste any chance he got. My energy was at an all time drain. I was in my early twenties when I had decided to put my life on hold before it had even begun and completely changed my life to fit the needs and desires of another. It became more important for my husband to receive his reward of solitude for working his forty hour a week job. A job that he had already been working for years before we met. But it was imperative that he have time to himself to play his guitar, watch NASCAR every weekend, and play X-Box. He even had an entire room to himself, his fortress of solitude. OK then. Time for me to find some friends.

I longed for like minded peeps to share my interests with. Most of my old friends were shell shocked that I had gotten married and then shortly after, eight months to be exact, became a mom. My friends were mostly full time working forever students exploring themselves and happily going about their lives. Before I got married I was involved in my local community and was trying to keep alternative arts and music a thriving part of the local culture. I decided I wanted to reconnect with some folks in the local music scene and wanted to get back into it. Thanks to Myspace and an odd connection being one of my husbands ex-girlfriends, I had made contact with one particularly wonderful orb of energy, Alese Osborn. I felt connected to her. We sent groovy messages to each other and eventually started talking on the phone regularly, she had mentioned that I reminded her of a friend of hers I must meet, who happened to be Shannon Shaw, “you should come see her band.” And as luck would have it by the time my son was two, my husband had no problem asking me to find a baby sitter so I could drive out to West Oakland to go to house parties and delightful dive bars by myself and he could stay at home and play NASCAR on X-Box. That became a regular routine once or twice a month. I enjoyed expressing myself fashionably, but like clockwork every time I would go to leave, he would put the controller down and pull me close to tell me I couldn’t leave the house looking that hot. I always wanted him to go with me, he did a couple times and had a fun time, but he would forget.  He was ultimately jealous of everything I liked that wasn’t him. He would make sure to poke the eye of my fun and share his distaste every chance I let him. Cause really that’s what I did, I allowed him to drive me nuts. He would make hella fun of all the shit I like, even down to my hats and tiny blazers, but especially the bands I like, because they weren’t him. Marriage is weird. One time he told me, “you are lucky I allow you to go do these things.” People who feel they are not in control of their own life enjoy controlling the people in their lives that allow them to. I did not go out seeking sex, drugs, just rock n’ roll. I enjoyed the comradery and energy of the people and the music when I went out.

I was a young mom living in a new town with no more close friends. I had always been highly social since I was a lass. It made me well equipt and ideal for my derailed station in life working retail, waiting tables, and hospitality. Attempting to socialize in the workplace, more specifically, the restaurant industry never bodes well.  My own personal insecurities have been on the verbal diarrhea setting of my loud speaker for a long time, people with complex confidence issues are easy to control. My husband fueled my insecurities as mean of control, and it worked for many years. My insecure demeanor had effected a lot of my friendships growing up, I was fairly easy to manipulate and hurt. I’ve always been selective about who I let close to me, and they are the ones that end up hurting the most. My Grandpa Don was worried about me at times when I was a little girl, “Jewel, they’re gonna eat you alive.” He and my grandma didn’t like most of my friends, he saw how they used me. We had a fairly frank discussion one day discussing my new favorite vocabulary word by the pool in the Walnut Creek sun at my grandparents apartment when I was ten. Hypocrite was a very enlightening word. He shared with me about the real world and how people are deceitful and use their power over others for their own hidden agenda. But he recommended I go with the program, study hard, and be the good sweet little girl I am. I loved that man,  I even became a Young Republican in high school to make him proud. He was from a different place and time. After I got married he gave me a copy of Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.”  Though I refused to read the book, I was a good girl,  good at ignoring my internal conflict and going with the program. I was always good at making the best of my situation and ignoring the radical I had hidden inside. I was good at playing the program, but in the end game I was only hurting myself. Good girl, my do I have issues with men calling me good girl. I am now a thirty year old woman. Unless you are in my bed and I haven’t socked you in the face for calling so, you do not have the privilege. I am no girl. I am now a grown ass woman.

The nights I spent with “Shannon and the Clams” were mostly rather charming and innocent coming of age tales. Yes, there were two accounts of a man-boy creatures kissing me on the mouth without permission while I was out at a show. And each time of mouth to mouth molestation, an affliction I suffer from being adorably affable, I told my husband. I needed a clear conscience, and also make sure he heard it from me directly cause there was nothing for me to hide. He and I had even talked about how getting married so young left a lot of living we felt we still desired, and that if he or I were to ever JUST kiss someone it was no big deal, that we would be honest and trusting. Boy, was that a flipping mistake, cause of course it was somehow my fault, cause how could I have put myself in that situation in the first place? He was livid and I allowed him to always dredge up the past and throw it like sand in my eyes and place heavy projector beams of  blame directed at me. Mind you, after I came home from any event I would make sweet, sweet fuck to my husband, I always made good on my maternal duties. I never hooked up with or chose to kiss anyone at the shows and parties I went to. I had a hard on for the feeling I got making friends and enjoying nights I had never gotten. Well, sufficed to say, I fell in love, hard with “Shannon and the Clams” those years. Hit up every party and show I could. I always felt that I was made for the 60s, and “Shannon and the Clams” helped me feel it, but more importantly made me feel like was right where I belonged. In the right place and in the right time. It was a sound just for us. For me, Shannon, Cody, and Ian embodied the soul of misfit romantic rejects. I would dance my heart out and slow dance to “When You’re On” with one of The Shaw Brothers. I met some of my best friends going to those shows. I eventually made a bunch of friends from Napa whom would pick me up in Vallejo on their way to a shows in the East Bay. I learned a lot about myself and know that those were necessary social experiences for me and luckily came with a killer sound track. “Shannon and the Clams” have great fans, even when I go to shows now and have to wait in a three block line to get in, I know it will be worth it cause I know not only will the night’s soundtrack be great, but the people are always beyond swell. I am done caring what other people think. My ex-husband would always bitch and moan and share his distaste for the bands and musicians that I liked, but would predictably on average about a year of me infecting his ear drums, spontaneously end up being a huge fan. He loves “Shannon and the Clams” and mostly apologized for all the smack he put me through, even asked me about a month ago how he could get his hands on the album with the song that has the lyrics, “All I hear are dinosaurs sighing..”. As you get older it’s truly harder to make friends. Trusting is no longer an option for some. Some even result to making friends sign non-disclosure agreements to make sure the gossip stays one way. True friends don’t make friends sign non-disclosure agreements, another group that don’t make friends sign NDAs, anarchists. “Shannon and the Clams” saved my life while I served time as a good and faithful wife.