Thursday, August 29, 2013

hollywood for politicians

That's how a former roommate of mine described DC when she lived there with her brother. She worked in McLean selling expensive party dresses for the children and grandchildren of Cheneys and Kennedys making about what I do now, which isn't a living wage out there.

As much as I dislike politicians and whatnot, I've been to DC an awful lot. For the obligatory 7th grade field trip where I knew too little to not be awed at the murals in the rotunda and the halls of power and memorials and all that. That was during the Clinton years, I guess. I saw someone get mugged in broad daylight in College Park and our bus cut through the Northeast quadrant past a bunch of go-go clubs and buildings that were all burned out and the dome of the Capitol rose over the most intense urban decay I'd ever seen (I was thirteen, after all, and not yet urban exploring or venturing to Detroit for kicks).

And then when I was fifteen, also during the Clinton years, I went to a March for Life with some friends from my parents' church. I had a teenage crush on a boy who was along with us, who grew up in the suburbs but talked like he was from the hood and was best friends with this metalhead kid that I got along with really well even though other kids' parents said he was bad news. The three of us snarked our way through the same places where I was once awed. I'm sure you can't make jokes about anthrax in your bookbag while going through White House security nowadays.

 I also got stuck in the Air and Space Museum for four hours and was bored out of my mind. One of the other kids in our group who used to talk about sniffing airplane model glue had a godawful cassette of country music so rightfield it made Toby Keith seem like Steve Earle. I remember having a blast but sometimes feeling like the cause takes on the role of religion itself for some people either way.

(for what it's worth, the right-to-lifers are a beautifully mixed bunch, which is something I don't feel like gets discussed enough. I saw Buddhist monks and imams and Catholic friars hanging out and uber-conservative large family homeschoolers rubbing shoulders with purple-haired anarchists and every conceivable economic class and shade of melanin and of course the more wackjobby ends of the spectrum too. It takes all kinds for any cause I guess.)

And then the third time, with some activist friends who were going to some demonstration about Darfur and there was an extra seat in the car. It was a cheap weekend out, and I was ecstatic to wander around somewhere different for a few days. We went to the Holocaust museum and they insisted on attempting to assuage their white guilt by talking to every single person who hit us up for change which was a dead giveaway that we were wholesome Ohioans.

We got some Sudanese food and they got a bit of a shock when the owner said this whole human rights atrocity was a conspiracy by western powers to take their oil. I ended up buying a Jawbox record at a show and talking about Pere Ubu with the door guy, but by this time the sheen of the halls of power and the relative kumbayah pointlessness of sloganeering in front of the White House seemed a little self indulgent.

So this time, there were no causes or adults, just me and my cousin who lives in the burbs outside the city and who's moving back to Ohiostan since he had a lousy job and roommates that he should've quit awhile ago.Before loading up his moving van, we adventured into DC via the uber-expensive Metro (is it this pricey because heaven forbid that powerful people have to ride with riffraff otherwise?)

And everything seemed even more gentrified than last time. I was wearing a Bad Brains shirt and people kept starting conversations with me about all things punk rock and DC, at the museum, at the restaurant, walking down the street, and I thought this was strange at first that this was happening, because in Clevelandia, there's a lot more people that look like me and if you get anything, it's maybe a nod of acknowledgement once in awhile, but then as we keep walking, I realize that I'm the only person that looks like me on the street anywhere we go except for the record stores in Adams Morgan.

And I'm not even all that punk rock, but all the white people around me except the blatant tourists and the occasional Hot Topic teenager look like they're straight out of a J. Crew or Brooks Brothers catalog, either really rich or pretending to be. It's almost disconcerting. I can't imagine if I wore a Dead Boys or Devo shirt in my neighborhood that anyone would notice or care.

Anyways, we did the museums, admiring dinosaur bones and awesome crystals at the Natural History Museum, wandering through the National Gallery of Art (my cousin was a good sport through the Diaghilev exhibit), sad that all the cool stuff about Murka wasn't at the American History Museum. We got noodles in Chinatown and geeked out in some bookstores in Dupont, saw some awesome street musicians in the circle, wandered into random shops and the Scientology building where we looked unconvincing but did snag some really hilarious pamphlets, and did a lot of walking, which I love, and he's not as used to.

And now it's back to the daily grind, of the onslaught of students, a new class that promises to be pretty swank, petsitting for amigos on Labor day vacation, and drinking coffee and listening to tunes with good folk, pondering the state of the world, plotting musical ventures, and drinking too much caffeine at late hours. I remember again why I love coming home.

where do we end up, part 1: of parties and resort towns.

so it's been awhile since I've been there, not that nothing's been happening, or I haven't been thinking, it's more along the lines of life being more hectic these days.

I ended up at a friend's party two weeks ago, and never thought of myself as a social person or a party person but his friends were nice, we had things in common, things to talk about and laugh over, and it wasn't until midnight when I realized that I'd been socializing with what was up until then complete strangers when familiar faces did show up. We're a bunch of aging punks, I guess, Ian Mackaye's dalliance with Urban Outfitters entities and random references to bands we liked in high school being discussed. And books, and ephemeral strangeness. The things I love.

