Tuesday, November 25, 2014

DEATH



Bear with me for a second, I want to share a little rumination on death, inspired by the recent and unexpected loss of coworker. I’m not trying to take a grief posture, death is sad for those left behind and those close to the one who passed, but it is also the destination on this one way street. Truth is I worked closely with him for 3 months and though I feel the sadness of the situation it would be disingenuous to assume the sincere grief of others simply for attention or content.  So this ain’t that.
What this is is the recognition of the consciousness shift that occurs when someone who’s been there suddenly isn’t.  The details of his death aren’t really known to me, I have my thoughts, but it seems inappropriate and pointless to get in to. Ultimately it’s a zero sum, fixed game.

As people we were pretty much polar opposites in our identities. He was gay, republican and a devout catholic; I am straight, anarchist and some breed of agnostic. I knew he was gay off the bat but he slowly had to come out of the closet with the other two facets. I would reference the Paris Commune and he would bring up Ayn Rand (over my audible groans); and he also told me about his church, which had done an accepting and loving mass for he and his husband, after his husband passed.  Again, this isn’t a eulogy but context is important, otherwise I’m just babbling.
On Friday evening we met with a 15 year old client of mine. The purpose of the meeting was to be present while the client met with a Court Investigator. During the interview with client, it came out that he was somewhat of an anglophile, he loved a lot of British television shows, the Beatles, and Pink Floyd. I was telling the kid that he needed to check out Monty Python, loving English media and now being caught up in the “doorway to a brick wall” insanity of the bureaucratic system , seemed like the perfect time for Python. My coworker and I then talked about Monty Python for an addition 6 minutes before parting ways. He was found dead that weekend.

I didn’t know he had passed as I drove in Monday morning. By strange coincidence I was listening to a podcast interview with John Cleese, out on a book tour he spent a good percent of the time discussing death.  “What a coincidence,” I thought, “we were just talking about Monty Python.” Stuck in traffic I texted my coworker that I would be a few minutes late to the office. I eventually arrived and everyone was crying.   

Death, to me, has always been a somewhat secret power. I can draw strength from the fact that one day (in this form at least) I’ll be gone. When things are bad or difficult, this view can be like opening a window or relieving some pressure. The big picture, the basic sentiment: everything is in a constant state of change, or ‘this too shall pass’,’ or “entrroooo entrophy! (yeah! yeah! yeah!). I got my first tattoo at 14,  in my basement bedroom, un-ironically rationalizing it as “not really permanent since I’ll be dead someday,” (later on having to get it covered up by a professional).  That’s been my justification for numerous sketchy or poorly planned adventures, or un-quantified risks, in some ways it’s just ‘YOLO’ but less superficial, to me at least. Experience life, enjoy all the good and try not to be overcome by the wretched. Like a captured secret agent, I always have the cyanide molar as a last resort.

It also speaks to what maybe a somewhat unhealthy, but probably not uncommon relationship with suicide. Meaning that since I was a kid, I’ve thought about suicide a lot. Not that I want to do it, but it’s there, like that cyanide molar, as a last resort. To quote the great Choking Victim, “You have this power to kill yourself called suicide, and no one can take it back.” Like the inevitability of death, it can sometimes be a comfort. I want to state clearly here, I will never do it, I’ve been into this world, I’m filled with all the love and inspiration of friends, family and art, I could not harm those folks and I could not surrender so easily the desire to have my mind blown, to sit around a small fire in a pine forest, to laugh till my sides ache, to live this life; but I also think I have an insight into the darkness and the  psychic claustrophobia that can bring someone to that end.  I think this is somewhat typical in many creative types, a kind of bi-polar capacity to go to great heights of passion and excitement and then get sucked deep into the prattling voices of the mind. It’s important to cultivate mitigating tools to survive when you sink low and the ability to rouse yourself to climb back out (ala Bruce Wayne The Dark Knight Rises).

Becoming a father has been an interesting experience because for me, I cannot think of suicide as I once did. It is not some extreme last resort, it’s not even on the table.  To paraphrase a Henry Rollins article, ‘when you become a parent you surrender the right to kill yourself.’ I completely agree, when you have kids, you have no choice but to endure whatever, you want to endure and overcome and see them go on. Like I said before, suicide was never really an option but it was a pretty regular thought. What’s changes it now it arises, I think about it but I know it is an impossibility, so it can no longer provide the existential comfort it once did. The inevitability of death still inspires me to push myself, to work to make my dreams my livelihood and not just some daydream entertainment (to paraphrase Will Shatter).  The true cliché, ‘Life is short, don’t waste it.’ The cyanide molar is no longer an option; death will just have to do all the legwork.

