Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More Hermans

The current issue of Harp includes another review I wrote of the Hermans’ book. This one gently makes fun of them! Also, the typo “rock Missoula outfit” as opposed to “Missoula rock outfit” somehow made it to press, but I kinda like it because the Hermans do, in fact, rock Missoula.

Photo: Dave Jones of the Hermans in the Middle of Higgins, the main street in Missoula. By me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Istanbul: Hotel Paranoia


How I was chosen as the mark for this scam, I have no idea. Granted I was wearing shiny white shoes, but anything but a moment’s glance would reveal that they were golf shoes. Cowboy shirt, sure, but big, black backpack with broken zipper and bicycle reflector? C’mon.

“Do you have a fire?” a short young man with tall greased-back hair asked me while walking down Istikal Caddesi, perhaps the most crowded street in Istanbul.

“I don’t smoke.”

“Where you from?”

“The United States.” Fuck saying you’re from Canada.

“What part?”


“Oh yeah? My girlfriend’s from San Francisco.”

“Really? Where are you from? What’s your name?”

“Yorgo. I come from Greece.” Judging from his accent, Yorgo may have learned all of his English from watching Scarface. I learned that his girlfriend opened a coffee shop for students in Athens and is making bank. He and his father are in the hotel business. They are rich.

We approached my hotel.

“Well, this is my place. But I think I’m going to go to bar Madrid later. Do you know that place?”

“Oh…Where are you staying?”

“Right there.” I pointed.

“Right there?”


“Can I offer you a beer?”

Europe is crawling with solo travelers longing for someone to drink with and speak English. And heck, I wasn’t doing anything. And it had been a whole day since dancing on a bus to Turkish techno on the way to a wedding reception on the Black Sea and I craved excitement.

“Why not.”


Yorgo led me down one of the many streets filled with cafes and shops that branch off of Istikal Caddesi. As crowded as the main drag can be, the side streets are often deserted. We didn’t see anyone else as we walked the block and a half to the China Club.

Tony Montana and I walked right into the disco scene where he meets Michelle Pfeiffer. The tables were on multiple levels and there was a light-up dance floor. Two waiters came to take our order. Another came to change the ash tray.

Yorgo had only ashed in the tray once.

There were more waiters than customers in the club. Some of the patrons were strangely old. There was no one on the dance floor.

Yorgo and I made idle chatter as best we could. He was nervous, but that was understandable because it was a little awkward. He kept saying things like, “Istanbul is very good time,” and “You like-a the music? Is good music.”

The beers were taking an absurdly long amount of time considering the staff-to-patron ratio.

“You like this place?”

“Yeah, it seems cool,” I say, “a little empty, but maybe it will get bumping in while.”

“Oh yeah, is great.”

“I bet it’s cool when people are dancing. Maybe we could meet some girls.”

“You got a girlfriend?”


Still no beers. A waiter comes over and Yorgo speaks to him.

“Was that Turkish?”

“He knows a little Greek.”

The beers finally arrive. With peanuts. Several more ash trays were swapped out over the 10 or 15 minutes we waited.

Weirded out and not wanting to accidentally drink a $40 beer, I said, “You get these and I’ll get the next round somewhere else.”
Yorgo agreed. A waiter brought over two very hot girls and introduced them to us. I don’t remember their names because I was preoccupied with realizing what was going on. The waiter gestured me out of the round booth so that the girls could sit between Yorgo and I. Neither of them spoke any English so it got even more awkward.

Now, the sensible person probably would have fled immediately when the girls sat down. But that didn’t occur to me at the time. Since the club looked like a movie set, I guess I thought I had to make a smooth exit, as though I were in a movie. So I said, “Let’s dance.”

Yorgo and his girl stayed seated. I made them get up and dance. On the way to the dance floor I said to Yorgo, “What is going on?”

“Nothing. What d’you mean?”

“I don’t want to pay for anything.”

“You won’t have to pay. And maybe later we take these girls to hotel…”

Yorgo is probably the worst dancer I have ever seen. He stood in place and bounced, looking like a cross between a child who has to pee and someone being forced to dance at gunpoint.

