“Give a good day.” – Cubby Selby

It’s rare that I talk on the phone, but sometimes picking up a call will lead you down interesting paths. I recently went on a journey during a three hour conversation with my lifelong dearest friend, Anthony. We got to talking about music – bands we’d seen and almost’d seen and will never see; the famous musicians we know, have worked with, have had brushes with; and the San Francisco music scene from the late-80s and early 90s, which led us to the band Bomb, and Anthony’s friend Michael Dean from Bomb directing a movie about writer Hubert (Cubby) Selby Jr.

Selby writes dark, mesmerizing, violent, can’t-look-away Truth. Last Exit To Brooklyn took me back to my time as a squatter, living in bombed-out no-man’s-land South Williamsburg Brooklyn – years before gentrification took hold. Last Exit takes place decades before my time, but I was right there in the story – seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, tasting it all. 

Whenever I go back and I get a whiff of the street – summertime at 3:30 in the morning Brooklyn – I get a pang of the kind of dread and excitement that makes me lightly sweat mixed with the feeling of being right at home. Light and heavy at once, like floating through time with cinder block shoes.

Unbroken Bodhisattva

Whether or not you are familiar with Selby’s work, It/ll Be Better Tomorrow is worth watching. Writing gave Cubby a reason to live. His art touched so many people it kept him going. He is a celebration of humanity, and the healing power of storytelling, of creativity. His work moved and inspired a lot of people. 

If you were ever afraid being an artist was selfish, watch this movie. If anyone ever told you being an artist was selfish, have them watch this movie.

“The responsibility of the artist is to transcend the human ego.” Hubert Selby, Jr.

Peace.

Image of Hubert Selby, Jr (photographer unknown)

April 16, 2021
Flagstaff, AZ 

Posted by

I'm a rock-n-roller poet who left the Big Apple for the Big Sky Desert where I've been letting it be and grooving with universal love, singing to the gods, dancing with the muses and bicycling with dreamtime messengers. I like altering my reality through imagination, movement, breath, and makin' stuff.

14 thoughts on ““Give a good day.” – Cubby Selby

  1. Oh, wait. When you wrote CBGBs could be the Crusty T-shirt, I processed Crusty Tie and I thought you meant CBGBs and similar places were the inspiration for my Crusty Tie Diner dream. And then I realized that theory fits REALLY WELL!. Other “inspirations” for me were times spent at the early new-wave venue Hurrah at 36 West 62 Street in the late 1970s, The Ritz, Danceteria, Peppermint Lounge andd the Mudd Club along after-hours places like AM/PM and The Nursery and a club called Aldo’s Hideaway in NJ through the 1980s, and also, I suppose, a few years after all that (early 1990s, now almost 28 years AGO–WOW!), the “real-world” (as opposed to club-world?) experience of pronouncing the extreme stage performer GG Allin dead one June morning during an interesting set and setting for me in terms of where I was in life, see bottom of this page: https://findadeath.com/gg-allin/ Anyway, the Crusty Tie Diner dream as i see it now was coding for the whole dig-into-filth aspect of punk/post-punk as it influenced me from say, 1978-1989 (ages 19-30). Interestingly, now it’s becoming increasingly obvious that you NEED to get exposed to a panorama of pathogens, pus and pain fairly regularly because it gives your immune system something to do. Otherwise that fighting machine just turns on you and you get Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. So why was there no room for me to sit down next to my date at TCTD in the dream? What does that mean? (The jury is still out, but at least now i know where the brown sauce came from. Thanks, GG.)

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    1. I love the last line in the GG article – “A claim to fame from a bit of shit.” And so it goes.

      I remember that summer, I loved a few blocks from the Gas Station, and used to hang out there occasionally. I remember the news that GG died, and it was no surprise. I’d never seen his shows, crusty punks were not my thing – though – talking about crust – he was probably the crustiest!

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  2. I got to know Cubby twice in my life. The first time was in 1963-1964 when i lived with him and my mother in his East 10th Street apartment. He was my first (and perhaps only) real father figure, but that was short-lived (pretty long for a 5-year-old, though). The last time i saw him was right around my 6th birthday in late 1964, by which time i was back in Vermont living with my grandmother. Cubby and my mother (his second wife) were about to move to LA (“to escape the NY heroin scene”–Gil Sorrentino’s comments on that point in the movie are hilarious). They came up and gave me a watch (my first) as a birthday present. I got to know him again some 54 years later, in 2018, well after he’d died, when i first read The Willow Tree. I was 2/3 through the novel wondering if he was trying to tell me something, and then Moishe gave Bobby a watch for his birthday. Bobby’s birthday was the same date as mine. I wept, knowing that he’d remembered me and thought of me, and wished that i could acknowledge that and tell him i’d remembered him too. I guess that’s what i am doing now, indirectly.

