How the Homeless Listen to Music Low-income, no income, and twelve-step subculture is its own music scene.

“Have you ever slept on a boat?” The old man looked into my eyes over the front desk. Then he smiled. “Nope, you don’t look like you’ve ever slept on a boat.”

 

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This essay is about downtown Seattle historical landmarks turned into apartment buildings which assisted people to get off the streets by finding low-income permanent housing due to our lack of real rent control. I spent many years living in them and working at them for the Archdiocese Housing Authority, which manages them. My first apartment was in the Josephinum at Second and Stewart starting in 1991 (where I lived till 2006), and my first job in recovery was at the Wintonia, on Pike and Minor (where I worked from 1993 to 1999, and then off and on till the mid-00s). These are special buildings to our area, and have always been flush with diverse populations, many of whose lives were about making and enjoying music. Many more than I am able to include here.

 

“In Finger’s Inc.’s ‘Distant Planet,’ this longing for sanctuary from racial and sexual oppression takes the form of cosmic mysticism, a la Sun Ra. The distant planet is a place ‘where anyone can walk without fear.’”

 

      —Simon Reynolds, Sonic Process.

 

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Uh, no. The closest was when I was evicted because the owners of the house I was living in sold it. Until I could find an apartment, I rode the No. 6 bus up and down Highway 99 most of the night, from downtown to Aurora Village, listening to muffled, skewed robotic drum beats of fellow travelers from behind the earphones of turned-up Walkmans, looking out into the dark. No, scratch that, looking at myself in the reflection of myself on bus windows in the dark. Those isolated splats overheard, dangling in murky time-space, spending my lostness imagining what sounds could form around them, no vocals beyond a drowsy threat or plea somewhere in there. Crumpled in my coffee-stinking leather and black jeans damp from bus stops and making playlists in my head over and over within the space of sound I inherit as a passenger.

During the day, on Tuesdays when I knew it would come, I would go back and steal my own copy of Rolling Stone from the mailbox where I used to live. My subscription continued seemingly forever. I had a coveted disabled bus pass to keep out my fear of losing complete grip on the world I once cared about. So I rode and rode.

The daytime hours spent then had its own noise: the case manager’s radio softly playing golden oldies in the lobby outside the shelter all night; waking up to the blaring synth-trumpet pomp blasts of the morning news on the TV in the room scampering for coffee and donated University District anarchist diner donations as we got our things together to get out so it can become a day-room for seniors. The classic rock cranked high in the treatment lounge in the basement of the hospital: Hopefully, the girl who signs you in will be playing KCMU and you’ll get to hear something like “One way or another, I’m going to find you, I’m going to get you, get you, get you, get you” as you wait for medication. So who’s looking? Will you find me? Outside, downtown, every now and then, you pass a blessed busker who knows more than just one heartfelt gospel song or “Heart of Gold.” You hang out till his or her set starts again.

One heavily snowy night, though coming back from visiting a friend at the Aloha, I was tired and knew the Downtown Emergency Service Center was going to be stuffed, so I was plotting what my mom advised: “three hots and a cot”—a minor crime to land in holding. Just then, a bus driver found Jesus halfway through his shift, and left the No. 6 parked outside a gas station on Aurora, running out into the darkness, praising the Lord. It was the last bus of the night. I put on my own declining Walkman, and started listening to my shoplifted copy of Nick Cave’s The Good Son walking back into the City, letting some sort of Holy Mass fight it out with the hellish hot licks of my brain.

 

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From Jacques Attali, in Noise: The Political Economy of Music:

 

“The operationality of music precedes its entry into the market economy. Its transformation into use value—the appropriation of ‘the materials of nature in a form adapted to [man’s] needs.’ Its primary function does not depend on the quantity of labor expended on it, but on its mysterious appositeness to a code of power, the way in which it participates in the crystallization of social organization in an order. I would like to show that this function is ritual in nature, in other words that music, prior to all commercial exchange, creates political order because it is a minor form of sacrifice. In the space of noise, it symbolically signifies the channeling of violence and the imaginary, the ritualization of murder substituted for the general violence, the affirmation that a society is possible if the imagination of individuals is sublimated.”

