Monday, September 30, 2013

must I paint you a picture

So me and homie went down to see Billy Bragg last night, after hanging out on my front porch awhile, and decided we weren't interested in the opener so we wandered around Kent and I geeked out over all my old haunts and how much it's changed down there... the apartments where Devo lived are gone, the "pet sematary" art installation that me and my roommates loved is replaced by a big house, the swings on the playground that we used to haunt have been replaced by park benches to keep The Children safe, my old grotty house on College Street is still there, but the street was really quiet that night. We loved hanging out down the river, walking along in the darkness along the paths, something I would never do on my own, and bailed over a fence across the railroad tracks to get back like the punkass teenagers that we sometimes still feel like.

Maybe we were in the wrong mood the whole night, maybe it was the comfortable chairs and the relative affluence of the general demographic. Maybe it was that we're economically hovering a few grand above the poverty line and can only afford a reasonable quality of life because we live in an extremely economically depressed region, so it's hard to hear about "power in a union" and the "working class" when your experience with unions has been so negative and someone's singing about it who probably hasn't been in one for decades, and you're trying to figure out what to do as winter comes and work gets slow and you wonder how you're going to make ends meet.

Maybe because you know too much, and there's something a little embarrassing about watching a guy justify his kissing the Queen's hand because his mom likes the Queen, and talking about his cowboy boots and authentic western shirts, and lambasting the usual easy targets and talking about the working man and how England is so much better at everything, which is kind of crazy because even though it's got healthcare, it's still pretty damn anti-immigrant.

So Thatcher's dead, but there's a lot of other scumbag powers that be that are still alive that you could go after, but heaven forbid you offend that demographic by suggesting that the current administration might suck as much as the last one so let's just talk about crazy wingnuts right? Because both parties aren't pretty much the same or anything. It's hard for me to believe in power to the people when the majority of people are selfish mofos who don't care much for their fellow humans as long as they get what they want. Yeah, healthcare's important, but last time I checked your country and my country were getting cozy about surveilling on dissenters, but who wants to hear about that? We want to feel good about feeling smart and progressive! I do have to give him props for dissing Dawkins, but otherwise. Low hanging fruit's already been picked clean.

It's awkward and strangely hilarious watching an old punk rabblerouser try to validate himself and act like he's all radical when he's got a big mansion in a crackerific oceanside town and writes get-off-my-lawn screeds in the newspaper aimed at those skateboarders who get in the way of big developers. And then to see the audience hanging on every word without necessarily questioning anything, and I wonder what the hell happened to me, have I really swung to the left of this guy? 

 And so  we're sitting off to the side, happy to hear the occasional song we wanted to hear, but feeling like it's not terribly fair to our fellow concertgoers ( no one was really sitting too close to us) if we're going to whisper snarkitudes to each other and be bent over trying not to laugh out loud, so we leave about halfway through, take another spin through the town down the sidestreets and past the grain elevators and drive back to Clevelandia laughing to stay up way too late again.

Friday, September 27, 2013

ivory towers and reflective powers

a friend of mine from way back when is in college now, and like me, reads a lot of blogs, and like me in my early twenties, quite the idealist with other earnest friends. I was kind of an older sister figure, introducing him to Fugazi and zines and other underground kind of things.

I take things more seriously than a lot of people, but even in my younger years, I didn't have much patience for those conversations about race/class/gender that were more theoretical than anything else, and often profoundly disconnected from the dynamics of the real world in any real sense. Not that things shouldn't be thought about or are unimportant, but sometimes I feel like these conversations, mostly between us people socioeconomically privileged to go to college and be connected to the internet, tend to get extremely circular and self-indulgent.

When you get off the Internet, most people aren't losing sleep over the things that young people care about on Tumblr, aren't arguing about tasteless Halloween costumes or something clueless that some guy posted on his Facebook page, but I guess it's always fun for people to feel smarter and more enlightened than others, hence Internet haterade. I still don't have patience for the competitions of the Suffering Olympics variety, if you trace back anyone's history you'll find out that their ancestors were screwed over by someone, and that everyone's felt disrespected or had judgments made about them because of how they look or whatever.

