Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
Posts tagged "West Coast"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
How would you describe your writing style?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Gas. Brake. Dip.

61 plays
H-Wood,
It's Been A Long Time Comin

H-Wood: Proud To Be From The S.A.C.

33.
A Birthday Ramble. 

I’m a long way away from Sacramento.  I left nearly three years ago and haven’t been back, and there have always been days where I hated it as much as I loved it, but Sacramento is and will always be my home.  And, 33 years ago today, January 20, 1980, I was born right downtown, at Sutter Memorial Hospital.

For the first three decades of my life, for better or worse, Sacramento raised me and made me who I am.  The scars on my body and the creases on my face bear the names of the streets that I prowled — El Camino Avenue, Fulton Avenue, Arden Way, Watt Avenue, Marconi Avenue, Edison Avenue, Howe Avenue, Bell Street, Northgate Boulevard, Grand Avenue, Norwood, Auburn Boulevard, Lerwick, Larchwood, Ball Way, Kent Drive.  

The light in my eyes reflect my favorite haunts: Capitol Park ringed by its barrier of palm trees, Old Sacramento, Tower Bridge, the Esquire Grill, the lobby of the Sheraton Grand, an empty Light Rail train in mid-morning, the view from the multi-story parking garage directly across L Street from the State Capitol building, the seismograph a few steps away from the door to the Governor’s office, the orange trees on the grounds of the Capitol where, if you know where to stand, you can peek directly into the window of the Governor’s office, the cigar shop on Front Street, the stretch of 160 between Arden Fair Mall and the wild licorice bushes near the Radisson and American River levee where you could smell the Wonder Bread factory cooking early in the morning.

The shadows on my face and the perpetual bags under my eyes are reminders of long days and never-ending nights.  Some of them were fun, some of them were not, but all of them were experiences.  Friendships established, relationships demolished, life always being lived.  Everything shaded by the sheer number of trees — practically anything can grow in Sacramento’s climate — not merely dotting the city, but populating it.  Trees all over the city like my memories — wild, diverse, growing, dying, happy, sad, overcrowded at times, but sometimes lonely.

People like to say that they’ve made mistakes in their lives and then add that they regret nothing.  I’ve made mistakes in my life and I regret many of them.  I even regret some of the things that weren’t mistaken.  We don’t learn from mistakes.  We learn from the consequences of our mistakes — and those are usually called “regrets”.  For many years, I lived too slowly, and then I lived too fast.  With many people, I loved too quickly, and then I loved too harsh.  When somebody hurt me — especially somebody that I cared about — I often tried to destroy them and who they were to me and what we shared.  Up until recently, I still did that — annihilate attachments, eliminate emotions, crush connections, liquidate love, ravage relationships…eradicate, exterminate, desolate, shatter, sabotage, vaporize, ruin, ruin, ruin.  Today, at 33 years old, I now actively seek to preserve rather than obliterate.  Seems odd that I should have to work so hard at preservation when, professionally, my life’s work — the study and promotion of history — is, at its core, an act of preservation.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not all darkness and shadows, debris fields and wastelands.  Like everyone, I’m simply visited by the cloud of depression that Winston Churchill would call “the black dog”.  But I am in a better place than I have been in close to ten years.  I have somehow found a way to actually make a living with my writing.  It’s so surreal and such a long time coming that I still feel like I tricked somebody.  The idea of advertising revenue and royalty checks backed by real money, legitimate legal tender, coming my way because of words that I wrote continues to blow me away.  For years, I wondered what it would be like to be a professional writer and, in many ways, it’s inexplicable.  For some reason, I always figured that I would realize that I had reached that point when some editor sat me down and said “You’re hired.”  But, really, I didn’t recognize that I had reached that level until it suddenly hit me that I was somehow getting paid for the things that I was writing.  By no means have I “made it”, but I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do, and, at 33, that makes me happy.  It still doesn’t feel quite real, but it feels right.  It feels like I deserve it because, despite those mistakes and regrets, this is the one thing that I’ve always worked hard at and taken completely, utterly, 100% seriously.

I like the fact that my birthday is close to the beginning of the year.  It allows me to feel like the new year is genuinely a new year for me.  The past few years have been difficult — personally, professionally, emotionally, and even physically.  Of course, 33 isn’t 63, but I feel every day of every month of my life when I wake up in the morning.  I feel it in my bones.  I see it in my eyes.  But I’m still here.  I have all of limbs and all of my hair, and I know my brain is still working hard because I can’t slow it down when I try to sleep.  That race never ends.  

