i cant pay attention to anything for very long

how do you do it?

my mind is clicking, zipping, changing channels.

do you know how many ideas i have?

when i was in college i was in a poetry class. the nice teacher had a rule: you had to meet with her 2x after class throughout the semester.

the first time i went in there i said, i love your class. she said youre a very good writer. i said thank you! she said but you’re barely getting a B minus. i said, thats actually higher than i usually get in school.

she asked, well hopefully your final will improve your grade. is there anything you wanna talk about?

i said, yes, i have just written a 15 page poem about a girl i made out with over summer vacation. and i would like you to help me with the structure because it changes tempos and styles on every page like a crazy person.

and i gave her a rough draft of The Stamp which, among other things, tries to explain why time flies when youre having fun.

she sat there and read it and laughed and took a red pen to some of the first few pages, but then put it down on page 3 and just read.

when she was done she said, tony i want to ask you something. you halfway through your junior year. there is an exclusive college that i normally teach in where there are no grades, no tests, no finals.

you could write as many 15 page poems you want and not have to worry about B minuses or C plusses.

but it will take you a quarter or two for the approval process to allow you in.

would you be interested in staying at ucsb for two more years with no grades, or would you like to spend the next year and half with grades?

i said, before i answer that, i have a question for you. you say this is the college of creative studies.

i have always wondered about creativity, i said.

she perked up.

i asked, does it go away as you get older? most of my favorite musicians seem to lose their magic after their first few albums.

she said, it never goes away if you practice.

i said

and she said, not tom waits not elvis costello not bob dylan not coletrane or miles not bach

and i would wager, tony pierce will be writing epic love poems until he dies.

that teacher still follows me on facebook and that may be the greatest gift of all.

today is my favorite teacher, robyn bell’s birthday

i have been blessed with many great teachers, but my favorite one was my last official one.

a fan of bob dylan, lou reed, the clash, and less popular stars like emily dickinson and others, robyn had the unique ability to make you feel like you were actually teaching her something every now and then

the college of creative studies was an oasis for many young people like me who struggled in traditional classrooms with bizarre structures and concepts like “grades”

at UCSB’s secret college, creatives were encouraged to allow their minds to roam free and promised that they would not be punished if they colored outside the box.

and yet, guidance was administered. in robyn’s case with the most gentle of nudges.

one young man whose name escapes me was raised in the midwest, which despite its charms, was narrow-minded when it came to matters of “alternative” sexuality. and so in a poem or a story this lad had a character rip into a series of gay epithets,

instead of saying “i get it that you’re 21 but do you not know the first thing about some of your heroes and the names they were called? why would you lower yourself to such base and predictable dialogue from the mouths of your characters? and, indeed, why must you insist on being a basic bitch?”

robyn instead wrote in a little note next to the quotes, “you can do better tony”

and that young man never wrote such things ever again.

while many of my heroes are controversial and divisive and burned bridges here and there, somehow robyn was loved by every single person she came in contact with. which isn’t to say there was not conflict in her classroom. i remember more than one student who felt uncomfortable in a class of hers and acted out, causing quite the scene.

and it was shocking watching her handle the students. her smile became stern. her voice lowered. and lasers shot out of her eyes, hypnotising the young demons right there in their chairs.

i saw one youngster levitate and then fall when he raised his voice to the professor.

he asked to be excused and scurried down the hall past the free pizza and disappear into the sky.

but mostly i watched how in just a matter of weeks students who were incredibly distracted by all types of things at the beach side party school, read the books she assigned, hand in the papers, and grow as writers.

the things i learned from her i use every day in almost everything i write. and when i teach i do my best to steal everything i can remember.

today is her birthday and we are all so lucky to have received the blessing of her presence. the next statue they tear down they should replace with one for Robyn.

as The New England Mystic once said,

spark one up for the woman who gave your life zing. you owe her almost everything.

 

on april 23, 1992 soundgarden played Rob Gym at UCSB

tickets were $5.

even though i had graduated already, i had stuck around isla vista because i was in love with jeanine and we were living together as she finished her senior year.

soundgardens badmotorfinger was in heavy rotation in my sony 100 cd changer and i still remember hearing it blasted as i played NHLPA on my sega genesis.

not only were they heavy but they were melodic and cornell’s vocals soared.

he was capable of doing things with his voice that even kurdt couldnt do. in fact of all the grunge stars, he was the rock star.

sure weiland was freakier and flashier and glammier, but chris had the long hair and tore off his shirt and strapped on the guitar and literally thrashed around the stage at the small gym

and i laughed as the fold up chairs that were zip tied together were tossed aside two songs into the show. poor Associated Students tried to make the Soundgarden show a seated show but the kids weren’t having that. and neither was the band. it was glorious.

