Archive for the S.A. Griffin Category

Scott Wannberg an American Original

Posted in S.A. Griffin, Scott Wannberg with tags on October 27, 2020 by Scot

My Pal Scott

Most of us, if we are lucky, are talented. We work at our craft, sweat it out, hone it, knock out a few runs, get on base. Sometimes we even knock it out of the park. My pal Scott Wannberg was one of the very few gifted people I have ever met. In the game of cosmic baseball, he was the home run king and could place the ball anywhere he liked. And like the Sultan of Swat himself, he always made it look easy rounding the bases.
Born and raised in Santa Monica, CA, Scott entered the world with poems in his bones. A big man with a bigger heart, Scott held a Masters in creative writing from the University of San Francisco, yet spent his working life in bookstores, primarily at Dutton’s Books in Brentwood for 23 years, where, according Elaine Woo’s obit in the L.A. Times, “he molded the reading habits of a wide assortment of customers and petted every dog that crossed the threshold…”.

Scott was the source of the river leaving behind thousands of poems in his wake, yet I have no idea how much Scott actually created, nobody does. But what I can tell you is that he was the most alive person I have ever known. Like Van Gogh, obsessively creating with fantastic color, and bold, unique strokes, taking in whatever and whoever was around him channeling his ordinary experience of living into extraordinary poetic language. Notorious for spontaneously writing poems in the moment, and often for folks he’d just met, he’d lay it down with lightning speed scribbling words on napkins, cardboard, paper plates or whatever was handy. I would imagine he must’ve written literally hundreds of poems this way.

Photo by Jeffoto 1992Kid Mingo was a Carma Bum and a big man who stood about 6’ 3” and tipped the scales somewhere upwards of XXXL at his passing. He always rode shotgun and like a big shaggy dog hanging his head out the window, loved the road and the wind in his face. Together with the other guys, we were on and off the road for 20 years together, crisscrossing the U.S. and Canada in my 1959 Cadillac Sedan covering thousands of miles, gambling from the inside as process. Scott was process and lived it, believing that the ongoing dance we are experiencing was never about anything but the journey itself. When we talked about writing and poetry, he most often spoke of William Carlos Williams and his commitment to process in search of a true American idiom, a search that Scott shared with the good doctor of New Jersey. When I went thru all of Scott’s books after his passing, the most annotated books he kept were all authored by William Carlos Williams. They were also the only books he annotated. However, I did hear him say to poet MJ Taylor while being interviewed on blog talk radio that it was Charles Bukowski who really opened him up and showed him the way early on. It was Bukowski who helped him understand that anything and everything could be included within the worlds of the poetic. That common language is really uncommon if you just let the words remain alive inside the lines as you lay them down. This was how Scott brought all things to life and light, by allowing the experience of the words to breathe life into him and the poetry that sprang so freely from him as the river flows.

At home, he always had music on when he wrote, and beginning sometime in the 1990s, he began documenting whatever he was listening to as he wrote. According to the Big Ace, the music somehow triggered the images and words for him. Makes sense. As you read his work, you can recognize the narrative melody and percussive rhythms in his language. Scott loved to sing and would almost always open his readings by singing something a’ Capella, usually a tune by the great John Prine.

Scott was also a great letter writer, maintaining a lifelong correspondence with his San Francisco State professor, poet, mentor and friend Daniel Langton. In turn, Scott mentored many poets over the course of his life, most especially the younger set. He really received tremendous pleasure out of his connection with the younger poets that he met and had the unique ability to make everyone he encountered feel as if they were his best friend. I would suggest that Scott was not just my best friend, but the world’s best friend. He loved people, and they loved him.

A voracious reader, Scott loved dogs and cats, television, politics, potboilers, westerns, noirs, history and was a world class cinephile. His favorite film was The Wild Bunch, his favorite actors were Strother Martin and Whit Bissell. His favorite band, The Grateful Dead. His favorite scotch, Lagavulin. His favorite weed, whatever was burning in the bong. On his birthday his only request was that I make him mac ‘n cheese, the way I learned to make it as a young boy watching my Grandma Elsie put it together on her cast iron stove.

Scott’s parents had both passed and Dutton’s had closed. Unemployed, and facing a number of health issues, Scott could no longer afford to live in his native Los Angeles and so relocated to the small coastal town of Florence, Oregon on August 1, 2008 close to his uncle Ken, where Scott passed away on August 19, 2011. Like many greats, he went with his boots on, penning poems to the end, some of his very best.

An American original, Scott was the greatest, the stuff of myth and legend, his legacy and lasting impact on many, immeasurable. I will never meet his like again in this life, but do look forward to hanging with him in the next, where the milk is good. I was so damn lucky to walk with him, receive his transmissions, call him friend and brother, his gift to me. Here now are his words, his gift to you. Enjoy.

S.A. Griffin
Los Angeles, CA

A rewrite of my intro for All Your Misplaced Utopias by Scott Wannberg (Bottle of Smoke Press). Originally written October 20, 2011, reworked for Rusty Truck October 26, 2020.

____________

Riding That Old Cadillac Highway 
with Captain Griffin

we were so called poets
dancers of some strange rhythm
making ornery lovely noise in the vortex
did your parents ever regale you with their vortex myths?
we are definitely so called humans
plying the Cadillac highway trade
unleashing our ooga booga upon an unsuspecting public
under the stars of Taos in ‘89
 we all went shirtless
as the insurmountable Bobbo Staron led us
we tried not to cringe
we tried to lick the magic stamp and put it on the envelope of time and space
I was shotgun Mingo
 singing John Prine with the howling flora and fauna
no radio lived in the Caddy
our vocation was to make up our own play station
before iPods came marching down the super technical byway
we were on our own impressionistic continual random play
long before the 2 Jakes, 
a very inferior sequel to a great film
there were the 2 Mikes 
and the 1 Doug
 Bruner Mollett Knott
prospectors of verbal and visual gold
Bonzo sometimes rode in our hearts
and Sparky’s grandfather houndstooth 
flamenco
dancers exercised in our bone marrow
I am a wayfaring wordsmith road
heading in any direction you can handle
anarchy’s common-law intimate other
raiding midnight ice boxes of consciousness
we are so called art forms
splashing peculiar colors
across uneasy easels called the world
a Carma Bum might be a toothless reprobate
or a stunning virile used book written in magic
in between, a lot of tunes made their precarious way
onto the inner ear dancefloor of our time here
which will only end when the proverbial fat lady
loses the right to sing
did your parents ever regale you with their proverbial fat ladies
and their never ending biography?
I rode shotgun with Griffin
the new world lay at our feet
the rules of the road keep renaming themselves
the weather claims it can behave
I am an active verb
slumming with cantankerous adjectives
I am the old soft shoe
trying to remember which foot I supposedly call home
we are poets and tinkers and mad men and mad women
bank presidents grovel at our feet
cops look the other way when we smoke metaphors
we were much too animated for Walt Disney to manage
riding that old Cadillac highway with Captain Griffin
is one exercise workout program
that the whole family can endure together
sometimes you get static in your reception
sometimes the Wheaties don’t make you feel strong
it’s just another endless game of golf at times
but then that last hole in one
opens up an all-night place for you to play
and that poetry you swore you never really knew
breaks out all over your skin
the unknown world at your door
claims it’s going to be around a spell
you’re going to name it with your art, baby
it might be brutal,
it might be tender
but your art will ride the killer wave
without falling into the sea
your art will be riding in a Cadillac
that never really runs out of gas
it’s the story of the world as i was told it
by all talking dogs and their creative writing teachers and editors
it’s your own personal story
behind the wheel
I’m riding shotgun with you
maybe I’ll be singing John Prine
maybe I’ll be singing you
 yeah,
that’s it for sure
I’ll be singing me
through singing you
this burst is for my brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers
in the lingo process express
we be mad, we be gentle
we be broken, we stumble home whole
we come with stories and poems and song
we are your origin and your departure gate
yeah, that’s it, for sure
I’m learning your tunes
as I take Sparky for a much needed walk
through no man’s land
through Armageddon
through point of no return
Sparky pisses on lack of imagination
he begins to sing John Prine
I hear a Cadillac in the distance
naming the new highway
of our heart’s ability to retain memory

____________

Paying the Rent Can Get Monotonous

The jukebox seems to be broken,
the same song keeps rolling on.
Tell the haters they’ll have to return,
we want them to get their money’s worth.
I don’t believe I can appease them,
I don’t know how to behave.
So many people hop up and down
even if they’ve
misplaced
their legs.
The choir could use a little more practice.
I hope you have your cell,
the location for the resuscitation
keeps getting moved on the hour.
Everyone I stumble across,
claims they’ve seen it all
before.
I don’t have any plan,
and I have trouble maintaining my Ps and Qs,
but there are certain other letters
that like the way I make noise,
and if you see me wandering
don’t forget to
ask my name.
The party refuses to go home,
and the words all need some sleep.
I heard the moon was looking
for a few good werewolves.
I wish I knew how to comb your hair
so you wouldn’t continually wince.
The planet would like to eat you for dinner,
but it’s busy
raising
money
with which
to
pay
its
rent.

–Scott Wannberg

____________

Save the Wails

Time to cut loose and scream
got to blow the lid off and right now there’s a 3-lids-for-1 deal.
Get your so-called friends and some neighbors,
it’s time to wail!
Let out the dead stuff,
the sky says it can take some of it off your hearts.
Do you trust the sky when it shines so?
The big storm is impending,
the experts all agree.
I once met an expert trying not to walk under a ladder,
the ladder kept walking right behind him.
Do you believe ladders can walk without nurses in attendance?

Time to shove it all back into its tube,
not just anyone is capable of such.
The honor guard is mutating in your garden.
The healers are all confused as to just what time their appointment with you
really is.
Death’s valet just finished washing the limo,
I think it’s your turn to carry the load.
People stand in line for hours
to find out who they actually are.

Save the wails,
enrich your cries,
the gulls see you.
The store owners are considering staying open another half hour
so you can collect your valuables
and remember how it was
when you flew
across the promise of a country
that looked good in anything it chose to wear.

Time just came home with a silver cane,
it hobbles across the gym.
Give it your dirty laundry,
tell it which room in the house it can get real sleep in.
Please screw the lids back on the jars when you’re done eating,
I’m tired of slipping in spilled mayo.

There used to be a river
that refused to sink us
no matter how deep we dove.
That river relocated one day,
I hear something scared it.
I hope it wasn’t something I sang,
you know how my voice can roar.
If I don’t watch my feet
sometimes it seems I walk through everything
only to fall down
just in time for
the lights to blow.

Scott Wannberg

listening to Michael Whyte CD mix for Scott, Volume 1

____________

The Things You Remember to Forget

Beware of people who love to tell you I told you so,
they go up and down on pogo sticks
across the weary spine of the country.
Some of them are downright rude
jamming their rules and regulations up your tender ass.
Others comb their hair precise,
speak in alien tongues.

You fall on your knees in front of the TV,
Yes master, where have I failed?

The things you remember to forget
pile high in the corner.
Some have names that mean something,
others simply grunt.

Syntax and context are due to be executed
by a firing squad come dawn.

I last saw Jesus in New Orleans
in some FEMA trailer,
he wasn’t looking all that good.

I guess some of you don’t want to leave the party.
Put a new CD on, we got orientation tomorrow morning.
When I find out who I am,
dogs will leap high.

–Scott Wannberg

Blue Mesa, Peter Ostroushko

____________

Bio
Scott Wannberg was born in Santa Monica February 1953. A big man with a
big heart and an even bigger presence, he attended Venice High School and then went on to receive his Master’s Degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University in 1977. A Carma Bum from the beginning, Scott rode shotgun with the Bums from 1989-2009. He was a poet’s poet and a human’s human who spent his life working as a sales clerk and book buyer for independent bookstores, most notably Dutton’s Books in Brentwood, where he held court and worked the stacks for almost 25 years until its close in 2008. His book Nomads of Oblivion made the Los Angeles Times bestseller list in 2000, and in the late 1990s, Los Angeles Magazine named him one of the “Top 100 Coolest People” in Los Angeles. In August 2008, he relocated to Florence, Oregon, where he passed away too soon at the age of 58 in August 2011. Widely anthologized, his list of titles includes Mr. Mumps, The Electric Yes Indeed!, Amnesia Hotel, Tomorrow Is Another Song, The Official Language of Yes and Scott Wannberg, The Lummox Years 1996-2006. Scott’s voluminous work is housed at UCLA as part of S.A. Griffin’s archive, the first acquisition for their Punk Initiative in 2015.

_______

The color photos were taken by Lorraine Perrotta, both in Los Angeles. The black and white was on the Carma Bums 1992 Nowhere Tour of Words in Santa Fe, NM, taken by Jeffoto.   The guys in the b/w photo are (L-R) Mike M Mollett, Doug Knott, Scott Wannberg, Michael Lane Bruner and S.A.Griffin in the outhouse of love showing how we are all chained to one another for better or worse to one another and the process. All poetry copyright by the Estate of Scott Wannberg. All the appreciation and love goes to S.A. Griffin for making this tribute possible at the Rusty Truck.

The Grand Old Party by S.A. Griffin

Posted in S.A. Griffin with tags on September 24, 2018 by Scot

 

the Star Spangled Banner is playing so loudly
that nobody at the party can hear Lady Liberty’s muffled screams
coming from inside the Lincoln Bedroom

flat on her back Liberty is doing all that she can to fend off
an unsteady Trump Daddy drunk with power

he has an executive hand over her mouth
while his other fat fingers climb up her garments
desperately attempting to find their way past her port of entry
and into her sunset gates, “C’mon, Liberty baby –
lemme smack that sweet huddled ass of yours
yearning to breathe free. You know you want it!”

the Donald’s aerodynamic pomp quacks and achieves liftoff
cutting manic shadows into the bedroom walls as he
smashes his tiny Trump thing into Liberty’s weakening flesh

Uncle Sam is catching all the action standing sentry
behind home plate in front of the locked door
the old wizened white beard waving his hot dog wildly about
shouting, “Uncle Sam wants you to play ball!”

outside in the Rose Garden
Congress is making hay with the gerrymandered vote
holding hands kumbaya like for the cameras
singing Citizens United and it feels so good

Emma Lazarus rises from the grave on the shoulders of
uncountable millions upon millions of wounded women roaring
ME TOO across the crowded centuries

President Great Again deaf to their declaration
continues ripping away at Lady Liberty’s tattered gown

the ghost of Emma Lazarus
breaks down the door of the Lincoln Bedroom
shattering the supreme darkness
as the colossus of angry women comes rushing in behind her

they will not be denied

it’s the Donald’s Waterloo

not even Putin can save him

______________

9/23/18

The Streets of Los Angeles : Election Night 2016 by S.A. Griffin

Posted in S.A. Griffin with tags , on November 20, 2016 by Scot

 

here, tonight
in this, the 2nd largest city in America
a strange peace rocks these urban canyons

there are no magnificent fireworks
to scratch the sky with celebration
no uplifting fanfare to name our
revolutionary spirit

no heroic confetti to rain down
on some grand parade marching
beneath the triumphant arch of this
uneasy hallelujah

where headlines hang in the balance
of an odd detente

and an unfathomable fog swallows us all

as we emerge from opposite ends of history
asking ourselves red, white or blue
who are you America?

Who are we now?

November 8, 2016

A Poem for F.N. Wright by S.A. Griffin

Posted in S.A. Griffin with tags , , , , on March 18, 2012 by Scot

Fred Blows Out The Sun’s Electric Candles

for F.N. Wright, 1940-2012

and makes an infinite wish to celebrate the
happy birthday of everything

trout fishing with Brautigan
along the shores of golden eternity
somewhere beyond the cartoon apocalypse
of this whorehouse sadness

inside some tropic of light

Kenneth and your beloved Miriam
to catch you in their nets of love and language
and you are here
always

the crickets playing your song
fuck fuck fucking
as we all sing along

ride free Fred, rest easy
the war is over
The Lady’s loving kisses
(with roses in her hair)
to bring you home again

S.A. Griffin

3/16/2012

–Pictures courtesy of S.A. Griffin