 

Eventually I found an apartment at the Josephinum, dazzled by its dirty marble and the chapel to the right of the lobby, the 24-hour front desk staff protecting the place. The first thing I did was give my stereo from storage to my next door neighbor Stanley, whom I met in the hallway as I moved in. He looked so bittersweet when he saw me take it out of the building’s move-in dolly. He was weed-lean and Caribbean and had a soft, sweet voice. “Wow, I sure wish I had one of those,” he said. Like many people in the building at the time, he had AIDS, and I gave him my $300 Fred Meyer all-in-one as a trade to the universe for me not getting AIDS. I had no records left to give him though to play on it. I had been selling them off in batches to Cellophane Square and Roxy Music on The Ave. to stay alive. But he had a few Commodores LPs on tape, including Heroes from 1980 which my brother also owned, with Lionel getting all gospel-y, and he also played a few scattered selections from the mbira collection Take Cover (from 1987). Settling in, he gave us a mutual pro-summery soundtrack as we could stare out our respective windows down Second Street. That is, till he stabbed someone, in the hallway while I was asleep. He was quickly moved out of the building, and my stereo was placed somewhere in storage in underground Seattle and sealed off when the renovations were done to the building.

He had brought the world up into piles around himself, which means he may have been on the streets before for quite a while—making up for having nothing with stacks of books and boots and posters and records and several dressers stuffed full of men and women’s clothes and about 50 Leather Daddy caps and one entire cabinet full of condoms.

Glenn, the daytime front desk man who was the first person I met when I came in to see apartments. He was super bitchy to curious civilians coming in off the street and quickly no-bullshit helpful to almost anyone who needed genuine charity (as long as you weren’t a massive asshole). When he passed away, I was asked by the building manager Sandra to help clean out his apartment. She knew we bonded over folk music and science-fiction and that I would not loot it before the couple family members and the charities came to split up what was once Glenn’s. I had seen his collection during the holidays when we did some tenant union project together, happily making a holiday newsletter as we drank tea with milk and shit-talked other tenants viciously through twangy ambiance. After he passed I really grasped it. He had brought the world up into piles around himself, which means he may have been on the streets before for quite a while—making up for having nothing with stacks of books and boots and posters and records and several dressers stuffed full of men and women’s clothes and about 50 Leather Daddy caps and one entire cabinet full of condoms. It was on his tape player that I had my first experience with John Fahey, Sandy Bull, Peter Walker, John Martyn, and a deeper study of the album work of Barbara Streisand, who surprisingly could get quite psychedelic in the early ’70s. Babs I understood. But with the artists in his collection otherwise, I wondered why Glenn himself didn’t even own a guitar.

 

