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Last night I was laying around, super high, listening to some of Prince’s music, trying to articulate exactly what we lost. The dude meant so much to so many people, but the outpouring of love and sadness from people who actually have talent is what struck me the most. He was a genius’ genius.

He mattered to people who can properly evaluate greatness because they’re also great. Think about the Chapelle Show episode with Charlie Murphy’s basketball story (if you haven’t seen it, please just see yourself out). The story is about a bunch of famous people at the top of their creative game being overwhelmed by Prince’s greatness in all things, not just his music. It’s exactly like famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi’s quote, “If you know the Way broadly, you will see it in all things.”

Prince knew the way and he knew how to take you there. All you have to do is look at his proteges like Janelle Monae, Sheila E, Carmen Electra, Vanity, the list just goes on. They are all great.

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She learned from the best. 

Carmen Electra spoke yesterday about what she learned from him: work ethic, kindness, and boundaries. She also revealed they dated, but kept it secret all these years because he didn’t want people to take her for granted. He knew that even being in the presence of his royal penis was enough to catapult someone to stardom. What an icon.

I hope musicians take note of what a true work ethic married to original vision looks like. So many people have one of those, but never work on the other. They might think they have too much natural talent to grind. Those people are the worst. Others might work hard, but actually suck. Like really scarf multiple bags of dicks suck. Those cases are sadder, but there is a tried and true solution: double your efforts and commit to a longer runway. Nothing is better than an underdog. I still love that fucking movie Rudy.

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Little known fact, Rudy is the prequel to Spotlight.

If you’re an artist and you have talent, all that’s left is to work hard. Harder than you think you have to. Against all your business. You have to sacrifice. In olden days the artists would let blood flow from animal or human sacrifice to call down inspiration from their horrible gods. All you probably need to do is turn off the Xbox or stop binge watching American Pickers.

As you may have picked up from some of my writing, I like to think of myself as something of an artist when it comes to writing. I’m not a master or anything, but I am a serious and considerate student of my art. I am seeking The Way through this and have been for some time. Here are some things I thought about last night as I drifted off to sleep, listening to the new Strugill Simpson album for like the 100th time.

Don’t sell the art you care about for commercials. You can knock out a project to pay the bills or buy some new toys, but the things that speed your heart up and get you our of bed taking notes in the middle of the night need to be reserved. Charles Bowden did an interview where he lays out his belief that writers (or any artist) have been touched by god and to use those skills for advertising is a sin. I’m partial to this outlook.

Some people whine about the whole shadow career concept; where you end up hating life because you’re in a job that’s similar to, but to exactly like your dream. Fuck that fuck boi noize. Look, having a career that uses the same skills as your passion is not a bad thing at all. The only trick to it is being more disciplined to work on your own stuff, too.

Prince’s music was never really used in commercials. The only even mildly offensive to my ears work is the Batman soundtrack stuff. I know some folks like that cheeseball music, but let’s just agree that we all hope he made some Batdollars off that one.

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Uncompromising excellence. There is no such thing as good enough to ship for art. It’s either as good as it can be or you’re being a lazy coward. Finish the shit and make it good. All that said, you need to pick a deadline and try to keep to it, otherwise your process will just drag on and nothing will ever happen.

I get it, that whole paragraph above is contradictory. You need pressure to be great. The best pressure comes from hard deadlines and imminent disaster. Disaster makes its way into your life on its own schedule, if he’s late, let him be. You can set your own deadlines with a general sense of safety of outcome.

I’ve been working on this idea for a book about a famous atheist who finds himself living in a house that is haunted by spirits incapable of anything but cliche paranormal activity. The protagonist is affronted both by their unwillingness to bend to his secular agenda and their disregard for originality. The working title is The Inconvenience.

I’ve been stalling on this one mostly because I don’t have a hard deadline. So here we go. My goal is to get this thing wrapped up by this Christmas. I’ll have to figure out some consequence if I fail. Something brutal.

Pay yourself first. This is an old school business idea, but for me it means do your own work before you do work for other people. Lately I’ve been doing most of my writing early in the morning. My mind is sharpest then and I don’t fuck with email until I have a few things down.

