found this Mark Twain zine for 50 cents (!$!) at Bound Together, the Anarchist collective shop down on Haight st. the best part about that place is that you can volunteer there, and read all the good shit they have, including issues of Razorcake and Cometbus which i am sorely behind on. They also have used fiction, Beat stuff, Proudhon, and a rack of these pamphlet zines put out by See Sharp Press from Tucson, Arizona - The War Prayer being one of them.
this is not a poem even though it looks like one.
believe me, it’s not.
my girlfriend’s out of town and i kinda feel like a piece of shit cause i should be with her, but i’m broke.
but i have things to do.
who am i?
not the person i want to be all the time, but getting there.
2 months ago we picked up out of the blue and went to Panama for a week - on a credit card - and now i can’t even go with her 5 hours in a car to Los Angeles.
pick your battles. we pick our battles.
my friend’s wife gave me a giant lemon last night from their small tree.
it was so gigantic it felt symbolic. metaphoric.
when life gives you lemons…
take love from where you can get it. take support for what you need.
know what you need.
need to keep working. need to finish things i’ve begun. need to be at the forefront - the cutting edge - of my own being.
my body felt like quitting last night, but i stayed up working on a new story for Pioneers’. they won’t quit so i won’t quit either. they’re creating their future
and im creating mine.
your brain can do extraordinary things when it is exhausted, when it pushes beyond exhaustion, when the house is quiet, when your focus doesn’t waver, when you are bold, and ugly in form, and sober, and searching, searching, searching yourself.
i got one sentence beyond quitting, then fell asleep.
but it was a good sentence.
a big sentence.
a sentence beyond what i thought i could do.
woke up early this morning and hiked Tamales Bay for a few hours.
found 300 beached dead jellyfish stranded on the rocks in the new shallows while the tide was out.
felt like a sophisticated life-force was announcing itself
in the form of a prototype that was not developed enough to sustain here.
reminded me that last night my friend showed me Google Nights (or something like that). blew my mind. you hold your iPhone up to the sky and it tells you what star constellations you are looking at. GPS.
ive seen Jupiter thousands of times, but have never known it.
i don’t have a smartphone.
felt like a sophisticated life-force was announcing itself.
felt good to hike Tamales Bay
this morning after writing one more sentence than i thought i could the night before.
felt like the story wrote itself while i was hiking and not thinking about it at all.
felt like a sophisticated life-force was announcing itself.
saw a snake.
saw a giant slug.
saw a black-tailed deer.
came home and made some more Death In A Rifle Garden zines.
came home and made some tomato sauce.
my girlfriend is still away and i wish we were together.
at least now the house smells like tomato and garlic and basil.
at least now the house is covered in zines.
gonna finish writing that story now.
gonna drink some beer when i’m done.
FREE admission Tuesday at the SFMOMA tonight - right before the renovations close it for 2 years. Going to see this after work. Psyched
There was that Tom Waits song on Mule Variations that kept wondering “What’s he building in there? What’s he…building in there?” and I’d think the same thing walking past a guy living out on the street curb between two trees on Octavia St. near Fell. He set up simply a few weeks ago with an overturned shopping cart and a wobbly refrigerator box, assuming the look of little more than an abandoned teenage prank - some supermarket hijack - but then I stepped in a log of human shit on a Tuesday morning and knew someone was living there.
The thing slowly began to gain structure, amenities, growing into a lean-to, a fort. The shopping cart grates were plastered with flattened PBR and Modelo 12-pack cardboard, reinforced with duct tape or thin knotted strips of damp sock; a faded Transformers bedsheet crisscrossed an orange San Francisco Giants blanket, both draped over a low rope tied between the trees; discarded broken suitcases stacked like a bureau began to fill with odds and ends, survival gimcrack; a dirty grey sleeping bag leaked out along the pavement like a sickly tongue.
At nights I swore I smelled soup. But I never saw a guy cooking. Just 2 mismatched boots, laces weaved to an umbrella’s handle, which was new. Then 4 boots, a day later. 2 guys. What were they doing in there?
I didn’t know, but it didn’t matter. They were living, clearly, out here.
Something about sleeping outside I’ve always respected. The freedom inherent is the ultimate act of defiance. People work jobs to pay rent, stay in bad relationships to keep a roof over their heads, put up with a lot of bullshit to borrow a piece of property. For what? A lease. 30 days on credit before you have to give money to a landlord. But if you’re okay with sleeping outside when things get tough you really can’t be messed with. Just as owning things end up owning you, being able to part ways with comfort and security and peace and quiet is the ultimate leverage against…everything.
