It’s Punk Rock/Taco Tuesday – Thoughts on Jawbreaker’s Classic Song ‘Condition Oakland’, the Namesake for my Novel – Releasing a Chapter Each Week Here – ON PUNK ROCK TACO TUESDAYS~!

I rode down to the tracks
Thinking that they might sing to me
But they just stared back
Broken, trainless, and black as night

Climbed out onto my roof
So I’d be a poet in the night
Beat the walls off my room
I saw the big room that is this life

This is my condition:
Naked and hysterical
Reaching to grab a hand that I just slapped back at
This is my condition:
Desperate, alone, without an excuse
I try to explain
Christ, what’s the use?

Jawbreaker is one of my favorite bands of all time, and CONDITION OAKLAND is one of my favorite tracks. The song has always spoken to me of a certain feeling – of alienation that continually strives for connection. It’s not a song about futility, though the lyrics may indicate as much. The sound, the siren guitars, the churning energy and rhythmic pounding power cords, belie the beleagured vocalist’s attuned heart and moral – THIS IS NOT A GIVING UP.

The song concludes with an overlay of a recording of Jack Kerouac reading from his work, ‘October in the Railroad Earth’ recorded with accompaniment by Steve Allen on piano. Steve Allen was host of a number of television shows including The Steve Allen Show, a prolific composer, and sort of jack of all trades in radio and television. The collaboration with Kerouas, the full album of which is posted farther below, is quite sublime. The specific track in question is here:

‘October in the Railroad Earth’ which is featured as a sample of sorts in the Jawbreaker song ‘Condition Oakland’

The full album recordings of Jack Kerouac reading accompanied by Steve Allen.

Kerouac performing his words live on the Steve Allen show with piano accompaniment.

As I post my old first novel, about the band Down With Strangers, I spontaneously decided to change the title of the book from what it was, ‘Down With Strangers’. Which is rather drastic as a spur of the moment decision. The band ‘Down With Strangers’, as you MAY get from their name, –their kind of mantra is that they want to connect with everyone and cut down this interrupt between ‘artist/audience’ and the mediation that causes alienation in so many things. As one character in the work says at one point ‘it’s like a battle cry, ‘Down With Strangers!’

I changed the name to 

‘CONDITION OAKLAND: CONFESSIONS OF A NAÏVE PUNK WITH A HEART FULL OF ARSON, AND OH, HOW THE WORLD DOTH QUAKE & BURN’ – 

Condition Oakland is the name of a great song by the band Jawbreaker, but it has a VERY different feeling.

The song is posted above and below, and the lyrics are posted in full below. Check out the lyrics. In a lot of ways it’s about how connection fails… wanting to connect with the world, walking down to the railroad tracks ‘thinking that they might sing to me, but they just stared back.’ I plan to release the novel with very little revision from what I currently have, if any. I think the title will still work, as it is a story about a young man who is struggling to connect with the world, and also, himself.

Perhaps my subconscious thinking was that, people might not be eager to tune in to a message today that comes on so naive. Maybe, sometimes, you catch more flies with flypaper (rather than honey). And so, it’s Condition Oakland.

I’ll release another chapter today for this initial chapter-a-day release, and from here on in I’ll switch to once a week, a new chapter.

On PUNK ROCK TACO TUESDAYS, at TheHauntedTypewriter.com. So stay tuned!

I rode down to the tracks
Thinking that they might sing to me
But they just stared back
Broken, trainless, and black as night

Climbed out onto my roof
So I’d be a poet in the night
Beat the walls off my room
I saw the big room that is this life

This is my condition:
Naked and hysterical
Reaching to grab a hand that I just slapped back at
This is my condition:
Desperate, alone, without an excuse
I try to explain
Christ, what’s the use?

Read and I felt so small
Some words keep speaking when you close the book
Drank and just about smiled
Then I remembered us in that bed

Put my ear to the door
I just heard hot rods and gunshots and sirens
People kill me these days
There’s keys in their eyes but they locked from the inside

This is my condition:
Naked and hysterical
Reaching to grab a hand that I just slapped back at
This is my condition:
Desperate, alone, without an excuse
I try to explain
Christ, what’s the use?

…And everything is pouring in, the switching moves of boxcars in that little alley which is so much like the alleys of Lowell and I hear far off in the sense of coming night that engine calling our mountains. But it was that beautiful cut of clouds I could always see above the little S.P. alley, puffs floating by from Oakland or the Gate of Marin to the north or San Jose south…

…The clarity of Cal to break your heart. It was the fantastic drowse and drum hum of lum mum afternoon nathin’ to do, ole Frisco…

…The street is loaded with darkness. Blue sky above with stars hanging high over old hotel roofs and blowers of hotels moaning out dusts of interior, the grime inside the word in mouths falling out tooth by tooth, the reading rooms tick tock bigclock with creak chair and slantboards and old faces looking up over rimless spectacles bought in some West Virginia or Florida or Liverpool England pawnshop long before I was born and across rains they’ve come to the end of the land sadness end of the world gladness all you San Franciscos will have to fall eventually and burn again. But I’m walking and one night..

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