A Review of The 10 Albums Stolen From My Studio in 2016

15242017_1323392491044751_4871179563205436913_nA Review of The 10 Albums Stolen From My Studio in 2016

At about 8 PM on Christmas Day 2016, my home was broken into.  My wife, cat and I were with family at the time, and most of the neighbors were, too.  Even worse, we were in the process of moving.  For a number of reasons that defy logic and explanation, we moved mostly on Christmas Eve.  We had left some things to move after Christmas, and thought that we could leave our house unattended until we were done celebrating.  But when we arrived at our old house on the 26th, we found that everything that wasn’t nailed down had been ransacked and overturned, while anything of actual value was loaded into a truck and moved.

Who would be suspicious?  We were doing just that the day before.

To make matters worse, both my wife and I had offices in the old house.  We were planning to continue working out of there until we had Internet service at our new place, which wouldn’t be connected until January 4th.  This means that in addition to our bicycles and lawnmower, they got our laptops, my desktop and studio recording gear, my wife’s collection of purses and her winter coat, and a stack of the last records I had not moved yet.  In total, it was about $6000 worth of stuff that was stolen.  Someone’s Christmas present to themselves, probably snorted  before the week was out.

One of the hardest things to do (at first) was come to terms with what was stolen.  It was hard to remember, at first.  With each new corner turned, we found something else that was gone, something else that they took.  And we still haven’t unpacked from the move.  Who knows what else we’ll find missing, when all is said and done, when we can no longer use that as an excuse.  How do you look for things that are missing?  How do you notice what isn’t there?

While we are not quite over what had happened, the immediate shock has faded.  And we’ve come to accept what is gone, in a way.  But when I think about what we lost, the thing that is most frustrating is the pile of records they stole.  It was an assortment of recently heard and recently acquired stuff, plus a few things that had not been filed when it came time to pack.  I had less than 20 records in that pile, maybe more, maybe less.  I was gonna use some for my radio show, but on the whole it was just stuff I was looking forward to, things on my mind just before the break-in.

This isn’t a complete list, nor is it the most valuable or the most precious.  These are just the things I remember that were in that pile, and stuff I wish I still had.  Much of this stuff came from Dimple Records, a place I visited just before we began to pack.  (Thanks Dad & Mernie!)  It seems important to Eulogize these albums.  It’s likely they never found a home, never got sold, and wound up in some dumpster somewhere.  They deserve a proper burial, a goodbye to music that will go unappreciated.

r-1714176-1371418561-6500-jpeg10.) Mink Deville & Coup de Grâce.

I really only knew “Spanish Stroll” by Mink DeVille, but for a steal, I decided to check them out.  My wife and I listened to these, and we actually enjoyed them a lot.  I was really looking forward to enjoying them, too.  Now some junky probably threw them away when it turned out that they weren’t particularly valuable.

r-3051333-1330157378-jpeg9.) The Essential Odetta

I picked this up based mostly on her reputation.  Odetta is a legend, and while I wasn’t familiar, I was looking forward to learning more.  This is probably typical for her career.  Overlooked and ignored, Odetta is tossed around by people who could not care, and when in the hands of a fan, is never given a chance to be appreciated.  Poor Odetta.  You didn’t deserve this, at all.

r-9410906-1480127249-9701-jpeg8.) Strung Out In Heaven – Amanda Palmer’s Prince / David Bowie Covers

Here’s the real tragedy: we had gone to the record store day sale, not only to get some stuff for me, but for my wife.  She specifically wanted this, and we got it, excited to support the cause, and hear the tracks that were getting a lot of play because of the recent losses to the music world.  These assholes don’t realize how much the music world is suffering.  Instead, they want a quick score, and even though I can hear this album anywhere online at any time, that is not the point.  This one was completely unopened.  Pristine.  And now, completely destroyed, ruined by nameless assholes who will never care.

r-426453-1345758734-2982-jpeg7.) Negativland

In the year 2000 I heard that my favorite band – Negativland – was running low on vinyl copies of their albums, and that they would be selling CDs after the LPs sold out.  I immediately ordered a copy of their first album, and got a nice hand-written letter back.  The album came with a custom made cover, a collage assembled by the band members.  I ordered another, but by then the LPs were gone, and got CDs for their remaining albums.  I loved that album, and listened to it often.  It sounds good anywhere, anytime, and I just wish the junkies had taken the time to listen, and get to know the album.  It is well worth it, no matter what your interests are.

r-2786259-1300986342-jpeg6.) The History of Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys

Bob Wills is great, but there isn’t anything special about this record.  It is older than me, and it has a lot of hits.  But I love it mostly because it belonged to my Grandmother, who has passed.  You will never love that album as much as I loved her.  What dicks.

r-4963807-1456357193-3964-jpeg5.) The Popeye Soundtrack

I already have an original copy of this record, but I decided to pick up the Record Store Day reissue because there is no other movie that can make me cry faster than Popeye, and the soundtrack is no exception.  I’m not as mad about this, because I’m sure even the bonus tracks are easy enough to find.  But this was unopened.  And, to be honest, this is probably the most personal attack of the bunch.  You don’t care about these songs like I do, like my family does.  How dare you.  That record is too good to be treated like that.

r-2104259-1397069851-4880-jpeg4.) Cast Your Fate To The Wind by The Vince Guaraldi Trio

I’m trying to imagine these junkies putting this album on.  Do they know who Vince Guaraldi is?  Could they connect with the music of Black Orpheus?  What would they get out of it?  Would they enjoy it?  Do they understand the journey into the underworld that they have taken?  Would I have enjoyed this album?  Do I enjoy the irony?  Who can say…

r-725536-1363189912-8068-jpeg3.) You Broke My Heart In 17 Places by Tracey Ulman.

They probably broke this album in 17 pieces.

r-5351726-1447962608-6617-png2.) 1947 – Helen Hume

I took a chance on this record because of the price and because it seemed like a good bet that it was good.  And it probably is, but that’s not the point.  I had entirely forgotten I’d bought this album until I saw a picture of it that I’d taken, just after I purchased it.  Part of me feels bad; I didn’t even remember that it was gone.  That’s awful of me.  How many albums do I have that I neglect in some way, that needs attention that I can’t even remember?  The dangers of collecting?  Perhaps.  But I would have at least given this album a chance.  And they never would have.

r-3385142-1328338335-jpeg1.) 2 by Neung Phak

Probably the rarest and least-known of the bunch, this is most likely out of print, and not something you would find in Salem, at least not very easily.  I bought this record from Mark Gergis, when I saw his band Porest play in Portland.  This was one of two US performances for this artist, and I traveled out of town with a friend at night to see this show.  Mark, who had never met me, was really nice, and had no idea how much this night meant to me, had no idea how much I was looking forward to hearing this album.  He didn’t have to be nice to me.  Who was I to him?  And yet, I never got to hear this album before it was ripped off.  Mark, who heard about this, send me a digital copy, and for that I am eternally thankful.  But what did they see in this album?  In any of these albums, for that matter?

