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Closer Issue 11

A Perfect Ending

And maybe in the dark we can disappear as the lights go down and we can forget the differences that divide us. Maybe we can forget the bullshit that separates us and keeps us from smiling at each other. We're all standing around with our arms crossed and we don't even move when the band starts to play. So why did you even come out tonight? Maybe going home with someone is all this means to you, but it could be something more. Once we were actually unified because we were all outcasts. Now, even the outcasts have cliques. We created our culture and now we're tearing it apart with our bare attitudes. And when did punks start listening to rules, much less making them? When did we decide that acting like this is acceptable, that putting on a mantle of hypocrisy, condescension and exclusion is perfectly good clothing as long as we choose to wear it? I'm tired of all the stupid games we play and I'm tired of the bullshit. I'm tired of our hobbled honesty, tied to a stake with a short rope. I'm tired of people who can't say what they want or mean. We're all capable of much more than we suspect if we just stop doubting. Our feet and hands are well-trained; they know what they have to do and it is instinct for them now, so allow me the discourtesy of trying to script the perfect ending for your cold shoulders and uninterested backs, even though everything about you says you've already decided how this one is going down. Maybe this time we'll finish the show with a handshake instead of a fight or, even worse, indifference. Maybe instead of filing singly into the night, we sit on the curb and talk until dawn even though we all have to work tomorrow. And maybe we'll actually look each other in the eye, no matter how uncomfortable or awkward such direct, unavoidable contact may be.

Thank You, Good Night

It was a night just like this one when I met you. I was alone at a show; we started talking and a few weeks later, you and I became we for a while. All things change and we were no different; you and I are just better now than we were. I still remember how it felt to realize that I met someone who I understood why I was there, because it was the same reason she was there. These moments calm the hurt and loneliness. They erase the past in anticipating a song. And as I sit here on this leaf-strewn patio, I know that, finally, it's my choice. And nothing will ever hold me back again.

Sweeping Out The Ashes Of The Dreams We Burned To Stay Warm

I spent a long time talking to Kenny from The Neighbors last night. Years ago, we were both going through the credential program to be teachers, two punks out to change the world from the ground up, one person at a time. I didn't make it through; I dropped out after my mom's suicide. He quit after he got a job teaching and saw how fucked the schools really are and how little teachers can do to change it. The worst schools are also in the most impoverished neighborhoods - race and culture don't play as much of a part as economics do. In short, if you're poor, you're fucked as far as social structures are concerned. More people now are richer than ever before, yet they don't seem to do much but buy useless shit. I've seen people I've known for years attain sudden wealth and suddenly develop consumption habits; we've grown apart because of it, because their world of the rich and popular has never been my place and never will be, because I refuse to sacrifice friendships on the altar of financial gain. Compassion seems to diminish as net worth increases. It seems that it's a virtue these days to sell out and forget your roots as quickly as you can, that a conscience and ethical foundation are more trouble than they're worth. We have developed a culture that produces a lubricant of depression, bitterness, malice, spite and suicide in its engine of success. For all our wealth, for all the cars, malls and houses, we don't seem any happier. Our lives don't seem any more full. And our hearts don't seem to ache any less.

One For The Road

I'm sitting in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport waiting for my flight. tiltWheel played last night and, even though I was dead tired and knew it would only get worse on the plane, I went. After all, I never know when, or even if, I'll get to see my friends again. It hit home once against last night when Dave dedicated "The Wake" to another friend of his who had died. I didn't know the guy; what I do know is that life is too short to use exhaustion as an excuse to miss part of it. I didn't want to sit in an airplane with even the remote chance that I could die without having taken the time to show up and see my friends. When these moments pass, leaving only memories in and at their wake, I want to be able to raise a glass with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.

A Good Streak Of Bad Luck

I'm in the midst of a very long dry spell. My friend Kristen said it best - I've been in the desert so long that I named the fucking horse. It's been a long time since I've gone out with anyone in any significant way. I don't miss much about it; friendships are usually more rewarding and I never have to worry about when I get home, but I do miss the closeness - particularly the emotional connection. I'm sitting in the terminal in Frankfurt right now. There's a couple sitting across from me, gazing into each other's eyes and whispering in German. She's sitting in his lap and stroking his cheek; they kiss every so often. That's what I miss. I miss losing circulation in my legs because she wants to be held and hold. I miss a soft hand on my cheek, tilting my head just so to let another gentle kiss linger on my lips.

