Published January 8th, 2018
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Oh whippy wop wow, bippy bop bow and a zippy zop zow to you all, this is your faithful friend and confidant Michael Phillips, and you are listening to yet another action packed episode of the beloved daytime drama THIS IS NOT A TEST. Brought to you every afternoon by Spic and Span. Spic and Span! It will make your floors shine like a big bald head and your neighbors will be green with envy, get a few gallons of Spic and Span today! And by Dippity-do! Jam your fingers into a jar of Dippity-do and slap it onto your head. You’ll look like the queen of a foreign country and the neighbors will be green with envy. And by Kellogg’s Puffa Puffa Rice! Yummy yummy, a dig a dig a bowlful, you catch ‘um a big big flavor, oceans of energy, Kellogg’s Puffa Puffa Rice! And finally by Underwood Deviled Ham. It’s ham in a can!
I have a can of Underwood Deviled Ham in the pantry. I’ve never eaten it or tasted it before, but Carol and I were in the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and she was looking for something so we were stopped there in the aisle for a minute and I was just looking around at all the things I’ve never eaten and I saw the Underwood Deviled Ham can, sitting there wrapped in white paper, just like it has been for as long as I’ve know there was such a thing as deviled ham. I picked it up to see if the label explained or described what deviled ham was, because I’m a curious sort, but it didn’t. It was just that illustration of the blood red dancing devil looking at me. Challenging me. So I put it in the cart. Will I ever eat it? I don’t know. One day I’ll see it there and pull it out and – do whatever you do with deviled ham. Put it on a sandwich I guess? What the hell is it for? If you know, give me a call: (628) 333-4860.
Okay then. Everybody calm down. Simmer down now. It’s just canned meat. After I talked about visiting Bukowski’s house last time, it occurred to me that I never said anything here about visiting Prince’s house, Paisley Park. Carol and I went over there to see it when we were in Minnesota back in October. After Prince died and I heard they were opening Paisley Park up to tours, I had mixed feelings. Well, they weren’t mixed, I take that back, they were negative. I had negative feelings. Paisley Park was a working recording studio, and it should have just stayed a working recording studio. If Prince’s sister really wants to honor his memory and his life, what better way to do it than keeping his studio alive? It was the studio kept Prince alive, for as long as it could anyway, so it seems like an obvious move.
But she didn’t. Or did she? Now that I say that I don’t know if you can still book a studio there, maybe you can. But the main studio is sealed up like a museum now, and you just shuffle through and look into the control room through the thick glass and wonder what it must have been like when it was alive. Anyway, I didn’t particularly want to go on the Paisley Park tour, but there we were in Minnesota, and who knows when or if we’ll be there again, or how long the tours are going to be available, so it seemed like something we should do. So we did. I’ve been in a recording studio or two, and they’re all pretty much the same. Really cool if you’re working, and really super mega ultra boring if you’re watching someone else work. But anyway, this place – well, it wasn’t a typical recording studio. First of all, Prince lived there, so there’s that. And there’s a big sound stage for rehearsals and concerts and video production, and all kinds of other not-so-typical recording studio stuff went on in the place.
And it was Prince’s place, so you know it isn’t going to look like a normal recording studio. Well, the actual studio parts did, because they all look the same, no matter where they are or who owns them, but the rest of it was like Prince’s idea of what a groovy pad should look and feel like. Which – well it’s Prince, so a lot of it is garish and tacky and over the top pastel pretty like teenaged girls or some kind of funky little Liberace decorated the place. Being familiar with his particular and peculiar aesthetic, such as it was, I expected that. But what I wasn’t expecting – at all – was to feel any kind of vibes up in the place. Like, Prince vibes. I don’t know how to describe what I’m getting at here, except to say that I felt the presence, for lack of a better word, of Prince everywhere in Paisley Park. Maybe not surprising since he’s still there. His ashes, anyway. It’s one of the first things they show you when you walk in. “And if you look up there, those are Prince’s ashes.” What? Damn, man, you could have warned me.
