Monday, December 22, 2008

I Broke My Hand.

On the night of my twenty-third birthday, I drank a fifth of vodka and punched a wall, breaking my hand. I was in a cast all summer, and am now permanently disfigured and disabled in my right hand, and I thank Gawd daily that I can still play music. There was no catalyst for this, I was just drunk and ignorant. I have no excuse, no apology. It happened, I suffered and learned.

I feel this is a perfect metaphor for so much of my life, unfortunately. Rash decisions, total disregard for consequence. Attention-seeking self-destruction. And then, after it happens, denial. Playing innocent. Cracking jokes. No, it was foolish. It was awful. I was a jackass, and I deserved what happened. I am not going to apologize now for things I've done in the past, but I am coming clean about them. I have been a piece of shit for far too long, and now it's time I projected truth and humility.

I have been selfish and childish for years, playing it off as roguish wanderlust or some sort of "drunken artist" stereotype. Enough. I got drunk, punched a wall, and I broke my hand. I have a hard time with meeting people. As any who know me well can attest, there's a lot of horseshit under the surface, a lot of baggage that I try to keep stuffed in a closet. I have an awful temper, fierce jealousy, mood swings, tendencies towards addiction and destruction, and I easily let frustration and self-pity ferment into hate and resentment. But I do an excellent job at hiding all of this. Anxiety enables me to keep my faults and imbalances hidden, panic that I'll be found out for the over-sensitive self-pitying loser I truly am.

In the past, I can imagine how I must have appeared to interested parties. A tattooed paladin, blowing back from the desert like a dervish, or up from the South like a hurricane, throwing any prudence to the wind, living on couches and in bus stations. I appeared well-read, sentimental, a true self-styled romantic individualist. Or at least, that's what I tried to come across as. All too soon, a young lady gets to know me and realizes it's all bullshit. Some of it may be true, as there's always a thread of truth in most fiction, but that little spark was buried beneath my faults that become evident as soon as I feel that an outburst won't jeopardize a burgeoning relationship.

No longer. It's time to put my money where my mouth is and "be myself", something stupidly obvious, though I'm not surprised that it took me drying out and losing out on a meaningful relationship, and the subsequent re-appraisal of priorities, to realize it.

There's only so much patting myself on the back I can do before I nullify my claim towards humility, but I feel that now, at this point, I can finally present an honest portrayal of who I am. My priorities and passions are hand-in-hand at last. I've worked through so much shit that I finally have the room and the time for the things that I feel accurately represent who I want to be as an adult. No more seething beast under the surface. It's just me, now. I broke my hand, but it wasn't enough to remind me that I'm only human. Not until now.

I'm trying. It's getting better. It's been a long year, and it's gonna be a long winter. Come over and listen to records with me. I'll show you my busted hand.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ready to Die.


















Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I've harbored a deep love and respect for hip-hop and rap for a long time. It's only been recently, though, that I realized that I couldn't think of a single hip-hop or rap record that moved me emotionally. Don't get me wrong, some of my favorite albums of all time are hip-hop and rap records (2001, Nigga Please, Six Feet Deep, Tical, License to Ill, etc), and I've been moved to tears by a single song or verse before, but no album in its entirety has become an emotional monument to me (though a few have admittedly close). At the end of a record like Dear You, I See a Darkness, or Songs for a Blue Guitar, I feel truly moved, as if I've been ran through a gambit of all the emotions of a single day. They become nostalgiac milestones to very particular times of my life, and grow with me as time goes on. I began to wonder if I didn't perceive rap or hip-hop in the same way as I did music in an "Anglo" context, such as rock or country. I thought perhaps I didn't have as profound an understanding of the genre as I thought I had.

That all changed recently when I realized, shortly after listening to Ready to Die, by Notorious B.I.G., that this record had in fact touched me. Biggie's narratives are so realistic, emotional, and human that even though the subject matter often pertains to things that I shall never know about, such as slangin' crack or shooting people, it affects me in the way that only truly great records do.

It's at turns lewd, violent, and chauvinistic, as most quality gangsta rap tends to be, but that doesn't for a moment take away from the album's genius. Recorded when Biggie was twenty-two and twenty-three, it honestly lays out his fears and concerns about life and, more often, death. The question of whether he was killed as a result of the persona he created around himself as the violent gangsta pimp, or was eerily predicting his own death three short years later, is an interesting, and unanswered, one.

Not mention, there are some serious ass-shakers on this record. It's good with hazy rooms, low lighting, and malt liquor.

Free download (I didn't upload this, I just found the link): http://www.megaupload.com/?d=VAFJGB15



Friday, December 5, 2008

Disjointed Ruminations Concerning a Twentieth Birthday.

For Meredith.

Having been born on the Northern Pacific coast of California, it's tempting to claim romantically that my earliest memory is that of the Pacific Ocean. In reality, my first memory is the birth of my sister; my father chasing me through stacks of new tires in the automotive department of a store, the smell of clean rubber heavy in the air, while my mother was in the hospital.