pretty sure i saw them again at Lollapalooza but that was a giant show. Rob Gym is maybe 300 seats. crumpled and discarded. it was a rock show in a loud old gym. and Cornell was perfect the entire time.

i cannot believe he is dead. what a perfect voice. what great style. what love of music. he did a tour where all he did was covers. thats love. he will always be loved.

there should be a plaque at Rob Gym that says

Soundgarden Rocked Here

my hippy friends at UCSB

hippie friends at ucsb

way back when i was in college we didn’t take a lot of pictures. back then you had to use film and get it developed and it all cost money. it was insane.

so of my whole four years at UCSB i think there are only like 9 pictures of me total.

i had two sets of friends at school, both of whom i still am very close with: my Daily Nexus friends and my hippy friends.

one Christmas the ladies of the latter group decided that we should all dress up and have a “formal” dinner before we all flew home for Christmas break. not everyone had the latest in high fashion, in fact looking at this it might appear that some of us robbed the local Goodwill, but we tried, because why not.

we were all “poor” but we always had food to eat, beer to drink, and fun to have and best of all we all shared.

often i say im the luckiest man alive and i seriously cannot even imagine how different my life would be now if i wasn’t placed in the San Nicolas dorm and instantly clicked with all of these super sweet, very fun people.

interview with Drew Martin

drew in front of a painting he created

Of the Murderers Row at the Daily Nexus in the late ’80s, early ’90s, our secret weapon was the Art Desk.

Led by your boy Todd Francis, no fewer than a dozen artists could be seen in the award winning college newspaper’s pages during any given week. Any one of them would have been stars on their own on any other paper, but at the Nexus they were just another great reason to smile.

color blind boyDrew Martin was tall, quiet, sensitive, insightful, with a spirituality of an Indian shaman mixed with the cool disposition of a 747 pilot.

While his peers donned thrift store chic and mismatched socks, Drew was impeccably dapper: fitted ironed shirts and all around GQ style.

He was clearly a cop. But his cartoons were out of this world.

The one I remember most was a series about a tall skinny young man who had many questions for the universe.

Obviously autobiographical, but not at all narcissistic, in one episode the hero strips down nude and climbs the Career Resource Building on campus at night and stares into the stars and eventually falls asleep, fragile, innocent, and open to answers.

I believe some watercolors were involved, lots of lines, and some backwards lettering. Not at all the type of juvenile frat boy nonsense you’d see in college papers around the country, this was deep, inspiring heavy shit.

And like I said before, it was just one of the long line of illustrative genius within the pages that many took for granted from the Nexus because it came at you every damn day. Each day beefier than the next. Each page more fascinating. Each week a cacophony of creativity.

Because Drew was sent from another planet to keep an eye on our friends, he accepted Matt Welch and Ben Sullivan’s invitation to join English language newspaper in Prague they’d started after we were all done at UCSB, Prognosis. Beers were fifty cents and rent was $50 and instead of being another forgotten intern at a dumb dusty daily, these revolutionaries got to continue to blaze new journalistic paths on their own terms with the spirit of the world’s greatest college rag as their compass.

While many of the staff dressed and looked like this:

layne and whalen

Drew looked like this:

drew martin in prague
photos by Karen Broome

I only remember working personally with Drew one time at the Daily Nexus. (A nod to the saying about Woodstock: if you remember it, you weren’t there)

I was putting together Friday Magazine which had always been a comedy publication but because I didn’t think I could pull off 8 pages of yucks, I turned it into a druggie thing called Fryday Magazine in hopes of quickly being relieved of my duties. What i really wanted was to run the Arts section.

So the plan was to fill every page with different ways to do drugs on campus and in neighboring Isla Vista. And who better to exploit than our huge stable of artists. Instead of page numbers I had the talented Moish draw a variety of mushrooms. So on page two there would be two mushrooms, page three would have three… On the cover was a drawing of a student reading the issue they were holding in their hand while his mind was exploding with all sorts of psychedelia and clip art. Inside there was a map with tips on where to do what and where not to do the other.

Of course I wanted Drew to contribute and I’m not sure if he did or not but I do remember one moment of clarity. After I explained the theme, Drew said a friend of his was going to try LSD for the first time and he asked if I had any advice. That question inspired me to ask a different artist to create some art that we would put in squares on the paper and deem “do it yourself blotter: just add acid” so the readers could literally get high off their school’s newspaper.

I looked Drew right in the eye and very slowly said, “before you takes any hallucinogens, clean yr  room.”

Yesterday, a million years after we ruled the world beneath Storke Tower, Drew asked for and received an interview with me and I was very honored to participate. You can read it here on his long running blog The Museum of Peripheral Art.

ive often said i dont like being on panel discussions

and tonight i was faced with why

even though i have a website with my name in it, and even though i fake it reasonably well, (not so) deep down i am ridiculously shy

and i know myself well enough to realize that if i have my mouth open the odds significantly increase that i will say something embarrassing to either myself or my employer.

but people invite me to these things, and i battle the fear of being boring with the fear of making a fool outta myself and a lil demon whispers in my ear something along these lines:

you are tony pierce OF COURSE you are going to say something stupid, so just dont Also be boring. and ps you cant hide who you are.

those voices make their way to my stomach. which is the magic 8 ball of my soul. so for lunch i ate a sensible salad. and when i left a little early to change clothes at home i went to Vons and got a nice spicy tuna roll

because what could be better for a soon-to-be-upset stomach than supermarket sushi?

but relaxed at home for a few minutes. snacked. ished, showerd, and shaved. got into some traffic. made it to the santa monica with 4 minutes to spare.

and when the time came for we, the panel to be introduced, thank God, the host of the show took the floor (pictured above) for 10 minutes because suddenly it got really hot in the room and i ran to the mens room to powder my nose cuz i was fixin to die.

got back just in time as the panel had introduced themselves, it was my turn and we were off.

all went (seemingly) well – other than the sustained hiss i got from one member of the audience after i told the crowd of attractive young women that if they all dont have a photo of themselves as their Twitter icon then they’re missing a great opportunity if attaining followers was one of their goals.

i even got a few laughs.

but right at the end someone asked what my favorite blogs were. and i said, well it might seem like pandering but i have often said my faves have almost exclusively been women and most of them happened to reside in Canada.

i explained that two in particular was one raymi the minx and one keira-anne. and, because time is of the essence, especially near the end of a two-hour discussion, i described one as “sweet” and the other as “saucy”.

somehow all i was projecting was that i liked them because they were both easy on the eyes.

and i got called out.

a followup question came from the back along the lines of “other than being hot what ELSE do you enjoy from these female bloggers?”

and your hero thought, this is exactly why your stomach did not want to be here. this is precisely why i should just stay in my pajamas and hide behind the glow of the macbook. this is specifically why i attempt to remain comfortably numb in public – because when i drop my guard the unedjumacated politically-incorrect sexist pig leaks out and everyone can see.

but luckily i was able to explain that yes people like raymi and keira and so many others may lure you in with their beautiful photos but once you get beyond the image and get to the actual content you get to see not just who these fine women are but you learn a little about the cities and country that they live in. you get to learn about their struggles, insecurities, hopes, loves, dramas, families, and stories.

after the show the young lady who had put me on the spot was super sweet and apologized for what was probably seen as an awkward moment, but i told her not to sweat it, that it was honest and great because all we had been talking about was to be honest in our blogging and tweeting and there she was actually living it.

anyways if we hadnt been rudely interrupted by one of the only other dudes in the place i wanted to tell her that right now my favorite summer blog is also written by a young lady, but an AMERICAN

yes, Alecia’s asian vacation is the type of travel writing that can only be seen in blogs for its honest, not trying to be anything other than what it is, educational, funny, weird, filled with pictures, and so so many interesting tales.

more female bloggers i am inspired by and hope to one day be as good as (lets try to keep it to 10): leah, lindsay, erin, gage, zulieka, krista, danielle, katfran, xiaxue, and last but not least the so nsfw xtx

ok now im going to drink that beer i promised myself.

todays my buddy Chris’ birthday. hes 79

we met in the dorms of San Nic at UCSB way back in the day and we’ve both turned our lives over to the Lord and because of that our paths have been lined with beauty and joy.

we went to finals together last year thanks to the fact that Chris is a season ticket holder.

in fact, chris and i went to the first Laker game Ever at Staples, and we had schweet seats.

chris and jesus rob invented Thirsty Thursday back in Isla Vista and because of that we met many friends and randoms. fortunately we met young ladies as well. because when you have a keg and you brought a buck and yr own cup, how can you not make friends?

ah yes those were the days, but probably the most fun i had with Chris back then was skateboarding to class together, we are both college of creative studies grads, writing poetry all night, and then reading them the next day to the enjoyment of our class.

im sure anyone who saw us then would not think that chris would turn out to be a genius digital video forefather, whose work has been in every Tony Hawk skateboard game since the first one. and no one would ever think that id be an xbi chopper pilot.

despite his drinking, smoking, etc, my question is, how did chris get to keep his great hair?

happy birthday g