Wednesday, February 29, 2012

better with Pepper

I'm debating whether or not to go see Corrosion of Conformity & Torche next week, because I love me some big riffs, but repeat spinning of Deliverance in the car only makes the lack of Pepper Keenan more acute, I'm not quite as into the old tunes, and while what I've heard of the new record is very good, I have to be up at 4am the next morning and that's harder and harder to do nowadays, and there's time to figure out if I'm up for yet another solo outing to see good heavy tuneage. Sometimes I can get lost in the sound, and sometimes it just feels awkward, and the advantage of being guestlisted for stuff means I can show up and leave at whim without feeling like I've blown money if I'm not having a good time.

Some folk who think that Manowar is a really good band might want to take issue with my 'cred' for not being properly dedicated to the scene, but said folk are also more affluent than We The Peonage who can't afford to see every band that comes within three hours of Clevelandia, since most of them seem to be bypassing our fair city as it is. I don't know what we did to get on the bad side of the Supreme Metal Council, but we must have done something.

On a side note, I was walking from the parking lot to work when a bunch of seagulls flew over and I saw something drop a couple feet in front of me and assumed it was scat until I heard a clink and I got closer and realized it was an old rusty razor blade. Awesome.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


One of my friends got engaged this weekend, another's moving in hopes that a new neighborhood might mean making some connections with other likeminded souls, and certain folk who don't know me too well think they know me well enough to set me up with their coworkers, leading to awkward small talk misconstrued as soulmate preliminaries.

No, I'm not sure I want to chat on facebook or continue a conversation where I felt like everything I said made your eyes look more hungry, and aren't there women closer to your age, maybe, since I was six years old when you were old enough to vote? We might have stuff in common, but your myspace page says you've got some kids, and maybe we like some of the same bands but I'm a little creeped out by the combo of books by motivational preachers and kinky sex. I know we've all got our incongruities but my already-skeptical gut feelings and with such evidence, I figure it's best not to leave anyone hanging so I wrote back with a thanks-but-no-thanks response that will hopefully be sufficient in rebuffing.

I used to be really passive-aggressive about this kind of thing, and I've realized that it's cowardly and unfair on my part to string anyone along, and also some people find it hard to take a hint and such. I've got enough good going on in my life that I'm not sure I'd want to rearrange that for just anyone, and I've been more content with where I'm at than ever.  

Picky? Probably, and maybe it's western and too modern of me to believe in friendship, of camaraderie of both the soul and the mind, because we all get old and ugly someday and I still want to be able to have something there. More and more I feel like I've got myself together, but upon that happening, I've realized that I don't tie my worth to another's attraction and for some reason that's strangely empowering. If something ever happens with someone, it won't be because I got desperate or felt inadequate somehow on my own.

Monday, February 27, 2012

lost lives

another kid who got picked on who shot some other kids, and this one closer to home. I've only been out to Chardon maybe twice in my life, and know it snows a lot there, and I've been graduated from that pressure cooker called high school for ten years now, and even the most juvenile and scummy antics of my fellow adults are nothing to that awfulness.

Conformity and crowd control were first felt most keenly then, and then it just took more kindler gentler machine gun hand forms as we got older. Individuality within constraints encouraged until it went too far and was 'distracting' or 'disturbing,' and it seems we're all supposed to be shiny and happy and holding hands acting like this groupthink is the best thing ever, why are you being so quiet and negative?

You don't want to mess with those quiet ones because you never know when they'll snap...

I was one of the quiet ones, and I was friends with the other ones who didn't quite mesh, I still am. I was a freshman when Columbine happened and a senior when 9/11 did. Different situations to be sure, but an overreaction of the overlords who need to show they care a lot and a fear of those who are different, of the shadowy misunderstood Other.  The interventions I remember seemed useless, the ignoring of the red flags just as bad. I understand despair but not inflicting that despair on others. I wish I had some words of wisdom but they elude me.


the puppy park

I've been taking the dog to "the puppy park" to get her puppy energy out so that she can be social and have some fun while I get to observe both the comedie humaine and the comedie canine at the same time.

All of these people seem to know each other, so I end up telling them I'm babysitting the little jungle puppy who looks like Anubis come to life as she wrestles with the other scrappy dogs her size and gets angry when others don't want to play the way she does.

Maybe it's having read Children of Men (I haven't seen the film (which is very different from what I've heard) but the book is fantastic and becoming prescient in the way that 1984 and Brave New World are), where the human race, unable to continue bearing children, begin to treat their cats and dogs as such. I feel like almost every playground I drive by is deserted and yet there are lots of people and their pets here in this enclosure of fence with some water dishes and trees.

It's somewhat easy to match the owners with their pets, and make inferences, and the pets, while loyal and cuddly with their owners, somehow enter this more primal state of mind when they have some degree of freedom to let their natures out free of anthropomorphism, and then it turns into Jack London in the Suburbs, with the gang of huskies running as a pack, and the dogfight drawing blood and the subsequent crowd, the smaller and more sensitive dogs getting bullied by the bigger, the crazy dog banging the water dish around and growling at it, the other ones that just want to run around mind their own business. It's a crazy world with its own subculture and to observe for this week is fascination.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

consumer goods

To the chagrin of sundry family members, I've been doing most of my economic transactions on craigslist, including my current apartment, my car, my camera (from a hobbyist banker), art supplies (a Korean couple in a rocky marriage), and now a beautiful red Gibson SG guitar with crescent moon inlays on the fretboard from an Oberlin music student who doesn't play it anymore, needed the cash, and wanted it to go to a good home. I insist that I do a cursory google-style background check and if anything carries a whiff of weird, I back off, but in this case I knew what I was in for.