* * * * * *

There were more.  There will be more.  Forever this event will haunt me.  Every sound is a window breaking, every movement someone stealing our stuff.  Who knows if this will go away?  Who knows if I will get over these being stolen from me.  I can only say that there is a part of me that wishes they would listen.  That they sat down, and by the end, found something meaningful in those albums.

Because I sure did.

 

This Year, Give The Gift of Podcasts

ValentineRadioEmittingHeartsI am reminded of a comment made about (or, possibly, by?) Sarah Vowel, on the subject of They Might Be Giants, and how they had such a vast back catalog that there was a song for every occasion, that could be used in any episode of This American Life.  I’m sure, at this point, I’ve mangled the memory so badly that I’m quite a ways off my mark, but suffice it to say I often feel that there is a similar relationship to holidays and my own radio output.  Over what has almost been 20 years I’ve been on the radio a lot, and sooner or later, I will come across a situation where we have an appropriate show for this time of year.  And, for Valentine’s Day, this is no exception.

If you subscribe to our VD Feed – you’ll have to manually paste this one into your podcatcher of choice – you can check out a slew of old Valentine’s Days shows, going back to 2006.  This includes a handful of What’s This Called? episodes, and all of the old Blasphuphmus Radio holiday jams, too.  This will give you a chance to listen back to all the romantic radio you can fill your device with, and woo the radio nerd of your choosing.

In these fast paced times, you might be asking for a recommendation, on the off chance that you only have time for a small slice of the many offerings available.  If that is the case, then I would recommend that you pick either one of the two shows I have selected below, depending on your interests:

1.) The Future of Love.  In this Sci-Fi audio essay, I explore the story of Lulu, a spaceship that has some designs on one of the occupants of its very own hull.  This is largely built around an episode of the X-Minus One radio program from the 1950s, and some other experimental / jazz music that speaks to the theme of the show.

2.) Isosceles Diego’s Valentine’s Day Special.  In this episode from 2007, my old roommate Isosceles Diego – who first guested on the show in 1998 – drops by the show to deliver his favorite songs from around the world to help put us int he holiday spirit.  There is a lot of really great music by artists that you’ve probably never heard before – save for the brief excursion into ’90’s Olympia Indie Rock – and a ton of Eastern Block Rock.

There’s other great shows mixed in with those links, and I do suggest that you check them out.  While I never really enjoyed Valentine’s Day the way other’s have, I did some pretty decent radio here and there, and that is something of which I am proud.  Hopefully you can dig it, too.

Enjoy!

Metatextual Reflections On A Life Spent Creating Metatexual Reflections

Cartoons

imgres-1Most likely this interest stems from the well known (and well loved) Chuck Jones cartoon, Duck Amuck, where it becomes very clear as the cartoon progresses (spoilers for people who haven’t seen a cartoon from 1953) that Daffy is being tortured by the artist illustrating his cartoon.  The antagonistic relationship continues until the very end, where it is finally revealed that the cartoonist is none other than… (spoilers for the spoilers)… Bugs Bunny himself.  (An almost Lost-ian ending, if I ever saw one.)

This cartoon was so unlike anything else I had seen as a child that I couldn’t believe it, and I tried to imagine some huge force outside of me that was dictating the world in which I lived, changing it on me randomly.  (As a child raised by what you could ostensibly call atheist parents, I had no idea that most people were living in a world where this was true for them.)  And while Chuck Jones might have introduced me to this world, when I sat down to study the animated oeuvre every Saturday, I started to realize that there were other guys who tackled similar subjects, but in other ways.

porky in wackylandBob Clampett‘s Porky In Wackyland is a tour de force of animated spectacle, with plenty of moments where the characters are just crazy enough to address the audience (a schtick he would deploy as needed in many of his cartoons).  Tex Avery was also very good at throwing in gags that revealed the cartoon was being played in a theater where characters from the audience would stand up to offer advice or help.  Avery loved to break other aspects of the fourth wall whenever he could, and used these gags as much as any other.  As an avid cartoon fan, there were no other shows that did anything like this, and part of the genius of the Warner Bros. animated world was that, unlike Disney or other production companies, there was a manic insanity that was shared by the creators and the audience that you did not get from, say, a Pluto cartoon.  (As cute and inoffensive as they might have been.)

Over the years I have come to realize that the golden era of Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies were head and shoulder’s above the competition, and Happy Harmonies, Color Rhapsodies and even Disney’s own Silly Symphony’s could compete with the overall form of the Warner Bros. work.  The insanity and the brilliance of their shorts so completely synthesized “cartoon” as a visual format, and their sense of satire and caricature was leaps and bounds above the others.  And I largely point to their sense of metatext – of being able to jarringly draw attention to the artifice of the work at hand – that made them far superior.  They made jokes with tongue planted and cemented into cheek, and they felt that their own medium not only set them apart, but could be exploited to take audiences into places that other animation studios just couldn’t be bothered to visit.

 

Comics

It isn’t that I believed a child of the ’80’s could have been the first person to consider the meta-textual qualities of the media around him, and certainly I would have been a fool to consider that this kind of interplay didn’t exist in other mediums, either.  But I was shocked when I would mention that it was these moments that I longed for, it was the instant Yosemite Sam turned to me and made a comment that took us both out of the story for a second, that I thought were the funniest moments.  I didn’t have a name for it then, and most of my friends and family seemed to thing those scenes were usually boring.  (This is like when you meet people who don’t like Holodeck episodes of Star Trek: TNG, or who found the mythology episodes of X-Files to be boring.)

The underlying idea that the artist and the audience could wink at each other and share a joke or a moment between only the two of them was very clearly a powerful tool, considering how much it affected me as a kid.  Seeing the edges and peering through the reality that seeped through was always my favorite part of anything I saw around me, and it began to be the way in which I would look at TV and film, too.  But I also noticed how it did not seem to have the same kind of effect of other.  When most people were confronted with a meta-joke, they frown and shake their head.  It just isn’t for them, no matter how funny the joke might be.

Ambush_Bug_3When I discovered comics as a teen, I was immediately attracted to the “funnier” and more comedy-inflected writing styles that was big business in the late ’80’s.  DC was having a field day with style, largely influenced by Keith Giffen and his series, Ambush Bug.  A lead character that is aware he is in the DC Universe, and plays with dead (or forgotten) bits of continuity that blew my mind as a 13 years old kid, (who, at the time, hadn’t been lucky enough to find Steve Gerber‘s work yet, who Giffen seems influenced by).  Again, I seemed to be in the minority, but I would scan the racks at comics stores, looking for something that scratched that itch at a time when most comics had gotten very dark and “serious.”  This led me to finding Giffen’s run on Justice League, which is not only one of the funniest comics produced in the late ’80’s / early ’90’s, but to this day stands as a source for much of my sense of humor, if not references and jokes that no one else around me seems to get.