Evidently to total strangers this makes me an awful person full of white privilege, which if you know me, is kind of ridiculous because I geek out on history and anthropology and the ins and outs of others' worlds, willing to be the uncomfortable and awkward minority, to the point where I have empathy but only to a point, that everyone's got their issues, and to focus on just one place's is kind of myopic. If you go anywhere, people are racist and classist and judge by the gradient of your skin tone or what religion you practice or who your parents are. Not to invalidate anyone's experience, but it's a human problem not an American middle class cracker problem exclusively. Jerkitude is universal.  Besides, such conversations are always better had over caffeine or booze as it is.

And so I wonder if this is why, in tandem with my companions with whom I snark about all things brainy (Pynchon, Shakespearean English, obscure medieval history), I find maybe I prefer these things with those in my world who are older, because we've got less to prove and we've seen more of life and there are other stressors like how are we going to pay the heating bill this winter and what are we doing with our lives since we're perpetually underemployed and there are fewer and fewer open doors.

And I love eating dinner with someone else again, cooking the proceeds of our gardens, talking about how our days went, these life things that are so simple, the things that I miss about roommates and friends who worked on my side of town who used to drop in at the old apartment. It's so good to geek out over history and play music and listen to records again and laugh, I don't think I realized how much I missed this kind of companionship until it started happening again, it's hard to believe that it's 2 in the morning and I have to go to work the next morning, he's laughing as I back out of the driveway and almost run over his datura plant, but all that coffee would have kept me up as it was, and despite the tired eyes and the continued drinking of tea, I feel so alive.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

of shoegaze, landladies, and cups of tea.

I knew I'd be tired this morning, fatigue haunted me all weekend. No amount of tea and coffee sufficed, and sleep was hard to come by.

I went to see Alcest and enjoyed them even more than last time, the songs I didn't get to hear live this time around I got to hear the last, Neige made some comment about how the last time they were here no one was there, which was probably true, since it was right around the time Ecailles de Lune came out and I didn't know they existed until Randal's end of the year list.

It was nice to go to a show and soak in the atmosphere without gazing at it through an iPhone being held aloft in front of me. This crop of kids and older prog rockers were rapt around me, no one had their phone out to text or post on instagram. A little surreal to watch a bunch of blastbeat loving dudes getting all blissed out to some of the most sublime shoegaze being created now. Songs I was kind of ambivalent about on the last album had a lot of gorgeous crunch live and it was beautiful to see them coming into their own even more.

The rain was pouring down and I ran into a girl I knew from class so we hung out in the doorway, because I didn't want to cut across that giant parking lot alone and Anathema sounded all right but I wasn't in the mood to stand there alone in that crowd of people and the volume was perfect where we were.

I came back to my friends' apartment, where the cats greeted me ambivalently, slept, made goodness for a cookout, stayed up late, stayed up even late because I couldn't fall asleep, realized I completely started doing my take-home midterm wrong, attempted to remedy, went to sleep early.

I have yet to fail an exam that wasn't written, but I can tell I'm not doing my best work here. I wonder how much of this is just that I've been taking slacker classes for so long, or have had actual textbooks, or if it's just that I've been doing a million other things. I'm so good at regurgitating, or I was, or I'm overthinking it, and it's just taking longer to coalesce into anything coherent.

And with four days to finish two more pages and put some flesh on the skeletal outline, it made perfect sense last night to do some initiatory noise-making. I cooked dinner this time, he sliced up garden tomatoes and walnuts as the spaghetti squash roasted in the toaster oven and I cooked down spices on the skillet.

My landlady was having some junk in her basement hauled away and the dudes were creepy so I was glad I had someone else there.There's some disingenuousness afoot with her as far as how the place is zoned, that bothers me, I'm not sure how much it should, since property owners with tenants don't always seem to be the most scrupulous, but I don't like being pressured to aid in lying to anyone, I can't do that.

But we played music last night and it sounded good, and it's the first time in awhile where I've felt like I had creative freedom and we clicked so much, building off each other's notes and chords, scrawling them in a notebook as I tried not to make it too noisy with all the pedals since I didn't know when she was coming home, but we're on the same musical trajectory and it sounds good, I'm almost surprised at how good it sounds since we've never played together before, and I can only imagine it'll sound amazing with another guitar and drums in the mix.  We shall see...


Friday, September 20, 2013

you were driving circles around me...

Emotions are strange, and I find myself bluffing my way through class because I come home too tired to do the readings, socializing yet feeling introverted yet feeling alone, it's just that time I guess of full moons and the usual. Last night I drank too much caffeine too late and sat in my living room playing my mom's old classical guitar, scrawling out chord progressions, finding my fingers landing in the same places or that this one or that one was a song somebody else wrote and wrote better. At least that fear of not doing it well has dissolved, and with a sharper focus, it becomes easier to string it all together.

