Friday, March 30, 2012

oh where can the love be found?

It doesn't feel like the weekend is imminent when by a stroke of misguided and convenient comp time altruism, I'm back here tomorrow. Words mean little when the actions are so oblivious and petty, when one wonders why no one confides in you because of your habit of betraying confidence and backstabbing. Any morale we have comes from our fellow peons not the middle management.

The Powers That Be are who they are, and while I try to remember that they too are human and in need of the love of God as much as anyone, it's really hard to have empathy for souls so profoundly calculating and cold. 

In this house of suffering, I'm just as much in need of re-ignition as anyone. 

best of the blotter: cupcakes, kids, and sundry.

SUSPICION, MILL RIVER ROAD: About 4:30 p.m. March 25, a caller reported that a boy who looked to be about 10 years old appeared to have a gun. The youth was walking on Mill Road. Officers confronted the child, and found that the gun was a toy.

911-WRONG NUMBER, BISHOP ROAD: A caller reported she was unable to use her television March 17. She was advised not to call 911 for the matter, but to call the police department front desk.

THEFT, NEWBERRY DRIVE: An ornamental goose lawn ornament was taken from a residence March 20. The statue, which weighs about 100 pounds, was decorated in a St. Patrick’s Day outfit.

SHOPLIFTING, LORAIN ROAD: Workers at Giant Eagle told police March 21 a 39-year-old woman tried to steal $122 in food and merchandise from the store. According to reports, the woman tried to steal three cases of beer, diapers, acne medication, cupcakes, a carrot cake and milk.

DISTURBANCE, EDGEWATER DRIVE: As a child screamed for 45 minutes, a neighbor became concerned and eventually called the police. She told officers that she believed the child was being tortured.
An officer stopped out at the apartment and learned that the child was upset because he or she wasn’t allowed to watch TV.

ROGUE PHOTOGRAPHER, DETROIT AVENUE: An officer stopped a cyclist who had been taking photos of random buildings in the area March 23.
The man claimed to be a freelance photographer, but could not provide further information.

OH SNAP. One doesn't even have to be in an abandoned building for this to be bad?

Saturday, March 24, 10:51 a.m. — A resident called police about his neighbor, whose tree was dropping leaves into his yard. 

UP, IN THE SKY, IT’S, IT’S . . : A Cedarwood Road resident called police about 8:20 p.m. March 22 to report mysterious red and blue lights in the sky. Police found a toy stuck in a tree. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

shiny happy tuneage

The fall of 2006, I'd moved home and was underemployed and profoundly depressed, and would spend my days off riding the bus around Clevelandia, hanging out in the library, loitering in the arcade with piles of paperbacks about other climes and eating falafel trying to figure out how to start life over with no car, no income, and no friends. I spent most of my nights hanging out in the basement with a boombox painting and drawing.

I took a break from all the heavy tunes for awhile, being at home and too depressed to even attempt catharsis, and I discovered the world music section, which was a treasure trove of unheard tunes from parts untraveled. Mali in particular, with the sparkling koras, the guitar lines and chord progressions still so strangely familiar, the seamless weaving of joy and wistful melancholy, a musical history long and rich.

This is the kind of thing best seen live, and I highly doubt they'll come through Clevelandia any time soon (though I have had the good fortune of seeing Tinariwen in a small club and Bassekou Kouyate with Bela Fleck). In some ways I think it's hard to make joyful music without it sounding saccharine or contrived, and even the most blissful moments are shot through with some just a little bit deeper.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

pattern and movement

Along with all the other madcap schemes of Learning How To Do Stuff that I think is cool, I've got bits and pieces of broken dishes and such that I'd love to take the time to mosaic someday. There is something beautiful to me about the repurposing of broken useless things into work of incredible texture and pattern.

I love the greys and the industrial palette of rust and aged patina, but there is a part of me that's also starved for the color and texture that's not as often seen here in Clevelandia. The closest we get here besides the multiple old churches is the Tiffany-designed chapel at Lake View Cemetery, with its pews made of cedars of Lebanon and the multiple spiritual metaphors pieced together on the walls.

I'm assuming with beauty such as this that Ravenna Italy is a far cry from the Ravenna that I knew from my Kent days as a sad and dreary county seat with a scary Wal-Mart and a Goodwill where I acquired quite a few goth rock cassettes that got much use as a library shelver.

The ancient art section of the art museum, where sadly the art from the Middle East and Asia is still not back on display, I loved the patterns and calligraphy of the art and the cool colors.

Gaudi was a master of this kind of thing in a more abstract yet just as lovingly detailed way, these colored tiles broken and reconfigured.

I stumbled across this place in a Taschen coffeetable book, of this glass studio in Kenya. I may never get to see Kitengela Glass with my own eyes, but at least others have been there and share the magic.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

guilty pleasures

In theory, there should be none, right? You like what you like because something about that does it for you. But there's a part of me that knows my teenage self would have scowled at my older sold-out-to-the-Man-kind-of self for snagging a copy of Celebrity Skin for a dollar at the thrift store.

I really should hate this album, because it's Courtney Love, who's certifiable to be sure and whose antics and histrionics are as well-documented as Axl Rose, (though unlike my teenage self, I don't think she had Kurt offed anymore), because it's definitely got outside songwriters (a personal pet peeve as a musician, though in fairness, this was when Billy Corgan still knew how to write songs), the lyrics are mostly about California and wanting to be the beautiful people while simultaneously raging against them, AND it's super glossily produced.

Maybe it's the estrogen, the hormones, the perpetual love of most things 90's, or that sometimes I just want some overblown angst and a good hooky guitar-driven pop song to howl along to in the car when the weather's warm.

