Amoeblog

From "Festering Sore" To Civically Honored Cultural Institution: Berkeley's 924 Gilman

Posted by Billyjam, March 31, 2017 09:59am | Post a Comment


The City of Berkeley had one of those "Wow, how things change!" moments this week. It happened Tuesday evening at a Berkeley City Council meeting during which longtime punk mecca 924 Gilman  got officially honored for its 30 years of cultural contributions with a stamped Proclamation from the City. [Scroll down to see proclamation and its content] Signed and bestowed by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin to longtime Gilman collective members Jesse "Luscious" Townley and Kamala Parks, the irony of the ("wow") moment was because back in its formative years that very same (now globally revered all ages, all inclusive, performing arts) venue had been labeled a "festering sore" by a City of Berkeley official. "It's pretty insane to think about the travel from being called a "festering sore" by a Zoning Board member 25 years ago to being honored by the City Council now," Townley told the Amoeblog.

A true renaissance man including punk musician, whose many bands have included  Blatz, The Gr'ups, The Criminals, and The Frisk, Townley stressed how he was speaking on behalf of himself and not the collective. "Thanks to volunteers like John Hart, who is a veteran of the People's Park controversies, my generation of Gilman volunteers learned how to navigate local politics, and we've passed that knowledge on to successive generations of Gilman volunteers. Whether dealing with overzealous beat cops who rotated through our area or DiCon Fiberoptics trying to get us shut down because we weren't important enough to talk with, we were able to use these skills to survive long enough to be recognized by mainstream Berkeley as a valuable community institution," said Townley whose own experiences at Gilman inspired him to get into local politics and go on to become a commissioner elected to the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.

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(Be sure to wear flowers in your hair.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 11, 2014 01:55pm | Post a Comment

(Look close – I'm the guy in the green shirt next to the building.)


I recently returned from a week-long stay in San Francisco.

Now, before you jump to conclusions that’ll confuse matters as I continue on with my story about San Fran, (yes, there’s even more to the story!) it’s important to clarify I was in San Francisco, California – not, I repeat not, San Francisco, Córdoba.

Okay? I just saved you from asking a bunch of inappropriate questions about whether I heard any good cuarteto while away, plus making embarrassingly irrelevant jokes about “getting a dolor de la panza from eating too much Cabsha Alfajores de Dulce de Leche Cubierto con Chocolate.” I know you too well, dear reader! You and your assumptions.

San Francisco, California is located roughly 3,670 miles south-west of Prince Edward Island, but don’t confuse the two – only one of these locations was watered with the many tears of the Mi’kmaq people and named after a British royal who was no fun at drinking-games.


Hint: This couple never went to a Giants game.

I was in SF for what my buddies and I refer to as “M’s Room” – our traditional gathering, occurring an average of three times annually, wherein we work on various art projects in an environment that harkens back to our shared youth – halcyon (if playfully criminal) days when making art was the only thing we treated like a full-time job.

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Photographic Memory, Part 1

Posted by Job O Brother, September 7, 2009 01:17pm | Post a Comment

"Please conjure sheets of paper to come floating out of the laundry basket below"
The author, circa 1996

I have recently come into possession of my adolescent photo collection. There was, for a period of about five years, a time when I owned a fetching Ricoh camera which had been given to me by a rad woman whom I lived with on a mountaintop commune on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico. She used to regale me with stories from her years as a hot-shot publicist, and explained to me which lines from David Bowie’s “Drive-in Saturday” had been written about her by the Thin White Duke.


Were these claims true? Who knows. But it did distract me from the profound and crippling nervous breakdown I was experiencing at the time, fuelled in part by excessive use of ecstasy as a means of spiritual enlightenment and by living with my then step-father who made such helpful suggestions as, “Maybe you have alien implants in your brain.”

“Oh, yes. Well thank you for that.”

I thought it might be fun to dip into the box and see what musical and/or cinematic associations they bring. Kind of reconsider my colorful past in terms of stuff you could purchase at Amoeba Music. For I am a salesman, ladies and gentlemen.

Let’s begin now…


Here’s a picture of me caked in drying mud on the banks of the Dead Sea. Taking the picture is my Mom, who is also slathered in earth. Supposedly there was some physical benefits in doing this, but honestly I didn’t need a reason beyond getting to rub mud all over my near-naked body. Who needs the added incentive of a health boost? What you don’t see in this picture is the gaggle of Japanese tourists shrieking with laughter as the women in the group got smeared with mud by their husbands. And what you don’t hear is that the spa where this all took place is playing Marianne Faithfull’s album Broken English over the loudspeakers. Because when you’re soaking in mineral baths and having the toxins flushed from your body, what else do you want to hear but this…


Yes, the spirit of the Essenes is alive and well on the banks of the Dead Sea.


