Wednesday, January 11, 2012

California Feeling

Hey! What's happening? Yeah, I know I haven't really been doing much of a job keeping this place up and running lately. My motivation to do so has been, shall we say, less than extreme. Nothing to do with you fine folks, but if you must know, I've been going through a rather intense period of self-examination lately. It could be viewed as a something of a crossroads I suppose. Probably the sort of thing a lot of divorced 37 year old males have experienced throughout the ages, but it's been a gigantic pain in the ass nonetheless.

Without getting too in depth about it, I'm in a rut. A lot of it has to do with what I perceive as a lack of growth, or maybe a need for more perspective. Basically I'm stuck, you see. My life's passion has always been music, and my free time has been centered around going to live shows since I was a wee lad of 14. But lately, that's been something that hasn't been providing the same amount of joy it used to. In theory there should be no reason why I don't enjoy seeing live music, but damned if hitting (or now being well past) 30 doesn't seem like a death sentence to this once happy club goer.

It's just weird checking out a show, looking around you and noticing how young everybody is. Whereas I once felt surrounded by brothers and sisters at these gigs, lately I'm starting to feel like the proverbial drunk uncle, or "drunkle" as I've recently become fond of saying. Not that I'm always drunk, but you guys probably get where I'm coming from here. Against my better instincts, somewhere along the line I became just another schlub with a job and a mortgage. My interest in keeping up with fashions and trends is dying steadily, and as much as I try to rail against the march of time there is really nothing much that can be done about it.

I go to dance shows in San Francisco looking to have a good time, but the thought of grinding on some girl fifteen years my junior just seems so unseemly all of a sudden. I often ask myself what the hell am I doing here exactly? In my heart I know I have little desire to settle down again, but mainstream society isn't leaving me a whole lot of other options either. One by one, my friends are either shacking up and dropping out of the scene, or becoming victims to their own vices. Yet neither of those options really appeals to me.

So I generally come home from work, slam a bunch of PBR and listen to my old Chris Montez or Sergio Mendez & Brasil '66 records, dreaming of some beautiful alternate reality where men wore white tuxes and ladies were dressed in exquisite evening gowns, and everything was groovy and simple. I burn lots of incense and candles, and have taken to smoking cigarettes again, mainly out of boredom.

On weekends I hit the dive bars, but it's a shitty situation in Oakland. Insufficient public transportation and my general unwillingness to not get arrested for driving under the influence usually has me dropping $40 a night just on cab fare, which on some evenings pales next to my bar tab. It's not like it's a guaranteed good time either. I meet and talk to a fair amount of women, but it's like I've become so picky about what I'm looking for that I'm just searching for any excuse to disassociate myself from them, rather than judging them fairly on whatever charms they do possess.

I touched on this briefly in my previous California Music post, but the overwhelming ennui of the thirtysomething California lifestyle is tangible. Nothing's ever really bad out here for those of us that are fortunate enough to be healthy, not broke or destitute, and to be living in a neighborhood where we don't have to worry about getting shot at on a daily basis. But damned if it's all still not what I thought it would be.

Since I moved to the Bay Area, I've partied in $20 million houses, and I've partied at warehouses in what we fondly call around here the "super ghetto", and yet (shockingly!) I haven't found what I'm looking for at either. So is it a case of searching inward for answers then? I feel like maybe I ought to meditate, or start getting into yoga and new age literature, but to be honest I just can't be arsed. I've toyed with the idea of forming an internet start-up numerous times, but it just seems like such an overwhelmingly competitive environment for someone such as myself who really isn't the least bit competitive.

I haven't written a song worth a shit in over a year. The boundless joy I used to get from just playing guitar or drums has been reduced to a mild sense of enthusiasm. Lately life seems to be centered around waking up to an alarm clock and making sure my bills are paid on time. I actually sort of like my job, so that's not a major source of stress (thank God!), but advancement opportunities there are unfortunately few and far between.

Furthermore, I live in an area where I'm surrounded by artsy, cool young people on one hand and rich douchebags on the other. A lot of the quote unquote "normals" around here I see out driving or waiting in line at the CVS just look beaten down zombies. I'm happy to say that I still possess enough enthusiasm not to look like that.

Maybe it's the economy, or the pace of 21st century living, but something about the times just doesn't agree with me. Which is weird because I'm a huge tech junkie, but it seems as though everyone's buried in their gadgets, and real conversation is becoming a thing of the past these days. And generally I find most people to be overly preoccupied with their own internal drama anyway, or overwhelmed with obligations and the like. I know I'm fortunate to possess a great nexus of individuals I consider close friends, but they fall trap to the same things I've been talking about, and I suppose I'm not immune either. And we all know about the level of drama that can exist between friends at various times.

Anyway, I'm just posting this missive by way of letting those of you who care enough to post here why the lack of updates and such. Please understand that I'm not going through a depressive state or anything of the sort; it's more a case of persistent though not overwhelming boredom. It's a daily struggle-- the fight to remain vital, to not become the proverbial wet blanket. Maybe if you've been through something of the sort, and feel as though you can relate, you might care to leave a message. No obligation though. I'll be back at it soon enough, and until then, you can find me somewhere around Oakland, hiding in plain sight.


  1. I definitely dig how this goes. Feeling adrift, yet oddly anchored to undefinable whatevers.

    I'm in my early 30s, and I have no idea who I am, what I'm doing or why I do what I do. But I take comfort in the knowledge that I'm doing what I do when others aren't able to. And I know I may not be able to, sooner or later. Which causes me more irritation, because I cling to what I have even though I don't know if it's what I want.

    Or something.

    We'll be around when you want to write. And we'll be around to share and listen along. At least we have music ... even when it doesn't always grab us as it used to. Ebbs and flows, pendulum swings, etc. So while it may not give you the satisfaction it used to, it'll be there when you're ready for it again.

    When I feel listless about my music, that's when something new hits me. And after I digest that new music, I am reminded of why I loved the old stuff. It is a kind of gift, one I'm sure you understand as well as anyone.

    It's all good, dude.

    1. I know how you feel and I've been there - except for the divorce as I have always been single. I will turn 61 this year and while I still go to shows occasionally I also find that I feel less and less a part of "the scene". Back in the 80s I was a big part of the whole "Paisley Underground" Garage scene here in NY. I knew all the bands and most of the people at the gigs. As time went on that scene slowly dissipated as people seemed to go their own ways. I still enjoy the occasional gig I go to but it's different now. I don't get high and I don't have the energy to dance for hours on end.

      But for me, there is something about the music that keeps me in touch with that R&R spirit. I still get that same jolt of adrenaline hearing the opening chords of The Who's "I Can't Explain" as I did 47 years ago when I first heard it.

      If I may give some advice here, hopefully not sounding like a know-it-all old windbag, I would tell you to relax and not sweat it so much. Yes, you are changing. We all do. The things that were important to you 10 years ago are not so important now. That's natural. Try not to put so much pressure on yourself to have to feel and act a certain way and to do certain things. I know it is easier said than done but I also believe that you have the answer to what you want inside you - you just need some quiet relaxing time to see it, that's all. And please, throw away those cigarettes. They will kill you.

      I hope this helps somewhat. Good luck.

  2. Thank you both for the sage advice! I'll keep at it, I promise. I keep remembering the old saying that life is about the journey and not the destination, so looking at it that way, each day is a gift and a chance at a new beginning. Who knows what the future holds? Thanks for the kind words. ~JP~

  3. Hey there --

    I found your blog while idly looking for bootlegs & audio obscurities one day.

    As as guy who just turned 37 himself, I'm caught between all the same stuff, still wondering if some late-blooming music or entrepreneurial project will come along to make good on the efforts of the last 15 years. Good to know I'm not alone!

    Right now, I'm trying to remember that the good stuff to do and discover is limitless. Like anything else, it just takes a little more effort as you get older. The grumpy old man fears change and new things, the happy old-timer has a habit of curiosity. I'm making a real effort to stay on the second path. Wish me luck!

    Many thanks for the post,


  4. I'm just a bit older than you (looks again) er, make that quite a bit older, sonny, but I'll cop to feeling much the same way. I suspect part of it is the divergence between what we were taught as children to expect our place in the world would be, and what the world is actually offering us today. Intellectually we know things are not what we were promised, but unconsciously we're still comparing our real lives to the script we learned in childhood and going "Wait, what's my next line supposed to be? This doesn't match up at all!" Feelings like this are why the complaint "Where's my jet pack?" has become such a cliche.

    And another factor is…damn it, kids today really are amazing. I know teenagers who are more together and accomplished and artistically productive than I am today, far beyond anything I could have dreamed of being when I was their age. I've actually found myself mourning their lost youth, not mine -- "You kids are so ambitious and career-oriented, have you even had a chance to be teenagers? Are you afraid to sit by yourself and do nothing?" So anyway, the generations before ours are staying on stage longer and the generations after us are getting on stage earlier. Naturally we feel a bit squeezed on both sides and wonder where we're supposed to stand.

  5. I started yoga a few months ago, it's an amazing way to work out. It makes you feel good all day! It's all about being able to keep trying new things and having adventures. Spontaneity and uncaused happiness are the secret to life!

    Best of luck J Pinnacle!

  6. Wow, awesome comments all around! I think I have the best blog readership on the web, I really do.

    Richard, your point about teenagers is something I've noticed too. I heard a quote from Kim Fowley one time where he was saying before the sixties, teenagers were considered to be "miniature adults", and were expected to act as such. I wonder if maybe we're reverting back to that and the age of teenage navel gazing is over?

    Thanks for the awesome comments everyone, they are most helpful! :)

  7. Hey J
    You are not feeling anything that probably most of us have felt before. I am about to hit the half-century mark and it makes me feel like shit. And worse, all the women available are either psychotic or married. Sometimes both.
    My songwriting slump(almost 6 years!) finally ended when I bought a Mac and Logic 9 Pro. All of a sudden it became easier to put a decent recording together. When the words and music started coming again, I breathed a sigh of relief. I really thought I had forgotten what playing music was about. Good luck with your crisis, though it sounds like if you are able to verbalize it, you may have already turned the corner
    Don in Oregon

  8. sorry, that should be "haven't felt before"

  9. Thank you Don. Your line on women made me laugh!

  10. Hi J, I'm on the Silicon Valley side of the Bay, in Redwood City. The competition here infuses all facets of life from work to love to diet to exercise to your brand of eastern philosophy. I've had lots of similar feelings since my early 40s (a decade ago). Be glad you still have your job, because that feeling of being out of place intensifies when you don't. Three things that have helped me:

    (1) Go to Burning Man. I am not kidding. It will realign your psycho-emotional axis inwardly and outwardly, as you choose.
    (2) Take your guitar out in front of the Paramount and busk for spare change. You will express yourself, challenge yourself, and meet lots of fun (not necessarily interesting) people every time out.
    (3) Take up a new instrument. You will find yourself listening to music in a new way.

    Do all three and your life once again will rock, I have no doubt.

    BTW The East Bay is a hotbed of Taketina and Circle Singing, both of which I would be doing more of if I lived closer. Maybe a better way to meet interesting women than dance clubs, and you might have fun in any case.

    Good luck to us all!

  11. Ted, I'm really sorry I missed your post the first time around. This is excellent advice, and I actively am checking out both Taketina and Circle Singing per your recommendation. Actually all your recommendations kick ass in a very pro-active way. Thank you immensely for your thought provoking post!