Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 31, 2020 (In the Year of the Trump Virus)

March 31, 2020 (In the Year of the Trump Virus)

I had a dream last night where I’m working in a store, and for sure, I’m aware of the Coronavirus situation. As I was helping people in a store, perhaps a bookstore or music shop, I’m consistently sitting on a toilet and going to the bathroom.  It seems that everyone ignored the fact that I’m bottomless and on the toilet. As I was helping customers or directing them to the right section of the store, I’m defecating as I talk, and being aware that I hoped no one noticed what I’m doing. When I woke up around 5 in the morning, I went directly to the bathroom to pee and was pleased that I didn’t have to go number two.

I went back to sleep, but couldn’t because the dream was disturbing to me. I often dream of situations where I’m naked in parties (not orgies), at work, or walking down in some city. Usually, in my Dreamtime, the landscape is a combination of Los Angeles, New York City (always Manhattan, London, Tokyo, and occasionally Paris. In a nod to Situationists, these cities interchange as the dream moves in its pace.  I had to wake up at 6:30, and in theory, wake Lun*na, so we can go to Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake, which is the community that we live in.

We got there a tad after 8 AM.  There was a line to get in, and there is a red line on the sidewalk where we should stand. Each line is 6-feet away from the other line, and everyone follows this structure with no complaints. The store manager came to the line outside and told us we couldn’t bring our recycled bags in, and that paper bags will be for free.  Once we got in, we had to follow the arrows in a specific direction. If it’s a wide aisle, there is a lane that we walk in, and then we had to make an u-turn at the end of the corridor to get things on the right side of the frozen department.  It is sort of like an old-fashioned board game, but we're the figures on the game board. Trader Joe’s was very well stocked except for toilet paper. For some, and strange reason, it seems that toilet paper disappeared from the planet Earth. Which may have explained my early dream this morning.

Two great things happen within the last 24-hours. First is that I got a job to work on a script, and it’s a fascinating project, and I will be working with another writer. Throughout my life, I have always fantasized that one day I will be hired to work for a Hollywood studio.  To be working with another writer, where I ‘m assigned to write for a specific film or film property. Now that fantasy has come to be, and on top of that, we got advanced test copies of Lun*na’s “Les Sewing Sisters” album. I played the disc last night, and hearing this magnificent music on two speakers quite loud was of a height of great sense of being.  So, the day started being kind of shitty, but that shit has turned to gold by 2 PM this afternoon.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

March 29, 2020 (In The Year of the Trump Virus)

March 29, 2020 (In The Year of the Trump Virus)

My gardener came over to the house, and I totally forgot yesterday was the last Saturday of the month. It makes sense that he’s working because he doesn’t have close contact with people in his line of work. I went out to the yard and put his check under a rock and pointed that to him.

My mother called me and told me that Instacart would go on strike on Monday, and she has food ordered and to be delivered on Wednesday. Not sure if the strike will affect her or not. If things are not clear, or they are on strike tomorrow, then she will more likely cancel the order. I will probably have to go shopping for her. This means Lun*na will buy for our food, and I will shop for my mom. My Uncle’s partner is taking care of my Uncle, so he’s been transporting food to their house. They are not Internet savvy, so they don’t know how to use Instacart. The irony was about a month ago or so, I put the Instacart app on my Uncle’s phone, but didn’t set it up for him. Then the next day was the shutdown, and here we are.

In the past, such as last night, there were occasional groupings of young people on the next door empty lot. Mostly drinking and chatting away. It seems that they have no concern about getting sick. When you are young, and if you are not ill, that world of sickness doesn’t mean much in their lives. Until, of course, they get the virus. It must be odd to be a teenager now. Well, it’s always strange to be a teen. Still, I think to be of a certain age, and you have been exposed to President Virus as well as the virus itself, and having your social world contained, is something that must be ‘what the fucking hell?”

