Thursday, March 4, 2010

So I don't know what happened, but somehow it seems that Blogger made all the comments disappear from this blog. Actually, it's weirder than that. All the archived blogs say they have 0 comments but when you click on them, the comments that were there before are still there. I do not understand this problem and have fussed with my settings a good bit to no avail, so if you've left a comment before please don't think I went through and erased it. Technology be damned!

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I recently traveled to Cleveland, and while I was rushing to get off the plane I forgot to bring the book I had been reading with me, so it was lost to the airline. This was a particular bummer because the book was one I was particularly enjoying and definitely wanted to keep around: Joe Carducci's Enter Naomi. The book is one of the most unique I've read about punk, and the great Southern California punk scene of the late '70s/early '80s in particular. It was also a signed copy I'd happened upon while up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where Carducci had apparently done a reading not long before I passed through town.

As some readers may know, Carducci worked for SST records back in its heyday, and after leaving wrote one of the most spirited, incisive and downright cranky books about rock ever written, Rock and the Pop Narcotic. This newer book, Enter Naomi, is quite different in tone. Partly a memoir of his years with SST, it's also an effort to reconstruct the experience of one of Carducci's SST comrades-in-arms, photographer Naomi Peterson, who took many a great shot of bands from L.A. and elsewhere, did tons of SST publicity photo work, but years later died an untimely death before she even hit 40 years of age, seemingly due to years of alcohol abuse.

What makes Enter Naomi so distinctive is its reflectiveness regarding the place of women in the testosterone-fueled SoCal punk scene. Sure, there are other books detailing women's place in punk, but none that are written from Carducci's peculiar point of view, as a not-quite-feminist guy who nonetheless wants to recognize the really meaningful contribution that women made to the scene of that time and place, and also wants to be sure that people recognize the particular contributions of his lost friend who never quite received the credit she deserved. The book is chock full of great examples of Peterson's work as well as a bunch of other candid shots that document the ins and outs of SST and its peculiar cast of characters. All the more reason that I'm bummed the book got left behind.

And for what it's worth, Naomi's story particularly resonated for me because she attended my high school, Simi Valley High. She was a couple years ahead of me, enough for our paths to never have crossed, and as Carducci tells it, she felt trapped by the conservatism of Simi Valley as much as I did but found a much more interesting escape route. Naomi, I'm sorry I never knew you.

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