Sunday, December 30, 2012

Welcome to the Cruel World

I never took to gospel when I was young, mainly because I had a heart for slow mournful hymns, those pained slow waltzes people might associate with Southern Funerals, that are closer to Irish ballads than they are to Southern Soul music.  It's just something in my make-up that shaped my ear, my taste, in the core of me.  It just so happens that Ben Harper would be the one to nail down the ideal sad song for me as well as I could ever hope, for these modern times.  This song, on the album bearing its name, is, to my heart and soul, a masterpiece.  The album was a mixed bag for me as far as the feel of all the songs when taken collectively.  I was coming straight from a diet of strictly hip hop, and a good share of grungy alternative stuff back in 97'-98'. The country and folky leanings of some of these songs was just beyond me, but not Welcome to the Cruel World.  That hit me like Amazing Grace at the time.

It was in that school year that I would discover "singer songwriters" and immerse myself in the kinds of music that would redirect my entire existence from that point forward.  Ben Harper was an artist who bridged the divide between the best of the past and the best of the then present, in said genre.  He connected with the contemporary agony of existence that had settled into my generation, who were spending their late teens and early twenties watching our cultural trailblazers die or be killed every few months, while our friends self-destructed or wasted away trying to either find, or lose themselves in response to the alienation that seemed to come part and parcel with our existence.

Now we're in our late 30s, and our surviving heroes from that time are in their mid to late 40s in most cases.  Things have changed, and contrary to what they tell you, the world hasn't become a better place, just a different one.  There are less of some things, and far too many of others.  The things that captured my imagination or corrupted my character 15 years ago seemed like rarities, strange synchronicity at work, and now they are as common as a payphone used to be.  The darkness that loomed overhead has descended and lingers like a perpetual fog now, muting our senses.  Altruism and idealism are a hazy muddy muck.  We've been played for fools and worked and handled to the point where there isn't any legitimate fortuitous left in us that isn't supported by some manufactured mold meant to fashion us into a product for consumption.

The world is an organism, a machine, that mangles what it can not use.  It's proven over aeons that those it can not use it will end.  The memory that remains will be massaged to fit the purposes over the production line.  People are ok with that.  All the alternatives have been co-opted.  We quibble over the petty, shudder in the face of the substantial, and are silent when the inevitable stares us down coldly, silently, emptily.  We have embraced escalation and destruction and will be our own undoing, violence need not be a part of it.  Our fatalism has rooted itself so deep that we have all become nihilists in action, but in denial of it in our thoughts.  We live in a world that has built itself on a schism.  Life is a gift, but we destroy it in the world we have made, perpetuate, and take part in.  And yet we are told to celebrate the share of it we get.  In reality, you show how valuable a thing is by cherishing it consistently in its every incarnation. Instead we are taught to selectively covet the things we relate to above all else.  It's an implicit part of enculturalization.

When I drive down a paved road, embracing the convenience of it, I think about how nature tries to reclaim itself, and how we literally mow it down.  I think of these mazes of roads we've laid out, how they scar the world, the same way I have scars, unfortunate reminders and harm I've been done from whatever might have torn my flesh asunder.  Should something ever remove humanity as we know it from this world, the plants won't stop growing, they seemingly grow in spite of us now.  The animals will continue to mate, live their lives, again, possibly flourishing in our absence, as there will be so much more habitat to occupy, less resources hoarded.  People get worked up over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but don't often recognize that it's a microcosm of the greater struggle for existence taking place on this planet, where we see creatures facing extinction due to human material expansion, with no regard for the consequences because we simple do not relate to that form of life or put as high a value on it as we do our own.  It's no great leap to understand why we have no problem killing each other over valuables and perceived needs and wants.

This sinful covetousness is a part of the machinery, part of the overarching contemporary human identity.  To be born into a world of ravenous consumption, devouring itself, there is something very dark and sad about that.  It's a blessing to be alive, but a curse to be born into this life somewhere it will be a struggle from the moment you take your first breath until you take your last to remain so. This truly is a cruel world in that regard.  It's precisely the world humanity has shaped it to be.  That is tragedy of it.  It is because of this that I can say with conviction, that it will take a miracle to right humanity from its path, something greater than and beyond what we now are, because we are so far gone collectively.  The only hope most of us find for peace in this world, rests on our capacity to transcend aspects of it mentally or spiritually.  To find peace in the midst of embracing all that the world is now, all that humanity embodies, denies fundamental morality, and I can not deny what I am. I am emotional, and I perceive good and evil, innocence and corruption.  I cling to the hope of being Humane, and not simply Human.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Free Will

Do something or nothing.  Either way Free Will exists whether you choose to believe it or not.
It's called making choices.  Even if you think you are avoiding making them, that in itself is a choice. Free Will is inherent in Consciousness.  Simple as that.  It is one of the essential and most powerful intellectual aspects of our humanity.  It's also why we can be our own worst enemies.  The denial of Free Will's existence is a perfect example of that very problem.

Giving Up

Since the 90s I've seen a lot of people put on the hats, the leather coats, take a seat at the piano, but they haven't captured the pained and mournful emotion that Donny Hathaway conjured up.  It's not their faults for wanting to be inspired amidst mediocre times.  The dark shadow that hovers over Donny Hathaway's legacy might be why he wasn't someone who's name I heard a lot of as a child.  There's a stereotype of the emotionally unstable artist, that's self-destructive.  Most people acknowledge it when they have to, but dealing with it as an active reality when someone they are fond of is unraveling seems to be a taboo.  Looking back on it in retrospect never helps. Maybe that's what happened with Donny Hathaway?  Is it not unlike the way I feel about so many of the artists from my youth in the 90s who died young as a result of reckless or self-destructive behavior?  Nevertheless my generation found our way back to Donny Hathaway through samples, and staples the same way they rediscovered Roberta Flack through the Fugees.  Maybe the latter beget the prior in this case?

The song itself, starts off like a eulogy, but takes this epic turn, that turns that ominous vibe around and though still pained, gives it a vitality fitting of the subject matter, a love that just won't seem to die, an attachment that can't be let go.  Romantically I've been there, but I am so far from that place now, that I don't relate to the song on that level.  Instead I find myself taking the song to an existential place, as strange as that may seem.

In growing closer to the lover who is no longer with me, I grew further apart from the other people in my life, the other passions and dreams I had that were in conflict with pursuing my relationship with her.  When I came through the darkness of the break-up so much time and experience had come and gone that all the things I let go of to embrace the relationship didn't matter as much as I thought they might now that I was free to focus on them.  My attachment to them was irrevocably altered.  Moving on from the past was a wholesale purchase.  Giving up on  my life configured around a future with my ex really meant giving up on my life because I let my relationship become the crux of my existence, my frame of reference.

The result of being open to moving forward meant reconfiguring my life so that it wasn't constantly full of reminders of a past I had so many regrets about, was an embracing of my current moment.  What became the constant in the absence of the push & pull was my occupation, and the social relationships I'd neglected or under-appreciated there.  There was ample means to find a purpose in living, the beauty of life there that I didn't feel the need to actively adopt a surrogate relationship to replace what I'd lost.  It didn't hurt that what I'd lost turned out to be of much less worth than what I'd ascribed it and committed to over the years.

People have a way of broadcasting how little value they place on their own actions when their own desires for gratification are unmet. One of the ways the do this is by giving up on people, things.  Sometimes all you can do to move on is meet them half way and accept it and give up as well.  This can sometimes complicate matters if the person is feigning those feelings as a means towards having a need to be pursued met.  Part of my maturation has been recognizing I gave up on those kind of mind games a long time ago.  If your way of getting me to take an interest in you is by acting disinterested in me, I can not abide.  I am doing my best to express exactly how I feel, no more coy ambiguities.  If someone doesn't react, I may wonder if they're just trying to draw me out, see what I'm going to do next, or they're just not interested.  I go with the latter more often than not, because I just don't have the patience or wherewithal to get all mixed up in the crazy making that is modern courtship.  It really has gone down the tubes.

I've become lukewarm as a result, and that does upset me.  Muting my reactions to people was something I actively did, as a matter of saving face, playing the game, but I don't really have to do that  most times.  I just don't really have many things I react to in a positive way, outside of acceptance or acquiescence.  All this coolness of emotion is a little disheartening by nature, but every so often I get a surprise burst of emotion.  Finding someone attractive is an intellectual experience more than an emotional one, like sizing up a leap.  Yeah, she's pretty, yeah, if he and I approached the same woman, I'd be out of luck etc.  Being attracted to someone, that's visceral, it's all feeling, and sometimes it's a one-way feeling, which is a horrible predicament to be in.  When it's mutual and fully realized, it's an otherworldly force drawing you closer to someone and tearing you to pieces all at once.  It should be a rare occurrence honestly.  The thing is, the way things are nowadays, you never really know how people process their emotions, their relationships, their sense of connection to others.  For some people attraction is an expected response to how they carry themselves, just a sign that their "working it" is working, and nothing comes from it.  For others it's just a pretext for casual intimacies and nothing more, like being hungry and actually in the mood for a particular thing.