Monday, March 26, 2012

you used to be like my twin

Sometimes it's easier not to see and remember, my arms and words were sincere but I wonder how much yours were, or if you even know. I wish I knew that there was some truth there. I'm trying to live out this forgiveness thing but the helplessness, the sadness, the anger at the wrongness all around, I wish my attitude was more pure, I wish I couldn't feel all those emotions rising back up again. I keep on moving on, I don't know how to look back, I wonder if my forgiveness is pure, I'd be willing to begin again, but I crave truth and I find none.

the clefts of the rock

When you go to Ethiopia someday... 

It's said as if it really truly will happen. I'd love it if it did, because I'd love to see these churches hewn from rock, as legend says by angels. My friends from church from there say that isn't true, and neither are the tales of the Ark of the Covenant being hidden away on a church on an island, but these are wonders of the world I want to see before I die. Christianity is so strongly associated with Europeans, despite much of North Africa and the Middle East but it took root very early on here in its own way.

The images of the divine cast are just as ethnocentric as my own culture, but somehow this is what I imagine things to look like, if they look like anything.

if you lived here you'd be home by now

The camera of my worst scrapes and greatest adventures has bit the dust and has subsequently been replaced with a bulkier model with a slightly zoomier lens that doesn't fit so neatly in my purse, but at least the saving grace of the digital world is still being able to retrieve one's pictures when the camera goes kaput. This might be the only win it has over analog.

A couple months ago the weather thawed out for good, and I drove out to a gorge on the east side, and wished the hiking trail descended with the waterfalls but instead the route took me through the woods where there was dead leaves and dirty ground and squirrels and chipmunks galore. 

I stopped at the top of the park, behind the cul-de-sacs of lilliputian post-war American dreams, aluminum siding basementless ranches with little yards. This place in the back was supposed to be for more, but it never happened, just concrete slabs now overgrown, a road to nowhere.

The infrastructure was only half-finished, there are thorns and marshes, outcroppings of trees and birds, fire hydrants like part of a lost and unremarkable civilization.

One of the growing feelings I have is that this area will never come back, that future generations will watch the neighborhoods fallow, the houses collapsed upon themselves as some degree of nature reclaims them. Thriving centers like Timbuktu and boomtowns of the western states are now dusty and populated only by the stragglers, the coal mining towns where my family comes from are already emptying, and the trailers and company shacks that haven't fallen apart are hollow bodies with only the memories of formerly inhabiting souls, escaping like the tattered curtains from the broken windows. As the empire tightens its grip and collapses, I wonder what the future holds.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

the chill out room

Last minute station obligations, sitting in a dark room laughing with one of my fellow DJs and neighbors about seeking wifi for our connecting needs, this place is like a clubhouse sometimes, accessible at all hours, for post-show naps and finding that song in the library needed for a compilation.

Tonight it's downtempo being played instead of stoner rock, I'm looking out at the bright lights eastward, organizing thoughts, raspy throat healed and singing again, stacking clay pots on a shelf on the porch, taking long walks under skies now cloudy, pleasantly introverted, with family one doesn't have to try too hard.

There are so many birds in the yard, all this singing in the trees, squirrels crawling across the power lines, the rows of back balconies in parallel lines, with lawn chairs and potted palms. The contentedness has been good for the soul, I just wonder how long this state of getting there will last.

Friday, March 23, 2012

the humble hoodie

When I was in kindergarten, there was something in the dress code about hooded sweatshirts being totally not ok, though being six years old in 1989, my mom had to explain to school administrators that my matching stretch pants and hoodie combos with sundry flowers and bright colors (is it any wonder I wear mostly black now?) were not a Menace II Society by any means. I guess it was the era of Straight Outta Compton and crack and fears of the Big Bad City, but the absurdity stuck in my naive little kid brain even then. Who cared, right? These rules were stupid.

In my high school years, there was more fear of kids wearing trenchcoats than kids wearing hooded sweatshirts, as we were firmly esconced in lower-class suburbia and the garment was ubiquitous in infinite forms from designer labels in bright colors to the generic zip-up occasionally decorated with patches and buttons and safety pins, or the Rollins Band one with the sun that my classmate wore every day. One of my friends often had to turn his Slayer shirt inside out but the hoodies were left alone. They provided protection during food fights when packets of mayo would whiz from one table to another and we'd hit the table with our hoods up until the lunch aides took care of the culprits.

A couple years after that, due to Powers That Be doing their best to Think of the Children by suppressing individuality in the name of "distraction," the relative freedoms bestowed on us were rescinded and the next generation doesn't get to have the fun of dying one's hair pink or affixing spiky accoutrements to one's wrists or jacket (I never did this, but I'm all for it if that's your thing), because "distracting" is a red herring. Everything is distracting when your classes are boring and you're 15, especially since everyone's hit puberty at more or less the same time and is letting everything hang out.

Anyways, the unadorned black zipup hoodie for me is like the Little Black Dress for the female Bright Young Things. It layers well with flannel under and leather jacket over, it keeps out the rain, goes with everything except rarely-worn formal wear and is handy for air-conditioned workplaces and running from the car to the rock show. Most of my fellow peons seem to be in possession of similar garments, and if the Esoteric Order of St. Drogo decided to get even more esoteric before the altar of the Sludge Factory, we'd have our garb, which is infinitely more swanky than gray turtlenecks and Nikes.

There's a protest about the awful tragedy and travesty of the Trayvon Martin thing downtown today, with people wearing their hoods up and such. Some trigger-happy vigilante evidently found this garment threatening when it shelters a young black male from the elements and while I appreciate the sentiment and that people are getting mad as hell (though where was that outrage for some of these other things we've done to people in other countries, or is that too much to ask?), we crackers, even the quiet weird ones who like metal and punk, aren't generally considered threatening, especially in a place like Clevelandia.