It’s 2013 and I am 33.  I like the number “3”.  All of my life, whenever I set an alarm or set the microwave or have a target number of sets for a workout, the target number I use always either has a “3” in it or is divisible by 3.  I don’t have many superstitions, but that is one of them.  So, both 2013 and the age of 33 give me an optimistic feeling.  I haven’t had a great year since 2002 or 2003.  Some of them have been downright horrible, particularly 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2011.  Last year was a bit better, but I feel like the year 2013 and the age of 33 will prove that I have turned the page.  I don’t exactly know why or how, but I’m now old enough to realize that hope and optimism should never be dismissed.  For the past decade, I have been so thirsty for reason and hungry for logic that I’ve needed to know the explanation for everything.  That hasn’t necessarily resulted in happiness, so I’m going to let hope and optimism stick around this year.

I didn’t really mean to ramble on like this or get all philosophical just because it’s my birthday.  It just happened.  And, let’s be honest, I just wrote a whole bunch of words without really saying anything.  But, I rarely get personal here.  However, hearing this song brings back a lot of memories and a blank computer screen, blinking icon, and welcoming keyboard was an invitation to open up for once.

I am a long way away from Sacramento — in more ways than just the mileage distance.  I am a better person than I was three years ago, two years ago, even five months ago.  Goals that I have set — goals which seemed to never get any closer for many years — have been met and more have been established.  I feel like I learn something new every day.  When I don’t, I feel like that day has been a failure and, although 33 doesn’t seem old, who knows how many days I actually have left to learn, create, teach, share?  I’m a long way from Sacramento and I don’t have family here.  I don’t have many friends here.  But I have a huge personal library of books that I rarely have had to pay for.  I published my own first book and people actually bought it (and continue to buy it).  I’m in the process of finishing my second book.  The book reviews that I write have received attention from publishers and big-name authors who I have revered.  I’ve become a person who college kids will e-mail with questions about their studies and a historian that mainstream news outlets like Bloomberg have reached out to for commentary.  I’m in a good place.

I am a long way from those street signs that I mentioned.  I now live in a tiny town of about 2,000 people — a town the size of my junior high school.  I’m not kept awake by police helicopters or hours of sirens.  I’m not worried when I take a walk to the grocery store or the park.  I live in peace, as we all should.  As H-Wood’s song says, I’m proud to be from Sacramento, but I’m also proud to be in New Haven.  I’m proud to have made it to where I am.  I’m proud to know that, at 33, I have made improvements, made my life better, made people who know me proud of what I have become.

I am a long way away from Sacramento, but in many ways, I am still home.  I’m proud to be from the S.A.C., but I’m also proud to be me.  Yes, I feel every day of my 33 years and, while I used to look young for my age, I now look every day of 33, too.  But what I feel is 33 years of memories and experiences that continue to shape me and, hopefully, make an impact on others.  Maybe I don’t love enough or put enough trust in others, but I will.  It’s taken me all this time to finally love and trust myself, so I think I’m ready to try it out on others.  I’d like to think that this is an example of that because in this new year of my life, I’m going to try to lift the curtain and share my history, as well as our country’s history.  Don’t worry — you’re not going to get rambling dissertations like this all the time — but I wanted to share this today so that I can make sure that I’m accountable for the improvements I strive to continue.  Of course, it’s far easier sharing myself with 10,000 readers who I don’t know than on person that I do (yes, you read that correctly, I’d rather stand and talk in front of a crowd of 80,000 than sit in a small group of three).  

Alright, alright, enough out of me.  Thanks to everybody who is sending birthday wishes today and to anyone bored brave enough to make it to the end of this post.  It’s 2013, I’m 33, I’m proud to be from the S.A.C., I’m proud to be where I am right now, and I look forward to my next year of sunshine and shadows and, of course, plenty of history. 

31,389 plays
C-Bo,
Enemy of the State

C-Bo (feat. Daz Dillinger): Crippin’

In honor of my fellow Del Paso Heights native, Donté Stallworth, who was re-signed by the New England Patriots last week and who caught a beautiful touchdown pass from Tom Brady last night, we show some love to our boys on the other side of Sacramento: C-Bo, the Garden Blocc, and any friendly faces on the Southside — even though Donté’s in Boston, I’m in St. Louis, and Cowboy is locked up in Federal prison in Arizona until May 2013, I’m sure 24th-through-29th Streets are still as strong as ever.

For any C-Bo or West Coast hip-hop fans, I’m sure Cowboy would be happy for the words of support or to hear what you think of his latest album, Orca.  He’s got nothing but time right now, so you can drop him a line:

Shawn Thomas
#46116-048
FCI Safford
P.O. Box 9000
Safford, Arizona 85548

Okay, we’ll now return to our regularly-scheduled programming.

