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MUSIC» The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
MUSIC» Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
There are voices every night, echoing always as though from a kitchen. Loud, like their music always playing. Crazy rap, with juiced up sounding dudes. It's a couple that lives behind me, a guy and a girl arguing playfully. When he's doing the dishes and she's in some other section of their apartment (my only view is of the kitchen) her voice is much quieter than his and he calls "WHAT?" to her often. Now and again, they talk in the most sincere tones, like people really really in love. But at times, almost too sincere, like lovers who are for sure in love, but haven't moved beyond the stage when bad moods aren't necessarily understandable and quiet times have a profoundly negative effect, maybe leading to fights, so they're avoided. ("What, you work all day, come home and ain't got nothin' to say to me?").
Tonight, they have company and from the sounds, they're playing cards on a kitchen table, slapping down whatever they've got to play creating a clatter of silverware and glass bottles. Some of this, I'm making up... Improvising. I can hear, very far away, train whistles and they have zero effect on me. No romance in them that all those others used to run on about.
Out my window, the noise from the apartment behind me can get so damn loud, beyond card games. Back in Indiana I'd probably call the cops or something. Here, I don't even feel like I've got that right. Besides, the cops would laugh: "Certainly, sir. We'll be right over to break up that 3 person card game. Just hold on a few minutes while we solve this mysterious drive-by, chase down this crazy crack dealer, and find jobs for all these people lying in the street. Shouldn't take long."
On the corner, you've got a tiny crew. I noticed them as soon as we moved in. Hanging out in front of the liquor store which they've been banned from (I learned about a fight a few months back), they push whatever they've got. There's Slim, a tall guy who probably had a nice teddy bear quality going before crack. Carwash, trying with everything to clean up automobiles that drive by for a buck, and Marvin selling incense sticks as a lame cover for his real product: cheap brick weed. These guys all ask for money. We're the new white kids on the block, and we're sure to be suckers.
Across the Golden Gate, our first night in California, we stayed in Marin County. I met a guy named William, a self-proclaimed friend to music. He cleans a mechanic's parking lot at night. A crazy old hippie, William told me all about the dirt and the weeds and how these items are descendants from an old Indian tribe which he now represents. He's got no rhythm when pounding on an empty drum of Castrol. But "imagine if it were a real drummer." The weeds must fight to push through the concrete, much like we must do, he told me.
Once we found the apartment in Oakland, I met Albert on the train while out searching for jobs. Homeless, stabbed in the heart when he was 19 in Seattle for no given reason, ditched by the love of his life years ago, and certain that God is sending an earthquake to kill everyone in California, Albert was a vet. He announced with something like power: "Why'd you come here? Go back. I've come to hate the state of California more than I hate Vietnam." He told me I have no idea what he's been through, and he's right.
Welcome to California. The weather's great. San Francisco's beautiful and teeming with life. Oakland might be dying quickly. And we boast the craziest stuff you'll ever see.
It's yet to be determined whether our neighborhood is "safe." But, I'm feeling more and more at home. There are 4 or 6 children living in the building, and they play the day out, riding miniature bicycles around in circles down in the fenced in parking lot of the building. This is their playground. One of the girls is clearly the leader of the pack, and she barks orders during every session of play. Who's the cop, who's the robber. Who's going to hold hands with who. Who's in love with who. What items should be delivered to her as she sits gallantly on a small section of carpet, little clothes protected from oil stains.
The kids speak a conglomeration of at least 3 languages and probably will carry this new jive into the schools, and later out in cars on dates. The children are a highlight to the building.
Daily, some drive-by or robbery finds its way into the Oakland papers. And nightly, helicopters fly overhead, sometimes with blinking red and blue, sometimes with a wandering search light.
The other evening, I was sitting out on the balcony (a misnomer, if you saw it you'd agree) and one of the search lights fell on me. Bathed in that criminal light, I thought to myself: "Am I doing the right thing here?"
Inside the helicopter, one of the cops might have said: "Look at that. Crazy white kid new to the area is out enjoying the night. He's probably thinking California is his savior." SEE ALSO: www.tnibooks.com
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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