I spent the evening of my twentieth birthday knee-deep in the Pacific Ocean. It was a cool San Diego night, and as I cupped my hands and raised some water to my lips, it seemed as if I could hear the cosmic tumblers falling into place. The safe was being cracked, and I found myself bracing against the waves as a world of possibility was suddenly presented to me. It may not have been my first time seeing the Pacific, but it was certainly my first time to truly See it. That night, drinking Tecate and eating homemade mole poblano chicken, I wondered if I ever would go home again, or if I ever could go home. I did, but only in the literal sense, in the concrete sense. It was too late; the pilot lights had been lit, and I knew in the back of my head that the person returning to Kirbyville was not the same person that had left two weeks earlier.

The twentieth year of my life was perhaps the most extraordinarily productive. It was a time of some crucial self-discovery. I drank heavily from the Pacific, Atlantic, and the Gulf. Without sounding like some wiseacre New Age goat, I dare say that it was the first time I felt enlightened, that I could recognize my place in relation to the Universe and, instead of feeling resentment or fear at its immensity and my own insignificance, I felt contentment, peace, and absolution.

I didn't have nearly as much figured out as I thought I had, or, if I did, much of it has been clouded by time, addictions and obsessions, ephemeral distractions. I regret that in the four years since, I haven't shown much restraint. I've ignored limitations, and I've lived selfishly, for the moment, and with little regard to health or the strain put on my relationships with those around me. Thankfully, I have a few friends who have never shown doubt, never been condescending, and who have stood by me all the while, and for them I will be eternally grateful.

With the help of these comrades, and with a good deal of prudence on my part, I'm entering an entirely new phase of my life now; adulthood. I haven't had a drink in almost two months, I'm making plans to continue the education I abandoned six years ago, I am reading and exercising voraciously, and I've discovered new passions to which I devote my time. I have also begun to understand the burden that I have been on the shoulders of loved ones, and how much I truly owe to them for bearing me for so long. I am now my own responsibility.

In these past few weeks, waking each morning with a clear head, unfettered by the bullshit that plagued my sleep not so long ago, I have begun to feel more and more as I did Back Then, when I was twenty, a Greyhound bus pilgrim, calloused hands from bicycles and guitars, equally versed in Bane lyrics and Watts' Zen Buddhist essays. It's a feeling of the realization of the Potentials of Self, of being youthfully immortal, of being truly passionate. I realize now that my twentieth year was perhaps the most important in my life thus far, and as I go forward into this strange new world, a hungry hyena with sharpened claws*, even as I learn and progress and grow into these new shoes, it is my twentieth year I find myself reaching back to, dipping my cup into the well.

These are the things we need to remember. Dead or insane, we're no use to anyone, and the world is far too cold and immense to face alone. For these reasons, let us show prudence and patience in regards to our health, and the health of our interpersonal relationships. In all other ventures, though, show no mercy. Hold your passions with a lover's embrace. There is no reason to follow any pursuit that you don't believe in with all of your heart. How can we expect to find happiness if we willingly deny it at every turn?


All energy flows according to the whims of the Great Magnet**, and we are but metal shavings shook from the whetstone used to sharpen the Great Cosmic Knife. We are not given many clues as to our duties during our short stay on Earth, and those few clues we are given can be so complex and disheartening that very few have the patience or capacity to translate them into digestible chunks of data. I think it should come as no surprise that a similar serenity and wisdom is seen in the eyes of both the very young and the very old. We can achieve this, no matter our age or situation, if we open ourselves to the possibilities offered to us, if we spread our sails and capture a bit of that quixotic wind coursing through our lives.

Oh, to be twenty forever. Maybe I will.

Much love to you on your twentieth birthday. Keep your eyes wide, your mind open, and your heart racing. We're young, we're strong, and we have all the time in the world to polish our scars for presentation. We are so dangerous, and don't they know it. Don't let 'em stop you.


*Graciously paraphrasing Henry Miller
**
Graciously plagiarizing Hunter S. Thompson

Monday, October 13, 2008

To Stop Him from Buzzing Any More.

A fly was caught in a web that a spider had spun between my bookcase and record player. In between long intervals of silence, he would buzz maniacally, loud enough to be heard from across the room, in an apparent last-ditch effort to Say Something, Do Something, and not just die silently in gossamer. I folded a pad of notebook paper in half and swatted him. He is dead now, smashed silent against my bookcase.

Another thirteen hour day today. The night ended, as it always does, and as it always shall, and I thank God for that.

We got through the evening shift by drinking wine and listening to Ice Cube. I think it was a good day.

On the way home, I tried to carry a full beer in one hand and, in my mouth, a paper bag holding three containers of beef & barley soup. I immediately swerved and fell, my beer spilling across the filthy asphalt. So it goes. The soup made it home safely.

I had so many things to say, so many things to write. I dreamt of ripping the world apart, peeling back the skin and showing them what I've been saying all along. I can't remember a single sentence.