It always gets me when I'll go out to the east side to hang out in Coventry and in such a "progressive" suburb where they look down on us west siders for being racist or something, there are signs at almost every venue saying no baseball caps, do-rags, or hoodies, and we all know what that subtext means. I can walk in just fine wearing one, but heaven forbid that my compadres with a deeper shade of melanin and African features do. I don't believe that clothes make the man at all, though I still harbor a distrust of suits and ties that I can't quite explain, but if anything, the everyman's hoodie only seems to highlight the inequalities and structures in place.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

how to describe beauty?

There are those moments of revelation, of understanding, when a scripture becomes illumined with meaning rather than dictum, when you hear that song that grabs your heart, read that book that resonates so strongly with the words you wish you penned, or see the piece of art that moves your soul in ways impossible express, and you want to share it with the whole world and usually that leads to shrugged shoulders and blank stares.

I felt like this when I ran through the doors of the Beachland Ballroom and heard Worm Ouroboros for the first time, enraptured by haunting siren harmonies and sinuous basslines and waves of guitar, never having heard this band before, not knowing what to expect and letting the sound wash over me, unsure still to this day why I didn't grab the CD then and there, though maybe booking it to my car parked in a dark lot alone while people were still leaving was tantamount in my mind upon the end of that show, and this has since been remedied via Profound Lore mailorder.

Randal waxes more eloquent than I ever could so I'll leave the reviewing of the new record to him. But take a listen nonetheless, because it's heavy and emotional and somewhere between my cathartic power chords and the Portishead for late night driving. I don't know how to explain it otherwise.

Due to the love of illuminated manuscripts, bright swaths of artful and vibrant color, and the melding of narrative and art, a large and colorful tome of Islamic illustrations to sundry epics, tales, and histories provided much awe and appreciation and such. I wish I could go to Isfahan and Tabriz, but thanks to the dumbassery of powers that be and a lack of funds, that doesn't seem likely in any near future.

But, the art... 
The swirls of clouds and foliage, the expression of the faces painted in miniature, the multicolored wings of angels and intricate patterning that I so admire and could never imitate. Technical skill so adept and the intensity of these colors and textures in a small space, the cross-pollination of silk road cultures with aesthetic elements far removed from the more familiar motifs of Lindisfarne and Kells.

There is so little that I can find with a quick google or perusal of the library catalog, but rest assured, there is surface scratched and now a craving to go deeper.

best of the blotter: fanny packs, gold chains, and "Irish garb"

Lots o' Diapers
A Northview Drive resident reported a fraud after finding someone used his Discover account to buy diapers.
The thief had ordered $545 worth of diapers online.

The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind
Police were called to Hawthorne Lane Friday morning when an alarm went off.
A resident also returned home and met police to walk through the house.
They found the culprit still inside -- a helium balloon. A report said it appeared the balloon floated past a motion sensor, triggering the alarm.

Suspicious masked person
Police received a call about a man wearing a black mask and wearing gold chains following a female jogger in the 14000 block of Athens Avenue at around 11 a.m. March 12. Police got another complaint of the man matching the description in the 14000 block of Detroit Avenue. Officers told the man about the complaints and sent him on his way.

SUSPICIOUS SITUATION, PEARL ROAD: A gang of teens wearing Irish garb was reportedly drinking in a Pearl Road parking lot March 17.
When police arrived they found a quart of unopened beer but found no one drinking.

AGGRAVATED MENACING, PETTIBONE ROAD: A woman, 62, accused of pulling a loaded revolver out of her fanny pack and brandishing it at neighbors — including a grandmother, 72 — was arrested March 19 at her home, where police said the suspect’s daughter, 10, stashed the weapon in a clothes dryer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


There are seeds sprouting in boxes on my kitchen table, the conversations with the other women in my life thankfully aren't about what shoes are in this season, but about politics and pondering out concepts of life and humanity and how to make good compost and grow things. I've learned so much sitting there and taking in all this knowledge that seems to get more archaic when everything can be bought and is so convenient even if it includes gratuitous amounts of high fructose corn syrup.

There's a community garden up the street and I've been given a small strip to grow things on. The coordinator says she hopes I don't mind that everyone's a couple decades older, but I don't mind that at all. I find that people my own age who are into the hobbies of previous generations like to act as if they are the first people ever to do such thing and that gets old.

The winter was so mild that the kale and the collard greens never stopped growing, and the path is overgrown. I want to start putting seeds in the earth now because it feels like summer not two months before the last frost date, but my eternal pessimism curbs my impulses. She says they're an easygoing group of people, and I hope so. I'm looking forward to making this small patch blooming and fruitful.

My mom had a big garden at the first house they lived in, and I remember going out there to pull carrots and pluck peppers and pick the plums off the trees in the back yard. I didn't like the dirt and the getting thorns under my skin when I was younger, but then one summer, me and the girl up the street spent the summer months cutting paths through the overgrown lilacs and flower bushes in her parents' yard to make ourselves a place to play and chase the boys down the street through the bushes with supersoakers. 

When I moved to a first-floor apartment, I ended up with a plot of land in the back, the process started upon the news of a suicide and almost-murder in a sphere of my world and as the phone calls came in, I was so sad I couldn't cry and instead ended up ripping out weeds and undergrowth with my bare hands for lack of any way to otherwise mentally process.  I grew herbs, tomatoes, zinnias, beans, and hot peppers in soil that was full of glass and pulverized brick without having a clue as to what I was doing and things grew, were cooked at my dinner table, and shared with guests and neighbors. Last year I had more than I could have possibly used on an 8X8 foot plot, living on eggplant and tomato curries and basil leaves in pasta all summer, and tremendously satisfied to see labors come to fruition and shared.