250px-BlastersdcuAnd then, there was The Blasters.  Where do you even begin with trying to tell that backstory?  In the late ’80’s, Giffen had been given a number of books to work on as one of DC’s rising stars, and with his Justice League book a hit, he was allowed to expand his influence to a number of titles.  This also led to him getting to write 1989’s annual all-company cross-over Invasion!  Giffen used this end product as a way to cause his various Sci-Fi / outer space story lines hinted at in Omega Men, Justice League International, and Legion of Super-Heroes to converge in this company-wide event.  DC’s goal (like it is for any event like this) was to launch some new titles, shake up some old titles, clean house elsewhere in the universe, and move some of the action that is usually contained entirely on Earth into outer space, thus opening up the DC Universe so that the word “universe” was actually on point these days.  This was Giffen’s attempt to not only ape Marvel’s Cosmic titles that were doing very well over there (with stuff like Guardians of The Galaxy and Silver Surfer selling like gangbusters), but to try and do a modern version of Kirby’s Fourth World books from the ’70’s.

It also helped that in the old Justice League comics, there was a tendency to have to fight off an alien menace every other issue, and the one thing that “dark” and “modern” comics of the late ’80’s had been lacking was a good alien invasion.  And with any good war story, you needed a band of mercenaries.  To this end, Giffen organized a group of new and old characters to work as the catalyst for the Invasion! storyline.  This group was loosely known as The Blasters for an actually terrifying reason (their powers all emerged when aliens lined them up and fired upon them, scaring the team senseless and causing their metagenes to activate).

In the wake of the Invasion! series, DC took chances on several new titles, one of which was a one-shot featuring this new team, to see if it might be a book they could add to their publishing roster.  Being a Giffen property not only meant that the book had to be funny, but helmed by someone who got Giffen’s take on comics.  He not only picked the team to write and draw it (Peter David and James Fry), but set the tone for the book with the comedy and meta-text that followed his particular interests.  It also so happened that Peter and James like to produce the same kind of stuff, too.

Since almost none of you have even heard of this title, I’ll spoil everything now and save you the trouble of Lycos-ing or tracking down this story: there has been only one Blasters comic book published since 1989, a special release in the Spring of that year (that was panned by critics and very quickly forgotten).  The story, typical of Peter David’s writing, is a mish-mash of Sci-Fi references (largely from Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy… yes, vogons appear in this comic), and meta-textual references and gags where the captions for the book are destroyed and flown through by various space ships.  (The lead character, Snapper Carr – have fun with that particular comics k-hole – finds out what to do next in the story by glancing at the panels that are ahead of him.)  If I haven’t done a good enough job of describing what The Blasters is like to read, just imagine something that was written for nerds, and narrow the focus so incredibly that within their own ranks, only a small sub-set will find it up their alley.  No matter how much I raved, and no matter who I loaned that book to, it always came back, largely unread, with a comment like, “I tried, but it just isn’t my thing.”

 

Film

I have often wondered why I heard this phrase so often when I tried to get at my interest in this subject.  “It just isn’t my thing.”  It seemed like such a ripe area for reflection and narrative complexity to my young mind, and yet it was the element in every story I read that others seemed to skip over.  The thing I learned from Warner Bros. cartoons growing up is that, unlike most schlock that is played straight and is absolutely saccharine with predicability and well-worn stories – ahem, Disney, coff coff – you can often get bigger reactions from something if it is unlike everything else around it.  Even at a young age, television brought home the idea that there are basically two kinds of stories, and they are each the reverse side of the other.  (Summarizing Jorge Borges, one is “A stranger came to town,” and the other, “Someone went off on a long journey.”)  Repetition absolutely bred familiarity with me, and the welcome intrusion of characters and references that pointed to the artificiality of this repetition became the attractive element that I looked for in art and culture.

220px-SpaceballsLet me pause my own story a brief moment to say a few words about Spaceballs, a film that spent many years on my list of favorite movies, and my very favorite by Mel Brooks (until I became more familiar with his other work as a teen and twenty-something years later).  While all of his films use metatext as a platform to layer joke after joke (see, for instance, the last third of Blazing Saddles), Spaceballs was very close to home for me.  I loved sci-fi (and Star Wars, of course), I loved comedy, and they had packaged both with a huge swath of self-awareness that I had not seen in a film before.  This movie had my sense of humor written all over it, so much so that there is a sort of chicken-or-the-egg quality regarding which came first.  If you had to distill an aspect of that film that moved me, pulled me aside and said, “kid, this is for you,” then I would have to point to Rick Moranis turning to the camera asking if, “Everybody got that?”  It went so directly to the core of my being as a kid that it still works on me, even as an adult, and I am sure I quote this movie accidentally without realizing I am.  It is possible, if one were so inclined, to make a Bowfinger-style recreation of Spaceballs without my knowledge, provided you followed me around long enough and waited for the appropriate scenes to play out.

As I got older and discovered a love of writing, my stories became full of characters that were my own in-narrative proxys.  (A Grant Morrison kind of move before I even knew who he was.  In fact, reading The Invisibles was painful for me only because periodically I would yell out, “That was my idea!” a problem that would recur when I started watching Lost.)  As my big literary influence in those days were comics, and to another degree the DC Heroes Roleplaying Game that I’d gotten for Christmas one year, most of my early writing is littered with a thinly-veiled versions of myself in some sort of elaborate conceit or costume that made me into a superhero.  I am fortunate enough that most of this material is still in either a hand-written form, or on typing paper (predating my first computer), and therefore I can’t share these stories with you as easily.  (You’re welcome.)  Suffice it to say, my Hitchcockian cameos in my own text began very early, and has continued ever since.

 

‘Zines

imagesMy first foray into my own fiction began with a story I wrote in High School, and was serialized in my zine A.C.R.O.N.Y.M., which was made and distributed between 1994 and 1995.  In issue #2, the first installment of naaaaaahhhhghahahhk!!!!!!!! (oR, tHE rEALLY wEIRD sTORY tHAT i cAN’T rEMEMBER wHAT tHE tITLE iS) sees print, and I wish I could say nicer things about it considering I know the author fairly well.  I made the decision to typeset the entire thing in what I called the “fIREHOSE” format, which made the story largely unreadable to most people save for myself and those with the highest constitutions when it comes to textual form.

