Birthday Boy 22nd Anniversary Edition

Since today is my birthday, you can take this opportunity to purchase a limited edition cassette of a crappy lo-fi EP I released in 1996, (which has been re-released by a label in Eugene, Oregon without my knowledge or permission.) I guess I’ve finally reached the age as an artist where young people take up an interest my shitty and obscure early recordings, so I’m honored and grateful for that. I may not be worthy of such recognition, but no one can ever say I didn’t pay my dues.

Birthday Boy was originally released in October of 1996. It was recorded on a Fostex XR-3 when I lived in my first apartment, at Desert Star Apartments in Phoenix, AZ. The complex was a mildly seedy dump back then, but now resembles a dangerous, post apocalyptic wasteland. The apartment only came with basic cable, of which the only cable channels included were The Family Channel, C-Span and the E! Channel. That’s it, nothing else. Living on my own and knowing very few people in the city, I spent most of my spare time watching the E! Channel, which at the time featured reruns of Melrose Place, WKRP in Cincinnati, One Day at a Time, and Alice. Regular tv also aired reruns of Charlie’s Angels and The Rockford Files during this period. I mention this because the era has become an enduring inspiration for me and a formative part of my identity.

Since I was living a fairly isolated lifestyle and wasn’t socially active, I frequently wrote songs about the lives of characters on the shows I was watching. For example, the second track on Birthday Boy is titled Right Back Where I Started, but the lyrics actually chronicle the romantic and often diabolic misadventures of the character Michael on Melrose Place. There are dozens of similar recordings which once existed, such as my spoken word cover of the theme song of WKRP in Cincinnati (which was re-worded and adapted to be about Arizona.) Sadly, I have moved nearly 30 times since then, and these other recordings have all been lost over the years…having been last seen around the year 2004 or so.)

The show Alice was also a show which I found oddly relatable as an 18 year old young man. The plot of Alice was centered around a woman who was driving to Los Angeles to start a new life and pursue a singing career, but her car broke down in Phoenix. She ends up staying in suburban Phoenix after she’s forced to take a job at a diner there to make ends meet, and the place starts to grow on her.

Anyway, that is the story of Birthday Boy. The cassette re-release can be purchased HERE. Special thanks to Captain Crook Records for rediscovering this uncharted “fool’s gold” record. The limited edition cassette re-release is almost sold out, but Birthday Boy (along with many other recordings) can still be purchased through iTunes as well.

Click here to purchase on iTunes

An obscure 90’s oddity, Birthday Boy’s aesthetic resembles something of a “Lo-Fi Leisure Suit Larry.” The song, Right Back Where I Started chronicles the love life of the character Michael from the show, Melrose Place. Originally released on cassette in 1996, this is one the most unusual recordings from a highly experimental era of indie alternative music.

Skytrain to Nowhere

Available in Paperback here

and eBook (pdf) here

Skytrain to Nowhere is an imagination driven and esoteric volume of free-form poetry. The book documents the author’s experiences, thoughts and observations while riding the skytrain at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport over the period of several weeks. Since the skytrain is only designed to transport travelers between various terminals and parking facilities at the airport, someone spending nearly 50 hours riding it purely for recreation and artistic inspirational purposes is highly unusual (to put it mildly.) Aside from occasional quirky anecdotes about various passengers, the poems mostly deal with themes of motion, the passage of time, and nostalgia. The author grapples with these issues from a retro-futurist perspective. Skytrain to Nowhere celebrates the realization that our vitality hinges on our ability to always keep moving, while recognizing we are unwilling or unable to leave some things behind on the journey.

Purchase Skytrain to Nowhere on Amazon.

Blood, Soil and Food Courts

metro_center_70s
MetroCenter Mall, Phoenix Arizona, 1970s

People often take it for granted that no one in cities like Phoenix could feel any connection to the local buildings because many of them are so recently constructed and thought to be from times when buildings had little to no spiritual or architectural significance other than for utilitarian commercial use or cookie cutter, tract housing.

“Would you fight and die for North Park Mall?” Richard Spencer asked jokingly (referring to a Dallas, TX shopping center that was presumably near an area where he grew up) during a recent Millennial Woes podcast titled, “The End of America.”

Well no..I wouldn’t, but mostly because I’m not from Dallas. However, I would fight and die for Paradise Valley Mall in Phoenix, not because I’m some kind of libertarian zealot or free market fanaticist (if anything I’m closer to a crypto-communist) but because the building and surrounding area was an integral part of my childhood and teenage experience. Admittedly, I grew up around the eastern side of town. Other 80’s kids on the west side would have spent their youth cavorting around iconic Metro Center mall (one of the film locations of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.) MetroCenter was the vastly superior establishment before it became overwhelmed with nonwhite gangsters and wiggers in the early to mid 90’s and was too ghetto for civilized people to hang out at.)

Believe it or not and disturbing as it may seem, people who grow up here actually do feel connected to many of these local landmarks. They’re a part of our identity and culture. Humans are territorial creatures of habit, often becoming attached to familiar haunts, no matter how superficially or artificially contrived those habitats are. It isn’t the mindless consumerism of these old malls that people identify with, but their place in our hearts as social and community hubs. I have more aesthetic affinity for a 1970’s futurist Phoenix mall or swanky mid century modern dwelling than I do for any of the 17th century churches or old office buildings in the northeastern US. Those particular eras and places do nothing for me compared to the unfulfilled space age promise of mid-century modernism, and I’m not the only one, as there are a great many advocates here who attempt to preserve structures that many outsiders would reflexively deem significant.

Robert Fairburn, Architect of MetroCenter Mall
Robert Fairburn, Architect of MetroCenter Mall

Whether it was The Wanderers or Monster Kody, street gangs have always fought over what outsiders no doubt perceived to be worthless territory, in the trivialest of turf wars. Would you fight for your home? What about your neighborhood? What about your home away from home?

Some self-proclaimed photographer “activists” have managed to convince themselves that the “death of malls” signifies some kind of broader decline of American capitalism, but the reality is that these malls were simply devoured by the very machine mechanisms of capitalism that helped spawn them in the first place. They’re in fact being replaced with an even more atomized form of capitalism, consisting of online shopping and big box stores, with “social media communities” and phone app browsing replacing local shopping and social communities, taking depersonalization to a new level entirely. Instead of gloating over an illusory victory, leftists should be preserving and re-purposing these malls into the futuristic communal living and socialization centers they were originally envisioned as. You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

metro-center2

Like Spencer, I don’t have any real attachment to the abstract values which comprise the contrived, constitutional “American” identity that conservatives fetishize and deify. And no, I probably wouldn’t actually fight and die for these local Phoenix malls, but only because they’re already ruined or nearly demolished. Much of this area is already overrun, and it’s too late. Some areas sadly have to be written off, because we just don’t have the numbers. Yet by necessity, the un-luxurious of us that remain (outnumbered) are compelled to gravitate toward a more biological identity, preserve the collective desire and genetic foundation that offers the greatest probability of creating the types of societies we wish to live in, somewhere. We’ll make a stand there. See you at the Orange Julius, Caesar!