Items: Observed / camera and radios (various), at a café in Okayama, Japan, Aug 2020
Continuing the story of the Olympia SM9 typewriter (from 2018 at Wonder Hotel) simply to show the difference a year of diligence and intrepidness can bring.
Yup, it truly was the most difficult of times, pulled in directions i didn’t want to go but then… states and provinces crossed, affairs sorted, planes and memories faced, trains and ferries joined / turmoil, bureaucracy, paperwork, disrespect and frustration, all well, just sort of sorted itself out. I mean, I know how but the point is: the time came when i was reunited with this typewriter and all was different from when i left it.
Still the keys get jammed, the ribbon inexplicably requires flipping/rewinding after barely a page of typing but, now smudged with thumbprints from changing said ribbon and supplied with aerogrammes from often lost countries, used envelopes with franked stamps (and sometimes intimate thoughts), and the usual hotel stationery, I made things.
Mostly poems and erstwhile letters, quite literally banged out without regard for perfection, just passion! Rapid transcriptions from scribbled journals, imagined lives of a doppelgänger, and notes from undergrounds.
Then joyfully accessorized with inky stamps and collages of postage stamps which may or may not have anything to do with the poem at hand (actually, they were all very intentionally consciously chosen but hey… that’s for the art to say). Oh, you can find evidence of these sessions in Items: Forgotten cycle vol. 7 Espionage and bits in vol. 6 Circumnavigation.
Now, the burly beast sits in a teakwood closet awaiting another opportunity to resist my indelicate fingers. Reminding me to touch gently with nuance and care.
All this is to say, art saves lives (in some cases anyhow).
Somewhere along the line, the wheels fell off completely, everything gone: life (rather death), love (so much), parents (both), career (ugh), health, confidence, desire, happiness, trust… all completely vanished.
Strung out, hospitals of a kind I won’t even mention, wrung out, battered and so very bruised… but, I pulled it together (thanks to kind pal) and found a safe place to hide.
A tiny room in a guest house ran by a kindly family who brought me coffee in the morning and otherwise gave me space to just be alone with, one small window, a fridge, a wet bathroom, a desk and bar, hard bed and two power outlets.
I purchased a typewriter and a printer and used in both extensively, enjoyably and liberally. The walls became covered with photos which caught my fancy, art which sparked something else, mementos of joys and fears to face.
The typewriter, and Olympia SM-9 from the 1970s (note: Owner’s manual (pdf): SM9-1970s) seems to be a knock off of some kind as I can’t find a serial number and, it just doesn’t have that solid precise action that the machine “should have”. There are a few foibles but it’s made of heavy solid metal, came “new in box” – shiny and pristine, just something is not quite right, kind of like me.
Anyhow, me and this machine typed poems on pads of hotel stationery, occasional repurposed telegram, letters which i’ll never send, and punk rock lyrics of angst and despair.
The neighbour was from Slovenia with a local mistress and a cigarette hobby and a little enough communication to be just the right amount.
I called this room “the Wonder Hotel” inspired by a SRO flophouse in my broken heart at home city of Vancouver. When i left, the daughters took down all my art bits and i made a massive scrapbook of rejuvenations, inspirations + amusements
I (mostly) hid, I (mostly) became calm, I pulled it together and then the future started. And started with this typewriter. Sloppiness and all. Maybe it is me after all.
Bad Wougar is/was a hard rocking band in Vancouver BC with four fine gentleman who practised diligently in a room called the “the Den” which I’ve visited several times – occasionally playing some drums, especially extended jams to “Cortez the killer”. The name “Bad Wougar” came from a campfire myth about a dangerous animal which was a mix of a wolf and a cougar.
On a trail walk one day, I recorded a myth about the creature for the bands use and amusement. They then invited me into the glorious brand-new Monarch Studio (which has an origin story to share another time) to record a few snippets from the riff for the songs. In all, my voice/words appear in two tracks on this final release which was distributed on CD with a paper gatefold cover (i have 2, Mac Kobayashi has 1).
For the record, released: February 28, 2014 (noting this was a high point in an otherwise tough tough year). As mentioned, the four members of the band (including a non-related Olson) were each fantastically kind, interesting fellas as well as quality musicians and it’s a privilege to know them.
So it goes, folks have other commitments and adventures in life so they don’t play anymore but I hope this CD/album is more widely distributed in future / Kind of band that would be big in Europe.
… every time I sling this album on the stereo I can’t but feel like I’ve been transported to a wood-panelled backwoods bar where the band are plying their gnarled rock ‘n’ roll trade in such a fashion that the venue’s customers are worried that the whole place will go up in flames, the sounds so incendiary….
