Tempe is where the art is*

*or once was, or may well be in one of many possible futures.

I’ve started blogging over at James B Hunt’s longtime site,
http://www.tempeart.com (though he hasn’t moved the blog to that url yet so it’s currently at http://tempeart.wordpress.com until it’s up and running. I haven’t lived in Tempe for several years but still spend quite a bit of time there wandering around and such. In fact, I’ve felt for some time that I was totally over Tempe until James convinced me otherwise. James B Hunt is one of the most unique and gifted artists in the valley, and I’m happy to be able to contribute to his new effort of reviving the art scene in Tempe.

Here was the first article I wrote for the site a few days ago:

Surviving Tempe
by Brandon Adamson

A post-apocalyptic ghost town. That’s what Mill Ave seems to resemble these days as I stroll down it, making my routine stops to the few remaining establishments that I have any remote interest in (Old Town Books, Slices, and Mojo Frozen Yogurt.) Vacant retail spaces once occupied by monolithic chain stores like The Gap, Borders, Abercrombie, and (most recently) American Apparel, remain dormant…waiting for the next sucker to brave the astronomical rent prices to get a piece of that coveted “college kid” demographic.

I don’t have quite the fond memories that others share of the so called “good old days of Mill Ave,” which may be because when I started hanging out there it was 1997 and 1998, and the area had already begun it’s decline. In fact, during those days, going to Mill Ave was a totally depressing experience for me. It was flooded with those annoying ghetto street racers, bumping Power 92.3 in their lowered Honda CRX’s and modified Mitsubishi Eclipses. Not that I don’t have an appreciation for automobile racing(I’m a bit a crazy driver myself,) but only if we’re talking about 60′s muscle cars, grand prix, or Steve McQueen. Indeed, not some quasi-horde of mid 90′s riff raff wearing those “Boss” T shirts(the ones with huge writing on them) or rocking Tommy Hilfiger jackets and speaking in ebonic tongues. Though I will confess to owning two pieces of Tommy Hilfiger clothing in 1997 which were purchased solely for the purpose of attracting normal girls and repelling the sort of mousy, alternative, train wreck chicks that would have mistaken me for one of their own at the time.

In the spring of 1998 I used to wander down mill ave nightly, handing out crappy 4 track cassette tapes to unsuspecting victims. I always hear people talk about Long Wongs, Gibson’s, Gin Blossoms and Dead Hot Workshop as the epitome of a lost golden era of Tempe. In my mind though, the Tempe I remember, while it certainly included those elements(I saw Buck O’ Nine at Gibson’s and MXPX at the Electric Ballroom in 1997) the ambiance was much more gangster, machismo, and hip hop oriented than what one would have expected on an episode of “Party of Five” or Melrose Place Soundtrack. I recall long lines of hoochies and thugs stretched outside Club 411. The scene was thriving though. And most importantly, the things you were looking for could be found if you knew where to go and could filter out all the nattering nabobs of negativism.

Speaking of negativity, when will they finally get around to doing something about the aggressive bums? Downtown Tempe has always seemed to be a magnet for the most ungrateful and obnoxious homeless people I have ever encountered. Avoiding eye contact, harassment, and annoying interaction with Mill Ave homeless people is an integral part of the Tempe experience. A friend of mine once joked that avoiding the bums on mill was likened to the game “Plinko” from The Price of Right. I occasionally entertain fantasies of “The Scoops” from Soylent Green coming and swooping them all up to be taken away to some waste management facility. Not that it’s cool to bag on the homeless, but let’s face it, the “Mill Ave Street kids” are not boat people from Cambodia or South Vietnam. They’re mostly lazy underachievers from suburban homes in the East Valley.

I did have some interesting times in Tempe. I used to play Tekken at Sweet Daddy’s Arcade(where Fascinations adult store is now?) on their big screen version. One time I played against a homeless dude who smelled so bad that I let him win and take over the machine just to get away from him. There is no denying that there used to be a plethora of live music clubs, and they were quite good. Electric Ballroom, Gibson’s and Nita’s Hideaway were my own personal favorites.

