Now I took shit for writing about old Bakersfield rocker being a schleprock and drinking. And I can say, I was present when an 'Unnamed' group of Bakersfield rockers took some heavy doses of drugs. But this takes the cake. I should say I don't fraternize with the local drugged up rockers. That's part of why I mostly avoid Jerry's Pizza. Too many kids with glazed over eyes for my taste. And I don't hang out with those rockers anymore; one time was enough. Keep the drugs away from me.
And no, I don't think everyone at Jerry's ala the Pizza-a-go-go is addicted to drugs. Drugs are a huge problem in not just American society, but the world. I worked in factories for years as a youngster and saw people doing drugs all the time to stay awake, or just because they had no direction in life but a dead end factory job. Drugs helped those schleprocks pass their boring lives. Or so they think. I believe drugs just sunk them further in pits of despair, seeped and drowning quagmires of lifelessness in a world of drugged up carelessness. One guy was busted for drugs after accidentally dropping the forks of a forklift on another guy's foot. Ouch. A month later I read about the druggie getting knifed in a Tehachapi prison. That's real world stuff, kids.
One Sun reader writes, "If that girl were my daughter lying there on the floor, Pete's fans would not have to worry about him killing himself with an overdose."
Maybe there should be a doping law in rock and roll. I mean, aren't they role models too? Sorry, you are banned from three gigs at Gigantic Vintage.
What would you do if that were your kid and you saw that photo on the Internet? Does this happen in Bakersfield? What percentage do you think there might be of such a drug problem in the Bakersfield rock scene compared to an LA or a London rock scene?
There I was at Bakersfield's Spotlight Theatre a year ago listening to a sound guy talk all about Circuit Bending. Known on the Web as Bent Monkey Cage, Daniel Perry, an old hipster veteran talked about circuit implants, experimental human-to-machine synapse-driven interaction, and even took me to see some of his experimental circuit-bending work. Sure, I thought I was looking right into Ridley Scott's futuristic bent film, Blade Runner, with cyber people in a society of bent memories. But here was the real deal taking music and people-energy to an almost freakish new level. I stared at the old synthesizers and how a hand passing close could trigger sound as unique as the person tapped into the machine. He may have even had a circuit transplant in his arm. Not really sure, but I suspected it. A true cybernetic man-machine organism if it were true. Might have just been me imagining things.
Kenny "Motor" Mount of the Filthies had a rift with legendary ska king Matt Munoz right here on this site over Korn and limo rides. Don't worry, they already kissed and made up and Richie Sambora wasn't even involved in their love triangle (scroll to the comments to read the hilarity).
American Standard is playing a benefit show on May sixth at Vinny's @ 8pm to help a friend stricken with cancer. Now that should be an American standard!
The Dalloways are getting radio airplay across the nation! Holy crap! Read the list of radio stations on their blog. Speaking of Gary Enns from the Dalloways, he just mentioned to me that the Central Valley literary magazine Metamorphoses has been pushed to an August release. And if we really want to gossip, Gary accidentally wrote 'Dessert' instead of 'Desert'. Now that's tasty!
Lostocean left on April 2nd to go to Nashville and record an album with EMI. It's supposed to be filled with more radio friendly tunes. Personally I dig Douse the Choir... from what I hear they're not even selling those anymore. Check out their latest tunes on myspace. I like 'Lights'.
Dirty Spanglish had some voiding the bladder problems. Check out an interview with them about bladders and their song 'Wonderbread' on Buck City #35, Ice the Dog.
And in one of the biggest pieces of gossip for the day, check out what local punk rocker Heath Dobbler has to say about a wide range of political issues, including a sour angle on the Spanish version of our national anthem. Personally, I don't care. I look at it as a gimmick by leading Spanish rockers to get their name known. Why not? Musicians do it all the time. That's how the industry works. The best new gimmicks that attract buyers, well, if it sells... I do agree that Tom Cruise is quite the yahoo. Read on... if you can stand Heath Dobbler's abrasive conservative punk take on politics.
Have a comment about Bakersfield music scene gossip? Leave on this page or email email@example.com
I haven’t written about local music scene gossip in a while. Let’s see what’s on MySpace…
Look at all this music going on April 29th:
Temperd, the band that couldn’t stay together is back together. I don’t even think this band has been broken up for a year and already they’re having a reunion show. They’re being joined by Splitminded, Conspiracy Theory and Faceless on April 29th at Vinny’s.
That same night at the Boiler Room is Sioux City Sarsaparilla as well as Calico Sunset for a CD release show. Gigantic Vintage is hosting several out of town bands that same night: Two Dollars, The Feeling Machine, and Goodnight Star.