The idea itself was fairly bland: I had written the story my neighbors appeared in, but they find out, get worried, and I have to stop them from learning more, and eventually give up and crumple the story, destroying their universe.  Corny, yes, but it illustrates where my mind was in High School.  Super heroes appear in this story, and I fight them, even.  Most of the writing groups I would attend in the early days had people hashing out their fantasy novels, creating cryptic and impenetrable poetry, or just wanted to turn their journals into creative prose so we could all experience their pain.  I was looking to do something that was sort of in-between all of these things, and would read stories like naaaaaahhhhghahahhk!!!!!!!! to puzzled audiences who didn’t know what to think.

ibtfa-3-coverWhen I settled into Eugene properly after High School, and started to immerse myself in the ’90s culture that surrounded us, I became the center of my own writing again.  Between 1996 and 2005, I wrote a ‘zine called I’d Buy That For A Dollar.  While this occasionally contained fiction, the bulk of it was an outlet for my incredibly solipsistic and emo ponderings, where I made my best efforts to made sense of life as a lonely young man.  While I will cop to have written it all – even the awful bits – with hindsight it is not only unseemly at times, but as my friend Cheryl once said to me, “this is a little too revealing.”

I don’t regret it, because it was so much a part of my psyche at the time that I needed to get that out of my head, even if it wasn’t exactly helping.  When I read it back, I don’t know if I feel the same way about the events this person was writing about, even though I am sure we are the same person.  Of course, it is easy to say that when almost 20 years separates the earliest issues from now, but I think I let my own misery drive my creative impulses a little too much then, and with hindsight, I wish I had let other motivations steer me toward other material.

tumblr_m599ccaUEa1rokdd5But even this reflectiveness was being shaped and molded by metatext.  My roommate at the time, a tall linguist we called Sierra, introduced me to Flann O’Brien, an author who plays with the boundaries between literature and reality for fun and sport, in both his novels and his newspaper columns (which blur the line between journalism and fiction).  Discovering Fight Club and Charlie Kaufman movies at this time did me no end of good when it came to plumbing the depths of this well.  The Princess Bride was an obsession that started harmlessly enough when I saw it, but led to multiple re-readings and viewings where the genius therein was full revealed.  And, let’s no forget re-reading Endgame over and over, which eventually led to a nice and comfortable interest in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, a film that not only rewards with multiple viewings, but might be the funniest thing that has ever been written.

While I’d Buy That For A Dollar was far from metatext in intent, it became an ongoing story about my own life, and one that I recognized less and less as the years went on and I started changing and evolving, personally.  Having been steeped in this world of reality and fiction blurring, my reality now read like fiction to me, not because the events hadn’t happened, but the lens through which I was seeing those same events was filtering for something entirely different.  Already, even in offering context for this interest of mine, I have to relate to my own life and past through the narrative text I wrote, a breadcrumb trail that offers clues as to what was happening when, and where I have been, but in a form that seemed strange and unfamiliar to the adult I had become.  Around 2005-ish this kind of personal writing migrated entirely to this blog – the one you’re reading now.  I had been a character in this printed story that now seemed foreign and made up, and if my own life was going to sound that way anyway, then I should probably become comfortable with just making things up from the start in the first place.

imgres-2It isn’t that my life changed or that things shifted dramatically in 2005.  I was going to college, yes, and outside of radio and writing fiction, my only other interest at the time was girls.  But something more subtle was going on that only made sense to me years later.  The “me” that I had been writing about for my whole life was gone.  I was an adult, interested in different things, talking about life in a different way, and looking for something that I could get excited about that wasn’t informed by my childhood.  In many ways, I had become a Sci-Fi trope, where I was living in the body of someone else, a body that carried memories of someone that seemed familiar to me, but also seemed unrelated to the life that I was living now.  The 30 year old I found myself being then was not only confused by the life I had led before, but it felt like a life I would have lived differently, had I known how most of it would turn out.

It was around 2005 that I started writing fiction again, much more of it than I had before.  Short stories, yes, and very inspired by Borges and Calvino and Brautigan and Flann O’Brien, and some other material I’d absorbed through being on a college campus and having access to the larger world of ideas.  And yet, in nearly all of these I insisted in making myself a character in the narrative, a gimmick that my influences were all very good at, true.  But for me it seemed motivated by a different impulse.  Since I had written the truth and it felt like fiction, inserting myself into fiction felt like a new way and defining truth for myself.  Why did I see this other life as someone else’s, when it was clearly my own?  Perhaps, if I wrote about another version of it enough, I could crack some of these puzzles that no amount of booze or girls or writing about it seemed to allow me to do.

naked-trees1Most of my work since 2005 has been centered around amplifying the idea that I could live comfortably within the stories that I write.  And, to be fair, these fictions have been quite enjoyable to try on and waltz around within.  I made a 2008 collection of these stories, Naked Trees Point To The North Star, and to this day, it remains the best collection of my written work that I have been able to get in print, and has re-defined who I was, both to myself and to the people who read it.  The idea had been gestating since those earliest days at PSU: DIY publications and ‘zines are the perfect form to create experimental pieces of prose, and I envisioned that Naked Trees would look and feel like a ‘zine, would have a personal / journal-like quality at times, but the entirety of the package was a work of fiction, written and made by a version of myself that is almost, but not at all remotely, like the me that had been writing previously.

The reaction to this was, of course, mixed.  Meta is just not for everyone, and while I felt that these stories really got at the heart of struggles that I was going through, I had a hard time talking about the work with anyone else, without resorting to the worst quality in every writer, making the statement, “So, did you ‘get it’?”  While it remains the best written work I have produced in any format to date, and I have come to terms with how, in spite of my best efforts, it is more journalistic than fictional, in that it marked a serious shift in my own view of the universe.  It was clear that once I imbued my text with any amount of reality from my world, the reality itself seemed further and further from the truth.  After publishing that collection all I had left of my former live was this written collection and half-trusted memories to guide me.  Something was about to give.

 

Reality

spaceballs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It isn’t that I decided to make my life reflect these vague and perplexing Sci-Fi and Fantasy tropes to add some spice or flavor to my own experiences.  In observing my own interactions with the world – and the interactions of others – it is clear to me that you cannot capture the complexity of this existence, and the strangeness of the mundane, in anything but fantastic language and conceptual thinking.  Is it possible to illustrate these kinds of experiences if you haven’t been through them yourself?  You’re sharing some wine with some friends, and you’re quickly gobbling every snack you can, because of the night ahead of you.

Gathering everything you can imagine needing, you trundle en mass, passing fellow travelers and enemies, until you arrive at the bar.  There is music and magic and libido and peacocking and every manner of horror and excitement on display, charging you, filling you with magic until you are casting conversational spells in every direction.  You are filled with an experience you can barely explain, as your friends are performing and watching and drinking and fucking and exploring all manner of joy and pain in one dramatic and perplexing night.  And, exhausted, wasted, with a kiss on your cheek and a song in your heart, you perform your last few tricks, produce a cigarette from somewhere, and zig zag through the alleys, to find yourself at home, the next day, perplexed and confused, but itching to do it all over again.