She plugs in the guitar in her dorm room and as I play it we end up talking about this and that to the point where the whole transactional nature and the exchange of cash feels like an afterthought. Sometimes these feel awkward, like the art supplies bought from a Korean couple that wasn't speaking to each other, and other times, it's pure business like the CD player from an Afghanistan vet who returned to find his audio equipment obsolete, but in this case, it's one of those times when it doesn't feel awkward at all. I really hope she goes far with her music, because even though I haven't been following much of the folky stuff The Kids are into these days, this song of theirs hits me somehow, and I wish them all the best.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ash wednesday incoherence

T.S. Eliot describes my frame of mind so well right now.

Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
This world that breaks my heart. 

Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy rotten system.

We are the nation the most powerful, the most armed and we are supplying arms and money to the rest of the world where we are not ourselves fighting. We are eating while there is famine in the world.

I've been reading Dorothy Day over dinner, and find it amusing that the last two presidents have quoted her, considering that everything they've done in the past decade or so would have been reprehensible to her, like predator drones and warpiggery and enriching the few at the expense of the many, though everyone quotes their respective religious figures when they see the need to, so there's really no difference.

I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.

It's been ten years since I've been to an Ash Wednesday service, I feel disingenuous taking ashes and not the bread, and so I try to comprehend, too unstilled to contemplate, too resigned to truly rage, because I doubt the righteousness of my fury, there is too much of me in it still.

"I hold more temper in one minute than you will hold in your entire life."

But it's hard for me to listen to people who say they respect the sanctity of life as created by God who have no problem degrading the humanity and personhood of others through torture, who seem too enthused or all too willing to blow up other parts of the world because of some perceived clash of values. Human life is cheap to the powers that be, who utilize human resources until they run dry, justify the unjustifiable with economics and ideology and appealing to emotions and blaming the other side while doing the same exact things that were once decried.

It is not just Vietnam, it is South Africa, it is Nigeria, the Congo, Indonesia, all of Latin America. It is not just the pictures of all the women and children who have been burnt alive in Vietnam, or the men who have been tortured, and died. It is not just the headless victims of the war in Colombia. It is not just the words of Cardinal Spellman and Archbishop Hannan. It is the fact that whether we like it or not, we are Americans. It is indeed our country, right or wrong, as the Cardinal said in another context. We are warm and fed and secure (aside from occasional muggings and murders amongst us). We are the nation the most powerful, the most armed and we are supplying arms and money to the rest of the world where we are not ourselves fighting. We are eating while there is famine in the world.

  ...We are the rich. The works of mercy are the opposite of the works of war, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, nursing the sick, visiting the prisoner. But we are destroying crops, setting fire to entire villages and to the people in them. We are not performing the works of mercy but the works of war. We cannot repeat this enough.

Words are as strong and powerful as bombs, as napalm. How much the government counts on those words, pays for those words to exalt our own way of life, to build up fear of the enemy. Deliver us, Lord, from the fear of the enemy. That is one of the lines in the psalms, and we are not asking God to deliver us from enemies but from the fear of them. Love casts out fear, but we have to get over the fear in order to get close enough to love them.

Even as a lapsed Catholic whose soul still turns towards the liturgical end of things, I've never been good at this whole Lent thing, more out of absentmindedness than anything else, and having only been in the land of parochials for the first decade of life, never quite developed the guilt complex endemic to the others in my circle. I know better than to try and give up caffeine, and I eat too little meat for it to be denial, maybe a cut in consumption of goods, perhaps?

 We will print the words of Christ who is with us always, even to the end of the world. "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, who makes His sun to rise on the good and the evil, and sends rain on the just and unjust."

I realize more and more that acquisition and use are so endemic to the lifestyle of paychecks and solo living. I have no one to provide for, and I make all efforts to share what I do have, but so much volunteering throughout my twenties has soured me on a lot of charitable work, when you realize that more goes to pay an entitled administrator than that goes to the people. The money trails of even the most altruistic causes make me not want to waste my time and resources, but instead of looking at other options, so often I just become busy with my own life and my own circle, and I don't give as much of myself and what I have as I should, even more not okay because I have no one to sustain except myself.

Love is not the starving of whole populations. Love is not the bombardment of open cities. Love is not killing, it is the laying down of one’s life for one’s friend.

So, to give more of my time, of what I possess, of my skills, of my soul? To just start, I guess, and see what happens. 

My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms.  

How often it does. 

Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
   Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
   and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
   they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
   and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
   and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
   ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
   and you have not noticed?’

   “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
   and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
   and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
   and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
   only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
   and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
   a day acceptable to the LORD?

 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
   and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
   and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
   and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
   and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
   and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
   you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

   “If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
   with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
   and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
   and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
   he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
   and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
   like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
   and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
   Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Like most girls who grew up with fairy tales and and geeky love of beauty, I wanted to be a ballerina when I was seven, before I realized that one needed a small build and more innate athleticism than what I was born with. My mom took me to see The Nutcracker which left me enthralled but after realizing that I looked goofy when I dance, I've reserved movement for times when I've been home alone or undulating with the flow of bodies in the mosh pit in my early twenties, a few awkward moments of social dance notwithstanding. It's one of those things I still appreciate but know better than to attempt.