The lushness of green and the innumerable variations of growing things continue to astound me. I wish I had more space sometimes or that I had more lush climes, because I love the brightness and the colors that I see in the greenhouse and in pictures of places that have to worry less about frost. Sometimes I wish I had more land for something more whimsical than vegetables and zinnias, but maybe that'll come in time, while I get inspired by other places.

Villa Demidoff, Florence

 Waldspirale, Germany (I would love to live in apartments like these).
Bridget found this picture, and being a sucker for both installations of the organic kind and abandoned houses of worship, it fills me with strange joy. More sweetness and straungeness of this kind findable at Atlas Obscura.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

watching the clothes go round

Half a glass of wine on the day of adopted patron saints, strangely antisocial and relieved to come home away from people and junk food. Partying is for other people and there's tea to drink and Bulgakov to read. A Friday night previous of living room music, the rawness of voice and guitar that was infinitely more intimate, walking through my old almost-hood, talking about music and theology over diner food. Somehow the jitters resolve themselves once all is made clear and there's nothing to panic about.

So I'm at the laundromat across the street with the other folk who rent, Mellencamp and other sap on the radio, trying to figure out how to use these last few hours of weekend sun before the chill comes again. It smells chemical fresh and the thoughts don't come out so easily. Maybe they will next time around.

Friday, March 16, 2012

paper and ink

 I was at a bookstore last night flipping through the anthologies of folklore, overhearing a conversation between a clerk who looked like an extra from a Creation Records britpop band and a woman who said the last two books she read were The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Da Vinci Code. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I know there's countless others, and maybe that's what does it for some people, the way I devoured Nancy Drews even though they all ran together. Not everyone thinks that Welsh mythology is awesome, and that's ok I guess, as someone else tells their significant other that they can just download that book instead of buying it and that DVD is streaming on Netflix now.

I came out with a pile of CDs and movies and books, filling gaps in the collection, realizing that despite my love of Nirvana, I've never actually owned a copy of Nevermind and that my sister has all the Tolkien that wasn't worn out from much love and reading when we were kids, and The Master and Margarita is just fantastic.

I've been reading bits and pieces of Pamuk's Istanbul, and his Nobel Prize speech keeps coming back to me as I look around my apartment, at the pile on my desk at work, consider the correspondence and conversations I overhear, knowing that everything says people are reading more but that books in themselves are being devalued. My mom took us to the library when we were kids, and I fell in love with the atmosphere so much that half of my life has been spent working at one or another, in part for the access to the wide wealth of text and tunes voraciously indulged. It was a comfort in my introverted childhood, and a source of pleasure in adulthood, when I come home in the winter to wrap up in a blanket with tea and read, and stretch out on the balcony in the summer.

But once we shut ourselves away, we soon discover that we are not as alone as we thought. We are in the company of the words of those who came before us, of other people's stories, other people's books, other people's words, the thing we call tradition. 

One of the losses when things are withdrawn, thrown away, packed off to a depository is that this wealth of knowledge is inaccessible and lost to most. There has been so much good stuff in old bindings that can tell us about the past, to understand the future. I guess the population wants to be happy, and ignorance is bliss, and learning about other places or how other people are might destroy our sense of smugness and superiority.

I believe literature to be the most valuable hoard that humanity has gathered in its quest to understand itself. Societies, tribes, and peoples grow more intelligent, richer, and more advanced as they pay attention to the troubled words of their authors, and, as we all know, the burning of books and the denigration of writers are both signals that dark and improvident times are upon us. 

It's not so much that books are burned, but devalued in an age of everything being downloadable, instant gratificational, and disposable. I went to library school post-English lit because I loved books, and realized quickly that this wasn't true of most of my colleagues, which was profoundly disillusioning, when they debated the minutiae of terminology that no one outside of middle management cares about or what was "relevant" to people who wouldn't be interested in learning anyway or tried to out-liberal each other.

But literature is never just a national concern. The writer who shuts himself up in a room and first goes on a journey inside himself will, over the years, discover literature's eternal rule: he must have the artistry to tell his own stories as if they were other people's stories, and to tell other people's stories as if they were his own, for this is what literature is. But we must first travel through other people's stories and books.

A writer talks of things that everyone knows but does not know they know. To explore this knowledge, and to watch it grow, is a pleasurable thing; the reader is visiting a world at once familiar and miraculous

What literature needs most to tell and investigate today are humanity's basic fears: the fear of being left outside, and the fear of counting for nothing, and the feelings of worthlessness that come with such fears; the collective humiliations, vulnerabilities, slights, grievances, sensitivities, and imagined insults, and the nationalist boasts and inflations that are their next of kind ... Whenever I am confronted by such sentiments, and by the irrational, overstated language in which they are usually expressed, I know they touch on a darkness inside me.

Books aren't burned anymore, but they're disappearing from shelves when they get old and "irrelevant" and most of the libraries seem to look more like Borders with the newest and the brightest and the most easiest to digest as opposed to the repository of knowledge that I remember these places once being. People keep saying that this is the way of the future and that I fetishize the bindings, the paper, and ink and illustrations, that I need to get with the times. It kind of freaks me out that books can vanish from one's Kindle at the behest of a publisher or other entity. Who needs burning when text can just disappear into a digital void?

What happens when there's a blackout, or a power grid goes down, or one doesn't have an Internet connection. There are people who don't, believe it or not. Sure, you can share on a Kindle, but I've loved sharing physical copies of my favorite tomes with others, trading dogeared underlined paperbacks in the mail. Maybe I'm a hopeless romantic in my own weird way, maybe it's some kind of consumerism that feels good to me the way other women buy shoes.