I am so sick of the "symbolic release of anger". We need to see more anger released towards symbols. There's nothing cathartic about punching a pillow. Beat the shit out of your alarm clock. Beat the shit out of your shift manager. Beat the shit out of your Toyota Camry. Break glasses, throw radios, burn blue jeans. Then we'll discuss catharsis.

I have had so many dreams of Panama City Beach. Of all places I've visited in my pathetic travels, why this little shithole? Why this mud puddle of capitalism and excess and filthy fucking scum-sucking horseshit? Who knows. I believe it's drawing me back. Mayhap I'll move there on a whim, as before, with little to no preparation. I'll sell my car, take only suitcase/Bike/guitar/records. I'll get a little cookie cutter house only a block or three from the Gulf, work a funny little shitjob, and dream of deserts beyond the clouds. Working a gas station, keeping an eye peeled for Missouri ID's, girls with punk rock t-shirts, and fellas who have a guitar pick or two in the handful of change they pull out of their lint-filled pockets to pay for a pack of orange Zig-Zags.

I moved to Florida when I was twenty. A skeleton of plans. I had about $150 saved up from cutting cedar trees for the Conservation Dept., and my mother lent me another $70 or so. Seve and I drove down there in one day, one straight shot, arriving at the Gulf of Mexico at 5 am. We snuck across the grounds of a beachfront resort and napped in the sand under the boardwalk until the sun was bright enough to justify our being conscious.

I spent a week in PCB before taking a midnight ride in a battered Toyota pickup to Orlando. We passed several toll booths and a high-speed pursuit. It was on this eight-hour drive that I wrote the opening lines of "Bones + Steam". . . .

My life has turned into a series of rest stops
Strung together on a ribbon highway

I lived in Orlando for a month. A month spent sleeping on floors, eating naught but potatoes, rice, and whatever leftovers I could table-dive at various restaurants. I hated Orlando. The only notable feature within bicycle distance was an all-girl high school and a Vietnamese market that sold fresh organic fruit. A few house parties yielded my first performances as a "folk artist", playing ramshackle Against Me! and Prince covers, as well as "Missouri Nights", my first completed song of any merit.

I immediately ran out of money. Caught a ride upstate, back to Panama City Beach. The next week was spent applying at every imaginable job within bicycling distance. Drinking too much, pouring Kahlua on breakfast cereal, spending my last bit of change on stupid jackets at shitty thrift stores.

At the end of the week, I flew back to Branson on a plane named November Juliet. Shea picked me up at my father's house and we drove to Louisiana.

I have grown lazy. The next few months were as follows: Work drink drink write sing read read read Zen drink drink work punk work drink read read write sing. Caught a Greyhound home in time for my little sister's high school graduation. The rest of the story is boring.

The only times in my life from which I feel I have returned a "changed man" are the following:
A. The story I just related; moving to Florida, working full-time, day-long bike rides, reading boooks about Eastern religion/music/philosophy for hours and hours on the sand dunes, drinking myself to sleep, buying My Guitar.

B. Drove to California with a girl I barely knew. Overheating in Arizona, culture shock in San Diego, getting tattooed on Venice Beach, running out of money and getting stranded just south of the Grand Canyon. Kissing the green, green grass of home.

It's all changed now. I have no more Crossroads upon which to sell my soul to the "Devil". I have no more surprises. I am a fucking joke to my friends. An oddity, a lesson in "what could've been, but you're better off without it". I've built these walls of normality around myself, and it's going to take a real goddamned hammer to bust out of 'em.

I am going to move back to Florida. And also to Bisbee, AZ. I need the wind and rain and bright fucking Blues! and Greens! of the Gulf. I need the stark, dead-to-the-nonbelievers Paradise of the desert, rife with self-discovery and wonder and awe that there are magnificent creations beyond ourselves. You selfish piece of shit. Don't tell me about the dust in your marrow. All I've got is steam in my veins.

I am mad at you, all of you, for not living life the way you had planned when you were seven years old.

Force me to write.

I will chew up an entire bottle of NO-DOZ. I will punch glass until it's embedded a half-inch into my knuckles. I will drink myself into a stupor. I will read Alan Watts. Anything to remember what it was like to wake up, every morning, surprised at the ferocity and verdancy of the world around me, and swelling with the great pride that I could take part in such tenacity.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I am being haunted by the ghost of Otis Redding.

The weather is beautiful, Autumn is just around the corner. You can smell it on the breeze, and see it in the sunsets. My favorite time of year. Everything takes on the feeling of bittersweet nostalgia and mysticism.

I worked a thirteen-hour work day today. The second half, cooking, was rough. I got by by drinking Marsala cooking wine and listening to Otis Redding's "Definitive Collection".

I believe I am being haunted by Otis' ghost. I hear him whispering in my ears, I see his big frame lurking under the glow of street lamps, and his words reach deep into parts of me that I didn't even know existed. Whether or not he wrote those Words is superfluous. He sang them, and that's enough for me. He brought the abstract to the concrete, pulled a little bit of the Spirit World into our own dismal plane, and gave those same Words infinite weight. Then, in 1967, he died in a plane crash in Wisconsin. So it goes.