His battered old Hohner telecaster guitar was there, and all of those fruity, swirly, curly-cue guitars, pages of his hand-written notes and lyrics. His clothes. Lots of his fruity, swirly, curly-cue clothes. None of that stuff made me feel the presence though. Feel the ghost. because there’s really nothing special about one of the Purple Rain motorcycles, or the Parade amps, or his cars or the kitchen where he made pancakes, or the offices – it wasn’t any of that stuff. It was the wholeness of the thing. Everything combined. It was walking in and looking up and immediately thinking, “Oh, okay, this was Prince’s house.” I would have known it even if I didn’t know it. You know what I mean? It’s just something in the air that you can’t quantify or pin down or catch in a bottle. Vibes, that’s all I can say. It was oddly moving in a way I never expected. If you ever get to walk through Paisley Park you will feel the vibes, you have my personal guarantee. Even though I wish they wouldn’t do that. Herd us all through there to gape at things.
Ah, well – anyway. What then? Where do I start? Where do I begin? I told you about all the contractors, in hard air quotes, who have come through the house here, scratching their chins and their asses and talking bullshit, right? Well, the landlord sent us an email about a week into December that said, basically, you have to get all of your shit out of the front room of the house by the first of the year. Which — no. No for a lot of reasons, but mostly because she has no idea what she’s going to do or what’s going to happen, just that she wants to “start work.” She has no idea because the people she’s sent over here to assess the situation have been, for the most part, mouth breathing subnormal idiots. So we had a real contractor of our own, someone with an engineering background, come in and do an inspection and give us a report and whatnot – all the things those types do – and he told us the work was going to be extensive, and there’s no way we could stay in the house for the four months it was going to take. Or, you know, he said, “You could, but who would want to?”
So we wrote out this letter to the landlord spelling out our plans – which were basically to stay here for as long as it takes us to find someplace to go and get everything together – you know, you’ve moved, you know how much it sucks. Since this is not our problem, her house falling down, I figure I’m not going to be rushed into making a move and wind up compromising, or staying up for four or five days straight packing shit into boxes. So we wrote out the letter and I took it to the post office and sent it certified mail so we’d have a record or her getting it. But the day after I sent the letter, she came over and stuck a notice to vacate in 60 days letter to the front door. And to the gate, and to Carol’s car. Three of them. She brought scotch tape with her to stick them everywhere I guess. She did that on December 20th. I think it was her idea of a Christmas card. So she trumped us by a day. She received our certified letter the next day, and after that, sent us a fourth copy of the 60 day notice in the mail. Just for the hell of it, I guess. As an exclamation mark.
Anyway, all the landlord shit aside, moving is one of those things…I know that it doesn’t even phase some people. I’ve had movers tell me stories about showing up at a job and the people were sitting on the couch watching TV and hadn’t packed anything and just expected the movers to do it. SO there are people like that, crazy people, then there are the rest of us who don’t want to move, who dread moving, or who would rather get five teeth pulled than have to move all of their shit to another place somewhere. I fall into just about any of those “hate to move” groups. Moving really stresses me out. I have a feeling of unease for a month or two before the move, during the move, then for a month or two after. Basically I lose half a year to any move, that’s how much they fuck me up.
To add to the problems with this one, I’m pretty sure I have to find a new job, and I have no idea where I’ll end up as far as that goes. Not just where like what company or industry, but like where in the city. So it’s hard to look for a place to move to now because I have no idea where I’ll be working. But that just adds to the merriment and festive feel the whole thing has. Sure. I don’t know, man. We have so much shit. You know how you just accumulate shit? And if you stay in one place for 10 years, the shit really accumulates. That’s what stresses me out, thinking about all the shit. When I was 20 years old I lived in a little apartment in St Paul, and I could have probably fit everything I owned into a van. In fact I did just that when I moved out. But I still felt burdened by it all. I would walk out the door to go somewhere and fantasize that the building would burn down while I was gone and I’d be rid of all my shit.
Which is funny, considering how little I had. But putting all of this stuff into boxes – well it just makes me realize how much I have, and how I try to pare things down every 10 years or so. What a ridiculous fucking problem. Why does so much stuff stick to us? I don’t have a problem with having a thousand records and CDs, those are like necessities to me. Like you need pots and pans to make food, and you need music. But most of the rest of this stuff – I don’t know, man. But who am I trying to fool? Do I want to sit in a room with a couple of chairs and blank walls and meditate on the wonders of minimalism? I’m pretty sure I do not. But some other less extreme form of minimalism, I can get behind that.