I write because I am afraid of being forgotten. I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings. I write to be alone. Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at all of you, so very, very angry at everyone. I write because I like to be read. I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page, I want to finish it. I write because everyone expects me to write. I write because I have a childish belief in the immortality of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf. I write because it is exciting to turn all of life's beauties and riches into words. I write not to tell a story, but to compose a story. I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but – just as in a dream – I can't quite get there. I write because I have never managed to be happy. I write to be happy.

I write because it's the only way to get these thoughts out, hoping that maybe someday there will be something good and enduring.  


Some of us were never cool, and found our place among the other strange folk, because at least in those enclaves there was usually some modicum of acceptance or commonality of otherness if nothing else, and the inevitable secondary hierarchies formed from there, where betas assumed the alpha positions they could not attain the rest of the world, scene queens instead of prom queens, gatekeepers of clique and subculture, big fish in small ponds. Just from being at enough shows and listening to the conversations, I don't totally buy this whole warm and fuzzy community because people seem to be just as catty and cliquish as anyone in the "mainstream" and besides, being all sensitive and 'indie' is in now and at this point I've more or less checked out of expecting anything different.

The social dynamics of the teenage pressure cooker of high school never really end, it's just that we separate out as we get older, diffusing to different parts of town, different places of employment, instead of lunch tables, curbing our interactions with those we shared nothing in common with and finding circles with people who share the same politics or religions or values, a self-segregating with the occasional interaction outside that milieu. It's nice to not be stuck with them in the same space for so many hours a week and the distance makes us forget until the emails about a ten-year reunion start pouring in.

Given that Clevelandia is more or less a very big small town, it's inevitable that those one prefers to avoid for whatever reason will be encountered somewhere. It may not be my classmates in this case, but it was others in my world who deemed me as not "something" enough, for not liking the right bands or having the wrong political views or just not being tiny and artfully tattooed. I get too excited about things to be ironic, even if to Randal's chagrin I find everything funny.

It was with trepidation that I realized I'd be in the company of these folks once more, even if it's for a musical event, but then once the initial freakout subsided, I realized that they probably don't even know I exist, because it's been at least ten years since any interaction has taken place. Time flies it seems, but the past just doesn't seem to dissolve away fast enough.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

nowhere fast

It feels like May outside, and I drop off my car, noticing that the gas prices keep rising and remembering what life was like before transportation. I got my license late in life, only when I really had to, since the bus line only went so far and my idealistic dreams died in the wake of student loans and other adult-world concerns that didn't preclude me from getting rides from other people with bigger carbon footprints.

I've realized recently that I've forgotten what it's like to be car-less, to set aside a block of time to do things, to slow down one's pace. There's a restless part within my soul that's been there as long as I was old enough to wander, when I'd spend my teens ambling through Parmastan on trips to the library, the goodwill, and the record store, those days and nights when I just had to get out of my dorm room or apartment and go somewhere, seeking small shards of the sublime in the most mundane of surroundings that suddenly became more beautiful or interesting and kept my sanity on the days when I felt like I was cracking up.

When one walks and actually looks, there is way more to see than what's passed at 25 miles an hour. The shadowy desolate figurines in a shop window, the way the light falls across an empty storefront, green-eyed cats staring out the windows of basement apartments, the five-minute dramas of cigarette breaks outside of corner stores. There are others out too, and I find that I avoid eye contact much more than I used to, but my eyes eternally thirsty take in every small detail of these familiar streets on the way to the library or the drugstore as if I'm seeing them for the first time.

Some who lived in supposedly better times would say my generation goes nowhere and does nothing, because we're too busy being on the Internet, and while I think I might be one of the last cohorts of kids who played outside unsupervised for hours on a regular basis, building forts in trees and riding my bike up to the pool in cutoffs and swimsuit without much fear of abduction, I think our lack of movement has something to do with technology but also more to do with the lack of economic power that previous generations took for granted. We have to find our beauty here, in case we never get to see elsewhere.

I get the feeling that if one looked into the past, for everyone who took to the open road and started fresh, there were others who had neither the means nor the lack of ties that make it easy or desirable to do so. The mythos of new beginnings is a microcosm of manifest destiny dressed in the garb of rebellion, of trust fund kids and people with nothing to lose, while others of us cling to our roots and branch out towards the sun when we can.

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets       
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

when all is blank, minutes are worthless.

It's not the end of the world, but enough people who make mountains out of molehills makes the world sometimes feel like the Himalayas. Things that aren't the end of the world become as such, if only to make oneself look good, and I shouldn't have maybe assumed the best of someone.

I'm hoping this triviality blows over, though it always astounds me how one slip is an opportunity for others to climb up, how one slip is the end of the world and the otherwise overwhelming consistency is ignored. It shouldn't bother me but I have less patience for this absurdity than I used to and I'm just trying to maintain some kind of calm and perspective, though I'm already jittery and frustrated with other things too.

Monday, March 12, 2012

we workers do not understand modern art

So on our weekly walk through Clevelandia, we came upon an art installation in the cathedral downtown, which upon observation and putting our admittedly geeky and freely associating brains together, we had difficulty coming up with "what it all means" which makes me sound like a bit of a get-off-my-lawner because the parallels to the Stations of the Cross were not terribly apparent even with the additional placards and an appeal to Saint Google for insight into such arcane knowledge.

It's not that I'm opposed to postmodernism as artistic aesthetic, because I cobble together mediums and imagery from all over, but even at my most abstract, I still could not make the connections between this and what I remember from Catholic school when the sixth graders would act out a tableau kind of thing during Holy Week. While I believe that one's faith should affect how one sees the world, I also take issue with the politicizing of religion whether it's the God Bless America-centric right wing that I grew up around or the overly earnest lefties who are just apt to politicize the transcendent, to squeeze it into a constraint of context.

Supposedly in reference to Simon of Cyrene, but, um, I got nothin'

Even with the symbology, this whole thing did not move me except to remind me of a ridiculous theology class in high school (class: Is God more like a jumper cable or a spark plug? More like a circus clown or a trapeze artist?) and wanting to have a pillow fight with the pile of such fluff by the baptismal. Randal jokes about smiting, but this church is more of a museum than a living house of faith as it is. Cake or death, anyone?

This is supposed to be Jesus falling for the second time

I'm pretty sure that ripped out pages of the Qu'ran can get you on someone's shitlist pretty fast (in fairness, these are no longer part of the exhibit, and a copy of the local paper has taken its place. It still doesn't make any more sense)

this is supposed to symbolize Jesus in his mother's arms
Maybe I'm just too literal or jaded or feeling like the message gets lost in the heap of broken images and fragmentation. Maybe that's the point, or I'm not seeing something, but it doesn't move me to contemplate God or my relationship to humanity, really. It just kind of feels like a reaction, a semblance of substance, a naked emperor messiah. Art's just as subjective as music I guess, and what moves one may not move another, but other depictions have hit me in the gut infinitely more.

let's count the rings around my eyes

No amount of coffee awakens me completely anymore, the sleep has exponentialled, and art-making and garden-plotting doesn't distract from the roiling thoughts. The act of creation, or rearranging present atoms is an act of distraction and introversion, an escape perhaps, from the inevitable emotion or lack thereof.

I'm not sure if the plans for the weekend are what one of my comrades calls  'date-like event' or if it is indeed the real thing, but it's a step of attempted deepening of something, and I find as I get older and everyone begins to pair off and bear children that things are pushed too quickly, that I want slowness to get to know what I'm getting into so I have more reason to run away. It's so much easier when there's nothing at stake.

That isn't happening here yet, nothing yet is making me run for the exits because I'm embarrassed by others' desperation and that hasn't happened yet and maybe I do better with quicker time to act and less time to think. I was just getting so content with this whole solitude thing and now it's getting all messed up.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

hoodie weather

The irresistible urge to be outside and among, cruising through the cemetery with the windows down, chance encounters leading to watching gifted undergrads play harp and violin, walking to the lake to wander among skeletal tipi frames of driftwood inhabited by wandering dreadlocked souls, hipster couples, lycraed runners, motorcycles whirring down the highway, stoop-shouldered seniors gathering ever more rare beach glass, the water light azure.

(the middle part near the end just gets me in a way I can't explain).

The caffeine consumed on Sunday morning has worn off and my eyelids are heavy as I sit in a friend's living room watching the curtains undulate in the breeze, singing along to Faith No More in the car glad that no one else is paying attention, drinking tea and finally getting around to getting some writing done for the first time in awhile. I don't feel like going back to work just yet. I've been thirsting for this warmth for so long.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

shape and swirl

Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay. 

While I'm finally getting the hang of the enamels and copper, I've slacked on the ceramics end of things, feeling uninspired and having lost the touch that led to swanky coffee mugs and swirled bowls in the past. I needed to change things up and coming out of hibernation made me want to start fresh this year on the wheel. I've watched others do it, conjuring up graceful vessels from lumps of clay, and was too intimidated at first but I know it can't be that hard, right?

A quick crash course and a small bit of instruction, and my left foot is kicking the the crank that turns the wheel, and I brace my elbows on the edge and push my fingers down into the ball of clay, constantly dipping my hands back into the water to keep the clay moist and turning, smoothing out with quick flicks of my thumbs. It's like playing the drums the way the body has to utilize so many rhythmic movements at once, something so maddeningly simple to execute in theory or in basics, something incomprehensible when it comes to pure artistry.

On my second attempt I end up with a small bowl, more like a saucer with sides really, and subsequent efforts take different degrees of time to allow me to try different shapings, different ways of caressing shape with one hand and shoring up the sides with the other, curving the contours of my fingers to make the curve,keeping my elbows rested and perpendicular. I don't care about making great works right now, but the feeling of the shape forming within my palms, the sense of the ancientness of this form and technique, the elements of earth and water to be tempered later by fire, I feel euphoric lost in this process in ways I can't explain.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I took some time off to catch up on my sleep but the apartment was cold and the weather was warm so after a brief old lady nap, I took a walk and went through what felt like an extremely pointless exercise in voting, when my request for a nonpartisan ballot was discouraged and I had to pick between Republican and Democrat and wanted to vote against enough people on each (despite dwelling in a red state, it's a blue town).

I don't vote for people when I don't know who they are, and repub on the local more as a protest of the party machine that endorses mean and incompetent people. The lady who did my provisional ballot spent more time talking about her makeup and I just kind of sat there and thought about other countries where it's even more weird. I feel agnostic about the whole process.

So I walked home, relishing the orange and pink of the sunset and drove out to the burbs where one of my friends is apprenticing at a guitar repair shop and while I didn't plan to stay, I ended up hanging out there for way longer than planned, conversating over beer, learning about the intricacies of sundry musical instruments, of the electronics of wiring, the resonance of wood, the tension of wires and strings.It's something I'd never dream of trying to do because I'd be afraid of screwing it up, but watching and observing, taking it all in.

I have crazy respect for people who know how to do things not just sit at a computer like I do. People who can fix cars, who understand what wires go where, who build buildings and bridges that don't fall down, who know how to take apart things and put them back together, who take scraps and make art or useful things or can make things look beautiful. I can do a little of this, but there's a lot I never learned or don't have the musculature or the aptitude for. 