I need to sleep more. I feel I am losing momentum.

Today's playlist:
Descendents - Everything Sucks
Dr. Octagon - Dr. Octagonecologyst
Otis Redding - The Definitive Collection
the Sidekicks - So Long, Soggy Dog
Uncle Tupelo - Anodyne
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

Monday, September 1, 2008

Wild Turkey. 957 miles.

A boring night tonight. The paper never came, so I sit and watch ice cubes dissolve into strong coffee, and into a jam jar of Wild Turkey bourbon. That shit's expensive, so you had better drink it well, and in great quantities, so that you're no use to anyone.

My father drinks Wild Turkey about once a year, the only time he really drinks at all, when his brother comes to visit. They sit in the tobacco shed, pack bowls with Burley and who-the-hell-knows-what-else, and drink Wild Turkey until the sun rises. Sometimes they come in with sheepish grins on their faces, sometimes with glistening trails of tears that have been held in for decades.

I don't write anymore. I hate sitting in front of the computer, or this computer, anyway. Meredith's Macintosh monolith, all ivory and porcelain, pristine and sterile. Nothing flows the way it's supposed to, the tarantulas ain't dancin'. They retreat from the light like cockroaches.

I miss my computer, the piece-of-shit Frankenstein's monster PC, crammed to the gills with nothing but billions of bytes of music, not a single program running efficiently or effectively. That's a machine with which you can get some writing done. Last winter, a steady diet of vodka and canned beans, and sitting at that pathetic machine, taptaptapping away until the sun started to melt the icicles that had formed on the end of my crooked Jew nose. Broken heart, bad teeth, good company.

There's a point to all of it, but it seems trite to delve too deeply, so I won't. I am the most stable I have been in possibly my entire life, but looking back, I regret that not a single time this summer did I drink, smoke, dance, and cry until the sun came up. I was wary of consequence. I enjoyed the company of friends, to be sure, and I enjoyed carnal sinful overindulgences, but nothing like the old days. The poisonous old days that take on such a golden hue in hindsight. The vomit smells of rosewater, the exhaustion becomes elation.

Sometimes you need to undo your britches, pull your dick out, and take a piss on the carpet. But I've been house trained. House broken?

It's all too domestic for me. I'm a hyena, or at least a werehyena, and it's been a while since I've roamed the streets looking for innocent flesh. Shea and I are planning something Massive, Westward, Beautiful, Ludicrous, and Necessary, but I fear it won't come soon enough. The looming responsibilities of Work, Bills, Horseshit, Chickenshit, etc. frighten me into shameful impotence. Fifteen hours, cut like a hot butter knife through the guts of Kansas. 957 miles.

I need a handful of wheel. Or sweet-smelling hair or beer can or bad gas station coffee in a styrofoam cup. I fear this won't be the only thing I write tonight.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Polishin' the halo with beer and tobacco.

The front door is propped open, and I swear the cicadas were singing in tune with Al Green. My eyes are heavy-lidded, I'm eating a bratwurst dipped in mustard and Tapatio, and everything is fine.

Every morning, they rip off my wings, but I don't mind because every night, I grow 'em back again.

Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tao Teh Cha-Ching.

"Money's just something you throw from the back of a train." - Tom Waits

Living from paycheck to paycheck, entirely broke, spending what little money I have on records, beer, books, and records...

Folks with money tend to cherish their stuff. Things they can cradle and coo at and adore and be proud of. Those of us who do without tend to cherish moments, memories, friends. A sweeping generalization, and I'll not rescind it.

Tim and I discussed this while sitting on milk crates and drinking coffee tonight. We agreed that milk crates, punk rock, coffee, and the company of friends are some of the greatest gifts we've been given. We watched skateboarders thrash the quarter pipe, listened to London Calling, and I sighed that I couldn't be more content for that single moment.

There are people from my high school class who have families, who have real jobs in hospitals, law firms, vacation agencies. They could look down their nose at me all they want, at my lack of a "proper" education, my complete financial insecurity, stacks of bills, broken bones, bad tattoos... They could pity me 'til Kingdom Come, but I'm pretty sure I'd still feel sorrier for them. I've done and seen things these past few years that some of them will never see or do in their entire life, and without spending any money, but just following my heart and playing a guitar or two. We live the life that comes natural to us. We know of no other way.

 Yeah, I'm still playing music in a stupid punk rock band, hanging out with my best friends every chance I get. Every day is Friday, every season Summer. I'm doing exactly what my teachers were afraid I was going to do, and I couldn't be happier. The things that are important to me are family, friends, community, art, love, freedom. I'm not going to let the motherfuckers and the chickenshits and all the other bastards win, ever. My feet are planted, my hands are spread, and my eyes gaze towards glory; inner, above, and beyond.

Friday, July 4, 2008

I pledge allegiance to the Flag...

"Go West, Paradise is there."