Some of my friends in this world tell me tales of drama and unchecked egos, of waiting tables and lack of pay, and all kinds of duress that make the world seem much less romantic than it did when the other side was kept hidden.

a beautiful shell for all to see

A few cups of coffee, a weekend of walking under evergreens by waterfalls, and hospitality given and received. Among the processing of the messedupness, there is time to laugh and just be, safe in the presence of others with whome there's history of one kind or another without needing to feel like I need to hide beneath the coils, swirls and twists.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

the tie that binds

His neighbors found him hogtied on the floor of his room. No one knows who did it or even how he died yet, but it seems like his hospitality was taken advantage of cruelly. Since this happened in a gentrifying neighborhood that's extremely conscious of its image, it got no mention in the newspaper. One of his neighbors is a friend of mine who's a retired minister a few doors down in the assisted living community which is the only reason I know.

He asks if I can play music for the funeral service and there's no way I could refuse even though I don't know a few of the songs offhand and I'm still nervous about being front and center, but it's not about me and that becomes clear. I am only an accessory, some ambience to the grieving that needs to be walked through. These hymns are old and written by people from a time when death was a much more present thing and loss was even more common. At the old cemeteries I look at stones and think of parents who buried so many young children that they stopped even trying to give them long names. There's something so unnecessary about this life being snuffed out that just seems so wrong.

His neighbors show up, and some family and a few others, and I know none of them, even though they would have been my neighbors if I stayed at my old house. It hits me how often diversity is a red herring, because while there are many different people, their worlds are as separate as if they lived on two different planets. Some people whisper in Spanish, and the rippled of assents and amens reminds me of churches on the east side that my friends grew up in. I barely finish the last song because I'm trying so hard not to cry. The emotions are overwhelming but I know it's nothing compared to what they feel and I hope at least maybe I gave some comfort somehow.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I don't know anyone at this show besides two friends of mine in one of the bands that's playing, so I hang out with them and when they set up end up leaning against a pillar people-watching and wishing that my hair was as long as it once was even though I'd just end up getting called a hippie anyway because I smile more than I scowl.

What are you doing here? I didn't know you were into metal. Well, my friends are playing, and I figured I'd come out here and watch them rock out and clap for them too because that's what good friends do, and they're talented people as it is. Well you need to start going to more shows to build up your cred and why didn't I go and see his band? But I have neither money or interest in how it appears to others, and I make an effort to see the bands I want to see but I've always been ambivalent about scenesterism, because high school ended for me ten years ago and this reeks of it, only it's band shirts instead of brand names, and it's still about who you know and who you're cool with. I didn't play that game then, and I sure as hell am not going to start now.

Friday, February 17, 2012

nothing new unless you're bold

Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions.

It's strange to take classes and be this old, and to feel more acutely the patronizing of teacher to student, and I know it's not just my age, because when I encountered that in my punkassed youth, I was just as prickly about it. There are some kids in every class who will revel in their trust-fund ignorance and won't care whether the instruction is good or not, and the others will see through the smokescreen of pretension and bullshit.

There are some classes where the discussion is to some degree genuine, and with the diversity of voices, this could be interesting, but instead the only acceptable answers are the ones that regurgitate the ideology of the professor, that parrot the narrative given. You are just as much a Westerner as I, and make the values judgments upon others that you so decry from other sources.

I know better than to bring this up, especially as a peon in the employ of said institution without clout or multiple degrees, I scrawl my thoughts on the pages of my notebook and commiserate with my classmate over coffee, but when the question is asked if the writer of the textbook is imposing his "Western Attitude" on the Arab world, I find myself raising my hand.

This obliviousness and self-loathing and longing for the bygone days is not a Western thing, I say, it's a human thing. We all like to look back to when things were supposedly good, the golden years when we were in power and everything was as it should be, and we all revel in our victimhood and the times of being screwed over while forgetting the screwing over that we have done ourselves.

This does not go over well, because evidently I'm supposed to regurgitate rather than respond. I have zoomed out past the narrow frame and the big picture is uncomfortable. Pardon me for not buying it, but there's a lot of things I choose not to buy into, and in this case, world history and personal experience are on my side.

This plays out in the microcosm of relationships, of siblings and spouses, parents and children, friends that become enemies. The blame game of I might have done this but look what you've done to me. The inability to acknowledge one's wrongs and shortcomings both personally and within the culture as a whole is devastating to those around us. The lack of humility and clutching of grievance rend the social fabric beyond repair. It might be an ugly divorce or a tribal feud or on the larger scale, wars and genocides and reprisals.

Everyone loses in the Suffering Olympics, especially when there's hundreds of years of atrocity and animosity built up, and everyone's got blood on their hands. There's a part of our humanity that likes feeling victimized and oppressed because all too often it justifies our unjustifiable actions to others and allows us to exist in a state of moral superiority and unforgiveness. One can look at the wreckage of almost any part of the world and see this somewhere.

Every culture says We're Better Than You, claiming monopoly on values, and demonizing the other. I don't care who it is and while I work to keep the peace within my own life (which is really really hard), I don't expect this to change in the world as a whole. I don't know if we've really changed, it's just we've found different ways to do the same bad things and no academic polemics change that dynamic.

As Randal astutely points out, "Shit Is Fucked Up," and it's true. Acknowledgment of that is a harsh reality, but it seems to be what it is. I'm attempting to comprehend this and boil it down, and this is what I keep coming back to.

#1, for every non-violent social movement, there is always a violent movement that the Powers That Be are afraid of.