I feel like these kinds of things are undervalued in an increasingly technocratic society that still slots people in pecking order and perception by occupation alone, when there are these entire bodies of knowledge that I couldn't even begin to understand that come so naturally to others. The amount of bread on a corner store shelf, the intuitive knowledge of trucking routes better than any GPS, knowing what's wrong with a car just by what noise it makes and when. I sometimes here people who consider themselves enlightened disparaging those who work with their hands or get them dirty and I just don't understand the derision, because if we disappeared tomorrow, no one would notice we were gone.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I went my first show of the year tonight, forgot about some dinner plans and ended up missing A Storm of Light (figures that this is the show that starts on time), met up with a mutual friend and fellow radio comrade for hangingoutness, enjoying the riffage of Torche muchly, and while I'm more partial to the 90's-era Corrosion of Conformity, the power trio incarnation was good as well, relentless riffs and kids younger than the band moshing in front like it was 1985 all over again as me and the other older folks stood in the back and nodded along.

I didn't feel like driving all the way home so I tried to crash at the station but it was really cold and the furniture uncomfortable so I tossed and turned on the floor before giving up and hanging out with one of the late nighters. A nap on the breakroom couch and the Five Hour Energy bottle in my desk drawer saved for such a day are sustaining me for the half-day until I can depart to sleep perchance to dream.

Monday, March 5, 2012

love in the ruins

 “For the world is broken, sundered, busted down the middle, self ripped from self and man pasted back together as mythical monster, half angel, half beast, but no man...

In the rust belt where I dwell, the academics ramble on about 'ruin porn' and suburban crackers finding joy in derelict surroundings, something I find a bit obtuse, given that my compadres from the hood are just as into this stuff, hanging out in the abandoned Glenville mansion playing the grand piano collecting dust in a forgotten living room, cutting class to climb the stairs in the now-demolished abandoned hotel by the highway, climbing up into a church built only in the last century but feeling so much more ancient.

I think there's a universal human thing for old places that are forgotten. I was enthralled as a kid by Egyptian pyramids, Mesa Verde, and Angkor Wat. My friends whose pets I watched just got back from swimming in the ocean and hiking through the remains of Mayan temples, the Romantics painted Greek columns and memorialized broken statues of long-gone empires. Perhaps the waning days of empire have something to do with the nostalgia and fascination with gloriously crumbling structures. The landed gentry liked to build 'follies' on the outskirts of their fields for the illusion of ancientness and days gone by.

My roommate and I explored an abandoned amusement park together that's now being torn down and dismantled in delusions of development in a part of the state that seems to lend itself more to methamphetamine production and feral felines. Others had gone before us through the human-sized holes in the fence, and the concrete path throughout the park had not been overgrown yet. I didn't have a camera then, but I had a box cutter in my hoodie in case we ran across any deranged psycho killers though I'm surely too chicken to have actually used it, but considering that we were knowingly walking into the plot of a slasher film, I wasn't going to stake a good outcome on virginity alone.

 We hoped that the footprints we saw in the mud weren't too fresh, and that there wasn't anyone lurking in the old stands on the fairway or in the ballroom with the collapsing floor. The mosquitoes were dense and even though it was hot, I had a hoodie on with the hood pulled up and over as much as I could, hands in my pockets. It was the first of many trespasses, now more or less ended after the legal and societal implications of interracial friendship and private property meant some degree of hassle by The Man. Upon such hassle, I learned that most forgotten arteries of the city are technically off-limits from a legal standpoint, railroad tracks and riverfronts, all the places that me and my camera went.

Now, I've gone back to living vicariously, because there are parts of the world I will probably never see. Abandoned Russian camps, Italian villages and Khmer city states, forgotten utopias and playgrounds, catacombs and burial mounds and movie palaces succumbing to the elements, the debris of empires both collapsed and collapsing. Look on my works ye mighty and despair laughable, history as cyclical like Shiva's wheel, grinding down each generation's dreams.

Friday, March 2, 2012

in spirit and in truth

The place where I hang out on Sunday mornings is a mix of cultures and personalities that mesh in a way that I rarely see elsewhere, a smattering of age differences, ethnicity, politics, economics, and personal tastes and conversations where our different understandings and cultural baggage come to light. The differences of age, taste, culture, tangle and are melded harmoniously mostly, with doses of snarky humor and a deeper understanding of where we come from, who we are, where we are going.

Those of us who kind of ended up in charge of picking music and such ponder these things together over dinner once a month, seeking truth and sight within our respective blind spots and the ways in which our personalities respond. A lot of other people came from more charismatic backgrounds as opposed to mine, and sometimes express dismay at the lack of emotional engagement on the part of many, but there's a lot of introverts where I go, some others who came from a similar tradition as me or others who were burned by a misplaced emotionalism in the past. Being introverted as a rule, and wary of gratuitous displays of piety, my prayers are rarely spoken, existing scrawled in notebooks in ballpoint, or scribbled on canvas with paint markers bleeding into acrylic, wordless spiraling from a guitar neck.

As much as I couldn't stand the deadness that was going to Mass and mumbling through a liturgy so rote that the words ceased to have meaning, I'm still profoundly wary of emotion for emotion's sake, when the lines blur between emotional and psychological euphoria, because that stuff is real, especially when everyone else is having this collective experience and inevitably you get swept up in it.

Sometimes it's in a religious setting, but I see the same dynamic at play in other crowds, be it watching your sports team score or when you're watching a really good band play and are absorbed with the crowd in the sound or when Obama's inauguration was on tv and everyone on campus was bawling and I found myself getting misty-eyed too even though I didn't vote for him or whatever, and I knew this was purely a collective emotional wave more than anything connected to what I was thinking. I can step back after the fact but there seems to be something to that shared experience that wells up. I never delved into psychology but I'm sure someone's subjected this to analysis.