In the summer of 2004, I drove to San Diego (from Kansas City, MO) with a friend. It was a spontaneous trip; we had no money, no plan, no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Two weeks later, two weeks spent in shitty motels, a car that kept overheating in the 115 degree Arizona heat, and several fast food parking lots (once money ran out), I returned to the green, green grass of home a changed man. I consider this trip one of the most important times of my life.

It was also the first time I have been to California since being born there in 1984. I wept at the sight of the sand dunes and Pacific Ocean.

Recently, I found a mix cd that I made just prior to the trip. If I remember correctly, the plan was to wait until we had crossed the border into California to dramatically pop this into the car's stereo. That moment was about 11 o'clock at night, just outside of Yuma, AZ, in the Colorado Desert (Imperial County).

Here, unabridged, regardless of any embarrassing inclusions, is the track listing to the cd.

01. Sound clip from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
02. Rancid - "California Sun"
03. Transplants - "California Babylon"
04. Rancid - "Hyena"
05. Choking Victim - "Crack Rock Steady"
06. Eve 6 - "Open Road Song"
07. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros - "Johnny Appleseed"
08. Kottonmouth Kings - "Bump"
09. Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards - "Campbell, CA"
10. Sublime - "40 oz to Freedom"
11. Mr. Bungle - "Air-Conditioned Nightmare"
12. the Gadjits - "Bad Gadjit"
13. Tom Waits - "Goin' Out West"
14. Nerf Herder - "Hotel California"
15. Dr. Dre - "Still D.R.E."
16. Rancid - "Red Hot Moon"
17. Kottonmouth Kings - "Here We Go Again"
18. Reel Big Fish - "Boss DJ"
19. Rancid - "Listed M.I.A."
20. Tupac - "California Love"
21. Against Me! - "Reinventing Axl Rose"
22. Rancid - "Backslide"
23. Billy Bragg & Wilco - "California Stars"

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Poached.

I heard someone say that rock n' roll never forgets, so I guess rock n' roll is more like an elephant than we want to admit. If that's the case, maybe we should kill it for its teeth and its heart, cuz those are the only things about it that ever appealed to me.

I met Tommy Ramone tonight. My life nears completion.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fuck Anti-Flag, I'm Listening to Bluegrass.

A punk rock song I wrote about how much I enjoy classic bluegrass. A rough draft.

Sometimes we need to look elsewhere for guidance
Sometimes we need to turn to what came before
Voices lost to memory and vinyl grooves
Remind us what we were living for

Clawhammer banjo, two majors and a seventh
I don't wanna wander far from my roots
Whether you like Joe Strummer or the Louvin Brothers
It's still three chords and the motherfucking truth

I wanna be high, I don't wanna be lonesome no  more

Do you remember when Jimmy Martin was king?
Do you remember when Bill Monroe would sing,
"I saw the light, praise the Lord"
I wanna be high, I don't wanna be lonesome

I wanna be high, I don't wanna be lonesome no more

So rock me, momma, like a wagon wheel
Rock me, momma, any way you feel
I wanna be high, I don't wanna be lonesome no more

It's Sunday afternoon, we got a little bit of gas
Your hands are on the wheel, my feet are on the dash
Kirk Rundstrom's on the radio, praise the Lord
I wanna be high, I don't wanna be lonesome no more

Appropriately enough, I managed to score a ticket to see Uncle Monk, Tommy Ramone's new bluegrass/folk group, this coming Saturday. Getting a chance to meet the only surviving original Ramone might be a bit too much for this boy. Where would I be without 'em?

I was probably 16, listening to bad metal and thinking the Beatles were the end-all be-all of rock n' roll, when Tucker burned me a "punk mix" cd. The first track was "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue", and it blew my mind. I never looked back, and I don't think I've listened to the Beatles since. Take that, Paul McCartney.

Tommy Ramone and Tom Waits in the same week. After next Thursday, I could probably die happy.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

It was cool and still.

I was unbuttoning my shirt before I even got in the front door.

I staggered into the graveyard with the sole intention of being found out, called out as a trespasser. Bellyful of Mickey's, headful of vice, earful of Skynyrd.

I fell asleep under a handsome tree for about forty-five minutes, and when I woke I had a difficult time deciding whether to spend the rest of my nocturne in the cemetery, or to trudge on to my best girl's warm arms. Life is all the more beautiful when faced with decisions like these.

Tom Waits has caused me to rediscover traits and habits I had long forgotten, like the patience to stare down drainpipes and listen to birdsongs at 5:52 am while ankle-deep in cold water.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bugs.

Summer in the Ozarks means flies in the kitchen, ants on the counters, mosquitos on the front porch. Frogs sing songs and the air smells like charcoal and freshly mowed grass. Nothing but hip-hop and punk rock anthems on my stereo. It's about goddamn time.

Give 'em enough hope...

Scrawled this on scrap paper at work tonight. Perhaps there's the seed of a song buried somewhere in there. How should I know?

Your dreadlocks don't convince me of your radical motives, I need to see some smoke and blood tonight. We all have our faults, but I treasure my awareness, that awareness you lack, blinded with the illusion of doing good. I'm prepared tonight, I need to see some smoke and blood. Real change begins in your heart, and it burns with the fire of a thousand flaming ballot boxes.