Is that not some sort of fantasy, full of the kind of strangeness and confusion that the best fiction fills us with as we turn pages?  At what point does our own life contain a kind of importance that we choose to add it to the cannon, so we can romp through uncharted waters side-by-side with Odysseus?  Are we all content to wallow in the banality of brushing our teeth and making lunch?

coverThree things happened in 2010 that had a huge effect on me.  First, I finished college, a banality that I had put off for too long, and was only causing me to spin my tires and was getting in the way of my next phase in life.  I moved in with a friend of mine (second thing), and when all of that was said and done, I had an experience that is difficult to explain, which I attempted to document in 2013’s acronyminc.blogpress.new.

Essentially, I lost 10 years of my life, and in processing that event, realized that not only was I living in a future that made little sense to me, but that the memories I did have were absolutely those of someone else I no longer connected with.  It wasn’t exactly a sudden experience, and it didn’t come on over-night.  But the span of time between the Millennium turning over and my own academic leveling-up had become dreamlike, and waking up on the other side of it created a world for me that was now actually full of technology and behavior that was ten years ahead of who I felt I was.  Without intending to, the world around me began to fully resemble something straight out of my own fiction, and now I was the character who was just enough aware to question what kind of Duck Amok world of which I was now a part.

The best part about living within your own fiction is that, on the whole, things tend to work out okay.  In spite of being a temporal mess, covered in magic and confusion, I managed to meet someone who has become so central to my own life, and we have found a place we can call our own.  My efforts to capture this reality I’ve been inhabiting and communicate it to others has become a steady routine, a rhythm that I can count on to keep me focused and aware of what may lie ahead.  And you get to enjoy these efforts, too, which is no small thing, I imagine.  And usually, the hardships we face are handled together, so that neither of us has to take on too much of the burden this world presents us with.

But this doesn’t ease the strangeness we encounter every day.  We look at TV, and it barely resembles the things we remember knowing.  These computers in our pockets are straight out of a novel I read as a kid, and the social changes our world has gone through not only seem unreal, but were absolutely unobtainable when I was a child.  (Open homosexuality?  Gluten free restaurants?  Reality TV Politics?  Legal weed?)

For better or for worse, this world reads as more fictional than anything I can have come up with, at any time in my life, and for that alone I will continue to define the borders of this made-up universe, flesh out the parts that I can see and understand, and hope that when I hand it over to you, trembling, nervous, that the things I see are like what John Nada’s sunglasses reveal, that, hopefully, you can look at it, take it for what it is, and remember that this can’t be any crazier than the religious world most everyone else lives in, too.

The only difference is: I know I made this one up, and I’m absolutely willing to admit it.

Piercings

IMG_4069If you look carefully, you can see the scars where my ears used to be pierced.  At one point, I had metal jammed through my conch and parts of my lobes, and the scar from the hole in my tongue is still there, though I doubt I could get a barbell through it anymore.  While I was happy to shove metal into my face as a younger man, when I stumbled upon these piercings the other day I almost didn’t recognize them.  I was never very good at being a pierced member of society, and the ones that I paid for seem like poor choices now, considering how little money I had back then.  While it certainly hasn’t disappeared from the world as a whole, it is clear with hindsight that I got caught up in the piercing craze of the ’90’s.  The fact that I don’t have saggy earlobes and tribal scarring on my arms is a testament to how much of a temporary dalliance it actually was for me.

Growing up in the ’80’s was complicated for everyone in a number of ways, but by the time I was in school one topic that came up often was that of piercings.  Nearly all women were expected to have tasteful piercings of one kind or another, and there is often a rite of passage that young girls go through with their mothers when they are old enough.  I remember my mom taking my sister to the mall, who returned in pain and with new holes in both of her ears.  I was older than my sister by five years, and while it had never occurred to me that I wanted my ears pierced in a similar fashion, once I saw my peers all wearing them, I wanted it too.

However, once I made a comment about this out loud, the trouble started.  “Boys don’t get their ears pierced,” I was told by my family, but I knew that this wasn’t true.  I had seen men on TV and in public wearing piercings, and as much as I knew that men could do it, the subtext of the conversation was two-fold then: wanting pierced ears made me gay, and my parents would have nothing to do with it regardless.

It wasn’t until I started talking to my friends about it in Jr. High that I started to hear the, “Left ear, buccaneer; right ear, queer,” rhetoric  Prior to this, I had no understanding of sexuality, or even that there was something other than the binary that my parents represented.  All I knew is that I wasn’t yet over reading comics and playing with imaginary friends, and that girls were mysterious and not for me, yet.  But as my friends started to show up to school with a single piercing on the left and budding facial hair in patches, they usually accounted for it with some sort of phrase like, “Left is right, and right is wrong.”  I made a few attempts to ask my parents about this, and the awkward silences and shared glances between them meant that this likely fell into the territory of, “The Talk,” and I wasn’t about to let me dad load me into his truck again so he could drive for hours trying to explain to me something that he was very clearly not entirely comfortable with himself.

I dropped the idea until High School, that time when the venn diagram of self-destruction, boundary pushing and poor impulse control overlap into a fun-filled four-year period where everything sucks.  Not only did I see a slight up-tick in the number of piercings I saw my fellow students – on men, no less – but the more I talked to people about it, I discovered that you didn’t really have to pay someone to do it for you.  A collection of heshers on our campus accidentally taught me that if you sterilized a safety pin (aka, “burned the end with fire”), you could shove it through any fleshy part you liked, and it only hurt for a few days.  I also discovered that, if you do this on your own without telling your mom, she’ll be a little horrified and surprised to see random scraps of metal hanging from you ears.  While I was never asked to take them out, I could tell that this wasn’t exactly the best way to win her over as we became strangers to each other through the sheer act of growing up.

Boredom usually motivates much of what teenagers do, and by the end of High School I had removed all the safety pins, and more or less let them heal over.  It wasn’t until I moved to Eugene, and more importantly met a dude named Ocean at an IHOP one night, that this began to change.

If you were of a certain age range in the ’90’s – and you were not the kind of person who had discovered alcohol as a wonderful way to enjoy your evening – then your destination when the sun went down was the nearest 24 Hour establishment that served coffee.  On any given night, across the country, teens and 20 year olds would wander the streets in packs, looking for a booth to set up camp in and write your crappy poetry, or draw your unpublishable comics, or talk about the bands you would never actually start.  I had several circles of friends that all did this, and one night as we were mocking up stuff for the newest issue of my ‘zine, we ran into Ocean, head to toe in piercings and tattoos, with his girlfriend Yannica, who had both just gotten to Eugene and thought John’s Skinny Puppy shirt meant we should all get to know each other.  This not only inaugurated Ocean into our circle, but when we found out that he’d gotten a job at High Priestess – the first local shop in Eugene entirely dedicated to piercings – this soon became the place that we hung out at when the staff were between clients.

In those days, piercing shops were not at all common, and while you certainly met people covered in them, I was often left to wonder where this stuff was done.  High Priestess was interesting in that it was below a tattoo parlor, and near a convenience store.  A parade of weirdos and like-minded folks came into that building every hour, and hanging out there meant a good chance to meet people you knew, listen to music, and in some cases when the clients were into it, you could watch people get undressed as different parts of their bodies were being lanced.  Between the watching various tattoos and piercings be administered, I saw a fair and steady string of naked men and women.

I ordered the two small hoops in the picture above, and against Ocean’s recommendation, used a safety pin and made a pair of mostly centered holes for them.  One day, while bored and out of clients, gave me a $10 deal on my conch, and I put various items in it over the years.  When I would go shopping for new albums, I usually dropped by so Ocean and I could check them out.  We would regularly gather at the shop to plan our evening afterward, which sometimes involved dropping acid, or getting coffee, or hitting a party as a group.  For a brief period of time, it was the center of our social group.

I had a job that I hated working in a factory at the time, which I got in the wake of being dumped and evicted from the place I was living.  I piled everything into a storage locker and started staying with the aforementioned John, but working 12 hour shifts at night only separated me from my friends further, and made be a little bitter about the way it had all worked out.  In a fit of anger, I walked out during a shift, quit the job, and cashed out every check and pending income I could find.  I made one last stop by High Priestess and asked Ocean to pierce my tongue.  Then I left town for a week to sort things out.

The tongue piercing was legendary among many people I knew, largely because it was supposed to improve your oral sex skills through the aid of this studded implement.  I can’t really speak to that as someone who had the piercing.  What I remember was the pain; it hurt.  And continued to for days.  Eating was a bitch, and as I tried to each noodles the day after I felt betrayed and horrified by the act that I’d been through.  I almost took it out, but let it heal, hating the experience, and when all was said and done, found it to be in the way more than the sexy and alluring accoutrement that I hoped it would be.

As the years wore on, I found it to be in the way more than a bonus to my lifestyle.  It would accidentally clack against my teeth, or would get chomped on by mistake.  Occasionally it would feel a little sore, and the piercing required regular cleaning that I did not account for.  I moved out of John’s place, and eventually moved away from Eugene entirely, and when it had been years, after I’d already removed all the other piercings and decided that was no longer for me, I still had this barbell in my tongue, impressing no one, occasionally causing me pain and getting in the way.

One day I took it out, and set it in a dish near my bed.  And I never put it back in again.

I suffered in the long run.  One of my front teeth on the bottom – where the piercing would regularly “clack” into by accident – is now gone, it causing incredibly paid one day from the damage it sustained over the years.  Instead of the piercing, I get to wear a denture, a fitting end to a bad idea.  I occasionally notice the scars these left behind, like memories from a friend you no longer see, lodged in there, waiting to be found by accident.

But so far, I have yet to want to get pierced again.

Our own past is the most challenging to deal with, because it has so many dead ends and so many unanswered questions.  Like fads and trends, people and things and hobbies and habits move through our lives and disappear one day, and it can take years to notice what happened to they, or where they might have gone.  I don’t think of myself as being pierced, and my own dalliance with the hobby was poorly formed, badly planned, and left me with real scars that I will have for my entire life.  But I also don’t notice that I was one a pierced man either.  The scars are small, barely noticeable, and wouldn’t even be visible if you didn’t know where to look.

Like all lost friends, these parts of the past might slip away like Ocean did, but the impact will last forever.

Sleep, Little One, Sleep

IMG_3965As part of our ongoing effort to perform Spring Cleaning out-of-season, my wife and I have been harassing each other in and effort to open up boxes and look into closets, and reassess our belongings with regard to 2016.  In a box beneath our bed that we had not opened in over a year I found this blanket, and for a brief moment I launched into all the reasons why I should keep it.  However – and I’m very proud of this, I might add – I shook my head, added it to the Goodwill pile, and since then that pile has remained stagnant in our house, waiting for the day when one of us turns to the other and says, “Seriously, we need to take that shit to Goodwill.”

Well, at least it is a start.

Even in High School, I was referred to as a pack rat, and this was brought into sharp relief when I was first thrown out in my Senior Year of High School.  Not only was it impossible for me to move by myself – I had no car, no truck, no friends with a car or truck, no license to drive, and more stuff than I could fit in a single vehicle anyway, even at 18.  While I have had tenures in homes that lasted a decent amount of time – I managed to clock only three years at The Blitzhäus, and kept an apartment in Portland for about the same length of time – between 1993 and 2010, I was never in the same house for very long.  Most of my stuff resided in boxes that I would open periodically, remove or add to it, then close it up to store it somewhere again.  To this day, in spite of being married and living in a house with a full basement and garage, I still have several of these boxes in storage at my old roommate’s house, and why he hasn’t had them all thrown out yet is a testament to our friendship and my own laziness.

Part of the impulse to keep things came from a collector’s mentality.  As a young child, I collected CocaCola paraphernalia, and I still have a few relics from that collection in my toy trunk in the basement.  But once I found comics – a hobby that can have pack-ratted-ness at its core – I started to see the value of keeping things to be read and looked back on later.  This only amplified when I started making ‘zines; almost anything could be potentially photographed, xeroxed, or re-typed for a future issue, and it was easy enough to say, “I’ll use this someday,” toss it into a box, and never look at it again.

How exactly I came into possession of this blanket is a little lost to the ages.  I believe – and I could be very wrong about this – that is was left behind at The Blitzhäus by Captain Morgan, a drinking buddy and carnie who used to make a lot more appearances in our lives, until he fully embraced the carnie life, and hasn’t been seen much since.  The Blitzhäus was a huge four bedroom apartment in Eugene that became our party pad between the beginning of 1997 and the Spring of 2000, located above a fancy bar that closed early and never complained about the filth or noise.  In the time I managed that apartment, nearly 17 people paid rent, and ever more slept on our floors and couches, staying with us for a few days or weeks or months, depending.  The turnover was very high, but the memories were great, and while I would never choose to live in a “punk house” again, I often think fondly of those days.

When I set out to make a life for myself on my own, one of the hardest problems to solve what finding a place to consistently sleep.  I had never slept well, even as a kid, but my late teens were full of meeting friends for coffee, and staying up all night to write, so not only was sleep more and more elusive, but the places I would end up sleeping were becoming more and more random.  At one point I had a twin mattress (nothing else) that I lugged around when I had a place to put it, and then traded up to a futon which I used for a bit longer.  I was gifted two different queen sized mattresses over the years (each of which had seen better days), and then finally, in 2007, I used part of a financial aid check to pick up a bed frame at Ikea.