If you read my previous post, you know that I had a stressful few days, but now, we are all OK. But who knows about tomorrow. Today, Kimley and I did our first podcast of Book Musik, since the lockdown.  Both of us had to deal with issues involving the isolation, and we missed our deadline for the current show. Kimley figured out how to do our show while she’s in her apartment, and I’m here in the house. It seemed to work great, but I do miss doing the show with her three feet away from me on our round table in the tiny dining room by the side of the kitchen. The book we focused on is Ian Penman’s “It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track.” It’s an excellent book by a wonderful writer who digs deep into his subject matter, which is James Brown, Prince, Elvis, and Mod Culture, among other things. That show will be up on April 1.

I feel anxiety about everything. Politics is a real shit-hole, and even though I’m not a firm supporter of Biden, I’m concerned about his campaign. He has a lot of stuff against him due to the Trump Virus, but also I feel he doesn’t have a firm message. I think it’s time for him and Sanders to get together and work for each other’s presence in the election year, which is now. Biden needs Sanders, and I think he and Bernie should have a serious chat among themselves, and continue forward.  As for me, I’m going to do face-time chat with some friends, and then listen to my box of 45 rpm singles. The isolation life works for me. My fear is getting the virus, not for my health, but the fear of spreading it to my family and money issues galore. 2020 is a lot of fun.

March 28, 2020 (In The Year of the Trump Virus)

March 28, 2020 (In the Year of the Trump Virus)

A strange juxtaposition of clean air and nasty virus, as I take a walk around my residential block here in Los Angeles.  The last few days have been very stressful due that my 88-year old Uncle had to go to the ER at Kaiser.  My fear is two-folded:  My Uncle and his 85-year old Sister, my mom.  On an everyday basis, if I have even a slight cold, I try to stay away from their presence.  With the help from my wife and my Uncle's partner, I take care of both of them.  Mostly handling the numerous hospital visits as well as doing the regular laundry for my mom.  That is my role as the only child son, and I take the responsibility very seriously.  Therefore when the Coronavirus struck Los Angeles, I pretty much stayed in our house and communicated through the phone and computer.   Both my mom and Uncle live in the neighborhood, so it's not that difficult to see them both in either a visit or emergency.   Concerning my mom, I bring wine and bread to her front porch.  Call her.  Then when she comes to the porch, I wave to her across the street.

Usually, when my Uncle needs to stay in the hospital, I wait in the waiting room, or come on daily visits, and also when they call me in to pick him up.  Now, one can only drop the patient off, and you have to go back home, or in other words, there is no hanging out at the hospital.  This is reasonable, but then that means I have to stay near the cell phone in case there is news or the medical team asks a question.  So one is on call 24/7, which is basically why I travel very little now and stay in Los Angeles.

The good news is that he was tested twice, and both came out negative. So, that is a huge relief.  My wife and I are trying to beat the clock to fix up our studio apartment downstairs for my Uncle and partner.  30-hours ago, there was the possibility of us taking him to our home last night.   But we have no bed, and on top of that, we would have to take the Oxygen machine (ventilator) from his home to our house.  Where he lives is on the side of a hill, with a steep staircase, which even gives me the willy. If you read my memoir, you'll get the drift.  Nevertheless, talking to the administrator at Kaiser, we both decided it was best that he was taken home by ambulance and assistants to take him downstairs and then to his bed.  So, I engineered a lot of this by staying home, but with a great deal of help from Kaiser as well as my Uncle's partner.

Last night was the first night of not sleeping in dread fear of what will happen next.  Yes, the air feels fantastic, and the plants look lively, but there is a mood that puts a dark shadow across the landscape.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Pacific Rim Review's Colin James Sanders' Review of TOSH: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World (City Lights)

Son of a Genius:
Tosh Berman, A Life in Art
Review by Colin James Sanders

Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman’s World
Tosh Berman
City Lights Books, 2019

Tosh Berman’s memoir of his father, artist Wallace Berman (1926-1976), his mother Shirley, a muse for many, and his parents’ circle of friends, represents a wonderful evocation of the memory and spirit of Wallace, and the history of an innovative period in the pre-real estate development phase of L.A.’s Topanga Canyon.

