Archive for March, 2016

Today I woke up with less than a year before I’m 40, and decided to take the advice of a writer I chauffeur and get back into writing by…writing. More than I have been, anyway. So here’s a short story that ties in the day I turned 21, played a show with my band, and the changing technologies since then that reinforces why we need to live life for moments that will never happen again. There’s even video of the show, and for an added bonus, there’s videos of the Human Beans on San Francisco cable access and one I made of Nick’s band Secret Secretaries included in this posting.

I spent my 21st birthday playing with my band 3 Hunglo at San Francisco State University. It wasn’t the largest show, coming in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. But it was everything I could ask for both as an aspiring punk rock bassist, and now later in life, especially as we dissolved after a few years after only “releasing” a home-dubbed cassette tape with a handful of songs. Thinking about those times and lost technologies 18 years later makes me realize how important it is to follow those dreams, because they can never be had again.

My buddy Nick and I were both from San Francisco’s Sunset District, having downhill skateboard races as kids through Noriega Street traffic to the beach. After getting hooked up with friends’ drummer friends, we upped our professionalism and found Lonnie’s ad on the bulletin board at the Lookout Records store in Berkeley. As in he wrote his phone number on a card tacked on a wall at a store where people got music on record, CD or tapes. Not craigslist or another online listing post. Nick and I had our first serious band.

I was going to SF State at the time, working on campus doing phone surveys, which was a very welcome job. It paid $8 an hour, then $11 as a supervisor, while my job at the Hallmark card store was the minimum wage $5. Comparatively, I shared a studio apartment with my girlfriend for $655 a month, not the $1,500 or $2,000 it would be now. Another perk was making long distance calls. Phone calls were generally made from landlines back then, and paid for by distance, not cell phone minutes. In fact, cell phones were only for those with money, and would have been too costly and bourgeois anyway.

It was through that job that a co-worker was looking for acts to fill her St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the university. Having band members available during the day was probably a big part, so we did it. I let the student newspaper know for their event listings, which back then was a bigger deal in advertising shows than in today’s must-have Web presence. I heard about most local bands from The List, a basic-type, photocopied weekly listing passed out at record stores and shows in the Bay Area. No bands had Web pages, and if your music came out on CD it was because a label put it out or you had the money to have them done professionally. Burning a CD was not the DIY undertaking it is today.

Apparently, being listed with us upset some of the Irish folk dancers organizing the event, and along with Lonnie being late due to parking and traffic, we got in a rough six minutes. But it was one of the most memorable six minutes of my life. Peet, another neighborhood buddy who played in the Human Beans and later joined 3 Hunglo when Lonnie left to play for Subincision, even made an appearance on the boombox. Peet would play various tapes, sometimes instructional or commercial recordings, with different speeds and other manipulations as background noise. It used to annoy me, but with Peet later passing away and tapes virtually non-existent, I’d do anything to see that happen again. It’s hard to think it was barely a generation ago.

 

This week the family of Alex Nieto started their federal civil lawsuit in his police shooting death, one of a handful of cases in the Bay Area that have drawn significant protests in recent years over police brutality. It has also brought in discussion of San Francisco’s gentrification, with Nieto a Latino born and raised in the Mission and Bernal Heights. On the trial’s first day a couple hundred people gathered in his family’s support outside the courthouse. Here’s a video I put together.

Nieto, 28, was killed March 21, 2014. He was at Bernal Heights Park on a Friday having a burrito before work as a nightclub security guard when passers-by called police and reported a man with a gun. Police responding said he pulled a Taser at them, causing them to fire, including reloading their handguns and shooting him more until he was no longer a threat. There is no video, as has become the standard in the current outrage over police shootings, but a witness said he was not a threat. There’s debate over whether his hands were in his jacket pockets when he was shot, and many other specifics that are being followed by multiple local media outlets daily.

The officers involved were long cleared of criminal wrongdoing, with some promoted, without any big visible change to police or window smashing protests in reaction. But with the Black Lives Matter movement continuing, with Beyonce’s dancers giving a nod to the Mario Woods shooting with an off-stage video at the Super Bowl, the outcome will have an impact on both the movement locally and community at large. The fact that it is getting daily media coverage, while many lawsuits against police reported at their conclusion, if at all, shows how closely this discussion has become one of the nation’s top issues.