When our bodies and personalities become a means to and end, in this case some sort of relational or physical gratification of a interpersonal sort, emotionally and/or physically honesty and sincerity can get in the way of results.  To truly be honest and sincere you have to be considerate, which requires reflection and forethought.  The absence of those mental processes before a person acts on an impulse is a sign that they lack commitment to their choices.  For those of us looking for love, that should be a Red Flag if we are in the market for something we want to hold on to.  The way I have lived, I want things that will last a lifetime, that I feel my efforts to take care of and maintain will not be in vain.  I don't want to put my heart and soul into something I'm going to be forced to let go of because it has a will of its own, that will leave me longing.  That's too much like torture, and I wouldn't wish that upon most people when I'm in a good emotional place.

Before my last relationship I remember fielding my Father & Stepfather's questions about having a woman in my life, knowing how my mother and stepmother could give them the blues, and I said, "I can do bad by myself!" and I was doing bad at the time to be truthful.  Now is a different story, a different time, and all I know is when you don't care for so long, when you find yourself wanting to care, it's confusing.  When you recognize what is attractive, but don't feel a strong attraction to anyone, having someone literally making you jump inside, by nearly brushing arms, is a little much.  To say I didn't know I had it in me is one thing, but to experience butterflies in that moment after all this time is supremely profound.  The experience changes the scales by which all the previous estimations of my emotional capacity are measured.  It was like a burst of Technicolor in Pleasantville, which I still haven't seen.  It brings a whole new meaning to shades of gray, none of the 50 popular ones, I have a more refined personal palette.  That moment was so striking because it came to pass in the midst of a pedestrian occurrence that happens everyday.  That's also a good sign that my reaction was an internal miscue, a deep longing creeping out independent of the other person who was the object of my internalized affection.

Where I am now in my life, this place of acceptance, which also becomes a place of complacency, can not afford to be disturbed by delusional fantasies, miscommunication, and fools errands brought on by flight of fancy and fits of passion.  What's requisite is reciprocity.  If I, or whoever the she may be, fail to create an environment where that emerges, it's probably best to leave things be, let those thoughts and feelings go.  It's much healthier to embrace those that embrace you than seek warmth from the cool, peace from the chaos.  Those are compromises that don't reconcile themselves.  I've had enough unrequited love, enough unsolicited drama, so why entertain or foster it at this point in my life?  We all have better things to do with ourselves, and maybe at some point, with others who are eager to join us.  The trick is, sometimes people aren't honest, or just not sure about what they think or feel.  Other times they just don't communicate it in a way you understand.  Of course, people tend to only understand communication they Want to hear, and omit or augment what they don't want to hear so they can allow themselves to continue on thinking and feeling the way they are inclined.  I don't want to, can't allow myself to be that person.  It's a balancing act to know when to care enough to embrace hope in the face of an opportunity, or give up on illusions you've grown attached to.

Faced with that, and all that is fleeting in life with friends, family, culture, and time, giving up on things doesn't seem so bad after all when you've got other things to hold on to that never seem to fail.  Inspirations like those, the ones you can put some faith in, will get you through.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Body Wins

Seldom has the title of an album evoked more thought than this one, at least in my case.  When that title track turns out to be a curve ball production-wise, but in a good way, I am compelled to opine.  I've been waiting to write about the notion of The Body Wins since the pre-release info of the album hipped me to the title.

Sarah Jaffe is gifted.  She has a beautiful voice, and writes evocative songs that communicate a certain kind of blue that I feel at home in.  She also embraces expansion, and with The Body Wins she embraced this by changing her sound and her look to the point where a fan who hasn't kept up with her since her earliest releases, would scarcely recognize the artist.  But the change seems natural, an evolution of her artistic expression.  She's grown, aged, it's what we do.  We can't fight that happening, time marches forward, the Body Wins.

The song itself seems to wrestle with desire's pull in relationships that seem to compromise or complicate our lives.  That's my take on it at least.  It feels like a frustrated resignation, an ode to vice trumping virtue in some manner; or matter over mind.  That's my read on the content, but that's not where I took the phrase when I read it and pondered it.  I took it further down the existential path than is probably intended.  I internalized the concept of the flesh dictating my circumstances, because that very subject has been an issue of mine since I was very young.

The Body Wins, for me, evoked Mortality first and foremost.  As I age, I can't help but feel that I'm on the losing end of a race against time.  Our bodies are beholden to time, and their reactions to its passage get the best of us, like it or not.  It harkens back to Fake Plastic Tries when Thom Yorke sings "He used to do surgery on the girls in the 80s, but gravity always wins." But there are more things to consider other than the ravages of time when it comes to our bodies dictating the terms of our existence.  Some things happen to the young and old alike, getting the best of us.

As a child, it's fair to say I was traumatized by certain experiences, and made to feel hyper-aware and self conscious about my body, its vulnerabilities, its limitations.  Through my development and growth, my body dictated so much of my social experiences as a child, being significantly taller, stuck in ill fitting shoes that would contribute to podriatic problems that bother me to this day.  Suddenly developing gynecomastia near the end of grade school seemed like a karmic punishment, and living with that condition further eroded any comfort I had with my body.  My physical development had taken on a life of its own, contrary to my own hopes and desires.  My vision deteriorated enough that I needed glasses, and I kept growing.  I was tall for my age, but not yet abnormally tall.  The gynecomastia didn't go away as I'd been told it might.  My hopes of playing football were sidelined by concerns that I might have Marfan's Syndome.  After the surreal and disturbing experience of having an Echocardiograph  and hearing my heart truly work, realizing it could, and will eventually cease to, I was cleared of the diagnosis.  I remember the football coach struggling to find cleats I could fit, and me trying on an ill fitting pair and ultimately balking on playing Football after it taking so long to even get cleared to play. 

Mandatory swimming in gym class for a grade was about the worst thing that could have happened to me socially at that point.  I did not, under any conditions take off my shirt in public, or private, given my condition.  It was the epitome of mortifying.  Beyond that, I'd nearly drowned once.  I am not buoyant.  I sink like a stone.  It took a life jacket and a hip preserver for me to be able to so much as tread water.  My exits from the pool consisted of waiting until everyone else left the pool area, rolling out onto my stomach from the side of  pool, and then going for my towel as quickly as possible to drape it over my shoulders.  The production that went into this effort to conceal myself only worked for a little while before it called attention to me.  At that point I refused to swim, and took an F for that quarter of gym class rather than be exposed and ridiculed for something that happened to me that I had no control over, contrary to the piss poor uninformed advice I got from some people.  The only medical option would have been surgery, and financially that wasn't an option.  Surgery also came with risks and complications I was not and am not comfortable with.  It was easier to accept my body as it was, and keep it to myself as best I could without making waves. 

The following summer, after having some discomfort with my feet, the Dr. treating me strongly persuaded my parents to approve corrective surgery for my podriatic issues.  The experience was an exercise in mutilation and futility.  The scars, fused joints, and "gross deformity" as one doctor put it upon her initial examination of my toes, were the results of the procedure, which was meant to be the first of three.  The other two surgeries never came, and my academic and athletic prospects took a severe hit since the procedure basically upended the entire 1st semester of my Sophomore year of High School.  Meanwhile I kept growing, now to the point when I could scarcely find clothes that fit in the regular stores.  I'd already had that problem with shoes since I was 12 years old wearing a size 13.  To have that become an issue with Shirts, Pants, and Jackets was just annoying.  Being socially accepted for being fashionable was out the window.

As I went through the process of healing from having 8 broken toes, two that had whole sections of bone removed, and pins inserted, my cousin Martez was killed, then not long after that my classmate Brian and most of his family died of carbon monoxide poisoning.  My niece Andreana was in and out of the hospital with heart issues.  I embraced an outsider mentality, and rejected the pursuit of social acceptance for the most part. It was self-serving, because there was no way I was going to fit in at that point.  By age 16 I stood a legit 6' 7" or so, and had stopped growing as far as I could tell.  As fate would have it, that's when my complexion started giving me major problems, such that I spent the better part of the next 5 years on Erythromycin using varying topical chemicals to try and keep painful acne at bay.  I'd hoped by my mid 20s it would just stop. But then my beard started coming in, and along with it, ingrown hairs.  So if it wasn't one thing, it was another.  I watched the hair advance from my chin across my jaw, onto my cheeks, but then it kept going, not simply stopping uniformly in a tame beard but creeping above my cheeks as if trying to reach my nose.  My first experience with shaving resulted in so much inflammation due to an adverse reaction to the razor, that I had to get an anti-inflammatory ointment to put over the whole of my face.  I apparently had/ have very sensitive skin.

 I neglected to acknowledge my extreme misfortune of contracting chicken pox at least twice, as a 3rd grader, and again as a high school senior, and my bouts with severe bronchitis that were so disruptive that I was removed from classes by teachers due to the severity of my coughing fits.  Or that I could never take the codine based medicines my doctor prescribed because of the severe stomach pains they caused.  This is especially important given that I would later develop what one doctor referred to as Seasonal Asthma, which was his way of saying Chronic Sinusitis and Bronchitis.  I would eventually make the connection between my sinus problems and a lack of climate control in the places where I resided, or appropriate attire for the weather.  Well-fitting, well-made weather appropriate attire was not easy to come by for dependent children or the "college poor" in the pre-internet age.  It was only through the advancements of the digital age, and belligerent pursuit that I would acquire clothing and housing that allowed for me to maintain some measure of physical comfort to minimize the occurrence of said conditions.

