i cant pay attention to anything for very long

how do you do it?

my mind is clicking, zipping, changing channels.

do you know how many ideas i have?

when i was in college i was in a poetry class. the nice teacher had a rule: you had to meet with her 2x after class throughout the semester.

the first time i went in there i said, i love your class. she said youre a very good writer. i said thank you! she said but you’re barely getting a B minus. i said, thats actually higher than i usually get in school.

she asked, well hopefully your final will improve your grade. is there anything you wanna talk about?

i said, yes, i have just written a 15 page poem about a girl i made out with over summer vacation. and i would like you to help me with the structure because it changes tempos and styles on every page like a crazy person.

and i gave her a rough draft of The Stamp which, among other things, tries to explain why time flies when youre having fun.

she sat there and read it and laughed and took a red pen to some of the first few pages, but then put it down on page 3 and just read.

when she was done she said, tony i want to ask you something. you halfway through your junior year. there is an exclusive college that i normally teach in where there are no grades, no tests, no finals.

you could write as many 15 page poems you want and not have to worry about B minuses or C plusses.

but it will take you a quarter or two for the approval process to allow you in.

would you be interested in staying at ucsb for two more years with no grades, or would you like to spend the next year and half with grades?

i said, before i answer that, i have a question for you. you say this is the college of creative studies.

i have always wondered about creativity, i said.

she perked up.

i asked, does it go away as you get older? most of my favorite musicians seem to lose their magic after their first few albums.

she said, it never goes away if you practice.

i said

and she said, not tom waits not elvis costello not bob dylan not coletrane or miles not bach

and i would wager, tony pierce will be writing epic love poems until he dies.

that teacher still follows me on facebook and that may be the greatest gift of all.

today is my favorite teacher, robyn bell’s birthday

i have been blessed with many great teachers, but my favorite one was my last official one.

a fan of bob dylan, lou reed, the clash, and less popular stars like emily dickinson and others, robyn had the unique ability to make you feel like you were actually teaching her something every now and then

the college of creative studies was an oasis for many young people like me who struggled in traditional classrooms with bizarre structures and concepts like “grades”

at UCSB’s secret college, creatives were encouraged to allow their minds to roam free and promised that they would not be punished if they colored outside the box.

and yet, guidance was administered. in robyn’s case with the most gentle of nudges.

one young man whose name escapes me was raised in the midwest, which despite its charms, was narrow-minded when it came to matters of “alternative” sexuality. and so in a poem or a story this lad had a character rip into a series of gay epithets,

instead of saying “i get it that you’re 21 but do you not know the first thing about some of your heroes and the names they were called? why would you lower yourself to such base and predictable dialogue from the mouths of your characters? and, indeed, why must you insist on being a basic bitch?”

robyn instead wrote in a little note next to the quotes, “you can do better tony”

and that young man never wrote such things ever again.

while many of my heroes are controversial and divisive and burned bridges here and there, somehow robyn was loved by every single person she came in contact with. which isn’t to say there was not conflict in her classroom. i remember more than one student who felt uncomfortable in a class of hers and acted out, causing quite the scene.

and it was shocking watching her handle the students. her smile became stern. her voice lowered. and lasers shot out of her eyes, hypnotising the young demons right there in their chairs.

i saw one youngster levitate and then fall when he raised his voice to the professor.

he asked to be excused and scurried down the hall past the free pizza and disappear into the sky.

but mostly i watched how in just a matter of weeks students who were incredibly distracted by all types of things at the beach side party school, read the books she assigned, hand in the papers, and grow as writers.

the things i learned from her i use every day in almost everything i write. and when i teach i do my best to steal everything i can remember.

today is her birthday and we are all so lucky to have received the blessing of her presence. the next statue they tear down they should replace with one for Robyn.

as The New England Mystic once said,

spark one up for the woman who gave your life zing. you owe her almost everything.


on april 23, 1992 soundgarden played Rob Gym at UCSB

tickets were $5.

even though i had graduated already, i had stuck around isla vista because i was in love with jeanine and we were living together as she finished her senior year.