So when a relevant death occurs, like someone your around 40 hours a week, it’s interesting to watch the mind process the thought parade. Driving home from work that day I stopped at a gas station. I got a cup of coffee in the store and then began pumping my gas. ‘Pumpside Radio’ or whatever the fake station that plays through tinny speakers above the pumps is called, began playing  Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams.
                      
                         I got my first real 6-string,
                        Bought it at the five and dime.
                        Played it till my fingers bled,
                        It was the summer of 69!
                       Me and some guys from school got a ban d and we tried real hard.
                       Jimmy quit, Joey got married.
                       I should’ve known we’d never get far.

Oh, when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Yeah, I'd always wanna be there
Those were the best days of my life



As I stood there sipping my coffee, pumping gas and listening to the soulful, gritty, Canadian poetry of Bryan Adams, I honestly had this thought about my coworker’s passing, “Oh man, he’s left the planet. He’ll never have this experience of hearing Summer of 69, and remembering what it’s like to be young and reckless again.” This struck me as profound comedy and it brought me right up to speed to suddenly, truly, contemplating death. No more of these moments, when a lyric hits you just right and your romanticize the past and feel each inch of your own human-ness. As all the classic poets I can never remember have probably observed, the inevitability of death can make it all taste sweeter, can tinge each moment with a bittersweet afterglow. It evokes in me a desire to savor it and avoid unnecessary compromise. I returned home that evening and started to teach my kids to cook and tell them about all my time spent for low wages in small kitchens. In the remembering of it, it almost sounds like a pirate’s life. And sharing your own experiences and inspirations can do as much to reinvigorate yourself as it does for the ones you share it with. 

Understanding this has been important for me as I work to deal with the self-doubt, work and discipline it actually takes  (or is taking me) to write, to start something, sit with it in good times and in bad, and to fucking finish it. Ultimately though, There ain’t no use in complaining/ when you got a job to do./ Spend my weekends down at the drive-in/  and that’s where I met you, Yeah !” It’s important to look back and appreciate the story you’ve written up to this point, but you’ve gotta keep going cause you don’t have a choice. Your only choice is how you relate to the continued flux (capacitor?!) and change. Every personal death is an opportunity to reflect on life and try to touch some deeper understanding of what the fuck you’re doing and how the fuck you’re doing it. You’ll remember that moment for a little while and then it seems to fade until someone passes away again. I don’t really know how to end this cause I don’t know what I’m trying to say, so I guess Monty Python is appropriate:


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Darby Crash September 26, 1958 – December 7, 1980



33 years ago today Darby Crash snuffed it. Suicide is a motherfucker... Glad I'm not there anymore. Today we celebrate life, celebrate struggle and celebrate punk rock. Fucken rage'r.








Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Richard D. Wolff : Economic Update November 2013



Awesome. As informative and engaging as ever and this one has been especially entertaining.
I would suggest showing it to everyone you know...

More info here...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Choose to Choose, Choose to Go.


It was in my 18th or 19th year, now further back in time than it actually feels. I was in the thick of an ever evolving process of self-isolating that  truly begun in earnest, just a few years prior. I’d picked up a Sunday evening shift at a local college radio station as a favor to a friend, who was a station manager there, to help fill out the summer hours. Each week for an hour or two, during dusk, I’d turn the station into my own version of a broadcasted mixtape to long lost friends and lovers. It was a perfect outlet to communicate everything I was feeling without having to actually interact with others or use my own words. Without any theme I let the songs speak for themselves and complement each other.  Releasing them into the atmosphere, with the possibility that somewhere, someone’s receiver would pull them in. Of course I also offered to take requests on the studio hotline. I only received one call the entire summer.

What was that song? The really soft one you just played, the really beautiful one?
I’m not sure do you remember anything else about it?
He was singing about someone’s eyes…

I noted the death of Lou Reed yesterday by not really processing it, I just let it roll off me. After all, older people tend to die and though the Velvet Underground had meant a lot to me at one point they now were just an occasional thought. The market for artistic influence in my life had expanded and as I met others I saw that in some ways the Velvet Underground had oversaturated parts of it.  In many ways the beatification of the band had turned me off to them. So many folks who discovered them and then set their heart’s compass to their art and legacy just soured me on taking them too seriously anymore. They became a phase I grew out of. Then a friend commented on Lou’s passing yesterday “This hits hard. All I ever wanted to be in high school was Lou Reed.”

