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Entries in y2k (3)

Thursday
Dec092010

Nik Kershaw at 10

big artist head shot of nik kershaw, one of my musical heroesNik KershawTime flies. Ten years and some weeks already since I was riding in the car one night with Mike Thaxton and then, unannounced, he put in a CD with a powerful backbeat and an undeniable synth hook and a blaring horn section where a guitar solo might have been. At the time, scarcely a few notes in, I thought it was Eric Clapton's 1986 song It's In The Way That You Use It. I commented that it was good to hear that Clapton song after all this time. I had to bite my tongue when Mike straightened me out and told me it was Nik Kershaw's song Wouldn't It Be Good. Just as well. It had been even more years since I heard that one too, and this was a joyous reunion. Mixing up the songs was not impossible; Clapton was in his horns-and-background-girl-singers, 80s rock mode when he did In The Way. Glitzy 80s soulful rock stuff. Having both songs before me right now, it makes sense to mistake Nik's song (done in 1984, Clapton's in 1986), at least sonically, and with just a few notes to judge by. But I could never get into Clapton like I did with Nik Kershaw.

I think Mike had prefaced that night with some notice that he wanted me to hear some Nik Kershaw because he thought there was some loose parallel to the sound and career of Kevin Gilbert. Invoking KG was a surefire way to get my attention because Thax himself had given me a load of KG over the year prior, and that was the single most valuable artist for me then. What is interesting is that while Mike gave me a lot of KG in a hurry, there was a lot less NK available, though he did provide me with a copy of 15 Minutes and a year or so later, with To Be Frank. But it all hung on that one playing of Wouldn't It Be Good, that one November night, probably after a Magnificent Meatsticks session. That song still has some sort of magnetic attraction for me. I guess Mike's selling of NK by referencing Gilbert was to highlight that both had an insanely quantized and clear electronic sound in the 1980s that gave way to more organic and gritty acoustic-classic rock sounding instrumentation, greasier vocals, and generally more raw sound in the 1990s and present. In both cases, that was an appealing shift, though more so in Kershaw's case, I enjoy quite a bit of the earlier stuff. Another appealing thing for me was that both had a strong self-produced sound with each playing a number of instruments and minding the production too. Each has a distinctive voice that is applied in interesting ways. Sounded like promising stuff, this Nik Kershaw.

If my recollection of things is right, I didn't know it at the time, but Nik Kershaw became like a trusted new friend to me that season. Having hardly any prior experience with his music except for a vague recollection from 1984 of seeing the video of Wouldn't It Be Good, I was ready for his music to hit me with full force, not being diluted by endless radio play or other overexposure. Just as well. His CD 15 Minutes, the first he did after many years off and gone from the limelight, was the first full disk I heard, and this during the first weeks of the new wave of family drama that began about this time in 2000. For a few months from the fall of 2000 through the winter of 2001, it seemed the only disks I had in my 5-disk changer was 15 Minutes, Radiohead's Kid A, Jeff Buckley's Grace, Mike Keneally's Dancing, and Kevin Gilbert's Shaming of the True. That was the soundtrack to a time of depression met with a hopeful reunion with one side of my family which in turn was a provocative move for the other side, all with the exhaustion of finishing my own CD not long before and wondering when that would be pressed. Having just turned 27 shortly before, I was in deep. Whoever this Nik Kershaw dude was, he gave me a total gift with 15 minutes. I can't listen to it now without evoking memories of a cold empty house where my grandmother had left by ambulance and which the newly deregulated ($200) energy bill came down heavily upon me; angry letters; a day in the therapist's office (my sister's therapist); the lonely, tear-filled, raging 90 minute ride home from Long Beach at one in the morning; the smashing of tables and chairs and the spray painted message upon the tabletop, put out by the street for all to see; the fading moments of my grandmother's life, she sadly having seen the genie in the bottle finally get uncorked, and her befuddled response and complete helplessness to do anything but listen to me until she was overwhelmed; the endless hours of mining her belongings left behind; the painting of the house to make it my own; the trips to the CB therapist; the signing up for school at AIC—All that life for four or five months was accompanied in part with one great album of songs from a guy who I had hardly heard of a few months before.

Mike Thaxton eventually got me a copy of To Be Frank, the follow up to 15 Minutes. This came to me at another time in life, about a year later, when a lot of that edgy drama had subsided into a livable life. Maybe it was that that led me to not savor this album the same way. The songs are just as good but they didn't hit me the same. There are some that I do totally love now, but on the whole, I don't have the same experience with that disk. The uncharted territory remained so for a few years to come: with the exception of Wouldn't It Be Good, I had not heard a note of his 1980s era stuff. That took a few years to get to. At that time there wasn't YouTube to help find stuff to listen to, nor was there iTunes Music Store, so I relied on some alternative means to collect even a partial bunch of his songs from that era.

