Monthly Archives: October 2012

Further Up The Coast

“I must have got lost… I must have got lost…”

If you had told me when I started this blog three years ago that I was going to be writing about Peter Wolf of the J Geils Band, actually writing about him in a semi-serious fashion and not comically or sarcastically, I would have said you were crazy.

Yes, I held my phone up for a snap, but not for long!

But there I was, Saturday night in Santa Barbara with my good friend and  concert pal Kristin, bouncing on my toes, holding my iPhone in my hand (clichéd I know!), watching Wolf and his band work through the last songs of their show. And, you know what? I enjoyed it.

For several reasons:

1. We arrived late, after several strong drinks at the hotel down the street and well after anyone was checking tickets, so we skipped the $25 cover charge. Always nice.

2. We missed “Centerfold” and “Love Stinks” – whew. Though I wouldn’t have minded hearing “Freeze Frame” with its upright ‘80s bounce, hand claps and synth-bop.

3. I’m pretty sure we were the youngest people there. Not counting the second wives and girlfriends of the 60-something, casually wealthy guys. A certain California-specific species that probably made their money in Cupertino or with a shed load of B movies marketed to non-native English speakers. These guys like water sports, the occasional toke and Tommy Bahama shirts. You know, the gospel according to Jimmy Buffet.

But I digress.

In a live setting, decades after his ‘80s hits, Wolf’s blues roots could take center stage. Most people – myself included – associate him with “Centrefold” and that silly schoolroom video. But he’s recorded and performed with The Stones, The Boss and The Queen of Soul to name a few. The J Geils Band is long behind him – on his last solo album, he recorded with country legend Merle Haggard and two of my favorite alt-country voices: Neko Case and Shelby Lynne.

His band – with their ponytails and grey-brown beards – was about the same age as the audience, and you could tell they were there for the music, not for some Rhino-retro paycheck. The venue was small, after all, so how much could they really earn on the night? This was a well-rehearsed barroom band, channeling the classic sounds of The Meters and The Rascals and just enjoying good old rock-n-roll. People wandered in and out, some sat outside on the patio while the waitresses went back and forth with cold drinks. Wolf told stories between songs, in this scattershot reminder of his early career as a disc jockey. It was relaxed. It was refreshing. It was something I don’t get to experience much in Hong Kong.

The best part was being able to hang out with Kristin. Trying to squash over a decade’s worth of conversation in to a visit of just a couple of days. Talking, talking, talking. Laughing over a shot of Goldschlager. Taking pictures of her pugs. We did our best.

In case you forgot, Wolf was married to the ever fabulous Faye Dunaway. Very “Three Days of the Condor”, don’t you think?

And now I’m looking at Peter Wolf in a different light. I listened to his duet with Neko Case and it is really, really lovely. And I wonder how it feels to be most famous for your worst song? That while millions buy a couple of your hits on iTunes, only a few hundred in a bar in Santa Barbara can hear what you’re really like.

It was good to be there.


Dateline: LA

“California, California, you’re such a wonder that I think I’ll stay in bed…”


I’ve come to believe I’m inspired by my imagined Los Angeles, not the real thing. My memories are stronger and more stimulating than sitting in block after block of stoplights on Santa Monica Boulevard. As the relentless sun browns my forearms, I curse the traffic, the strip malls, the lack of parking, the banal movement of people and cars.

I lived here for three years and now I’m back for a week. And I wonder how I enjoyed the energy when it’s so fricking hard to get from A to B!

My stats thus far: four missed exits due to 405 construction, at least a half dozen U-turns (some illegal) and one $50 parking ticket. And that was in the first two days!

Have I flown here on an idea? A wishful scenario? The streets may not be paved with gold, an agent and a three-picture deal, but can they at least offer me an available parking spot?

I can only hope. I decide to head toward the sea. I get past Lincoln, down to Ocean, I get out of the car and I walk to the beach, to the never-ending lullaby of waves breaking. The sun is setting, the breeze is strong and the seagulls are so much bigger than I remembered. Now I know why I’m here. It sounds silly but I feel like the Pacific tells me so. I go to LACMA and drink in the light and the art and the tall palm trees silhouetted against the bluest sky. They escape my description, so I take a picture instead. I meet up with film school friends and we drink and talk shop: editing, writing, movies. I gossip with my cousin about celebrities, and I watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High at 10 o’clock in the morning, just because I can.

My job is to write, so I try to experience the city with ears and eyes wide open.

I walk the streets of West Hollywood and I realize there are a lot of weird old people here: tube-top-and-pink-cowboy-boot-wearing senior citizens pushing poodles in strollers.

I hear a lot of Goo Goo Dolls, Soundgarden and Jewel and I think this city is stuck in the ‘90s.

I sit at an outdoor café and I smile at the conversation going on behind me. A customer, who keeps calling our waitress ‘Hon’ and ‘Honey’, is giving her some advice:

“The biggest thing you have going for you is you’re not from here,” he says. “You’ll go far in this town. We have a governor who talks like you.”

The waitress is young and slim and she comes from a country where ‘J’s are pronounced like ‘Y’s. I don’t know if she responded favorably to being compared to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is in fact no longer California’s governor and who hasn’t had a hit movie since, well, the ‘90s. But she smiled and said thank you as the man paid his bill.

Did she imagine this LA?

Rodin and billboard