I think as I get a little more used to my workout routine, I’m going to try and make it to the  5:30am session. This’ll give me another five hours of working time a week. Do I want to get up that early? Fuck no. But I’ve got that damn deadline now.

Whatever you’re doing, do it sexy. Even after Prince became a church lady, he still had that atomic sexiness that set panties on fire in the 80s. Sex is everything for primates. The best art titillates. I don’t think anyone’s ever rubbed one out after reading this blog, but that’s a solid goal for any writer to have.

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I’m hesitant to even write this because 2016 is going down as The Year of the Reaper, but Happy Birthday John Waters. He’s one of my favorite personalities. One of the great things about his movies is they let you know what kind of person you’re dealing with when you ask them if they’re into John Water and they say “yasssss.”

If you’re a fan, I know you’ve probably got a sense of humor and a craving for weirdness. If you’re down with his muse Divine, we’ll probably get along. I’ve seen all of his movies, but I’ve only read one of his books, Role Models. It was totally solid.

This is going to be extremely controversial, but my favorite Waters movie is Cry-Baby. It was the first one I saw and it made me want to go see the rest of them. It also introduced me to the work of Iggy Pop and Traci Lords. I watched that movie a gang of times in middle school. It’s where I picked up the idea that vintage cars and leather jackets were cool, and old music was the best music. I like to imagine that Cry-Baby and The Outsiders shares the same universe.

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Traci Lords is the hotness.

 

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Praise the lord and pass the psychedelics.

Today is one of those freaky days that unfolds with all the predictability of a stepped on rattlesnake. On my bicycle ride to work I dropped my wallet near the intersection of Crackhead and Junky in West Oakland.

I was nearing a stage five freakout thinking about how god damned irritating it is to replace a wallet when a nice lady at the bank called and said some cool, unknown person found it on her way to work and dropped it off at the Grand Lake branch. This is the kind of shit that never happens in San Francisco, a place I now refer to as Techno Mordor.

I keep getting surprised by the warmth and generosity of Oakland. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are kids out there with the disposition of Liberian child soldiers and you couldn’t leave your grandma in an unlocked car and expect her to be there when you get back, but every single time I think I’m about to have a serious problem with someone, they end up smiling and saying, “how are you doing today?” It’s the weirdest damn thing.

Part of my hesitancy to move to Oakland had everything to do with how much like New Orleans it is: high crime, tolerance for decay and filth, degenerate liberal government run by the willfully ignorant, shady pastors, burned up cars, and animosity towards anything that might improve neighborhoods if it’s done by anyone who wasn’t born there.

But people say hello here when you pass them here. I can’t tell you how refreshing that is after spending 15 years in a city defined by the callousness of the successful and the politics of the uninformed.

Just like New Orleans, Oakland has a certain spirit that is glorious to experience and available to anyone with the right amount of patience and hope. I’m still figuring it out here and just about every day I find something new to like while I’m stepping over piles of garbage and half burned mattresses. It’s complex and it challenges all expectations. There’s faith and despair. Beauty and blight. Culture and entropy.

I think this is why Prince was so charmed with Oakland. He played two shows here recently and even sat court side at a Warriors game. I tried to get tickets to the last show here, but that shit sold out fast. The lesson here is if you want to do something, make it happen or there might not be another chance.

My mom actually got me into Prince. I found Prince’s 1999 on tape in her convertible’s ashtray after I crashed the car into another  at the age of 15. For some reason I grabbed it and stuffed it into my pocket right as I got out of the wrecked car. If you’ve never had the pleasure of totaling a vehicle, you’re missing out on the strangely disorienting feeling only a freshly popped airbag provides. When they deploy, there’s some sort of smokey powder that flies everywhere and makes it seem like the car’s on fire for a hot second. I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt (thanks again for the guidance mom) and that bag blasted me right in the money maker.

Over the next few years I listened to that album over and over again, but it didn’t have the case, so I didn’t really know anything else about Prince. I was incredibly shocked when I read the liner notes to NIN’s Pretty Hate Machine to see that Trent Reznor thanked him. If you go back and listen to that album you can definitely hear some of the influence.

Prince was in the background of a pretty sizable chunk of my time living in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District. Two close friends, Eric and Susan, were super down with the purple one. If I recall correctly I watched Purple Rain at Eric’s house. Ever since then I’ve wanted to build a replica of the bike from that movie.

