"We are all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing." ~ Charles Bukowski
Editor’s note: I first became aware of Mikey Mayhem’s photojournalism through the message board, now defunct, at Supercult.com, the seminal website of Chase Lisbon. Mikey was part of the whole “CFFC” art-posse there. ~Rob
“Last two from Boston summer 1988, I forget the name of the girl with the long hair, the dark haired one went by the name dolphin. I remember I asked once how come she was always so much cleaner than every one else at the squat and she admitted that she snuck home to her folks in Medfield for regular showers. Then she told me she would make out with me if i kept her secret. Then we made out.”
“I spent the summer of 1988 at the Boston Museum school summer arts program. Well, actually, I spent it hanging out with and photographing the punk kids who hung in Cambridge, Harvard Square to be exact. Many of them were runaways living in the streets or the squat, sort of proto-crust punks. It was a great experience to see that coming from Florida. It was a whole different scene. Drugs and violence and terrible punk shows. I don’t remember as much as I’d like, it all becomes sort of a blur 20+ years later. But I remember this scene pretty clearly: the girl and Charlie, the little kid, were in some kind of fight. I don’t know about what but it got heated. Charlie was a little knucklehead who lived at the squat with his older brother was like 2 years older and maybe 14.”
“The other photo with the dark haired girl, her name was Gillian and she was the one in charge. She took the money and her dude carried the stuff. Mostly acid, weed and pills or at least that’s all they sold on the street. At the squat it was all about the heroin. Gillian was the first person to shoot me up. I didn’t like it to much and I got real sick. She told me that happens to everyone the first time. I liked it a lot more the second and third times.”
About the first photo: “It’s a pretty good shot. It won me a national scholastic gold key senior year…”
What was the national scholarship gold key award? Was that a Maryland or Massachusetts prize of money for college or something?
“National gold key is like the highest regional level prize in high school arts no money but you get a certificate and little fake gold key.”
This is a chunk of limestone I picked up from the side of the road in a development in Palos Verdes above Rocky Point and Lunada Bay areas sometime around eight or ten years ago. In 1963 my dad was a bartender in his mid thirties working at the Plush Horse on a corner of Pacific Coast highway when he met my mom. He was living in a house on property owned by his aunt Lucilla with her lawyer husband by the beach cliffs near Rocky Point. My mom was working as a real estate agent for a female real estate broker who had a company selling houses in Rolling Hills. In the early 1960s such uppity female employment was fairly uncommon. One night after having a good week my mom took a girl’s night out with her friends to celebrate the recent sale of one of her listings. Her best friend Tilly noticed my dad was flirting with my mom and told her she should respond. Dad got mom’s number then they got married, bought a house close by, Kennedy was asassinated and then I was born in 1964.
This rock is what they call “Palos Verdes Stone” and from what I’ve been told it was prized building material for new construction and remodeling in the 20th century. No one’s probably allowed to quarry it for building material any more though because it’s Palos Verdes, of course, and the peacocks would screech.
Like several other rocks in my collection, I need to return this too. My parents sold their house near the border of Redondo and Torrance before I was one-years-old and moved to San Diego so dad could take a job offer from Horatio Vella to manage his newly built Green Onion night spot in Kearny Mesa. So although I never develop a feeling of “home” for South Bay L.A. I do recognize that like this rock I’m a product of it.
I really need to take a trip up there again and put this stone back.
I’ve collected rocks in the past but lately have been in the mood to return some of them to the places I got them from.
(Below’s post material is from yesterday.)
I took this strange rock back to the area I found it today. It’s a sandstone half-orb type formation that solidified around a crustacean, the fossilized remains of which are visible in its center if you look closely. I had picked it up from the sandy beach at the bottom if the cliffs just north of the point – almost directly below where these pictures were taken, actually – at Blacks Beach one Spring day in 2011 when I brought an art model who had came visiting me for work from out of state. She wanted to see the famous San Diego nude beach at Blacks there.
I didn’t hike all the way down to the sand this day just to return it though. I simply tossed it down onto the hillside beneath where this photo was taken; nature and erosion will have to finish the job. I’m very busy!
Here’s some amazing cellphone coverage of the ceremonial return of the sandstone fossil rock:
In today’s episode of social-guerrilla warfare, we have a case of a woman who was tricked into flying across the country to meet an amazing band…
I am the Director of Social Services for a major charity and have an office in downtown San Diego that serves the nation’s third largest homeless population. I have an open door policy and all of the hard cases are referred to me by other agencies. I maintain one of the largest caseloads in San Diego County and depend upon a small staff of volunteers. I assist an average of one person every 5 minutes. I provide too many services to list but some examples include counseling, housing referrals, free prescription eyeglasses, food, employment training, clothing, and blankets. I deal with everyone from the chronically homeless to veterans on pension who can’t make ends meet.
Today I received the following call while a schizophrenic man was dancing in my lobby:
Woman (elderly voice): Hi, I have called every agency in San Diego looking for help… my daughter is trapped in San Diego. I live in Pennsylvania and she is stranded on the streets until Saturday.
Me: Is she mentally ill or a substance abuser? Could you please elaborate on how she arrived here then became homeless?
Woman: I…I…you need to understand she is a good person…she is not one of the homeless…this has never happened before…
Me: You can be homeless and a good person, I believe that many people are homeless because they are too kind and don’t understand how to survive within a predatory economic system.
Woman: Well…yeah…ok. My daughter…I am so concerned… ::breaks down sobbing::
Me: It’s ok, m’am. I will do whatever I can to help if at all possible.
Woman: Oh thank you, thank you. You’re wonderful.
Me: Go ahead, tell me what happened.
Woman: Well, someone convinced her that she won a vacation to tour with Slipknot and she flew out to meet the band.
Me: REALLY? WOW!
Woman: Yeah, it wasn’t real. They said everything would be paid for. She really believed ::sobbing:: that she was going to live the rock star lifestyle! People are so cruel. She asked her 4 children if they minded if she spent her income tax return to buy a round-trip ticket to San Diego and they agreed. They said, “Yes, mom, go follow your dream!” When she arrived and went to Slipknot’s address, the occupants had no idea what she was talking about. She is stuck there until she flies home on Saturday.
Me: Oh, I am so sorry she got tamed by a Slipknot hoax. That is so upsetting and tragic.
Woman: I know, it is just awful! ::sobbing::
Me: Okay, well I can try to get her into a women’s shelter. Does she need food?
I had to meet this victim to complete my day.
Me: I can give her a bag of groceries if you send her to my office.
Woman: Oh, God bless you! You are an angel! I will send her right over.
Her daughter walked into my office an hour later and she looked about 60 despite being my age. She had a lot of teeth missing from obvious crystal meth abuse.
Me: Oh, hi honey. Are you the one whose mother called? I am so sorry you got tricked.
Woman: I did something really stupid, I feel so dumb.
Me (in radio announcer voice): Well don’t worry, I am not from the government and I am here to help.
I gave her a bag of groceries and successfully got her into a women’s shelter after making a few phone calls.
My main problem is that now I feel compelled to buy a Slipknot album and autograph it pretending I am the band members then mail it to her anonymously. I would like to create a fake record label letterhead and write the following message:
We heard about your trip out here and we’re so sorry about what happened. Please accept our gift as a taste of the amazing MTV lifestyle.
Keep on rockin’,
Slipknot, at Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.
Sometime in the next few months (I don’t remember exactly when) marks twenty years since I moved back from Northern California to San Diego.
by Ben Johnson
In the spring of ’92 I was broke, and many levels of drama had forced my eight roommates and myself to move out of our giant house built atop a massive stump in the tall trees of the Santa Cruz Mountains in the small town of Scott’s Valley, just up the curvy highway from Santa Cruz.
I didn’t have any money to my name, and my part time job at the deli wasn’t gonna allow me to save some. Santa Cruz, like many college towns has low-paying jobs and sky-high rent. If you’re not in school there’s really no reason for you to be there, especially if you’re not from there. And I wasn’t either of those things.
Quick money is rough. I didn’t want to sofa-surf anymore. Fortunately, I had an ace up my sleeve–I knew connections in Alaska. Years earlier, in another story entirely, I had lived with my aunt on a houseboat while working for a fish-buying company. Two houseboats over, a couple named Todd and Nancy did the same thing for a different company. I was 16 at the time. It was insanely cool.
I called my aunt in Seattle about any leads she might have regarding work in Alaska, and she told me Todd was in charge of hiring at a plant In Yakutat, Alaska. So north I went.
But this story isn’t about Alaska. Suffice to say that summer was nowhere near as cool as the one in ’86.
Anyway, the season finally closed, and I came back to Santa Cruz, and my brother who was still there. Problem was, he now lived with a ton Of people in a way smaller house. It was too small. So was Santa Cruz.
I had started to go out with my brother’s roommate. It worked out pretty well. She was also sick of Santa Cruz, and it was decided I would go up to San Francisco and find work and look for housing, maybe try to come back on the weekends. I had no car, and had blown the last of my Alaska money going to Ireland. By myself. In winter. Wound up staying with bona fide criminals. Another time for that one.
Anyhow, I waited for the AK unemployment, and tried to get an under-the-table job. That did not work. I ended up getting a temp job in a title insurance agency. Ugh. My one office job ever.
One thing became clear as crystal in SF; if I couldn’t afford it in Santa Cruz, there was no way I could survive in the city.
After looking for a while, we got a place in Oakland. By Oakland high school. In the winter of ’93. Uh…yeah.
The house was awesome. The yard and view were great, and everything off our block was extremely dangerous. So Colleen, me, my brother, and one other guy, who trailed me like a shadow, moved in.
Oakland in ’93 was crazy, and we were young and dumb. The day after we moved in, we were shopping for groceries. We didn’t have enough to cover the cost, so Colleen went across the street to use the ATM. when she hadn’t come back in a few minutes I went to look for her. She was outside, crying with a bloody head to the police officers taking the report about her mugging. Two dudes had demanded she take all our money out. She took out $20 and told them to fuck themselves, so they racked her head into the ATM and ran. Two dudes in black Raiders hoodies, just like half the Oaktown youth at that or any other time. The cops weren’t even gonna look.
It didn’t take long for my brother to split back to Santa Cruz for a hot minute, then back to San Diego. I wanted to go too, but there was Colleen and Josh, who I’d basically talked into this arrangement. It was gonna be impossible to get someone to move in.
I said as much to the one person I talked to regularly in my neighborhood; the liquor store owner whose store I bought libations in every single day of my living there. He suggested that he move in with his girlfriend. We had no other options.
So Shavali, the man from Afghanistan who owned the liquor store in Oakland, moved in with his extremely thin, hot Naomi Campbell lookalike girlfriend.
Josh was a twenty-one year old virgin until just before he hooked up with Pam, the tall model thin girlfriend of the guy who had a job where you almost certainly would have several guns. Shavali didn’t seem like the type who would be okay sharing his gf, either. At all.
Josh was freaking me out. He always had this shit-eating grin plastered on his face. I couldn’t blame the grin, but I told him he was gonna get us all fucking killed acting like that. Miraculously, Shavali hadn’t found out about it. We hoped.
The tension lasted for at least a month, but it’s hard to remember exactly.
In early September, the temperature shot down one day, and when I had taken the Bart to the bus and home, the house was freezing. I turned on the floor heater, and I could hear gas, but it wouldn’t ignite. The grate squeaked when I took it off to access the pilot light, and when I looked down I was surprised to see a balled up wonder bread bag wedged down next to the blown-out light.
When I unwrapped the bag, I was holding a rock of white powder larger than a softball.
I put it back. Slowly. Thinking. I wrapped it wrong on purpose. I wanted him to know I saw, but I certainly didn’t want him to think I took some. I’d been kind of raised around drug culture, and knew what drug came out of Afghanistan. The picture became clear; he was renting our room to stash the heroin that he sold out of the store.
I didn’t know what to do. I told Colleen we needed to go out that night. At the restaurant, I told her we had to leave. Immediately. Where would we go? I hated my job, and was over Northern California in general. All my friends were in Santa Cruz, which I had bled dry, Or back in San Diego. We decided wed try to get back to SD.
The next day, we prepared what to say to Pam and Shavali regarding our sudden move. When I got home from work, I screwed up my courage and knocked on their bedroom door, still reciting the words of my explanation in my head. The echo from my knock told me my words weren’t needed, and when I opened the door there was only a large clump of dust rolling around on the hardwood floor. They were gone, and we’d never see them again.
That night, we were to begin calling friends. The first one we called was our mutual great friend Natasha, who lived on spruce and India. The building next to her was a lesbian bar, and next to it, sandwiched between the bar and a transmission repair shop, was a house that had suddenly come up for rent. The affairs surrounding the sudden vacancy were as clandestine as those we were trying to escape.
But we needed that house. She called the landlord, then called us back. The place was ours.
The next day we rented a u-haul, put all our stuff and our cats in it, caught a miracle when the landlady even gave us back our deposit with one day notice, and split back to San Diego.
When we got to our new house, it was covered inside and out with wet dog hair carpet and had a massive beehive in the walls and floor.
We couldn’t have been happier.
**thanks for reading!!** -BJ
[Editor’s Note: Ben Johnson initially released this story in full on his Twitter @grammaticalb as a series of 140-character posts. He can be seen in an interview at the Youtube channel for THE SAN DIEGO REVIEWER (Reviewer.tv) or, it’s assumed, behind the bar at The Casbah when he is not playing in one of his bands.]