Memoir Mixtapes Vol.1 / Track 23

On “Dreamer” by Tiny Vipers by Jon Johnson

Here comes one of those “back in my day” stories. Where’s my prune juice? 

If you look at Menifee, CA today, it is trying to look like nearby Temecula, which in turn is trying desperately to convince everyone it belongs in Orange County. I’m sure the pattern continues ad infinitum. But I remember – and here is our key phrase – back in my day, Menifee was little more than an annoying growth lumped from Sun City’s bald, liver-spotted head.

There was a certain culture in that time. It was seeing someone from your school at the old Target and not saying a word to them (though sharing stiff, knowledgeable glances). It was spending Sundays in some daze at a huge church, where everyone masks their uncertainty in the safety of numbers.

It was deciding between Carnitas and Cathay’s and actually making it down Newport in less than 10 minutes in your sweet lifted truck that got four inches per gallon. It was trying to remember which one of these identical houses was your friend’s and climbing dirty hills to look out at our patch of existence.

Yet at the ripe old age of nineteen, I was lost.

You ever have those “what the hell am I going to do with my life that gives it meaning and staves off this gnawing truth that I am speeding towards an inevitable death which nothing can stop” moments?

Naturally, the best thing to do is escape. And I was certain I was doing everything necessary to forget this annoying, black winged truth, but sure as a sunrise there she was. In the bottom of every red solo cup, in the roach of every joint, after every sweaty climax she clawed back in like a harpy…

My favorite routine I had back then (to escape myself or her screaming inevitability in my ears) was to ride my bike late at night. Aim for 2am. Not another soul on the road. Well, maybe a coyote or an owl, but they don’t hit you with cars, so don’t pay them any mind.

As was custom back in my day (two times, not bad), I made myself a mixtape, and heading up that mixtape was “Dreamer” by Tiny Vipers. The simplicity of the song met the percussion of the bike chain to create the “Menifee Symphony No. 6 in C minor”.

It was both moving and motion sickness. Something in the cadence of the song, my legs, and the emptiness lined up like the stars I couldn’t see through the orange street lights.

Existential is overused, enlightening is condescending, this was…individual. In the sense that nothing had ever felt individual or unique in my otherwise banal existence. In the daylight I was intelligence unapplied, skills unused, and chances not taken. Yet here I was, lost, confused, and alone and yet somehow right where I needed to be. I didn’t have the answers, but I didn’t need them. I just needed to keep pedaling.

In a sense I’m still not unique. There are about 7.8 billion versions of me in their own versions of Menifee, riding their bikes on empty midnight streets and wondering what the actual fuck they will do with their lives. “Dreamer” by Tiny Vipers wont give you the answer, but it makes a damn good soundtrack for the inquisitive journey.

I never outran her, by the way. That razor toothed harpy, that tattered, winged beast, that greasy crow-faced rat muttering through the trash in the night. The reminder that life is a short term contract before we are snatched up to meet the unknown. She’s still there. I’ve just learned she has a place in the song.

About the Author:

Jon Johnson, for the most part, has no clue what is going on. Time not spent scratching his head is typically spent writing, eating, and trying to figure himself out. He enjoys creation and expression in all forms, and finds his personal expression best through whichever medium pops out at the moment. Jon has a personal weakness for the smell of old books and questions that make you go “hmmm”. Check out Jon’s other adventures at, or visit him in Mallorca.

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