I think we’re going to get a storage space so we can manage this move better and maybe get a smaller place. Even though getting a storage space is something I’ve always wanted to avoid. Hey, if something’s in storage and you don’t even see it and can’t easily get to it, you don’t need it, right? I don’t know. These are such rich country, rich people problems, and I ain’t rich by anyone’s measuring stick. Ah, I have to take that back. If the me from 30 or 35 years ago could see today me, I think he’d be very surprised. And probably disgusted and disappointed. Ha. “Why aren’t you in a band!” he would say. “And what is all that shit you’re surrounded by?!” And he’d be right. He’d be shocked that I worked in an office, shocked at the amount of money I make, and disgusted by the fact that I think it’s still not enough. Is it ever enough?
I wonder sometimes when I see people who are already wealthy doing stupid shit or lame shit or embarrassing themselves somehow just to get more money, when is it enough? When do you think, “I’ve got all the money I need.” But I suppose making 30 grand a year or 300 grand a year is the same thing. Or 30 million. I suppose you still think it’s not enough, and I’m not sure why that is. Well, 30 grand and 300 grand are the same, maybe, but 30 million – or even 3 million – you must think that’s enough when you get it, wouldn’t you? But who knows, I’m sure there are people out there making or getting 3 million dollars a year who still worry that it’s not enough. It’s all subjective.
And you get stuck. Like I said, I’m looking for a new job, but I’m limited now, because I can’t get a job that pays less than what I’m already making. I have expanded my expenses and spending to fit my salary, so going down from there would be difficult. And I honestly can’t even tell you how I spend as much money as I do. I always think, “Oh, I don’t buy much stuff,” but every month the bills say something different. That and it’s really expensive to live in Los Angeles. If I made what I make here in a smaller city we’d live like millionaires. But then in a smaller city they don’t pay big city wages, so the trap is the same everywhere. The trap! That’s what the me from 35 years ago would see right away, the trap. That I’d fallen into the trap. The trap that I saw so clearly when I was 25 years old.
So here I am in the trap looking for a new trap instead of figuring a way out of the trap. A new home trap. A new job trap. Will I be free one day? Is anyone free? If the millionaire feels like they need more money, who is free? Don’t tell me someone living under a freeway overpass, because homeless does not equal free. They are less free than anyone. I suppose people living in a small place or just a room, with nothing but their notebooks and maybe a radio, I guess they’re free. But I’m not so sure. I used to be that person, and I didn’t feel free. I felt more free than I do now, but completely free? No. So I guess I’m not sure what freedom is. Which is probably why I’m in the trap! Ha.
The trap promises comfort, but I don’t even feel that. I haven’t for a very long time. I mean security, not exactly comfort, I guess. The last time I really had any security was when I was in my early 20s working as a printer for a big insurance company in St. Paul, and I tore up that security myself by walking away from everything and coming out here to California. But even that job – I can imagine that computers took a lot of it away, and eventually the Internet took the rest away. I find it almost impossible to believe that there’s some kid down in the basement of that building running those Multilith 1250 printing presses that I used to run all day. I don’t even know if that insurance company still exists, but that’s got nothing to do with anything.
I was secure then, I could have stayed there and done that for as long as I wanted to, or for as long as I could stand it. I didn’t make any money, as I recall, but I had profit sharing and I lived across the street, so my commute was about 5 minutes. A sensible person would have turned that into some kind of, what do they call it – career, but I’m not a sensible person. Ever since then it’s been insecurity in housing, insecurity in work. This Internet industry is about as insecure as an industry can be and still be considered an industry. I’ve had my office chair sold out from under me twice, and the writing is on the wall for the place I’m at now. I can feel the owners looking for a way out, so that’s what’s got me on the job prowl. If you know anyone who needs a Communications Director, give me a call. A Communications Director is basically someone who sits around writing all day and doesn’t have a boss breathing down their neck. I suppose if you knew of a job like that you’d take it for yourself. As you should.
