Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas In Arizona Travelogue

It's been a crazy year for me. My family moved from the Eastside of L.A. to the Westside, which is a bit of a culture shock in itself. Then, just as we were starting to get settled in Culver City, my husband got a great job offer which would require him to relocate to Arizona.

So I'm writing from Arizona this Christmas. For the first time in my life, I'm planning on moving away from Southern California. We had contemplated this move to the desert once before, several years ago, but decided that the culture of Scottsdale at that time was too homogenous for us to comfortably fit in. "Fitting in" has never been one of my strengths and I think my daughter has inherited that trait. Well, either Scottsdale/Phoenix has changed over the past few years or my own lifestyle has changed to the point where my needs are now closer to what this area provides. Perhaps it's a bit of both. Still, there are some things which will require getting used to.

Earlier in the week, my husband found a scorpion in his jacket. Luckily he saw it right before he put it on and was able to shake it out onto the yard. The same evening we had a large coyote (not like the skinny ones you see in the canyons in L.A.) cross in front of our car as we were driving down one of these dark streets. It seems many people out here consider street lights to be "light pollution" because they ruin your ability to see the stars. I am an avid stargazer, but there's something about street lighting that just makes me feel safe.

My husband, daughter and I drove up to spend part of the long weekend in Sedona. We drove in, awestruck by the red rock formations, but when we got to the town, we couldn't wait to leave. As soon as we parked the car, we were accosted by a timeshare salesman who promised to set us up with a free hotel room for the night. Fortunately for us, his phone seemed to be having problems and he couldn't get through to the hotel office. He began cursing his bad luck and slamming the phone on the counter. We walked out the door as he hurled the phone against the wall. The rest of the uptown area was not much better, just crowded with tourist shops and overpriced food choices. It's a shame, because the natural setting is just amazing.

After heading out of Sedona, we decided to spend the night in the quaint town of Jerome instead.

Jerome is a great place to visit if you:
A) Are not afraid of heights
B) Like to drink in bars
C) Are not afraid of ghosts

The town is famous for having ghosts and we ate dinner at a little place called the Haunted Hamburger, where the power went out about 15 minutes after we sat down, plunging the entire place into darkness and candlelight. Later, my husband dragged me up to the old Jerome Grand Hotel for a nightcap. This hotel was converted from an old mining hospital and it just feels creepy from the moment you walk up to it. The proprietors proudly display various photographs of unsuspecting visitors accompanied by unexplained "spirit orbs". Sleep that night was difficult. I kept hearing noises. I haven't been that eager to get up early on a Saturday in a long time.

We had breakfast in one of Arizona's oldest restaurants, The English Kitchen, which once housed an opium den in the basement and has a colorful history of its own. A few blocks away, the remnants of the old redlight district are still visible, including the famously haunted House Of Joy.

On our way back out of Jerome we stopped for lunch in Prescott at an old fashioned saloon called The Palace. The Palace had quite a colorful history too, having hosted the likes of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. In the ladies restroom was a picture of Little Egypt, one of the more interesting entertainers who had performed at The Palace. Legend has it that during a big fire which wiped out most of the town, the local saloon patrons lifted the ornately carved wooden bar out of the burning building. Once they'd saved the bar, they continued drinking at it while the rest of the businesses burned. I like a town that has its priorities straight. Speaking of priorities, one of mine is to never skip a meal, and I just noticed that all of my "travel activities" seem to center around meals. My husband says that I plan my itinerary around my meals and that seems to be true! But he plans his itinerary around where to find cocktails, so we make a good traveling team.

Now we're back in Scottsdale. The beautiful resort where my husband works has been and will continue to be our temporary home for the next month or until we find a permanent residence.

L.A. and all my friends and family out there will always be in my heart. I will miss that city, but after all, it's only a 6 hour drive. It's time for a little change. May all of you enjoy a wonderful holiday season surrounded by people you love.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Germs 2005

I’ve been getting alot of inquiries lately about the Germs. People are interested not only in stories about Darby, but in hearing my opinion about the movie, What We Do Is Secret, that is being made about the band. They are also interested in the subsequent formation of the New Germs, as the band fronted by actor Shane West has been called on the internet.

I’ve had a hard time answering some of the questions. I know that the three remaining principle members of the band have been involved with and/or consulted about the movie, so I expect that most of it will be accurate and portray the band in the way they wish to be portrayed.

I also think it speaks very highly of Shane West that the remaining members of the band would want to reunite and play as the Germs with him as lead singer. I haven't had a chance to catch them yet. I don’t think there is any doubt that the band will be well-rehearsed, sound good and do a great show. But I suspect that is not what people want to know. There is a question that I feel many of you are trying to ask but have not done so far. The question is, can a band that stood for something at a certain point in time have the same relevance today?

That question goes further than asking about the Germs. There are many people performing today who were around when punk in Los Angeles was in its infancy. My favorite band, The Weirdos, still plays. They are still wonderful. I go see them every chance I get, but do their performances mean the same thing that they did 30 years ago? No. Not only is the band line-up different today, but the music is older. We’re all much older, and punk itself is nearly 30 years old.

The first time you step onto an airplane may be a new and exciting experience for you, but it’s not the same as the first time someone climbed into an airplane in the early 1900s. Air travel is part of our culture; there is little mystery and magic left of what once must have seemed an incredible experience. Even if you’ve never been on a plane yourself, you’ve seen planes flying overhead and you know people who have been on them, they are part of everyday life. Punk rock as a cultural movement has come to that point. It is part of everyday life. Some of you have grown up with a punk rock soundtrack because your parents or older siblings were listening to it. Punk music and ideology is in a different stage of its life. Which is not to say that punk isn’t relevant or valuable, just that it isn’t what it was. It has been changed, perfected, expanded upon and reinvented by some, and of course commercialized and exploited by others.

I’m sorry to say this, but if you didn’t see the Germs, or Weirdos, or Screamers, or Bags in the late ‘70s, you will never be able to have that experience. You may see reunions of some of those bands, and they may sound great, and you may even think to yourself, “this is what it was like”, but don’t fool yourself. If you want that experience, you would do better to go see a new band, one that is creating something all their own, one that can’t trace its roots back 30 years, one which is true to the spirit in which punk was born.