9/11 was a dark day for America, and a lighter shade of darkness for the self involved artiste known as me. Four hours after landing in Osaka, Japan, I watched the twin towers collapse on the TV in a performer’s dorm lounge, surrounded by bewildered Australians and Brits and numbed American musicians.
I was recently married, and cosmically coincidentally, my various music incomes abruptly dried up. We were broke. I abandoned my new and exciting project, an experimental country band called I See Hawks In L.A., for exile to Japan and performing a really horrible mishmash of American songs on really horrible instruments for Japanese tourists at the brand new Universal theme park in Osaka. An artistic nadir heralded by a national nadir we may never recover from.
Japan turned into a delightful two months respite from the military madness and ocean of red white and blue engulfing Los Angeles, and we didn’t want to come back. At LAX the change in atmosphere from enlightened and polite society to surly nihilism was palpable. Welcome home. What are these, sir?
I needed a job. My brother Anthony nepotized me into the lowly tape logging position at a History Channel production company, and I graduated to researcher, interviewing climate scientists, fusion scientists, anthropologists, candy makers, bomb makers, for the Modern Marvels series.
Seven years flew by and the company became a second family, full of stimulating conversations among the producers and writers, Quiznos and yogurt shops fulfilling your every Ventura Boulevard culinary need. I felt strange enjoying a day job as much as I did, even as my music projects also blossomed. Brother Anthony and I had been saving strange National Archives historical clips over the years just for fun, and envisioned a series of between-show non sequiturs showing up between History Channel shows. At a production meeting I finally proposed just that, and the execs said, yeah, let’s do it. And you’ll be the host. Logger Paul.
Putting coherent modulated sentences together was never my strong suit, and I begged off from the host job. But the powers that be insisted. I gathered raw footage of Mussolini’s son and Our Gang communing in Hollywood, dangerous early flying machines, twisted beauty pageants, bombs, Hitler puppetry, and a POW choir singing about their torture in elegant harmony at a White House dinner. This should do it. We shot 15 episodes, which were to appear once an hour between commercials around the clock on the History Channel. Yes. I was to be a nationally known talking head.
One episode aired, a long clip of the radically dense U.S. bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, with minimally moralizing commentary. But the long haired mush mouthed hippie and volatile content was too much for the East Coast exec. Logger Paul was pulled after one airing, to zero surprise from me. But the clips have survived, and in retrospect I think they fulfill our goal: to be immersed in a tiny facet of human activity that illuminates the bigger times from which it was plucked. There’s some crazy things going on out there. Always were, always will be.