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How did I land at the Josephinum? Dawn. She was just out of treatment and looking for her first apartment too. We moved in when the walls were ’70s brown and the carpet was crusty orange and the big old gnarly building was filled with either retired priests and nuns, AIDS patients, or long-time lost and up and coming artists struggling or collaborating with substances. I met Dawn and she asked me to buy her a black leather jacket and since I just got my SSI back payment I did so. She met me at the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) for the homeless as I trembled near a couple of vociferous, junk-sick, and possibly violent drag queens raising hell on the staff and she took me outside. She told me about the Josephinum because she was coming up on the wait list; it did have a long wait list, as it is for any low-income housing in this city. However, Sandra took a liking to some people, especially those active in recovery. Dawn was a tiny red-headed woman with a screechy Southern accent; but she could sing a whole lot of Loretta Lynn’s songs very melodically when she was feeling forlorn. She’d only saved one tape: America’s Greatest Hits. And she played only one of those songs, “Sister Golden Hair,” perennially when we would visit her friends at their apartments. When we had both moved into our own respective renovated single room occupancies (SROs), everyone hung out together in Kate’s apartment while she worked the night shift, as she was the only one with cable TV and a landline we could use to ask for support from family elsewhere. Kate was a sweet plump freckled girl, she had come to Seattle to be a writer and had ended up homeless before Sandra had taken her in. She’d grown up singing in a Baptist choir, and deeply enjoyed the fascist vanilla evangelical pop of Carman blasting away at the front desk when she worked, to the horror of our fellow tenants. On Sundays, she could actually cook something nearly edible out of the cans of generic pork meat and stale-crunchy rice from the Pike Place food bank. I already had something against America, as “Horse With No Name” annoyed me as a child when my parents took me on vacations across Oregon and California, and the radio stations wouldn’t stop playing it. But now I was free downtown, it was 1991 and my old friends were having a lot of fun making new music, and “Sister Golden Hair” just got you damned depressed. But Dawn was tough and almost translucent and when she complained about not being dressed for the coming weather I gave in. I was proud of myself for my generosity, but also felt it was a little creepy of me to do this. She then took me back to the DESC where we met up with friends of hers from the Frye across the street for the afternoon. The regime for entering the building was hard, just like at the Jo: I.D. and not being intoxicated. They looked into your eyes and kept the I.D. and said check out time was 8 a.m. (Ten years later I would become their full-time night shift guy.) We went to various dark moldy apartments and I met some dudes working in and out of their programs, lifting weights, drinking a lot of instant coffee and, most consistently, all listening to FM stations on their old amplified stereos, the only real belongings they had besides weights and instant coffee and donated clothes. These formerly homeless men would huddle together through the afternoon between meetings, listening to the music they grew up on, and the only real thing of value they owned was what they played it on. It was usually the radio. Music is hard sometimes for those in recovery; makes you want to get a buzz on to relive that first drink, that first song, together. Dawn and I returned to the Josephinum and that evening she and Bob and I were supposed to have our own AA/NA meeting together in my apartment, but instead when he saw the black leather jacket I bought her he just flat out punched her in the face. I was vacuuming the chapel downstairs at that point and heard about it from Kate and rushed upstairs, determined to tear Bob apart. Kate followed me up and tackled me, sitting on my back till I calmed down. They immediately evicted Bob from Dawn’s apartment and put him on the banned list. The next day Dawn and I went shopping at the greasy little market on Third and went back to her apartment, with her shiner and leather jacket, crawled fully clothed into her bed, and held hands as we listened to “Sister Golden Hair” over and over, my teeth grinding together. It was raining outside. We had a place to live. Soon I started going out with Kate. A year later, Kate had moved out and I took over her job on the night shift.

 