I got a package in the mail that made me miss the days when I was penpalling with way more people, getting envelopes from Portland, Zurich, Grand Rapids, swapping paperbacks, correspondence, mixtapes and random this and thats. Inside this one was some volumes of Dorothy Day's writings (which I don't own so that was welcome), and a letter and some wall art. It's strange how connected souls that have never met can be, when thoughts are exchanged, and I begin formulating responses, because this kind of thing is beautiful and missed.

Mamiffer, Alcest and Anathema are playing tonight and I hate the venue and its location but I know how much I complain that bands like this skip my town so the least I can do is go, especially with being guestlisted already there's no excuse. Everyone who likes that band doesn't live here or is otherwise engaged but at least the music's introverted enough that I can get lost in it, I hope. Having companionship again for things like this is spoiling me, I guess you don't miss what you don't have.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

in search of the dead poets

One of my partners in crime loves the litgeekery as well and asked me about d.a. levy, our own homegrown beat writer who offed himself at 26 after a lot of police harassement and whatnot, where he lived, all of that. So we had homework to do, me a midterm, her papers to grade, so we got food and warm beverages at Algebra and then went for a drive in search of those fragments of past luminaries.

I still want to find a place inhabited by Screamin' Jay Hawkins but have had no luck, even trying to the appropriate channels of people who know such things. But I did have an address of a bar he performed at (his descendants, of which there are many, have a reunion every year I hear) that is now gone, and I know which apartment buildings members of Pere Ubu lived in, where Trent Reznor used to play,  just like in Kent I knew where Devo and the Dead Boys hung out. We don't have as much history as other places, so this is what we cling to.

We drove from Little Italy down Cedar to where Langston Hughes used to live and the library he went to. We forgot the address of the house but I've been through there before, and we got an address from one of my coworkers of a place where levy used to live so we went there too, and cruised my beloved industrial flats belching out pollution still. She says the smell makes her nauseous, I say that was the smell of jobs and it used to be so much worse. 

I still get some strange visceral pleasure out of these excursions that I can't explain. I don't like to be a cheerleader of provincialism, but there's a feeling when I'm driving the empty streets that makes me euphoric, inspired, and a little more alive.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

your eyes like crashing jets

That seemingly eternal desire to make music dangles again tantalizingly, and this time the pieces seem to be falling better into place. A common musical vision instead of the usual attempts at pigeonholing disparate tastes and personality. These things are things that make me look forward to the evenings and the weekends even a little more. We're all past the point of dreaming big or even of cult bandness and that's reassuring.

And last night I'm in the kitchen once again, we're slicing vegetables together, stir-frying and stewing, because this companionship is simple in a world where so many of us fly solo on basic things like sharing meals. We know each other's habits, snark, and talk about guitars and what we've been reading, how our day went. I miss these things about having roommates and it's wonderful to have this talk over a warm meal again.

We head out originally to go see a mutual friend play but detour for coffee and yerba mate to drink along the pier gazing out past the dark waves towards the glittering city, end up driving around all night listening to music, cruising through the industrial wastelands and the forgotten ethnic neighborhoods, even the worst parts of town are zenlike peaceful on a Monday night with a stereo full of tunes. I'm wishing I had my camera, I'm thankful that the night turned out this way, I haven't done this in so long and I miss these haunts so much even as the city evaporates in chemical smoke beneath me.

this margin walker wants a clear view

Guy Picciotto is 47 today, and therefore it gave me a good excuse to do a Fugazi/Rites of Spring/One Last Wish set of two hours of swank. Some people called in for "Smallpox Champion" and "Waiting Room" and another friend of mine tried to prank me but didn't realize we have caller ID, but it was a fun show.

I'm surprised at how many longtime Fugazi fans didn't know the previous projects existed, and maybe it was just having a friend in high school who was obsessive and my own need to be encyclopedic, but I'm glad at least I got to let people know this exists so they can track it down themselves. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

the last golden days

There is so much booze in my fridge right now, but I'm trying to skinny down just a smidge so it sits there, leftover from book club, three bottles of wine in various states, random uppity beers, non alcoholic Lebanese malts in girlie flavors like mango and green apple, and that six-pack of Corona that was left there when I moved in two years ago that I never threw away, I probably should, shouldn't I? It's something I no longer morally object to, but something I can give up easily because I don't like or need that much so I serve it to people who come over for dinner or to hang out when we sit on the front porch under the strings of colored lights strung along the overhang.