The significance of all of this, without broaching the subject of my parents and family members medical conditions, some I share, others I do not, is that my body has been a hindrance to my personal ambitions, social desires, and self-esteem in the past, and it took a lot of emotional wood shedding to get to the point where I accepted myself physically.  Before I accepted myself, and after, what I  literally am physically has dictated many things in my life.  Much of my time without transportation was in large part due to no one having transportation what would accommodate my large stature.  Something as simple as my height took a great toll on my ability to advance in life in that simple way alone.  I have limitations on what I can do that I can't overcome sans some dramatic modification, if possible, and seldom is it affordable, or worth it.  My Body Always Wins, which has taught me to be as detached from aspects as I am attached to being alive.  It's a mixed blessing that I have learned to humbly accept, because it's spared me as much as it's spurned me.  My body is my vessel.  I have struggled to see it as a temple, and the consequences for failing to treat it as such without fail boomerang back at me and humble me to no end.  The Body Wins.  The Body Always Wins.  In this life at least.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wake Me When It's Over

I love this song.  Have since the first time I heard it on Longwave's The Strangest Things.  It just taps into a mood and vibe that is where I usually am, and I'm comfortable there.  It's a pretty dense slab of sonic vibe. The simple sentiment the phrase evoked in the title speaks volumes to my perspective on so much of what life has been like in the difficult times.  It harkens back to the reality that I have been, and will remain an escape artist.  Right now I'm escaping from writing two posts that require a little more focus and commitment than I currently fell apt to volunteer. I'm more inclined to just be, and in that I am escaping into myself, away from the world at large, other than the one of my own making, within these wall, within this flesh, within my mind.  The truth is, I am my own fortress of solitude, a jagged crystal castle of instructive recollections from imposing figures.

All that said, if you always feel like you're at a crossroads, that's just life telling you that you're indecisive, at least that's my take on it.  That's why I'm posed with choices that aren't really choices, situations where acceptance and acquiescence are the best tools for making peace with your circumstances.  It's easy to get lazy, to get frustrated, to get overwhelmed.  Putting vice over virtue, BS over betterment. This spring, yeah, I think it was spring, I found inspiration in the pursuit of the unattainable, if only for a moment, almost guaranteeing I'd resent something or someone when I failed to follow through, or prosper for my passion.  But as it goes with someone like me, passion is fleeting, and honor is the thing that carries you over the long haul.  Sans honor, all things we value will collapse, because there will be no merit in maintaining them.  In nature entropy wins.  I'm not of the sort that can watch things fall apart, impermanence invoked, mortality invoked.  In time I've grown to feel the same way about the hollowness of ceremony and celebration marking one day of greater significance than another, simply because we want it to be, whereas we try and tell each other to value each day because we aren't promised the next.  So, for the sake of cognitive continuity, I feel happier sleeping through all the festivities so all my days play the same, and what I find worth remembering and treasuring comes out of the part of my life that seems the most real to me.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rowing - an Om in the Ohms

If I should ever meet any member of Soundgarden, dinner and drinks are on me. The solidarity has gotten me through some rough patches:

Music: Shepherd & Cornell 
Lyrics: Cornell

Don't know where I'm going
I just keep on rowing
I just keep on pulling
Gotta row

Moving is Breathing and breathing is life
stopping is dying, you'll be alright
life is a hammer waiting to drop
adrift in the shallows and the rowing won't stop

Don't know where I'm going
I just keep on rowing
I just keep on pulling
Gotta row

Can't see the sky, nothing on the horizon
can't feel my hands and the water keeps rising
can't fall asleep, cause i'll wake up dead
I just keep on pulling, I just keep on rowing, Don't know where I'm going

Don't know where I'm going
I just keep on rowing
I just keep on pulling
Gotta row

Rowing is living and living is hard
but living beats losing all that we are
and all that we know of, and all that we feel
and all we remember, imagined or real
I heard an echo, but the answer had changed
from the word I remember, that I started out saying
living is cheating if you're not pulling oars
but the current is leaving, I'll get mine, you'll get yours

Don't know where I'm going
I just keep on rowing
I just keep on pulling
Gotta row

Rowing is bleeding and bleeding is breathing
breathing is feeling, burning or freezing
keep getting dirty, but I started out clean
keep on pulling, I keep on pulling, I keep on rolling, I keep on rolling

Don't know where I'm going
I just keep on rowing
I just keep on pulling
Gotta row

copyright 2012 You Make Me Sick I Make Music/ NO YES INNEROUTTER

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Political {Creation} Scientist

When I first heard this song, it was not what I was expecting from Ryan Adams.  My exposure to his work was pretty limited. I hadn't heard much beyond Whiskeytown's officially released albums, and none of his solo work outside of the singles up to that point, and what many considered a career outlier at that point Rocknroll.  I love waltzes, as I'm sure I've attested before, I also love stark piano chords sustained for full bars, then overlain with arpeggios. I also like songs that start bare and atmospheric and swell to epic proportions before breaking down into full-out games.  So yeah, this is a winner all around as far as I'm concerned.  You could say he out played Coldplay at the time, back when they were still a melancholy midtempo adult alternative band.  There is something else I want to express that this title is a simple segue towards...

Faith and Economics is an area where I have very strong convictions.  As a result my politics reflect these convictions.  The most important things I learned about Social Science, Communications Arts, and Theology coalesce.  Instead of delineating every value and opinion I hold I'm just going to do a little ramble using moral/ ethical concepts of a theological nature, and the intellectual applications of those concepts in relation to the aforementioned fields of study.

Greed, Gluttony Lust - a corrupting force towards evil - a motivational factor in economic success.  We are taught that competition is the key to our economic system flourishing.  Ambition fuels the competitive spirit, and the ambition is fuel by either a desire to assert one's self over the competition, or to acquire some reward.   The notion of putting limits on attainment, personally or systematically, is viewed negatively in our culture.  As a result the notion of unfettered attainment is promoted as a function of our system, but why else would someone want more than they could possibly ever have use for other than greed or gluttony?  Particular to lust, it's one of the more effective tools in persuasion theory, on which advertising and marketing is based.  As the saying goes, "Sex sells."  Whether it be advertising or the actual intellectual content of what you find on TV, lust is a pervasive tool to get and keep people's attention.  Why do they want people's attention?  To draw in an audience so they can sell time to advertisers, who will in turn create ads to sell you products. Why would you buy those products?

Vanity, Envy, Pride - each a corrupting force towards evil -  in persuasion theory, appeals to a person's insecurity about themselves, or themselves in relation to other are especially effective. Products and services are marketed and sold to make us feel better about ourselves and our prospects in life by either fixing what we've been told is inferior about us, or propping up what we've been told is good about us.

Looking at it what way, win prices for things go up, it makes sense than people experience some degree of Wrath.  Most people would feel threatened if there was something getting between them and the attainment of their basic material needs: food, clothing, shelter.  The catch is, our commercial enterprises have positioned themselves to present their products and services (and our wants) as needs.  Entitlement has been sold to us, and feeling rejection has become an intolerable pain for anyone to suffer, thus being denied is grounds for enmity between the rejected and those denying them.  Wrath is also a corrupting force towards evil.

All that said, if we are to judge a tree by its fruit, I have and will always, view our commercial culture as amoral and destructive.

As a wise king once said:

16There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:
17haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
18a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

~Proverbs 6:16-19  New International Version (NIV)

 If you don't believe in God, or Love, or Absolute Truth in some fashion, I understand that what I've rendered above only has merit based on your own whims.  To each their own.  This is mine.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

There's Beauty In the Breakdown

It's always interesting to listen to music that takes on a meaning apart from your life experience because it was brought into you life by someone you have no attachment to, other than an appreciation of music as an art form or entertainment experience.  Imogen Heap is an artist that I only vaguely knew of by name, with no understanding of her work prior to following up on word of mouth, well actually word of Keyboard.  It was a pleasant surprise when I heard her work as a solo artist, and as a member of Frou Frou.  It made a few things fit together that had otherwise puzzled me up to that point, particularly what electronic alternative pop that wasn't melancholy should sound like.  It was a sub-genre that I'd been mining for 3 or 4 years prior to the release of Details (2002), Frou Frou's sole release.

Somewhere between Scarlet's Walk & Medulla I noticed a definitive move away from Trip Hop influenced production in the Songwriters I followed, little did I know a crop of younger artists were fostering their careers mining that sound, because it's what they came of age to, vs. established artists who embraced it as a matter of staying relevant, like Madonna for example.  The thing was, at that point in my life, I was discovering an entire world of indie rock bands who were influenced by what I would have called Emo or Math Rock 5 years prior.  I was immersed in that music for the better part of the Y2Ks, completely satisfied with its breadth and expanse, satisfying my listening desires.  To me, it was what Alternative was between 93-95' when grunge receded from being the only sound relevant to the press and public, and bands opened up to psychedelic influences, and electronic elements began to evolve past techno flourishes to become sounds unto themselves. To me, that was the prime of all those artists' output, and though great works followed, it was then that the template for my musical taste was solidified.