10,439 plays
Daz Dillinger,
Only On the Left Side

Daz Dillinger: Only on the Left Side

1,169 plays

Tupac Amaru Shakur: June 16, 1971-September 13, 1996

(From my AND Magazine article on the 15th anniversary of Tupac’s death in 2011)

"When I was a little baby, I remember that one moment of calm peace, and three minutes after that, it was on.” — Tupac Shakur

Wait a second…I’m the guy who usually writes about Presidents, or reviews really stuffy political books.  What am I doing writing about music?

Well, I’m sure that some of you know that today is the anniversary of Tupac Shakur’s death.  I’m sure many of you have heard ‘Pac’s music and appreciate a few of his songs.

For me, however, Tupac Shakur was a big part of my adolescence.  I’d guess that many of my readers are either too old or too young, but Tupac was what I listened to throughout high school.  My younger readers just don’t understand and older readers just don’t get it — the East/West thing was huge when I was a teenager, and it was real.  I didn’t own a Jay-Z album until 2002.  I didn’t even buy Biggie’s albums until after he was killed.  My friends and I believed in the beef — as silly as it might sound now — and for impressionable teens growing up on the West Coast in some of the rougher neighborhoods in California, my friends and I were 100% in 2Pac’s corner.

Now, of course, we know that the whole West Coast vs. East Coast thing was silly, even dangerous.  The two best rappers of that time ended up murdered.  Nothing good came out of the rivalry besides some great records.  What’s most upsetting about the beef is all of the things we missed out on — Tupac and Biggie maturing, evolving, and becoming better at everything that they already did so well.

Why did I identify with Tupac?  I don’t know exactly, but I did.  I still do.  I still listen to All Eyez On Me constantly.  I still am mesmerized by his words.  There was poetry in everything that Tupac did.  Even when he was frustratingly stubborn and acting like a crazy man, there was always a twinkle in his eye that said, I know what I’m doing.

I don’t think ‘Pac was a gangsta.  I think he was an artist who went to extreme lengths to evoke an emotion from everyone.  Somewhere, in those last months of his life, the line became blurred.  I think Tupac had lost his way, and he was just about to find it when he was shot in Las Vegas.  I wish ‘Pac was still around.  I miss his music.  I miss the words that he was able to weave together in such a unique way.  Maybe 2Pac wasn’t the best rapper of all-time, but he was the best poet of my generation.

It’s strange — my generation was short-handed in heroes.  When we found people we looked up to, they either fell back to earth quickly, or they died.  I won’t go so far to say that Tupac was a hero to me, but his words helped guide me through some pretty rough formative years.  He made me realize that, even if I couldn’t get out of the place I was in, I could at least do something to fix the place.

Tupac Shakur was gifted and frustrating, and I guess I relate to that because that’s probably how my friends and family would describe me.  I am now seven years older than 2Pac was when he died on September 13, 1996.  I remember where I was when I heard he had been shot after the Mike Tyson fight in 1996, and I remember that I immediately thought what many of ‘Pac’s fans thought:  “He got shot again?  It’s ‘Pac…he’ll be fine.”  I remember being at a high school football game in Northern California on Friday the 13th when I found out that he wasn’t going to be fine — that he was dead.

Tupac Shakur was 25 years old when he died, and I wish he had as many years as I have had.  I wish a 40-year-old Tupac was making music, writing poetry, filming movies (remember, he was an amazing actor), and playing with the kids he never had.  I wish I could explain in a better or more eloquent manner why it matters to me that a rapped died sixteen years ago.  I guess it’s just this:  he wasn’t a rapper.  This wasn’t Lil’ Wayne or Drake or even Kanye West.  Tupac Shakur was a philosopher and he made my life better.  I wish his life had been longer, and since it wasn’t, I’ll play his music (as I normally do) and cap the day off with Tupac’s personal favorite — Don McLean’s “Vincent”, which is filled with lyrics that could have described ‘Pac himself:

Now, I understand, what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know now
Perhaps they’ll listen now

And, if you’re out and about tonight and want a drink, here’s what you should order:  one part Alizé, one part Hennessy — Thug Passion.  But don’t pour it out for ‘Pac; he wouldn’t want you to waste it.

821 plays

2Pac (feat. Dr. Dre & Roger Troutman of Zapp): California Love

Anaïs, I have an answer for you from Mr. Shakur, Mr. Young, and Mr. Troutman.  They say, “WEST SIDE”.