Tempe has been poised to make a comeback for a few years now, which seems to have been rudely interrupted by the real estate crash. The ruins of an unfinished condo tower loom high overhead, the developer of which committed suicide. Slowly, there have been interesting developments in Tempe. The Valley Art Theater is back in full swing, and the new Madcap Theaters venue replaced the old Harkins and shows cool vintage and campy films. The Fixx Coffee bar opened up where an internet cafe used to be. All the ghetto clubs have mostly been replaced by sexified pop music bars for the Sponge Bob Squarepants and Teletubbies generation. The college douchebags in their brodozers are still around, but as long as ASU is there, they will be too. Artists are slowly creeping back into the city, since word is getting out that you can sell on the street. I’m not into the whole “Tempe vs. Phoenix” rivalry. I love Phoenix and Downtown Scottsdale as well. It would be great to see Tempe complete its transformation from Mad Max style bartertown and 90′s Hippie wasteland to a 21st century, cosmopolitan art destination. Ready, set, go.

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beneath the extended para-para-parasol!

So I’m almost all moved in to my new place. Though all I have is a bed, a television, and that orange end table that Brandie gave me, nearly 6 years ago. I do love that table so, but have never been able to find matching ones. It’s weird how over the years, every person that you get involved with, you sort of pick up something from them. Not always tangible items like tables or belongings left behind after stormy altercations and subsequent stormouts(in the case of Shannon it was a million notes that she had left as well as items she purchased for me during holidays.) But basically, you just take on some new interest or something based on a niche you’re exposed to. It sort of forces you to broaden and give things a chance you wouldn’t normally care/know about. Even if you only hang with them for a few days, or sometimes only a single date.

I remember Brandie was really into old school anime, which I had almost no interest in before I met her. Of course I had seen things like Ninja Scroll etc, but was never into it. Anime always seemed way too pervy. Like there was always some kind of robot rape, or some out of place incestuous undertones. Anyway, she got me into Urusei Yatsura which i ended up falling in love with, as well as the Neongenesis Evangelion series. After we broke up I ended up buying one Ranma 1/2 season 4 vhs tape from Bookman’s. And anyways, right after that I brought some girl home that I met at a Tempe party(this is like circa april 2005.) On our way, we stopped at Filiberto’s. This girl probably thought we were going to just get high or something, and that I would maybe try to bone down with her. Anyhow, instead of all that, I just popped in the Ranma video, which actually was a bizarre, really funny episode. It was called “Headmaster from Hell,” and basically the plot is that their principal returns from a trip to Hawaii, and when he comes back he acts and talks all “Hawaiian.” (WTF?)…Though his accent sounded more Jamaican to me, but what do I know. Anyway the girl I had over thought this was the lamest thing ever, and couldn’t wait to leave. You could tell she was about to tell all her friends she just hung out with the biggest dork who made her sit and watch anime. Ah well. I didn’t even get to hang out with her long enough to discover what her interests were, outside of Filiberto’s Arizona burrito(yes i really can remember what she ordered) and late night excursions with random dudes.

“With the kings and queens of the dance hall craze, checkmate in three moves in your heyday, but…”

So as an accompaniment to this entry I was going to post a youtube of the song Human Hands by Elvis Costello, only to discover that youtube only contains a zillion videos of Sondre Lerche’s cover version of the Elvis Costello song. I’m sure it’s great and all, but it’s typically depressing that a new indie cover would be more accessible and well known than the actual song…

Did anything worth mentioning happen this weekend? I feel like it did, but after a whirlwind of fun sometimes I sit down to update this thing and can’t think of much to say…or realize I can’t write about certain things which incriminate other people, especially since so many people I actually know read this thing now. So when I write about goings ons wth random strangers and comical encounters with various respectable women and also cheap hoes, there may be consequences. But fuck it!