Those were years 17-19 in my life, so I was no doubt highly impressionable, and it would be a lie to not conceded that the seeds planted in those years took me several years to fully mine, as my peer groups and resources changed, giving me the freedom to discover things as I shed ideas of who I was, or what was "for" me.  This is something that has continued, and when I was introduced to Imogen Heap, that was such a time.  I'd pulled myself off of internet communication outside of email with real world friends for the better part of 10 years for justifiable reasons up until 2008, when I began to explore that mode of social interaction again.  My real world social relationships didn't have the salience to satisfy my emotional needs at the time, largely because I'd exhausted my relational clout with the drama I'd been a part of.

After Blurting my way through a nasty break-up I found myself with time and started making note of what was new in this evolved world wide web. I found many people struggling with transitions at varying stages of their life, and others comfortable in the flux of things.  The music they sound tracked their lives with was reminiscent with the music of a decade past that I wished was still being made.  The thing about wishes is, chances are they have been fulfilled, we simply don't know where to look for their fulfillment.  The key is to listen, and understand that our presumptions about what is, and isn't, are limited to our field of vision.  Sometimes you have to accept that you maybe blind to an external reality that will bring you joy and peace, if only you stop searching, and allow yourself to be led, and accept what you find on its own terms.

I've been saying "Change is the only constant" for possibly half my life, but that statement offers no solace or perspective.  We see what we want, and feel accordingly, so the key is not recognizing change for what it is, it's seeing the potential couched within it.  That is the key to having hope in otherwise despairing times. I have always taken exception to the idea that we need the contrast of pain to appreciate pleasure, sorrow to appreciate joy, but I accept that logic.  I would much rather work on a scale of minimal joy to maximum joy, with the contrast being between two positives, instead of a positive and a negative, but the reality is more complex than my whims.  But as I said, a large part of the challenge is in our own perception of what is and what could be.  Sometimes we have to lose our grip, have our frame of reference broken, before we can see things differently.  Ultimately that might be just what the doctor ordered.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"Sleep tight for me..."

So, I just woke up, after getting all the sleep I could ever want within a 24 hour period, something that wasn't a reality for me during my work weeks.  I've been waking up between 3am and 5am after going to bed sometime around 11pm on most nights, and that just wasn't getting the job done.  That's pretty much how it went down yesterday, save for the location being my Mother's house instead of my own.  I woke from a strange dream, meandered around, hopped on the computer, watched the GI Joe Retaliation trailer & failed a number of IQ and memory tests on the viral marketing Cobra Recruitment website, got my blog on, and headed for the door once I was clearly conscious.

It was frigid out, ice particles forming on all the cars. I'm not one to waste gas, or energy, so I couldn't be content waiting for the car to warm up or scraping ice off the windshield, so I drove off with a nice screen saver of sorts providing a seasonal theme to my field of vision from the driver's seat.  It was a nice uneventful 3 minute commute to my driveway.  One Apple Cinnamon bowl of instant Oatmeal and half a stack of Townhouse crackers with Fat Free Cheddar Cheese later I found myself dreaming of trying to get out and go drinking.  Those plans falling apart, I went about visiting my cousin's house, occupied by a younger sibling they don't have, that has never existed.  At that point, I may or may not have made a trip back north to my Aunt's old house in Pennyrich Farms. It's fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure that's where I was, in the dining room, when Lazytown must have come on, and my subconscious brain assumed it was a cartoon, since the first time I'd ever see the show would be when I woke up and it was still on.

My dreams sometimes serve an important emotional purpose for me. They clear the decks.  Whenever there is an irreconcilable situation in my life, by circumstance or personal choice by the parties involved, I've been bailed out in my dreams.  By hook or crook the situations get resolved there, and though the resolution isn't real, it's enough for me to wake feeling liberated from the burden of regret or disenchantment.  It's like my life is my own again, and not the feelings that have been eating away at me on some level.  The feeling runs deep enough that it allows for me to approach those situations or people with the weight off my shoulders and a fresh set of eyes.  Maybe I'm maladjusted to some degree, embracing this sort of detachment?   I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.  I mean, making time to sleep in is far more convenient for me than drugs or therapy, especially when it's pedestrian life matters that get me psychologically wound up more often than not.  I save those greater existential questions  for prayer and meditation, which usually gets the job done as far as quelling the stirring in my mind.  It's truly a relief to wake up and not be who I was when I fell asleep, but I have to wonder, am I more myself or more someone, something else?  Who's am I? What am I becoming?   Apparently, I am still a Huge fan of Tighter and Tighter by Soundgarden, which is the song I have linked and quoted for the title of this post.  That hasn't changed in 15 years, though I have.

Sleep to Dream

15 or so years later, you've gotta admit Jon Brion and Fiona Apple outdid themselves on Tidal.  I think it's fair to say she was a prodigy, turned prodigal...

Now, me, the choice of titles today was directly inspired by my subconscious mind's protest of my current desire to reboot my reality.  It seems to be stuck on the here and now, the pre-existing preoccupations, familiar faces in unfamiliar places.  I have these reoccurring settings, specific ones, in my dreams, some from reality, some that only exist in my mind as far as I know.  Last night's dream took place in this hilly part of some nowhere town that has the look of a bleak suburbia with every house built on this hill, with all their fronts facing the upside of the hill.  Before I was a home owner I dreamed of buying a dilapidated derelict two-story flat type house that wasn't too different than the flats you'd find in South St. Louis when I was a kid.  In the dream I moved from one to a shotgun type house that resembled some of the houses on Pierce Street near Jack's Apple Market on Highway 63 in Kirksville, specifically the one Sarah & Abrey lived in.  Don't quote me on those spellings.

Anyway, I dreamed of those broke down houses many a time, exploring their attics and basements full of cobwebs and insulation, always in disrepair. This dream, maybe my first or second as a home owner, had me there again, but in a smaller version of these houses on hills, more of a ranch house. What may or may not have come next, or before, was what in my mind was the California car caper.  Near my house was a parking lot, where I apparently parked a blue 60s corvette type car, which was conspicuously a nod to the convertible my exes' dad bought and fixed up a few years back.  Adjacent to this lot was a guy who worked on lots of cars.  I came out to get in my car, and there was a orange convertible that looked like a plastic matchbox car in it's place.  My ride had been swapped out.  What followed next was an odd sequence that involved a dramatic weather change, a van load of guys driving by with automatic weapons in hand as I approached some road house on a hill where a band was playing

 I ended up in what looked like one of the Lounges in the Millennium Student Center at UMSL for a banquet or Christmas Party, and everyone started singing a popular song, and one person was leading and I was determined to sing along with her note for note, at max volume. It was awkward.  There was an older gentlemen there, very stately, that in my mind was supposed to be my middle school biology teacher's husband, who himself taught high school civics, but in the dream I couldn't recall his name and he corrected me, to the effect of saying it was Stoudamire, which in reality it was not.  That was my dream state's haphazard recollection of another teacher's name.

I was also there with family, and even a few coworkers, thought I was leery to interact with them, because I have 0 interpersonal contact with them outside of the workplace, which is how it's always been for me since I began working. Friendly coworker yes, friend outside of work, no. The exception was Charles Rupert Rinehart, the elder of  the Rineharts.  In that regard he was more of a mentor, but i'd say I was a friend of the family, I guess that's fair.  I was a friendly patron, who became a friendly employee, not because I needed work, but because they needed a hand, and I think that is what made me more of a friend and less of a worker.  Besides, to me it wasn't work, I was doing something I enjoyed at a time when I was reticent to do what was required to fulfill my degree requirements, and felt no joy in.  It was a formative experience to say the least.

Well, in all this recollection, the main point remains: the last week has been trying. Times and schedules in conflict, opportunities evaporating, the impermanence of time being hammered home again and again.  The feeling of resignation that comes when you're subject to circumstance, confronted with the limitations of mind and body, time and space, leaves you with limited options for coping.  This was a week where, as they have in the past, vices seemed the quickest path to escapism, but I know they aren't escapes, just roundabouts.  Sleep itself, losing consciousness, the respite of choice for the un-medicated, eventually gives way to waking, where you are posed with the reality you let go of when you drifted off.  But somehow, sometimes in the most illogical and mundane scenarios they present, dreams offer some sort of relief, a loosening of tensions.  Not always, sometimes they can make the state of your heart and mind worse, but at least for today, I can say that I feel better for having slept long enough to let a dream run what seemed its course.

The dream ended with discussion of my moving out of the dilapidated house, furniture needing to be rearranged at a family members, my trying to drive the orange plastic convertible.  Those things are a reflection of my desire to accept the changes taking place in my life right now, none of which I planned, or were excited about, but they are happening.  As things progress I have no choice but to embrace them.  Life goes on, not always how I'd like it to, but so it goes.  I have to navigate it cautiously, and it never hurts to be able to recognize when it's time to move on from situations, feelings.  Fall and Winter are the personification of this, and I think that is at the heart of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Slapping festive occasions over the top of a time period when our part of the world withers and people's health is constantly at risk, it does a number on some of us.  It just rings false.  I don't sleep well when I am cold, and when I wake up I am always worse for wear.  My dreams are bleak and turn nightmares.  I need warmth, in all forms, literal and figurative, to sleep well, and dream sweetly.  I wish that for everyone.

Friday, November 23, 2012


To be honest, I only ever liked the bridge of this song, but I can appreciate it a lot more when I'm in the right mood.  It reminds me of Bon Jovi and Aerosmith but it's Soul Asylum I'm talking about.  The song is Misery, and what I'm about to say will make no sense if you don't listen to the song and read the lyrics, cause I'm not miserable, I'm just sick of myself.  It might be a lack of patience, simple exhaustion with the state of the world, my world. 