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    1. Your story just added so much more to Cubby’s story – as I am sure you touched his life. Just this one paragraph, and my mind is filling in a whole new set of pieces. Wow. How moving and beautiful, the story of getting to know him later through his writing, and, the watch. I’ll have to read The Willow Tree next.

      Thank you so much for sharing this. From the movie, it really felt to me that Cubby’s writing was his way of showing his immense gratitude and love for being alive and for the people in his life – no matter how much he struggled.

      And I want to watch the movie again – so much treasure in it – I’m sure I missed some sweet gems.

      Thanks again!

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      1. Thanks, Holly. That last time I saw Cubby, another elder of mine bit him pretty savagely. That was Dusty, a medium-sized mongrel who was about five years older than I. My earliest retained memory in life is of being bitten in the face by good old Dusty. But it was all noise and saliva, no broken skin. I was about a year old, had just learned to walk, and had inadvertently cornered him in the bathroom, staring right into his eyes as I approached. Some four years later, while we were staying with Cubby’s mother (“Grandma Selby” to me at the time, who taught me how to tie my shoelaces during that visit) I had one of the worst nightmares of my life, being freaked out by a doll that opened its eyes, stared at me, and started getting up to move toward me. I woke up screaming. Years later, I realized that this was probably my subconscious (or, better, the Overmind, see “Psychologistics: An Operating Manual for the Mind” by T.A. Water, 1977) explaining to me in vivid terms what Dusty had experienced when I’d cornered him. It was I who’d been the “doll” in that encounter, a noisy little creature he’d seen in a crib that all of a sudden was now walking upright and staring him in the face. It freaked him out big-time, so he bit and ran. No big deal. But now fast forward to Vermont, November 1964, when I turned six. Dusty did not like Cubby, so during his visit, while Cubby was sitting on the couch with my mother, with all the adults busy yakking and paying no attention to canine subtleties, Dusty quietly set him up for a bite by putting his dog biscuit near Cubby’s foot. When Cubby moved his foot, this gave Dusty justification to bite. This dog was highly intelligent and maybe just a wee bit psychotic. (Another of my mentors, maybe.) Anyway, I already knew his trick with the dog biscuit and I guess I must have seen it coming a few seconds before the bite. But Dusty used to do it to me as a game, no real biting, just mouth contact and snarls, very theatrical but harmless. Several other dogs have put holes in my flesh since then, but Dusty never did during the decade or so that I knew him. So I was amazed when Cubby peeled up his pants leg to reveal a gaping, bleeding hole on the boneless side of his shin where one canine (fang) had penetrated an inch or more (the other fang having hit the tibia and stopped). Cubby was pretty stoic about it (he’d experienced far worse) but it sort of broke up the party. I’ve relived that event many times in my head, wondering why I didn’t act fast enough to prevent the bite. But, hey, I was only six years old. I’ve gotten better at taking quick action to prevent harm since then, but of course I’m still learning.

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        1. Another great story! Whoa.

          So I read this before I went to sleep, and this morning morning I dreamt I was in a swimming pool. There were two young dogs – almost puppies but not quite, guarding the pool. Every time I tried to get out, they bit me. No blood, but firmly enough where I couldn’t get out of the pool. At one point, a friend came by and I jumped on an inner tube and he pulled me out of the pool while beating the dogs back with an oar. We ran off into the woods with the dogs following, but we got away.
          Then, I was in the pool again. Stuck. One dog kept biting my hand as I tried to get to the tube. Everything I tried I got bit.

          Now I think I am going to write a song called Black Dog Biting.

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          1. Ha! If you have no melody yet, maybe you could work with the tune from “Bad Moon Rising” for now until you come up with something using the same meter later. Some lyrics that come to mind that would work for me with that melody:

            “I feel a black dog biting.
            I guess I cannot leave the pool.
            I think my capsized float is righting.
            I know I’ve acted like a fool.”

            OK, since we’re putting our dreams out there, how about this? Early this morning I dreamed that I was meeting someone at a diner called The Crusty Tie, but there was no room for me to sit at the counter next to them. My friend had ordered French fries with some sort of brown chocolate or mole sauce on them. I ate one or two and they were surprisingly good. But I left because it was too crowded with no place for me to sit. I have no idea what any of it means. And I have never heard of any diner called The Crusty Tie. If there’s one near you this would probably be telepathy…

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Ha! All so good! Black Dogs and Bad Moons – all sorts of howling ensues

              The Crusty Tie sounds like a place specializing in weird sauces that end up on your suit.

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                1. maybe I saw you and your date at CBs!

                  CBGBs could be the Crusty T-shirt (but who knows what the crust is – likely bodily fluid, possible not your own)

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