I don’t really have much more to say about Prince. The dude was an all time great and the world dimmed when he left. I hope some young people recognize how original he was and strive to be that good, because if not we’re going to be stuck with bullshit autotuned Disney dorks. And that ain’t no kind of future worth living in.

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Today is the biggest holiday for stoners and I plan to do some major celebrating later this evening after work. It took me a long time to decide to be open about my love of the green stuff, but I figure we live in a time when no one ought to hide who they are. Plus it’s not like I ever plan on working for the government. So fuck it.

Coming out as a cannabis enthusiast isn’t nearly as dangerous as it used to be. For that I have countless activists and regular consumers to thank. Many kind and decent people got ground up by the war on drugs. More than a few of them are in jail right now. Even cops think this shit is dumb.

If you are partaking today, take a moment to think about the people who came before you and made it possible for you to smoke out of a six foot bong while wearing a Golden State Warriors onesie and a Dr. Seuss hat. And clean up after yourselves you damned animals.

 

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Quite a few of the writers I enjoy were firearm fetishists. Hunter S. Thompson (pictured above) was well known for blowing shit up. Ernest Hemingway loved killing god’s creatures. William S. Burroughs carried a variety of odd calibered pistols as well as a cane sword.

As far as I know, Burroughs was the only one of the bunch who ever shot anyone (I’m not counting self inflicted wounds yet). Before he ever wrote anything substantial he put a bullet into his wife’s forehead playing a game of William Tell in Mexico. Drinking and pistols do not mix.

Hemingway and Thompson both ended their lives on their own terms with their own weapons. Thompson actually had his son clean the .45 for him in a very questionable final act of paternal bonding. Hemingway used a shotgun, which always seemed a bit dickish to me because of the mess they cause.

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Most of you reading this will probably recognize me here on the left. This must’ve been around early 2001. If I remember right, I was on one of my first trips back to Louisiana after living about a year in San Francisco. I thought I looked cool as hell with my black hair.

The giant on the right holding the bass guitar was my cousin Colby. He passed away last year from a drug overdose, likely some sort of methamphetamine or bath salts. He was raised by the same crazy grandmother who raised me, except he never got out of Denham Springs, Louisiana. He never really had a chance.

He was a sweet guy, but deeply troubled. When our Maw-Maw (that’s grandma to all you fucking Yankees) yelled at him to “get over here so I can beat your ass” he would shuffle on over and she’d let loose the dogs of war with her wooden spoon. My other cousin and I would run for the hills, but this weirdo would march up and take the beating like a champ. That mean old woman was no joke either, she was country strong and whipped that spoon through the air like she was the Kurgan trying to take heads in Highlander. 

Colby and I weren’t really close as the years got on. He was in and out of jail for various petty crimes. His longest stretch was on account of burning down nine acres of protected forest and a historical home that sat adjacent to it. We never got the full story, but from what we pieced together, he and some friends had been smoking in this old wood house and it caught fire.

During this stretch in prison, he met a female corrections officer and they fell in love. After his release they were married for a time. He called me up one day and we talked about his nuptials. I wish to god I had asked him more about the particulars of their engagement because he must’ve had some serious fucking game to be able to pull any female action in a prison. I never met her, but I did meet his next girlfriend at our Maw-Maw’s funeral.

I was already in town because we knew Maw-Maw wasn’t going to last more than a week. Her untreated cancer spread straight to her brain and she was barely more than a vegetable. It was strange to see such a powerful woman so reduced. She had put Colby through some real sinister shit and he was in and out of the house as she was dying, acting manic, likely not knowing whether to be happy or devastated.  I was in my first year of community college and tried to study for a science exam while he snuck around, probably trying to steal shit from the house. I found my grandmother dead on the third day and we made arrangements to have her buried the next because she already owned the plot and it would help us save on the embalming costs. Her body looked like a tiny scarecrow in her cheap wooden coffin.

I knew she was going to die, but for some reason I didn’t bring anything appropriate for a funeral, so I had to go buy some black clothes from Wal-Mart. I didn’t pull all the tags off. I remember my aunt popping one off my shirt while I was standing by the coffin.