Regardless, I'm just underwhelmed by the things in my life that depend on other adults to come to fruition.  I got to the point where I just embraced my inner "No" and started withdrawing, textbook me, to the point where I just didn't have to be bothered with any of it.  The problem is, in getting wrapped up with others I lost touch with myself, and now that I've made time for myself, I realize that the things I used to enjoy because I had an audience, aren't enjoyable anymore.  They're just things to do. 

There is something to be said for the thrill of impressing and pleasing people with your efforts.  There's a humbling lesson that comes with the futility of being cut off from that audience and inundated with a surplus of time to yourself.  That's what it took to make me really like this song, I'd rather feel like I did back in 94-95' when I just didn't get it at all.

Not the Same

I remember trying to justify my appreciation of Days of the New back in the day.  It was always a slippery slope, but I wasn't one to relent.  Why, because of the album tracks and sentiment behind a lot of Travis Meeks lyrics. To be such a young guy he was able to tap into a world weariness that was beyond his years.  His youth was more than likely a major factor in his personal and professional missteps back in the late 90s.  He was a teenager after all.  He was also an ambitious musician, and this song is just one of the many examples of his ability to push the envelope of the aesthetic he created with the simple idea of what basically started off as acoustic grunge.

How does this song relate to me?  Well, as someone who's felt miscast, misunderstood, vilified, and guilt-ridden, I know what it feels like to want to be empathized with, validated, justified.  Finding an audience with your persecutors or victims isn't something that comes easy.  When people write you off, sometimes that's the end of it.  Sometimes that last cutting thing you say to them, is the last they will ever be bothered to hear. Sometimes that last whispered rumor about you that someone hears is enough for them to never ask you about it and get it from the horses mouth.

It's human to want to get your say, have your day in court, to speak your truth.  It's just not promised.  So, this song resonated with me at a time in my life when I desperately felt the desire to plead my case after years of people interpreting my actions, intentions, and feelings inaccurately, particularly in situations where I didn't have enough information to make up my own mind as to how I felt about all the goings on.  In some cases it may have been precisely because people didn't trust me with the information in the first place for one reason or another.  In the grand scheme of things I may deserve that for not honoring the confidence of others in my youth.  That was then... this is now, and I'm not the same... or am I?  This blog may be evidence to the latter.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Loner ( Rides Again)

Where was I?  So, I love Neil Young's song the Loner, always had an affinity for the reputation Neil had for being a talented recluse, unpredictable and prone to wanderlust.  Stephen Stills was in many ways his partner in crime, equally talented, but possibly less reclusive.  Maybe just as much a hard ass when it came to asserting his will, but he could back it up with his craft.  When I bought Illegal Stills and this song came on, I didn't immediately recognize that it was a cover of Neil Young's, partially because at the time I listened to music in the chronological order it was released, a couple of artists at a time, so a long time passed between listening to Neil Young's self title debut from 1968, and Stills 1976 record (released the month I was born no less).  But when the hook comes in, complete with CSNY-style harmonizing it hit me.  The main arrangement sounds like it could be used to back action sequences in Magnum P. I. or the A-Team, but that hook honors the original.  And of course, the crux of the song is the lyric, the subject of the song, which in my head is still the cagey, uncompromising, contrarian.  You could argue that I saw that as autobiographical of Neil Young, in all his ramshackle virtuosity. He, the master of grooves and vibes, with a propensity for deconstruction, certain songs seeming like architectural marvels that are then imploded for the thrill of it, so he can then play with the newly formed fragments that litter the pit where the building once stood.   I saw myself in that, but not until I was older. Not until I was trying to become a singer-songwriter in my own right.  It took some strange and informative life experiences to get me there, which is saying something given what I'd already experienced in my life up to that point, so I better get back to that.

Once I literally got back on my feet after my surgery, I remember reading Lord of the Flies in English class, and nothing could have been more topical and timely for me.  I tried to figure out where I would fit into that story, how my personality would assimilate into that situation. That in turn made me think of how I fit into the social groups that existed in that class. I didn't. I moved into that school district in 5th grade, so all the would-be friends I met had pretty much established their childhood peer groups. I found a place over time, but then our small group was bused to the other side of the district as a minority among all the kids from that side of the county who'd gone to school with each other, at larger elementary schools. By the time we entered high school we had gotten to know a lot of these kids, for better or worse, and then had to endure the upperclassmen. So making it through the isolation of my post-op experiences in the wheel chair and trying to rehabilitate my social life primed me for some sort of transformation, then the death of several people I looked up to steeled my resolve to find myself and have some altruistic purpose in my existence, which I had lost clear sight of since my childhood.

By the time I was finishing High School I'd come to realize the magnitude of my own psychological shortcomings, and was ready to do what was necessary to overcome them, even if it meant being vulnerable. I was finally content with rejection, emboldened by fully accepting the idea of being an outcast.  It was easy for me, I'd developed the expectation of rejection as part of the particular Christian ministry I'd been exposed to.  The parts of  my identity that didn't prosper me were discarded.  I was self-righteous and conflicted, severely alienated, and found myself going off to college with no friends in tow, having fallen out with my best friend by nature of being perpetually indignant towards each other.  So college was a new beginning, in an entirely new environment, full of possibilities, including ample opportunities to be disappointed with and by situations, and personality types I'd never dealt with before. And so it went.

Essentially, what was at issue was, I truly was all over the place, interested in so many things, that I refused to conform, and instead isolated myself  and compartmentalized aspects of myself so I could have the freedom to pursue those interests and dedicate myself to them in my own time, in my own way.  I was undiplomatic and didn't want to do anything on anyone's terms if I felt that compromised my own state of well-being.  I was always one or two things shy of being able to fit into a social circle.  My attempts to reconcile contradictory values were always a year or two too early, such that things I was searching for in culture and community hadn't evolved enough so those I knew at the time felt it belonged in their diet for cultural consumption.  I willfully and vocally celebrated these things when they came to pass, but usually all I did was bias my friends against them by overselling whatever it was I thought was the best thing since whatever the last best thing was.

A lot of this was my effort to cope with the deaths of friends and family, and an inability to broach those subjects with anyone close to me, and no desire to self-medicate with anything other than music and media.  This was all part and parcel with the fragmentation and dissolution of my peer groups over time each passing year as a meandering undergrad.  By the time I was finished with college I was known-of by many, known by few, and faced with the reality that the new friends I'd made on somewhat my own terms, weren't going to be anywhere near me when school was over as far as I was concerned.  No job, no car, no long distance phone, no internet, just USPS.  I was going to be isolated even more than ever, especially since my family have moved my freshmen year of college and I would now be in what I felt was a remote part of the greater St. Louis Area, as far as I was concerned, with no means to escape. And that's when I began to focus on my songwriting, exploring my psychological and spiritual state, and how I felt about the world.  That's when I made an effort to become a performer, and embraced social engagement as a means to an end, and accepted that being social was going to be a skill I had more than a desire I would pursue.  I'd been bred by circumstance, and on some level, my personality, to accept isolation could potentially be the predominant condition of my existence.

I'd come full circle, thinking back to Robin Williams as Popeye when I was oh so young.  My convictions took roots, and it became easier to express them, and easier to accept that others would reject them.  It was enough that I held them, validation was nice, but not necessary. I knew better than to bank my peace on the world embracing what I might have felt was sound judgement and altruistically good.  My experience paralleled the rise of entitlement culture, the advancement of cultural and generational pluralism and isolation for the purpose of marketing. Society has been evolving to serve the market place, and nothing serves the market place greater than individual attainment trumping communal ownership and sharing.

If everyone wants everything for themselves on their own terms, we have to expend more to acquire it, which means those providing the things we all want will profit from our expenditures.  By fostering a culture where everyone has to have their own something or another Demand increases, which allows for price increases.  It's simple supply and demand. It's social science, and as I have aged, I have learned to see that the social factors that have influenced my life along the way were a product of the prevailing culture influencing the people in my life and myself just as much as any personality quirks we had.  I don't know if anything alienated me more than studying Sociology, Anthropology, and Communications, but to the credit of those fields, they pulled the veil back on just what has been and continues to be done to persuade and influence people's perceptions and behaviors towards their circumstances, and each other.  This realization makes all the dysfunction I see make sense.  It informs my notion of Evil, the power of Sin, it allows me to look at humanity with a even keel.  It tempers any misanthropy I may suffer with the knowledge that there are social mechanisms in place that are served by promoting alienation and insecurity, and unfortunately they have co-opted many of the efforts to undermine them, turning them into alienated commodities, or marginalizing them by polarizing the rhetoric.  But beyond all the philosophical and theoretical analysis, I am still a human being, who more often than not, by virtue of the vessel my consciousness is housed in, and the things I have experienced, feels on the outside looking in, with no desire to pretend to feel otherwise, especially when that feeling is reinforced so regularly.  But you know, the person who doesn't fit in anywhere, knows their place everywhere.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Loner

When my Dad told me they called him Solitaire in the military, I didn't really get it.  I'd never played the card game, and some kids I knew, who had more knowledge of the prison system, but as much about card games as me, thought I meant Solitary, as in Confinement, and not the adjective itself.  They laughed cause they thought it was some kind of insult, and maybe it was, just not the kind they thought.

