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):

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