Colby’s new girl looked like she was no stranger to the glass pipe. She brought a couple of friends with her to the funeral. One was a slightly older lady who had become friendly with my grandmother while visiting her own son in prison. I guess Colby and her son were friends inside and ran with the same crowd on the outside. The younger woman turned out to be her daughter. She tried to hook me up with her at the funeral. I was already with my future wife by then, so I declined, but honestly, meeting a crazy girl at a funeral is totally my brand of insane.

That week was a real shit show and Colby was no help at all. He came around each day after the funeral, obviously high. My mom is a card carrying enabler and gave him money for cigarettes and whatever dope was available to the rural punks and juggalos my cousin spent time with.

The funeral was the last time I saw him alive. A few years later he called up and asked what the weather was like in Los Angeles near the beach. I’ve never been anywhere near there, so it was an odd question. I asked him why he wanted to know and he told me, “well, I’m dying and I thought it might be good to go out near the beach where Black Flag used to hang out.” I didn’t press him about why he was dying because he was never quite a fan of the truth. I advised against him coming out to California. I was going through another period of financial uncertainty and had just about had it with the Golden State. I didn’t think he’d make it out West, and he never did.

He did some really heinous, fucked up, evil shit to our family over the years. My other cousin Pud (that’s his nickname, I’m not sure if he’d want to be associated with this blog)  and I were not keen to let him in our lives, but a few months before he passed he called up my cousin and told him how well he was doing and how he’d just like to see him. Pud called me up and we talked for hours about family, redemption, recidivism, and all the crazy shit we lived through.

Our family is legitimately disturbed, not in an “oh, my fam is so crazy” kind of way, like a real deal “how are all these people alive and not in jail” kind of way. Colby was the most extreme example, but we both ended the call leaning towards seeing what our estranged blood kin was up to. I remember being excited that the family might come to some peace after all the hard years. A night or two later Colby was picked up near Pud’s home by the police. We both decided we were done with him. Some people you just can’t save.

Colby found himself in the county jail for a few weeks shortly after we heard from him and when he got out, he went over by a friend’s house. All we know is someone dropped him off at the ER while he was having some sort of seizure. He lasted a few more days on a respirator but his brain was gone from lack of oxygen. His mother made the decision to shut the machines off and his body died choking a few hours later.

I was in New Orleans, an hour away, and I didn’t go to see him at the end. I think about that decision all the time because I believe it was a bad, selfish one. I should’ve been there for my aunt’s sake. I should’ve been there to send his soul off or to offer prayer or something. My life was so close to going like his, but my father (step-father to be technical, but I’m not one for technicalities) brought me home and saved me from a life in a part of the South that’s terrible and always will be.

Don’t get me wrong, Colby wasn’t easy to love. If I told you more about him you’d probably think I was stupid for caring. The way I feel about all this really doesn’t have much to do with him. He’s gone and in a few years no one will even remember he lived. It’s really about what kind of person I am because of it. Not showing up to that hospital room is about the weakest thing I’ve done and I’ll go to my grave regretting it. I hope I never make that kind of chickenshit move again.

 

 

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Today was a long one dear readers. Mrs. Lott was out of town and I cleaned our home in a way that would’ve made Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest happy. I’m talking floor scrubbing, fridge cleaning, dog bed washing.

When in doubt, clean. It helps with existential despair and will reduce your allergies if you’re a sufferer like me. Our place is actually pretty clean all the time because we don’t have much stuff and are child free. The dogs contribute more than their fair share of grime, but that’s to be expected from dumb little animals that like to roll in filth and eat gross shit off the street.

Cleaning is not something I grew up with a passion for, but lately I’ve found it to be quite relaxing. I was quite a mess in my early twenties. My minimalist inclinations have always kind of helped out, though. It’s easy to stay organized when there’s not much to organize.

When my wife first came to spend a night at my apartment she was greeted with an empty room with a futon and blankets on the floor as a bed. I pushed an overflowing vintage metal ashtray and several empty Jameson fifths out of the way so we could get more comfortable. I still don’t know what she was thinking, but fortunately my charm and sexual prowess were adequate to win her heart. One thing’s for certain, she didn’t marry me for money.

