Tag Archives: Bainbridge Island

2018 in Review

1 Jan

Hello Friends,

I watched a couple 2018 year in review videos and both brought me to tears.  The first was from Associated Press:

The second was from Vox (which had a bit more of a positive slant):

 

It’s important to reflect on what happened, what we learned, and how we can move forward. Many of us now share personal best of lists or share our accomplishments. As I feel like I’ve been clubbed over the head, I actually have to take a look at my calendar to remind myself what happened. 

My favorite book of 2018 was probably “The Sarah Book” by Scott McClanahan. I read it just as I was going through a breakup/divorce and it really hit home for me. I also loved “Just Kids” by Patti Smith.

JUSTIN’S 2018 IN REVIEW  (warning, there’s some kissing and telling)

In January of 2018 I was still dental sales soldiering. I flew to Boston where they had accidentally booked one bed in the hotel room for me and my female colleague. We both had a sense of humor about it and ended up sharing the bed (as friends) for 3 nights. This was not the only time this happened.  The year before they made the same mistake with me and a male colleague, a Trump-supporting tech support guy. We shared the same bed in San Francisco for 3 nights. In Boston I ate some great seafood and had some dramatic internet conversation with my band SUSPECT PARTS. We were arguing about booking strategies for our upcoming European tour.

In February I began working 4 days a week as an American Sign Language interpreter. I took on more freelance agencies and expanded my possibility of becoming a full time interpreter.  My band MANIAC played Awesome Fest San Diego and I went on a 4 day bender.  Thankfully my Canadian friends in Needles/Pins took care of me.  I also purchased a guitar amp. I had been borrowing our drummer James Carman’s amp for years as I couldn’t previously afford my own.  On San Diego Craigslist found a great deal and threw that thing in the trunk of my Honda Civic.  It was some kind of specialty taco festival in San Diego and the Canadians and I enjoyed some fantastic tacos.  The end of February I worked the Chicago Dental Convention. Had some drinks with old friends and enjoyed some great Chicago food.

In March I began sign language interpreting for a live drawing class, which is basically college students sketching a nude model. My fellow interpreter and I had fun, made some jokes, but remained professional. My friend Cezar and I enjoyed some marlin tacos and tacos governador at Los Eduardos in North Long Beach.  My ex Marina and I had dinner at Papa Cristo’s Greek Restaurant.  I realized I wasn’t over her. Much of the year would have me in an emotional rollercoaster about the breakup and divorce. MANIAC played the Alhambra Room in San Pedro with Scott Yoder from Seattle. It was a wild wild night.  Imagine 2 cross dressing punk rock bands unexpectedly playing a redneck birthday party in Alabama in 1983. That’s what it was like. We all managed to get along great with the crowd. It was a miracle.

In April my co-worker Law convinced me to join Gold’s Gym and to try Spin classes and  Bodypump classes with him. The Bodypump instructor was an Australian with a big neck who shouted in everyone’s faces.  I didn’t die. The 1 hour workout burns 500 calories.  I did it for a few weeks then tore the meniscus in my left knee playing basketball.  My friends Jakes and Lexy got married and had their party at Taix in Echo Park, one of my favorite bars.  Saw lots of old friends from Bainbridge Island and Seattle. It was wonderful.  I met a really cute girl with brown hair and tattoos and we went out for sushi a couple of weeks later. For some reason we didn’t mesh and it never worked out.  I asked her on a 2nd date and she said “I don’t feel there’s a romantic connection between us.”  I really appreciated her honesty but it still hurt a little.   

MANIAC shot a music video for our song “City Lights” it was shot and directed by our very own Andrew Zappin.  The plot, written by Andrew:  Zache is in a bathtub relaxing and gets violently kidnapped by a girl gang.  They torture him with a dildo and shave off his mustache.  They put him in makeup and short shorts and push him out of their van in an industrial part of downtown LA.  James and I are cruising and cat call him then kidnap him into our car.  END

In May a friend introduces me to a crazy girl and we hit it off and start sleeping together.  Her apartment is very messy, dishes stacked to the ceiling, dog and cat hair, bong water, dirty laundry everywhere. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. It’s like the characters from the film “Animal House” had a massive party and just left.  The girl insists on taking her dog everywhere and frequently drinks and drives with her dog in the car. We have one really great date where we go bowling.  I invite her over to my place but she says she has to go home and check up on her dog. We don’t sleep together after the date and we never sleep together again.

I sign language interpret a weekend of festivities in Grand Park including a well-written theatrical play about police shooting black people.  The characters all talk over each other and the subject matter is extremely frank and intense.  The other interpreter and I struggle the first night but really kill it the second night. Unfortunately there were no deaf people in the audience the second night.

In June my left knee is really killing me. My friend Irwing and I bartended an all-night warehouse party until 6 in the morning.  I could barely walk for the next week.  I am icing it on a daily basis but it doesn’t seem to be getting better.  MANIAC release our second album “Dead Dance Club” and tour the west coast all the way up to Vancouver, Canada and back.  They miraculously let our singer Zache into Canada (they denied him previously).  Despite the condition of my knee, I ice it in the van and manage to play great.  We kick ass and take names all the way up the coast.  I touch base with a really wonderful female friend and spend a couple of nights with her. My heart aches and I wish she lived in L.A.   Thanks to “Punks Around” Microcosm Press in Portland releases a chapbook of my short stories.  I read an amusing tale from the book to a humorless audience in Portland.

After the tour I drive up to Mendocino County for my friend Devon’s Wedding.  The road to Caspar takes me through a redwood grove and along a river, the river empties into the Pacific Ocean and the road winds onto a cliffside. The view is one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen in my life.  I play a set of music on my acoustic guitar for their wedding reception afterwards all of these people whip out instruments, guitars, mandolins, violins, washboards.  We have an amazing jam session around the fire and everyone sings.  It’s an incredible night under the stars in Mendocino County.

Back down in Oakland I meet up with some old friends and we go see Giuda and The Damned on the last day of the Burger Boogaloo Festival.  The Damned absolutely kill it.  Afterwards Jello Biafra DJs some 60s tunes in a little bar.  We all dance and have a blast.

In July I work like crazy sign language interpreting . I’m now freelancing more and more.  An old friend Richie introduces me to LAFC, the new soccer team in downtown LA.  The game is an absolute riot. Most of the chants are in Spanish. The superfans bang drums, play horns, set off smoke bombs when a goal is scored.  Most of the fans seem to be from East LA. Everyone are together chanting in Spanish for the team.  It’s great fun and feels dangerous.  A fist fight breaks out on the stairs. The capos break it up.  The guy is tossed from the game and the chanting resumes.

My 35th birthday is on July 31st.  I take myself to WiSpa in Koreatown and get a full body scrubbing from a bath master.  I leave the place a clean man.

In August I sign my divorce papers.  The place is randomly located upstairs in a parking lot stripmall in Hollywood.  It takes about 5 minutes. The Armenian lady says I’m done.  In the car I begin violently sobbing. I’m glad my ex can’t see me.

I get an MRI on my knee which is still bothering me. They tell me my meniscus is torn in 2 places and my ACL is severely bruised. I ask the doctor if I should cancel my upcoming trip to Europe. The doctor says to do the trip and get surgery when I come back.

In September I grab a cheap flight to Warsaw to tour with SUSPECT PARTS.  I arrive early and see all of the sights in Berlin. Some friends of mine with a car take me all around town.  SUSPECT PARTS rehearse, we sound great.  We tour and then record a new 3 song single with Smail Shock in Berlin.  The last 2 shows in Berlin really go off. It’s an absolute blast.  After the tour I have a 24 hour layover in Warsaw and wander all around the city.  I learn about the Warsaw Uprising.  I eat pierogies and drink wodkie and beer.  I love Poland.

In October I am a full time freelance sign language interpreter. I am kicking ass and taking names all over town. I work 6 days a week as I have surgery coming up and I know I can’t afford the surgery or taking time off work.  Maniac plays up in Oakland and there’s a shooting outside of our show. No one was killed but multiple people are rushed to the hospital and the street closed by hordes of police.  We can’t load out our gear because the sidewalk outside the venue is a crime scene.  The show itself went really well and it was a beautiful night that ended when some guys from Vallejo pulled out guns and started shooting at each other.

In November I get surgery on my left knee. The procedure is very expensive and I have to miss work for a minimum of 2 weeks while my knee heals. I set up a GoFundMe and manage to raise all of the funds for my surgery due to very kind small donations from my friends all over the world. I’m truly blessed.   I spend a few weeks in bed then visit my mom for Thanksgiving.  My Dental job asks me if I will work the New York Convention. I ask for some money upfront. They tell me no.  I tell them no.  To this day we have not spoken with each other.  My dental soldiering days have luckily been replaced by sign language interpreting.  The two people who most notably do not donate even 1 cent to my GoFundMe Campaign are my brother and sister.  Besides my breakup/divorce, this was perhaps the singular most hurtful pang of my 2018.

James, drummer of MANIAC and long time friend quits the band over a group text message. We are all heartbroken and crushed.  We ask around and audition Patrick Vasquez AKA Patrick Butterworth.  He’s a great drummer, really enthusiastic person and somehow fit in perfectly.   James left a hole in our hearts, but luckily we’re able to keep going with Patrick behind the skins.

In December I’m attending physical therapy twice a week and I’m back at work. I’m able to walk without crutches.  I kick ass and take names as well as set up a business for my independent sign language interpreting to help out with 1099 taxes and all of that fun stuff.   I’m approved for a business credit card which is phenomenal.  When I broke up with Marina I got turned down from multiple apartment applications because of my credit.  It was a scary time and I was almost unable to find a new place to live.  Luckily things worked out OK for me.

Andru and Saskia visited from Berlin and I played LA tourguide and drove them up to the Central California coast to visit Rich Jones AKA “the original Dead Boy”.    We see elephant seals, pristine coastline, eat some great tacos, and stop by Buck Owens Crystal Palace on the way back.  It’s a great trip.

I’m very blessed and I love you all.

Happy New Year!

xx

Justin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aberdeen Skins Never Say Die (Vol. 1 Brooklyn)

9 Oct

(View on Vol. 1 Brooklyn Here )

Aberdeen Skins Never Say Die

Photo by Dan Halligan, 1998

Photo by Dan Halligan, 1998

“Awww put your clothes back on, faggot!”

A handful of skinheads swirled around the pit, shielding their eyes from my nakedness. For some reason we were playing in Aberdeen, Washington. The promoter was a chubby kid with a floppy green Mohawk named Phil. Phil seemed to have mild Down’s syndrome and he spoke with a stutter.

“Ther…ther… ther…are no real skinheads in America. The… the only real skinheads are in England.”

The Aberdeen skinhead crew didn’t take kindly to Phil’s remark and piled on him throwing wild punches. A couple security guards pulled the cueballs off of Phil.  He rose and dusted himself off.

“You…you guys hit like a bunch of girls,” he smirked. A few of the skins charged again and the security guards chucked them out of the front door.

About half the skins were outside and half were still inside the hardwood floored community hall. I went up to Phil and asked him if he was okay.  The remaining skins began eying me and sizing me up. I was a teenage beanpole with a footlong green liberty spike Mohawk. For the occasion, I had donned my sleeveless denim punk vest, my mom’s old Gap jean jacket that I hacked the sleeves off of. My Grandma sewed on some patches of local punk bands like Bristle and The Rickets. All the kids from my town who were into cool music wore high top Chuck Taylor’s and mine were navy blue.

My high school punk band was playing with The River Rats, a greasy garage punk band from Seattle and The Turn Offs, a surfy-garage band from Eastern Washington.  Their reverb-soaked hit was called “Taking the Impala to Walla Walla.”

It was our turn to take the stage. We tuned up and I instantly tore into the skinheads. I taunted them from the mic.

“You guys are real tough jumping a guy 10 to 1. You’re real big men.”

Some middle fingers went in the air and like a mound of red ants they began to swirl around a little bit.

“Why don’t you guys come up front? If you don’t get up here, I’m gonna get naked.”

I don’t know why, but at the time my thing was stripping down to my boxer shorts or completely naked. I knew it would piss off the homophobic skinheads.

The skins weren’t into our music and I followed through with my threat, stripping down nude.

“Awww, fuckin’ faggot,” the skinheads yelled.

One of them threw a bottle and like a skilled English footballer I butted it with my head. The glass bottle shattered on the floor and the security guards threw the remaining skinheads out of the show.

Someone warned me that the skinheads were waiting for me outside.

“We’re gonna kill the naked guy,” was the apparent threat.

The older Seattle greaser punks told me, “We got your back Mo Cheeks.”

My nickname at the time was “Mo Cheeks,” a pseudonym I had borrowed from a 70s basketball player, Maurice Cheeks of the Philly 76ers who was a teammate of legendary star forward Dr. J. Along with the Doctor, I was a fan of classic basketball stars like Pistol Pete Maravich and Magic Johnson.  At the time the Seattle Supersonics reigned with their triple All Star lineup of Sean Kemp, Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf. It wasn’t very punk to like basketball, so I kept my fanaticism for the Seattle Supersonics under wraps, at least around suave older punks.

As we loaded up I had leather jacketed, slicked-back-hair Fonzie lookalikes around me sporting cymbal stands and hard shell guitar cases as weapons. “Let’s roll, Mo Cheeks,” they said.

My heart pounded as we carried the gear down the stairs ready to fight. Waiting outside the hall was the skinheads, dressed identically in their uniforms of thin red suspenders, rolled up faded jeans and Doc Martens. There was about ten of us and twenty of them.

They didn’t seem to recognize me even though I had a foot long green liberty spike Mohawk. I heard them muttering about “the naked guy.” One of the greasers patted me on the back and chuckled.  We had outsmarted them without even trying.

It began to rain and we packed all of the gear haphazardly into the River Rats van.  My band climbed into our bassist’s beat-up baby blue ’66 Ford Mustang. Strewn on the ripped-up leather of the back seat were hamburger wrappers, cans of purple Aquanet Hairspray and a half rack of warm beer. We cracked some cans of Ranier in celebration. As the sun set and the rain pounded down on the roof of the Thunderbird we made our way to the house where we were all sleeping.

Between towering cedar trees was our Bates Motel. It was a dilapidated two-story house on a heavily forested rural side street.  We drank cans of Olympia Beer and the older boys teased each other about some girls they had slept with.  I was still a virgin at 15, but I laughed along as if I knew exactly what they were talking about. We staked out sleeping spots and threw sleeping bags into dark rooms.

And in walked three skinheads.