#2, While slavery may be abolished officially on paper, it has always existed in some way shape or form in every culture on earth. Its appearance and form differ in practice and in visibility to the society as a whole. (see: slavery, indentured servitude, sharecropping, migrant workers)

#3 When people say that they are nice people, or good people, and have to keep insisting that this is the case, this usually means that their words do not correlate with their actions. (see: most leading religious figures, politicians, those who set themselves up as moral arbiters)

#4 No economic system works perfectly because people will always be greedy and the powers that be will always find ways to skim off the top. (all animals are equal but some are more equal than others)

#5 Reprehensible things can be justified when it's your person in power. Also, it's not propaganda if you're doing the preaching or if you agree with said polemic already. (see: adherents of any major political party)

#6 Most conflicts in general involve the acquistion of money,power, and control. Any other motivation given  is justification towards those ends. (see: imperalistic ventures and religious crusades, which usually have some economic impetus cloaked in spiritual language)

#7 Stronger powers will always exert influence on and attempt to control weaker powers in one way or another (insert name of empire/dynasty/kingdom here). 

All things are wearisome,
   more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
   nor the ear its fill of hearing.
 What has been will be again,
   what has been done will be done again;
   there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
   “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
   it was here before our time.
No one remembers the former generations,
   and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
   by those who follow them.

fridays are always fresh days

Maybe it's the feeling of relaxation upon exiting the almost-hood, but I find myself sleeping more, and longer, and more deeply since I moved and even the lack of being able to escape my desk for additional coffee has not been quite so needed and the blessed sun makes me want to skip class so badly, which is terrible as I'm kind of a born student. I feel so old in there among the spitball throwing and pseudointellectualizing that seems to afflict every liberal arts major from ages 19-22.

I somehow ended up getting commissioned to play music for a memorial service tomorrow, which is a little intimidating because I've never done such a thing before and don't know two of the songs offhand (ones that I associate with old Baptist churches with organs). The person who asked is a retired minister in the assisted living community around the corner from where I used to live, and his neighbor was murdered the week before Valentine's Day. I really don't know what to expect and try not to think about it too much, but want to do it justice, or something, I'm not sure. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

black number one

The prevalence of black in the wardrobe probably clashes with the ever-present grin, which seems to generate some confusion and amusing attempts at pickup lines and conversation. Postmodern? Beatnik? Nihilist? Hell no.Not into Kerouac, Bukowski, or Nietzsche, not bothered that you are. I don't think appearances are all that deceiving, but it's hilarious what people will assume. I prefer British period drama to Sid and Nancy, dig the sounds of Creedence, and teach little kids about God on Sunday morning.

If you only knew....

was I born to accomodate, I'm so good at playing dead

Universally, at every place I've worked, mostly in the world of customer service, the people who have always been the worst to deal with have almost always been women old enough to be my mother. And no, not all of you, there's a lot of you who are pretty awesome.

So I'm not sure why it is, if there's an assumption of privilege, of age in the sense that I'm young enough to be their kid and therefore can't be accepted as an adult of any kind, or just the kind of nastiness with which women with power treat others because they've read a lot of motivational books about getting what they want and getting ahead. The bosses who've given me the most trouble have been the women with an axe to grind, the suburban moms at the zoo were notorious for their nastiness, and the ones who want to get their masters' degrees so they can push paper and make life hard for everyone else

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, patriarchal society be damned, women have given me way more problems in life than men and have treated me far worse.

So today this lady comes up who doesn't get the special treatment she feels she deserves and seems to spout off her suburban credentials of children and pets nevermind that my compadre is married with children and people who are married with children trust me with their domains, children and pets. Obviously, we miscreants, not from the white-picket fence suburbs and not quite so tailored, are just being punkassed kids who are just being punkassed kids.

Having no luck with my homie, she turns to me and demands again claiming to be a nice person. Life experience has taught me that self-proclaimed nice people are usually anything but, and so I pretty much tell her that all I'm getting from her is not a lot of niceness and a lot of bullying. To which, on top of being too irresponsible for progeny, I've also got "issues" that she'd "love to help me deal with" but evidently I'm beyond help and so on and so forth.


A few years ago, something like this might have made me cry, but years of taking verbal abuse from people with no recourse but to smile and say yes I understand while raging inside. At this point, my skin has thickened that I just kind of get mad, but it's impossible to feel hurt because it's obvious she's got way more issues than yours truly. Ironic that the worst people do deal with are the suburban women who want to become social workers and teachers yet have no empathy or understanding when they demand special privileges that could involve us landing in hot water. It doesn't surprise me any more, but it amazes me nonetheless.

heavens on earth

My church doesn't look like this, though there are highly unrealistic clouds on the ceiling and hand-painted flags of places like Pakistan and Syria on pieces of paper lining the back. It's true that these are just buildings, that the church is the people, but these buildings that I someday hope to see still move me profoundly the way it does when I hear the music of Part or Bach, or read the psalms or Eliot's musings on the divine. Jujol, Gaudi's partner, is responsible for such beauty, and I can't help but envy his sublime visions.

brown paper packages tied up in string

....Or rather straunge and vvonderful goods from The Continent. Randal's able to pen odes to sweet tuneage is better than mine, but I'm quite thrilled to have the new Alcest record and both Les Discrets albums (and a t-shirt) because when one makes good art (in this case both visual and sonic). The end of the day cannot come fast enough so that I can go home and sprawl out on the dining room rug in front of the speakers and soak it all in.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

we wear them til we cannot see

Well didn't you like what I said? Didn't it make sense?