I can't say I take after my father, but I can't say I don't.  Our lives are different, and our temperaments.  Maybe I'm a mutation? But if my father was Solitaire, then I am Castaway. The youngest of three, only boy, raised by default, meaning, my parents only got involved in my rearing when they had to. I spent a lot of time figuring things out by myself.  By the time I was 4 years old I had already been exposed to so many inappropriate things, picked up so many inappropriate behaviors, that I can't help but concede that as a child, supervision was not present. It just didn't happen the way I feel it should for well adjusted children content with being children. I ended up becoming hyper conscious of all the wrong I was guilty of as a small child and alienated.  To say I felt guilty as sin was an understatement.  By the time I was old enough to be confronted with raging hormones, I was already severely emotionally damaged by my experiences as a small child.

One of the things that happened as a result of me isolating myself, and being around such a diverse group of friends, in a time of larger than life pop that was more integrated then than it is now, because Pop music included black artists in their genre instead of their being black genres crossing over into pop was cultural isolation. Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Culture Club, the Police, Genesis/ Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Hall & Oats, that was all pop to me.  Who would've known keeping that same colorblind taste in music would be a major factor in isolating myself from others?

When Breaking came out, I loved it. Beat Street was one of the most depressing experiences of my childhood, seeing Ramo die like that. Those were my introductions to hip hop.  I remember loving Chaka Khan's Feel For You, and Din Daa Daa, which I would have never guessed was by a German?  I don't ever remember seeing that video on Video Soul or Video Vibrations, but I do remember Herbie Hancock's Rockit and Art of Noise being on there. What I was hearing had a richer, more open ended cultural history than it was presented to be.  To me it was just music you could breakdance to. But it paved the way for other things later, things that would be considered Alternative, even some Electronica.  The point is, by embracing what I heard, I ultimately alienated myself when race and genre of music you should listen to got isolated to exclusive categories.

This happened for me in the mid to late 80s, right when my parents divorced, and we moved from a middle/working class cul de sac (to me it was just my circle off of our street at the time) to a townhouse complex that was a mix of renters who paid near $800 per month and section 8 housing.  Of the 80 or so townhouses, only 2 were occupied by whites.  Diversity was not a thing.  Though we were a five minute walk from the suburbs, the stigma kids from the town homes carried was strong. I was assumed to be a poor student by the staff at my new school who assumed my grades from my previous district, which they had low opinions of, couldn't have been accurate. It took 3 years of test scores in 90th percentiles in science and reading for them to accept me into their gifted student program, after being in the equivalent in my previous school going back to 1st or 2nd grade I think. All they did was spare me, because I wasn't a fashion conscious kid, I got labeled a nerd upon arrival at my new school.  So here I was, an abnormally tall, fashion faux pas prone, socially misaligned kid who'd been over exposed to graphic sexual content and violence as a small child, torn between two parents in the process of acrimonious split. I was a complete mess, and I'm sure getting punched and threatened with blunt and sharp objects was helpful in my becoming well adjusted. Yeah. Right.

I found things I liked that were socially acceptable, gave up things I held dear as symbols of my youthful hopefulness and idealism that my peers rejected. When I couldn't win them over to like something I knew might be aberrant, I just kept it to myself. I ended up keeping most of the things I liked to myself as a result, because they might have been rejected or ridiculed, or in some cases, mishandled and broken.  Some of this was a reaction to or trying to compensate for being called stingy by my sisters as a small child.  It resulted in having my toys stolen and broken by these new kids when I tried to share generously.  You can't win for losing I guess?  So I retreated into my imagination with my comics, cartoons, story ideas, an imaginary life far removed from my reality. I made a couple of friends who I felt I could relate to and not feel judged or beholden to some arbitrary cultural litmus tests, though I did impose the ones I was subjected to on them on more than one occasion.  I wasn't the good friend I thought I was. I was pretty pathetic when I think about it.  I didn't know how to live up to the high morals I wanted to experience from a friend, because I didn't have any friends like that. I was like most of the company I kept, an immature, over exposed, under supervised kid. I didn't want to be one, and I didn't want to be around any.

It took being pulled out of school for post-op recovery from foot surgery the fall of my sophomore year, the year I was getting comfortable in my own skin, learning how to look "cool" a little bit, becoming an aggressive basketball player, to really hammer in the Loner identity for me.  Being 6'5", wearing a size 15 shoe, the hospital folk opted to cut the toe box off of my favorite Nikes as a stopgap solution for not having medical shoes to fit me.  I remember those shoes being the most expensive pair I'd ever gotten, and coolest and boom, they were instantly the tackiest, and the source of ridicule that would find its way to the guidance office where I would be stationed everyday when I returned to school after a few months isolated to a bed in the living room of  our town house, watching daytime tv and videos, thinking about who knows what.  I know I mulled over all the things I was ashamed of that happened when I was little, and all the more, the things I did as a preteen to belittle others in response to being belittled myself. I thought about the ways I'd dumbed down my persona to make other people more comfortable with me, and how important it was that some adults saw through that, saw how I was harming my chances at a better future.  I thought about God and death, because I was put under, and for all I could sense, I was just gone, and then I was back. What did that mean?

It was at this point that I got somewhat serious about becoming religious.  I was also remarkably ignorant about all faiths other than Greek, Roman, and Nordic Mythology, because I checked out Time Life books from the grade school library as a kid, but the Bible was a mystery to me, outside of Jack Van Impe's predictions. But me the 15 year old Virgin, stuck in a wheel chair, my alienation was all but guaranteed.  I was on the far side of  the high school in a room with two guidance counselors, and an occasional student worker who'd be kind enough to get my lunch for me, and one particular young lady who Witnessed to me and shared the study books from her church, which was Pentecostal I believe. I never really assimilated, I was just the me I had become, stuck into new classes when I was able to walk.  Different people, same me, so the little bits of personality I was capable of sharing, were just bits and pieces that weren't built to tear other people down with insults. You see, that's what we did for fun back then.  We took pride in being able to tear a person down with funny insults better than any other high school. Our mascot was a Bulldog, but a Hyena would have been more accurate.  It was an atmosphere where if you weren't part of a pack, you were always on edge, wary of conflict, for fear of getting jumped.  In that context, the tendency to estrange myself from everyone was an asset.  To be absent while present was essentially a Keyser Sose like achievement.

It allowed me to define myself, not by my experiences in high school, but by the experiences I had apart from high school.  My non-participation became the defining aspect of that period of my life.  If I'd been able to take up the guitar then instead of just rapping all the time, who knows what would have come of it?  I did have music in side of me, and it was during those years that I was able to spend time unto myself rediscovering the cultural diversity of my youth in music, one artist, on genre at a time.  It set the stage for my college experience, which was not that different than high school, but the exponential increase in student body (from 400 to 6000) made it easier to find the closest thing to like-minded friends with common interests or ambitions. Even so, in coming out of my shell a little bit, I ultimately separated myself from the groups I was a part of, by virtue of the volume of unrelated things I anchored my sense of self on, some of which I embraced, others I denied, like the influence of  my parents personalities on my own. In the end, what I discovered in college and beyond was this:

Every cafeteria is exactly the same, no matter how big or how small, at least to me, because I never had the luxury of breaking bread with a group of people I knew and trusted for very long in life, ever.  We never made a habit of eating together at the table after my parents split.  We eventually ended up with our own separate TVs in our rooms, games etc. That coupled with the age difference, and the desire to lives outside of our home, I never had much family time to build positive relationships with my sisters or mother. We tolerated each other. This, a people person, does not make.  But it does prompt one to learn how to pretend to be one, for the sake of finding somewhere else to go instead of home.

There's more to be said, but I'll save that for another post, using the Stephen Stills cover of this song as the link I guess? 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Too Much of Not Enough

Silverchair was one of those bands that came along at the right time, under the right circumstances. I just wanted to cheer for them, see them succeed, become a great band.  I wanted to love Frogstomp, but every time I owned it I always managed to get rid of it.  There just weren't enough songs that stood the test of time to keep it in my possession.  But the band grew and evolved, up until the point where when I played, Diorama, the album this song appears on, most of my friends said they should have changed the name of the band, cause it was such a departure.  Little did I know that Young Modern would take their divergent musical path even further from its grungy roots, and I had to get off on my stop before it arrived there.

Diorama was a favorite of mine, and it had a myriad of emotional content, that was the perfect soundtrack to a roller coaster romance that I wanted and dreaded at the same time.  When you're of that mind, the taciturn nature of your emotional condition can be frustrating, for yourself, and for anyone who invests their own emotions into their interactions with you.  Being "Hot and Cold", Non-Committal, unreliable, or any other manifestation of insecurity or apprehensiveness becomes the prevailing condition under which all your social interactions occur.  It's draining.  Then, if you're a considerate person, you don't want to drag anyone into your mess. It will only make them sick of you and your drama, and then you'll be lonelier than you were before.

At some point a person should get tired of chasing their tail, settling for table scraps in place of a proper seat.  That's the sentiment that brings me back to this song.  Especially when I get the impression that the problem is intrinsically internal.  It doesn't matter what the other person feels or doesn't feel, whether your feelings are requited or not.  The truth is, it's how you interpret and digest your reality that determines your happiness.  When you get stuck on a feeling, on someone, it may often have nothing to do with any specific gesture the person made regarding you.  You may just be attracted to who they are, and how they carry themselves, none of which may have anything to do with you.  So the frustration is the fruit of your own laborious mental process, and you are your own worst enemy.

