Let me begin by saying that I am not a stalker. I do have a habit of obsessing over my heroes when there’s an off-chance I could meet them at the least and become best friends in my own delusional world at the most. Then, I realize I’m about to overstep and back off, because they are just working schmucks like the rest of us. Now, by overstepping, I would never do anything weird. I might just be a hanger-on or an awkward third wheel or whatever. But I’ll explain that all below.
So, as you know, we moved to Western Massachusetts. We live in Amherst (where J Mascis lives), next to Hadley (where there are farms, big box stores, and Frank Black), and across the river from Northampton (once the home of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore in a grand, old house on a hill). It’s liberal heaven and beautiful. There are five fairly progressive campuses on top of each other and two of them are all-women colleges (which are either cooler or lamer than your school, the former in this case) surrounded by wilderness, rolling farm land, and mountains.
As I hinted above, some of my heroes live or have lived in the area. Kim Gordon is one in particular. I’m reading her excellent memoir Girl in a Band. So, I was sure Kim and I would hit it off or she would find my daughter reminds her of her daughter or my son would charm her the way he charms everyone or my incredibly talented wife would make quick friends with her as they discuss feminism over wine or… You get the picture.
It was nothing creepy. I, like any Sonic Youth fan, went through a Kim Gordon phase (similar to phases involving Kathleen Hanna, Kim Deal, etc.), but that was a youthful crush. I have friends Kim’s age with similar sensibilities. I didn’t want to have steal a piece of her soul or spy on her or her child. I’m just a fan who wanted on the inside, but I didn’t want to harm my hero in any way.
That said, I learned Kim Gordon was having a garage sale. How could I not go to Kim Gordon’s garage sale? Would I score some cool piece of art or a X-Girl t-shirt or some piece of Sonic Youth memorabilia? Something. And I would hand my cash to Kim and we’d strike up a conversation and she would ask that I bring the kids by sometime and maybe her daughter could babysit… I have an active imagination, but it hardly resembles reality.
Using my expert Googling skills, I confirmed that the address on the flier a friend sent me a pic of was indeed Kim Gordon’s residence. Not wanting to overwhelm her street with parked cars, I parked on a main strip and walked the last couple of blocks. At the corner of her street was another sign with that distinctive flier. Running down the hill was what looked to be the type of aging hipster who would be good friends with someone like Kim Gordon. You know the type. These dudes can pull off longish gray hair, a pair of Ray-Bans, Chuck Taylor’s well into the nursing home. He was fixing the sign. So, I hurried in case he was closing up the garage sale.
The house was old and somewhat stately. The landscaping was the typically overgrown New England jungle that somehow looked purposeful despite all the weeds. There were older foreign cars strewn along and in the driveway along the side of the house leading to the garage sale in the back.
I passed a for sale sign (same realty company we worked with) with more fliers covering one side and the other revealing an “Under Contract” add-on. This is when it struck me that this was more than an attempt at cleaning out some closets. Kim’s and Thurston Moore’s divorce had been known or in process for quite a while now. I guess I didn’t expect that she would leave Northampton. Rumor on the street is that Thurston lives in an apartment in Northampton with some rocker dude, but he’s rarely around as he’s been touring pretty steadily with his solo project. This was a divorce-caused-moving sale which is the saddest kind of garage sale. At that point, the sun felt a little more oppressive and the house began to sag a bit, but I was not to be deterred.
On my way toward the back, I could see some shelves, lamps, boxes of assorted stuff, and a couple of loaded bookshelves. A hipster couple walked in just ahead of me and an older couple was walking out with a newly purchased lamp. A few other people were perusing the piles as what sounded like a French woman oversaw the proceedings. And more aging hipster friends managed the merch.
The aforementioned hipster couple looked straight out of Singles. I guess grunge is back in style. They were raiding the racks of clothes. The woman was forcing a leather jacket around her torso, convincing her boyfriend that it fit. No doubt she was thinking it was Kim’s leather jacket, but the size made me think it was potentially Kim’s daughter’s, something she had grown out of years ago.
The lamp-carrying older couple looked a little less crazed grunge fan as they walked out with the retro metal lamp. We had a lamp like that once and I’m 99% it was also purchased in a garage sale. On their way out, the man turned to the screen door from where some loud music was coming on the side of the house and hollered “Goodbye, Kim” or some farewell message.