There’s a grubby charm to this band and its self-described brand of hard charging rock ‘n’ roll. It’s garage rock by way of the forest and you can’t really ask for anything dirtier, earthier than that.
As the stoner-like riff of final track, ‘Spoke Too Soon’, rattles the fillings out of my teeth I’m left wondering if maybe what I just listened to was part of a crazed fever dream. Then I look up and see the album cover, the eyes of the Bad Wougar appearing to follow my every move…..
Another review in Permanent Rain references my spoken-word bit, ergo:
This spoken kick off made me realize I was in for a fun ride, just as if I was watching a movie–and I was not disappointed. …
The album itself has a delightfully punk element to it, often mixing with elements of classic and progressive rock. It could have been released in 1984, 1994, 2004, or 2014 and reflected the music of its time period.
Ya know, Stan Smyl is my all-time fave hockey guy – i’ve shared more about this great dude before so in this case, i’ll share a few snaps of hanging out at the beginning of the Vancouver Olympics 2010 at a corporate beer branded event “party tent” where i was invited for some sort of event.
Apparently i was telling Stan about my “Dr” Hunter S Thompson Media badge and/or John Stockton also wearing #12 or that we love to cook “Stan’s Mom’s Perogies” from the 1982 Canucks Family cookbook (note to self: share that precious artifact).
Around 2000 in Olympia Washington, my colleagues and I sold a renegade pioneering Internet service provider (OlyWa.net) to an (evidently) evil national corporation (ATG) who quickly imploded allowing me the sensation of losing *big paper money* before i hit 30 – ugh .Anyhow, I managed to put a down-payment on a house – which had a semi-finished basement (and was also stumbling distance to downtown bars) which is the reason for this riff.
The aforementioned basement was rapidly converted into “the Hockey Lounge” a speakeasy/smoke easy/crash space for touring rock ‘n’ roll bands as well as a resource library for Hemp Lobby activities.
As the name applied, this was about watching hockey games as, in Washington state at the time, the sport was not popular and bars were filled with cigarette smoke an early season baseball games instead of pungent herb and Stanley Cup playoffs. The Hockey Lounge rectified these conundrums.
So, with a couple of first generation time-shifting devices, two satellite dishes and a cable feed and other electronics cobble together by brother Dan – who also procured couch, bar, fridge etc. from various auctions – and extensive hockey and punk rock artifacts decorations, a conversion of the fridge into a 2 tap keg-e-rator, the eventual addition of a toilet, wiring the house with ethernet connected to redundant broadband connections (note this was early 2000s) this became the scene of much frivolity.
There were rules:
- Wash your glass (everyone had their designated glass which was store in the freezer compartment)
- Pay your tab (note beer was always top-end craft from a brewery in exchange for making a website, we were on the regular route for a beer delivery and well let’s just say people drink more than they paid for.
- No cell phones, camera etc. / no talking about other shit besides hockey and music
and these rules were not followed very well unfortunately.
Occasionally we would host various contest/pools during the playoffs or Olympics in which everyone would enter with a high-quality six pack (they were sent away and shunned if the quality was not sufficient) and winner would take most, second place slightly more than they pitched in, and third place their ante back.
Several times noted touring rock bands crashed out but most memorable was my hometown heroes DOA, who i sang BTO’s “takin’ care of business” onstage (at 4th Ave Tav) while wearing a Canucks jersey. The band – including now-Burnaby city councillor Joey “Shithead” Keithley, now deceased hard drinking storyteller Randy Rampage and the road manager (who was so happy about the high-speed Internet) and roadie who, years later, i met his brother coincidentally in Granada, Spain – all watched Canucks playoffs time-shifted and told tales into the night, signed my Hardcore 81 album, tidied up after themselves.
Of course, many travelling friends crashed out and enjoyed the space including Maddog Mike of Pacifica who destroyed so much Grand Crü beer and was still up early for his business meeting in Portland, Dane came by too (who i think took these photos), we had a “hippie on the couch” from CT or CO for a long time, others who came by at all hours expecting the place to be open like it was there own clubhouse, some disrespect, some sloppiness, some heat started to outweigh the frivolity. A lot of dishes to wash, but also a lot of fun backyard bocce games.
Of course there was the infamous High Times photo shoot in which many regional growers and vendors came by with copious amounts of wares in hopes of being featured in the magazine. Many were, i was rewarded with a massive mess to clean up and a photo/write up in the article which well… caused some community angst and notoriety (possibly covered elsewhere in this archive).