Even now there is woefully little on iTunes America store, and the CDs are damned hard to track down for a decent price, but I've gathered much of the 80s stuff by one download or another. I don't have a favorite full album from the four that he made in the 80s, but I tend to favor The Riddle and Radio Musicola. My understanding and appreciation for Nik's 80s era stuff was helped along considerably by the analysis of Patrick Daily. More recently, I found out about another thoughtful but more fan-oriented take on NK's music which helped shed more understanding. (The Patrick Daily dissection did a lot to help me understand more about music, and he analyzes more artists in similar fashion on his website.) Dissections did not scare me away because I already had an emotional connection with the music and I always appreciate a deeper look at it or what motivates its creation. Not particularly being of age in the period when this 80s era stuff was coming out, Daily's study about gender roles and New Men was an interesting perspective. His observation that despite the synthesized gloss and glitter, Nik is essentially protesting the capitalist culture even as he embraces the trappings of same. All that has given me more to look at while listening. But dissection or none, I am usually enthralled by the interesting harmonic and melodic turns this music takes. With a mix of live drums played by some of the best in the biz, and sequenced drums playing some nearly impossible parts, and sometimes doubled up parts using acoustic and electronic parts, there is rhythmic excitement too. At times Nik's voice seems exactly like Stevie Wonder. An odd thing, considering Nik is a very white dude from Britain. But not surprising considering he would have had Stevie's music to digest all during his formative years before he even cut his first album. At times I hear a sophistication and production spit and polish that one regards Steely Dan as having, but without the pretense and snobbiness that seems to accompany SD. One song, Know How, is a bunch of clever but subtle word and rhythmic play, and has this enormously satisfying Weather Report style bridge.

The thing is, I just don't know what I like about Nik's music. I know know that it speaks to me in its onion-like layers of meaning revealing themselves over time. There is no shortage of melodies that have sunk their hooks deep into me. This to me is the sign of good music, and even popular music can be good if it can keep peeling the layers away. I have to keep mining the recordings because Nik doesn't tour the States. There is a kind of longing that I have as this reality sinks in. Maybe that is part of what makes Kevin Gilbert and Jeff Buckley so appealing—the book is closed on those guys, and Nik and I are unlikely to cross paths unless I get to Blighty or Europe. I have never seen any of his 80s albums in the flesh; never read the liner notes or chewed on the lyrics like so many other albums I've held in hand. So I have to do what I can to forge an ongoing relationship with the material that I do have.

Wednesday
Feb062008

Billy The Kid, 1964

Recent posts have come down hard on certain people who used to be relatives of mine. And certain of my die-hard fans and readers have asked if perhaps I have not done enough to be diplomatic and all. I feel that efforts have been made; after that, some people really prove their entrenchment in old patterns and responses to situations and just can't be persuaded to adapt to new realities.

In 2000-2001, I was left in a house of my grandmother's in the months before her death in April of 2001. I had the house to myself for about six months and it was clear she was not coming back after a fall, stroke, and a few weeks in the hospital during December 2000. At the same time, my "Y unit" (formerly known as father) was making mischief regarding her financial affairs, house, and generally driving her to frustration. One day in December 2000 (the 7th), he came back to my house and told me about how she wouldn't budge on these issues. It was on this day when my entire family relationship began to unravel in a serious way through death and estrangement. On that day, he apparently discovered (at least he voiced it—he had about a week and a half to have discovered it) that I was starting a new chapter with my "X unit" (formerly mother) and the family relations that accompany it. He and I had an argument that day and it ended with him storming out of the house. He was clearly having a bad day, facing my determination to relate to the other half of my family, and my grandmother's intent to retain control over her finances. Promptly—even later that night—he left a hastily crafted and vitriolic letter on my truck (scanned image here) without even announcing his presence.

In the couple weeks to follow, I showed his letter to my X unit and Chris (another womb-fruit from the X unit, formerly known as half sister), who laughed, cried, and spat at the whole thing. Chris wrote a letter to Y unit and told him to butt out of our affairs, and that he was doing no good if he interfered. So not long after, he responded with this letter and its back side. (He references on the back side the fact that I changed the lock to the house, and that I had done that before. It was back in 1994 when I first changed the lock on my bedroom door because he had decided to open the "toy" lock as me and my girlfriend were in bed—at 5 in the morning. We never let on that we were awake at that time, so it was a bit of a shock years later when I confronted him about it in good detail. Anyhow, that first lock change was the start of when he decided it was time to charge me rent at home. Apparently my adulthood began when he was unable to refrain from such intrusiveness.)

