I first met byron coley in the very early eighties at a hollywood pad called the anti-club one night when the band I worked bass for called the minutemen had a gig there. he was playing pool w/someone and joe carducci had told me there was someone I had to meet. the cat byron was playing pool w/was kind of fucking around and byron let him know it. I thought this was intense and after that forever felt compelled to read every word I could written by mr byron cooly. I chimp the word "forever" here cuz I very much mean it.
one morning last autumn I went and sat where the rocks meet the sea in the royal palms part of my pedro town, the spot roman sepulveda built over a hundred years ago. giving it the slow-go cuz of my fucked up port-side knee (I can hear the creak of the hinges in the metal part of the brace I'm wearing for it), I park myself on a boulder big enough to sit me good and I stare off across the sea. spray from the waves crashing fills my nose w/the sea smells - I'm close enough for that and some misting but back enough not to get soaked - I stare over the twenty miles of ocean to see santa catalina in front of me, it's two big mounds w/a soft v between, that being the isthmus. there's gulls now having their songs join in w/the sea crashing to make up the soundtrack to mind movie, my eye cameras exposing the mental film. I see a can boat coming up between me and the island, probably heading for china seeing how high it sits in the water. I think of byron as that can boat. all them cans, stacked up high w/many more below. I think of each of them cans being ideas - byron being fitted w/many ideas! him cutting a wake through the sea, the cans big time an influence on bob, the weave, the list - byron trying his hardest to get it right and keep shit steady as she goes. different cans, different colors - different spiels painted on their sides. I can see byron puffin' as he's bearing these, diesel smoke puff from his back stack. I think of my secondmen pete and jer - they're also longshoremen and I can see them now in my mind, on the dock and both loading up and off-loading can after can from the good ship byron. I see byron's eyes on the bridge now as all this information in their idea form comes on and off. I think of these ideas being like cans for this reason: not just cuz they're particulate in nature and have their own respective properties unto themselves but also cuz they're empty and I'm thinking of byron seeing them this way - an idea to carry more than just that outside... maybe more ideas? maybe memories? maybe feelings? maybe lots of stuff and so goes I think his idea of the idea - not just unto itself and that's why he's gotta forever ship them, forever dynamic, forever meaning many meanings - the defining voyage not possible, not wanted/needed. I don't know, maybe his pop was a pilot. the history of pilots is much MUCH older than the history of aircraft. so many harbors in this world and all of them different - how could one boat captain know each of them good enough to sail safely in them? hence the pilots, the practical knowledge of how things were where they worked committed to their minds - them shoving off in the pilot launch to meet the big visitor, a jacob's ladder entry and if I remember right, in the old days they actually grabbed the wheel but now I think they speak what they know and keep the boat from wrecking. I see pete and jer driving those cans all along the dock... they're lashing the cans - sealed cans - only guesses if they got time to make them before on or off the can boat byron. the walk on his decks, they stomp down in his holds - he looses his bilge. I ponder: is "a wondering" better to describe these cans onboard than the word idea? I think of these cans beyond the boat, beyond the docks - up on the semi trucks and piled two-high on board trains. I think of some of them never traveling again but shanghaied into being parts of pads where folks dwell, where office work gets done and shit gets sold. I think of the one-way hellrides some immigrants endure to be where they're at now - I imagine byron wondering about that... if there's kids involved, would his kids be playing w/their kids and what would each be learning? but more important - just as the can boat makes its way in front of santa catalina's gentle v - I get wondering about byron becoming not only the boat but also its captain and even trippier, him discovering both his first mates all along were deckhands meltzer and beefheart. I can imagine byron - skipper or not- freaking out. I think hard and to be honest, it's hard for me to imagine him in command of a big can boat - way easier to see it the way I first saw it in my head - him the cat boat itself. next to that maybe next plausible thought is him w/a paddle in his hand and working a kayak in and out of many tiny inlets and coves, up bunches of little water ways going wherever however - man alone in discovery mode... kind of sentimental but too much in the moment to be all stuffed-up that way. "do different ears hear different things? do different eyes see different things? do different noses..." in my head I see him in the kayak going from one little waterway to the next, a never-ending tour through tangent-land via capillary after capillary of some immense incredible circulatory system making him to seem like some steel ball making his long-odds taking-forever pachinko journey. what, to jimmy a stalemate? "...and then it stopped" - I almost lose faith in words and burst out laughing, 'pert-near hurting myself. I then imagine him imagining himself back on the bridge of the can boat, rising from his captain's chair to hear a holler from somewhere down in the engine room "damn right 'blows against the empire' still sucks donkey dick" and though a little embarrassed to concede it, he still admires the intent - admitting his unguarded moments of sentiment... I remember a note byron wrote me: "here's the stuff I sent benoit, he's gonna only run parts of it, so..." - left forever to ponder this in my own way, I stumble at attempting to be coherent but that's where the liberation is: realizing assumptions like that are just not weird enough... the mire is in the marty feldman-like stare.
my opinion: give byron coley a piece of rope and he'll be ready to tell you about knots. give him enough rope and he'll string some knots up for you, all kinds - he'll get creative. give him several pieces of smaller rope and he'll knot them up and if you're uppity, he can get all gordian on you if that's what it takes. give byron coley some logs, he'll build a pad w/an interesting hallway and all kinds of rooms connected, each w/their own interior. he'll build you a tool shed for when it's time for him to be moving on. give him an easel and he'll mix up some pigments. open up your head and he'll paint your insides - highlight the inconvenient truths. give him a field and he'll grow you a word crop, fertilized w/taunt thinking. he'll hoe up the "should-know" and and plant deep the seed thoughts. give him a bucket and he'll bail out the blarney and get shit shipshape. give him a flashlight and he'll toss you the yardstick you can measure the beam he'll be throwing up into the sky. give him bourbon and he'll get political. give byron coley a loom and he'll weave it up big time - give him just one kind of thread and trip on all the stitch he can work it into. give him thirst and have him wet it w/wishes. give him a pain and watch him build a ship. give him a river and he'll carve up a waterfall for it to plummet from. give him a hammer and he'll knot up some smoothness. give byron coley a shovel and he'll dig several tunnels to china, give him the carpet and he'll rug each of them up. give him a bowlful and he won't spoon it, he'll whup it up into a froth. give him a pickaxe and heap hell on a glacier. give him a needle and he'll stitch a cloudsplitter sky. give him a ladle and he'll scoop up a headful. bring byron coley a puzzle and he'll chart out a map. soak up a spill and he'll bring down an ocean...
san pedro, california