“Tonight, I shall make the moon disappear!”
If I were Donald Trump’s speechwriter, that would have been the sole promise of his State of the Union speech, followed by 80 minutes of Kentucky Fried Chicken farts, to keep his base happy until they were cowering at his might under the smudgy Super Blue Blood Moon.
But I’m not Trump’s speechwriter. Instead, I’m right back where I started, writing the Lost in OC column for the OC Weekly.
It was long ago when I last did that, so let me tell you a bit about myself: I’m old. I’m older than rope. I’m so old that even the benchmarks by which I measure age are archaic. Remember Wilfrid Brambell, the actor who played Paul McCartney’s “very clean” and horribly old grandfather in A Hard Day’s Night? Of course you don’t—because you’re not old. Well, I was 9 when I first saw that film, and Brambell seemed as craggy and desiccated as a mummy. So it is not a cheering realization that I am 13 years older now than Bramble was then.
When the OC Weekly launched almost 23 years ago, I imagined myself to be a crusading young journalist manning the barricades with my peers. Decades later, I got my peers’ perspective, in the Weekly’s 20th-anniversary edition: “Jim was by far the oldest person any of us ever had worked with. It kind of gave us the creeps.”
As well it should. Those Weeklings are old enough now that they’ve also begun to wilt and sag and to get that sad, despairing look of a dog who’s been in the shelter too long. Time will get you, too, my pretties.
So here I am to give you that underserved voice in the American conversation: the angry, old, white man. I’m angry that so many of my fellow old, white men are angry about the wrong stuff. I’m angry that 55 years after I cried my 8-year-old eyes out over John F. Kennedy’s assassination, a heartless comic-book villain is lurking in the White House. I’m mad that he and a conclave of other angry, old, white men think they get to decide what women do with their bodies. I’m mad that nuclear bombs are hip again. I’m mad that American Nazis and the Klan not only are still around, but also have fans on Pennsylvania Avenue. I’m mad that Republicans are poised to gut Social Security and Medicare just as they’re about to do me some good. I’m mad that every week is a new constitutional crisis. I’m mad that the checkout guy asks if I need help getting my purchases to the car. Jesus, buddy, it’s just weed!
So what do I do? I write the occasional book, allowing me to occasionally be reminded that the publishing world is like the record business, but with 600 more years of figuring out how to screw the talent. I sell my old guitars and records. And, instead of journalism, where you always have to invoice and hound publishers to pay you, I spend hours writing on Facebook, where you don’t have to worry about getting paid. I love that little digital community.
And though I’m not much of a joiner, sometimes you’ve got to put your solitary rants aside and join the masses, to be one dot in the pointillist painting of our times. I did that a few weeks ago, joining other Costa Mesa friends at the Women’s March in Santa Ana. It was a fine morning: warm in the sun, cool in the shade, and lots of women with signs they’d made—“This is my resisting bitch face,” “Trump Don’t Surf,” “The Fempire Strikes Back,” “Orange Lies Matter,” “Pussy Power,” “It’s Mueller Time,” “Fuck You, Cheeto Voldemort.”
Some countians, such as one letter writer to the Daily Pilot, were irked that this Women’s March, which they perhaps expected to be a cakewalk or cotillion, was a teeming anti-Trump rally.
Which rather misses the history and point of the thing. Let me mansplain it to you: Women have a pantsload of reasons to join together and rise up, but those complaints were brought to a head by the election of Donald Trump and his anti-woman, anti-future policies.
A lot of women do not like the cut of his jib—by a lot. Last year’s nearly spontaneous Women’s March dwarfed Trump’s inaugural crowd. This year’s gathering in scores of cities has been tallied as the largest mass protest in human history, not that it will make a whit of difference to the entitled ideologues in Washington.
The Santa Ana Police Department estimated there were 24,000 people at our particular march, but my crowd-wizened eye thinks it was more. Whatever the number, it was larger and friendlier than any of the past anti-war, anti-nuke, anti-Contra, anti-whatever-you’ve-got marches I participated in during the golden days of protesting. I’m a big baby and teared up a few times seeing the streets packed 15 people across, stretching on for blocks and blocks here in what used to be called the heart of Reagan Country.
Was the march perfect? Well, it could have been brisker, for those of us who could use the aerobic benefit. It could have used a marching band. And it could have started sooner, instead of everyone standing in place for an hour while “empowering” speeches rattled on over a distant PA system. If you’ve got thousands of folks foregoing their hour of coffee to stand in the street with handmade signs, chances are they’re already plenty motivated. Just push “Go.” But these are minor quibbles compared to the tear-gas-tainted days of old.
The following weekend, I was marching around the NAMM show at the Anaheim Convention Center. I’ve gone since 1977, and for many of those years, I convinced my editors that the musical-instrument trade show was an important windsock showing where our culture and economy was headed. Sure, but mainly it was an opportunity to meet up with old friends, to see how many more variations on a Fender Stratocaster the public can stomach and to again wonder what the hell the Jägermeister Girls have to do with music.
The takeaway this year? Don’t expect the hardware to save us. There is such an overabundance of instruments, effects, tutorials and home-recording solutions that if you can’t come up with something as profound as Memphis’ Stax studio did with a two-track reel-to-reel recorder and $3,000 worth of instruments in 1965, the lack isn’t in the equipment.
I also took in the NAMM-concurrent vintage-guitar show at the OC Fairgrounds. The takeaway there is that more people were taking things away: The sellers I know were selling a lot of rare guitars. Credit the blip of hope offered by the tax cuts, or credit eight years of an improving economy. Credit people who need a distraction from our inharmonious political climate.
One galling thing for years at the guitar show was that it drew a miniscule attendance, while the gun show next door had lines of folks waiting to get in and exiting with more guns and ammo than any sane person could carry.
I chatted with a gun dealer as he was packing up in the parking lot—as close as I come to doing actual journalism these days—and he said most of the dealers were bitching about weak sales this year. That’s the problem when you don’t have a black president to scare buyers with anymore. Better luck three years from now.