Kruz Productions Presents Dog Fashion Disco and Tub Ring, featuring: Look What I Did, Karate High School, SWINE at Studio 99.
And if that isn’t enough on the same night, Mento Buru will be performing with Seed at Sandrini’s and Norfolk and Pangolese will be at Jerry's.
OK, but that's not gossip. Gossip is hard to come by these days. Me and Heath aren't battling as of late. Oh he is in a punk o de mayo with In denials, Box Jumper, and the Filthies coming somewhere around town on May 5... where Heath?
Highway 99 was as dusty and flat as always. We drove through Central Valley farmland, past almond groves, herds of dairy cattle and vineyards, only to flip through talk radio and crack jokes.
We were on our way to the big “No”, Bakersfield’s Highway 99 rival in more than just hockey. Sure, hockey games between the Bakersfield Condors and Fresno Falcons are always a nasty affair. Fans yell and scream and hope for nothing short of a blood bath on the ice. Americans more than just love the Ridley Scott film, Gladiator. Many of us relish the toughness of a gladiator style sport in an arena that pits men with sticks who punish each other for 60 minutes. Blood on the ice is a bonus that invigorates the tamest of hockey fans, although such bloody moments are rare these days.
Sure, some of my readers are pacifists, They’re folks who scream “Food, not bombs!” and they will ignore this article. But there is a Highway 99 rivalry and hockey is a great way to display such competitiveness.
Myself? I’m of a fiery competitive spirit. Give me a game of checkers and I will trash talk as I try not to lose. I once played chess regularly with a combat veteran who was also a schizophrenic. When he was focused he fought chess just like a war. He hunkered in his chair, his eyes focused like a cat. He read playbooks and offered game strategies that escaped the game board itself. He wore big feathery hats, or a favorite Indiana Jones hat; he offered beer, or sat with Hustler magazine, trying to throw off my game and my attention as we sat in a courtyard in downtown Bakersfield in the mid-1990s. He pitted himself with middlegame strategies that were as mystic as the spiritual themes in Gladiator. “Toss some sand in the East to hide the sandstorm coming in the West…” and so on…
Find the rubber chicken
Although I play less hockey these days, the same spirit is abundantly there. And I brought it with me as I entered Fresno to see game two between the Bakersfield Condors and the Fresno Falcons.
With me were several fans: kids from Dirty Spanglish, Dude on the Ice, and Matildakay. chingpea was going to try to attend but couldn’t get off work early enough to make the trip.
Meeting us in Fresno was Mike Seay from Dorktown.net. He and I both write trash talk hockey blogs here in the Central Valley uplifting the local ice hockey teams in our hometowns. Mike wore a hat and brown jacket and we sat and ate some grub across the street from the Save Mart Center before walking over to the game.
The Save Mart Center itself is a huge facility that stands like a big mall out in the middle of the countryside near Fresno State. According to Mike that’s all going to change as an actual mall type atmosphere is supposed to spring up around the complex. Inside, the stadium is massive, though less friendly with an almost hospital quality: bare, clean, stone, bright. The rink itself was like a big empty hospital room where the Falcons perform cold surgery on their victims, Bakersfield no exception. No banners from the rafters like there are in Bakersfield.
Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena is tucked into downtown Bakersfield with a nearby ice rink and lots of parking options. Save Mart Center’s parking is $8.00 and game ticket prices were extremely high. We couldn’t get seats in the upper deck (off limits), so sat in the lower deck having shelled out an ungodly amount of money for minor league hockey. No wonder there are fewer fans in Fresno than in Bakersfield. Who can afford $19.00 a ticket? In Bakersfield I can get seats that are just as good for $8.00 - $12.00.
The hockey game itself was a disappointing 4-2 loss. I recorded a podcast and denied the crazy game I was witnessing. I focused on interviewing Mike to hear about his Fresno Wiffleball League, Dorktown podcast and hockey blog (coming soon).
Pummeling the foe
Ouch, we did that game...
Of course there was one good fight. I snapped some photos of the fracas as bodies piled on each other and hockey players threw punches. Two players paired off for an encore to the pile-up with the Fresno fans finally coming alive to cheer for their gladiator to win. Bakersfield got the upper hand in their only true victory of the night.
What really got me about the Fresno Falcons was their mascot “Freddie” who I now call, Freddie “Kreuger” Falcon. Right away, Freddie “Kreuger” Falcon isn’t half as funny as the Condors mascot this season. I’ll never forget the game where Colonel Claw’d threw a tamtrum as he tried and tried to get the crowd to do the wave. It was one of those exciting hockey game moments and so the entire crowd wasn’t involved. The Colonel kept beating the glass in a pleading silent wail as he had the audience around him laughing uncontrollably. The Colonel isn’t afraid to go flying down stairs or smashing into the boards. He sails across the ice in a saucer and shows off his fluffy extremities to unsuspecting fans. He’s a riot.