First of all, those insecurities are painful to watch, and secondly, no I don't agree. I know my soul is contrary and I hold out little hope for the human condition, believing not in the evolution to higher selves or the panaceae of more education and more money. Not that money is unnecessary as a root of all evil and a way to pay the bills and not that education isn't a beautiful thing, but the people who do the most damage to the rest of the world are people with education and money, so no. And while technology has evolved to the point where more good and more evil can be perpetrated in all sorts of new and inventive ways, I don't think human nature's changed at all.

But don't you think I'm right?
No, and even if I did, does that make you any less wrong? Truth is true whether it's assented to or not, and on the things that we don't know or share the same views on there will be inevitable disagreements. If anything I assume that others will disagree with me, because even those who see through the same lens see at different angles, and also because I don't see anyone's -isms as a way of making the world a better place.

But I liked what you said!
That's all well and good, but if you liked it, you weren't really listening.

revels in blue part 2

We The Peonage are somewhat notorious in house for ordering tomes upon tomes of sundry swank and strangeness, but occasionally a few will hold a special place in our book-loving hearts, especially this gorgeous volume of Harry Clarke's stained glass work,  (click through for a look-see as to why), which I would love to have on my coffeetable for the next few decades of perusing rather than simply renewing Ohio State's copy.

It seems that it's going to be reprinted, which makes me more happy than an art book should, but there are few pleasures in life dearer than printed pages and beautiful art that have provided inspiration.

This is the most recent enameling homage project, and while I wish I could have the color just a smidge lighter, it has this old look that I kind of love. I know better than to even try to do his divine shades of blue. 

lovers and fighters

Won't you write me a poem? You have a poet's glasses, and a poet's soul / you probably like to get wild after work, I see that gleam in your eye, maybe I'll see you in the stacks sometime / 
 don't tell my wife but have a peppermint on me and your friend is cute, but oh I was just kidding"

and so on and so forth. Is it the full moon or gibbous or did everyone get beat with the stupid stick the past couple days because the amount of wtfs muttered under my breath has been extraordinarily high. Must be all that red 40 and high fructose corn syrup that makes you gibber dumbly or just stand there or say things that are just so absurd. I'm told that The Kids have been fighting more than usual and whether it's out of misguided chivalry or some other result of testosterone, has yet to be decided.

Yours truly might have a gleam in her eye and it's true that I have a life outside work, but I drove home, bought some groceries, and passed out on the couch ostensibly for an old lady nap that inevitably turned into a good night's sleep. I haven't heard the new album yet, but this is beautiful for the chilling and I only woke up to turn the light off, turn the stereo off so as not to disturb the neighbors after 10 pm, to wake up this morning feeling a little more alive.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

once upon a time

Having spent time in academia, there was much talk about the patriarchal attitude of fairy tales, of Freudian implications of spindles pricked, of stereotypically beautiful and good heroines, archetypal damsels in distress, sleeping beauties and someday-my-prince-will-comes, and the uncensored versions sanitized by Disney films where the villains perished in somewhat gory ways and the good people lived happily ever after. Who lives happily ever after anyway? That never happens.

Evidently here's parents who won't read their kids the stories I grew up on because they might be "too scary," even though in my years of working in bibliotheques, I've seen kids checking out all sorts of freakish flicks that they had no business watching, so I don't know which is better.

The violence never bothered me, though the nightly news at my grandma's house was scary with the spectre of Amy Mihaljevic's murderer and bad things going down on the other side of town spooked me back then. There was no resolution to things like that, no closure, and it was too close, not within the bounds of pages of once upon a time long ago far away.

And I doubt that these tales gave me any unrealistic views of prince charmings because the overanalytical half of the brain doubted that anyone lived happily ever after and the concept of soulmates still seems just as fanciful as ghosts or fairy godmothers, and the more pedestrian versions in the picture books were not nearly as fabulous as the ones in the old tomes at my grandma's house or the tales from around the world that my sister and I would find at the library and devour with the gorgeous illustrations and gold-stamped bindings, the tales of smart and brave and beautiful girls dealing with all manner of adversity using their wits or their small resources to get through, Vasilisa and her tasks, Scheherezade and her stories, spinning tales with layers upon layers for survival.

There are no more ogres or wicked witches in the woods in search of children to eat and tender young women with which to be matrimonial, no Bluebeard, but predators still abound, those with smooth words and promises of wealth harboring dark appetites. No Snow Queen but what girl hasn't watched the heart of one she loves get stolen away by the icy beauty of another.

Beasts who turn out to be beautiful and dragons in need of slaying.

No witches or wicked stepmothers perhaps, but women who can be just as jealous, manipulative, and cruel, and even in some cases abusive. There are those unreasonable people in power who expect you to spin straw into gold because they can't see beyond their greed. Sometimes we sacrifice who we are for some strange twisting of love for someone who barely knows we exist.

These archetypes that seem so fanciful and black and white and childlike still resonate in a strange way,  even when the lines between hero and villain and heroine and witch get blurred, because everyone thinks they're the star, the hero, the princess, and not always conscious that their non-heroic moments are at the expense of the slightly more innocent. And sometimes the endings aren't always happy and the travails and quests lead nowhere, and the morality of the good get rewarded and the bad get punished doesn't always pan out that way, which is why these are fictions in which we take such comfort.

love is on the air

I did my show this morning, and while I didn't get any calls, I got an emailed request from Randal for some White Stripes and the Queen of the Bondo requested some Harry Nilsson, which the DJ after me coming in said reminded him of when he got his heart broken. I ended with this song, because it rocks my world. Seeing Sleater-Kinney on their last tour before they broke up is probably in my top five shows I've seen of all time (Dead Meadow opening was fantastic as well).