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Have you ever bought something you were pretty sure was stolen? When I rocked a desk in the middle of the night, I got a lot of stolen goods offers for dirt cheap. I resisted it all. (I had a reputation as a pretty incorruptible company man, which I’m still rather proud of.) They were usually sad items from people desperate for drugs, and I didn’t need the crap, and didn’t want to fuel anyone’s vices. That wasn’t our mission with housing the poor. Some things I passed up kinda hurt though—a complete weight set someone had out in their car—but it’s not wise to purchase ill-gotten goods on the job. One night on graveyard in 1995 though, during a raging meth wave downtown, a “regular” came into the Josephinum lobby—a non-tenant, not even a guest—and blew my mind. He was a skinny rat-faced dude in a big ’80s-style bomber jacket who always tried to sell me Marlboros and batteries. I don’t smoke, but I was somewhat tempted on the batteries, as I was doing some writing for long-running local rock tabloid The Rocket at the time, interviewing local bands for the NXNW section and used a hand-held tape recorder to do so. Still, I thought, don’t encourage this dude, you’ll never get rid of him. That night, a really busy one after a show let out at the Moore, he popped in, his coat all packed up from inside. He approached the front desk, and I was just about to toss him, but he opened the front and plopped about a couple hundred dollars of frozen meat down in front of me. I was like, “No! Stop that!” but he kept pulling out T-bone steaks from around his hip, filet mignon from his shoulder, roasts from around his back in the coat. He did it so quick, all jacked up and nervous and squealing “You want these? I KNOW you want these!” I had a hard time getting him to stop. I looked at all the meat and told him to put it back in his coat and split, but he refused to. People started coming into the lobby, and I had to get rid of him, so I asked him how much and he said, “twenty bucks.” Twenty bucks for all that stolen meat was actually a pretty good deal, and it still looked frozen enough not to kill me. I gave him a $20 bill and kicked him out, and banned him from the building. I had a trusted lobby-lurker watch the desk as I ran all that beef up to my apartment, which I stuffed into our mini-fridge in the darkness as my wife slept. I went back downstairs, laughing at the whole thing, and worked the rest of my shift. About a week later, he came in again, same night, same shift time, asking, “You need cigarettes? MARLBOROS! You need batter—,” and I ran out from behind the desk, physically chasing him back into the street. As he fled, he yelled out, “Man! You’re so aggressive! You need to eat less meat!”

 

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I then worked my way up to security supervisor on the front desk at sister building Wintonia, which meant I did the payroll in the evenings and made my own hours. For one of my regular shifts, I chose Saturdays 7 to 3 p.m., because it gave my crew Friday nights off, but moreso it meant that me and a bunch of really cool people could sit around listening and talking about music, every Saturday morning.

I had been suffering a writer’s block that was unfrozen by a Cambodian refugee named Davy. She was a Jesuit volunteer (JV) who would cover my lunch breaks on the desk and would go to Olympia with us in the AHA van to campaign for low-income housing. She had long black hair and encouraged everyone all the time. She often touched your hand when she did so. She sat next to me when we wrote “The W.’s” newsletter together, laughing at all my bad jokes the manager would later edit out. Davy told me her favorite music, and it was all this cool stuff her parents loved and was banned by the government—very ethnic Freak Beat and prepared me later on for Dengue Fever (the band, not the disease). She told me that I should start making lists of the tenants’ favorite music, since I loved to talk with them about it so much at the desk every day.

The first thing a new tenant usually bought when they got housing and the GAU, GAX, SSI, or SSDI money started was a TV, and then the cable to watch it. But there were younger ladies who would get boom-boxes to play their radio hits on. If these kids bought music, it was by enrolling in the record clubs still around at that time. A lot of people once homeless and now keeping their shit together often loved to get packages; mail-order was very important to them. They checked the front desk all day for packages, it was something we talked about as often as we told people off the street they could not use the building bathroom and hope they wouldn’t shit in the lobby. I loved receiving the Columbia House or RCA packages for new tenants, knowing they were going to have Christmas in July by getting a record collection like that all at once.

With absolutely no irony, from Davy’s encouragement, I began collecting lists of the desert island discs of my friends and clients. The responses were often surprisingly specific and passionate—Daniel listened to k.d. lang’s “Constant Craving” over and over with JV coordinator Indira in her office, transfixed. Indira would patiently sit and listen and seemed to enjoy sharing the experience but also felt like she was enabling his melancholy. This was the kind of song that had to be important enough to carry copies around, either in your things as you deeply struggled for survival and to keep sane, or waiting for a place to land. Inevitably a lot of good stuff like that got washed away in the middle of the chaos. A good argument for pop would be that its ubiquity spares it from the obscurity of scarcity when you can no longer afford more rarified tastes.

A lot of people once homeless and now keeping their shit together often loved to get packages; mail-order was very important to them. They checked the front desk all day for packages, it was something we talked about as often as we told people off the street they could not use the building bathroom and hope they wouldn’t shit in the lobby. I loved receiving the Columbia House or RCA packages for new tenants, knowing they were going to have Christmas in July by getting a record collection like that all at once.