Epilogue: As it goes, economic situations changed with the *great collapse*, I couldn’t find work in any form, and then domestic situations changed with people moving in, people moving out, various tenants and domestic intrigue, then renters, a sewage flood and then a renovation and what not. [I had tried to finish some college, start a new business and relationship and hard to do all of that i suppose.]
In amongst much of this transition, aforementioned brother Dan became their “sole proprietor” of hockey lounge as it became his apartment. As things descended into malaise, various pieces and parts were sold off for cash to pay the mortgage, eventually the house sold, and I headed north and continued hockey culture with the Canucks Outsider podcast, then Dan later heading north as well to attend UBC engineering school. The Hockey Lounge still lives in the way/spirit at his current abode.
There is scant photographic evidence of this era though the legends live on throughout the streets of Olympia (or so I tell myself) plus at Olympic Plaza in SLC, and oh yeah if you’re reading this pay your fcking tab – this means you!
In 1994, back in Japan for the second time (after the mushroom farm incident), I made a go out of living the “back to land, hustling crafts and gigs along the way” lifestyle.
This meant selling flower sticks (more to come on this project eventually), hemp bags (ditto), imported Bob Marley T-shirts (so good!) and the like.
Made a little catalogue, got some media exposure, had friends ship vintage goods from Canada and USA and rambled around to various craft fairs, flea markets in the lake in a Mazda Bongo van.
For some of this time I lived in, Hamamura, Tottori and later worked way to Nagano where the van broke down and started a whole other part of this adventure.
Anyhow, in that stretch of time in almost-forgotten Tottori-prefecture, i lived in a small apartment with no bath so took bath at the natural hot spring “sento” public baths nightly, rambled mountains (around glorious Daisen) sometimes with a Shiba-inu dog named Tantan, played music (including a psychedelic jam sessions in a farm hut in a pear orchard), swam in the warm Sea of Japan, cook-outs on beach. There were some hardships in this time which won’t be discussed at this time.
Instead, a few slices of evidence (note: the photos were snapped with early generation “panorama” camera but developed/printed conventionally hence with the black letter box style):
Bonus: in scavenging artefacts from this summer, found this from brother Andrew who came to stay and worked making prefab log houses with a bunch of grown man while he was a young teen. He wrote this lovely memory of this glorious stretch of coast which, I hope to visit again soon, and a hazy snapshot which sums up the feeling of humid summers snorkelling and eating cold ramen so well.
“After work, we would go swimming until dusk and watch the squid boats out in the distance. Afterwards, we would go to this nice place for a bowl of fresh ramen and then go soak in the sento (public bath)”
There was a time I went to Amsterdam with one way ticket arriving with $220 in a variety of currencies and travellers checks plus an emergency (entirely useless) $100 Canadian bill tucked into my boot, a backpack with an inadequate sleeping bag, butane camp stove (somehow allowed on the plane), a cooking wok (surprisingly versatile), comically coloured outdoor gear purchased at various close-out sales and 2nd hand shops, and other sundry items, but deliberately did not take anything of value including a camera – instead took a sketchbook which is filled with poetry, doodles and other whatnots, and a watercolour pad in which I produced several paintings.
As you might expect, I got up to many adventures by sticking out my thumb and ending up coffee shops, barns filled with drying ganja, a Gwar concert, being a “roadie” who didn’t do anything whatsoever of usefulness for the Bad Yodeller’s ill-fated tour, got deathly ill at Oktoberfest in Munich and related ridiculous campground.
Then down to last few Deutsch Marks (noting pre-Euro), ended up meeting old pal Trevor in Rheinpfalz area where we embarked on fun nights in dungeons, bars and ruins, wandering forest with a giant dog called Bongo gathering chestnuts to sell in the endlessly adorable village of Rhod unter Rietburg and picking grapes – noting we were on different work crews and I fortunately got on the slacker team which included frequent breaks for wine and smokes and abundant cheese and bread and wine at the end of the day – including a couple of bottles to take back to stay warm in the tent/hayloft.
Then, after sleeping in haylofts and tents, partying at new wine festivals #secrets, a visit to hospital for a pal who couldn’t fly over ramparts and a ride with 7 crammed into a Citroen 2CV, we received our pay packets (after some trepidation thinking that any day we would be shook down by black-gloved immigration officials for illegal labor) came a hitchhike back to Amsterdam for usual unusualness, then a bus to Belgian for a ferry to England then a stretch in London which was cold wet and miserable, expensive and prone to bad decisions then via an dodgy credit card, somehow ended up in Miami in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. Following was even more ridiculous adventure of a drive-away car to Dallas, and rather shockingly we survived but, I digress…
All this is to tell you that: I have two photos and one wine label from Germany and one photo from London taken by a lovely Canadian girl we knew from “home”.