Someone who comes to the conclusion, “I got nowhere to go” is stuck, and ends up giving in, going back. Someone who’s gotten the screws put to her and can say in the face of a soul-sucking compromise, “Fuck it, I’ll sleep outside” wriggles to a righteous liberation.
Few have the guts. Mostly I don’t either. BUT THESE GUYS, these 2 tramps, camouflaged in San Francisco’s gentle heather drear, erecting their junk palace stone by hoarded stone in the silence of neglect and no expectation right on the same public, crowded, main thoroughfare that 1000s of people pass each day to drink overpriced Columbian drip coffee, or steins of bier at the outdoor German Gaarden on the corner, or shit their dogs at the park across the street, or rush to work to make rent, or rush home to pay it.
Soon there was a mumbling in those crowds, a jagged crosstalk. Whatever crash habitat the unseen sidewalk dwellers had out-posted, became suddenly too visible. A gossip swarmed.
Why them, huh? Why I pay and them get to live like that for nothing? Free. In and of my tax. Something along that line, perhaps, I don’t care to be exact. I’m new here, and I don’t think like them, I mean don’t see things the way they do so it’s hard to decipher their tongue when they whine of real estate usurpation and public eyesores.
And beyond petty grievance, what really bothered me was an insensitivity, or actually a straight up neglect, of the ingenuity it took to build a pad like this from scratch. The adobe was as protective and efficient as an exoskeleton. At night it seemed to breathe. Morning offered a crate collecting with recyclable tin cans ratting about. A house on the street, just a house on the street. An architect comes along and says ‘I’ll build a house on the street.” A realtor says, “here’s the street, build that house.” But the raw tactics of two men on the street is too much.
And winter came on quick at night, everyone could smell it. You needed to be indoors, insulated at least. The two started entertaining guests, it seemed, as things were getting a bit rowdy on the block at night. Patrol cars cruised the plaza. A 1-Eyed Jack was found in a nearby sidewalk crack with the corner nicked, someone’s fixed winning. Neighbors complained of too much revelry for a Wednesday night with the Giants not playing.
Something wouldn’t last…
I smelled it before I saw it, which is the way things discover in San Francisco, I’ve learned. The smell of weed brings you to the party at your friend’s house, urine treads the way to the tenderloin. In this case, smoke. Burnt, blackened leaves. Singed trees. Fire.
I almost walked past the street shelter, just as I did when it was only a shopping cart, were it not for the charred fat of seared sleeping bag in the cement. Burnt sweatshirts, a melted backpack, the orange blanket left, barely the size of tabby cat’s tail. And one, single boot, crisped black and split with blisters down the rubber sole. A lone footprint, etched and no men to be found.
It was only 7am, so the fire must’ve blazed in the middle of the night, smothered now by the daybreak of overcast clouds. The smoke was disastrous in my nostrils, but I couldn’t just cover my face and run by quickly - it was too touching an absence to come upon . A displacement like this. Was it a cigarette lit while someone slept? A soup stove? I had no idea. Was it a vicious neighbor? Who would know? But how terrifying a thing, to wrap all your essentials around you, huddle up with a brother, or a tramp compatriot, and be woken in a tiny crawlspace by leaping flames as you dash out into the night’s street, no doubt slamming yourself against cars and whatever else it took to put yourself on fire out.
And by sunrise cars were already beginning to park there.
I heard a ringing in the distance, like a harbor bell. Tolling. Deep. It was a man at the next street corner, haggardly dressed, banging his arm hard against the stoplight. He leered at the oncoming traffic, cursing at every few cars. He only wore one boot.
Carrying up beyond him was the ash from the fire like musical notes visible in the whirling wind - the wreckage from the house, a bonfire sonata. No possessions were lost, for no possessions were necessarily had. I followed the curl of ashy smoke to where it seemed to gather, tightening, 3 or 4 car lengths away, around another man, a brother maybe, a tramp compatriot, collecting loose leaves and cardboard beer cases, and shredding with his teeth another ragged sock to knots a useful rope.
I’m literally (LITERALLY, like it’s happening right now) avoiding my girlfriend’s landlord because he is coming by between 8:30 and 4:30 to install carbon monoxide detectors in the building and he’s already warned her that if he finds out i’m living there he will have to rewrite her lease for 2 people and in doing so raise the rent…the new number being something beyond our budget. Dickish move, right? Whatever, it’s his building and her lease for now, and i don’t plan on getting caught. Not at the holidays. Not on Rex Manning day.