Friday I went with Bill to Casey Moore’s for a bit, and there were some girls who were attractive, but when they walked by they smelled like hot wings which kind of ruins it when you’re expecting marc jacobs perfume or something. So anyway it was kind of a cheesefest, and so I convinced Bill to go to Philthy Phil’s for Craig Citizen’s birthday celebration. I had a really good time, and saw a lot of people I wanted to see. Also talked to some people I had wanted to talk to for a long time and all and all just felt surrounded by friends. I danced with a lot of really nice girls. The dances were all very sexually charged but still innocent…which is the best kind of dancing. Bill didn’t feel like dancing, so he didn’t really have an outlet for his boner rage, so he ended up leaving early. I stayed to the end and left while I was still in a good mood. I got out of there in a hurry, cinderella style. One thing I don’t ever like to do is overstay my welcome. You’ve got to get out while the getting’s good. If you talk to these girls, and you just linger they begin to develop a seething hatred for you no matter how excited they were to talk with you originally. Sometimes it is still very difficult to leave though, even though you know staying just makes you into a stubborn cockroach hanging out in the aftermath of globalthermonuclear war. You just want to talk more and more and dance more and more and be oh so close… BUT you have to run!

Saturday night went to Casey’s again and hung out with friends. Was hanging out with Mark, Mikey, and others. I ran into an old(young) friend there and we ended up going to a Tempe house party afterwards, something I hadn’t really experienced in years. There ended up being major drama, as it turned out the girls who lived at the house had some sort of a history of being enemies with the girl I was friends with. So they kept talking shit to her and trying to kick her out. They were saying ridiculous stuff to her like “girl, don’t nobody want you here”(and yeah these were white and hispanic people talking like that.) Anyway, they were also sending these scuzzy, doofusy looking loser dudes over to incoherently tell her she needed to go. Anyway finally she agreed to leave, and even though I wasn’t really involved I was like “Well if she has to leave, then I’m leaving, too.” Not that anyone cared for me to be there, but it was a matter of honor. And so the four or five of us left, and we went to her friends’ apartment and hung out for a bit. One of her cute friends actually had a working VCR with a box of VHS tapes. Pretty amazing. One of the dudes was like “Holy shit! You guys sit around and watch vcrs?” And she was like “Uh no we watch VHS tapes.” Total Back to the future Two moment. Ohh and she told this story about how this guy was throwing rocks at her window late at night trying to get her attention, and I was all “Oh how romantic!” But she said she didn’t notice who it was at first and so she freaked out and called 911. And it turns out it was some dude she had wanted to leave her alone, so she was just really creeped out. Note to self, don’t ever throw rocks at a girl’s window whom you’re romantically interested in.

Today I hung out with Jonathan mostly. We went to Adult Swim briefly, then had burgers and went to his apartment where we watched the Ellen Degeneres Comedy Special on TBS(not my idea.) He played me some of his new techno jams that he made though so that part was fun, even though neither one of us really likes or listens to techno.

the naming of cats is a difficult matter

Saturday afternoon I decided I needed a new uniform. When you’re not having any luck in the world, you can’t change the world and luck is imaginary…so all you can really do is buy some new clothes and/or shave. I went to American Apparel in Scottsdale, and bought this black longsleeve shirt/sweater which when combined with my black pants and white belt, made me look a bit like a sandman from the 1976 movie “Logan’s Run.” I bought an extra small for the hell of it, but when I got home and tried it on, it was too tight(not to mention hot as balls.) So I didn’t want to go right back to the store and exchange it for a small, because I was just in there, and it would be weird. Not sure why I would get anxiety about that, but I just felt like I would appear “wishy washy” to the cashier people. Like they would give me a look like “there’s something amiss with this dude. He just bought this and now he’s returning it 5 minutes later…what a nutjob.” I mean hey, that’s what I would be thinking. So I decided to go to the Tempe American Apparel and exchange it there…which turned out to be an amazing decision, because I was rung up by the friendliest cashier person I’ve ever encountered. Not since I was in a Casino did a person look so happy to take my money…(or in this case my merchandise for exchange.) When she asked me how my day was going I gave my stock answer of “It sucks” which was true enough and she seemed taken aback by that. These customer service questions can become so routine, that I think people are not prepared when you actually give a somewhat genuine response. “That’s not the answer people usually give” she said. Indeed, and just like that she almost seemed like a friend.

I was in a bad mood most of yesterday because the internet was down, and I had a lot of emails and other crap to tend to. I tried to go to the internet cafe and they were closed! Did they go out of business? I watched “Bullitt” with Steve Mcqueen, which I haven’t seen since about 2002. He’s great in it of course…but I’m not a big fan of realism in movies(unless it’s realism of emotion or humor.) I like movies that leave some things to the imagination. Mainly I think it’s just the “realistic” hospital ER scenes that are a bit too much for a hypochondriac like me to watch. I don’t like to see THAT far into my future.

I took a long nap and woke up rather frantically at midnight, just in time to throw on my new AA sweater and head out to Casey Moore’s. Most people I knew were MIA, but strangely everything fell into place. I took the initiative and met some people I had wanted to know for a long time. After the bar closed, during the outside part.. you know, that time when everyone(mostly dudes) stands around in search of nonexistent afterparties or with the fleeting hopes that something interesting will happen, but it rarely ever does…well in that short period of time I met a girl, who agreed to go with me to meet some friends at a cafe. Only when we started driving, we decided neither of us were hungry(not to mention we didn’t find the place) and so instead we went to 24 hour Walmart(an adventure in itself) and purchased an official NCAA basketball. We then drove to a park in Tempe and played basketball until the sun started to come up. We played three games of PIG, with her winning the first game and me the next two. In reality, we were evenly matched as we both sucked about equally…but we could potentially rule as friends with practice.

Today after a brief stint hanging out at Borders reading Darwin Porter’s unsubstantiated gossip filled, unauthorized biography of Steve McQueen “The King of Cool,” I decided to go back to the Tempe American Apparel and buy another of the exact same sweater I purchased the previous day. Miraculously, the same girl was there to ring me up again. I could tell she thought it was odd I was buying a duplicate of the item I had just bought…”hmm you’re getting another black top” she muttered curiously. But I told her that the other one had turned out to be good luck, and she seemed to understand.

Tempe girls vs. Scottsdale girls

The difference between Scottsdale girls and Tempe girls is that Scottsdale girls are interested in money, brand names and image. They tend not to give you the time of day unless you can fulfill their expectations in these areas, which is not to say that they have good taste as far as these things go(some “gaud awful” stuff appeals to them as money rarely equates to good taste… with the atrocious downtown Scottsdale condo architecture being a perfect example) Tempe girls usually come from traumatic backgrounds and are merely interested in love and attention. In a way they care about image too, but much less so and having what would be considered a quality image(stable job, grooming habits, cool clothes, reasonably intelligent etc) actually works against you. With Tempe girls, you basically can be some heavily tattooed doofus slob who just drunkenly stumbles into them and mumbles some shit…and odds are you can have your way with them for an evening or two(a long term Tempe relationship is like 2 months, average is a couple weeks.) This may seem like it would be more advantageous to go for Tempe girls, but it can be frustrating since if you’re a guy who does care even slightly about intellect, image, goals etc….these things will not benefit you in your pursuit of said girls, and you will likely frequently lose out on these girls to many drunken, ugly, listless, worthless, morons. You will short every circuit in your body trying to compute how it happened and what adaptations will be required for future attempts. Such thoughts are futile. If you want to score a make out sesh with a Tempe girl, just say “Hey, ladies… I’m a tattoo artist, my band’s playing at Yucca Tap Room, sometimes I bartend at the Rogue and oh I’ve got some pills.” It doesn’t even matter if none of these things are true as the relationship will likely be over before she finds out, and lying about it makes you into a scumbag which will push you even further into the demographic of the Tempe girl, thus opening up all sorts of new opportunities with her friends and acquaintances.

she comes in colors everywhere… she combs her hair

So I tried to go to the show at The Clubhouse where The Middle East was playing, but it was sold out. You’d think someone who’s been around as long as I have would have no trouble getting into one of these shindigs via guestlists, fair weather friends and whatever. One of the drawbacks of being a reclusive artist though is that you never make the connections with the sleazy promoter people to finagle your way onto the guest lists of these jams. For someone who goes out nearly every single night, I have very little interest in that sort of thing. It’s been ages since I went to see a live band play locally with any sincere intent other than shameless self-promotion and meeting attractive girls. Anyhow, I can confess to never having heard any of “The Middle East’s” songs or “Frightened Rabbit” for that matter(who canceled due to the volcano eruption, grounded European flights debacle.) Now that I no longer have a hip young stylist as a girlfriend, I am exposed to even less new music as I listen to what I want to listen to like 100% of the time now as opposed to being coerced into broadening with the threat of imminent bitchiness if I don’t stop being so selfish.

And with that you’re probably wondering “Where the fuck is he going with this entry?” Well, nowhere important really… other than last week as I was eating some chicken from El Pollo Supremo, I picked up a copy of The New Times(which is almost never a good idea for anyone with a conservative bone in their body)and opened to a random page where there was an interview with director Kevin Smith. Now I never liked any of Kevin Smith’s movies except sort of Mallrats…but even that’s not because I think it’s great, I just love going to the mall. I am a mallrat. Also any kid who was a skateboarder in the 90’s wanted to see one of our own, Jason Lee(my first proper skateboard was the Blind Jason Lee model with The Grinch on it.) I think Kevin Smith just tries too hard to be witty, and the dialogue always comes off as so phony. The scripts never dig down deep to uncover any genuine sincerity. Not to mention I think that “Jay and Silent Bob” are the two most unfunny, annoying character creations on the planet. Also, he’s from New Jersey or something, and like Billy Zoom, I almost universally hate east coast accents. There’s a certain inherent belligerence to them. However, I was shocked to see him say that he “can’t stand going to live shows, because you can never hear the lyrics” which I can definitely relate to. It all just depends what you enjoy about music and what you look to get out of it. Some people like to rock and run around bumping into each other. Others get off on the loudness and energy of the band. For me though, I’m almost always looking for something in the lyrics to validate and vindicate whatever I’m currently feeling, and I picture some other person out there hearing the song and understanding how I feel. If it sounds good and is in tune well that’s just a bonus. Like I have fantasies of walking into a club where there’s a jukebox. There’s hardly anyone there except some girl that I used to like, have a crush on, banged etc… and so I put in a few bucks and play a song on the jukebox(think “Alone Again Or” by the band “Love” or the Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow”) that somehow if she would just stop talking to the ugly trashy dude she’s with and pay attention to it she would know exactly where I’m coming from and some sort of satisfactory closure or grand re-opening would be realized. Of course the stars would never align that way. The point is that people are not all looking to get the same things out of art. And understanding what someone else is looking for is the first step to appreciating why they may not have the same perception and appreciation of things that you enjoy.

Anyhow, my connection with Kevin Smith was short lived as a few lines down in the interview he makes the following ignorant statement:
“I thought, ‘Phoenix is hot, people wear less clothing, so they’d be less inhibited and less conservative,'” he says. “Or maybe it’s the opposite — since people are wearing less clothing, they feel the need to be the morality police.”

First of all, in typical intellectually incurious, east coast fashion this shows Kevin Smith understands absolutely nothing about conservatism. Conservatives like sexy, feisty, classically beautiful women like Raquel Welch whereas liberal female icons are people like Ellen Degeneres and Kathy Griffin. Furthermore it’s the left wing NAGS and stick-in-the-mud feminazi types like Gloria Steinem who are always whining about the objectification of women, and protesting the attractiveness of magazine models, while lobbying for the right to be fat not have to shave their legs, armpits or wear make up. Conservatives on the other hand see men and women as having definite biological differences and therefore fulfilling natural gender roles… which is why despite all the social conditioning and youth indoctrination people will never completely be a neutered, unisex species because there are certain uncontrollable biological forces at work. They can be bent, but not broken, not until science actually has perfected the capability of physically altering those forces, at which time men will be obsolete. But until then, women will want to wear scantily clad clothing and attract men, and men will want to have sex with as many girls as they can get there grubby little hands on. That’s conservatism, grounded in reality.