But the truth is, rather than being able to let go of my own feelings easily so I don't get caught up like this, I'd much rather be in the midst of a relationship that was worth holding onto, so there wasn't a vacuum that might spring to life, and need filling, like what seems to have happened to me in the last month or so.  In the end, the void is all I have to show, an active emptiness that doesn't draw anyone in, it only pulls me towards any object/ person that's close enough to reach out to. But invariably they all have enough velocity to escape it's pull, whereas I'm bound to it. This emptiness is inadequate to satisfy my soul. If it can't be filled, I am hopeful, yet saddened a bit by the thought of it passing from me. Its absence will leave me in a better mental and emotional state.  As I have said before, To Want is to suffer.  Why suffer when you can accept what you have and leave it at that?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

When Your Mind's Made Up...

We'll let the video linked in the title do the talking:

The band: My Heart
The engineer in the booth: My Head

Watching this clip on Ebert and Roeper 6 or so years ago made me want to see a dramatic movie, nye a musical.  The prior I am seldom compelled to see other than whimsy and mood independent of clips or promotion.  The latter has never, ever been my cup of tea.  There was something about the timbre of the movie that came across, maybe a generational tone.  I just had a great feeling about it, and it delivered.  In my head, it's, in pop culture terms, the antidote to "The Office - Jim & Pam" Syndrome. Erring on the side of fidelity and empathy for the person you have committed to... would be the Once method, in that they stayed true to their preexisting loves no matter how strongly they desired a deeper closeness and intimacy to each other.  It wasn't so much a mutual decision, but one that was respected, and from that, each loving gesture took on greater significance.  The emotional connection meant more because of the honor that tempered the passion.

The Office - Jim & Pam Syndrome is best summarized in one phrase: "The heart wants what the heart wants."  Surrender to desire because you can't deny it.  No matter what you try it will compel you to its whims.  This is a poetic idea, but it's one that undermines the value of dedication and commitment and the role they play in expressing passion and love.  It takes an incredible love to weather storms and triumph over discord.  Can we trust something fickle with the defining experiences of our lives? Flight of fancy turns us all into opportunists, and nothing turns me off of romantic pursuit  like the feeling I am competing or in conflict with standards, with others, for the attention and affection of someone who has captivated me.

No one has made me think of it in a long time, but I think of my song Cozy, which I have long since forgotten  how to play.  It just so happens I don't have a document file of the lyrics either, so I guess I'll retype them from a hard copy so I can paste them into a document file now:


I don't sleep as much as I should
opportunities abound I might if I could
it's as simple as having things on my mind
as drowsy as I am I can't unwind

I just want to put you at ease, but I'm warning you, you have to say please

Drifting and wandering, my thoughts float away
Comforting, welcoming, rising the next day
Drifting and wandering, thoughts just run away
Comforting, welcoming, the sun rises anyway

I could ramble on forever and a day
searching for something clever to say
a simpleton chasing ghosts in his mind
tired all the time and partially blind

I want you to feel at ease, but you've warned me that I have to say please

Drifting and wandering, my thoughts float away,
Comforting, welcoming, rising  the next day
Drifting and wandering, thoughts just run away,
Comforting, welcoming, the sun rises anyway

We all have our moments, trying by ourselves
when the weight is too heavy, a hand or two would help
you can't trust anyone, so you settle for what's left
and wonder why you're lonely, you did it to yourself

For one I just want to be at ease, this life's demands disturb our peace

Drifting and wandering, my thoughts float away,
Comforting, welcoming, the sun rises anyway,
Comforting, welcoming, you're welcome to stay,
Or call it a day,  what else is there to say?

Well, I wrote that a least 10 years ago if not more, and haven't read it since the last time I tried to demo it, which has probably been 10 years.  After all that's happened, it was either an inspired lyric in terms of sentiment, or I haven't gotten any better at managing emotional attachment and attraction at all.  I'm hoping it was just inspired.  I did change the last line of the song.  I guess I will relearn the guitar part.  It was a very "afloat at see" type thing in drop d.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Way Sound Leaves A Room

There are few things that can inspire melancholy than uncertainty. I would concede that uncertainty about the greatest emotional vulnerabilities are the most unsettling. To call out and be met with nothing but an echo trailing off.  To hear her voice echo in your head as it trails off in the air, met with an inadequate response. To swoon is to be flung aloft and suspended for a time, to pine is to smart on the ground after landing.

Sarah Jaffe has mastered the art of  melancholy musically. I'm letting her sing me back to sleep at this late hour, if only for a little while.  When I wake up, I will still hear the siren song with no melody or rhythm in my head, composed of the gaze, the smile, the warmth and cool of another that seems both distant and close, the earth and the moon indeed. In the silence of space our light is the only trace of our existence we leave.  That becomes our voice. My heart races when she lights up in my presence, and if I could glow, I would.  When she coolly forgoes acknowledging me it's as if a cloud obscured the sun on a beautiful day.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


It just so happens that some of the best songs I have come across have the most appropriate titles for the things on my mind, and occasionally the lyrics work out and address things on my mind that may very well be unrelated to the title.  This song, Forever, by the Charlatans (UK) falls into that category, and to boot it's an incredible song, that bass line and organ is just filler.  I remember being blown away the first time I saw it on VH1 near 12 years ago. I borrowed the cd from a friend of mine who had been a fan and zoned out to this one. For me, it was the kind of song I wanted to loop infinitely, which makes the title all the more apropos.

Now what does this have to do with my current state of mind?  Well, honestly, the notion of being locked into a perpetual pattern, fixed in this current life path I'm on is starting to bother me just a little it, as desire and opportunity stumble all over each other and cross my path.  The challenge is that I can easily see myself fixed in this pattern because though I feel some sort of wanting or another, it's not concrete. Wanting something vague leaves you ripe for disappointment once you find out what the specifics are when it comes time to ante up.  You never want to hand out blank checks written on your peace of mind, desire can be expensive.  I have to be extra-careful with my indulgences.  At the same time, if I am too careful, too reserved, I will find myself going in circles. Life as played on an infinite loop.  This mortal life is finite, and I'm coming to the point where I accept that the progression from one point to the next is preferable to maintaining a perpetual stasis.

Friday, November 9, 2012


The song that bares this title is a a personal favorite of mine.  Just a wicked combination of all the things I could ever think to call suave in a song.  The album, the Band, The AM, really got overlooked. Such a shame.  Anyway, I don't have much to say.  If you've been reading these posts, there are moments where I allude to someone who has become the object of my unexpressed, or should I say indirectly expressed affection.  I can't rightly explain why I hits me like a ton of bricks, but it does, it has for a while, and only recently did I allow myself to be open to it in the least bit.

I have been as coy as I think i am capable of, and only recently have I taken opportunities to show my cards a tidbit, but, I left myself an out. As usual, I got a mixed reaction or had a breakdown when trying to discern one that may not have been there.  That I can't easily figure out how to take things, how to express ideas, thoughts, and feelings, is a sign of how beguiled I am. And it was all accomplished with subtlety and sweetness. I have left my options open, knowing that what I am trying to understand may not be one at all, but it was undeniable today that  beneath the surface I am hopelessly entangled emotionally, and freely absorbing the best of someone else is going to require moving beyond this long developing enchantment I've fallen under. It's always been there, in denial, and I've always shunned it as a star struck kind of puppy love that's not uncommon for its subject.  The real question is whether her expressed ignorance of the effect she has on people is a coy charade, a state of denial, or genuine ambivalence to the reactions she elicits from others?

Regardless, this song is incredible, and she is undeniably present in my mind.  When she's present in the flesh, it's like my eyes are tethered to the wake of her movements. When I think of her, as cliche as it may be, I think of a song by the former bandmate of two of the three members of The AM   The impact someone like this has on you is a litmus test of a man's righteousness, because you can't in good consciousness give anyone else the impression that you have room for them in your heart and mind when it's occupied by someone out of your reach, possibly in large part because you're hesitant to extend it towards them and leave yourself open, or be so eager you're not prepared to catch yourself if you fall... flat on your face. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Human Behavior

So, first off, this is one of my favorite songs by King's X, hands down.  It's the perfect combination of Groove and Grind by my standards.  It's also the perfect title to wrap around this metaphorical experience I had that speaks to my mind state regarding some very personal decisions.  It also taps into my inner skepticism about what's going on around me.  If I really cared one way or another about that, I would have to re-title this blog: Paranoid and link Garbage or Black Sabbath.  For another day...

So, here's the scenario: Someone bakes cookies, and for whatever reason, having a cookie is not something you can do in good conscience.  Maybe you're due for dental work or something?  The cookies really appeal to you, they look delicious, but you pass.  Now these cookies are out for public consumption amongst a few dozen adults who will casually come by and have a cookie or two.  These people are opportunists, but they will have mixed feelings about eating the cookies too.  They will nitpick over who baked them, consider their own dietary concerns, but in the end, they want to eat cookies.  I know this, and the cruelty of being denied what I want by my own good judgement when tempted with these cookies is worthy of poking fun at.  So what do I do? I return for a cookie or two, which I wrap up and store, to eat after my dental work is done.  I also leave a note making light of my conflicted state.