Here we see Freddie "Kreuger" Falcon right before he gobbles up unsuspecting young fans
Then there’s Freddie “Kreuger” Falcon who has a head so evil that it scares me. I swear kids end up missing from games as he gobbles them up.
Leaving the game I was surprised to discover more traffic congestion than Dodger Stadium. Where Fresno has a good hockey team this year and devoted fans, there’s more energy in Bakersfield in a hockey community that has plenty of fans in an exciting downtown arena. Yet, Fresno was a great time. I would go back and talk shop with Mike Seay and friends. As Mike said, “We Fresno people love people from around the valley.” He was more than hospitable. He’s part of a larger city, with a better media network that supports the arts. Bakersfield has KRAB radio helping support art, and that’s it so far that I can tell. Fresno has a lot more. Heck, Mike was on a Fresno Famous podcast and as a result helped out on a local radio show. Now that’s support.
Next playoff game is Friday. The Condors are down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series.
People closest to me know I have gone full circle and then some about the local Bakersfield newspaper niche market website, Bakotopia.com. Built by journalistic workhorse, Dan “Spud” Pacheco for the Bakersfield Californian, Bakotopia has become an online niche territory that even though ‘grabbing users’ is its aim, is a site that really wants to be loved. And Bakotopia is loved. Users utilize the site as a self-propelling community service filled with online users building MySpace-style profiles, through which, they gain the ability to interact and make local happenings known, whether band gigs, theatre events, literary readings, etc.
Working in a marketing department, right away I saw through Spud’s marketing scheme of distancing Bakotopia from the local paper (OK, not Spud’s scheme. He was just earning a paycheck). Though distanced from the local newspaper, Bakotopia was still the newspaper, just transmogrified into a different form with a different market: young people, music people, all the hip young folks over 18 who are intertwined in the Bakersfield art, music and literary scene.
Since I had a few run-ins with the local paper, I had serious trust issues with Bakotopia and its farming of my own site. After all, I started a blog community, worked hard to obtain traffic, maintain interest, and so forth. But then I came to a realization. An online community means “shared community”. I realized I couldn’t start an online venture without wanting to share, without needing to share, and without wanting traffic to come and visit each day. All those bands and individuals who I helped and continue to help get on the Web; well they have their own aims to gain traffic, to be heard, to be searched out, to be noticed. They just weren’t going to come to my site everyday and ignore the power of the local newspaper.
Holding onto an online territory is like trying to hold a bowl full of Jello without the bowl.
You ever play Risk? You take over territories, you defend borders, and you conquer all while you get a few lucky cards along the way that bring a few extra troops.
In an online community you can define borders, but you have to keep them open, porous. Why? Because that’s how Web traffic moves. Sure there are defining points on borders, portals where traffic is heavier, invisible geographic locations where intellectual properties funnel the very people we want to interact with, who buy our products, who even might advertise with us.
When I had trust issues with Bakotopia, my opinion was that if Bakotopia could spend millions to gain such traffic and have as much traffic and more, partly gained from mine, shouldn’t they offer to help rather than farm the Web traffic I worked so hard to gain? After all, though nlbelardes.com lacks the ability to have user profiles, my site was still initially oriented around Bakersfield music and getting bands to interact with a site that catered to a segment of the entertainment population that doesn’t get enough press in reviews, pictures and more.
And Bakotopia has offered to help. We’re trying to come up with the best way to get local underground writings to the people who read both our sites. And I’m working with Bakotopia because they have the credibility. They’re being talked about.
Now Bakotopia is being looked at as the nation’s model in newspaper quasi-MySpace know-how. Bakersfield bands are at least being heard about in America’s top journalistic circles. And that means something. Sure, nlbelardes.com helped along the way by helping bands to understand that online promotions mean something beyond just having as many friends as possible on MySpace.
And not only are bands getting noticed. There’s even a little bit of jealousy and misunderstanding from the big sister of Bakotopia: The Bakersfield Californian. I have caught wind of minor riffs between the paper and the new kid on the block, Bakotopia. And that doesn’t come from Matt Munoz. He’s the Ska King, the new leader at Bakotopia whose college degree in communications, legendary frontman status with Mento Buru, and creative ingenuity and scene networking has literally propelled Bakotopia to a new level.
It’s not just about bands and artists. Bakotopia is also about breaking news stories with a grassroots sensibility. Munoz literally marches with protestors, snaps photos of bands and has wandered into the New Nile Theatre to get the big scoop that was ignored by other news sources until his breaking of the story.
Munoz is a man after similar online dreams as my own.