In January, as detailed in an earlier journal, Chris took me to a therapist of hers and told me about all sorts of devastating stuff that happened to her as she once lived in the house where I grew up—a story of molestation and emotional manipulation of Chris and her brothers James and John. I was quite angry, as that earlier blog said. I waited a couple weeks before I confronted my Y unit about it, but my first request was that after so many years, I wanted to collect my personal photo albums that had been stored in a shed at his house. He and I had fallen into a good amount of mutual dislike in the last few weeks, so he presumed that I just wanted to destroy them. So he rejected my request. Finally, I decided that if I had to break into the shed, I would do so so that my memories could be stored wherever I lived, and not relegated to a damp shed somewhere. The exchange resulted in an accidentally broken window on his apartment door. He wrote not long afterwards and asked that I do not bother him for one year—not to write, speak, or set foot on his property (scanned image here). It happened that that was a one way request. His mother died only 3 months later—and at that prompting, it suddenly became okay for him to invade MY space at the house. He began his construction projects only days after she died. These are the same projects that did not need to be done nor did he do them legally, and later, I was compelled to call the city to report the illegal and tasteless work.

During the time when I had the house to myself, I was able to sort my grandmother's stuff undisturbed. Certain things I kept because they are about the only real pictures of family that are left for me. One such piece of evidence of how life was before my time is this letter (three pages merged into one for convenience) that interprets a psychological report on my Y unit which pretty much confirmed a lot for me, given how the Y unit was behaving at that time, and certainly since then. I don't remember particularly where I found it. The whole project of sorting through stuff in a house that had been continually lived in for 32 years was a huge one. But it was hidden, for certain. It was marked in my grandmother's writing, "Personal and Private." The words within are written by one Paul Gaston—the pastor at the church where my family not only attended, but helped to found. (Read a bit about the church history and Gaston.) Gaston married my parents for their brief moment of bliss and he also baptized me. The church of course is where Kelli and I met, and where we got married, among many other experiences. So the words of Paul Gaston meant something to my grandparents and now, to me. Anyhow, on my Y unit's 20th birthday, this report was delivered or interpreted by Paul. I don't know anything else about the experience, but I can well enough imagine how it went from the description. Realize that this is a full nine years before I was born, and now of course is pushing toward 44 years ago. It alludes to things that only my Y unit can explain, but I doubt that he will. It indicates certain things that my X unit has used as argument fodder to diminish the Lucas family. There are a lot of things that it is and a lot of things that is isn't but one thing it does is lay down a case that shoots my Y unit's repeated themes full of holes. He likes to talk about how my X unit messed up his life and he likes to say that my calling the city was the first betrayal in the family, or more that he never betrayed the trust between he and his parents, and supposedly not between he and I. Well, you tell me after reading this.

Big fans of TAPKAE.com have read of his many exploits. Read the 1964 letter above and see how that sits with some of the stuff I've been writing here for years.

More recently, as a pretty shoddy response to my side of the story, he has been able to make an inept and self-serving response in the form of this letter, which was forwarded to me by my pastor of many years. He had to route it to me this way because I never announced where I am living now. If you read the various material as of late, and the 1964 evaluation, you might understand why. In this new piece of poetry of his, he extols the great virtues of the family I was raised with—his father, his mother, his second wife, and ultimately him—and he paints the picture in Manichean colors of all good or all evil. My X unit is relegated to "asshole bitch." Hey, I'm not here to defend her either. Both of them can go off and slog it out with each other. I'm done being between them and their proxy battling, conducted on me-as-the-battlefield. The 1964 assessment speaks of his distorted thoughts. Wouldn't that explain how he can presently prop up his parents as the bringers of great virtue and love when in that same 1964 document he seemed to have ambivalence and hostility about them both? More appallingly is his notion that I have a good wife because of him—because he taught me how to love? I assure you I am not married to Kelli because he taught me anything about love, women, or how to get along with another human being. Excuse me? But isn't this the guy who molested my sister and was divorced from my mother before I was out of diapers? And the guy who extorted her out of "child support" money years after he had won custody of me? And was he not the one who, in a state of conflict and desperation, told my step mom that he would hit her so hard that no dentist could repair the damage (a line of thought which compelled her to leave not very long afterwards)? Was he not the one who would sell a house out from under his son and not share in the profits or even make other accommodations? Was this the guy who skipped his son's wedding out of contempt for how I chose to relate to family as I saw fit? Was this not the guy who tried to manipulate both his parents into scoring as much property (ultimately and variously holding the title to his own house, one in Julian, and the one I lived in) as the family ever had? Was this not the guy who decided to build or allow illegal construction on both of his houses, and decided to essentially estrange himself from his last living relationship (me) to prove he was right somehow? Was this not the guy who sat in a five-way meeting with me, Kelli, our pastor, and a therapist at the crisis house in 2003 and was told that I was in dire straits emotionally, and that he needed to pay attention to that dimension in my life? Is this not the guy who comes feebly before me now with some tacit request for understanding and possibly help as he has been diagnosed with bad hips that need replacement? He got that way in part because he jumped off a roof while eavesdropping in 1993—one more of his less desirable deeds.