One of my good friends in high school was really charismatic and the whole 'slain in the Spirit' passed out on the floor was a normal thing to her and I can't doubt what she says but when I went to her church, my lack of outward expression and movement was taken to be something akin to spiritual frigidity or utter lack of faith and led to some very weird prayers being said for my soul, probably out of the best of intentions, but I left feeling a little pissed off nonetheless. When my friends from more Pentecostal backgrounds want to know why others aren't more "into it," I want to say, how do you know that people aren't, and how do you know when someone isn't just showing off?  Who is anyone to say that maybe one's experience of God might be expressed differently? Heck, even when I go see one of my favorite bands play, I might sing along, but I don't move much. I'm just trying to take it all in.

I can't tell if that's just personality or culture, but ever since this whole faith thing went from my parents' religion to my own way of life, it's always been expressed in a way that's still emotional as anything but shot through with a whole lot of thinking, because my weird brain and my gut/heart/soul have a strange and tangled relationship.

I went to a small conservative college for one lonely year and there were people I met who liked the pray in public but sounded phony and canned like a tv preacher or a motivational speaker lecturing us rather than communing with something higher and greater, and others who avoided the microphone but when they did speak aloud to God it actually sounded like they were talking to their best friend who knew them as well as they did themselves. Who am I to judge either heart, there are only my preferences and I know I've been wrong at times.

But I've always had more of an inward meditation than visible expression, not that I don't talk about it, or that it doesn't come out in the artwork I do when I'm home by myself, or drenched in reverb from an electric guitar on Sunday morning, old words resung like Billy Bragg channeling Guthrie, but I don't want to be the focus, I don't want to be the center, and I just put what I do out there, and leave it to others to connect with the divine in the way that they see fit. I don't want to manipulate that, because it's beyond what I understand and what speaks to each of us is so different, and I respect that, and only want to please the only one to which it all matters as it is.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

slow motions

This week has gone ever so slowly, despite the sundry commitments and obligations, and falling asleep on the couch next to the dog, hoping that the things that go bump in the night are just the cats, because despite the weaponry in this house, I'd never want to be called upon to use it.

But the weather gets warmer, and my landlady gave me the okay to do some gardening and such at the new place so I'm trying to figure out what to grow on the balcony, how to fit as much as I can on that small back porch until the front one is done, what blooms to plant in the rows of pots alongside the house. She says there's lots of critters that will eat things on the ground so I'll have to be inventive and try not to be disappointed, though it's probably a good thing if there's more wildlife, as opposed to the almost-hood.

I don't have the space or the same amount of sun to go as crazy as I did last year, with giant sunflowers and poppies and morning glories tangled on the fence, and the plot in the back yielding more squash, beans, and eggplant than I could ever consume on my own and therefore was shared with everyone, but I want to try, I guess and see what I can do with some ingenuity. There was something cathartic about ripping out the weeds with my bare hands, getting my fingernails dirty and knowing that the benefits would be reaped in a few months.

And tonight, dinner with the sister, bowling ala Lebowski with the grunge buddy and his homies. I don't have much compared to some, but the abundance and lushness within my world continues to stun me.

in search of the lost chord

When I first started in Radioland, I was told there were already enough people playing permutations of rock and/or roll so I would have to play other stuff. Since I was on early in the morning it didn't matter too much what the format was so I kept it freeform and chilled out for the first couple years, segueing from the hip-hop show before me with the more world, arty neo-soul/trip-hop kind of stuff that one of my college roommates turned me onto, beat-heavy, organic, and chilled out.

There are certain strains of sound that have always intrigued me but as I've said before in other corners of the Internets, "world music" has been unfairly haunted by the twin specters of grainy and incomprehensible field recordings or overly slick PaulSimoned pop with synthesizers and drum machines killing any kind of soul-baring.

Lakewood and Cleveland Public Library's fantastic collection was my first jumping-off point, with its reissues and shelves of obscurities to be unearthed. While there were some that weren't very good, or just too weird (the Chinese self-healing new age CDs that supposedly cure cancer and menstrual cramps), I stumbled across the polyglot Clashness of Manu Chao, the sparkling guitar work of Amadou and Mariam, Tinariwen's blues, and the incredible Dengue Fever, resurrecting long-gone Khmer rock that all but disappeared under Pol Pot.

One of my fellow DJs also introduced me to Holy Warbles, which allowed me to take my curiosity about sundry parts of the world and discover obscurities that I may never have stumbled across on my own and offered a window into the cultural history of these countries that the powers that be in my own land label as backwards or uncultured or just a place of carnage and crazies.

The obscurity of much of this esoterica, of backwoods gospel, apocalyptic roots reggae far removed from fratparty bro-ness, monkish chants from Armenia, spooky noochies soundtracks, Angolan rumba, raga performed on piano and slide guitar, and sundry psychedelique funkenfuzz from brighter climes brightened up my Tuesday mornings and my mix CDs for sundry folk considerably and also made me sound like a terribly pretentious person waxing rhapsodic about Pakistani playback singers and Moroccan gnawa trance even though I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers as much as any 20-something Clevelandian.

Just like others shouldn't judge the Great Satan by certain powers that be and pop stars, we really shouldn't be doing the same to other nations too, even if their heads of state constantly act a fool or global events transpired as such that when we think of certain places, we think only of starving children or genocide or people who kill other people. I suppose this screws up the narrative that's easy, but when the framework doesn't show the entire picture, that framework needs to be adjusted.

 The constant thread that winds through many of these acts are how much vibrant culture was cut off by dictatorship and general awfulness of people in power with their own religious or ideological agendas or languishing in obscurity. Selda went to prison for this song, Nahid Akhtar's career was cut short by marriage and some of her songs were banned for reasons of "obscenity," the jazz scene in Ethiopia vanished with the advent of the Mengistu dictatorship in 1974, Ros Sereysothea died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, and Witch, with their love of Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones, never got too far outside their hometown.