Everyone's probably got a good decade on me at least, but I enjoy their company way more than people my age, and there are kids running around which is refreshing in a strange way, I guess because people my age just have lapdogs. Having a car and coming alone has its benefits, because if things are lame you can bail and if they're awesome you can stick around and this time I stuck around.

And the next day, I'm still dusty from the softball game but I've packed for the overnight to Geneva on the Lake and roadtripped out there with a comrade for one of my near and dears' bachelorette weekend, which on paper sounds like hell on earth but was a good time with some girls I rarely get to hang out with these days. We love the kitsch element of this place, which feels like if a county fair was a town and had way more bikers.

We walked around, played skee-ball and arcade games, people-watched the crowd of families and kids and bikers with brass knuckle/knives hanging off their belt loops, drank pina coladas at some bar that reminded me of something you'd find in Manila with its dance music and murals of boomer icons rendered in a strangely endearing way, hung out in a cabin talking til late at night, considered trekking back out to people watch at one of the biker bars with the hair metal cover bands playing for people watching purposes but felt too slackerly.

It's weird realizing that we're all getting older, that now people are talking about marriage and children and maybe buying houses and then there's others where we're still stuck in this strange land somewhere between teenagehood and adulthood. But I'm incredibly happy for her, happy for him, and looking forward to celebrating.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

the way you treat each other really makes me feel ill

 Sometimes I wish I could tell other people they're being myopic when they harp on their pet issue and don't see the larger picture of ye olde shite being messed up muchly. But that's a fool's errand, and therefore I get the catharsis out in big riffs and taut punk rage.

echobelly - scream

REM - crush with eyeliner

the verve - so it goes

radiohead - lucky
ride - howard hughes

lush - superblast

wire - mannequin

mission of burma- progress
stiff little fingers - suspect device
the pagans - street where nobody lives

the wipers - D-7

the gits - beauty of the rose
the clash - I'm so bored with the USA
X- the phone's off the hook (but you're not)
soft boys - I wanna destroy you

the ruts - dope for guns
the undertones set - you've got my number (why don't you use it), teenage kicks, family entertainment, hypnotised

billy bragg - to have and to have not / help save the youth of america
the adverts - no time to be 21

sleater kinney - turn it on
discount - sleeping motor boy
tomahawk - waratorium
torche - in pieces

50 foot wave - long painting

nirvana - lounge act
fugazi - burning/give me the cure
jawbox - lil shaver

god machine - tremolo song

quicksand - how soon is now?
screaming trees - witness

Monday, August 12, 2013

fulfilled a promise made of tin

I walked down to the land of yuppiesque entertainment after work on Friday night, wandered through the mall in search of a new shoulder bag since the straps on mine were falling off, met up with the good people, heard east side stories, and tales that indicate that Cleveland still sucks as a tourist destination unless you know someone. There was some earnest singer-songwriter action going on, a lot of Bright Young Things, and the occasional black-clad fellow concert-goer.

The show started late, which is weird for such a well-oiled machine that is the House of Blues, and you know an opener isn't doing it for you when you turn to each other and go wow this is a long set, aren't they done yet. It wasn't so much that they were bad, and I dig noisy wooshy rock and or roll, but there was a lack of soundcraft that wore the jams thin after about half an hour and there were still songs to go and the crowd began to pack in.

The Cult's never really been big with my generation, and before one of my friends suggested going, I had only a cursory background in their back catalog. It took some time for Astbury to get warmed up, his phrasing was a little off on some of the songs, but he seemed to be in a good mood. The rest of the band looked like they were having a good time, especially Billy Duffy who was on the whole night. After the first set, I was able to move up front a bit and away from the woo-girls and their type A boyfriends trying to barrel their way to the front row, and dudes with sunglasses and gelled hair and napoleon complexes, and the girls with their damn iPhones. Not the greatest fanbase, but a chivalrous tall dude let me go in front of him so that was considerate.

Came back and slept, and drove up to the lake to play softball and camp, and got a speeding ticket after getting lost that made me cry because country driving with no signs freaks me the hell out. I'm glad my teammates still love me and eventually I got out of the dark funk somewhere around dinnertime when my comrades stuffed the sports bar digital jukebox with Maiden, Van Halen, Sabbath, and Husker Du and I got to hear customer service hell stories and laugh a lot. Somehow the melancholia dissipates and I decide to stay the night, accepting the offer of a borrowed tent.

I wasn't in the mood for drinking games or volleyball but me and a couple of other people ended up going out at sunset in search of the beach to hang out by the water. We didn't get there, but we ended up at some picnic tables overlooking the march where water lilies shimmered in the murk and herons flew around us as the sun set. The sound was incredible, that hum of nature where we could feel far away from the world for a few moments. When the bugs made their presence known we kept walking through the almost-complete darkness until we reached the water and the rocks and sat out there gazing at the stars that were so numerous and infinite and I felt so blissed out as if everything that happened earlier had melted away.