Wallace Berman, born on Staten Island, New York, in 1926, moved with his Russian Jewish mother to L.A. aged nine, not long after the death of his father. As a youngster, one of his closest friends was Sammy Davis Jr., and he attended the same high school as the infamous music producer, Phil Spector, now serving life in prison. Spector purchased Berman’s collage, titled, “You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (The Righteous Brothers/Phil Spector) from him in 1965. 

In 1947, Berman, age 20, designed the album cover for Dial records’ Be-Bop Jazz, a two-album compilation which included Charlie Parker. Berman attended the recording session with Parker, which was also attended by Billie Holiday. Later, James Brown would become one of his favorite musicians, and his collage, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” is testament to his respect for Brown’s music. In his short life, Wallace became an iconic figure in West Coast art.

Tosh writes lovingly of his mother, Shirley, and his grandparents. Reading this book, it becomes clear that Shirley inspired and informed Wallace’s art, and her financial contributions to maintain their family allowed Wallace to produce his many artistic creations. 
Tosh recalls his parents did not pressure him academically, saying “…I don’t believe Wallace ever had any vision of my future.” Acknowledging, “One remarkable thing I did have in my favor was parents who surrounded me with books; my curiosity engendered a lifelong reading habit in me.” 

In the book Semina Culture: Wallace Berman and his Circle (2015), Berman’s friend, actor and film director (Easy Rider), Dennis Hopper, observed, “Wallace was always a mystery to me, and he was very glamorous…He was a quiet, gentle, humble person, and he had this strange aura about him that was removed, yet not hostile—he was a guy you couldn’t really reach. I don’t know anybody who didn’t respect him, and we all deferred to him because he had a very spiritual quality. He was the guy. Wallace was the guru.”

Berman would have disagreed with Hopper’s description of him as a “guru.” As remembered by his son, Berman was an unassuming, private, non-materialistic person who never voted, never owned anything in his own name, and the only piece of identification he possessed was a California driver’s license. Tosh recalls his father made their furniture, and “I never knew a time when Wallace was not an artist.” 

Regarding literary history, between 1955-1964, Berman co-created nine issues of the journal, Semina, publishing friends like Diane di Prima, Allen Ginsberg, Alexander Trocchi, Bob Kaufman, Philip Lamantia, Robert Duncan, John Wieners, and art by George Herms, Jess, and others. 

Remembering Robert Duncan and Jess, Tosh recalls, “Over the years, they gave me a lot of their Oz books.” Of Duncan: “He looked just like a poet to me…His humor came off clearly, even to a kid like me. He was gossipy, yes, but with a sharp intelligence to his commentary.” 
Of Michael McClure: “…McClure was the prototype for the romantic poet. He would wear a chunky scarf as if it were naturally appended to his neck…Michael has a star-like quality.” Wallace designed the poster for McClure’s L.A. performance of his provocative play, The Beard.

Wallace hosted Andy Warhol, who filmed parts of his Tarzan and Jane Regained…Sort Of (1964) with Taylor Mead in the Berman home in Beverly Glen, Topanga Canyon. Tosh appears as “Boy” in the film. Dennis Hopper also appears in this Warhol film, and, in later years, Hopper himself gave Wallace and Shirley Berman a role (in the commune scene) in the film he directed and co-authored, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Easy Rider
Tosh recalls his family being invited by Toni Basil, who would later collaborate with John Lennon, David Byrne, David Bowie and others, to the dress rehearsal for The T.A.M.I Show (Teen Age Music International), 1964, and being introduced to Mick Jagger: “Mick rubbed the top of my head and said, ‘Cute tyke.’” At the show, “My father also met Brian Jones, which was the start of a lasting friendship between them.” Tosh recalls, “Whenever the Stones were in Los Angeles, Brian would come to the house to listen to records and drink wine all night.” Tosh recalls hearing “Mostly jazz recordings, but also Glen Gould was part of the soundtrack for these late night meetings between Brian and my parents.” 