Happy Valentine's Day kids. Or Lupercalia, if that's your thing.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Love Burns
REM - The One I Love
The Buzzcocks - Love You More / What do I get?
Neil Young  & Pearl Jam - Act of Love
the Breeders - Do You Love Me Now?
the White Stripes - A Martyr of My Love for You
the Pentangle - A Maid That's Deep in Love
The Cure - Love Song
PJ Harvey - Send His Love to Me
Portishead - Glory Box
U2 - Love is Blindness
Mark Lanegan - Wedding Dress
The Gutter Twins - I was in love with you
Fugazi - Do You Like Me?
The Duke Spirit - You Really Wake Up the Love in Me
Garbage - Why Do You Love Me?
The Gits - Social Love
Nirvana - Love Buzz
Faith No More - Underwater Love
Jawbox - I've Got You Under My Skin
Jimi Hendrix - May This Be Love
Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
X - Burning House of Love
Wild Flag - Romance
Mudhoney - Overblown
50 Foot Wave - Somebody to Love
The Raveonettes - That Great Love Sound
Harry Nilsson - Without You (request)
Sleater-Kinney - Let's Call It Love

Monday, February 13, 2012


The solitude becomes me, as the snow begins to cover the ground, I curl up on the couch with books and music, oversleeping the next morning and continuing the introversion. Maybe it's the lack of frigid this year, but the cold feels especially bitter and the lack of commitments welcome.

I come out of my shell on Sunday, plotting geekery, drinking coffee, standing in a kitchen in West Park as we talk about everything, before heading east with a pair of skis and poles wedged the long way, to traverse the snowy hills with a friend and her significant others and others.

The rest of them are more outdoorsy, but those early trips with my dad and his friend with a cassette of 'The Joshua Tree' on reap in his friend's Jeep gave me a start that's become easier with less awkward adult limbs. There's something meditative about the gliding motion, and the vast expanse of white under a grey sky and the blotted sun fading into the black trees. There is red behind the pines, and the world is blue and lavender and orange over us. I follow the rest, lost in the strange and lonesome beauty, knowing that this will melt in a matter of days. We sit in the garage and drink hot chocolate and share a loaf of monkey bread

I wish the moon was rising over these hills, but it comes out as I drive home down the twists and turns through evergreen forest and waterfalls hidden in the gorge euphoric from the endorphins. I need to get out here more.

Friday, February 10, 2012

on a mission to never agree

There's a memorial service down in Kent that I'm debating whether or not to drive down for, as these things are more for the living than the dead, and those that are living are those I love even if geography and life unfurling have kept me from keeping in touch as much as I'd like. Maybe the roots that seemed deep then are not as much as I thought, or the ones that I was most close to are no longer there, or we've both changed. I see the arguments on facebook sometimes and just know not to go there, sad that I can't hash these out on a back porch or over a cup of coffee anymore.

The shrillness of the political climate made me swing more to the right out of more of a contrary nature perhaps than anything else, but because I was sick of the hagiography of Michael Moore (where's he been lately anyway) and a naturally cynical temperament that tempered even the idealism I once had.

I never realized you felt that way, so many people who knew me for three years of that formative time said, maybe because especially then I dumpster-dived, wore my clothes until they fell apart and had strange tribal bones stuck in my ears and listened to Fugazi and always said the wrong thing so maybe I've just been terrible at towing anybody's line and therefore never felt completely understood by some and definitely not accepted by others.

It's ironic that as I've gotten older and looked more square to be appropriate to paycheck-earning, I find myself more comfortable in my own weird skin and over time sounding more kooky and distrustful of the government of either party than most of my friends on the right and the left. We're all a bit nuts I guess. Shocking. Go figure. I guess that's how it goes


So in the class I'm taking, we had a quiz today, with some stupid questions, but ten points, multiple choice, scantron, not too hard right? Anyways, We The Peonage have been feeling teleported back to 8th grade social studies between the know-it-allness of one of the profs and the antics of our not-so-peers, who spend most of their time flirting, texting, affixing sticky notes with I HEART MILFS on each others' backs, and can't find Saudi Arabia on a map.

You know the answers don't you?


Why won't you share the answers with me?


A few minutes pass.

It's nice to share, why aren't you being nice?

While I could have had a chance to Derkins him with a little more mental preparation, I was a bit stunned to see the blatant cheating going on, not even the surreptitious kind, but blatant copying of answers. I am not much fun, but I feel downright prissy at this point, and a little amazed, and also knowing that these our the future leaders of our world and that this more or less has always been the future leaders of the world, because getting ahead is not so much by hard work as it is by connections and manipulation and letting others do the work for you.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

it's not how it looks

Interactions don't come as easy some days, the words are clumsy, the patience short and I'm relieved to retreat to the sanctuary amid boxes of ephemeral materials and old photos to listen to tunes and admire long-gone Egyptian Revival structures since torn down in the name of progress, immortalized in slides an inch or so across.

Someone calls me a saint today for keeping my cool and I think of how often I don't, that I freely confess to moments of fleeting fury, unacknowledged bitterness, and frequent agnostic emotions. I believe, help me in my unbelief could be the story of my life, because I all too often don't live like I do. Maybe no one does, and it's not the point, and maybe the perfectionism comes from seeing the mistakes continue to reverberate. I sometimes wonder if I make the gestures of peace to calm my soul alone, because so often we'd rather exist in the discord.

Monday, February 6, 2012

boldly going nowhere.