On the eve of a 2nd date with the dentist, with a desire to keep the joke that is my miserable condition running, and nurse the wound opened up by my negative experience, I buy two boxes of Who Nu nutrient packed cookies.  At first I think to hoard them, but instead, I offer them up on display in the same place the homemade cookies were presented for all to consume.  I include a note highlighting their inferior genesis in contrast to the last pre-dental cookie offering.  I eat a few, and in a days time both boxes have been devoured by the same adults who indulged in the homemade cookies that set this all off.  I do witness the baker of the original cookies contemplating how all the Nutrition gets into those delicious store bought cookies.  You know me, I always have an answer, regardless of how haphazardly thought out my presentation of it may be. So, of course I took the opportunity to broach a conversation and offer some sort of "insight".  I piped up with "It's like cereal..." and I may have rattled off some other jibberish that didn't matter to the baker, or myself other than being a failed conversation starter.

Enter Tuesday, the day of the Mint Chocolate explosion.  I am a big fan of Mint and Chocolate together, as is the coworker of mine who's desk is the default display case for cookies and sweets.  She also has the same dentist I do, so, the cruelty of these cookie traps is a conversation piece we can empathize over.  I have been "off of candy" since my dental work, tail between my legs in the sweet tooth department other than dry cereal, instant oatmeal, and unfrosted pop tarts.  It's been humbling.  Well, before me on the desk were Mint and Chocolate candies coupled with Whole Wheat Pretzel sticks, and I must concede a fondness for a good pretzel.  Next to these candies and pretzels lay a familiar tuppleware dish, full of a familiar looking pile of cookies, but with a twist... instead of simple chocolate chip cookies, there were Mint Chocolate Chips & White Chocolate Chips mixed in!  I have never had such a thing, but this looked to be a mind-blowingly good combination in theory.  I had actually seen Hershey's mint chocolate chip morsels on sale at the grocery store, and a year ago would have bought them on the spot and then added them to my "healthy" breakfast cereal, but I did the right thing instead.  I was resolved to err on the side of discretion, treating my diet like my public life.

I returned to my office, pondered my lunch options, attempted to plan my dinner based on that, and had a change of heart. A "devil may care" impulse rose out of the resignation that my lunch choice was ultimately far less healthy than eating a couple of cookies, so I choose to eat a cookie or two to tide me over and go for a healthier lunch as penance.  So I caved and was going to have a Mint Chocolate Chip cookie, but the opportunists had already gobbled them up.  Oh well, too late, nothing new for me.  Part of the logic of delaying gratification, particularly a questionable indulgence, is  that given time the opportunity will pass and with it the conflict, but there's always the potential for regret.  Regardless, while at my desk, I was confronted with a greater temptation, Little Caesar's Pepperoni Cheese Bread.  I went so far as to look up the nutritional information, which was just enough information to turn me away from that as a meal option. I was so defeated when I found out 1/10th of the full amount was 150 calories, I got up, thoughts of being resigned to my instant oatmeal in my mind, and set off to have a cookie or two, not knowing they'd been eaten up.

Sans cookies, what did I do?  I went to Little Caesar's, got an order of Pepperoni Cheese Bread, and Churros.  I resolved to split the Cheese bread over Lunch and dinner, so that the indulgence wasn't so extreme, and shared the Churros with my fellow Mint Chocolate Aficionado and my supervisor.  Timing was such that the Mint Chocolate Cookie Baker happened to pass by to pick up the empty tupperware not long after I'd been called to the office and shared the Churros.  I thought my boss had eaten a last of the Churros, but she only took half.  It didn't matter, we (the baker and I) didn't cross paths and when I checked my little bag of Churros, there was that last bit for me.  If you can't have mint as a palette cleanser post meal, cinnamon is a good alternative, and Churros meet the warm, sweet and salty, crispy texture sweet spot that fresh baked cookies offer, so I came out alright for myself, even if I missed an opportunity to keep my cookie/ dental work joke going.

Is it ironic that I woke up with sensitivity in my fillings for the first time in a few days, like they KNEW cookies would be there waiting for me?  Is it coincidence that there would be Mint Chocolate goodness there in the office the day after some of the staff found out I would be leaving the building, following the meeting where it was announced to the rest of the staff?  Nah, it was a post-staff development/ post-staff meeting treat/ token of appreciation.  It didn't have anything to do with me.  That's the rational, non-self-centered way to look at it.  But who am I kidding?  I am at best 45% rational, and 94% self-centered.  I view everything as a test, an opportunity to profile a person's personality, and I think people pick up on this.  It's my own self-conscious nature that makes me question whether people are testing or profiling me.

Why am I blathering about all this?  Well, because I profile myself, and in retrospect I can see a behavioral pattern manifest in the mundane that relates to matters I consider more substantial in regards to how I relate to the people in my social circles, personal and professional.  I have been exploring the degrees of social distance I, and others, are comfortable with, and whether I'm satisfied with that.  Today seemed like a parable playing out, a parallel for my mental and emotional wheelhouse.  What does this say about me, my thought process, my choices?

I try to embrace the importance of being able to deny one's self when necessary, to delay gratification and be discrete.  This is a manifestation of a desire for control after being at the mercy of circumstance.  I am willing to be flexible in order to indulge my appetites, but I understand it comes with consequences, sacrifices.  Because of this there is a level of detachment that permeates how I relate to any and everything I can not fully control.  I will, to a fault, measure my options, exploring what it is I desire most, while scrutinizing what's put out before me by others.  As a result I may resign myself to the options I control, and passively reject the things I truly desire, but don't want to compromise myself to have, unless circumstances are such that they prove themselves a healthier choice than what I want most.

Today, I got what I wanted dating back 5 days or more. I shared what I considered the indulgent part of it in order to forgo consuming it all myself.  What does it say that I find it practical to save myself from myself by sharing what I desire or relish with others?  Well, at least as far as food is concerned.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I remember my dreams, occasionally have lucid ones.  Sometimes I have ones that play out in reality.  You could say my subconscious mind is just recognizing the path of things going on in my life I refuse to directly acknowledge, or you could say I have had brushes with precognition.  I don't mean De Ja Vu either, I've experienced that so often in life I distinctly know the difference.  What I am talking about is full out dreams with specific details about individuals that turn out to be realities.  Some of these realities are coin toss presumptions, and then there are more esoteric observations.  Those things often inform how I behave towards people, how I approach situations and circumstances.  If there's one thing I do, it's listen. I tend to hang on every word, gesture, nuance, hint of a nonverbal cue when I find myself curious about a person or situation.  Sometimes I create opportunities to listen.  Sometimes I let them find me, if only to confirm or debunk the things intimated to me in my dreams.

As it stands, the one area my dreams have proven the most telling, is in my love life.  I'm keen on avoiding self-fulfilling prophesies, but I have to be honest and admit that there are a few pivotal life experiences that played out in detail as they were depicted in a dream under what would otherwise require improbable turns of events, the nature of which my mind could never fathom beforehand.  That being my history, when confronted with a dream that informs me of details I have not been given about those in my life that ultimately come to light little by little, I'm compelled to "Follow the Omens" and trust my instincts, even those some would label as superstitious or supernatural, depending on your stance on extrasensory phenomena.

In this case, I find myself particularly derailed.  My dreams let me know I could scratch the surface of a situation. What seemed innocent and playful was an outgrowth of something traumatic and consuming, so much so, those on the periphery of the situation at its onset would find themselves completely shut off from it at its climax, and resolution.  There is something to be said for a dream when you find yourself witnessing a person's life unraveling until ultimately a crisis overtakes their existence.  It was harrowing, but what troubled me in the dream, was the way I felt early on when the distance was broached, and the impact of the resignation that set in when the distance was expanded, and I found myself cut-off in the end, rightfully so.

My reality has mirrored that interaction, and I have, by nature, second-guessed my impulse which is an innate desire to relate to, draw nearer to the subject of my dream, knowing good and well, something deep within me is aware that matters are such that the situation may not be one that will prosper my heart & mind.  Who or what is in control?  It would seem fate is intervening on my behalf yet again, as it has with the last two subjects of my "epics" as far as dreams are concerned.  When I feel myself being drawn into the whirlpools of emotional obligations, I have been shown the door by circumstance.  For this, for some reason, be it a fault of character or simple weakness, I am grateful.

I would love to have bliss in this world, but this world is not meant for bliss.  I would enjoy finding solidarity and comfort in someone I set myself apart for in fidelity, and they do likewise, but have trouble finding a path to that end I can invest in with confidence. The paths to romance in my life have been roughly hewn, and I don't have the patience to stumble around aimlessly trying to get a foothold on an ever contorting and slippery path.  So I have chosen to play the listener, hint at being the provocateur, taking things as they are, waiting to see what will be given, how close it is to what I want, but have decided I may very well deny myself, for the sake of things I value more than gratification.  I want lasting satisfaction, so when I entertain a dance around what someone else seems willing to share, or what I've gleaned from dreams, this song, this Incredibly Bewitching song by Fleetwood Mac, gains heft in life experience that it had previously conveyed to me in essence, such that I need not live out the lessons it foretold.

Thunder only happens when it's raining, Players only love you when they're playing, Women they will come and they will go, When the rain washes you clean, you'll know...
You'll know.