MALIBU ARTS JOURNAL -- May 20, 2008

"From Lower Topanga, Tool's Snake Pit"

By Josh Hastings

Tool’s Snake Pit, published by local Pablo Capra’s outlet, Brass Tacks Press. You know him. He is the publisher who brought us the little green covered poetry book, Idlers of the Bamboo Grove. You’ve seen it in a bucket at The Reel Inn and all over Topanga , Malibu and Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center. Most of us here know the Snake Pit as part of Lower Topanga near the Rodeo Grounds. Most outside of the area have not even heard of Lower Topanga. They know Topanga as a whole, as a place of Hollywood movie and music star history, past and present. After all Oingo-Boingo’s old place is here, along with a multitude of other icons. There is a part of Topangan history that the outside only knows from some old, crinkled newspaper articles or the take-over of the Rodeo Grounds – that is Lower Topanga.

Tool is an alias for a man who lived in the Snake Pit in a house that did not even have a real roof. It was “just quarter-inch plywood that was warped and never nailed down.” He was in the business of making secret doors. His secret doors were works of art for drug dealers and those who wished to traffic drugs across the border. He got into the idea of manufacturing fake aerosol cans that could traffic drugs across the border. And he could manufacture a spring-loaded gun holster.

But Tool is not all hardcore. He had a heart. He fell for a lady named Holiday. When he could not get in touch with her because she left for Palm Springs with another guy, Tool went on a binge. He was dealing and doing LSD (“L”), at the time of this bad news. He decided to head up his hill, a place we’ve all seen but rarely trek up. He went up there specifically to “forget” about Holiday via a drug-trip. Once there, his walkman ran out of batteries. He had to try and high-tail it to George’s Market for a battery refill before the trip set-in. Unsuccessful he made it back to his sleeping bag on the hill on his hands and knees only to be arrested as a Topanga Sniper. Mistaken for a freeway sniper shooting people in Los Angeles, off to the local pen Tool went.

These are merely excerpts from an ongoing series of beat prose stories about Surfers, drug dealers and artist who lived together in Lower Topanga in the '70s and '80s. At once nostalgic and realistic, the prose is moving, revealing and a hippie rhythm of modern times. Panoramic and lacking self-indulgence, the work is true and refreshing vintage prose. There are not many left who can tell the tale of Lower Topanga from a been there, done that perspective. Tool was there, lived it and survived to tell the story.

Along with the beat prose is a series of comics from the underground by Toylit. In true subculture motif, these are original works of art in an authentic and humorous, hippie-inspired comics that deal with social and political subjects like sex, drugs, rock music and various forms of protests. Toylit is the author of the "Crap Poetry Manifesto," The Last Nowhere, Craplexity, The Children’s Guide to Astral Projection, and Prevenge of the Androgynous Cyborg Pyrates from the Future; and the illustrator of Idlers of the Bamboo Grove, Rat Tales and The Snake Pit, the issue prior to Tool’s Snake Pit. Toylit’s work is part of the re-emergence of a strong California subculture that has made its way back up from the cracks.

Tool’s Snake Pit is available from Brass Tacks Press at www.lifeasapoet.com for $5.


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Los Angeles, California, United States
Official website at www.lifeasapoet.com