soundgardens badmotorfinger was in heavy rotation in my sony 100 cd changer and i still remember hearing it blasted as i played NHLPA on my sega genesis.

not only were they heavy but they were melodic and cornell’s vocals soared.

he was capable of doing things with his voice that even kurdt couldnt do. in fact of all the grunge stars, he was the rock star.

sure weiland was freakier and flashier and glammier, but chris had the long hair and tore off his shirt and strapped on the guitar and literally thrashed around the stage at the small gym

and i laughed as the fold up chairs that were zip tied together were tossed aside two songs into the show. poor Associated Students tried to make the Soundgarden show a seated show but the kids weren’t having that. and neither was the band. it was glorious.

pretty sure i saw them again at Lollapalooza but that was a giant show. Rob Gym is maybe 300 seats. crumpled and discarded. it was a rock show in a loud old gym. and Cornell was perfect the entire time.

i cannot believe he is dead. what a perfect voice. what great style. what love of music. he did a tour where all he did was covers. thats love. he will always be loved.

there should be a plaque at Rob Gym that says

Soundgarden Rocked Here

my hippy friends at UCSB

hippie friends at ucsb

way back when i was in college we didn’t take a lot of pictures. back then you had to use film and get it developed and it all cost money. it was insane.

so of my whole four years at UCSB i think there are only like 9 pictures of me total.

i had two sets of friends at school, both of whom i still am very close with: my Daily Nexus friends and my hippy friends.

one Christmas the ladies of the latter group decided that we should all dress up and have a “formal” dinner before we all flew home for Christmas break. not everyone had the latest in high fashion, in fact looking at this it might appear that some of us robbed the local Goodwill, but we tried, because why not.

we were all “poor” but we always had food to eat, beer to drink, and fun to have and best of all we all shared.

often i say im the luckiest man alive and i seriously cannot even imagine how different my life would be now if i wasn’t placed in the San Nicolas dorm and instantly clicked with all of these super sweet, very fun people.

interview with Drew Martin

drew in front of a painting he created

Of the Murderers Row at the Daily Nexus in the late ’80s, early ’90s, our secret weapon was the Art Desk.

Led by your boy Todd Francis, no fewer than a dozen artists could be seen in the award winning college newspaper’s pages during any given week. Any one of them would have been stars on their own on any other paper, but at the Nexus they were just another great reason to smile.

color blind boyDrew Martin was tall, quiet, sensitive, insightful, with a spirituality of an Indian shaman mixed with the cool disposition of a 747 pilot.

While his peers donned thrift store chic and mismatched socks, Drew was impeccably dapper: fitted ironed shirts and all around GQ style.

He was clearly a cop. But his cartoons were out of this world.

The one I remember most was a series about a tall skinny young man who had many questions for the universe.

Obviously autobiographical, but not at all narcissistic, in one episode the hero strips down nude and climbs the Career Resource Building on campus at night and stares into the stars and eventually falls asleep, fragile, innocent, and open to answers.

I believe some watercolors were involved, lots of lines, and some backwards lettering. Not at all the type of juvenile frat boy nonsense you’d see in college papers around the country, this was deep, inspiring heavy shit.

And like I said before, it was just one of the long line of illustrative genius within the pages that many took for granted from the Nexus because it came at you every damn day. Each day beefier than the next. Each page more fascinating. Each week a cacophony of creativity.

Because Drew was sent from another planet to keep an eye on our friends, he accepted Matt Welch and Ben Sullivan’s invitation to join English language newspaper in Prague they’d started after we were all done at UCSB, Prognosis. Beers were fifty cents and rent was $50 and instead of being another forgotten intern at a dumb dusty daily, these revolutionaries got to continue to blaze new journalistic paths on their own terms with the spirit of the world’s greatest college rag as their compass.