Another close musician friend of Berman’s was Canadian Neil Young, then living in Topanga Canyon.“Without a doubt, Neil Young was the artist of Topanga…As a young teenager, I always thought Neil was the king and the canyon was his kingdom. Topanga, in other words, was Neil-Land.” 

Tosh describes being invited by Young to his Topanga home to hear After the Goldrush (1970), which Young had originally written as a soundtrack for an unproduced film co-authored by Dean Stockwell and Herb Bermann, who had also written with Captain Beefheart, for his album, Safe as Milk, 1967. 

Stockwell, in 1977, would design the album cover of Young’s American Stars N Bars, and collaborate with Young on his Human Highway film. Stockwell owned and played an old pedal organ which he gave to Neil Young, featured on many of Young’s songs. 
The Beatles’ admired Berman, and a Stockwell photo of Berman appears on the collage cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) that was itself influenced by Wallace’s collage assemblages. Tosh observes, with irony. “Approximately 32 million people bought Sgt. Pepper’s, and I can’t fathom that many people looking at Wallace’s face. It’s paradoxical: he liked to be invisible in a crowd, and yet there was, totally unfamiliar to the masses who bought the album.” 

In the summer of 1967, the Berman family visited London, England. Tosh recalls attending The Dialectics of Liberation conference with his parents, featuring speakers that included Thich Nhat Hanh, Allen Ginsberg, Emmet Grogan, William Burroughs, Stokely Carmichael, Gregory Bateson, R.D. Laing, and others.

This City Lights publication is a special one. With a Preface by actress and poet, Amber Tamblyn, who years ago raised money for medical treatment required by poet Diane di Prima, this is a book about relationships and inter-connections between Wallace Berman and so many creative others that moved within his orbit. Wallace Berman died young, hit by a drunk and stoned driver, a well-known Topanga Canyon drug dealer, whose lawyer was Robert Shapiro, later one of O.J Simpson’s lawyers. Berman succumbed to injuries, dying in the early hours of his 50th birthday. In a travesty of justice, the person convicted of his death was released following three months of a six month sentence.

Tosh Berman, under his imprint, Tam Tam Books, taken from the film, Princess Tam Tam (1935) starring Josephine Baker, has published writers as diverse as the founder of the Situationists, Guy Debord, and the infamous French gangster, Jacques Mesrine, amongst others.

In this intriguing, intelligent, heartfelt testimonial, Tosh gracefully, brings his father alive bearing witness to his father’s inimitable spirit.

Colin James Sanders is a foundational contributor to PRRB. He writes from Gibsons, B.C. 
This review first appeared in Pacific Rim Review of Books #25

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

March 24, 2020 (In the Year of the Trump Virus)

March 24, 2020 (In the Year of the Trump Virus)

Terrence McNally's passing brings to mind my 88-year old Uncle, who is on Oxygen and has problems with his lungs. Fragile existence on an average day, but with the virus going around, it is truly a life-and-death issue with me. I stay away from my Uncle, and I'm conscientious in my surroundings, in that I don't go out of the house, unless to the market or to drop off food for my Uncle and Mom (both live in my neighborhood). Oddly enough, I'm not scared, but more super aware than anything else. 
The news of McNally's death, due to coronavirus, is disturbing by itself, but with the addition of President Virus's remarks about opening businesses on or before Easter is criminally insane. I would also add insensitive concerning that people are sick, and some are dying. He shouldn't forget that. 
Being secluded is not that difficult for me. I think more due to my character, and perhaps being an only child is helpful in this aspect of modern-day life. I've been reading a lot. For instance, I read two books on the surfer Miki Dora: "All for a Few Perfect Waves" by David Rensin and "Dora Lives." I'm starting a writing project on the bad-boy, although legendary surfer, so it has been an excellent time-killer for me. It is ironic to be indoors all the time while reading about a man who traveled the world for the aesthetic pleasure of being part of the ocean. Still, it's satisfying to meditate on the condition of the world, as one reads on. I also finished reading Cornelius Cardew's "Stockhausen Serves Imperialism" For those who like Hard Left-Wing politics mixed in with the modern classical world will find entertainment within its pages. 
My suggestion to readers of my blog/Facebook posts is that you should not think of the isolation as a punishment or even to save a life, but more of a position of pleasure. I'm anxious, especially when I wake up in the middle of the night with thoughts of dread. By morning and when I'm having my first cup of coffee, I feel the anxiety from the night disappearing into the morning clouds or sunshine. Tonight we are going to have dinner with friends either on Facebook or through some other device or app. I have never done anything like this before, and I'm looking forward to the exchange through modern equipment. 
All-in-all, I have been moody, and even on the depressive side, but still, the pleasure of reading or listening to vinyl records is superbly pleasant. I have been keeping a journal of these days, and hopefully, it will become literature. Oh, and the good news is that Kimley and I will be doing a new episode of Book Musik tomorrow late afternoon. The focus of our discussion will be on the excellent book "It Gets Me Home" by Ian Penman. - Tosh Berman