The newsletter lists inspired the tenants to come up and talk even more about music. It was a great way to get to know everyone. Curt was a metalhead, tall, barrel-chested, and bearded. Not hard rock, not butt rock, not hair-metal butt rock. Every shirt was a real metal band t-shirt and he said that he had roadied for a few. He wasn’t one to brag, so he never gave much details about his career as a roadie, but from his build and stories I bought it. He got here because he just partied to get through it, till he ended up without a tour at the Downtown Emergency Homeless Shelter, still high and drunk, but with nothing left to put in the van. Instead we talked about albums on Saturday mornings as he came back to reality. He didn’t seem to belong in this community, most of whom were older and more broken and had other things on their mind besides music. But he was smoking with Harvey the janitor on the front porch making fun of people right away. Because Curt was hanging out, young women in the building liked to come down more often as well, it was more like a party. I didn’t realize that Seattle Central Community College student Deanna was so into metal too; the first three years she lived there, we didn’t say a word to each other. Now I knew she loved Metallica as much as I did, because of Curt. (We sided with … And Justice For All against him.)

Fellow desk man and tenant Jon was a veteran of the Monastery, the seductive, sinister ’80s-era dance club set in an old church from ’80s which was well known for romance, drugs, danger, and debauchery. He still had his cape from those days and most of his long hair. He was perfect for desk staff—he could turn bouncing you out of the building into a party for everyone else. He and I loved a lot of Queen and Bowie and he did like his show tunes too. His T-cells had been improving slowly, and he actually got better; the first person I had ever known to.

On her first day, Erica slid up to the front desk and remarked how much she liked what I was listening to. I don’t remember it because here was Erica, straight-haired, jack-booted, lovely, and fierce. She soon revealed herself to be a real music fan. She mentioned she was going to the Bumbershoot Festival. Not a lot of Wintonia residents did that; many were unaware of the discounted disability tickets the festival had available for many years. But Erica knew, and she was going to go see John Lee Hooker. And she did, and then she came back and raved about it. And he flew her down to his home, and she came back a few weeks later, in enough time to not forfeit her apartment. She proudly announced on her return that she had f—ked John Lee Hooker. I guess I would have flown down to f—k John Lee Hooker too.

Neither of us ever talked about being homeless. We talked a lot about Laurie Anderson—she was particularly enamored of the Strange Angels album. I think that may have been her desert island disc.

There was Rebecca, who worked as a Sears marketer at nights and loved vintage black American music before rap. We shared a mutual sing-a-long fandom of Ike and Tina, and she turned me on to artists like Junior Parker, Solomon Burke, Wendy Rene, Ruth Brown, and Joe Tex. And, above all, everything the Pointer Sisters ever released, amen. She was generous with her musical loves. She was one of the few people who could bring a CD to the front desk and I would play it in the lobby on my happy swing shifts. I could be fair as a DJ, unless Vadim and Curt thought it was crap and then they would just stand nearby making fun of somebody’s taste all the way through anyways. Rebecca could be so sweet and so mean, the biggest gossip but very smart about doing her business and not getting caught. All the bad men banned from Seattle made up her guest list. I had helped blocked most of ’em from the Josephinum already working the desk there first. I felt bad about it but Rebecca only rarely tried to sneak them in on my shift.

Rebecca was some sort of family with Keith, who I ate most of my lunches with. We both loved early Prince and Jimi, Pink Floyd and Kraftwerk. Keith was maybe the only black man in Nebraska when he made a decision to drive out with a white friend to Seattle, because he had read that line from Robert Anton Wilson about this being the “end of the world” and he wanted to see that happen. Though Keith looked like a bad-ass working the door at a club in a John Carpenter film from the ’70s and was always high behind shades, every time I saw him, he covered the desk for me and made clear decisions doing so. I trusted him implicitly, it was only weed, and anybody playing Jimi at the front desk was going to keep things cool for anyone who might saunter in to the place and wanna shoot up in the bathroom behind the lobby.