Tired O'Clock, Airport Standard Time

I'm in Germany, but all I've seen of the country is tile floors and cigarette vending machines. I only had a couple of hours so I didn't have time to go anywhere. I had a double espresso and a beer and watched people smoke Gauloises and Gitanes. I converted money to Deutschemarks and Zlotys. I wound up speaking more Japanese than German and more Spanish than English. I thanked people in the wrong language because I was switching between four languages in rapid sequence. However, it was worth it just to see the puzzled expression on a German barista's face when I said "Arigato gozaimasu." I watched security teams patrol the concourse, MP-5s at the ready. It's unnerving to look someone who's younger than I am in the eye and realize that she'd shoot me without hesitating. If it weren't for the military presence, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Frankfurt and O'Hare, Narita and Pu Dong. There are so few signs in German here and so few announcements that I could be at JFK or LAX. I could be in any goddamn airport in the world and the only way for me to tell where I was would be how I exhausted I am.


Finally, I'm in a place that seems different. I'm finally back to language barriers; to handing people bills and turning that money over to faith in human nature. I'm sitting in the domestic terminal in Warsaw and waiting for my final flight. My stomach is clenching pretty hard. This is the first time I've been this far from home with no support network. No one is meeting me. I don't speak any bits of the language. I feel completely alien here. Heavily armed troops in kevlar vests are walking around, dressed head to toe in urban camouflage. I'm squatting on the ground, my back to a wall and my bags at my side, smoking terrible cigarettes and watching people walk by. About every five seconds it hits me that I'm enjoying this. I'm exhausted and probably won't make it to my hotel for another four hours, if I'm lucky, and it's already 5 a.m. Pacific time. I'd like to pretend that I've slept, but five-minute naps just don't count. I'm looking like Dee Dee Ramone and feeling like Joe Jackson. I'm flatline fucked from exhaustion and ready to crash. My eyeballs feel like they're going to explode. I haven't looked in a mirror for several hours; I'm scared to. The last time I did, my eyes were bloodshot and looked bruised; their bags should have counted as carry-on and I realized that I looked worse than I felt which was no small feat.

Gdansk Shipyard Democracy, 1982

Random notes from cobblestone streets, a 400-year-old city and spray-painted graffiti that reminds me that punk isn't dead. I watched street musicians play and guys leaning against walls, drinking beer. I just ate dinner in the rain, sitting at a sidewalk café by the river. I've been watching people for what seems like hours; girls with eyes so startlingly blue that they remind me of Alabama lightning storms I saw as a kid; people with smiles wider than the streets, making it difficult to walk; girls in black skirts and white shirts, walking on the waterfront in lock-step rhythm. I'm in a small tavern below street level right now, watching the gloaming light fade, listening to drum 'n' bass and the sound of people talking in a language that I don't understand at all. I've got a glass of Hevelius in front of me; I just had a bottle of Zywiec. I'm beginning to understand more about why things have panned out the way they have. I've lost nearly everything - it means I'm free. I make my own rules now; never again will I be subject to those made by anyone else. I dedicate every drink tonight, as I've dedicated most of those over the last year, to those who are no longer with us - living or dead. They are the ghosts that move with us - in front of us, alongside, behind. They are the ghosts of family, friends and lovers who have moved on. They all feel present right now - this city is so old that it seems filled with them, so many memories that there's barely enough room for the present and the people in it, and they all have stories to tell. They all seem kind and generous of heart. But bitter wraiths howling for vengeance fill my history. I hope that they may yet mature and achieve the grace of these ghosts, these kindly memories that remind me of dub music drifting through a darkened, kiss-filled room as I stumble on the uneven cobblestones again. I feel at peace here and I don't think it's just the exchange rate that leaves me drinking what amounts to a pint for about a buck. I don't know what there is to do here, but I do know that I've already nursed a beer in a park, listening to rain fall on the tree leaves above me, surrounded by cooing pigeons that didn't seem to fear me at all. I know there are things to see and do; I can only hope that I find them.