Only he can sing and I can only sing in the shower.
And that space might just keep the local paper alive. Why?
Advertising dollars and a loyal base of users in an underground community that if they help uplift itself, won’t die, but gain from an interactive media-user relationship. And don’t exclude the local paper's other niche markets: Tehachapi News, Mas Magazine, B- Entertainment, Northwest Voice, Southwest Voice, and a few others. I predict that Bakotopia will eventually overlap with all aspects of the local newspaper online by eventually weaving an interactive media Web for all online users. Why not profiles for everyone including the journalists? Steve Outing says it will work and he’s paying attention to the same Bakotopia that people like me once thought was just a gimmick that couldn’t linger beyond how far Bakersfield Bob could spit.
Of course people might ask, “Will N.L. go full circle again?” I doubt it. You start to get dizzy after a while.
And besides, I’m just beginning to understand how the Internet works.
Another local Bakersfield country music legend has died. Bonnie Owens died at a local Bakersfield area hospice after a battle with Alzheimers. There's a tangled web of love and country music in her story as she was married to Both Buck Owens and Merle Haggard--though not at the same time. Robert Price points out that she died exactly 30 days after Buck Owens recent passing. Was it the strangeness of fate? If people die in threes, who might be next?
I don't know but you can hear Buck Owens son Buddy Alan at the Crystal Palace as he's taken over for his father and promises to perform at the theatre restaurant now and then...
According to one of the Buckaroos, Buddy Alan began performing last week.
I didn’t eat many of the French Fries I brought from Frosty King. To be honest, French Fries are the boon of mankind. We need to eradicate them. I brought a hamburger too, and notepad—just in case there were secret codes and notes to write down. I did eventually munch down the burger. But not until I sat and talked to a few mystery filmmakers about unity in the Bakersfield film scene. Oh yes, another B.I.F.F. (Bakersfield Independent Film Festival) is right around the corner. You didn’t know?
And we came to an understanding. In the Bakersfield Media Renaissance for the Arts, there also needs to be a film website. Oh we have theatreaddict.com for local theatre (and one other online theatre site that talks about all local theatre), we have Paperback Writer and BUMS for the local music scene, literary arts and more. Bakotopia represents large media but is a friend of the arts, and there are a lot of blogs from local folks. Now we need something for film…
This is the only photo I could sneak at this top secret meeting meant to promote filmmakers...
It’s all about this Southern Central Valley taking citizen media by storm in an artistic movement growing out of Bakersfield…
Oh, and if you’re a filmmaker, actor, video person, please get in touch as the website being developed needs your bio, your links, your film trailers...
Don't miss the most important episode yet of Buck City. Hear N.L. at the Great Valley Books Writers Conference as Central Valley arts are described as a flowering of arts likened to Paris in the 1930s...
THIS IS A SPECIAL ONE-HOUR PODCAST. BE PREPARED FOR A LENGTHY DOWNLOAD.
-Listen to N.L. interview documentary filmmaker, Satsuki Ina about her film about Japanese internment
-Check it out as painter Paul Buxman connects the idea of inspiration as an illusion. Just do it!!
-Hear the Filthies rally song, "Condorstown" that N.L. helped write to rally not just hockey fans, but ARTISTS!! "Skate fight, skate fight skate fight tonight!!" Fight for your renaissance!!
-Get in touch with hipsta talk from Skin Tax poet Tim Z. Hernandez as he discusses how to cultivate poetry awareness... Listen to musicians from LA get poets in the mood...
-Hear Okie writer Gerald Haslam slam not just Bakersfield, but all of Kern County as not being in touch with global issues. What's up with Haslam? Is he out of touch with Bakersfield society? Does he do all of his connecting with the Bakersfield consciousness via poor Okie remnants and license plates? Are his comments shocking? You make the call...
-Then listen in as Haslam talks about 'people writing about places they know' and if Buck Owens death meant anything to him, who is from the same small Bakersfield suburb.
-Get the scoop on the Great Valley Writers Books Conference from N.L. and Fresno non-native Karen Maj
-Hear a song from Bakersfield singer/guitarist Nunez who sings his grandfather's poetry from early UFW days...
-Listen to poet Tim Z. Hernandez read a poem from his 2004 book Skin Tax. Tune in as he also talks about preserving a legacy and creating a path for younger generations to have an identity...
-What does Hernandez think about machismo? Hear a juxtaposition with Hernandez and a machismo song from Bakersfield band Mento Buru as N.L. plays "Poonanny". Oh yeah... sing it: "She's got a big ol butt..." On the opposite side of Machismo in the feminine version, what song would the Smalltown Girls play??
-Listen in on Andy Jones as he talks about building a literary community and getting the press involved through strong vision...