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Les Sewing Sisters -Voice Over for "Home Tour video excerpt"

A little and very brief documentary with voice over by Lun*na Menoh on Les Sewing Sisters.  Do watch

March 22, 2020 (In The Year of the Trump Virus)

March 22, 2020 (In the year of the Trump Virus)

I woke up at 7:00 A.M. and made myself some coffee. I've been having nightmares since the Trump Virus hit Los Angeles. Now on top of that, I have been dreaming of Nazis. Late afternoon I watched a show called "The Hunters" with Al Pacino, who heads a super team of Nazi killers who kill Nazis who live in America in 1977. Since we are in the 21st-century and surrounded by brutality, this shows violence is truly sickening. Nazi throwing darts at a young man's chest and a chess game with living people who kill each other if they are checkmated. Do I need to see this now in the crisp of total economic and health horror? Revenge is pleasing to watch only when everything in your world is OK. Things are not OK in my (our) world at the moment. 

My amusement this morning with my first cup of coffee was reading the Good Reads website. I list my entire library here and keep it up, not only because I'm obsessive, but also to keep track of the books I have or want. Even though the evil Amazon owns it, it is an excellent site for that purpose. I rarely use it for social connections, except as an author with three books published, I do push the product on their website. 

I was looking over the reviews for my book, "TOSH: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World," and notice that there is a one-star review by Raymond Delvaux. This is what he wrote:

"It is a bit pathetic when the child of a celebrity has nothing to trade on but the fame of their parent. It is doubly pathetic when that fame is minor at best. Mr. Wallace sees to think that his father name, that of a justifiably minor artist on the fringes of the beat scene, will help him sell this tedious, aggressively aspires to middlebrow, memoir. Why anyone would be interested is beyond me, as the whole thing is the most shallow wallpaper observations peppered gratuitously with counterculture names much better known than his mediocre parent. Mr. Berman seems to think that this is enough to hold our interest and if trainspotting minor cult figures submerged in a mess of literary instant oatmeal is your thing, maybe it is. Otherwise, give this a hard pass and read something written by the real thing."

This is my first bad review. I was curious to know who Mr. Delvaux is, and when I went on his Good Read page, he had very little information on it. Except that he joined up this March 2020, and so far read only three books, which are: "Sparks-Tastic" by Tosh Berman (One Star), "The Plum in Mr. Blum's Pudding" by Tosh Berman (One Star), and of course, last but not least, "TOSH" by Tosh Berman. And that, obviously, is One Star as well.  

The way I look at it, I write the book, and then it is the critic's job to acknowledge or not to acknowledge the work. I'm happy that I take part in the conversation. I then went back to my reading of "Stockhausen Serves Imperialism"  by the late British composer Cornelius Cardew as well as the biography on surfer Miki Dora. This late afternoon we went to Gelson's, but there was a line to get in, as well as Trader Joe's. It started to rain, so we decided to go on a different day. If one eats slowly, food lasts longer. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

March 21, 2020 (In the year of the Trump Virus)

March 21, 2020 (In the year of the Trump Virus)

Usually, at dusk, and for the last few days, there have been teenage lovers/friends meeting up at the front of our home, near a vacant lot.  There is a sense of urgency in their body communication.  Sometimes it is male teenagers, or females together as well.  Late last night, I heard voices from my office at home and looked outside the window to see five young guys smoking, talking, and standing very close together.  The 65-year old man that is me wanted to yell out, "Hey, 6 feet apart guys."  I didn't do that, because it would have been absurd to them.  More likely, they would ignore me.  They do know the drill.  That is why they are meeting there at 1:00 in the morning, away from prying eyes and ears.  I went to bed with their distant voices in the background as I fell asleep.

