Pals & Gals

James Dalessandro

Here's a pal who is not a musician, although I do seem to remember him working on some guitar chords at one time. His name is James Dalessandro and he is a writer. He's a poet, a journalist, an essayist, a short storyist, a novelist, a screenwriter, a documantarian, an e-mailer - he's a writer. And a problem when he's stoned. No - that was a long time ago.

I met him in Santa Cruz about 1974 when my first LP, "aka Lorenzo", was being recorded. We had a pretty good London-Hemingway-Steinbeck lifestyle going there for a few years. As regards that lifestyle, he wrote a nifty piece that wound up in the liner notes for LP #2, "Crosswords". It's quite accurate, too.


Me And Larry Hosford In The City Where The Sun Shines

I meet him in our favorite bar 10 minutes before closing as he settles his lanky frame into the stool next to me, chiseled high-boned Okie face, blond-haired, handsome as a paycheck.

I had heard him sing his tunes the week before, he has the sensual, resonant voice of a Hank Williams, a poet's mad eyes, the heart of the hopeless romantics.

I buy him a beer and tell him, "I like your tunes." He likes my poems. Our friendship grows like vines on the side of the house when you were a child, watered by gin and fed by insanity.

We open and close the bars, take strange stances, consume illegal substances, love the ones that no one else loves and never love the ones we ought to. We have truck driver fathers, working class histories, artistic fantasies, and a long obsession with music and whiskey and women; all those things that make life worth while.

He has one woman too few or one woman too many. Together we lament the loss of love and in the next breath ogle six blocks of foreign crotches.

"It is not the years," I tell him, "but the miles. That is why our heroes die young."

He is a classic artist who takes the elevator approach to human emotions, the 28th floor with stars in his eyes or his chin so low it must be attached by a long chain to a trolley car in hell. He was born and raised in Salinas, California, salad bowl of the world where the Okies and Mexicans live in limbo-where Steinbeck was born and James Dean went to die.

He was a Friday night country singer, a hackneyed mechanic with greasy fingernails and busted knuckles, a disciple of Lefty Frizzell, and Bob Dylan, and John Deere. He was the midnight taxi driver on the drunk run, working his crosswords puzzles under the streetlights while the whores serviced the soldiers in $2.00 hotel rooms. By the time he is "discovered," he has a backlog of fifty of the finest tunes I've ever heard.

I take jazz musician Charles Lloyd to see him play and Charles says, "That boy's gonna have tax problems." Larry picks a few tunes, Charles blows a few notes, together they make the house shake. Together with Fly-By-Night: Annie, who sings like angels; Duane, he's a hippy Caruso; Jimmy, he's everyone's favorite drummer; Gary has fast fingers; Patrick, the man with a dozen faces. Many nights they make the house shake.

I talk about Rimbaud and he talks about Jimmy Rodgers. One of us says, "You're great," and the other says, "I'm dying," he says a virgin is a fat third grader, and I say she's lying, we couldn't quite quit, but at least we quit trying.

We are late comers but we'll be hard leavers, hardy livers with hardy livers, the road's been rough, but the scenery's great. We don't know how much is really real, but me and Larry Hosford are having a good time, getting high, getting by, in the city where the sun shines.

**********


Jim was a big mover and shaker in a series of poetry festivals based in Santa Cruz. That's how I came several times to wind up onstage with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Linda King, Steven Kessler, Gary Snyder, Diane Ramsey, and such. That bizarre scene was once transferred to the University of Oregon in Eugene, and more or less hosted by that merry prankster, Ken Kesey. Jimmy D. knew 'em all.

He has lived up north of San Francisco for years now, Marin County, all settled down, and has been kicking out some very entertaining books and screenplays. They include one called "1906", my favorite (though his "Bohemian Heart" is a gas as well), a rockin', rollin' yarn about the earthquake back then. Which earthquake? C'mon. The one that rocked and rolled. Jimmy D. don't write about no Brand-X earthquakes.


 

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