It's said that getting outside one's general area and treading the streets of another locale and immersing oneself in a world different than your own is a good thing, and something I agree with to some extent, but I also wonder how much one gets out of said experience if one's mind is closed and so convinced of its rightness, or so focused on one thing or another that any chance to truly learn or get a sense of wonder is lost.

I listened to someone today extol the virtues of traveling abroad and learning another language not to understand the culture, do cool things,  or connect with kindred souls or get a sense of history or anything cool, but to make money (because businesses will pay you more money if you've got experience in other cultures) and be a Real American (it's my patriotic duty evidently because it helps to fight the War on Terror) and more or less work for a big corporation or the military-industrial complex. I'm trying to maintain some degree of stiff-lippedness, which is impossible because my face always betrays me, because the absurdity and the myopia are such that I can only process this by nearly bursting into laughter.

What astounds me is that this person in question has traveled to more locales than I could ever hope to see, albeit for maybe less altruistic motives. 

Maybe I should have done the study abroad thing, but I was paying rent, trying to get through school with a minimum of student loans, and working 30 hours a week at a shred above minimum wage and didn't feel like I could justify it. Besides, it seemed like a lot of those programs were geared towards international business majors and not geeky undergrads. Maybe there was some kind of blue-collar inferiority complex at play too but at that point I was eating food from dumpsters and living on pasta and facing a high likelihood of unemployment that made such a venture seem frivolous and out of reach.

I find that I get jealous of those who get the chance, and just use it to get drunk, rich, laid or all of those things at once, when all I want to do is wander through old places, take pictures, talk to people and learn stuff. I really don't care about wine country, I really don't want to ride tour buses or be in large gaggles of Ugly Americans taking pictures of the usual touristy things, and being a solitary female with no command of other languages whatsoever, I'm not sure I want to go it alone, and at this point in life I don't have another compadre to take with me.  I've had the cash saved up, but I don't want to do something stupid, and I'm afraid of flying and don't know if I can get the time off. Excuses, excuses I know, but every time I try to make it work it always falls through.

In the meantime, I get to know my town, plot excursions around the country. If I can't get there, at least I'll see what I can here, I guess. And I wish Henry Rollins would start a tourism company even though that would never happen. I'd be the first to sign up for sure because I like the way he does it.

in memory

I know that with the continuation of time, and the inevitability of mortality, that more and more people who have been in my life will have shuffled off the mortal coil, and so I grieve, but sometimes distance blunts the rough edges just a little bit.

My great-uncle passed on this weekend thanks to cancer that made him almost blind near the end of his life. He'd slowed down a lot from what he was when I was a kid, before his wife passed away, when he had a house on the other side of Catawba Island that had a real beach, not just rocks like our side and would take all of us kids out in his rowboat with a motor, prompting comments from our parents about how we looked like a bunch of Cuban refugees packed into the back. He always had jellybeans in a dish in the living room and at least five different kinds of Faygo in the fridge and would build us driftwood bonfires on the beach doused in paint thinner that we'd roast marshmallows over as we watched the sunset.

One summer, the winds were such that there was all this rich loam Nile delta kind of soil deposited and he planted a cornfield on the beach like the fields of his native Indiana, and the incongruity of the setting sun and the nuclear power plant and the beach and the husks standing up in the water made me smile. He was one of the most warm and welcoming people I've ever met, and I can't remember ever having a bad time at his house, which he left to his son and moved into assisted living, but he would always come by and visit when we were up there.

And then this morning, I learned of someone else, and if I was superstitious beyond the 'organized religion' thing I'd be wondering who the third would be, but Robert was a recoccurring figure in my Kent State days. It was a long time before I made the connection of "F.U. Bob" as he was derided by people on campus who saw him on days when his Tourette's or whatever it was acted up, and the quiet man who sat at a table at my church with a collection of multicolored sharpie markers and a sketchbook with the big beard who sat and drank coffee and occasionally delved into deep philosophical questions with my pastor at the time. At the old church building, before I started going there, he had his own couch, where he'd sketch the congregants and musicians and paint with watercolors until the couch was covered in as many shades as a technicolor dreamcoat.

He described himself as a "skeptic" but enjoyed our company nonetheless week after week, sharing coffee and conversation, and would show me the sketches he did of me playing bass next to Scott or drinking tea at a nearby table. When people on campus would make fun of him, I'd talk about who he was as a person and that he wasn't just some crazy guy, that he was a really wonderful person that just didn't fit with the expectations of others. It seemed like anyone who actually took the time to talk to him instead of mocking him from afar learned that quickly, and unlike most outsider artists, to some degree his work was recognized in his lifetime, if the continual help of the community down there and the outpouring of emotions I've seen is any indication. I really can't imagine that little town without him.

Friday, February 3, 2012


I don't want to sit next to him on the bus and hear about "those people" on "those bus lines" going into "those neighborhoods" because I know some of "those people" and I've even hung out in some of "those neighborhoods" because the places that "those buslines" go to may not be as nice as where I live, but there are good people there too that I love deeply. I wonder if I should invest in headphones, not so much maybe to listen to tunes so much as to tune out unwanted interactions.

I come home to peacefulness, awakening to a second wind, of no longer being in thrall to a computer screen  under the cold flourescent glow, of changing into old jeans and the comfortable grungy layers of baggy t-shirt, thermal, hoodie, flannel, to take a walk to accomplish sundry errands as the sun sets, and curling up on the couch once more with reheated leftovers, the theological writings of Hans Kung, and the Screaming Trees on the stereo, to spend the evening playing guitar, rediscovering the fretboard, and painting.

