Ripe

My friends had been smart and brought locks for their bikes. Fuck. My brother had told me to bring a lock for his bike. I was eager to leave and had thrown the bike in the car and left for the ferry.

I’ll buy a lock when I get there.

I rode past the bar and noticed a small shack with a dark fenced in yard. I could hear music inside.

He’s gonna kill me. This is a terrible place to hide a bike. It’s a nice bike too. Fuck, this shack might even be connected to the bar? It can’t be. I need to get inside. It isn’t.

I’ll tell the people inside the shack what I’m doing. Either they’ll tell me to fuck off or be amused by it.

The members of Ripe were crowded into this house preparing to go on stage. They were amused.

‘Terrible spot for a bike’ one of them yells through a smile.

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Two 4″ Tweeters

I’m driving laps around town. Yesterday I replaced the dash speakers in my 4Runner and the new sound is, well, so much better.

At 24-years-old, the stock speakers assaulted any music they played. Frayed copper wiring strangled bass. From dust-caked diaphragms, rockstar voices cracked and soloists fumbled. The result was moods worsened, passengers underwhelmed, silence. Serious stuff.

I will say — like listening to an orchestra in Royal Albert Hall or a psych show at Red Rocks — 90s rock plays terribly well on tinny little car speakers. What else should I be? All apologies. What else could I say? Everyone is gay. Suddenly the Old Port was dangerous again. The Speckled Ax Cafe went back to being Norm’s. The girls less numerous, more approachable, just as disinterested in my truck.

There are more speakers to be replaced in the back. But that project requires aggressive disassembly – removing seat belts and side paneling. Joe at adult ed showed me how to solder electric components. His hands shook but his eyesight was sharper than mine. I’ll bet Joe has the right tool for those belts.

Somewhere, my little brother is driving as well. Ohio maybe? Somewhere outside Chicago? He’s driving to Bozeman. I wasn’t really listening when he laid out his route at breakfast. Did it even come up? We were distracted. I was picturing his truck from above, one of the toy cars you see beading along a highway from the window of an airplane. He was seeing his truck from below, bent underneath, calculating the perils of rust and rattling exhaust. Our grandfather kept repeating Bozeman in a funny voice. We liked the way it sounded.

Played an escapade just like you

All it took was some traffic outside of Monterey for me to start second-guessing the trip. One by one, radio stations were cutting out. I clung onto a hippie based out of San Luis Obispo playing The Grateful Dead for awhile, but then I swung around a cliffside and he cut out too.

I wasn’t lonely. Just a bit bored. I’d made this same mistake before, forgetting to bring CD’s or make an offline playlist – misremembering what hours of silence feel like. They kind of eat at you.

I’d just left Santa Cruz – which was insane. Perfect waves – thick ropes, round and symmetrical, sucked kelp right off the ocean floor, but with so many people in the water complaining about all the people in the water, I gunned it for Big Sur.

A park ranger eyed my Hurley t-shirt wearily and said she did have an open site. A guy standing nearby looked shocked – told me I was lucky as hell. He had a potbelly framed by a sweaty baseball tee and a beer in-hand. He seemed friendly with the rangers and mentioned several times he was having a party later if any of us wanted to stop by.

I set up camp and drove down the road to surf before dark. There’s a current at the south end of Sand Dollar that whips you out into the lineup. It saves a lot of paddling but it’s disorienting. Within seconds I was a hundred yards out at sea – umbrellas shrinking into tiny, colorful dots.

The water was shallow and clear as vodka, but the more I looked, the more I disliked seeing the grains of sand beneath me, the peaks and valleys, divots, and caves. I felt my heart pounding in my wetsuit.

When I got back to camp, I met up with George, the guy with the baseball tee who looked shocked about my campsite. He said he had some, “tweaky bud.”

I followed him to a clearing where a fire was roaring. I expected to see others gathered around but there only a few dusty tree stumps. He handed me a beer and we started talking about Big Sur. George was from a town inland and used to come here as a grom for birthday parties, surf trips, or just to get wild.

“Now we got fuckin’ trailers rolling around and kids spilling out,” he said. 

The fire spit and George smiled slyly, the gaps in his teeth shining in the moonlight. He swung a bottle of vodka clutched in his right hand towards the night sky.

“We’re in fucking Disney World, man! We’re in the fucking blue tea cup goin’ round and round.”

He paused, as if lamenting a lost brother.

“But as least we’re in the blue tea cup and not the fucking pink one.”

George’s musings got increasingly more scattered. He asked if the moon ever reminded me of a frog holding onto a tailgate, told a story about a time he’d caught a fish to impress a Hawaiian, stumbled through a shitty joke, spoke dearly about his love of kayaking, and made me promise I’d look up a waitress in Lake Tahoe – his girl.

After a few beers, he was reluctant to see me go. I told him I needed to go write, and thanked him for the good fire. Truthfully, I was starting to wonder. He told me that the guy who was supposed to meet him that night was also named Duncan.

I brought my buck-knife into my sleeping bag just in case George turned out to be a nut, realizing that the weed was probably making me anxious – tweaky. And of course, I woke up the next morning to gorgeous sunlight and the sounds of kids squealing and RV’s beeping, and realized that we were in a fucking theme park – at least there were still a few of us weird enough to visit alone.

Washtown

To pass the time I scan the wall. Above the coin machine are flyers, stuck with sharp, metal tacks. There’s a poster promoting a liver detox, an ad for arigatou classes, and a photo of a sad-looking cat named Dwight. He’s been lost since Friday.

A woman in a khaki jacket sits across from me. She’s leaning back in a plastic chair, her iPhone perched upright in a wrinkled palm. I insert my ear buds, which are tangled around each other like jungle vines, and hit play on Elder Island’s feverish, twangy Bonfire. 

Inspiration comes at the weirdest times, no? Too often I sit down at a computer to write, headphones on, then headphones off, sitting, then standing, trying to squeak out something new. But when I have the time, nothing pools.

The woman across from me exhales and Jim James’ wobbling Here in Spirit starts to play. Truthfully, it’s the only protest song I’ve ever liked. I want to pump my fists.

The dryers click and whirl. My mind is moving, swishing through avenues of past, present, and future. I find it odd that it’s happening now, in Washtown, details jumping out like fireworks.

Bringggggg!

My clothes are dry. The woman in the khaki jacket coughs, wipes her nose, and heads for the exit. I start to sort through a pile of crispy t-shirts. The fluorescent lights descend and the playlist resumes, shooting me back up into space.

Manchuck’s Seven

I was sitting on a frozen pile of 2×4’s, battling the winter air, a crossword puzzle in hand, a new found way to pass the ‘mud hour’ at work: 4-5pm; most contractors have already claimed a stool at the local bar.

6 across: ‘contains the motherlode’

I began running the basic solving processes through my head: *8 letter word, 7th letter is ‘n’, hmm, motherlode, the name of an old video game my brothers and I spent endless hours on which involved operating a mining vehicle on Mars*

The Aftermath has often discussed ways in which we discover music. It’s become an important riddle for both the basement music scourer and the industry giants, both seeking a way to find the next rich lode, the next profitable source or supply, the next rare gem, the place that will contain the motherlode, the, goldmine.

Whenever a Spotify link pops up from him in my texts, I get excited and grab my headphones. He knows it when he hears it. A similar ear for music and countless memories created through sound makes his read on it a good one. He’s a consistent source and has a knack for finding the gems, a goldmine for my music library: