By Miles Erickson      April 1, 2022

Share Story on:

Canyon Chameleon
In the last edition of this column I mentioned that I would be briefly moving back to Topanga, and, in the time since the last volume’s publication, I’ve become a fully naturalized canyon dweller. I drink $30 cups of coffee at TLC. I write cryptic and vaguely threatening rants on Nextdoor calling for the arrest of various teenagers and the dangerous criminals who shop at Sprouts without a re-usable bag. And earlier this week I had the classic Topanga experience of going around a corner too fast on the S-curves and accidentally murdering a drifter. Currently the household consists of my Sister and me, plus my cousin Tori; combined we’re like one big dysfunctional family. Well, I guess we literally are that. We also have my two dogs, one of whom sheds like he’s going through chemotherapy and looks at you like you just walked in on him watching an adult movie. The other dog, Nibbles, is 15, blind and deaf and spends the days that make up his golden years going to every house in the neighborhood and barking at the door until someone answers and gives him a treat, like he’s Tony Soprano making his collections. Nibbles has the warmth and affability of a goblin shark and just in the time I’ve been back in Topanga, has eaten a bag of king- sized Kit Kats, a bag of individually wrapped Hershey’s kisses, and an entire raw egg, shell and all. None of this has phased him. The only time he had to go to the vet was when he ate barbed wire and even then they just massaged his stomach for an hour and gave him an $800 bill, which, unfortunately he could not pay because he is a dog. Just walking these dogs is a task which has been more demanding than getting my Bachelor’s degree. Being back in Topanga with my sister hasn’t made me particularly nostalgic for my time growing up here, but it has made me recall a couple of moments from my youth that I would like to share with you. Going to see my younger sister perform in the Topanga Elementary production of Charlie Brown, a play that was literally longer than James Cameron’s AVATAR. Also, my father interrupting (what would have been) my first kiss to tell me that intermission was over. Me babysitting my younger sister while she played on the jungle gym at the Community House, and her asking another toddler why his parents didn’t live together. My childhood dog going into my neighbor’s house on Thanksgiving and eating their turkey. This story is slightly too long to be condensed into a single sentence, like the previous three articles on this list. This morning I drove my sister’s carpool, and upon puling up to the drop off zone at Pali High, I had a PTSD war flashback to a moment that wound up defining about a year of my life during my Freshman and Sophomore years of high school. One night when I was 15 years old, I was hanging out with some friends eating candy that we’d purchased at the General Store here in Topanga. As we were all sitting around, a friend of mine snapped a candid picture of me holding the left side of a Kit-Kat bar bar between my teeth. The picture wound up being posted on Instagram and later that week, I was sitting in class when a teacher I’d never seen before, escorted by a police officer, entered my class, confiscated my Jansport backpack and informed me that I had been summoned to see the Dean of Discipline (side note: if you’re a middle-aged adult and your job title is “Dean of Discipline at a high school,” that is the point one might consider re-thinking your life choices). Also, I should mention that at the time I was summoned to see the Dean, I was also taking a class called “Parent/Child Development,” where I was assigned to take care of a robot baby. So, flash forward 15 minutes and I’m sitting in the disciplinary office, cradling my robot daughter (who is crying hysterically), having no idea why I am there. At this point I am formally introduced to the mentioned Dean of Discipline, a man whom I had only met once before, briefly, when I saw him punch a hole through a fax machine while interrogating children because someone had thrown a paper airplane in science class. Now, at this point I was shown “Exhibit A” (there was no Exhibit B), a printed-out photo of me with a Kit-Kat bar between my teeth. They were under the impression that it was not, in fact, a candy bar, but a joint, blunt, or some other kind of marijuana smoking paraphernalia. Then, in complete and utter sincereness, the Dean of Discipline of Palisades Charter High School pointed to my plastic, lifeless, robot baby and said, “What kind of father does drugs while he’s taking care of a child?” I’m going to quickly interject here and say in the most blunt and succinct way that I can: It was not a joint, it was not any kind of drugs or drug paraphernalia, it was, in all honesty, a Kit-Kat bar. It has been 10 years and I still am adamant of this fact, and say so on my mother’s grave and with all of my journalistic integrity on the line. After many frustrating conversations with school officials and my parents, I was sentenced to attend 50 hours of a program called “Angels at Risk” for youths, most of whom were there by court order. I