Indira would patiently sit and listen and seemed to enjoy sharing the experience but also felt like she was enabling his melancholy. This was the kind of song that had to be important enough to carry copies around, either in your things as you deeply struggled for survival and to keep sane, or waiting for a place to land. Inevitably a lot of good stuff like that got washed away in the middle of the chaos. A good argument for pop would be that its ubiquity spares it from the obscurity of scarcity when you can no longer afford more rarified tastes.

I still see Carl around, when I’m at a bus stop near Harborview, say. Carl started living there the night I started working there, that is, the night the Wintonia opened. He worked the desk with me and loved his weed too. Carl was the only person I had ever known personally who knew anything about the D.C. go-go scene, and he told me how tight some of those brothers were with punks. I actually didn’t believe him at first, I thought he was putting me on. He didn’t know what Straight Edge was and, yeah, he thought those kids were kind of weird. But it wasn’t like they were going to shoot you, and where he was from, that happened a lot. He probably had the best taste in tunes of any of the men in the building, and when he was homeless he kept all his jams someplace, packed away for when he was off the streets. I wanted to be like Carl in so many ways; and though to him I was probably a fat weird corny white dude, I once stood between him and another guy who was going to fight him for Boo, and neither hurt me when they could have. (A place I’m not sure I’ll ever find my ass again.) He probably just knew how important housing was, till he lost it over drugs way past weed.

Two older dudes I spent time with, who were a deep part of my little music fandom there, were a couple of guys who some at this Pop Con might remember from seeing at shows at The Bird and other punk clubs and Ballard house shows in the late ’70s and early ’80s. John and Kevin, usually garbed in spattered chef whites, were bitchy men, both working as cooks, the kind of amped and drunk and damaged souls Bourdain boasts of being among and proud of as soldiers, bouncing between downtown Met Grill and places like Baranof ’s in Greenwood. Their only possessions were extremely well taken care of knife sets, and LPs getting dustier and dirtier even though they had nothing to play them on. We talked about all the shows we were at together—catching Chinas Comidas at a house show, seeing John Lurie at the Kit Kat Klub, Suicide destroying a crowd during a “Frankie Teardrop,” Costello when he turned on the white noise and then didn’t return for like a decade, U2 performing all the contents of Boy and then playing the whole album again, because they didn’t have much else and the crowd at Catch A Rising Star loved ’em. Kevin was actually out of his music collection; it was John who still had some left. He never, ever tried to sell me any, though he knew I would be tempted to buy some. John’s album was Here Come The Warm Jets and Kevin’s was the first Leaving Trains album. We held mutual memories of Leaving Trains shows like shared religious experiences.

 

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“It is failure that guides evolution, perfection offers no incentive for improvement.”

      —Kim Cascone quoting Colson Whitehead in “The Aesthetics of Failure: ‘Post-Digital’ Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music.”

 