While many of the staff dressed and looked like this:

layne and whalen

Drew looked like this:

drew martin in prague
photos by Karen Broome

I only remember working personally with Drew one time at the Daily Nexus. (A nod to the saying about Woodstock: if you remember it, you weren’t there)

I was putting together Friday Magazine which had always been a comedy publication but because I didn’t think I could pull off 8 pages of yucks, I turned it into a druggie thing called Fryday Magazine in hopes of quickly being relieved of my duties. What i really wanted was to run the Arts section.

So the plan was to fill every page with different ways to do drugs on campus and in neighboring Isla Vista. And who better to exploit than our huge stable of artists. Instead of page numbers I had the talented Moish draw a variety of mushrooms. So on page two there would be two mushrooms, page three would have three… On the cover was a drawing of a student reading the issue they were holding in their hand while his mind was exploding with all sorts of psychedelia and clip art. Inside there was a map with tips on where to do what and where not to do the other.

Of course I wanted Drew to contribute and I’m not sure if he did or not but I do remember one moment of clarity. After I explained the theme, Drew said a friend of his was going to try LSD for the first time and he asked if I had any advice. That question inspired me to ask a different artist to create some art that we would put in squares on the paper and deem “do it yourself blotter: just add acid” so the readers could literally get high off their school’s newspaper.

I looked Drew right in the eye and very slowly said, “before you takes any hallucinogens, clean yr  room.”

Yesterday, a million years after we ruled the world beneath Storke Tower, Drew asked for and received an interview with me and I was very honored to participate. You can read it here on his long running blog The Museum of Peripheral Art.

25 years ago tonight i partied with these hippies


i had two groups of friends at ucsb, my nexus friends and my hippie friends.

the last thing i ever thought i would turn into when i went to santa barbara was a hippie

but these people got me. and got me good.

it starts with the love. so much pure pure love. not that the nexus didnt have it too,

they did, but these kids, we went through it.

i dont remember ever being as poor as i was with them, or as happy.

yes winning best in state at the nexus was pretty close

but i lived with these people. couches were slept in.

trips were taken.

i learned so much with them, from the dorms

through today.

it’s probably not fair to compare the nexus and the hippies

but the circles intersected with one person: greg mcilvaine

he was in san nic dorm too, and we were friends, and he loved thirsty thursdays and all that

and when greg met the nexus, thats when you get Mons Pubis

the perfect melding of hard rock (the nexus) and psychedelia (pictured, above).

i am the luckiest man in the world not because of the things ive seen and touched

but because of the people ive had the great great fortune to meet and party with.

it blows my mind that we got “dressed up” for our Christmas party,

which we put together because we knew it would be our last one all together,

twenty five years ago.

why didnt anyone tell us that time flies

Dear Tony, What would you suggest as a solution to over-policing of Halloween in I.V?

snoop dogg with guests at the mtv vmasJustin asks: What would you suggest as a solution to over-policing? The problem is not unique to IV, students have always been treated with less respect and take advantage of by law enforcement or even the school

1. Challenge any and all “ordinances” that are applied to IV that are not applied to any other part of SB County. Cops can’t punish you for shit you haven’t done yet. That is what a 6pm noise ordinance is. Challenge it in the papers. Shoot video of you interviewing the sheriff asking him how it’s constitutional and why it’s not happening in his neighborhood. Find out who wrote this ordinance and who voted for it. Wear their faces on tshirts. Name dirt fields after them. Create drinking games in their honor. And then call in the ACLU and Matt Welch’s Reason Magazine as they are the defenders of freedom. You are not powerless.

2. Peaceful organized protests where you invite the media and get arrested. The real media like CNN, Los Angeles Times and  KCRW. A college town isn’t allowed to play music on a weekend after 6pm? How many times do they have to re-make Footloose (1984) till someone calls bullshit loudly and clearly? If everyone carries a boom box and marches around Isla Vista protesting the ban on music after a certain time and cute boys and girls like you are sent, one-by-one into an overflowing SB county jail BECAUSE OF LOUD PLAYING MOZART (seriously, Mozart, the papers will eat it up), the ordinance will be overturned.

3. After you attend a Halloween concert at the Thunderdome by an artist first known for rapping about killing an undercover cop, and made internationally famous for singing about smoking weed and being a pimp, and then arrived at the MTV music video awards in 2003 holding dog leashes attached to two women: realize that the lifestyle that you should be fighting for is tame in comparison to Snoop’s, a man who has shown that you, too, can live the life that you want to live and you too can be successful for BEING YOURSELF.  Snoop D-O-double G told you about his life for an hour, you sang along, and then you marched quietly to your overpriced and overcrowded apartment and bowed down to those who love to oppress you. Be inspired by the music you listen to, don’t let it tame you!

4. Ask the cops in the paper, on video, and whenever you see them on the streets “how can LA have several hundred thousand people march down Santa Monica Blvd on Halloween night, drinking, smoking, and carrying on, and there are only 3 arrests; yet when a paltry 500 walk around DP there are 28 arrests? WHY ARE YOU TARGETING ANYONE YOU CAN IN IV? ARENT YOU JUST FALSELY JUSTIFYING YOUR OUTRAGEOUS NUMBER OF OFFICERS?

5. Only wear SB Sheriff’s uniforms as costumes next Halloween, next weekend, and  at any mass party that you organize. Add a floppy dildo as a garnish. You are college kids. Fucking act like it! I pity the cop who decides he’s going to arrest thousands of students for dressing up as The Out Of Towners that are actually ruining the IV scene.

6. That student-run radio station that is never used properly: KCSB-FM 91.9 in Santa Barbara. Every Friday night make them play that ridiculous robot music that you kids love more than real rock, the kind St. Cobain gave his life for. Stream KCSB through your iphones and listen to it on your Beats headphones and DANCE IN THE FUCKING STREETS. This sends a royal fuck you to the illegal noise ordinance and you get to do the one thing you’re not going to do in your 30s: get laid after dancing. Invite the media to film the Quietest Block Party in America. And when the cute reporter sticks a mic in your face say, “we’d prefer to dance like every other free person in America, but [name the people who voted for and wrote the noise ordinance] passed laws that prevent us from listening to music in our own homes. We are not criminals. We are Americans who want to boogie.” And then put on your sad, brightly colored overpriced headphones and shake your ass.

7. Start rock bands. This Halloween has proven that you are all too soft and coddled. Too many of your parents attended your little league games and dance recitals. And none of you can play guitar. This must change. Rock and roll will save your soul and trust me, your souls need saving. Learn the three chords and the truth. Once you have mastered the peaceful protests  and everyone is in a band, the day the ordinance falls every band needs to play on every block in Isla Vista. Because America.

8. CHALLENGE EVERYTHING STUPID THAT LIMITS YOUR FREEDOMS GOING FORWARD. IF THEY DONT DO IT TO PEOPLE IN MONTECITO THEY SHOULDNT DO IT TO YOU. CHALLENGE IT IN THE NEWSPAPERS YOU RUN. CHALLENGE  IT ONLINE, ON SNAPCHAT, ON PERISCOPE, TWITTER, FACEBOOK, AND IN THE STREETS. Clearly no one else is doing it for you. Good! Do it yourself. And the power of the pen is still the mightiest weapon of them all. The pen is now also the phone. Use it or lose it!

500 people walked around Isla Vista on Halloween on Saturday

isla vista halloween 2015

dear students of ucsb

no one forced you to go to the greatest party school in the world.

you coulda gone to cal poly. you coulda applied at long beach state.

dont laugh, they have a fucking pyramid at long beach state.

instead you chose UCSB. U Can Study Buzzed.

and on top of that you paid much money to live in Isla Vista. greatest town there ever was.

it’s great because it’s close to the beach, everybody’s beautiful, and the best parties are thrown there. legendary ones that cant even be mentioned because words are just dumb sounds compared to what goes down on dp, sabado, trigo and the others.