We came back to the campsite, sat around a fire we'd made with a downed apple tree that smelled incredibly fragrant, we kept stoking the fire, throwing in twigs and beer boxes, basking in the warm glow and indulging our inner pyro geeks. I tried to sleep but the talk was too loud so me and the other sober guy sat by the fire and talked until the coals got low and we got tired.

We woke up earlier than everyone and drove back, stopping at a diner full of vacationers for food and coffee, wandering through the flea market full of nautical tchotchkes, easy listening records, and a strange assortment of DRI and Throbbing Gristle cassettes mixed in. He found a Mott the Hoople record for a dollar, I detoured for fragrant peaches, and we took the longish way home back along the lake and through the Metroparks listening to the Smashing Pumpkins, hanging out at his place, with its Chinese sculptures and bicycles and garden where the pool used to be, talking about punk rock and childhoods and life. I used to wonder if I'd lose this part of my life as I got older, but I'm thankful it hasn't yet slipped away.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

a day late: heatmiser

Yesterday I got no phone calls on my show, but played a bunch of Heatmiser for Elliot Smith's birthday. I never got into his solo stuff, but I dig his grunge band where he split songwriting duties with Neil Gust a whole lot, especially 'Dead Air,' that first record. A certain pretentious former professor chastised me over my love of that compared to the less heavy offerings that came later, but he also likes all that twee indie stuff so I'd venture to say he's wrong. None of the English major hipsters liked it either, my roommates were ambivalent, but I find myself coming back to these albums for a quick sonic sugar rush cut through with misanthropy.

 I don't know why this didn't get bigger, because the songwriting is solid, the guitars have a pleasing crunch that would have slid in easily next to both Fugazi and the Foo Fighters, maybe Gust's orientation was a bigger deal back then than now (considering that Torche has had a greater degree of success mining the same thematic territory).  No one else seems to share this opinion, but it is what it is. I prefer power chords to Beatle-worship I guess.

Monday, August 5, 2013

never a dull moment

There are evils local and large and further out, interesting to watch my skeptic friends become convinced of hearts of darkness and the existence of hell to deal as a local creep justifies the unjustifiable, while meanwhile other abuse is justified higher up without the attendant outrage. I guess the one is closer to home, I couldn't bring myself to watch the proceedings.

And the night before I met up with a girl I went to school with in 7th grade who I ran into again this summer. She was two years older than me and one of the few people that year who wasn't mean. I guess she had an awful time of it too there, and we briefly touch on the past, having nothing there to be nostalgic for, and move onto other things. She majored in anthropology and is also eternally curious and up for random adventures so we go down to YuppieLandia to dance to Afro-Peruvian swank courtesy of Novalima.

There were some African and Puerto Rican girls with great moves, a Peruvian family waving their flags, and the white guy who was trying to get into everyone's personal space, and the usual hippies and hipsters, and I remember being at a party dancing to this stuff with a guy who worked at the kitchen at a mansion of some friends of friends, he was the only person who talked to me there, and the 4/4 time kept my feet from tripping over and it felt good to move and not care.

Too much mirth led to introversion the next two nights, of reading books on the porch and general slacking around. We lost our softball game but I singled in a run and caught a popup so it felt like a personal victory. My dad was home alone that night so I went over there and we had dinner together, listened to garage rock on the radio, and talked about stuff. He was talking about how bad he feels for the people stuck working at the walmart he delivers to and keeps trying to get them hooked up with better jobs. City life and racism and rock and roll, and things I never knew about their early married life, I'm glad I get this time with him because I'm always amazed at what an incredible person he is.

And then one of my friends is departing for out west, in hopes that things will work out better there, and there are so many things we want to say, because the guy she's married to seems unhappy anywhere and unwilling to try or deal with things not being perfect. You take who you are everywhere no matter how idyllic or not it is. I wish I could say I was happy for them, but I'm not convinced that it's the answer.

Thankfully I don't have to ponder this the whole day, because one of my fellow girl geeks who digs weird tunes invites me out to her parents' place so we can go hiking and explore her old stomping grounds, a state park with some abandoned buildings from the canal days, ample amounts of ravine, rivers, and woods, and all sorts of spooky haunting tales of Salem, Ohio, which had a witch trial of its own, as well as eccentric millionaires with dubious attentions and such. As she appreciates the true nature of darkthroning, that is indeed what we did.

After getting some fantastic Mexican food (since it's farmland out here, mostly owned by Monsanto subsidaries where the land isn't being fracked, there's migrant workers, which seems to correlate with good and cheap south of the border food in the outskirts of Ohiostan), we drove down Egypt Road, well known in local lore for having both a "crybaby bridge" and a grisly murder in the past couple years, and other tales mostly involving delinquent teens getting witchy or gangsta in the woods.
I'm an agnostic when it comes to tales of hauntings, but at dusk, with the desolation, the abandoned houses, it was pretty spooky.