Tuesday, July 5, 2011


"When I was a young man, only my mind was degenerate." -- Philip Hellsten (1952-2009)

At 0500 on the 4th of July, I decided to soothe my injured hip in the jacuzzi.  So I hobbled over there and was surprised to find two 20ish lads lounging poolside.  They were smoking cigarettes and drinking a concoction of orange juice and most probably vodka.

After I turned the jets on and sat down in the swirling water, one of them said to me "Do you usually get up this early?"

I replied that it was an old habit from years of commuting long distances in the SF Bay Area.  Getting up very early was the only way to avoid traffic jams.

Somewhat apologetically,  my new acquaintance said "I'm usually in bed by 10 o' clock -- I never do this."

Yes, indeed.  But there was no reason to regret it, I thought.  Looking at myself, having finally broken my body from years of long-distance running, I reminisced about the age when I could party all night and not feel too bad afterwards. In a flashing memory -- I believe the kind that people who are falling to their death experience -- I recalled myself stay up sixty-five straight hours in 1981.  It had to do with partying all night with my girlfriend on a Friday, and then performing with a band at a party on The Queen Mary the next evening.  I was 21 at the time.  At the end of it all, I did feel tremendously tired, but I was able to do it --  I don't think I could now.

I didn't bother telling the lads that they would eventually lose their endurance -- that would be "No Fun," as Iggy Pop once sang.

As they were leaving, the other asked me "Is it beer-thirty yet?"
"Yes," I retorted -- "Definitely time for another one!"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Story

St. Patrick’s Day arrives next Thursday, March 17th.  It’s a day overloaded with memories for me, as my father is a professional  Irish-American of sorts.  He once had a beautiful  tenor voice,  loved a political harangue, and lost many of his teeth in both planned and impromptu boxing matches.   Alas, he’s 84 now,  suffers from dementia,  and thus isn’t quite sure who I am anymore. 
Among my fondest memories of Saint Pat's are dad’s green satin suit, the drink and the blather:

"It's not the truth, it's the story."

Well he knew his pint, and of the Irishmen (and wannabes) who make arses of themselves on the important day. What was a somewhat solemn occasion in Ireland has become National Alcoholic Achievement Day in America.  Dad had explained it this way: "In Ireland, a bottle of whiskey cost a month's wages.  In America, a day's wages."  

Here’s a song I wrote in tribute to his legacy. It’s a 1-4-5 type of song, but you can throw in the relative minor to make it more ballad-like if you prefer.


An I.Q. that’s good for golfing
is a very happy lad
You should see him on a pub crawl
half sodden and half mad
You can fiddlefuck and argue
if it’s human or it’s beast
But even all the nitwits say
he’s quite a touchy piece

He’ll thrash the sweet bejesus
out of those who cross his will
Take you out with the rubbish
or eat you as a meal
There’s no sense making chatter
with a caveman of this sort
You’d best make fancy footwork
for the nearest door

No girl would fancy marriage
because he drools while making sweet
And with such a large appendage
he can barely take a seat
Jesus, Mary, Joseph and
the panoply of saints
I confess to you that I’ve
never seen a harder case

Testosterone’s a good thing,
it gives us girls and boys
But too much of a good thing
is Satan’s grandest ploy

La la la la
La la la la
Tra la la la

© 2008 Tom Hamill


Saturday, March 5, 2011


As we approach Mardi Gras (which falls on March 8 this year), I recall my only direct experience of the definitive New Orleans celebration.  The year was 1976, and I was 16 years old.  My parents and I (I'm an only child) had just returned from over 5 years living in The Philippines, where my father worked as a maritime engineer. I was attending St. Stanislaus Academy in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, which was about an hour's drive from The Crescent City.  St. Stanislaus, which had been built on waterfront property, had been wiped out by Hurricane Camille (1969) and subsequently rebuilt. (After Hurricane Katrina demolished it once again in 2005, the Roman Catholic Church surrendered to nature).   My father received an invitation from a NASA rocket scientist (literally) to attend a party at a hotel room in The French Quarter.
So we drove the family LTD (for those of your remember the Ford model, it was a cheap answer to the Cadillac monsters of the day , and contained a V8 engine that delivered 15 mpg at 55 mph on a perfectly flat freeway) to New Orleans, where we found an almost non-navigable path to the hotel garage.  On the way, we witnessed the traditional and customary "monkey shines" of Mardi Gras.  But the most precious moment came when a young man, thoroughly intoxicated, stripped right in front of our car, and started to give my parents a nudie show. My mother, who had maintained shrines to The Blessed Virgin at all the homes we had lived in, emitted an expression of shock and closed her eyes.  My father said something "wise" in his Queens English (note the lack of an apostrophe).  It was a seminal moment for me, one that would inspire me later in life.
We now advance to 1988 in San Francisco, where I was a member of a dadapunk opera band called The Outpatients.  The occasion was one of the National Poetry Week performance nights at the Fort Mason complex.  We were set to accompany the Frank Moore Dance Troupe.  Frank himself did not dance; indeed, he did not walk.  He had been confined to a wheelchair for most of his life by Cerebral Palsy.  In the room adjoining the performance space there was an on-going cocktail party.  Every member of the troupe (save Mr. Moore) was completely naked, and exchanged niceties with the clothed, while indulging in white wine and crudité.  Andrei Codrescu, the Romanian-American literary luminary, seemed ponderous, and smoked a number of cigarettes.  When it was our turn to perform, we accompanied the performers with our best neo-juju music.  Some of the dancers wrapped others in large rolls of cellophane while Frank’s wife, Linda Mac, recited poetry.  Frank himself was treated to a nude young lady with a shaved head “rocking” on his lap.  Indeed, the piece was called Rocking and Wrapping.
In 2009, in a wooded valley in California, there was a dilapidated building dedicated to art.  The ground floor was occupied by a gallery, and on the 2nd floor there were 4 studios shared by about a dozen artists.  I found myself in one of them.  Ms. L. papered over the windows while Mr. J, who was the gallery minister of beverages, distributed the chardonnay.  4 students were at their easels ready to start the class. The astrologer next door attempted entry but was told by Ms. L that he would have to pay the model’s fee, and so he declined attending.  5 minutes after the students started drawing, The Gallery Director burst into the studio and snapped “What are you perverts doing in here?”  He soon turned scarlet in the face when he saw me in my natural Spanish model pose: classical guitar on my lap,  tripartite configuration hanging beneath the instrument.  33 years after that Mardi Gras, I was now I the fleshibitionist.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Of Sin and Swine (almost)

A few weeks ago, my wife Diana (www.dianabusse.com) was walking our dog Tuxedo late at night, and two 50 kilo, pig-like creatures called javelinas popped their snouts above a drainage embankment that was a cozy distance away.  Shocked, she asked for divine intervention and received guidance:  appear as to be as tall as possible and scream into their "faces." These tactics worked enough to startle the faux-pigs, and so she and doggie made a hasty retreat (partially on all fours) up a neighbor’s stairs.  As we later found out, the javelina is averse to climbing.
It was Diana's first encounter with the creature.  But we had heard grisly anecdotes that they loved killing dogs, as they judged them to be coyotes, which are a main predator. When I first came to Arizona last year, I knew the javelina not.  Within a month I was driving back to work after lunch and I spied them in the parking lot. I immediately judged them to be wild boar of some sort, and from my youthful experience living in The Philippines, I knew to avoid them.  So I parked in a different area, on the other side of the building.  I then asked someone if there were wild pigs in Arizona, and was told about the pig that is not really a pig. Here's what the State of Arizona has to say about them.
I told Diana that they were as “ugly as sin.”  “No, they’re just sin” she replied.
I was reminded of one of Jesus’ miracles (Mark 5: 1-20) where he casts demons (at their request) into pigs  and the herd then jumps off a cliff.
I talked to a priest who said “man, they are dumb...and ugly.  They’re so dumb.”
I’m not so sure about the “dumb.”  They've marched here from South America over the last few thousand years, and have survived in both the jungle and the desert.  Their next milestone is Las Vegas, which seems appropriate.

I inquired with the lead butcher at Whole Foods, who said that they couldn't be domesticated.  I believe "unpredictable" was the adjective he applied to their behavior. "They're closer to rats than pigs" he added. I reported back to Diana that they were giant rats. "Ewwwww!" she retorted.
I propose an eschatology stipulating that The Tribulation starts with javelinas replacing us as the lead politicians.  I envision them mounting the steps of our neo-classical halls of government and snort-speaking thusly:

"Our name is Legion, for we are many."
What would St. Francis of Assisi say?