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No one ever tried to sell me music on the desk. DVDs, clothes, drugs of course, blow jobs. But never LPs or CDs or tapes. But on holidays, if the tenants wanted to give me a present, it was often compact discs from the bins of people moving. Harvey gave me a Garbage album, chuckling to himself that he gave me a Garbage record from the garbage. “You look like you’re into this trash!” he’d say. He loved jokes like that. Silver-haired and beard and lean and handsome, the kind of man women are immediately attracted to till they notice he’s wearing a novelty trucker hat with fake bird poop on it. Harvey could have had his pick, if he hadn’t spent most of his life dealing in trash. He never told his story, but every holiday he’d give me discarded mix tapes, Top-40 cassingles, dance compilations people who had to hastily move out of the buildings nearby tossed before the sheriff came or a landlord realized some damage. I am very proud of Harvey. He became full-time janitor at the Wintonia. He went from helper to doing most rounds of emptying out the trash rooms on each of the six floors. He was completely trustable, if utterly horny and salty. What music did Harvey listen to himself? He never told me. When I compiled the lists and published them in a newsletter for the building he didn’t have a single album to name. Not even a concert or a band he followed on tour like Paul, who looked like a chiseled blonde punk in a black leather jacket and blue jeans, but said he followed the Grateful Dead till he charged for acid at one of their shows, and then karma crushed him. His own scrap had been soaked, way past dosage. He awoke in the desert, hitch-hiking again, but not to the next show. A long black car picked him up and started driving him South. He said that he knew it was the devil. The radio played something in dead air, a smear of sound he never wanted to hear again. Then he awoke in a hotel with his girlfriend on Highway 99, fighting. He hit her and then awoke in a mental hospital. He met a girl there too and she was a Grateful Dead fan. They mutually decided to kill themselves with some anti-freeze they found discarded nearby in the backyard of the facility, mixing it with lemonade. His next awakening was being stomped by the workers at the hospital, beating on him to tell them what he drank, or they were going to pump his stomach. Then he moved into the Wintonia with his new girlfriend, but didn’t tell me if the last one had died. I never asked what his desert island disc was. I assumed it was a Dead bootleg.

There is the mainstream, with huge conventions, which people help each other to get to and give a sweet sense of unity to the whole thing, even if someone doesn’t always follow the rules. Love is on a spectrum in all of this, but the cheerleading is glorious. And those small cells, the little special meetings, which are cool but also not a little snobby and occasionally a little dangerous to the art form.

Most people from the outside can talk about these things, an album or a recording, following a band on tour. Obviously, because most come from a world in a time when these were common things to share among us. Many of the tenants of the three low-income buildings would switch previous music-worship out for the AA or another 12-step subculture, which when you thought about it had a lot in common with any music scene. Listening was strongly encouraged. Shit-talking happened frequently. Backsliding is selling out. There is the mainstream, with huge conventions, which people help each other to get to and give a sweet sense of unity to the whole thing, even if someone doesn’t always follow the rules. Love is on a spectrum in all of this, but the cheerleading is glorious. And those small cells, the little special meetings, which are cool but also not a little snobby and occasionally a little dangerous to the art form. I occasionally worked the door at music shows on the weekends and had to bounce intoxicated young fraternity men, the future businessmen of Seattle, and the young women who accompanied them. I rarely ever had to bounce a fan or a bum or a fan-bum; they could be irritating by wanting to talk to me all night, but that was the worst of it. Those with a sense of entitlement were the crassest owners of space to ever walk into an all-ages show or a club gig; you are someone to mock as they move through their home movie. They simply don’t believe you are throwing them out, they laugh when you say they can’t be there. They can be anywhere. They own the place. The Rooms, the sacred space of surrender where meetings happen, have their own Kings and Queens as well. Bouncing someone for acting up at a rock show usually felt like revenge against the bourgeois; throwing someone out of an AA or NA meeting for getting violent or possessive felt like a betrayal of the cause, a sad, necessary evil at odds with the mission of recovery. It was like getting someone evicted from their own soul.

 

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I left the Wintonia to work at Tooth & Nail Records, as editor of their fanzine Fuelmagazine. I got the job from writing for The Rocket. It was a dream day job, if most of the music was awful. I worked up to being executive assistant at the label for four years. I learned how to run a label, from A&R to PR to bios to production liaison to mastering. Soon though EMI purchased the company, and I was part of the purge in the Bush economy (the second Bush economy to purge me!). I ended up for full-time work back at the Frye Apartments on Yesler, the night a week graveyard man. At the same time, during the shift, I edited a rock magazine called BANDOPPLER, and in part our focus on hip-hop and niche genres impressed Light In The Attic Records, where I was hired as a publicist and brought in hours of street sound conversations to help them promote lost, “homeless” music. My apartment is full of that music, and I hope to keep making rent to store it all there.