In regards to the frustrations of west side urban living, here's a revelation about the aforementioned events that's kind of outrage-inducing on a few levels.   Because, you know, calling 911 because you feel like your life or body is threatened is totally frivolous abuse of city services. What the hell. I want to live somewhere where it's safe for me to walk around as a single female, safe for my gay neighbors to walk home from the bar, safe for the people walking home from work through desolate streets so they don't get rides home from strangers and end up disappearing. 

And I have to remember that there are good friends and good neighbors who look out for each other. The couple across the street with the bulldogs who invite me over for chili, the guy in the apartment building with the pit bull who tried to help me fix my bike, the Queen of the Bondo one street over who hooked me up with grapes from their back yard, my fellow believers with whom I shared dinner and ponderings last night on a deck in my old almost-hood where we admired the orange half moon coming up over the neogothic tower of St. Stephen's and the heat lightning flashing to the north, the fellow geeks and punks and miscreants of various stripes who keep life interesting and beautiful and the melancholia at bay.

The other night, me and one of my compadres hung out and saw that Wong Kar Wai movie about Bruce Lee's teacher that I enjoyed a lot and knew nothing about beforehand. I have a huge soft spot for kung-fu flicks as it is, but I wasn't expecting something so beautifully shot and kind artsy with a lot of story. Evidently customers at the multi-plex get really upset about subtitled films and the ticket guy kept asking us if we were sure that it didn't bother us. Of course it didn't, it was enjoyable, beautiful, and kind of romantic (this sent us into giggles at first), and having the air conditioning for a couple of hours on the hottest September day in years was super nice.
It was cooler and dark, but still balmy when we left and took the long way back to the west side listening to Sleater-Kinney and I cooked dinner this time, goodness from the garden stewed and poured over couscous. Some of the plants have started dying on the porch, partly from my neglect and also the pending end of the season, and I know these golden days are drawing to a close, but that autumn, with its cool breezes, fragrant leaves, and dark nights for art-making, and winter for walking along the frozen beach and skiiing through the metroparks will be welcome things.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

words, words and expressions, all these confessions of where we stand....

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. 

There is plenty to do, for each one of us, working on our own hearts, changing our own attitudes, in our own neighborhoods. If the just man falls seven times daily, we each one of us fall more than that in thought, word and deed. Prayer and fasting, taking up our own cross daily and following Him, doing penance, these are the hard words of the Gospel. - Dorothy Day

 I find I read the Psalms and Dorothy Day more and more, seeking a measured response to what I see around me, the fear of the Other abroad, the fear of the Other at home.

There were two instances of gay-bashing that happened at a bar around the corner from me. It's in a sketchy neighborhood, and the men there aren't the most tough so I'm not terribly surprised, but it still grieves me. A group of young black kids were the ones who perpetrated this, so I see the outrage in comments sections and the neighborhood association's facebook page and it makes me cringe. These folks who said they'd never shoot Trayvon Martin and what a crazy cracker that Zimmerman guy was are the same ones threatening to go vigilante on those "thugs" in their neighborhood and have developed the same suspicion that they abhor in those down south. Is it wrong of me to observe that those marginalized by their sexuality are the ones who have the most bile towards those of a different skin color?

When your neighbors start freaking out because a young black man walks a pit bull down their street because he might be casing the neighborhood we have a problem. When your neighbors are freaking about the guy who rides a motorcycle, we have a problem. When you wonder if your best guy friend who is black is going to have trouble with the neighbors if he moves in upstairs, we have a problem.When your neighbors are disturbed that black teenagers are hanging out at the playground and have the potty mouths we all have, we have a problem.

Also, I should note here, that I live in Cleveland proper. Not the suburbs, not the exurbs. Cleveland. Statistically, you're more likely to have neighbors of African American descent than other places so I don't understand what's so shocking about this though I get the feeling sometimes that the new urbanists want things to be just as crackerific as the milquetoast neighborhoods they left behind, just with less Applebees and more brewpubs. Dudes who are creepy in general bother me, but that cuts across all demographics and is a different thing entirely.