The "illusion of doing good" is so frustrating. Don't litter. Save Darfur. Take part in the democratic process. This will grant you immunity when the world rears up and vomits and throws itself into a bloody froth. False. You'll be burned at the stake with everyone else.

The "illusion of doing good" perpetuates apathy and sloth. I may not be as active in the process of radical change as I'd like to be, but at least I have an awareness about the Truth that lies beneath all of the complete bullshit that is showered upon us daily. That awareness is more important than any voter registration card or idealistic political rhetoric could ever be. So many would-be do-gooders lack that awareness, and are simply wandering the same well-worn paths forged by their parents' generation, convinced that they're doing the Right Thing for the Right Reasons, and then wondering why nothing is changing.

Come on, boys, let's see some blood and smoke tonight.

Lots of Tom Waits and the Clash in heavy rotation lately. Tom Waits' music affects me in much the same way reading Hunter S. Thompson does. Fairly routine tasks while listening to Tom Waits turn a bit weird, exaggerated, grotesque, mysterious, dynamic, colorful.

The Clash (and Joe's solo music) make me so glad to be alive and part of the living, breathing thing that was, is, and will be Punk Rock. The Clash wrote and played songs that were as life-affirming and inspirational as any gospel song could ever be.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day


It's Memorial Day, 2084
It's been a hundred years since I was born
And I wonder if anyone will remember me
Who will see to it that my grave is swept clean?

Will they say I dug my bootheels in,
And refused to give up the ghost?
Did I hold tight to this temporary thing?
Or did I just lie down with that night train roarin' in my ears
Close my eyes to dream the endless dream

It's Memorial Day, 2084
It's been a hundred years since I was born
Will anyone be around to breathe a letter of my name,
Will the world go on spinning just the same?

Will a great tremor run through the earth,
Will all the oceans turn to steam?
Will all the songbirds forget all their songs?
No, the stars will just laugh and shine and the tide will rise and fall
And everything will go marching on

It's Memorial Day, 2084
It's been a hundred years since I was born
And I hope that they speak of me with love and not with shame,
Because I'd rather be forgotten than be blamed

Will all my tattoos fade to dust, as all my words and all my deeds,
All memories that I ever even lived?
Will all of the saddest girls turn their backs to my stone,
Or will they find it in their hearts to forgive?

It's Memorial Day

Friday, April 25, 2008

STW

I'd like to write a song that serves as an anthem to dishwashers across the world. I love my job, find moments of Zen and inspiration within it. There are so many of us, head bowed in the dish pit, listening to whatever is playing through our headphones, secretly hoping for that satisfying splash of broken glass, a plate or cup that never belonged to us in the first place. Most of us don't make enough in an hour to buy the entrees that we're scraping into the trash can.

We work patiently and diligently, knowing that as soon as that final load of dishes is ran we can emerge out onto the street, breathe in air unpolluted by steam, grease, bleach, second-hand pot smoke. Then we go home and play guitars, go to bars and drink until we puke, climb on stage and sing our motherfucking hearts out. The kitchen and the dish pit are a life away. Dreams and dreams.

If They knew the thoughts running through the heads of dishwashers across America, They would have us all marched out back by the dumpster and executed.

Soak the World.

Monday, April 21, 2008

April 21st.

I think my brain is pickled. I have arthritis in my hands. I will be twenty-four in June. Almost a quarter of a century with nothing to show for it save some bad tattoos, a few country songs, and a collection of scars. I have a toothache.

I used to have a Xanga account, and I would write in it regularly. I still have the account, I suppose, but no one reads Xanga anymore. Not that anyone reads this blog.

Anyhow, looking back on some of my old Xanga posts, I'm amazed at some of the insights and witticisms that I was able to convey. Nowadays, it seems, I can't come close to the font of wisdom I somehow tapped into in my past. This flowery bullshit pales in comparison. Pale, flowery bullshit.















For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to properly insert pictures into my posts. They always appear at the very top of the text, and I have to awkwardly drag them around while they displace text and margins.

It's almost as frustrating as this toothache.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Punk Rock Weekend.

I wrote this a week or two ago. I'm going to leave it as I wrote it, unedited, a muddy snapshot of a somber evening after a long punk rock weekend. A mouse just ran by and scared the shit out of me.

"It has been said that drink is the curse of the working class. It has also been said that work is the curse of the drinking class." - Charlie Leduff

Long weekends stretch even longer than expected when you miss the sunshine you need most. Everything reminds me of you, but everything always did. Listening to Gillian Welch doesn't help. You're somewhere in the South, trampling your footprints over my own size-11's that only appeared to be washed away with each crashing wave. I left long, sad echos up and down those beaches, early early mornings and late late nights, and now you're there.

Monday was a late wakeup. Pancakes and French toast. Feeling like one of those fish with the suction cups on the top of their skulls. Ramoras? Wandering around grocery stores in a daze at 1 in the morning.