Am I just making this stuff up, or was there something to a younger version of my Y unit? What does it really say about him when he can't hide behind his excuse that I betrayed him or that my X unit messed up his life? He can't even blame it on the girlfriend that he "lost" in his mid-20s—the woman who he says "should have been" my mother if he had his way. This psych evaluation predates all that! Who was this person so long ago? Well, I'm certain it would take some miracle to get his actual side of the story (with any emotional depth attached, and one that doesn't blame everyone else), so all that is left to do is to present the one document I possess that helps explain things that are part of my life. Sure, I have pictures of him and his dog, or of his bike trips, and some friends. And I have some stories of his, or drawings. But this runs deeper than all that. What was it about this paper that was so tragic and hated that it was buried from sight? And why was it right for me to find it just when it helped explain a lot about how life was unfolding for me (2001)?

Oh, sure, its easy to say something like, 'well, that paper is 44 years old and surely he has changed, hasn't he?' You want to know the truth as I see it? Not really. If anything, he has circled his wagons around those same thoughts and actions that the psychologist observed. It seems that he had his act well established by the age of 20, and it only got more perfected—if you can call it that—as time went on. Sure, I was spared being parented by an alcoholic, but look at what I got in exchange! The abusive stuff (physical and sexual) went on to the degree that it did outside of my field of vision, but the emotional and economic abuse was what I lived with. Lots of ridicule for just being younger, and for most of my life, he has owned the house I lived in and has somehow used that against me, even as an adult. It isn't normal for a person to push people around him so hard that they all scatter in varying degrees of bitterness and anger. But from the vantage point that 2008 offers us, that is about all he has done successfully.

Watch, at some point there will be some bit of response to this blog that will try to manipulate me somehow. It will try to bend history to suit his purposes. It will be self-serving. Maybe vitriolic. It will paint me as if I was under great influence of my X unit. It will do anything but examine his motives for doing the things he has done that have hurt people. It will do anything but own that part of himself. It will do anything but make a genuine effort to develop a new story in light of all that has changed over time. As you can see from the letter of a few weeks ago, it will be a feeble attempt compared to the volume of stuff I write. I think it's pitiful and sad. The more I write, the less he can say. It doesn't matter what I do; he has no genuine response that is crafted to make any real change. He doesn't want it. His primary allegiance is to his house on 5052 Artesian Street (where I grew up). That was his first marriage in every real sense, and the one thing in this life to which he is still married. People can come and go. Wives can file for divorce. Parents can die. An only son can get clinically depressed and want to commit suicide. No matter. Who are those people anyway? Just challengers to his kingdom, his material goods and worldly possessions. They—WE—are nobodys really. Who will he become if that house becomes nothing? Whose heart is he invested in? How many people will give a shit when he comes in his moment of need? Has he pushed them all away? Was it all an accident, or was the groundwork laid for this years and years ago? What does it say of a person who has remained a slave to a belief system or process that has removed everything from his life, piece by piece, and in some startling instances, seemingly without remorse?

Friday
Nov162007

Version 4.0

Heavy is the cross
Steep is the way to the crest
Make your burden mine?

Black sheep perplexes
A sabbath year has passed on
No release this year!

Adolescent chump
Harshly graded for all times
Stuck on endless loop!

Conformity, no!
Tis my turn to shine like me
Won't make the party?

A boy like me knows
The impossibility
Of you being right

Build a bridge to cross
Destroy all that which you left
As long as you're right...

Broken heart attack
Bludgeoned from all sides, see?
Roll over and die?

Heart in throat, knocking
What fate lies within this time?
Do not speak the name!!!

Able only now
Seeing, hurting, lost for words
Don't give up on me

Lost, not together
Sentences on the great page
Does the story end?