Here’s a picture of Emilie Autumn. Emilie was famous in our hometown for a variety of reasons, one of which being that she would do things like, say, dye her skin green and wear Christmas tinsel hair extensions. This isn’t body paint, folks. This is skin dyed green, and over the course of weeks it would gradually fade away, as though Emilie were transforming from Frankenstein monster to human girl.

I spent a sizable chunk of my youth locked in Emilie’s room, smoking pot, drinking Thunderbird, eating pot, and making art with her. Music was always playing, and the most popular tunes were (in no particular order):














After being best friends for three years, Emilie and I began having sex, which made the next three years of our relationship a more stormy affair. Her creativity extended into ways of breaking my heart and I finally stopped talking to her. She was one of the great loves of my life and a part of me will always be in love with her. Green skinned or not.

Aw... More to come!

(In which we bric some brac and knick some knack.)

Posted by Job O Brother, May 11, 2009 05:46pm | Post a Comment

As God is my witness, I don't know what I'm supposed to pack my collection of vintage boxes in.


Phew! Hey – how’s it going? Oh, you’re reading the Amoeblog, I see. Well, hope I’m not interrupting you – I just needed to take a break from unpacking. I don’t know how I fit so much stuff into my previous, tiny, New York-style apartment! I mean, I don’t remember sleeping on a pile of books and LP’s eight yards deep, but I must have.

The whole process of moving can be especially complicated for those of us who are avid collectors of music and film and all manner of art-faggory. It becomes a reenactment of that crucial scene from Sophie’s Choice (I won’t include any spoilers here for those of you who’ve never seen the film; suffice it to say that, due to Sophie’s fear of baking soda, her love for the town’s baker suffers some dire tragedies. And her cat turns out to be the murderer.)

I find myself reconsidering whether or not I need a collection of punk 45’s, but before I can decide, I’m distracted by the hilarity and exuberance of the Blatz song then suddenly stuck in my head, and before I know it, everything’s in the box “to be saved” and all that makes it to the thrift store is a redundant garlic press and a cutting board whose origin I cannot recall.

I suppose I could live without my antique sextant. But what if I wanna measure the altitude of a
celestial object above the horizon while onboard a ship without electricity? ...I better keep it.

To be honest, I never really identified with the “collector” mentality. I have this many albums because I love this many (and more) and I have these DVD’s, books and posters for the same reason. I don’t keep hold of anything simply because of its cash value. I never questioned what I could sell my autographed, first pressing of Stories From the Nerve Bible for on Craig’s List – I just wanna read it again and again, ‘s all.


My boyfriend does not share my affliction, but he’s been patient and compassionate. He’s also mastered the art of walking away and waiting for me to come around. For example, when he first suggested I get rid of a few T-shirts that no longer fit me, either physically or socially, such as the muscle-T of camouflaged material held together, not with sewing thread, but dozens of safety pins and boasting a silk-screen of female breasts and the words ELVIS CHRIST* on the bosom, I turned on him, eyes bulging, and in my best impersonation of a harpy, screeched, “Well, maybe.” Sensing I was reconsidering what I wanted more, this musty rag of a top or his true and abiding love, he calmly left the discussion and returned to washing my assortment of Rocky & Bullwinkle drinking glasses.


It makes things taste better!!!

An hour later, after a misty recollection of the first time I almost barfed in the 924 Gilman Street restroom – the same night I had found said muscle-T in a free box next to the ticket counter – and after secretly putting the shirt on and coming to grips with how much my body’s grown since I was 17, I meekly approached my boyfriend – who was, by now, dusting one of my many Bibles, and announced that I had decided to get rid of the T-shirts.

He held me.

I used to think I was a collector, but that was before I started working at Amoeba Music. There are customers, dear reader, who spend longer hours there than I ever do. When do they have time to listen to all the music they’re hunting? Why do they need so many copies of the same Miles Davis album? Do their wives know these men are cheating on them with out-of-print copies of the Un homme et une femme soundtrack?


Anyway, I better get back to unpacking. These issues of Neat Stuff aren’t going to file themselves, you know.


* Time has taught me that most every city in the U.S. has, at some point, produced a punk band by the name Elvis Christ. The group to which this reference is attributed was an entirely un-famous and lovable line-up of young men from Grass Valley, California, which is why you've never heard of them.