“Fuck it,” I thought, and pulled out all my fake Middle-Eastern dance moves which had been a hit at the wedding reception the night before (they blended almost seamlessly with real Middle-Eastern dance moves!). So I knelt and clapped in front of my prostitute and wriggled my chest in front of Yorgo. His prostitute thought it was pretty funny and started shaking around her giant rack.

While dancing I began to think about how long it had taken for those beers to come and about how nervous Yorgo looked and I began to suspect that I had been drugged. So after one song I sat down. Everyone else followed.

“Welp. It’s daytime in the US and I have to make a business call. So I better go.”

“Wait for the bill,” said Yorgo. I whipped out a pen and pad from my backpack and also moved all the cash in my wallet except for 15 lira underneath jackets and camera equipment.

“Give me your number. I’ll call you when I’m done working tonight.” He wrote down his number and I stood up.

“No, wait for the bill.”

“I have to go.”


“I have to go.”

I walked toward the door and was headed off at the pass by several waiters. Yorgo came over and we all went into the entry way. One of the waiters brought a bill for 400 lira, about 320 dollars.

“We split it,” Yorgo said.

“No. You said you would pay. I have to go.”

“I said one beer. I didn’t say anything about the girls.”

“You asked for them. You got us into—”

“You asked for them!” he half shouted.

“I didn’t ask for anything. You said you would pay!”

“Look. We split it!”

“No. No way. I don’t even have any money.” I pulled out the 15 lira. “That’s all I have.” I showed him my empty wallet.

“Okay. You pay 20 lira. I’ll pay the rest.”

“20. Fine.” I had the rest in change.

As soon as I was back on the street I realized that Yorgo knew where I was staying. I also realized he was obviously in on the con since he talked to his prostitute a little. He clearly knows Turkish. Who knows if he’s even Greek.

Oh yeah, and there’s still a chance I’m drugged.


I hauled ass to my hotel and immediately changed clothes and started packing everything. I was dripping with sweat as I gave the clerk the key. It was about midnight.

“You leave?”

“Yes. Thank you.” He was very nice and had lent me his umbrella that morning.

I walked around the block to get a taxi in order to stay off of Istikal and avoid being seen. When I arrived at the nearest taxi line, they all just stared at me.

“Taxi?” I said.

“Where are you going?” one of them asked.

“Sultan Hostel.” It was in a different neighborhood, right by the Ayasofya. I had met a pair of cute Austrians at the bar underneath the hostel my first night in town. All the cabbies gathered around when I started talking, which was really weird since it was obvious I was going to take the first taxi in the line, since that’s how those things work.

As I put my bag in the trunk I recalled a warning in an email of Istanbul tips my pal Justin Maurer had sent me, “There’s a huge mafia scene there, and the mafia and the police are pretty much friends, so beware of both.” Maybe the cabbies were part of the club?

I got in the backseat and whipped out a card for another hotel someone had given me on the street. It was about half a mile from the Sultan. The cab driver had to ask directions to it twice from other cabbies.

He dropped me off and I walked slowly toward the entrance. He wasn’t going anywhere. Luckily there was a courtyard to go into so I walked in there and watched over the fence until he drove away. He waited at the corner for a full minute.

Then I walked back a block to another hotel we had passed on the way. I was greeted by a small, pale clerk who would have been a great clerk in an old movie. I put all my things in the bar, stood out of view from the door and windows and tossed him my passport. He didn’t seem to think it was weird.

When I got up to my room, I figured the $30 it had cost me to get another hotel for the night was worth the story, especially considering I had not been drugged. But the next day, I realized that the incident at the China Club had exacted another price.

I was walking through a park outside the Blue Mosque with my new friend Faruk and his new wife, Anastasya, and her family. I ran off to use a pay phone for a minute and was coming back to the group when a cute Turkish girl asked me what time it was. She was cute, not hot, but I was very attracted to her. Small, jeans, hoodie, no make up, a zit or two, gusto, strange habit of saying people look like they’re from somewhere else. Cute.

My lack of cell phone, watch, sundial, or any means telling time had been driving me nuts the whole time I was in Turkey. I told her I had no idea.

“Where are you from?” her English was good.

“The United States.”

“Really? You look Canadian.”

“How can someone look Canadian?”

“Americans have long hair.”

“Oh I see. Are you from Istanbul?”


“You don’t meet many natives in this part of town.”