Easter was a rainy, snowy day in St. Louis, driving around listening to Sun Kil Moon and eating too much Del Taco. Drinking Stag and Hennessey, fighting with friends, sexual tension and frying chicken. Laughing at Danny's poetry until I wept. Just wanting to go home, or at least be in the same state as you. I wanted to sit quietly in the corner, read Matt Grant's art books and eat Easter chocolate. No one would let me. I wouldn't let me.

Saturday was spent in a makeshift incubation chamber, throwing up pretzels and water all over my shirt and Matt's front porch. Eating shitty Chinese food, listening to college radio. Battling an awful hangover with Bloody Marys and espresso martinis.

Friday took Columbia by storm. Old friends are now into the Army and cocaine. New friends are into old friends. Angry Middle Easterners. Getting our sound cut off. Getting our beer cut off. Driving Matt home and singing along to Dear You but not remembering any of the words. Driving a girl home and singing along to the Cure but not remembering her name. "Will you at least give me a hug?" Yeah, sure, I guess.

The song was "Friday I'm in Love". Or maybe "Just Like Heaven". I called you, but you didn't answer, so I went back to Matt's house, pulled Derrick's head out of the bowl of vomit he had passed out in, and passed out watching Circle Jerks videos.

We're cleaning out 625 this week, as we're moving out next week. The rule of thumb seems to be; When in doubt, fuck it. Throw it away. We have bags and boxes and bags of complete and utterly unnecessary shit. Trash, that at one time served some purpose in our lives. Throw it all away, burn it. An entire life dedicated to being resourceful, avoiding wastefulness, rendered moot by a single evening of cathartic cleaning and purification. Jeeploads of garbage bags, plywood, old turntables, couch cushions. We drove around Springfield and listened to Facedownandshit and left our trash in various dumpsters or trashcans foolishly left empty and unattended by some poor domestic soul.

I haven't showered since Saturday, and now our bathtub is full of dirty dishes and mouse shit, but I can't remember why. So I'm still filthy, wearing a mantle of a weekend of punk rock excess, long drives with too much to think about but not enough energy to put any of my thoughts into any concrete form.

Saturday night I could barely muster the focus to finger meager chords. Squinting through the pain of a punishing headache, I stomped ferociously on that little orange distortion pedal and tried to make every squealing, crashing note somehow evoke what I hadn't the energy to convey. No emotion? No energy? A lame performance? Fuck you. Start your own band.

On that note, I watched "We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen" tonight. It made me greatful to be in a punk rock band. Punk rock as freedom, freedom as religion. D. Boon is dead, long live D. Boon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rock and Rollins.















I met Henry Rollins tonight. I told him it was an honor, and then we talked about the Meat Puppets.

Next week, I am going to see said Meat Puppets with Built to Spill, and then immediately drive with Curtis the following day to Jonesboro, Arkansas to see Lion of Judah. Lots of long drives and rock shows in my future, and there isn't a goddamned thing wrong with that.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Blog on the Tracks.

I decided about a week ago that I should create a blog. The creative fire that makes my fingers itch and my heart sweat has been running a little low on kindling lately. Ben always tells me to write more often, as does my father. Now I have an excuse, a medium, my own private corner of the vast cyberplasm to fidget and whittle sticks and pick my nose.

I suppose blogging would be a good deal easier, and more fun, if I actually had anything reasonable or interesting of which to blog about. As it is, I have nothing.

Tonight, I watched Star Trek: First Contact, ate rice and green beans and smoked oysters on saltines with Tobasco sauce. I'm a little unnerved at how sexy I find the Borg Queen to be.

Today's playlist, from morning to night:
Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
the Replacements - Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?
Son Volt - Okemah & the Melody of Riot
Gob Iron - Death Songs for the Living
the Gunshy - There's No Love in This War
Bad Manners - Special Brew
Jawbreaker - Etc.

I've decided I'm going to go see Henry Rollins next week, despite the high ticket price of $25 and my relative poverty. But to pass up a chance to see Mr. Rollins would be akin to pass up a chance to take Communion from the Pope, or to make love to Monica Bellucci.

Other upcoming shows I'm excited about?
the Meat Puppets/Built to Spill (Columbia, MO)
Modern Life is War (their final St. Louis show)

I suppose that's about it. Nothing and no one good comes to Springfield anymore. That's why we have to take matters into our own hands. "We can be the bands we want to hear" indeed.

Excellent Las Cruces practice today. It never ceases to amaze me that the four of us, despite our glaring ineptness, always manage to come together on such a unified front. We learned a new song, entitled "Memorial Day". It's a little bit Jawbreaker, a little bit Crazy Horse, a lot Las Cruces.

"Memorial Day"

It's Memorial Day, 2084
It's been a hundred years since I was born
And I wonder if anyone will remember me
Who will see to it that my grave is swept clean*?

Will they say I dug my bootheels in,
And refused to give up the ghost?
Did I hold tight to this temporary thing?
Or did I just lie down with that night train ringin' in my ears
And close my eyes to dream the endless dream

It's Memorial Day, 2084
It's been a hundred years since I was born
Will anyone be around to breathe a letter of my name?
Will the world go on spinnin' just the same?