Blankets and pillows were often a problem.  Being a cheapskate and largely poor, I never even bought used stuff, but would occasionally find myself in positions where I had been gifted this or that.  Between High School and The Blitzhäus, my bedding was always in flux, but once I found this blanket (and, more importantly, the owner no longer seemed interested in it), I took it to the laundromat, cleaned it, brought it home, and used it until I met my wife.  It became the only source of warmth and comfort at night during a period of my life that was at my most lonely.

There is nothing special about this blanket, to be sure.  It is thin, and there isn’t much material within it to insulate you.  It is just big enough to spread over the area of a queen sized mattress, but isn’t really big enough if you would like to cover both you and a guest.  And while I never gave it any thought when it was just the only blanket that I owned, when I see it now, all I can think about is the years that I spent carrying it with me, like some adult version of Linus’ blanket, sometimes the only thing that could keep me warm.

There is no reason for me to keep this; we have a full complement of bedclothes in our house, with extras to spare for when we have guests, and other lap-blankets and warming devices that makes this old and somewhat useless piece of material completely irrelevant.  And it is definitely not valuable.  If it was, indeed, once something that belonged to Captain Morgan, he never wanted it back, and it can’t be any older than the ’90’s in terms of its “vintage.”  And the period of time in which it got the most use was a desolate time, where I was single and miserable, drunk and unhappy about most everything, and would come home from whatever I’d been up to, ragged, beaten, confused, and would crawl beneath that green thing to try and find some sleep – that most elusive of experiences – for a few hours, anyway.

So yes, it goes on the Goodwill pile.  I don’t need it.  I don’t want it.  And I hope that, someday, the memories that flood into me from seeing it will slowly get thinner and thinner from overuse, until I no longer feel the nostalgic warmth they once brought to me.  It is time to move on, into a world with heated mattress pads and thick comforters that I can share with my wife.

Yes, I don’t need that blanket anymore.  So why is it still in a pile in my house?

Even Older

adviceTime
Is marching on
And time
Is still marching on

*

The old adage that you become wiser as you get older has, so far, proved to be absolute crap as I have watched my own odometer turn over.  I have met a wide range of people in my life, many of which were older than I, and most of which were no more skilled or able to make sense of this world (or any other) than I have been able to on my own.  More pointedly, the desire to gain wisdom needs to be present first, before anyone of any age can make heads or tails of it.  Like with self-help, religion, exercise, or really anything worth a crap, you have to want it to get there first, you have to want to take action in order make it happen, and when you stop moving in that direction, you stop making any kind of progress toward wisdom.  You can’t get there without trying.

I remember as a child thinking that people older than me had insight or knowledge that could be useful to me, and for many years that was true.  But by the time High School rolled around, I started to notice my teachers began to make stuff up if they didn’t actually know, and would stutter and fumble with ideas and thoughts almost as often as I did.  They were capable of as much pettiness and poor judgement as any teenager I had every met, and I started to suspect that they had no insight that I didn’t have myself.  My theory was that they had all stopped trying to make sense of the world, assuming they had as much as they already needed.  In the years that followed High School, I distrusted anyone who acted older, and made a point of illustrating that they are no different or more informed than I could be after a trip to the library.

Now that I have passed 40, I not only feel certain that I was right then, but the evidence at hand points to the same kind of self-help axiom I’ve always struggled with: you have to want something to get something.  Because, essentially, that is the case for anyone who hasn’t tried to pick a direction for themselves and pursue it.  That component of reaching out for something that you want – again: personal improvement, a new faith or belief in something, a goal or desire that you will not let yourself live without – if you can’t be bothered to even want it or find out if you do want it badly enough, then you will have no idea what you are doing and why you are doing it.  This happens to be the case with most people – young or old – and is the state of being most people prefer to adopt because it is easy.

But what do I do with this revelation?  This is the problem that I have encountered in the mental exercise of working out how you communicate this information downstream.  At 17, what would have resonated with me that would have opened my eyes?  How could anyone have taught me that I need to chase my desires with confidence, that I need to outline what I want and take physical actions to achieve my goals.  How do you make that clear to a teenager who is convinced that everything is unfair, and stacked against him?  It’s a hard nut to crack.  My natural state as a youth was to feel put-upon, to feel abused, to feel distrust toward the world around me, and to feel that the only place I was understood was in music and books of my choosing.  Short of taking me to a $5 show where all the bands I like had written ‘zines about how you need to set desire-based goals and pursue them, how would I have ever made this observation at that age?  Is is even possible?

A lot of this has to do with confidence, something that I have never been good at and felt little reason to carry as a defining trait.  I was not confident.  Until I met my wife, I was pretty sure I would be doomed to having short and largely meaningless relationships, and only in the years since we have met, fell in love, and got married do I feel the kind of confidence that I longed for a needed as a teen.  But how do you imbue confidence to the awkward and uncomfortable, without the years of experience that created it in me?  I still feel this overwhelming panic that my wife will leave me at any moment, and for any reason, and this hyper-vigilance regarding this thought tends to color my every action, even when I know in my heart that this won’t happen.  I want her in my life, but the nearly 25 years of experience prior to meeting her has trained me to think that everyone leaves.  Even at 40, I don’t have the confidence I’d like to have.

If learning confidence is complicated, developing sophistication is even more challenging.  I value my ability to think critically, to hold two thoughts in my mind at once, to consider new ideas and to abandon old ones that no longer work.  This is something I wish I had at my disposal as a teen, because in those days, I clung to the one idea I liked with a virulent fervency that bordered on being unhinged.  I was convinced that everyone’s ideals never wavered their entire life, that you would always cling to these powerful thoughts of “right” and “wrong,” and that these notions would guide you as you move forward in life.  But as you move out into the world, and meet more and more people who challenge you and your ideas, your own level of sophistication begins to increase dramatically.  Punk Rock is not the only kind of interesting (or valid) music being made (in spite of a comment to that effect that I might have made as a teen), and the greatest movie of all time is not Pump Up The Volume.  (Though that movie is quite excellent, nonetheless, there are much more interesting movies that I’ve come to love more.)

Sophistication allows us to recognize when something is of high quality, even if we don’t like it ourselves.  Sophistication suggests that there are more ideas in the world than our own, and that the exploration of them – and the discarding of things that are insane or poorly developed – is a healthy part of interacting with the world around us.  We need confidence, to become fully realized people who feel they have purpose and direction, and we need sophistication so we can make sense of other people who are different from us without resorting to racist, sexist, or other exclusionist kinds of behaviors when we meet them.

So: how do you teach a teenager, who is still more excited about video games and exploring their own body and ignoring the entirety of the world that is outside of their peer group, how do you convey the value of analytical thought and personal self-worth?  To a teenager, everything is emotion and frenzied thought, barreling through life with a pulsing pleasure center between their legs, an uncomfortable body still growing into maturity, and a huge set of social rules and axioms that dictate how you should be acting.  Even the idea of embodying confidence and sophistication is outside of everything a teenager experiences, save for the few that have extreme skill in one area or who have been forced to grow up quickly.