“I like this part of town, don’t you?”


“We walk?” she said, right as Faruk and company approached. She told Faruk in Turkish that she thought he looked Swiss.

I could easily have had this girl and I wanted her. We were about to get dinner. I could have asked her to come along. Normally I would have. I give my friends lectures about how to turn moments like this into great success.

But I didn’t do anything. I shut down the flirting, she got the hint and split. As we walked away, I felt emptiness. I was unable to trust her.

And I am a master of trust! I had convinced my boss to send me to Turkey to make a video about Faruk’s wedding because he and his wife met on our website (englishbaby.com). The only thing that had surprised Faruk’s family more than my killer dance moves was the fact that I had trusted this person I didn’t know and had come all the way to Turkey based on two emails. “What would you have done if he had been lying?” they asked.

“That would have been bad,” I told them, “but not the end of the world.”

No. What would have been much worse than that is if I had never tried to come to Turkey because I had found myself unable to take a risk and trust someone. Or worse yet, if Anastasya and Faruk had never met in person because they were afraid to trust one another.


Photos: Faruk and Anastasya sipping lemonade, Faruk’s favorite, in Ortakoy. By me. Karakoy, a district of Istanbul near Istikal. By me. Self portrait in hotel room. Faruk, Anastasya and I on the subway. By a random guy on the subway I trusted with the camera.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Junkface: The Long Road Home

Here it is at last! The long-await conclusion of the Junkface audio tour diary. My own nomadic lifestyle has delayed it greatly and for this I apologize (I write this is in view of the Marmara Sea in Turkey). But enough fooling around. Let's let Randy take us home.

Day 14: September 16, 2007
Junkface reconnects with some old friends at their second New York show.

Day 15: September 17, 2007
DC was the worst show of the tour.

But it was saved by two crazy old dudes.

Day 16: September 18, 2007
Bloomington, Indiana, finds the band at a movie store that's trying to take the local house show scene into a legit venue.

Day 17: September 19, 2007
A slice of Rad America in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Randy dreams of buying building in Milwaukee, but is detered by snow.

Day 18: September 20, 2007
Tour monotony sets in for Randy at a bizarre daytime show in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Day 19: September 21, 2007
Junkface discovers another cool show space in Denver, Colorado. This time in the basement of a church.

Day 20: September 22, 2007
The best was saved for second-to-last at this big, amazing show in, of all places, Grand Junction, Colorado. This entry also contains the only time Kyle was recognized from his former days with the Hippos.

Day 21: September 23, 2007
A harrowing drive finds the dudes jumping right onto stage among old friends in Pendleton, Oregon.

A dejected touring musician recently told me that he doesn't think anyone cares about touring bands anymore. Randy reassured me that that's not the case. As a matter of fact, he can't wait to get on the road again. He just says that the times have changed a bit and that it doesn't work to just get booked at a venue anymore. You have to make sure the bands you're playing with are going to help bring some people who want to see you and it helps if you book your tour through people you know.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Hermans

The October issue of Seattle Sound has this review of the book put together by the Hermans. I met up with Dave Jones, the band’s frontman, when my band visited his home town of Missoula to play a couple of gigs.

The Hermans are opening for the Revisions record release show tonight at Slabtown in Portland. I wish I were in the state to see it, so go in my stead!

Photo by me. Summer is ‘tubing season in Zoo Town. Unfortunately, when I was there in August, Western Montana was on fire and it was too smoky to drift down the river, so Dave and I had a photo shoot in a surplus store.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Disasterholic

Originally published in The Oregonian on October 11, 2007. By Jason Simms.

Iris Newhouse says she's a "disasterholic," though luckily, she's never lived through one.

"I don't like disasters, but I like to help people," the 81-year-old explains. She returned a few weeks ago from a flood in DeKalb, Ill. Since 1985, she's been on more than 100 Red Cross deployments.

In addition to apartment fires in town, she has been on three-week volunteering excursions to 35 states as well as Guam, Samoa and Southeast Asia. She also drives as many as 1,000 miles a month delivering blood around Oregon.

Sept. 14 would have been Newhouse's 50th wedding anniversary; her husband died in 1994. The date also marked 50 years that Newhouse has lived in her home on Northeast 106th Place.

She spent part of the day the way she does many days, at Table 11 at the Denny's on Northeast 104th Avenue with some familiar waitresses and friends, mostly Vietnam veterans she met when her now 49-year-old son was a manager there.

The following Sunday, Newhouse found herself in the same booth after church talking about what she calls her "other family," explaining that Red Cross volunteers around the country have taken to calling her Mom.

Q: What's the main thing you've taken away from your hundreds of days of volunteering?

A: In the San Francisco earthquake (in 1989), there was a little couple that came in. They'd been married over 50 years. She sat down, gray hair, her eyes just full of sparkle, and she says, "Well, I told my husband all I ever wanted was a view. That's all I have left's a view." It was true. The house was pretty well gone. All the pictures of her family, things of her children and grandchildren that she'd lost, she wasn't bemoaning that fact. I admired her very much for that. She'd lost so much, but she had a good attitude. It's those people I learn from, or try to anyhow.

Q: Has your experience prepared you for a disaster here?

A: Someday we are going to have a terrific earthquake here in Portland. We just don't know when. But Red Cross is planning for it. We have things on the other side of the river in case we can't cross the river. (We) have places signed up to be shelters.

Q: But emotionally?

A: In Pennsylvania, one man was giving one of our workers a hard time, and I went over there and said something, and he got a little nasty. His wife was trying to shush him up. The next day, he came back and apologized. "I knew that wasn't you," I said. "If this happened to me, if I lost everything like you did, how would I act? I don't know."

Q: A lot of people in their 80s aren't up to saving us from earthquakes.

A: I think I've just been very lucky. I'm overweight, but other than that, I'm healthy. What bothers me is some people (say), "I am so bored. There's nothing to do." There are so many ways to volunteer. There's Red Cross, there's Salvation Army, there's Catholic Charities. If you can't do anything but sit and rock a child, at Emmanuel Hospital, they have that program to rock the kids. Help at the schools. Listen to kids read...Hundreds of places you can volunteer to help people or do something.

Q: Out of all of those, why did you choose disaster relief?

A: I like to travel and also to help, so I thought that would be a good way to do it. One fellow (at a flood in Kentucky) said he didn't want help. And I said, "Well don't you help your neighbor?" He got real upset with me, "Well, naturally!" "Well I'm just your funny talking neighbor from Oregon." I'm the one with the accent in the hills of Kentucky. He said, "OK." That was all right because it wasn't charity. And it isn't charity. It's neighbor helping neighbor.

This is the original blog post linking to the story before the OregonLive url expired.

I really love the chance to tell the story of a single, interesting person. So I jumped at the chance to interview Iris Newhouse, an 81-year-old Portland resident who has been on over 100 Red Cross deployments, for the O.

It sounds cliché, but she truly is an inspiration. She made me want to volunteer, but was also so down-to-earth that she made me not feel bad about doing very little volunteering so far in my young life. “Most people can’t take the time off,” she says of non-retirees. “They have a funny habit of eating and making house payments.”

Tecate: The Happiest Place on Earth

DSC02583“ARE JEW A FAIRY?” Miguel shouts at me in the bathroom of the Acapulco Club in Tecate, Mexico.

“Si quieres preguntar si yo sea maricon, la respuesta es que no.”

“ARE JEW A FAIRY? SOMOS AMIGOS, VERDAD? ARE JEW OK?” he shouts as he dips his hands in a barrel of water to wash them. He always shouts when he tries to speak English.

“Somos amigos, claro. Estoy bien. No te preocupes.”

It wasn’t until the next morning that Matt pointed out that he had to have been yelling, “ARE JEW AFRAID” and I only misunderstood because I was a bit jumpy. My tight pants attracted more catcalls than a miniskirt and everyone in Tecate thought I was gay.

Until I put on a white blazer, white dress shirt, white shoes, a bolo tie and a silver bracelet.

Then they were just confused. Which was significantly less hazardous to my health in the land of machismo.

But let me back up a bit.

Mark, Matt and I chose to go to Tecate, a town 38 kilometers east of Tijuana, because there was little to no information available about it on the Internet. We had no idea what we’d find there other than an abundance of Tecate beer and hopefully trouble.

Immediately after crossing the border, it was clear we’d find both.