There are several wonderful watercolours you can find elsewhere in this archive, as well as a “static montage” collage of ephemera Trevor created for me.
In 1989 (iirc), my beloved VW bus criss-crossed states at a frenetic pace with long drives to Kansas City for Drum Corps, California for punk concerts, over the Rockies to Denver for The Who, a Vancouver trip or two in there, couple of Moab and then was wrangled into the epic trip starting in Utah to the US Northeast and swinging back down through the Midsouth stopping by universities and colleges of all times so a fellow named Kaimi could pitch his idea of selling flag T-shirts to various bookstores.
The deal was: he would pay the bills, do much of the driving and other logistics and I was just along for the ride and providing the wheels.
Resulted in many harrowing nights in places like New Haven, Cambridge, New York City (where we weren’t allowed through Lincoln tunnel because of onboard propane and required a complicated turn around in the midst of traffic), a break down in Connecticut – replacing fuel pump with a random mechanic in his driveway. I remember driving on a graceful parkway then seeing a horrific accident unfold in the pouring rain storm. Sneaking into all sorts of university dorms for clandestine hi-jink, being mysterious “aliens” from the west marauding in this renegade van. Seeing a wonderful girl I knew from Utah working as a nanny in Connecticut (rip Janel H.), making friends with the father of the house (he let us sleep in the basement because I was reading Jack Kerouac), buying beer with fake IDs and never a second glance, (racks of it drinking back while crossing midwest and through Penn), stops at Wrigley Field in Chicago (no game :(!), Sun Studios in Memphis (met a fine lady there), watching Kaimi spin spin spin with endless energy. Oh, staying with his family around Washington DC and going like a “show and tell” item to his younger brother’s high school class (to much acclaim :)). The van getting broken into and ransacked while parked in Washington DC to see the Smithsonian. Must’ve been a couple of other significant roadside attractions along the way.
Pal Jerrod aka Spanky was also on board (as kinda Kaimi’s svengali) and brought his guitar so, along with my bongos, we did some busking here and there ++ saw Fugazi play at All Soul’s Church, DC and REM play at Merriweather Post, Maryland, just missed secret Rolling Stones at a frog-something-named-bar by Yale. Rambled campuses and saw how the system of private patronage in the East works – they ain’t no smarter, just better connected / mostly. Skullz and Bonez.
I had no schedule nor expectations except to just go go go and so we did. And, behold I have evidence.
Sometime in early
1988 (I think), (update: 1989) living in Orem Utah, recently dropped out of high school and floating along with classes at the community college, recovering from an epic car crash, my Grandpa rolled up in his old Chevy citation and suggested a road trip. Original thoughts for a few days but extended into much longer as we drifted down into Mexico.
With his “golden eagles” (or something to that effect), National Park pass, and affinity for small highways and no agendas plus his usual travelling style which included switching off driving responsibilities every two hours regardless of situation, choosing quirky / classic motels and diners on the fly, flirting with waitresses and continuous cigarette smoking and diary-keeping within the car, it was a most excellent journey.
I was studying photography at the time and took a heavy Japanese-made but Swiss-branded “Alpa” 35mm camera and black-and-white film, and a tripod and set up various shots along the way.
As usual, more evidence exists (including self-timer’d shots – often nekkid) and a photo essay of Petrified Forest) including a small spiral notebook chronicling where we stayed, various mileage and other ephemeral information about fuel efficiency, parks visited and what not, but for now, here are three of my favourite shots from the journey which I developed and processed myself in the dark room at the old ” Utah Technical College” Provo campus dark room.
The locations are unclear at this point but along the way, we visited every State / National Park/ Monuments anywhere near us, plus Tombstone Arizona, Four Corners, various places in Baja and mainland Mexico (in which I crossed the border with nothing but my old expired high school ID card or something… It’s all a bit hazy) I also recall buying a comically huge terra-cotta pot and huge woven basket in Mexico which was really a poor decision as we were taking turns resting in the back of the vehicle and well, space was at a premium.
Note: I wrote a story about a bit of the trip and specifically one morning on a First Nations “reserve” with a few observations while waiting for something to open (note to self: post that up sometime) and read some of it in a Postcard from Gravelly Beach podcast too as well as a tribute to him in another.