On to the questions.

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What do I do with my rage when all four or five lanes of traffic on any Bay Area highway are all going to the same speed, which just happens to be 4 miles under the speed limit?

Welcome to the new reality of Bay Area living. All the freeways will suck spiny cat dick at all times until people decide it’s time to stop making bullshit apps and go back to whatever flaccid Norman Rockwell town they came from. We now have LA traffic without LA tens. It’s bullshit.

Basically what I’m saying is you’re stuck. I recommend podcasts and audiobooks to keep your sanity. It’s also nice to call people, especially family. In this age of email and texts, it’s pleasant to hear someone you love’s voice. Even when you’re stuck behind a Prius covered in Obama 2008 stickers.

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I always have to poop, I think it’s from smoking and drinking, I definitely want to poop less, but love smoking and drinking. How can I poop less and keep up my habits that cause me to?

Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine all stimulate the colon. My first thought was to recommend adding an opiate to your regimen. Something like Vicodin or Percoset. They cause a bit of constipation which may help counteract the frequent pooping.

That said, pooping a lot is usually pretty good for you and an opiate addiction probably isn’t. I imagine you might have some shame, embarrassment or anxiety if you chamber one while you’re out and about. You can always start choosing the places you go based on bathroom cleanliness.

If it was me, I’d just lean into my naturally reclusive tendencies and get shit faced at home so I could shit in place I enjoy.

When is it ok to mix love and business? 

I’m going to assume you don’t mean the business of love, AKA prostitution, which is ok, as long as everyone’s consenting and there aren’t any bullshit pimps involved. Man I hate a pimp. It drives me crazy that the term “pimp” has any positive connotations at all. In my opinion anyone involved in pimping is a total cunt and needs to die.

If mean mixing love and business in a professional setting, there are a few things to consider. If you’re both employed at the same place, it’s cool, just make sure you don’t do anything that annoys your coworkers. I worked with these two that would sneak off and fuck in the bathroom at work. I definitely am incline to give that kind of deviant behavior the thumbs up, but only if it doesn’t interfere with work in a way that puts stress on other people.

Personally, I don’t think I could work with Mrs. Lott regularly. We have had quite a bit of overlapping business over the years, but she is a total workaholic and if we worked together, I doubt I would be able to relax ever. You both need to be on the same page about unplugging from the grind, otherwise you will begin to hate each other.

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Assuming every man and woman has their price, what is yours?

It depends on what the buyer is trying to get. Usually this question is sexual in nature. In that case, I’m reminded of that old joke where an old rich man asks a young woman, “darling, if I gave you ten million dollars worth of diamonds, would you have sex with me?”

“For that price, my dear, yes” she replied.

“Ok, how about for $100?”

“Of course not” she gasped, clutching her pearls. “Do you think I’m a whore?”

“Yes darling, we’ve already established that, now we’re just haggling.”

For years my price was nothing, I was happy to give the D away for free. These days I’m committed to my sweet wife, so it would take quite a bit of cash. The thing is, you have to live with yourself after the deed, so you need to move the ball down the field a considerable distance.

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When is it ok for your partner to lie to you or you to them? 

I’m really hard line on lying. I don’t think it’s ever ok to lie. When I find out someone is a liar, it’s almost impossible for me to trust them.

Years ago I read a book called Radical Honesty that made quite an impression on me. The author decided he would go through life only telling the truth. It’s actually quite a psychedelic idea. By living completely honestly, he realized how much we all lie to each other. In the book he gets into quite a bit of trouble when people ask him questions like “do I look fat?” or “do you want to have sex with me?”

I tried living 100% honestly for a bit, and it was pretty difficult. These days I don’t lie, but I will plead the 5th on some things. I pride myself on being honest and I think I’ve earned a lot of respect telling people what I think, unfiltered.

For partners, I think lying is awful and should never be done. I believe how you comport yourself in minor things carries over to major things. Lying is an easy habit to get into and it opens the door for deeper deceptions. Be honest.

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What’s more important than money?

There are only three things more important than money: health, friendship, and love. If you don’t have those, money isn’t worth a damn thing. That said, having a lot of money makes staying healthy, making friends, and finding love a lot easier, so don’t fuck up your finances.