Kim Gordon was not actively supervising her own garage sale directly. However, I suspected that she might have been watching from her kitchen between packing boxes. Instead, a couple of dudes who were either in bands, owned record stores, or both managed some of the merchandise and took money from customers. The French woman wore a long, flowery dress and oversized sunglasses, encouraging people to look around and try things out.
This is when I started to shop. The racks were mainly filled with women’s clothing. I am terrible at shopping for women’s clothes, so I moved on. There were some nice shelves another couple was studying, but we just moved in and I didn’t know where we would put such shelves. Some card tables and boxes at typical garage sale junk. There was a box of framed art, but nothing hip of fancy. I grabbed a bicycle pump with a gauge. (However, in my haste, the pump was missing a nozzle necessary to actually pump up a bicycle tire.)
After browsing the bookshelves, I sauntered into the garage – one of those old, wooden, barn-like garages which probably got little to no use except to store some junk. The junk was there, but so were some Sonic Youth stacks or at least that’s what the masking tape labels claimed. Fifty bucks but you had to take the pair. I deliberated over this for a bit. I have a guitar with a pickup, but this seemed a silly thought as it’s an acoustic and I barely play. I then considered if the stacks would work for stereo speakers. Again, that’s ridiculous. Besides, we just moved into a smaller house and it was largely unpacked. I passed.
I clutched my bike pump and grabbed a bunch of kids books for my daughter. Kim’s daughter Coco was either an avid reader or she just had a lot of books. And they had all the right books from the last 15-20 years of children’s lit. I wanted some science books for my upcoming gig as a 4th grade math and science teacher, but it was mostly literature.
As I wrapped up my shopping, I still hadn’t found anything personal that screamed “SONIC YOUTH” or “this was Kim Gordon’s personal whatever.” Then I found a blank book or journal in the stacks. The cover was an Andy Warhol piece, one of those blank books you buy at Barnes & Nobles to use as a diary of journal. I opened it to see if it was still blank. However, inside the front cover was a collection postcards, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs, etc. On the first page it read “Remember that Katie gave this to me.” I continued to flip through the pages. There were some crude drawings and comics, but most of it was blank.
There was a rush of blood to my head at this point. I had stumbled onto a tiny piece of Coco Gordon Moore’s childhood, but even worse, it was her private journal. Sure, it was unfinished and forgotten, but this was more than I bargained for. I am not a stalker. I do not need to be inside Kim Gordon’s or her daughter’s life. Despite selling her things on her driveway, she and her family didn’t deserve my snooping even if it was accidental.
I quickly shoved the book back into the shelf and went to pay for my items.
One of the aging hipsters came up with a price and I agreed to pay. (I don’t haggle.) The stack of books were a little unwieldy, so they offered me a tote bag from a bin of assorted tote bags. The French lady (not totally sure she was French, but it makes for a better story) grabbed me this “jazz in Paris” tote and I was on my way.
As I walked back to my car, I thought about Kim Gordan’s junk. I only use the word “junk” because that’s what everyone sells in a garage sale. There was an expectation of cool items that would connect to Kim’s celebrity, but that was unrealistic. Kim Gordon has junk in her garage sale like the rest of us.
And that’s when it hit me. The thing I like about the musicians I like is that they are all working stiffs like the rest of us. Sure, there are exceptions. There indie bands who have become insanely rich or down-to-earth megastars, but most indie rockers are often only a few months separated from a 9-5.
I’ve come to this conclusion on many occasions despite my near-worship of bands on indie labels playing the same shitty clubs my friends play. I remember chatting with a friend who was talking about his chance encounter with Tori Amos and how magical that moment was. As he searched for the words to describe his experience, he finally just turned to me and said, “You know how you feel when you meet one of your people.”
I didn’t know how he felt. My “people” are like me. They have to work really hard for a living – on the road or in a steady job to make ends meet. They have families. They have student loans. They have car payments. And they sell junk in their garage sales.
Yeah, there is the celebrity and often there’s a bunch of money they have from doing some rock festivals overseas or having one hit song. I looked for some clues online as to where J Mascis lives. I assumed he lived in a neighborhood like mine or closer to downtown, but it turns out his mansion with recording studio burnt down a few years ago. He doesn’t live in my neighborhood, needless to say. Kim Gordon’s house was listed as selling for 1.5 million dollars online. I don’t know how accurate that is, but she doesn’t live in my neighborhood either.