This is the fifth day of being isolated from everyone, and it's not as bad as one thinks.  I have my wife here and a case of Charles Shaw wine, which is quickly disappearing.  We're doing Amazon Prime at the moment, because we are getting it free, due to trial use.  We buy things at bulk on Amazon as well as at various online markets.  We originally purchased tons of toilet paper due to the substantial discount.  The thing is before the virus hit Los Angeles in such a manner, we ordered toilet paper, but instead, we got 64 rolls of paper towels.  So, like many other citizens of Los Angeles, we do hunt for toilet paper.  As of now, we have three rolls, and we consider ourselves lucky. -Tosh Berman

March 20, 2020 (In The Year of the Trump Virus)

March 20, 2020 (In the year of the Trump Virus)

I just delivered my mom some bread that we had in the fridge as well as a bottle of wine. I left it on her front porch, walked away to the street, and then called her to come out to pick up the package. She came out, I waved, and then got into the car and left. I was going to do a significant shopping for her (as well as for us), but I presume that the food markets will be intensely busy, and decided to go later in the day, or within a few days. Both my mom, Uncle, and his mate, and yours truly have food in our houses for at least the end of this week. My thinking is to avoid panic buying or avoid other panic-buyers. 
My mood is not on the bottom floor, but somewhere in the middle of the building, perhaps on the sixth-floor. It's either here or there. I was laid off work yesterday, and all I have read is how many people lost their jobs in the past 24-hours. I'm not angry whatsoever, just disappointed because I enjoy this part (really part)-time job greatly. It's a bookstore, and like the other bookstores in the Los Angeles area such as Skylight Books and Book Soup (my old residence) is fully closed until further news. Libraries, my second home, is closed as well. Well, everything is closed that's emotionally important to me. Essential is more body-based, such as eating for survival, and emotional are all the fun shops. 
I spend my time writing and reading the current issue of MOJO Magazine (good article on Jimi Hendrix's last days) as well as a big biography on the legendary surfer Mikki Dora. When I take my baths, I read Cornelius Cardew's "Stockhausen Serves Imperialism." Cardew was an English composer who studied under Stockhausen as well as exploring the works of John Cage. Somewhere down the line, Cardew became a hardened Leftist and denounced Stockhausen and Cage. It's a fascinating read. I have always had a soft spot for individuals who are extremists. Which, in this time and age, makes many nervous. 
I'm a prisoner in our home, and it's not unusual for me to spend days at a time working and living in this space. So, I don't have any problem staying at home, especially when a library and records surround me. Depression does sneak up to me, especially the body blows of the Trump Virus taking effect on my surroundings. It's difficult not to see my mom and Uncle at this time. Still, I do help and think of them all of the time. - Tosh Berman

Sunday, March 1, 2020

BOOK MUSIK 18: "William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock n' Roll" by Casey Rae (University of Texas Press_

Tosh and Kimley discuss William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll by Casey Rae. William Burroughs has always been a magnet for the music crowd. Icons as diverse as Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Jimmy Page, Thurston Moore, Kurt Cobain and so many more have all made a pilgrimage to sit at the feet of the outlaw writer. Steely Dan and Soft Machine cribbed their names from Burroughs and countless others have cited his cut-up technique as an inspirational tool. Now considered classics, books like Naked Lunch, Junky, and Queer were not so gently pushing the boundaries of polite society and challenging obscenity laws. It’s no wonder the rock ‘n’ roll crowd came knocking.
Also here is our playlist of music to go along with the William S. Burroughs episode of Book Musik: