Jimmy Jazz ~~ Captain’s Blog 85

Surfing has been a gift—from my brother-in-law who gave me a board, and also, considering the time required, from my wife. When I paddled out into 10′ waves with the great poet of the sea Michael Klam last winter, with no hope of dropping down the face of one of those monsters, but only to watch other crazy people do it up close, I realized that this was my midlife crisis.

Every epoch in a life should come with a rite of passage.

Last Sunday I stepped on a Stingray by Scripps pier.  I imagine that anyone who spends time in ocean water is bound to step on one and meet its defenses. A young French boy in my class, over the summer, skim boarding in the afternoon, found one in Coronado. I had to laugh, ‘I’ve been here 50 years and never and you only 2 weeks.. Ha.’ He was a very sweet young man with a love for action adventure and I’m sure he will collect scars like stories through his exciting life to come.

I know. I know. Shuffle your feet. Walking in and out of the water, I dutifully scraped my feet along the bottom to send any loafing stingrays out of my path. When I felt its tail whip around to the top of my foot, touching me like a slimy tentacle, I was in waist deep water enjoying a lazy Sunday morning. Michael Klam had brought his stand-up paddle board and I struggled to balance and rowed around. I could see stingrays in the water. So I knew they were there. A little later trying to catch a small wave I fell off the board in shallow water –THWACK! I knew exactly what it was.

‘That little bastard was setting me up for the sharks.’ Mr. Klam had seen a class of leopard sharks near the pier.

stingray1It felt like someone cut me with a razor and dropped a bee sting into it.

I went home. It was nothing. A scratch.

But the pain started building.

Pretty soon I was online looking for a course of action.

I soaked my foot in hot water, and that really did jam the nerves, blocked the pain. And I took a nap.

The next day was a little sore but no problem.

I had read online that some people experienced infections after not being able to remove barbs from the wound. The curse of decaying alien DNA and its bacteria.

Eight days later, around 3 in the morning my foot was itching so bad it woke me up. The foot swelled through the next day, and the flesh felt dry, dead and spongy. The wound weeped clear liquid like tears.

It made a hard bike ride up Broadway. stingray2




Friends online urged me to go to the doctor, so I called out of work and made an appointment at Kaiser. The young Doctor wasn’t from around here. He’d seen snake bites and a bear mauling, he said but no stingray wounds. So he sent me to a different Kaiser across town, and so we enter the copay vortex, which reminded me of a story from The Book of Books that I have nicknamed ‘Kafkaesque:’

From Jimmy Jazz’s The Book of Books #BoB #Kafka #Kafkaesque

The Castle • Franz Kafka

I fell off my bike on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach and injured my left wrist. My primary care physician said to make an appointment with a physical therapist. I called and they told me there were no appointments available. I’d found myself in a bureaucratic feedback loop. A mess of medical legalese. I emailed the doctor, explained the situation and asked Is this what Kafka was talking about? He responded I don’t know who this Kafka fellow is, but the radiologist in India hasn’t looked at your X-ray. I was flabbergasted. I looked around THE CUBE and saw I was alone. Horribly isolated and alone. I couldn’t share this anecdote with anyone. I remembered a girl in one of the other departments had studied philosophy, a temp, but found her desk empty. They said She is no longer with the company. Was I wrong to think there should be such a thing as common knowledge? I called Angela cause we watched that Steven Soderberg movie Kafka but she said Who’s Kafka again? Ok Ok, I don’t think cultural knowledge indicates intelligence. I’m sure my doctor knew plenty I didn’t, but don’t books, stories and ideas exist to connect us to other people? I remembered Ashley read The Hunger Artist in one of her classes. I knew she hadn’t read The Trial or The Castle or Amerika, but I decided to call her anyway. She laughed. Yes my daughter laughed and by laughing, saved my life. I wasn’t alone, overreacting or crazy. A few nights later Angela and I dined with Rochelle and Stephan. Rochelle met Stephan at Humboldt State when she was studying to be a botanist. They were literate people. He’d worked in a bookstore and she named her cat Pushkin. We drank a few beers, and fell into a comfortable silence, so I risked the anecdote. I related word for word my exchange with the doctor. Silence. Death. A grave. The !*#™¿@ crows and buzzards and jackdaws circled. Rochelle said Who’s Kafka? I looked at Stephan. He worked at a bookstore. He was from Austria confound it. A four-hour drive from Kafka’s Prague. He leaned back in his chair, puffed at his meerschaum pipe and patted his stomach. I read The Castle, he said without hubris, very quietly, as was his manner, which lead us to converse about things “kafkaesque” and may have pulled me out of another desperate ditch. The Castle is a perpetually modern novel, one that may never lose its flavor. I felt, while reading it, like I’d walked through a car wash, that the spinning bristle-brushes had scraped away skin and flesh, leaving my exposed nerves hanging from my bones like downed power lines. At least the buzzards wouldn’t have a place to rest. I told my anecdote to everyone. I couldn’t stop myself. Bill liked it and Tamara laughed with that laugh that makes you feel like everything’s going to be alright. Cecil must have appreciated it, because when I saw him at Voz Alta, he said Tell Lizz with Two Zs your doctor story. —He gave me six months to live, I quipped, which turned out not to be so funny, because Lizz said Oh, I may have ovarian cancer… I don’t think everyone should read the same books, but reading Kafka might help anyone who feels like a cog in the machine better understand the works.

Order The Book of Books Now 


Jimmy Jazz ~~ Captain’s Blog 85

bookofbooksOn its most basic level The Book of Books is a collection of writings about 1300 books.

It wants to be everything that was ever a book. So it uses non-fiction & fiction– fact & narrative. It’s a memoir about a life entangled with reading, the autobiography of a reader, a novel about friendship, a polemic against meaningless work.

It’s an an enquiry concerning human understanding as it cuts like ice through literature, science, history, sex magick, religion, politics & art.

It contains interviews, reviews, poetry, a play. It has tables, maps, a family tree, diagrams, photos & illustrations.  It has a thumb index!

A glacial book like this takes a few pages to get moving. It starts with an appreciation by a life-long reader, my mom. And builds toward the first vignette with a preamble, preface, forward, introduction and prologue.

Its arc follows a 30-year partnership with a woman I love. Somewhere in there we had a kid & lost one. It floats from job to job. Drinks with Bukowski, fucks with de Beauvoir, hurls misery with Raymond Carver, fights oppression with Malcolm, Huey, Howard, Noam, Emma… hits the road with Kerouac. And crumbles into a ball of loss with Toni Morrison.

For awhile I felt like Gumby entering the books I read. I spoke in a Scottish brogue while reading Irvine Welsh and banged on the glass inside the bell jar. I was searching the labyrinth of Borges’ infinite library with Kafka by my side in search of David Foster Wallace. He said that books could save you from loneliness, but they didn’t save him. We walked through Lynn Tillman’s piss-smelling tenement hallways and slept on Garcia-Marquez’ cum-soaked sheets. We feasted with Michael Pollan and sang like drunks in a midnight choir with Leonard Coen and Dee Dee Ramone. And then the book stores started closing. And the headlines rang out the death of the book. I bought cheap ones at library book sales, and picked them up from back alleys around the city. I thought I could save them.

I crossed paths with some of the great writers of my generation, studying hard in the shadows of ‘America’s 37th Most literate city.’ My family, my friends taught me so much over the years, but one thing I learned from a book was that people move on to later phases of their lives.


Jimmy Jazz ~~ Captain’s Blog 84

This is for my friend Jim Ricker. 1954-2015



Elegy for Jim 

by Jimmy Jazz

An elegist like an astronomer should know more of a moon or a man than its gibbous phase. -anonymous




A screaming came across the sky

on Broadway two hours after sunrise

as a black crow darted before the cityscape,

a small hawk in pursuit of his tail feathers…

reminding me, strangely, of conversations

in a teacher’s lounge

at a language school

in San Diego

with our friend Jim Ricker


Jim, Hippie Jim,

parsing the spoken words of his interlocutors

asking each to think & re-think

before speaking

the talons of his sharp logic clipping some who dared

use anecdotal evidence to support a claim


Hippie Jim, there was a fry cook in your heart

and a prescriptive grammar Snoot

A fry cook flipping hotcakes in a Sunday rush

at the big kitchen


Hippie Jim with your Master’s degree

where is your long hair now?

a fry cook who never minced words

& a usage cop with an etymologist’s nightstick

upside the head of the Green Grocer— Who

does he think he is with his ’10 Items or Less’ sign?


Hippie Jim, you old polemicist, you coot

never angry

but always ready and able to argue



Hippie Jim, with your long hair

were you a Marxist?

Can you explain for me one more time

Marx’s Labor Theory of Value?

You old union man, you Wobblie

you Uber-hater

We’ll kick hell out of any scab that crosses your picket line


Hippie Jim

Why were you shaking your fist

at the lack of common sense in the Ottoman Empire

over coffee with the muse?


Yer cantankerous-misanthropic-curmudgeon mask

didn’t fool the people you loved

A circus tent couldn’t mask a heart like that


Hippie Jim, will they bury you

in bolo tie & seersucker coat?


Will your hair be long in heaven?

Will you give Jesus a piece of your mind?

Will God pour you a beer & with a slap on the back say, Good Job Buddy?


Hippie Jim, you could be sober

a thousand years, or a thousand lonely nights

and all your courage & conviction

wouldn’t stop us finger-waggers from waving your final vices

like a red flag— Did

you really eat a 7-11 chili dog & chocolate milk

every fucking day?


Any man who can find joy in the grit in the bottom of a styrofoam cup of Folger’s,

can be happy in this world.


O, secret joy teacher!

ask your students to seize the day

tap your enthusiasm

in class & field trips

to places they have never been


Jim, Hippie Jim,

You Teacher

You Reader


Who will speak at length about the great writers of our time?

Who will follow Pynchon & Bill Vollmann,

who will read Edward Abbey’s FBI file,

and care about David Foster Wallace?


Who will throw his body on the gears of the capitalist machine?

And wonder in what desert Edward Abbey lies?



You teacher

You Reader

You Study-hard

You Knower (of so many things)

History dies with a man like you

History falls into the memory hole



You Knower

You Carer

You Talker


Your hawk soars above the tower,

the crow count his days.

Jimmy Jazz ~~ Captain’s Blog 83

FREE JEFF OLSON, Free Yourself

Jeff Olson, California Man, Faces 13 Years In Jail For Writing Anti-Big Bank Messages In Chalk

The law seems to have changed since I got in trouble for using sidewalk chalk to make a political statement during a strike in the 1990’s. Notice that the will to squish speech that challenges authority figures remains the same.

from Jimmy Jazz’s novel Where Life is Inappropriate

Day 9. It’s family day on the strike line. Mr. M brings his two girls and I bring Alaska and Caledonia. –Take this sidewalk chalk and sketch out a hopscotch. The bossy sister takes the chalk and draws a series of lopsided squares. The striking teachers hop with picket signs on their shoulders. The older sister draws a funny caricature of her dad, depicting Mr. M with a huge pumpkin-like head.

–That’s great! I say. Inspired, I chalk a portrait of every single teacher on the line, surrounding the school sidewalk. 42 separate pictures. I draw Mr. Stone with his stern face; I draw Ms. Fox with a bushy foxtail. I sketch Mrs. W with her bald chemotherapy head.

This high is as temporary as it was necessary, and for a while we feel as fresh and ready to confront the administration as we did on the first day of the strike. Like drug addicts we need more to catch the same thrill. School lets out and the children mill around the portraits.
–There’s Mr. I.
–There’s Mrs. W.
–Mr. M looks like a fat guy, one of the kids says. The simple chalk drawings seem to make everyone happy. The principal walks along our line in a 3-piece suit using a walkie-talkie to direct the school busses.
–Who’s responsible for this? he asks Mr. Stone. The principal’s a squat, stocky man with a head like a potato. He likes to talk about the fistfights he got into growing up in the Bronx. He likes to think of himself as a tough guy. He looks at the drawings, fists resting on furtive hips. He flicks his nose with his thumb. Fingers point at me. –This is vandalism, he says. –We need to call the police. He turns and marches back into the school.
The next morning Mr. Stone, the strike commander calls me aside. –An official complaint has been sent to your file.
–How come?
–It says you hit somebody’s car with your sign, he informs me.
–I did? I say sort of dumbfounded and unaware. The strike has been on for near 2 weeks; we all expect it to settle over the weekend and now this.
–And please no more stunts like the chalk drawings, he says. –Did you write the word SCABS on the entrance to the teacher’s parking lot? The impulse to cry fades into what it must feel like to be a scapegoat.
–This is bullshit. I talked to a cop about the sidewalk chalk, it’s legal, a free speech issue. You can’t spit on the sidewalk, but drawing on it with chalk is okay. It’s sidewalk chalk.

It rained overnight. The portraits, like our resolution, faded but remained intact.

Jimmy Jazz ~~ Captain’s Blog 82

In the late 1980’s Tom Meyer, Pat Haley and I taped punk rock shows in San Diego, CA. We taped over a 100 bands. The promoters, were usually very cool to us. Tim Mays for one saw the documentary value in making these videos. The band managers would sometimes say No. No you can’t video. Bad Brains said no. The Cramps said no (but we were able to sneak into The California Theater and tape that one.) Black Flag said yes, but then stole the tape.

This particular video was shot at San Diego’s Carpenter’s Hall. My uncles used to go down there to wait for construction jobs in the 70s. IN the 90’s it was called The Art Union building. Pat Haley actually had a studio in there where he painted his masterpieces. Today the building is the new home of The San Diego Reader. Ha. But In the 80s Tim Maze Presents put on some great punk shows there. We saw Bad Brains, GBH, The Grim… and local bands like The Front. We started taping this particular show. We taped Frontline, a band from San Jose and Blast… and only this one song from The Exploited. They were making their own two-camera video on that tour and wanted exclusivity. It’s fine.

At the start of the video, Wattie references another show 2 years before “that was bullshit eh?” at the State Theater. That was a great show even though the power went off. The kids were chanting Exploited songs until Wattie got pissed and threw the mic stand which hit the drum kit and they went off stage. A great day in punk rock history. There was an Anarchist Picnic at Mission Bay earlier where we saw Ministry of Truth, Manifest Destiny and a bunch of other bands. When the cops came to break it up, the punks start throwing rocks and bottles. Wattie dedicated the first song that night to the kids who went to jail. The theater was condemned and ‘Exploited UK Subs and Dr. Know’ remained on the marquee for 5 years.

The thing we should never forget about the 80s was the terror we experienced worrying about Ronald Reagan with his shaking hand on the nuclear apocalypse button. And since Maggie Thatcher, one of his cohorts, died yesterday, I thought I would post this video in her honor. Wattie from the Exploited famously said (or inspired) the truism ‘Punk’s not dead,’ but also said “We’re not a fascist band.” This song decrying Thatcher’s war in the Falkland Islands gives his claim street credibility. ‘Let’s star a war said Maggie one day/ with unemployed masses, we’ll just do away…” So Fuck You to Thatcher, Reagan and anyone who uses fear to rule over people.

Jimmy Jazz ~~ Captain’s Blog 81

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to see my first featured performance in several years at The San Diego Art Institute; my good friend, the film maker, Eric Rife taped the event with his professional gear. I edited the raw footage into a kind of spoken word/puppet show video using Final Cut eXpress.

The video depicts me declaiming a chapter from my novel The Cadillac Tramps (for sale in the lobby.) I wish we’d had another camera to catch the audience participation aspect of the show. I made 22 puppets which members of the audience kindly waved around during the performance. Since punk rock, at least, everyone is in the show. Enjoy.

Jimmy Jazz ~~ Captain’s Blog 79


Overcoming the résumé gap.

I’ve had a lot of jobs and taken time off from work and gotten new jobs. When they ask about those gaps in the resume, I just tell them the truth. I was writing. I’m a writer. It doesn’t always pay the rent, so I need to work. But what about the reverse, the gap in the writer’s resume? Inexplicable periods of no artistic production. What should I tell my desired readers?

Sorry I was working in a bank.

Jimmy Jazz Performance History: a list of featured readings* Continue reading “Jimmy Jazz ~~ Captain’s Blog 79”

Jimmy Jazz ~~ Captain’s Blog 77

Just got back from listening to Reg E. Gaines preview his theater piece The Last Celebrity. He’s really good. I feel like I got a free pass for the $55 seats. Thank you San Diego Public Library! I was telling Librarian Bob that I hadn’t done a real featured poetry reading since SDSU’s “Avant Garde Festival.” I told him a little about how crazy the show was, but I didn’t realize, until just now, that it was in 2005. I haven’t done a real performance in 8 years. That’s crazy. I had told myself when I was still in my 30s that I was going to take a ten year hiatus, because who wants to see 40 year olds yammer on about their shit… but I thought I was joking… that’s one of my problems… I don’t even believe myself half the time because everything is a joke.

Reg E. Gaines is the kind of sincere, forthright, earnest poet who when he says something, you believe it. He could sell you anything, precisely because he’s not selling anything. He’s real. And the real thing. I would need photographic evidence.

The truth about why I stopped performing is difficult. My creative philosophy: read more than you write; write more than you share, has been in force. Been reading a lot, and after writing a 500-page book about books, I’ve struggled to get all my novels in print. The Cadillac Tramps and House of the Unwed Mother are in hand, so I’ve decided to try to read from them, even though it scares the shit out of me. But the real truth is that public performance is a horse I fell off. A rabid-wild-ass bucking horse that dragged me across the cobblestones. It’s like riding a bike, once you fall off, you never forget.

After putting so much energy into the Avant Garde Fest I felt like I had nothing left. I was spent, exhausted. The show killed a part of me. It nearly killed some of the poor people in the audience, and they loved it.

A minor epiphany put me on the road back to public life, curtesy of Slavoj Zizek who described the Marx Brothers in Freudian terms: Groucho, the ego, Chico, the superego and Harpo the unspeaking ID with its prurient energy. Continue reading “Jimmy Jazz ~~ Captain’s Blog 77”