Wasted time at the post office, a few different coffeehouses, and at the copy shop making new zine inserts to send to Microcosm Distro before Thanksgiving and The East Bay Alt Book Fair, but the tools i really need (paint markers, long-arm stapler, cutting board) are in the apartment. Fuck. I’m hungry too, but don’t have any money with me to spend after paying for gas to get down and back from Vegas this weekend. There are oranges in a basket on top of the fridge. I can see them in my mind. Two, nearly the same size. I can smell what it would be like to rip my thumbnail into one—it would spritz citrus. I can almost taste them. But I can’t. There’s been a white van parked in front of our building since 9—it must be the landlord. He’s still there. I’m down the street, lurking. I haven’t showered. Kinda need to take a shit too. Library?
For a split second I wondered what Bukowski would do? Be careful what you wish upon a star, be careful what you read Bukowski for. It could happen to you. Easily.
Somewhere in this day of avoidance I get an email informing me a story of mine is being broadcast Friday as part of the National Day of Listening through Dimestories.org. It’s a piece about encountering death and discovering sexuality. Typical, right? Maybe - a young kid finds the dead body of an older neighborhood boy dressed as a woman. But the young kid can’t see that it’s a boy, he only sees a woman. The boy’s older brother narrates. The boys older brother knows the body is a boy dressed in woman’s clothes,
i’ve worked on this story for a while, like a few years, and i even got an earlier version of it published, but i never liked it. didn’t feel like i got it right. probably didn’t get it right now either, but maybe got closer. i’ve told it to myself so many times i feel like it happened to me, but it didn’t. has that ever happened to you?
Alright the white van is pulling out. It’s 5:30. If the landlord happens to still be there, i’m going to lie to his face.
Janey Smith’s Live At The Squat is going on at 8, boosted by Steve Roggenbuck. Never seen him perform his poems before. psyched.
So I wrote about this last year when I was there, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival @ Golden Gate Park, listening to Merle Haggard as we drank cans of beer with my girlfriend and her friends…Merle Haggard, being maybe 100 feet away. Kris Kristofferson as on stage with him.
It’s funny to see where you were a year ago—and not on some automated facebook timeline (even though I think it’s a cool feature most people seem to hate)—but through a year of writing entries and posts and poems and stories just about every few days. A lot’s changed: I live out in San Francisco now, instead of just visiting; My Grandma’s still gone, unfortunately; People put one space after a period now instead of the 2 we were taught back in the day, and so do I.
Here’s the Lineup for this year’s Hardly Strictly if anyone in SF is curious. The biggest thing to notice is the part on the top where it says FREE.
I’m gonna see Conor on Friday, been a while. pretty ‘cited. Son Volt Sunday. Robyn Hitchcock Saturday, hope he plays Belltown Rumble. Hear Chris Robinson’s sweet and smoked out voice too, hope he plays Train Robbers. Patty Griffin’s voice always blows me away. Her lungs are like twin goddess harps
You gonna be there? Who do you wanna see?
Had a B-L-A-S-T at SF Zinefest over the weekend. Didn’t really know if anyone would give a shit about some handmade poetry zines, but things worked out. Afterwards I bought the best tasting case of cheap beer I’ve ever had in my life, a Burger & Fries at Tops Coffeeshop, some cocktails at The Page for me and my homies, and oversized Chinese steamed buns with my girl on Labor Day morning in…uh, Chinatown. Where else? If you bought a book, traded me for one, read one//considered it//then put it down and walked away, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. This is new stuff, but only the beginning.
Just to clear up a few questions I got :: 1) John Vincent Greco is a character that appears in fiction that I (Rich Baiocco) write, and these are his zines. His worldview. His poetry. Kind of another little universe that will tie the whole sordid story, and make it more like sordid real life. 2) 5iREN5 is the first book, and Death In A Rifle Garden is the second. 3) The translucent tape baby is kind of his symbol, 4) yeah I agree, it’s kinda creepy lookin’ 5) and is photographed around California. But that’s enough about that.