was also required to attend therapy sessions indefinitely with a counselor, but that’s another story. The worst part of being a kid is that, if an adult calls your parents and tells them you’re doing drugs, you have no recourse. It’s not like you can sue the school for slander. The average school day is from 7:50 in the morning to 2:10 in the afternoon, and I was now spending the remaining hours of my weekday in therapy or Angels at Risk for a crime I did not commit. And trying to tell the adults running the support group or the children attending it that you’re there because of a misunderstanding is like being in prison and claiming you’re innocent. We all went around the circle introducing ourselves and elaborating on the violent crimes that had landed us in there. I was surrounded by 14-year-olds with five-o’-clock shadow and teardrop tattoos. Unfortunately for me, “It’s not a blunt, it’s a Kit-Kat bar,” really does sound like the kind of terrible lie a 15 -year-old would come up with. They had us write essays about what our week had been like and then read them out loud to the group. I vividly recall the kid next to me having an essay about how he had gotten into a knife fight with someone from a rival gang; my essay started with, “So I was playing wii-bowling…” Later, during that same group, the man running it told me that he wouldn’t sign my attendance slip unless I was “honest with the group.” You may see where this is going, but from that moment on, for the next month-and-a-half until the school year was over, I had to lie and pretend I was doing drugs, just so I didn’t get in trouble. I wound up transferring schools the following year. Annabella-Lilibet, my robot baby, if you’re out there, your father loves you very much Long Distance Listening Party Vol. 5 Cold Little Heart (Radio Edit)—Micheal Kiwanuka Underwear—Pulp The Art Of Driving—Black Box Recorder Diamonds from Sierra Leone—Kanye West Antidote—Orion Sun Sexie Sadie—Kush Mody, Anderson Paak Space Song—Beach House Satellite of Love—Morrissey Sweet Dreams, TN—The Last Shadow Puppets Cold Little Heart (Radio Edit)—Micheal Kiwanuka. I’ve said this before, but very rarely do I listen to a song and think it should be longer. Kiwauka’s “Cold Little Heart,” maybe, the only song I’ve ever listened to that genuinely deserves to be 9 minutes long (maybe “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” or “Runaway?”). “Cold Little Heart” is a combination of late ’60s/early ’70s soul and a kind of cold, cosmic, ghostly, Spiritualized/Delia Derbyshire energy. The song is also a favorite of every mom who watched Big Little Lies back when it came out. Also, if you’re in the market for modern, retro soul music, check out Curtis Harding and his 2017 album Face Your Fears. Underwear—Pulp. Most of my favorite songs fall under the genre of —’90s Brit-pop, songs that are slightly too jaded to be considered New Wave and slightly too Pop-ey to be considered Grunge. Underwear by Pulp fits firmly into all of these categories. The Art of Driving—Black Box Recorder. You may remember Black Box Recorder from the first volume of Long Distance Listening Party, which would put you in the very exclusive club of people who still remember Black Box Recorder. Diamonds from Sierra Leone—Kanye West. Despite being an anthropomorphized clown emoji, Kanye West actually does make good music. Most people, when discussing Kanye, say that they have a hard time separating the art from the artist, for me, I have a hard time separating the art from the memes (Bound 2). Although, Kanye’s entire discography can basically be summoned up in one sentence: “Brilliant ear for Otis Redding samples, great producer, mediocre rapper.” When Kanye first started making music his corniness was somewhat endearing, so was how seriously he took himself. For me, that endearment lasted for about three albums. Then My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, an album as over-bloated as its title, came out and all this talk about Kanye being an “artistic genius” and an “auteur rapper” started. Honestly, I think most of that was just because there was a painting of a naked lady on the cover. Satellite of Love—Morrissey. I don’t have a lot to say about this cover. In the original version of the song the line is “I watched it for a little while, I like to watch things on TV,” which Morrissey changes to “I cannot stand the TV.” I don’t know if Morrissey just doesn’t understand the meaning of the original line, or if he does and he’s just too pretentious to admit that he watches TV. Miles Erickson is a recent graduate of CalArts, a published author, and currently enrolled in a prestigious, 4-year, student loan repayment program. Long Distance Listening Party’s vague intention is to discuss topics framed in the context of what I’m currently listening to. This playlist is available on Spotify, search my username, Mileserickson-354. New songs are added every two weeks.
      April 1, 2022

Share Story on:

LONG DISTANCE LISTENING PARTY

spacer

April 1, 2022

SHOUTING OUT LOUD
NEWS
LETTERS
LONG DISTANCE LISTENING PARTY
EVENTS
WHADDYA KNOW?
ALL THINGS CONNECTED
MY CORNER OF THE CANYON
ASTROLOGY
WHAT’S HAPPENING?