“Whammy Bar Diaries” Entry 005,
New Friends, New Culture

New Friends, New Culture

Keith and I were in his Buick Regal winding toward the coast and blaring Y&T. His JVC stereo was the loudest in Sonoma County. There were cows and goats grazing on both sides of the narrow road that reminded me of Tennessee, except the landscape was treeless, green and balding like an Ireland countryside. We dipped and crested for several miles until the horizon opened up to nothing but sky and ocean, high above sea level. The view was unexpected and breath taking. You got the feeling God was showing off. The coast was only 30 minutes from Rohnert Park. I’d been once but it was at night. We made our descent down the side of the bluff and headed up the coastal highway towards Salmon Creek State Park. Waves crashed against massive rock formations jutting from the coastline. Stuff I’d only seen in the movies.… READ MORE...

“Whammy Bar Diaries” Entry 004,
Barn Days, Hot Songs, and MTV

Barn Days, Hot Songs, and MTV

Before Jeff left for Tennessee, his and Uwe’s roommate stiffed them on rent, so the cool band house on the beach was history. He called his mom from the motel room shortly after we arrived and learned that she sold his car while he was in Tennessee. He was infuriated. Apparently, she didn’t think he would come back; especially with me in tow. We had planned to stay with her, but they got in an argument and she kicked us out before we even unpacked a toothbrush. I called my parents and told them I made it, and the people are nice.
Cotati and Rohnert Park were neighboring towns; you cross a line and you’re in one or the other. Cotati had a hippie vibe leftover from the 60’s whereas Rohnert Park seemed like a displaced middle class suburb of San Francisco, but with a 50-mile commute.… READ MORE...

“Whammy Bar Diaries”
Entry 003, Jeff Koji Giles

1980-‘82

Jeff Koji Giles

At the beginning of eleventh grade, my friend Barry told me there was a new kid in school and he was from somewhere in California, and that he played the guitar. I was at once excited and intimidated. Excited because The Golden state was where Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads lived and was where I wanted to be, and intimidated because the new kid must be good on guitar if he hailed from that same magical land of my heroes. (Having a world renowned inferiority complex didn’t help the intimidation factor either). Knowing I was bashful, Barry introduced us.
“This is Kevin; he plays guitar too.”
“Cool, I’m Jeff, we should jam sometime.”
“Okay, I said.”
My face turned red and I scurried down the hallway.
In no way did Jeff fit the California image.  I wondered which part of the state he was from and why was he in hillbilly land.… READ MORE...

“Whammy Bar Diaries”
Entry 002, 1976 Madisonville, TN

1976 – Madisonville, TN

Me and my buddies are downing sugar packets in a booth at Wilson’s drugstore. Afterwards we go outside and start punching each other in the arm. My friend Keith says, “I made you flinch.” He draws an X on my arm and hits it with his middle knuckle poking out. My muscle pops out for a split second where his knuckle landed. “Frog!” he says laughing. I play along, biding my time, waiting for them to head home, then I go back in to the magazine rack at the front of the store. I’m hoping no one else is at the rack. I prefer to read alone, if I read at all. The pictures are the best part. The magazine rack is my private space; my hideout; my imaginary friend. The big clock on the wall says 4:05, which doesn’t leave much time before I walk to my dad’s gas station where Mom picks me up at 4:30.… READ MORE...

“Whammy Bar Diaries”
Entry 001, August, 1987

I was heading east on the California Trail. The first transcontinental Railroad ran parallel just a few miles north of the highway. This was the route the emigrants traveled by wagon train during the gold rush. The sun melted in my rearview as I drove past the last service exits of Reno/Sparks and Fernley into the long desolate stretch of interstate 80. I should’ve fueled up back there, but I left Sonoma County without much forethought, unprepared for the vast and lonesome darkness of the high sierra. It seemed not much had changed since the frontier days. There were very few cars passing and it was a relief to see any sort of illumination. It brought to mind alien abduction and unsolved murders. The radio was static and the cassette player was broken so I hummed a tune I had been working on. At a quarter tank of gas panic began to set in.… READ MORE...

“Las Cruces Sunset”

Here’s a new song called “Las Cruces Sunset” which will be on my next record coming out (hopefully) in February. The song was intended to be about my bus ride to the west coast way back in 1982 in pursuit of the rock and roll dream. Instead, it took a mind of its own (which songs often do) into the social current and heartbreak territory of immigration. I do make a brief appearance in the song, but as it turns out, there were other dreamers on that bus.

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