103015-Isla-Vista-Halloween-2_mefrats are a joke, but especially so in 93117 because besides the town being super fun, the people who go to school there wisely reject the idea that you have to buy your friends and lose your individuality in a bizarre struggle of forced acceptance.

fuck. that. shit with a 6 foot beer bong hanging from a rickety balcony.

you have your entire life to be a boring disgusting sellout

terrified of offending this one or that one.

you will have decades upon decades to dress like a bozo and say yes to things that inside you dont agree with one bit.

but when you’re in college you get to lose yourself while you find out who you are.

it’s the expansion and contraction of the universe. and the universe is you.

you get to grow your hair like you want, kiss who you want, dance like you want, think all the things youve never thought before, be in bands, try new clubs, eat new foods, meet new people

and best of all dress up as something obnoxious, slutty or hilarious and walk down isla vista’s main street with your friends on Halloween

and laugh and laugh and laugh.

and laugh.

unless you totally fuck up and forget you’re free.

you live in america, fellow gauchos, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

it is not brave to sit back and let the so called law tell you you cant play music after a certain hour.

it is not brave to watch cops year after year come in to your town and treat you like youre some criminal, like you did something horribly wrong, like you are some slimy kid with no rights or lesser rights or temporary rights

sheriffsyou have exactly the same rights as anyone else in this whole country.

for example you have the same rights as the 100,000 people who came to West Hollywood on Halloween and dressed up and laughed and drank and smoke and made out and, you know fucking had a Halloween.

three people were arrested in West Hollywood during the biggest bash in all of LA saturday night.

28 people were arrested in Isla Vista despite only 500 of you walking around town.

how is that possible?

it’s possible because you are allowing it to be possible.

it is possible because you are listening to the losers who tell you bullshit like “it is what it is”

we’d be speaking french german or spanish if this country believed in “it is what it is” and thank God above we dont.

we are americans, we are gauchos, and we are free.

trust me, there will be more than enough opportunity for you to bend over to fear and take it and pretend it isnt totally humiliating

for this brief period of your youth, i beg you,


sure, some of you may die.

but right now, hardly any of you are living.

the nexus chilled with the nexus yesterday and all was well


several eras of the daily nexus ate pizza, drank, and chatted with each other. some of us gave advice.


my advice to the kids: stop going to classes, break up with your boyfriends and girlfriends, quit your jobs and devote the rest of your college life to the Nexus. they laughed, but i wasnt kidding.



barb and elspeth were there with hugs for me to give to jeanine which was very nice. barb let us know that the desks that were still in the office were rejects from AS from the 70s.


current EIC Emile, former EIC Amy and Barb posed while Todd Francis did his best Grumpy Cat


the Babes of the Nexus posed in front of all of the bound editions that told our whole story


the UCen was open and had some weird propaganda poster AS IF the kids dont know where the bookstore is


Michelle and Doug hadn’t seen each other in decades someone told me, but that cant be true, but maybe it can be since Dougie has been in Prague since the 90s and Michelle has been in Mexico, FLA, Minnesota and now back in Cali.


i told the current Nexus editors that i wasnt kidding: quit everything, dedicate your life to rock n roll and you too can wind up a bald man with clashing plaids and the greatest friends in the world. i also told them they need to be Periscoping the F outta DP and UCSB and that little bit of advice i have a feeling they might actually accept.


in summary, even though it was delightful turnout, dont you think Nexus reunions should be about 50x more people? am i the only one who was touched forever by this amazing newspaper? if this was a football school we would have shown up for the dumb football team, but it’s a newspaper school. the best in all the land. yes it was fantastic that my era showed up in big numbers but what about all the other eras? have they all forgotten about where they came from? it’s a mystery to me.

storke tower

afterwards i went to the bookstore to get some ucsb swag and i got a text that joe kovach was on the phone at the office and wanted to talk to me. so i dropped everything and ran back across Storke Plaza and wow, i hadnt talked to him in a verrrry long time. he told me kudos for this and that and i told him kudos right back joe. i feel like we should buy a coke machine that dispenses little 10 oz bottles so he can keep it stocked. seeing him do that back in the day was one of my favorite memories.

later the kids told me about some of the party games that they play now and it made me very happy.