As for the religious nuts and the puritans…well they’re hypocrites of course as they turn out to be the biggest pervs of all, but even they recognize the importance of gender roles and can appreciate sexiness, just not when it’s flaunted and paraded about in polite society. Rather they prefer it within the private context of loyal, steadfast relationships and I will resist the urge to say… seminaries and airport bathrooms…but here’s a shocking fact, Catholics and Jews are overwhelmingly democrats. It’s only WASPs who lean republican. That’s the birds and the bees for you.

i’ve been passing time watching trains go by

So I have been causing wayyy too much mischief these last couple months. It’s going to come back to haunt me I know it. I need to just stay home and brush up on my “Choose Your Own Adventure” skills. Saturday Night, after the bar closed and everyone was standing around doing the outside part….I looked around and there was absolutely nothing but scuzzy dudes and riff raff left. These two not very pretty but sluttily dressed hispanic girls came out, whom you could tell probably barely spoke english, and as they walked by I said to one of them in a quiet but direct manner “Excuse me miss, excuse me miss… I just need to start a family with you when you get a moment” and she looked up at me, and I swear she got so mesmerized that she actually fell over. Actually though it was probably more a combination of her being wasted, stomping around in cheap “I got it at Ross” slutastic high heels, and the fact that she wasn’t watching where the “F” she was going.

Anyhow sensing the night was going nowhere I was ready to go home when two barely visible random girls pulled up in a car, and I just opened the back door and got in…which reminds me of that scene in the JohnnyCab from Total Recall:

johnny cab total recall

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGHt1KLJcJI

Douglas Quaid: Where am I?
Johnnycab: You’re in a Johnnycab.
Douglas Quaid: I mean, what am I doing here?
Johnnycab: I’m sorry. Would you please rephrase the question?
Douglas Quaid: How did I get in this taxi?
Johnnycab: The door opened. You got in.
[Johnnycab rolls his eyes]
Johnnycab: Please state the street and number.
Douglas Quaid: Drive! drive!
Johnnycab: I’m not familiar with that address. Would you please repeat the destination?
Douglas Quaid: Anywhere just go! Go!
Johnnycab: I’m not familiar with that address. Would you please repeat the destination?
Douglas Quaid: Shit! shit!
Johnnycab: Would you please repeat the destination?
Douglas Quaid: [Quaid rips the Johnnycab out and starts to drive himself] Aaahhh!
[the taxicab pulls up]
Johnnycab: The fare is 18 credits, please.
[Quaid gets out]
Douglas Quaid: Sue me, dickhead!
[cab tries to run him down, crashes, and explodes]
Johnnycab: We hope you enjoyed the ride!

Anyhow, I had no idea who or what was in the car when I got in. It could have been Large Marge from Peewee’s Big Adventure for all I know. But to my pleasant surprise there was a really terrific looking girl driving…which actually made me think “oh shit! This girl is going to hate me because she will think I specifically meant to get into her car as some drunken asshole way of hitting on her.” But I wasn’t drunk. Only had a glass of merlot or two and felt desperately adventurous. Was fine with just being friends with her actually. So I just asked her if she would give me a ride to my car in the parking lot that was about 200 feet away. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that with girls you never want to overstay your welcome. When you meet a cool girl, and she’s polite and friendly, don’t ruin it by staying and bothering her too long when there’s nothing more to talk about and it just gets awkward. Just say a few words and be on your way. When I got out of the car I just said “Here, have some promotional materials” and gave them one of my uniquely shaped RandomBrandon cards and that was that. I drove home, ate a bowl of chocolate cheerios and passed out.