A smokestack in the middle of town pumps white, sulfur gas into the air. It’s a byproduct of the enormous brewery.

While driving along the road next to the border—a mere few feet into Mexico—the pavement suddenly ended. Matt’s fancy new Volvo was suddenly off roading. We were surrounded by hand-written signs and stray dogs.

We followed a sign shaped like a cross lined in gold bulbs hoping it would be a hotel. It turned out to be a pharmacy, but next to it was Motel Paraíso. Three hundred pesos, or thirty bucks, a night.

The furniture there is made of plywood and a one-foot-by-one-foot window in each room faces the outside world. Our view: a pile of rubble from a wing of the motel that recently burned down.

Our windowsill was scorched.

In the one block walk from the pharmacy to the motel, my tight pants drew at least three whistles or shouts. After checking in, we walked to what we thought was a disco. It turned out to be a quincenera. The fifteen year olds outside thought I was “guey” too.

Now “guey” ain’t a bad thing to be, and I’ve been known to make out (or more) with a dude (or five). But in a stray-dog Mexican town with dirt roads and not a single other band of tourists in sight, it was decided that, since I only brought one pair of pants, I would have to don the rest the full white outfit and assume the name Mr. Hollywood for the rest of the trip.

It did the trick. Everyone thought I was insane or from Eastern Europe. Which was good because that way they didn’t want to kick my ass.

After a couple of beers and some live mariachi, Matt, Mark, and Mr. Hollywood found themselves in a pool hall where they serve 40s of Tecate. We were the only gringos there and they switched from Mariachi to Nirvana a few minutes after we walked in.

A pudgy fellow in work boots and a white t-shirt came up and introduced himself to us. Only Matt—who grew up in Puerto Rico—could understand his rapid Spanish. His name was Edgar and he said to let him know if we needed anything. We bought him a 40 and he asked us to play pool with him and his friends.

Edgar realized I wasn’t as quick as Matt with the Spanish so he slowed it down for me. He was 20 years old, had lived in Tecate for 10 years, and loved it. His friend, Miguel, used to deal drugs in Seattle.

“I JEWST TO LEEVE IN SEATTLE” he shouted when he found out I live in Portland.

“¿Que hiciste allí?”


“Sail boat?”


“Ship yard?”


“Oh, sell drugs!”

Around this time, Edgar began making curvy woman gestures with his hands and asking if we wanted to go somewhere else. So the three gringos and four locals got into Edgar’s Bronco.

As he floored it in reverse the back seat lurched forward. It was clear that it wasn’t bolted down.

Edgar proceeded to jump curbs, speed, and off-road his way across town. Mark hit his head on the ceiling. My arm was sore the next day from clutching so tightly to the “oh shit” handle.

“¿Dónde vamos?” I asked.


Knowing that Acapulco was hundreds of miles away, I really hoped there was a bar here by the same name. When we arrived there after a 20 minute rollercoaster, my fellow gringos and I discussed in English how glad we were to be alive.

And how glad we were to be in Tecate.

Acapulco is a strip club, and in Mexican strip clubs, you have to court the stripper before you get a lap dance. Edgar decided that Mr. Hollywood needed to woo a stripper.

So he found one named Paloma, gave her some money, and told me I had to dance salsa with her onstage.

Thank goodness I had gotten extensive dancing lessons from the most beautiful—and forgiving—partner in the Pacific Northwest some weeks before.

I couldn’t wait to get home and write my gracious instructor since I think I pulled off the dance. Matt was less convinced. “You certainly moved a lot,” he said.

Then Matt gave Edgar seventy pesos to give to Paloma who came over to my chair, straddled me, and shoved my face between her enormous breasts. Even Miguel, who seemed to be the sensible one in the group, continually encouraged me to grope her within her panties.

My American strip club reflexes screamed, “Don’t touch the stripper!!!” so I didn’t do it.

Following my lap dance, Edgar had become so drunk I could no longer understand his Spanish. I had also forgotten most of the language myself by that point and had resorted to shouting “Joder!” in different tones of voice depending on the situation.
Edgar knocked over a table, smashed a bottle, tried to fight Miguel, fell down, stood up, yelled, groped a stripper, and offered to take us to another bar.