When 9/11 happened, I was a senior in high school living in a suburb with a relatively high population of Arab immigrants. A guy crashed his car into the local mosque. The kids at my high school with last names like Hasan and Abdallah got a lot of grief, even though most of them were Christian and went to the Coptic church nearby or the Maronite church downtown. My dad delivered to the corner stores owned by their parents. It really disconcerts me to see the way that they're now profiled and viewed with suspicion, to the point where certain friends of mine disliked using their last names for fear of the social repercussions despite having no religious affiliations whatsoever.

I feel like it's the same toxic fortress mentality that pervades all of these interactions and I hate it so much. I can't even express how much I hate it that we the people are so ugly and find it so hard to even be decent to our neighbors let alone love them.

“We do not know, we do not know. We shall live from day to day, and put more locks on the doors, and get a fine fierce dog when the fine fierce bitch next door has pups, and hold on to our handbags more tenaciously; and the beauty of the trees by night, and the raptures of lovers under the stars, these things we shall forego. We shall forego the coming home drunken through the midnight streets, and the evening walk over the star-lit veld. We shall be careful, and knock this off our lives, and knock that off our lives, and hedge ourselves about with safety and precaution. 

And our lives will shrink, but they shall be the lives of superior beings; and we shall live with fear, but at least it will not be a fear of the unknown. And the conscience shall be thrust down; the light of life shall not be extinguished, but be put under a bushel, to be preserved for a generation that will live by it again, in some day not yet come; and how it will come, and when it will come, we shall not think about at all.”

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

some strange music drags me in...

I haven't felt this shy in awhile, and the prevalence of social media and the lack of structures and what sometimes feels like a lopsided communication means I hope I don't seem weird, though I wonder if that's inevitable and if like everything I overthink it, leaving me somewhere between flailing movement and inertia.

once upon a time

Way back in the day, I was taking an AP history test junior year at the other high school and saw a girl wearing purple converse all-stars and had an instinctive feeling for some reason that I wanted to be her friend. A year later, we are seniors taking community college classes and learn that we have mutual friends from the punk-metal-hardcore contingent in our hometown. I was an elitist jerk about music back then and probably could have torpedoed anything right then and there but we ended up working at the zoo together for a summer, bonding over literature and rock and roll and a similar enjoyment of humanity's foibles.

We had long long-distance conversations, and long late night drives around the city that have already been chronicled. I enjoyed her so much that I introduced her to my friends, and she got close to them too. My friend who played in pop punk bands who came out later on (and probably broke many a punk rock girl's heart if the anecdotal evidence is to be believed), my roommate, a guy I knew who turned out to be a huge huge creep (the only time I've ever wanted to inflict serious harm on another human was some things he did).

In 2005, a bunch of us went to see some punk rock together, she met the guy she married this past Saturday there for the first time, though he has no memory of this. A few years later they met again, and the sparks kindled, and it was kind of crazy to be there to celebrate with her family and my old crew of friends from the Kent days, seeing where we all are now, in various stages of employment and love lives, less scruffy than we once were, more confident than we once were. 

My roommate was in her wedding party, the park was beautiful, the music good, no one made me dance. We talked and ate and set off those floaty glowy balloons, and then I sipped cheap beer on the patio of the punk rock bar with my homie who's now in Chicago until I just got too tired and had little to contribute as it was by that time. I don't find weddings stressful anymore, I celebrate them like birthdays and with ones like these, there's ample time to laugh.

Monday, September 2, 2013

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons

The second night in a short while, of staying in another's house with another's pets, a neighborhood to the south of where I live, this holiday weekend is drawing to a close. I saw family and hung out with friends, talked about books and made faces with the nephew and laughed and for all that is wrong with the world, his smile is so beautiful and his baby dinosaur laughter so amazing that I can forget sometimes.

There were so many beautiful interactions, and I got so little sleep, with all the midnight dinner, the drinking of coffee and fitful tossing on the couch as the cats ran around, the 4am conversations verging on the beautiful incoherent, knowing that there are no obligations to wake up to for a change. Because there are new friendships being forged, that I hope will lead to future adventures, of more late nights and explorations.

I wonder if it's weird that I get such visceral pleasure out of these interactions, of hanging out and having it feel so simple, of meals shared and cups of coffee drank, of conversations of compassion rather than overcompensation, of not having to try too hard and just exist in these crystallized moments that now at least are so free from complication.