A 1968 Gibson ES-335
I stopped keeping a journal years ago. These albums (6 now!) have become a substitute: a place to log snapshots, stories, and observations I’ve made along the way.
The 5 years since my last record, 6 Spoons of Honey, have been a wild ride. The journal entry would start with a long slow-mo fall down a steep staircase that left me with a broken transverse process and a severely herniated L5-S1, unable to hold up my then infant son.
In the hazy Oxy aftermath, I bought a sweat-burnished cherry-red 1968 Gibson ES-335. It was the classic reckless bout of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) that always accompanies feelings of self-pity. The only reason I could afford such a pedigreed guitar was its cracked headstock joint. But the repair was perfect, a beautiful, clean incision. No longer a collector’s item, it’s what’s known as a player’s guitar. Any guitarist will know what I mean.
That guitar and I bonded over our shared age (I too was built in ‘68) and our broken spines. Looking back, I guess we kind of gave each other our purposes back. All of the non-acoustic songs were written on that ES-335, and it is all over the whole record.
“The scar on my back was a note she wrote—still have to make plans”
I grew up next to Live Oak Creek in Berkeley and used to explore it after school. My pals and I even had an Adventurers Club, admission to which was earned through a solo trek underground in the tunnel beneath the city block. I can always flash back to the reverb-y black, the cold slimy walls, the rumble of old volvos, VWs, and mopars on the street above.
In my 20s, I trained in ecology and spent a few years between the U.S. and the Brazilian Amazon, where I explored a much bigger river. But the truth is, it will always remain a total mystery to me. The Amazon—its lore, its traditions—is not part of my memory.
I found my home over the last two decades, and settled back into my old neighborhood. Now my son (and my daughter before him) and I play in that same Berkeley creek after I pick him up from the same elementary school I went to (Oxford men, both of us). The story of me crashing my bike down a gully into the creek, emerging bloody and wailing, is part of his mythology of the place. We are slowly building traditions and memories here.
A Perfect Waste of Time is a 5-year journal entry for a long trip home. It’s about reconciling the desire to travel widely with the thrill of knowing a place well, no matter how provincial it may sometimes feel. The mysteries are still there, dark tunnels under the street. I’m reveling in the exoticism of the familiar. I hope you can hear that in this record.
“We travel so far, we fly by plane. But we never leave ourselves behind in the end.”