Will a great tremor run through the earth,
Will all the oceans turn to steam?
Will all the songbirds forget all their songs?
No, the stars will just laugh and shine
And the tide will rise and fall
And everything will go marching on

It's Memorial Day, 2084
It's been a hundred years since I was born
And I hope that they speak of me with love and not with shame
For I'd rather be forgotten than be blamed

Will all my tattoos fade to dust,
As all my words and all my deeds?
All memory that I ever even lived?
Will all of the saddest girls turn their backs to my stone,
Or will they find it in their hearts to forgive?

It's Memorial Day
It's Memorial Day

*(see "See That My Grave is Swept Clean", by Blind Lemon Jefferson)

I haven't drank in two weeks. This is the longest stretch of sobriety I've encountered in probably three years, and it feels good. My current vices instead include Meredith, green peppers, candy, Morrissey, and coffee. Lots of coffee.

Albums in heavy rotation lately:
Earth - The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull

















This is sprawling, epic, instrumental rock from the pioneers of "drone metal", though there's nothing really that "droning" about it. As much as I appreciate bands like Sunn O))), who certainly aren't shy about their passion for making a song that is fifteen or twenty minutes of low-end ambience, there's something much more interesting about Earth's current take on the genre. Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull is super-slow and heavy, but not exactly sludgy or metal. More like slow-motion Sabbath or Skynyrd riffs, calling to mind long night drives through bayou country, or those lonely Texas back roads that seem to stretch for fucking eternity.

Summation: "Drone" rock that calls to mind the soundtrack to Jarmusch's Dead Man instead of Lynch's Eraserhead.

Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

















I'm certainly not above slaughtering a few sacred cows every now and then, and my feelings 0f ambivalence towards Mr. Dylan are no exception. In the early to mid-Sixties, he was the manifestation of the progressive, youthful energy that swept the nation, a sort of zeitgeist/avatar/incarnation of Us vs. Them, Good vs. Evil, all that. Ginsberg said something about Dylan being a shaman, that all the words and feelings of the nation came out of Dylan like a column of air. And I suppose I agree, to a point. However, I also believe that, after Highway 61 Revisited, it was all downhill into irrelevancy. I suppose it's just that innate, inborn punk rock elitist within, but I still have never been able to sit through Blonde on Blonde from start to finish without getting bored or wondering "What's the big fucking deal?".

In hindsight, the Flower Children changed nothing. They became Yuppies and Baby Boomers, elected all sorts of Reagans and Bushes to presidential office, and their fearless prophet Dylan settled into a groove of releasing shitty, bizarre records that all of those upwardly-mobile ex-"radicals" pretended to enjoy. But there are always flukes, and Blood on the Tracks is certainly a fluke.

Released in 1975, between Planet Waves and Desire (neither of which, I'm sure, are worth mentioning), Blood on the Tracks is an album built around the concepts of anger, love and loss, almost undoubtedly stemming from Dylan's recent divorce. And this, I believe, is why it's held up so well, and why it rivals anything else he has ever or will ever release; it's Dylan being human. There are goddamn emotions on this record. There are still cryptic metaphors and rambling stories (see "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts"), but even these hamfisted allegories and images carry a real emotional weight that is devoid from nearly all of his other material (though there are a few exceptions, such as "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright").

Blood on the Tracks is, essentially, a break-up record. A very adult break-up record. When I first listened to it, probably five or six years ago, the themes meant little to me. Now that I'm older and a little bit wiser, I'm amazed at how realistic and human the words ring. Dylan moved from the left-wing politics of the youthful Sixties to the interpersonal politics of the heart, which are much more interesting and useful anyhow.

Single lines drum up and sum up empathy and the emotions associated with love and loss better than entire albums' worth of material from other artists trying to convey such things. "Tangled Up in Blue" belongs on every post-break-up mixtape in the world, alongside Morrissey's "Suedehead" and "Come Pick Me Up" by Ryan Adams, while "Buckets of Rain", the album's closer, belongs on every mixtape you're making to get on someone's good side ("I like the cool way you look at me/Everything about you is bringing me misery"). "Idiot Wind" starts off as a noir narrative and rapidly descends into anger and frustration, certainly some of his angriest material since the mid-Sixties protest era, framing one of the greatest lines on the record; "I can't feel you anymore/I can't even touch the books you've read". If that doesn't sum up the way you've felt about a loved one at some point in your life, you've never known heartache.

I didn't mean to go on for so long about this record, but it's just that good. And I don't even really give a shit about Bob Dylan after I heard what Neil Young had to say.

Summation: When high schoolers get their hearts broken, they listen to the Get Up Kids, Blink-182, maybe Dashboard Confessional. College kids; the Smiths and Ryan Adams. Grown-ups? Blood on the Tracks.

Sometimes it just takes a while for something to really sink in.

It's almost four o'clock in the morning. This blog is far too long already. I'm off to a good start. I'm finishing my smoked oysters and going to bed.