I first heard the Velvet Underground when I was 16 it was a greatest hits compilation CD of a friends. I recorded it onto a blank tape and listened to it non-stop until I could afford the box-set.  The song that made me sit up and pay attention was “Stephanie Says.” I was fascinated with the line in the chorus “She’s not afraid to die, the people all call her Alaska.” I still have no fucking clue what that means but I developed a thousand expansive theories that summer and over the following years. What I loved about that lyric was, it wasn’t just druggy gibberish to me (like a lot of the lyrics from many of the bands from that era tend to be) it was a thoughtful attempt by to convey a meaning that was too broad and intangible to fit into words or melody so it had to be reduced to koan snapshots. Let the listener wrestle for an external truth by exploring the internal. So much of their work was like that, a foggy window to a much broader undefined theme.

The message in other songs was more straightforward and possessed a narrative. All of the work of Lou Reed from this period and I’d say until his death held a spirit of being resigned to the darkness but appreciating the light. Similar to the work of Townes Van Zandt, the artist is holding on to a spirit of hope but more grappling with this truth of a darkness. In essence it’s all about struggling with control. Something happens to some of us, most of us, all of us, during that time between being a child and learning the truth of it all. I think with Lou (like Van Zandt) the ability to reconcile the two and allow them to coexist, is the main undercurrent in the work. Even in songs like “I’m Waiting for my man” there’s a jumpy, childlike excitement about journeying into the black neighborhoods of 60s era New York in order to score some heroin. The situation is very sketchy on so many levels but the energy of the song is a living energy, jumpy and driving, with a youthful mischievous tone. That great duality of humor and sorrow really appealed to a presence already within me. Besides being very dark, Lou Reed’s music was also a testament to how powerful humor and rock n roll can be as tools for beating back despair and keeping you inspired.

What was interesting at that time too was that, living in rural Vermont it’s like I got to develop a relationship with the music in a vacuum. Sure friends and others knew about or liked the band but it wasn’t the same as discovering them in college or Art School or working at a coffee house or record store. I didn’t ask for and no one really offered their opinions on the music, so I had the space to investigate it and embrace it on my own terms.

That’s why it struck me when I heard that line from my friend about wanting to be Lou Reed. I realized I was shrugging it off, Lou Reed’s death; like it was a childish hobby that I could appreciate but had long since outgrown. He’s no messiah and a lot of the solo records were pretty bad, but he was always honest. The music of the Velvet Ground was so incredibly honest that it meant the world to me for that period when it was all I was listening to. It touched a place in me filled with simultaneous joy and sorrow and provided it with a voice I didn’t realize existed. Songs like Sunday Morning, All Tomorrow’s Parties, Jesus, and Pale Blue Eyes. That’s how heartbreak, loss, craving and fatigue sound and all of those experience ultimately give you a deeper appreciation of the joy, love and beauty that you experience. In one of his later solo albums he has a line about hanging around in a relationship and feeling not wanted that states, “ I’m a New York City man, you just say ‘go’ and I’ll be gone.” I can’t even tell you how many times I thought that line in crumbling romantic and non-romantic situations. I’d feel unwanted and just split. You just say ‘go’ and I’ll be gone. No bullshit, just be honest. 

Lou was an astronaut to me. He had gone out there into the unknown and come back. His honesty gave him a quality of integrity that I saw disappearing from all around me as I grew up. So it hit me today, re-listening to those old albums and remembering the experience of that music and the world they described; how important it was for me to relate it to my own life and observations. How I wanted to aspire to those heights and depths. The passing of Lou Reed deserves a real, artistic reflection on my part; and it felt important for me to remember and pay tribute to the Lou Reed I knew and not the one defined for me by others. Life is gonna go fast, it’s important to take time to remember the words, the sounds and the spirit, to stand in the shadows and remember the light/ heat. 


the Fall






The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E. Smith (BBC)



Live in 1985.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

"God Will See That You Die, Pig..."





Henry Rollins on John Macias.



Circle One - Highway Patrolman.

Mental illness is a motherfucker.

Here's a nice article about John that I found on the There's Something Hard In There blog (which is pretty killer in general...)
enjoy...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fuck The TPP



drone warfare / TPP /"obamacare"


wow... I am really pissed right now...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Black Flag



on the news with police violence.



(1981) 1983 target video.

killer.