I’ve wrestled with this for a while, but I have no real insight into how to help out my past-self, or even the current crop of youth that are coming to terms with unfairness and adolescence here and now.  Being young is hard, and only as I am starting to consider the second half of my life do I feel as if I’m starting to get a sense of how I should have gone about things then.  It isn’t that I have a secret that I can share with kids that will even be helpful, any really they must experience this for themselves for it to really hit home.  But if anyone younger (or, perhaps, older who still isn’t sure) happens across this and might want to distill my thoughts into something they can use in a practical sense, here are a few thoughts to consider as you try and deal with the universe around you:

*

1.) Nobody Else Knows What You Need.  Only you can make that call.  Only you know what your dreams and goals are, what your hopes and desires might look like, and what will keep you motivated to live the way you want to.  Describe what you want to yourself, make it as clear as possible, and be willing to do this as many times as you need until you think you’re on the right path.  You don’t have to share it with anyone unless you want to, but you should ask yourself regularly, “What do I need?  What do I want?  Can I define it?”

2.) Most Everyone Else Doesn’t Know What’s Going On.  They may say they are adults, they may point to more education or experience, they may think they are genuine authority figures, and they may claim that they know better.  But they don’t.  They never did, and they are faking it if they say they do.  They don’t know what your life is like, they don’t know what you’re after and what is important to you, and they probably never will if they haven’t defined what they want in their own lives, too.  Be patient with them.  Try to understand that they are clueless, and don’t take the things they say as “truth” or “valid” unless you happen to agree.  When they are ready to see the world from your eyes, then you will be able to have a valuable conversation (for both of you).  Until then: be patient.  They mean well, but they don’t know any better.

3.) Try Not To Be A Dick.  This is really the only rule in life that I have to say is 100% worth following, even if you don’t believe it or see the value in it at first.  This won’t stop others from being a dick.  You might even be a dick occasionally, and that is okay too.  We all make mistakes.  But try not to be.  Imagine someone else acting the way you are acting, and see how that feels for a while before you do it yourself.  None of us are always successful, and that’s okay.  We can forgive you if you are trying.  But please try.  It is easy to be a dick, and you might even get somewhere at first by being one.  But once you start acting like that often, you will find that it becomes a lot harder to stop.  Act the way you want to be remembered, not the way you think will yield the biggest result immediately.

4.) Be Willing To Be Wrong.  We learn from our mistakes, honestly.  It seems counter-intuitive, but as I get older I see it in action every single day.  A mistake might seem bad at first, and can be awful depending on the kind of mistake.  (And I’ve made plenty of them, for sure.)  But you will not be the first person to make a mistake, and you will not be the last, either.  I have changed my mind hundreds of times, I have been wrong more times than I can count, and I will continue to make mistakes and be wrong for most of my life, not because I’m trying to make mistakes, but because I only learn the right way after I have exhausted all the wrong ways around me.  Be willing to fuck up.  But also be willing to learn from that experience.

5.) Don’t Be Afraid To Be Childish If You Want To Be.  There is a race in this world to grow up, to put away the interests of your youth and to “embrace” the world of adulthood as soon as possible.  This is absolutely insane, because these same people eventually get older and insist that adults should, “never grow up,” and that the way kids see things is precious and valuable.  Clearly, they want kids to act like adults, so the old people can act like kids.  Don’t listen to them, and pursue your interests, even if they are childish.  If you like cartoons, watch cartoons.  I do, and I love them.  If you want to color, color every day.  My wife has coloring books that she loves and uses often.  My passions as a kid – computers, comics, writing – these are things that have been lifetime companions for me, both as a child and as an adult, and they have made me happy throughout my life, in spite of what adults told me when I was younger.  There is no “one time” when you should act a certain way, and when people start telling you otherwise, you don’t have to listen.

*

And, it is also likely that I don’t know what I’m talking about, so you don’t really have to listen to this advice at all.  Maybe you shouldn’t, at first.  Maybe you need to learn these on your own.  But maybe it is helpful.  Maybe you already know it, and maybe you think I’m full of shit and will never understand you.  All three are probably true, for some of you anyway.  But these are the things I wish I had heard in High School, and more importantly, things I wish I had believed then, too.

Getting older can be awful.  There are times when you want to give up being responsible, give up acting the way everyone says you need to, and you will long to give up adulthood and move on to something more fulfilling.

What I’m saying is: you can do this at any age.  But only if you want to.

I’ve Been to the Bemsha Mountaintop (Retrocast)

(This podcast and essay was originally posted on 21 January 2013.  At the time, I worked for Portland State University, and got MLK Day paid off.)

This Was The Last Speech He Gave Before His Assassination The Following Day.
This Was The Last Speech He Gave Before His Assassination The Following Day.

I’ve Been to the Bemsha Mountaintop
(Featuring an audio-essay cut-up of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s last speech delivered to an audience, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” from 3 April 1968.)

I have always taken for granted the holiday that we take in January to honor Martin Luther King Jr.  It was not that I didn’t care, but that the day usually came when papers were due, or when I worked a job that already required me to work that day.  But in light of my new job, getting the day off – paid – felt a little weird.  I had to be honest with myself that I had never really listened to any of MLK’s speeches all the way through, and that I knew very little about the work he did other than the most general, basic sense.

So today’s radio blast is a bunch of stuff culled from my collection of audio that relates to MLK Jr.  I have an edited cut-up of his last speech, and a radio broadcast from just after his assassination, as a way of presenting some of what I discovered in actually doing some research of this amazing and incredible man.

I do not have any great epiphanies to share with you, and there is no great revelation at work in this show.  It seems very clear that, as he delivered this speech, he knew his days were numbered, but this seems to be the case leading up to his assassination.  I think the arrangement in this little mini-cast works to reveal why he was considered to be one of the best orators of our day, but also to illuminate much of what his work was about in the most basic and general sense possible.

For those who stay to the end: there’s a little joke to ease the tension of such a serious subject.

I urge all of you to listen to his speeches, read up on this man, and let yourself actually understand the value of this holiday.  So much of what happens to us seems so passive, and we let days pass without reflecting on them too often.  This time, stop for a moment to consider who this man was, and what effect he had on the world around us.

And: let’s hope you MLK Day was full of the promise and wonder that every new days brings us.

Be seeing you

*

I’ve Been to the Bemsha Mountaintop

01.) (What Did I Do To Be So) Black & Blue [Excerpt] * Louis Armstrong * Say It Loud: Celebrate Black History Month & Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
02.) “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” [Excerpts] * Martin Luther King Jr. * 3 April 1968
02.) Bemsha Swing * Thelonious Monk * Say It Loud: Celebrate Black History Month & Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
03.) Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated * Bill Kurtis * We Interrupt This Broadcast * 4 April 1968