Found a lot of cool things at Zinefest but these were my two favorites, both of which I traded for. Ebb and Flood is a serialized comic of ghost stories by Brian Herrick. Asswipe is a zine to wipe your ass with & 24 pages of pure shit by Vanessa X, this is issue #1 and I f*ckin’ Love It! She writes “this zine was made bc I had just moved to a new city and was frustrated, friendless, and broke. Luckily things have changed and now I’m just friendless and kind of broke.” She writes, “the best part about zines, to me, is that anyone can make one, and even if it sucks, at least you put in the effort to make one.” She writes, “especially in a world that is so technology focused.” She writes, “And if you don’t like it MAKE YOUR OWN.”
I can’t say it any better, so I won’t.
So psyched up for SF Zinfest in 7 Days!!!! It’s my first time. I’ll be there selling and trading copies of 2 John Vincent Greco poetry zines, 5iREN5 and a **brand new**, longer zine that I’ll tell you about later this week.
They assigned me the Jackie Robinson table, aka #42, so if you’re there drop by and say hello. (I’m near the bathrooms. hashtag: newguy)
Anyways, fuckin’ pumped to meet a lot more San Francisco artists and writers and see and hold a bunch of actual objects instead of just mostly web stuff. Maker culture
I’ve got no money and can’t go home. Things won’t be good there. I’ve got no home. I’ve a bed, a half of bed, but no home, only a half of bed I can’t go home to.
The girl at the coffee shop fills me up for free if I bring my own mug, don’t hang around when her boss is in. “Write me a poem?” she says. I do. I don’t want to. I don’t want to disappoint her this early. The coffee is so good. If someone says “You’re a writer? Let me read something you’ve wrote,” you better give them something, anything, and build off that, or forever hold your piece. If someone giving you something you need, like coffee, for free and says “write me a poem,” you better do it. There are so many other ways to be a coward all your life.
There is a gypsy playing accordion and humming soft melodies in French today. It is barely raining outside—it’s been barely raining all summer mornings in this grey city. I don’t know this gypsy with the curly red hair foaming beneath her lavender top hat, but I love her. Every note she hits puts Trouble further from my reach, and if she plays forever Trouble may never touch me. I’m actually looking for a different accordion gypsy I know. I met her in Atlanta a few years ago, Luz Gaxiola: a Mexican with the rarest green eyes who told me she was heading to San Francisco next.
She’s probably halfway to Thailand by now, but there’s always the chance she got stuck in the Bay.
There’s always the chance she’d been to Thailand and further, all the way around, and I can hear her songs again, by the Bay.
The gypsy comes up to me a little later, the cafe has put something more contemporary on the sound system. She has a SEAFOAM tattoo on her forearm and a small photo of Duke Ellington tucked in the band of her hat. The hat is now in front of me, upside down and I have nothing to put into it—I’ve already pillaged the nickels and dimes from the sofa. A debit card to an overdrawn account? A dead cellphone? A house key to a half of bed I can’t go home to unless I find a job?
I have a copy of Black Spring a friend gave me and I rip out the page where Henry Miller writes about the time he discovered Dostoevsky, drop it in her hat.
And then one day, as if suddenly the flesh came undone and the blood beneath the flesh had coalesced with the air, suddenly the whole world roars again and the very skeleton of the body melts like wax…You look at the clock and it is only five minutes from eternity; you count the objects on the mantelpiece because the sound of numbers is a totally new sound in your mouth, because everything new and old, or touched and forgotten, is a fire and a mesmerism.
The gypsy’s face doesn’t register any difference between green dollar bills and my slip of ripped paper from 1963, the hat is passing around now away from us and she is given a glass of beer for her performance by the cafe girl.
I wonder to myself if she has an Old Man she goes home to, some half a bed she can’t stand.
You don’t know much about gypsies, do you? she asks, and I expect to her to walk out then. But she doesn’t. She hangs about. And I watch. And when she wants another beer, she plays her accordion. And when the customers don’t give, she takes her hat and accordion outside, with no bow or curtain, and I follow her song to a different bar.
I don’t have enough money/Proof of Residency to get a California Driver’s license (YET) but I got a San Francisco Pubic Library card. Even that wasn’t easy. I had to mail myself a postcard to prove that I receive mail at my girlfriend’s adddress…I do. I brought the librarian the postmarked postcard and I now own more Public Library cards (4) in my life than I have cell phones (3).
Support Your Local Library. Some of them even carry rare Richard Yates short story collections that the used bookstores don’t often get.
Speaking of support, I can’t get enough of this photograph.
I’ve seen it on a book cover before, but for some reason this wider shot just mesmerizes me. Maybe it memorizes me, actually, and I go on auto-pilot looking at it.
To find out who took it, and read a great essay on farm life in Nebraska, click here