Still, there are all these moments where one rock hero or another demonstrated some bit of humanity that’s made me check my hero worship. There was that time when the guys from Archers of Loaf reminisced a raucous show they cut short because the crowd was too rowdy, stating that “they needed to be beat down with yard sticks or something.” There was that time Bob Pollard drunkenly talked my brother’s ear off about the importance of the teaching profession. There was just the other day when I was listening to the last Walkmen record and on the back cover was a portrait of the band members and their children. There are so many other moments, but the point remains that no matter the fame (or perceived fame), they’re all a bunch of working stiffs like you and me.
Kim Gordon sold her house and a load of her junk because she’s leaving the Pioneer Valley. She has to do all of this because her husband had a midlife crisis and hooked up with a much younger woman. They divorced and suddenly look as vulnerable as the rest of us. She played her last show in town and packed her car. Most of this move is documented on Instagram, much like the way I recorded my own move.
There’s some saying about how we all eat, shit, and fuck like everyone else or something to that effect. We have to remember this about our heroes now and again. I am the worst about getting wrapped up in celebrity. Luckily, people’s humanity shines through and I’m reminded they are people who are no better than I am. Conversely, I am no better than they are and I don’t deserve a piece of them, even if I pay for their junk at a garage sale.
Additional note about the book: Kim Gordon has a straightforward writing style that shows her story to be an interesting in worthy read. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we should have been hearing more from her over the years than her ex Thurston Moore. Gordon is sharp, politically aware, open-minded, and in-touch with reality. This memoir – although I’m not done reading it – is right up there with the Patti Smith book, Just Kids. You don’t have to be a fan of Sonic Youth to enjoy this book, but you should be a lover of the arts and a leftist.
It seems my role in the world is shaping in front of me. Aside from father, husband, instructional designer, etc., I’m beginning to see myself as a curator of sorts. This blog is ground zero, but I have and will venture out from time to time to curate craft beer and indie rock cultures.
I bring this up because my gentleman dabblerhood has me prepping for more DJ gigs. No. I am not that kind of DJ (nor this). The kind of DJ I am is the kind that plays his own records between bands at a Hairhole benefit and once again for Monday Vinyl at Uprise (September 24th). In this capacity, I’m not really creating anything. I simply present what I think is good and worth preserving.
How can this translate with my craft beer enthusiasm?
Well, it has with my involvement in the Columbia Beer Enthusiasts. I helped create and manage their online presence while doing my part to create events that promote craft beer to all of Middle Missouri. I’ve even been asked to host some beer/ice cream/record pairing events, but that’s still top-secret. I’ll let you know when this materializes.
All of this curating comes together in written form on the blog you’re reading right now. Hopefully, it will eventually materialize on actual paper, but that’s a work in progress. I may have to back off and curate some other writers to accomplish this goal…
Anyways, the point is that if we can’t create, we should curate. Consuming thoughtfully is good, but it barely contributes to the cause. Curating promotes a culture to the masses, encouraging others to join in or at least appreciate said culture. Maybe I should just change the blog’s name to Curating Beer and Pavement…
Or not. Thanks for reading once again and participating in the conversation.
From time to time, I’ve floated around some book ideas. I have at least three novels, five children’s books, and a memoir or three in my head. I don’t know much about the publishing industry, but I doubt this will make me very much money or fame. So, the planning process for Building International Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement the book begin here. This is ground zero.
Before I begin writing this book (and subsequently avoiding applying for that PhD in information sciences and learning technologies), I need to figure out some topics to discuss. Below are few things I’m floating around. Think of each as a chapter…
- Preface (or why?)
- Mirrored Histories (of indie rock and craft beer, of course)
- My Story
- What is indie-craft?
- DIY-Power to the People
- Macros and Majors
- A Sustainable Business Model
- Why does any of this matter?
Basically, this is where you all come in. I need ideas for topics. More than likely, I’ll come up with a few more, but I really value the input from the few of who still read this blog.
Eventually, I hope to draft and workshop these topics here on the blog. I’ve done some of that already, but I want to be more purposeful in my writing and begin to shape up some sort of manuscript I can shop around. Your input will be invaluable in this process. I mean, this is still a coalition after all.
Now, it’s your turn. Tell me what to do in the comments. Another post will happen tomorrow.