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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bouncer: On Missing Jesse Morris, San Francisco's Punk Rock Johnny Cash

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 11:57 AM

From this week's Bouncer column:


At times I find myself preoccupied with thoughts of suicide -- not my own, but other people's. I visit suicide memorial websites and read each blurb. I always look at the recent suicide postings on Wikipedia. It was there that I learned of the death of one of the men behind the social network site Diaspora: He killed himself in our city, at the age of 22, on Nov. 12. This means that he was still around on the 11th, feeling awful and hopeless. I was tooling around town that day, going about my business, being annoyed with stupid shit, and he was still alive.

Known as San Francisco's Punk Rock Johnny Cash, Jesse Morris, killed himself on Nov. 6. Anyone who ever visited the 24th Street BART station has heard him busking; he looked like Wattie from the Exploited, but sounded exactly like the Man in Black. His voice echoed through the station and would follow me up the escalator. Because of him, I frequently went to work with "Folsom Prison Blues" stuck in my head. Sometimes this pissed me off. Other times I wished he would sing new songs. But most of the time I felt grateful for him. This is how our brains work -- we can be programmed to be bummed out or happy, and external things can stoke our despair or feed our bliss. I call it a Brain Fork: We can go either way, depending on how much force pushes us in either direction. We can see a busker as an annoyance, or a rose to smell. (Okay, maybe that is a bad metaphor for a street musician. But you catch my drift.)

"What can I get you, sweetheart?" asked the bartender at Tony's in North Beach. Here was a good example of a Brain Fork. Here was man referring to me in what some people would consider a sexist way. I could take umbrage and feel offended, or I could see it as a tall, handsome man affirming my femininity. I chose the latter, and ordered a drink with a smile. "Here ya go, doll," he said, putting it in front of me.

There was a point in my life where I would have been supremely pissed at this guy. I would have pointed out that I wasn't that sweet, so just get me the drink and lose the patriarchal bullshit. But now I am more concerned with the kindness behind his message, not his neo-chauvinism. I have evolved.

Tony's is a pizza place, first and foremost, but there is a bar area when you first walk in. The staff is efficient and friendly, and the food is pretty amazing. They have this one pizza, the Detroit Red Top, that is probably the most decadent thing I have put in my mouth since -- well, I won't go into that. It's basically a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich of a crust with a pizza plopped on top. I can usually make it through half a slice without needing defibrillation, but beyond that I am taking my life into my own hands. I only eat it once a year, so on this visit, I just had drinks and pondered the meaning of life. You know, the usual.

Jesse Morris had tried to kill himself several weeks before he actually succeeded, and I found myself wondering, as I always do, if there was something I could have done, even though I didn't really know him...

... continue reading this week's Bouncer column.


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Katy St. Clair


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