IT'S STILL A
23 November 2002
It was only a few weeks ago that I was in San Francisco attending Journalcon. The one
thing I was looking forward to on that trip was a chance to visit Alcatraz and tour the former
Despite having grown up in San Francisco and having lived in or near the Bay Area all
of my life, I had never been to "the Rock" before, even after it was closed as a
prison and opened as a tourist attraction, run by the National Park Service.
When I went to grammar school, there were some children in my class who lived on
Alcatraz, children of the guards who lived there. I do remember being invited home with
one of them once. I don't remember now why I didn't go, but I didn't. I have always, as an
adult, regretted that. What a great story to talk about being a young child visiting a
federal prison--or at least the island on which it was located.
So when we got off of the tour boat which dropped us at Alcatraz's dock and we listened
to the opening remarks by the guide who wanted to be sure to let us know where we could
find the interesting things, I was intrigued to hear that there was an author in the
bookstore signing copies of her books.
The author was Jolene
Babyak, who, the guide informed us, had lived on the island as a child and had written
a book about her experiences. I made a mental note to try to get into the bookstore to see
if she perhaps knew some of my former classmates (though this many years later, I can't
remember their names).
The Journalcon group took the tour through the prison itself and then split up to go
wandering around looking in doors and windows and taking pictures. I took advantage of the
slack time to make my way down the hill and to the book shop, hoping to meet Jolene
There was a nice display of her books, but no sign of the author. It was late in the
day, and I assumed I had missed her (and, of course, being shy, I wasn't going to ask the
gentleman at the desk if she was going to be back). I thought about buying her book, but
decided not to, mostly because the group was coming back and the boat was about ready to
Imagine my surprise, then, when just two days ago, I received an e-mail from Jolene
Babyak herself. Now, I will confess that the name did not ring any bells with me, and it
wasn't until we had exchanged a couple of messages that I realized that she and I had been
on Alcatraz on the same day and almost met. So she was not writing to me about that.
No, she was writing to tell me that she had been a friend of my sister's and that she
had not found out about her death until 1975, 4 years after it happened. She had tried to
find our family, but my parents had moved by that time (actually, they moved before Karen
died). She never made any more attempts until a friend of hers accidentally stumbled
across my journal. As we talked, I learned that Karen had been her best friend and she
filled in a few gaps in Karen's life that I hadn't known before.
It amazes me how the Internet has reduced the size of our world. Every so often, a name
like this crops up. Occasionally it's someone who recognizes my name--someone who
remembers me from school or some other activity throughout my life.
More often, if they aren't looking for "urethral play" or "large
labia" or "fried Twinkies" (the three most popuar google queries that lead
people to my journal!), they find this journal by doing a search on "Paul
Sykes." And most of the people looking for "Paul Sykes" are looking for
where to buy Lawsuit CDs.
When the band broke up back in 1996, they split up all the remaining tapes, t-shirts
and CDs and there was no "swag" left to sell (it was easier than trying to sell
it off and figure out how to split the money among the 10 band members and the tech crew).
So it always makes me sad when I learn that there is someone who heard the band once and
loved their music and has been looking for a place to buy a CD. (The most recent query was
someone who wanted to give a CD to his girlfriend for Christmas, since she was such a huge
I finally contacted Ned and K.C. Bowman, the bass player for the band (who has a recording studio and his own CD collection for sale
at mp3.com), to ask if they thought it would be
advisable to put Lawsuit music up at mp3.com. (The idea is that when someone wants a CD,
they order it and it is burned at that time and sent out by mp3.com--kind of the musical
equivalent of Cafe Press).
So that's my new task. I'm going to be converting all of the Lawsuit music into mp3
files and getting them in a format where they can be ordered by folks who have been
looking for a CD...or whose kids spread peanutbutter over the one that they had (as was
reported to me recently).
I'm going to be doing this in my nonexistent spare time, of course, but it's a project
I really want to tackle.
It will be interesting to see whether or not there is any interest in buying the music
of a band which broke up six years ago. But at least the next time someone contacts me and
asks me where they can find Lawsuit music, I'll know where to send them.