Take three hot ladies from three Central Valley towns. Add a good dose of Hollywood gossip and just enough potty talk to keep ears listening. Now give the ladies a microphone to share. Think about what fun they will come up with...
This painting titled "UR Here" is a metaphor that we are all in the palm of Mother Earth. Only a 15-minute painting, this work will be worth $500.00 within a year. Right now the bidding is at $30.00. All proceeds go toward cancer research and is a tax write off.
As a fundraiser for The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, KRAB Radio is helping out by promoting original body art pieces! All money goes right to the American Cancer Society to help fight the deadly disease. The pieces are all done using only body parts, no brushes just parts...
Please tell me, Desi did not do what I think he did...
Meathead, I'm thinking that was his dairy air. Rocky--her boobs.
As for me. I have a polite "UR Here" finger painting of my hand print on the world.
Yes, you had to paint using only your body parts. And it's all to help support cancer awareness. There's even a finger painting by chingpea from the Smalltown Girls (listed as MS). Thanks Kevin Lively for letting me be a part... I wish I could have seen Rocky do her boob painting though...
Merced, California is not the kind of Central Valley city you would expect the first Great Valley Books Writers Conference to be held. Oh yes, the downtown drag down Main Street does have its All-American quaintness: homeless folks pushing big baskets, artsy folks milling about, a movie theatre and playhouse, a friendly Starbucks with nearby green metal benches perfect for podcast interviews, and in a spurt of renaissance style growth, the city center enjoys the Multicultural Arts Center as the apparent hub giving such downtown rejuvenation reason to have a pulse.
Wandering the streets of Merced, CA.
No, this wasn’t Fresno, Stockton, or even Bakersfield—you know Hollywood’s Backyard where movies are filmed and America’s oil empire meets agricultural Mecca. Yes, Bakersfield was all but forgotten throughout the day except for the arrival of one particular rebellious fellow from the Southern San Joaquin and his blogger/writer/Noveltown friend. No I don’t mean Gerald Haslam, though his working class literature does have hints of rebelliousness as it is based on Okie descendents tucked away in Oildale, California: the rough-and-tough Bakersfield suburb from the lost days of Hoovervilles along the banks of the mighty Kern.
No, I’m talking about Matildakay and myself, the guy with the most controversial underground book in the valley; the guy bold enough to tell the local newspaper that writing for free is for the birds, that local entertainment writers should write on local entertainment or get fired. As a novelist with an underground website that breaks news stories before the local paper, getting called an ‘uncivil bully’ by one of the last private newspapers in the country was a great honor. Being recognized as the David in society has always been far more rewarding than having the label of Goliath taped to a Neanderthal forehead.
I popped out of bed ten minutes early at 4:20am just to make the trek northward across the Central Valley. ‘The War Days’ director and ‘Dude on the Ice’ were asleep but not for long as I made sure to flick on lights and pound doors. They have grandparents in Merced, so it made for a good opportunity for them to see family while I glimpsed the world of Central Valley writers as seen through the eyes of a reporting novelist. I also phoned Matildakay to wake her up so she wouldn’t miss out on meeting other writer folk.
Traveling through the Central Valley it was all about talk radio: the Barry Bonds drug issue being the overwhelming topic. I think someone should start a story in the tabloids how Bonds is so filled with steroids that now they’re pumping his byproducts into the baseballs themselves right before he smacks them outta the park. I can just see them now, flying into some faraway San Francisco lagoon. All the balls there along with a couple of drops of mercury are sure to sprout a Godzilla or two from such murky eco-steroid depths of strange organic/plastic material.
Downtown Merced was a quick exit off the 99. Before we knew it we parked just past ‘K’ Street and wandered into Starbucks. There we met Kenny Rogers—pre-Burt Reynolds plastic skin look-a-like phase—where my boys would spend the day deep in the heart of Merced culture with their grandparents: eating good food at grandma’s and then going to watch Scary Movie IV. Now that’s the Merced I always knew; where going to the park in the summer meant going to Merced’s Applegate Park for an afternoon watching a wolf try to survive the Central Valley heat without a crushed ice soda or freezing lime-flavored orchata, and then hearing stories about local football, softball games, tractor joyrides and great movie spoofs.
Just down the street, Matildakay and I wandered into Merced’s Multicultural Arts Center. We were bummed chingpea of Smalltown Girls couldn’t make the trip. She’s a big part of the growth of Noveltown; her public relations skills are as incredible an asset as her potty talk on the podcast. I wandered in and right away recognized event organizer Patricia Wakida and Gerald Haslam, writer and professor of California literature; he talked to Heyday Books’ publisher Malcolm Margolin.