I know that we're all selfish by nature, but I fear the ease with which self-absorption comes when living alone. I vacillate between relishing the solitude and the peace of returning to my own domain, of not having to step on anyone's toes, the ability to create that flourishes when I'm alone most often. I have neighbors above and below but no roommates anymore, and I realized how for years I've lived this constant tiptoe dance of consideration and maintaining the equilibrium, which are good things, but how so often I excused their unreasonableness and took undue culpa upon myself.

I do, however, miss the sense of community that comes from shared space, of the cross-pollination of each others' friendships, of eating dinner with someone else, sharing the leftover riches after work functions, the ways that my world cracked open and broadened so naturally during those years because of everyone who crossed our doorstep. We felt safer because we knew that someone would notice if we went missing, we could invite people up without it being weird, and being able to mutually vent after stressful work weeks was cathartic. I miss these things, even when there were times I wished everyone would just go away, or maybe one of them felt that way. I miss the sharing profoundly.

One of my friends, a more idealistic soul who gets arrested in front of the White House and invites me to events that involve watching documentaries, wants to do the communal living Dorothy Day kind of thing with some other younger folk, which I think is wonderful, I really do. If it was the medieval times, I probably would have ended up in a convent, due to my ambivalence about coupling, and I love to see people come together with their resources and visions. I just can't bring myself to do it now. Comfort? Complacency? Attempting to maintain my sanity after a crazy season of life? Fear of the drama that inevitably comes when we become too familiar? I'm against rugged individualism in theory but in my own domain, it's what I practice, and that bothers me.

the poet's junkyard

This sign was on I-480 just down the street from my parents' house. I must have been a morbid kid because once I figured out it wasn't for a real amusement park, I still thought it was really cool, even if some of the lights had burned out or been shot out.

The sign pointed not to a nuclear playground of doom but a junkyard where a couple guys from my parents' church worked and where the local poets once read their works at night under the neon among the rusting cars. Sometimes I feel like I was born too late and missed out on so much. I want to make a pilgrimage someday to this place I drive by more than weekly.

The sign is gone, and its creator now resides in New York City. I hope against hope that it returns to where it once was.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

melt and blur

One of my pieces cracked since I did it wrong and so it had to be done over again. I don't know why I didn't enamel the other side, and piled the front with millefiori and crystalline chunks of colored glass that upon amending the first mistake, the forces of gravity and heat caused the mass of colors on the front to drip down in a way that'd be beautiful if it didn't involve holding the cooled piece over a trash can and snipping off the frozen flow of glass with a pair of pliers to throw it back in the kiln and let it melt again not quite as perfect as it conceivably was.

The other piece was also a mistake, of putting on a layer of flux without the accompanying color and the one I selected due to its pale chartreuse was cloudier than I would have liked, but more time in the heat will hopefully burn some of that away as well.

The process is making more sense as I continue on and a year of learning finally feels like it's starting to pay off.

if it's too loud you're too young

The Kids are still doing their hair like this?

I usually try to figure out the crowd in line for a show at the two venues within walking distance of where I work based on the gender of the concertgoers and their attire. I forget sometimes that bands like Good Charlotte still exist until I see a line of teenage punkers who consider Green Day old-school lining up at the House of Blues, and it really doesn't seem to matter the jam band or whether or not it's a tribute to the Grateful Dead because the hemp necklaces, long skirts on both the ladies and dudes and the patchwork pants will be out in full force regardless. And then there was that one night where the Hank II/Skynyrd fans converged on to the street at the same time as the audience for "The Color Purple" which was bemusing and thankfully free of any drama.

Sometimes there will be long-haired Scandinavian types in tattered black metal t-shirts wandering down the street in search of food or something interesting to do and I feel bad because all the interesting things in Clevelandia are not within walking distance of aforementioned venues, which might be why a lot of bands I like don't play here anymore. I wouldn't come here either if this was all I knew of the city.

But anyways, I'm leaving work the other night and there's a line of The Kids waiting to go see some band, decked out in millennial splendor of asymmetrical and multiply colored Mad Rad Hair and skinny jeans and black t-shirts with splashy neon graphics. I thought that whole look died out with Myspace but evidently not. I'm probably just out of touch.

My sister texts me that night because she's lost on the way to a show and I give her directions. I've never heard of the band she's going to see, but she likes a lot of that stuff with synths and chimes that's never moved me the way it does her. She doesn't like the stuff I'm into, not being in caterwaul and loud guitars, but we're different people and what moves our souls is going to be different too.

I guess that's really all it comes down to, refined or pedestrian taste be damned. There are some things that will resonate fiercely in one's world that are just not my thing or don't make any sense to me. I may not think it's any good, but that's subjective too. I've liked my own share of dumb stuff too.  I feel like there's so much good stuff to unearth and discover, but for others, maybe the familiar is comforting, be it generic music or formulaic novels, maybe it meets some needs that might be simpler than my own because any analysis otherwise just begins to fall flat with pretension.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

scott radke

Upon many a drive through Clevelandia, I've seen these murals by Scott Radke on the side of dance studios, corner stores and restaurants, and love the little critters and ballerinas painted in blacks and pastels that lend themselves well to the grey shrouding skies of my city. My next-door neighbor from college and I bonded over our love of classic rock and Cleveland art, and spent an afternoon driving around taking pictures of all of his work that we could find.

(the above were taken by yours truly), those below are by the man himself... the first two are the same structure, now demolished to make way for development and such. These faces were always strangely comforting to me, oases in an increasingly generic world, and I miss them.