Not that I even really do that anymore. As the company gets smaller and smaller we all have to do other things, and my other thing turned out to be website development. So that’s what I spend most of my day doing. Not so much writing and sitting around with my feet up on the desk. I think I might be the highest paid web developer in Los Angeles, so I can’t complain. But it’s insecurity again. The idea that you’re going to get a job and just stay there until you get a retirement cake or die at your desk is very outmoded these days it seems to me. I mean, I know people working at jobs that have a retirement and pension at the end of 20 years, and that just kind of boggles my mind. I’ve been at this place I’m at now for almost 12 years – I probably won’t make it to 12, but almost 12. But it’s disappearing. All those kids working for Snap or whatever startup that doesn’t really make any money over on the west side – silicon beach, as some idiots have so unimaginatively named it – they’re all going to be gone soon enough. It’s an insecure industry, but I don’t suppose that bothers the kids since they’ve never known anything else.
So what’s a secure job? I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure if I ever found one it would drive me crazy and I’d want to leave after a year or two. So what does secure even mean? I don’t know. I’m asking a lot of questions today, aren’t I. Are you answering back? I probably would be, and most of my answers would probably end with the word “dummy!” shouted out at whatever I was listening to this on. It’s funny though – I’ve never listened to one of these THIS IS NOT A TEST thingies. I hear it, kind of, when I edit it and add the music and whatnot, but I’ve never sat down and purposely listened to an episode all the way through to see if it’s any good. And there are probably a few hundred of you out there listening to this right now saying, “You should listen so you can see what we have to endure!” I know. But here we are.
How much is enough, what is security – I guess I’m thinking about these things because everything is in upheaval right now. But they’re always there in the back of my mind, nagging me on the periphery. Heckling me from my subconscience. I suppose everyone has that audience in their subconscience, yelling things at the stage. “You will never be happy!” “Your mother didn’t love you!” “You’re fat!” “You suck at everything you think you’re good at!” More rich people’s problems. I don’t walk away – or drive away more likely now – from my house fantasizing that it will burn down while I’m gone so I’ll be rid of all my shit like I did when I was 20. Mostly because I don’t live alone anymore, I am part of a little family that’s made up of Carol, me and the dog. So I can’t think things like that anymore. And I suppose if I did, now it would be, “I hope that ceiling finally caves in and everything is crushed so I can go somewhere and start over.” That would be more realistic than a fire now, here in this fucking place.
It’s funny how you can go from loving a house to hating it pretty quickly. It doesn’t take much, I tell ya. Just buying boxes to pack all of your stuff in is enough to make someone doubt their previous love. But we’re already packing and we don’t have to move for a while, so it’s actually not so horrible yet, and I feel like we’ve already packed a lot of stuff. So maybe this is the way to do it: in slow motion. And back on the “who am I kidding” question, the building doesn’t have to burn down or the roof cave in for me to get rid of everything and start over. I could voluntarily do that right now. I am unloading some stuff online, selling it, just to pare down, and so is Carol. So the fewer things you have to move, the less stressful moving is, I guess. But getting rid of everything isn’t even possible.
Like the pots and pans and the music – you need certain things to survive and remain civilized and not become a wild animal prowling through the grocery store stooped over walking on your knuckles like an ape. I’m getting rid of a lot of stuff, and last time we moved, from San Pedro to Alhambra, I got rid of a lot of stuff too. And still, even now, there will be days when I think, “I wish I still had that video tape,” or that whatever. So even when you get rid of stuff it manages to stick to you. I don’t know if there’s any way out of this other than to just accept that you’re always going to drag around a certain amount of things, they’ll always be stuck to you.
Even in a new year such as this one we’re now in. Spoiler alert: I recorded this in 2017 and you’re listening to it in 2018. Or even later if the North Korean missiles haven’t yet arrived. The changing of the calendar is oddly abstract here in Southern California because the seasons don’t change. Not really. So time never seems to pass. Maybe that’s what drew people here in the first place. Or maybe it was just the prospect of not freezing to death during the winter. Well, whatever it was, here I am, here you are, and here we all are. Rest you merry gentlemen and rest you merry whores and let the lamplights light! So long-uh!