We were out of money. We asked to go home. Miguel asked if I was afraid, but I thought he was asking if I was a fairy. He wanted to go home too, but was going to stay around to protect us from Edgar.

We bounced, skidded and sped back to Motel Paraíso. Edgar asked for Matt’s phone number. One of the locals, a short fellow who mostly paid attention to his girlfriend rather than us, whispered to Matt, “Darle un numero falso.” So he did.

The sun was rising as we went to bed and it was quiet.

But we were awaked a few hours later by what sounded like construction in our room. It was just the pile of burned rubble right outside the window.

The rest of the trip was filled with first-rate fish tacos, shopping for Western clothes.

Then we went looking for an archaeological site. Which we never found.

We found a pile of cars instead.

Mark and I accidentally passed the town of La Rumorosa where the turn off to the archaeology was and ended up on a windy mountain road it’s impossible to turn around on.

We stopped to take in a fantastic view and noticed some wrecked cars in the distance.

Climbing over the rocks for a couple of hundred yards revealed one of the strangest sites I have ever laid eyes on. There were at least 30 cars, all piled on each other from the same dangerous turn. The ones at the bottom were more rusty than the ones on top and you could see where the cars had impacted each other and where there had been fires.

It was like something right out of the Simpsons, just one car flying off the same curve after another.

We stayed and contemplated all the death that had taken place here and hoped that no more cars flew over the cliff while we were in the crash zone.

Then we took some photos, which now populate our space.

I was really sad the first time I had to speak English at a gas station once we crossed the border. A weekend is not enough to do Tecate and its environs right.

Photos: by Mark.

Just Throwing This Out There: Brad Religion

fratSo Mark and I have been practicing some Bad Religion tunes with our new band lately (and special guest star Fire Hydrant leadman Matt Menhe). Which got me to thinking of what would make a funny BR cover band…

My best idea: Brad Religion. Bad Religion songs retooled into songs about partying. You could do “1000 Pledges” (…are born every fuckin’ day), “Ingested” (a cover of “Infected” about all the things you eat on dares), and “The Panty Raider” (say it to the tune of “Generator”).

A Greek-themed Nirvana cover band would probably be more appropriate (sadly).

Photo: Actual White Stripes fans. Taken from mtv.com.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Just Throwing This Out There: Tootin' Khamuns

Ever since I started a theme band of my own, I have this habit of coming up with ideas for theme bands. Since one theme band is about all a man can handle, these ideas go to waste.

Or make that went to waste.

That’s right, I’m giving them to you, loyal readers. From now on, I will present one ludicrous band idea every Wednesday on this site. They are yours for the taking. If someone out there takes one of these ideas and runs with it, I will be most flattered and invite them to play in my basement.

So, without further ado, here’s my first idea. See, I’m down here in Fullerton, California, hanging out with my buddy Mark JW. It’s probably getting a little chilly where you are, but here in Orange County, it’s still summer. I find myself spending large portions of the day shirtless (and pants-less when no one’s around).

Mark and I were getting ready to take a dip in the pool at his apartment complex when he pointed out that, with the towel on my head I looked sort of Egyptian.

I smelled a theme band.

“The Tutankhamuns,” I thought. “What kind of band would be called the Tutankhamuns?”

Then it hit me. An ancient Egypt-themed ska band called the Tootin’ Khamuns. The toaster (the guy who goes “Hey! Hey! Pick it up!” through the set) would be dressed as a mummy. The frontman, a pharaoh. Everyone else in loin cloths and eye makeup. You’d play songs like, “The Scarab Skank,” and the Bengals-inspired “Skank like an Egyptian” and some of your lyrics would be in hieroglyphics—you’d just shout, “Hand! Reed! Swirl!” between bitchin’ horn parts in the harmonic minor scale.

Go forth. Rock the sarcophagus.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Pierced Arrows Never Looked Better

So I've written about Pierced Arrows a few times now, but this piece for the September issue of Seattle Sound is definitely the sharpest looking. Actually, it's probably the sharpest looking piece I've ever published. Thanks Andy Batt!

As far as I know, this is the first story to explore the Dead Moon breakup in detail. Click on each page to view a larger version in flickr.


Yeah, I know it took forever to put this piece up. Sound doesn't put their content online, so it took a little doing.