I’m not sure if I was the youngest novelist in the house, but Malcolm’s beard looked at least three times as old as me. It’s long and grey and has a historic value to California literature all its own. I don’t think Malcolm will mind me joking. He’s a terribly funny guy with a big heart who was great to listen to in the few conversations I enjoyed with him throughout the day. We had a brief conversation just prior to the start of conference where he wondered if I had a run-in with Gerald Haslam. I started our conversation in as cryptic novelist fashion as possible, “Hi Mr. Margolin. I knew Don Ackland.” I had to get his attention, and I sure did. He spun around and looked at me as if I’d just described a ghost.
“I never knew if he was the most brilliant man I ever met, or the most looney. He mentioned you might have had a run-in with Haslam,” he said.
I never had a run-in with Haslam, that’s for sure.
I was never certain what kind of spin my old agent had put on me, and I never knew Haslam, only having met him once or twice. I had given Haslam a copy of The Citrus Girl, a novel I completed in 1998. He later claimed he couldn’t open the computer files, which I found strange as I had given him common rich text files (.rtf) that could be opened in any word processing program on either a MAC or a PC. I did my homework. Later I made interesting remarks to several friends that there were certain coincidental attributes between his novel, Straight White Male, and The Citrus Girl. No, I don’t believe there was plagiarism, even though I’m sure the files given to him were readable. There were some coincidences between the two books: faint likenesses of The Citrus Girl here and there... shadows of narrations, parallels in characters, etc., that I’m sure were simply because we both wrote about aspects of the same region in the Southern Central Valley. Haslam and I probably think a little alike: that any good novel out of Bakersfield needs to be regional, a tasty morsel of Central Valley literature in its descriptive nature.
In the end, readers will come up with their own conclusions as they study any parallels between Straight White Male and The Citrus Girl. They’re both worthy reads as Bakersfield literature, Central Valley literature, California literature...
Malcolm Margolin gives a wreath of achievement to poet Lawson Fusao Inada, who bestowed it on Malcolm
As the keynote speaker, Malcolm gave the first introduction of the day. He welcomed painter Paul Buxman. Like writer David Mas Masumoto, Buxman is both farmer and artist. I find such a combination of arts and nature fascinating as I have explored such thoughts for my future, contemplating orchards and a pear cider brewery. Buxman himself is a fourth generation peach farmer. He came to the conference as a friend of Central Valley artists.
“You are the Mona Lisa,” Buxman said as he talked about Central Valley writers believing in themselves as worthy subjects for their literary and poetic visions.
“The world is hungry for your story. In fact, the world is dying to hear from you,” he said. I found his message uplifting, even though I was disappointed when he pointed out that he would never use the Internet in his lifetime. He’s just too busy for it.
Next up were poetry, fiction, and non-fiction workshops. Tim Z. Hernandez and Lawson Fusao Inada both were to give poetry talks. I normally focus on literature, so what the heck, why not dive into an expert understanding of today’s rhythms in poetry? Why not try to understand the word-space around one’s existence? Descriptiveness of such poetic understanding is there. You just have to learn to be aware of the space around you, right?
Matildakay and I decided to cover Hernandez’ workshop before moving on to the study of fiction. Definitely the hippest guy at the conference, Hernandez is a quiet man with a deep-rooted understanding of the arts, and an even deeper-seeded understanding of the world around him. Although he teaches, he’s also an artist who reaches into his surroundings as if penetrating with an aura of tentacles; gathering, harvesting thoughts, building on his knowledge by discussing and experimenting with his own frames of space and existence. He quickly got the group to understand the special relationships found within meditation, looking inward and outward, and feeling such images as a path to a sort of poetic breath on paper: a quick exhale of what the mind might breathe within just a few moments of relaxed clarity. Musicians from south central LA played on guitars as the gathering contemplated poems. Afterwards we recited poems. I had been walking around while others explored visions. I believe my wandering and photo-taking caused me to write a poem about moving: the morning trip to Merced blended with the energy and urge to write, caused by an inspirational moment.
Moving through the valley, morning drive northward. Stop to see downtown theatres. Kids meeting grandpa with morning coffee; Snapping a photo of the morning sun, wander to the arts center in a semi-circle of poets. Hardwood floors; music-driven tears on a freeway of images. Hernandez says, “Close your eyes, write a poem of eye-images.” Photos of hands cover faces as guitars pull my consciousness to write.
After I read my poem, Hernandez mentioned journalists writing in similar fashion. I may be a citizen journalist, but only after being a novelist/poet/artist/photographer. I hope Hernandez comes to think of me as a novelist/artist first.
Next we went outside to explore our own ability to describe our surroundings, to explore ourselves within the context of object filled space, and to see space in its different forms and consistencies.
Examine the difference in how Hernandez is aware of the wall, whereas the students just seem to allow it to hold themselves up.
I noticed Hernandez explored his surroundings in a much different way than the people attending the workshop. At times he stood with his eyes closed and felt around into the surrounding air, while students focused with their eyes instead of their full range of senses. After I watched him lean against a wall I said, “Are you exploring space with more than your eyes? Are you exploring awareness with tentacles from all your senses?”
I thought about the line of students with their backs to an explosion of color, a poem right behind them, cool against their backs. I thought about the students scattering, not like leaves, but actually drawn by each other’s energy as they explored passing traffic, a grey belly of clouds, dirt around a tree, a motorcycle helmet…
I saw space differently. I saw a teacher and students in a realm of space and objects within that space. I saw the exploration of minds among passing minds that didn’t understand nor cared about society ever listening to poets. I saw movement of the world in relation to observers. I saw space beyond lines: the curve of the earth hiding the space of a ball, the wall holding a building with empty rooms, the ground beneath a tree intertwined in a cube of dirt that earthworms passed freely through and that we couldn’t see unless we dug into that cube and changed its very shape. I watched an old woman across the street walk as if through molasses.
The art of space.
The hidden poems in the world within the complexity of individual awareness.
The creativity to be able to explore such awareness using senses that tap into the abstract in the world surrounding each of us.
The fiction workshop wasn’t abstract at all but a straightforward analytical taste of storytelling. The exercise I took part in was to break into groups and tell stories about a scar or birth. Our table chose scars. Everyone was to tell their story, and then individually we were to chose a story to try and tell exactly as we heard it.
My table lacked the ability to spin a good ‘scar’ story, Matildakay included. In such a group she clearly had the best story, but wouldn’t tell it out of embarrassment and her nature of hiding. I told it in the Chicano novel Thick White Crust. Oh she told a version about as dry as a loaf of ten-day-old bread. I even purposely told a boring scar story so hers would be the focus. Ay! But let me tell you her dramatic knee-shattering Hollywood tale complete with a Nicolas Cage obsessed flamboyant artist is a hilarious whopper of a scar story. She told a mousy version that had me thinking of big blocks of stinky cheese. Bored, and because I have already written Matildakay’s scar story, I took another woman’s tale of falling off a horse 20 years ago. I only half listened as I obtained just enough fodder for a brief slice of workshop fiction:
Carol flew off her horse in a slow moving moment that had her singing the second verse of “Bumpy Hillbilly Hayride” even before she hit the ground. In what had been a quiet ride, she chomped an apple, slogged a mouthful of whiskey and thought about an afternoon affair with last week’s poolboy, Antonio, only to feel the horse’s wide ass suddenly shoot her into the dusty Sonora air. Now, horses buck for varying reasons, but often because they’re spooked. Nevermind that a coyote just scampered past; forget the rattler heard in the distance of a rocky desert canyon. It was the illegal firework her brother set off and her inability to hold the reigns and think about sex while her horse made sudden startled kicks. The fall went like this: Terrence Rad Star kicked his hind legs like a scared jackrabbit. Carol, thinking about music and sex, slipped sideways and was eventually catapulted. Everyone knows you have to grab a horse with your legs. Carol didn’t. And the next thing she knew, she shot to the edge of a dry riverbed, her long blonde hair in an instant tangle as she hit where dirt meets sand. Twenty years later Carol still thinks about that fall; not because of the trauma—falling is part of horseback riding—but because two days later she did indeed sleep with Antonio.
While Lucy Corin described the exercise and analyzed a few stories written by folks in the workshop, Haslam was mostly quiet. He folded his arms, seemed distant though I know he was listening. He mentioned lunch in a few jokes. But there were a few uncomfortable moments of silence. The talk mostly focused on brevity, revisions and having an ear for the storytellers that surround us. Corin read through a few short pieces to illuminate her point.
Haslam did say at one moment, “Writing a novel is a painful experience.”
I couldn’t agree with him more. I’m sure birth is both painful and beautiful. Sorry ladies, writing a novel is the closest I can get to the real thing. Writing a book for me is tough as heck to get out, but the end result is beautiful whether others agree or not.
I have to say Corin seemed agitated at times during the fiction workshop, using a teaching tactic of ignoring comments from some of the students when the comments didn’t seem to apply. At one point Haslam seemed to pick up on her method of ignoring some of the attendees. When she was confronted with questions she didn’t want to answer, Haslam spoke up and answered, finally joining the conversation, and doing so elegantly.
Although the workshop had its interesting moments of Haslam saving Corin, I looked more forward to the day’s panel discussions that would speak in more of a Central Valley tone, with themes that would help me to further understand what it is I do from the southern end of the San Joaquin.
Right afterwards I interviewed Haslam for the Buck City podcast. I wondered if he even remembered me. Likely not. I told him we met at a library in Oildale. If he was never able to open old computer files then surely he wouldn’t remember me. The Citrus Girl for a Bakersfield tale is far more memorable than I ever could be… there’s nothing like it... No California literary tales that I know of from the Southern Central Valley that talk of wandering youth, Bakersfield rock music, agriculture and a Central Valley city in a romanticized counterculture tale… whereas Haslam’s literature describes the Okie suburbs, my stories enter the heart of the city (The Citrus Girl, Lords: Part One, Cubicles) and captures more of a diverse multi-cultural experience (Thick White Crust, Pinay) that illuminates the beautiful and dark beating heart of the Southern San Joaquin Valley.
Haslam and I spoke briefly of the death of Buck Owens, of the Crystal Palace Theatre. I asked if he ever met Buck. He said, “No, but I could have.” Such information tells me Kathryn Burke’s forthcoming Noveltown book, Act Naturally will be a valuable asset to country music and Okie history as it is based on oral interviews with now deceased Buck Owens and Bill Woods, as well as interviews with many others from the old Bakersfield Sound who are still living.
Throughout the day I did several interviews: Gerald Haslam (originally from Bakersfield), Tim Z. Hernandez (he recites a poem), documentary filmmaker and writer Satsuki Ina, Malcolm Margolin, Franz Weinschenk (Valley Public Radio), Karen Maj (Fresno Bookmobile), Matildakay, and Cindy Wathen. You’ll have to keep checking in on the Buck City Podcast for episode 34, ‘Valley Writers Unite!’ to hear great interviews with Central Valley literary writers and supporters.
Students read their original works at the conference. I was impressed...!
CSU Fresno creative writer Jefferson Beavers talked to me about Fresno Famous
Franz Weinschenk of Valley Public Radio gave a stirring talk about the need for an Asian-American novel out of the Central Valley. Interesting since I just tested the waters recently with Pinay, a coming of age short story of ethnic dualism about a Chinese-Filipino girl growing up in Delano, California. The story had a good response from Asian-Americans who were all honored and glad to have a Central Valley Asian story told. I had recently written an article on ethnic dualism for a Chicano magazine out of Bakersfield, so following up with an Asian-American short story was timely. Of course Weinschenk spoke about Hmong controversies. But let’s face it. Central Valley Asians represent a hugely diverse ethnic population with pockets of people representing countries from all over the world: Koreans, Burmese, Hmongs, Sri Lankan, Indian, Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, and so on. Sacramento Bee journalist, Steve Magagnini followed up with a heartfelt talk about covering Hmong ethnic stories, representing a newspaper once known for terrible cross-cultural relations.
The panels were illuminating. Author Cindy Wathen of Yosemite Writers gave a much needed talk about building a literary community with one other panelist in particular I found intriguing: Andy Jones of Dr. Andy’s Poetry Hour on KDVS 90.3 FM at UC Davis. Between he and Cindy Wathen, they mentioned that building literary communities within Central Valley cities is integral to connecting valley literature within the large region that includes Sacramento in the north to Stockton, Merced, Fresno, and dare I say it? Bakersfield to the south.
The panelists ignored Bakersfield, but after representing the city, I believe a great new literary presence is beginning to grow out of the Southern Central Valley and will be noticed: a group that includes literary, theatre folk, musicians and filmmakers. Andy Jones mentioned that the Beat community’s success came out of the relationship built between music and literature. Well that’s nlbelardes.com isn’t it? The success of 'Paperback Writer' as a blog did not spawn out of anything other than a novelist within the music scene, writing about it, networking within it, and illuminating music, fine arts, theatre, and literature.
The renaissance in Central Valley literature just might be spawning out of the one city that made the trek up to cover the Great Valley Books Writers Conference. Why not? Already there are websites that have joined in the action. Bakotopia.com, theatreaddict.com (claims to be the nlbelardes.com of local theatre) and countless Bakersfield band sites (and band sites around the country and world) have cross-linked to nlbelardes.com to share in reading about goings on through a literary perspective in the small curve of the Southern San Joaquin. Last counted: about 200 crosslinks.
In final, famed poet Juan Felipe Herrera gave an interactive poem that stirred the audience and I went and had dinner with a gracious group of Central Valley and non-Central Valley people who all seemed for at least a day, to begin to grow a vision of valley literature that can begin to spawn a renaissance in literature from the south to the north and beyond…
It’s no coincidence the new Noveltown site was launched the same day as the conference.
The hands of author/farmer David Mas Masumoto holding his own great work of art...