s.a.griffin | rules of the road

“Rules of the Road” is an ode to the infamous Carma Bums by S.A. Griffin, clip from an upcoming documentary about the ensemble of Los Angeles poets. Shot on location in 2004 in Atlanta, GA by Sherri Larsen and combined with footage from their 1996 experimental film.

Carma Bums Rules of The Road

incorporates footage shot by myself, Bruce Dickson and Sherri Larsen. The footage in this piece covers 1989-2004. You can see my 1959 Cadillac Farther morph from rusty off white in 1989 to its ultimate black and white paint job in 1996, the last year we really were “on the road” together. My contributions include 1989 No Seat Belts Tour of Words on our way to Denver, Bobbo (Robert) Staron in the back seat of the Caddy beating bongos with Mike Mollett and Mike Bruner, early morning cigarette, weed and coffee lift off with Scott Wannberg riding shotgun (as always) , Ellyn Maybe waiting in the Caddy on the side of the road, the trunk of our Caddy “FARTHER” loaded and ready to roll as we left for The Grand Canyon. 1991 Start From Zero Secret Tour of Words at The Ocean Beach Pier when we were all crawling on the floor literally eating the carpet just before we all ended the show exiting on our knees in hysterics, one of our better gigs. The Bums with Doug Knott dinking around on Carlos Guitarlos’ piano in San Francisco during our 1990 No Seat Belts Tour.

Bruce Dickson’s footage covers our August 1996 Twisted Tour of Words to celebrate our book, Twisted Cadillac. This footage shows us in Los Angeles at my old digs on Vermont Ave. partying before escaping L.A.’s orbit, San Pedro right after reading with Raindog for Bukowski’s birthday (I believe that Jay Alamares, Rafael FJ Alvarado and Gerald Locklin were at that reading as well), the car with its brand new black and white cop style paint job and animal print upholstery. The Bums hamming it up Keystone Cops like in front of the “Hotel Californian” sign adjacent to the Muholland Fountain at the corner of Los Feliz and Riverside, and our Chinese fire drill outside The Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. Taking the crowd with us as we performed/read poetry as we descended into the redwood forest just below the Henry Miller Library. An amazing experience to be held in that cathedral of giant trees, the sun breaking thru. Holy, the only way to really describe it. Cliche, but true. Making our way thru the baffle of L.A. freeways heading north for our Twisted Tour of Words, our kick off reading at Luna Park . All of this footage ended up in Bruce’s documentary The Luxurious Tigers of Obnoxious Agreement, a film about The Carma Bums produced in part by Viggo Mortensen with original music by Double Naught Spy Car and music created for the film by Viggo Mortensen, Henry Mortensen, and X band members Exene Cervenka and DJ Bonbrake.

Sherri Larsen shot the footage of me reading/recording in Atlanta at Railroad Earth. The Bums had landed in Atlanta during May of 2004 to shoot footage for another doc (yet to be made) and to record tracks for an album (also, yet to be produced, all things in their own time, right?) Sherri married her footage with material lifted from Bruce’s doc to create this video. Atlanta was a long week together and a good/bad time (always with The Bums, just like in the poem), Scott and I literally holed up in a crack house hotel across the street from The Waffle House where The Bums gathered every morning for breakfast. Same thing in N. Carolina when I stayed with Rank Stranger Charlie Whitley in July of 2007 while touring with my collected, Numbskull Sutra, we always had breakfast at The Waffle House. First discovered Waffle House when I was stationed at Warner Robbins AFB, Georgia back in the early ’70’s. My buddies and I would all get thoroughly stoned and hit the old Waffle House late night, pump out Steely Dan’s Reeling In The Years, Seals & Crofts Hummingbird or The Allman Brothers Whipping Post. Always good times at The Waffle House. Especially when one is stoned.

In July of 2007, as part of my tour, also went to Denver to celebrate the publication of Black Ace 8, which I published and edited for Temple of Man. The Infinity Issue for our late pal, Venice Beat progenitor, Tony Scibella. John Macker, Todd Moore, Barbara Moore and Tony Moffeit were there with many others including artist and poet Steve Wilson, who created the art for the dust jacket of Black Ace 8.

The Carma Bums, and you see all of them in the video, are Mike Bruner, me, Doug Knott, Mike Mollett, Bobbo Staron and Scott Wannberg. For most of our tours, Ellyn Maybe always opened for us. I bought the Cadillac in 1988 for about two grand. Over the years, I would pour thousands upon thousands into it, improving it and keeping it happy enough to make the road. When I bought it was in bad shape, the oil hadn’t been changed in years. But money and living was easy then, so I could afford to get it road worthy. Every time we went out on the road with that beast, I would spend a couple of g’s just to prep the car for the trip, and we always made it there and back. As the wheelman, it was always my job to get us there and back. To Denver, Vancouver, Santa Fe, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Flagstaff, Las Vegas, and all points in between and “farther”. I never fixed the air conditioning, the speedometer or the radio. So we literally never knew how fast we were going and were forced to entertain one another with poetry, music and endless bullshit. There were no better times than to be on the road with these sonofabitches rolling 100 miles per hour to nowhere in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the word and one another. Oh yeah, maybe some weed and our imaginations.

I loved that car. I miss it. But better to see it restored then to see it rusting away on the street. S.A.Griffin

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