New Day Rising

Church bells ring across the city. Crows caw and pigeons coo. The city is waking up, but I've been up for hours. I watched dawn rise over the river, walking past fishermen with a few lines out, steam showing off my breath. Fog blankets the city; I can't see the tops of the spires. I watched people sweeping up and closing their cafés for the night as early risers walked their dogs. I've been wandering in ever widening circles, trying to get so lost that I'd have to take a cab back, and I haven't succeeded yet. I know where I am and how to get back. With every city I visit, I understand better - driving is fast, but walking lets me meet the city and get acquainted with it. When I've walked through a city, I may forget the street names, but my feet will always remember. I'm drinking beer and being quiet. Listening. I'm nursing this beer, sitting in a wrought iron chair with a pack of Davidoffs in front of me. I did almost the same thing in Japan except it seems like more people spoke English there. Communication difficulties were just that - obstacles to be overcome, nothing more. Moving to Sri Lanka and being a cricket bowler makes sense right now. Simply put, anything seems possible at moments like this. It's not that I can't do it anyway, but anyone seeing these things would understand and agree. I had dinner at 9:30 tonight, steamed vegetables and Hevelius, then I walked in the rain for over an hour, getting soaked. Pouring rain all around me, water dripping from the brim of my Red Sox cap as I crossed the river. I couldn't find anything open but the Saxon Pub so I had another Hevelius. Can I even begin to describe what it's like to wander through a rain-soaked unknown city alone? People under umbrellas ran for cover as the rain came down harder; I kept walking until the streetlights were blocks apart. I didn't know where I was; I don't even remember how many times I crossed the river. I just know that the rain kept falling and I kept hoping for a random kiss from a woman whose name I would never know. I sang songs to myself - Avail, Down By Law, Pete Townshend. The streets were slick; my breath showed as soon as it hit the air. It wasn't much of an adventure as such things go, but I couldn't stay in on a night like this. The empty rain-soaked streets had everything I needed to soothe my aches and to calm what hurts me. I had been getting depressed again; I'm not depressed now. I feel like I don't have to worry about reopening old wounds; that those heartache injuries have finally scarred over and that, while those parts may never be as strong as they once were, I am finally released.

Indian Summer

The last crush I had was at the end of summer in 1999. We sat on the couch for hours, talking. I cooked for her and played guitar with my clumsy, fumbling fingering. And I fumbled my way through the crush too. I can't even fake playing guitar; I didn't fare nearly as well with her. I had known her since college, but had lost touch with her for several years. We spent a night in 1997 sitting on the steps of a church, talking and watching prostitutes walk the boulevard. My mother had just died; we shivered in the cold and I bled heartache stories that washed over frigid concrete. I wanted to kiss her that night; I needed some kind of contact that didn't leave me feeling hollow, that didn't leave me with an overwhelming sense of loss. That didn't leave me. I didn't tell her until last year. She was sitting on my couch and it was late. We weren't sitting close; we didn't sit any closer. I don't know if things would have been different if I had said something that first night. We're friends, of a sort. We go out to dinner every so often. She lives with her lover so I don't see her much these days, but I still can't get over how she looked that summer, leaning against a wall and looking out the window, sipping orange juice. Her long brown hair was down and shining in the late afternoon sun, radiant and glowing. And I'm lying in a rumpled hotel bed in Gdansk and listening to rain fall outside while church bells ring the city awake, their peals resonating for minutes. I don't think it's dawn yet. I'm wearing clothes from two days ago and smoking. It's grey outside and dim; dawn comes early here. It's about 4:30 a.m. and I'm writing because it's last night back in the States and there's a hole in my heart that nothing seems to plug for long.

Calm Americans

I wandered into the Gdansk night and found a strip joint. The hotel doorman told me it was a dance club and I suppose he was partly right, but it certainly wasn't what I expected. He offered me a taxi which I declined, hopefully politely. If I had taken a taxi, I would have missed the street theatre, fireworks and all. I wouldn't have seen the beautiful Polish girl who bummed a cigarette from me, long curly brown hair and eyes as rich as the hues of an oak tree. I wouldn't have wandered around the same roundabout again and again, always finding the same couple making out on a bench, not caring who walked by and saw. I found my way to the club and was two shots of Beam and a bottle of Zywiec in before I noticed that one of the girls dancing had undressed. I downed my beer and left, hoping I could make it back to the Saxon Pub before it closed, but I was too late. So now I'm sitting at a sidewalk café called the Sphinx, drinking Zywiec. My flight leaves in a few hours; I'm buzzed and might as well stay awake. I'm out of cigarettes, but the bartender's still pouring. And I can't think of a better city to drink in. I drink to those who are no longer with us, I drink to the dead. I drink to the people who are trapped in lives that they can't believe are theirs, in lives that never should have turned out like they have, save for a lesson that they have yet to learn. And there's a smile in my memory now, an open, honest smile that speaks of worlds beyond this one. And on this night, like so many others before it, I'll probably drink until my cab to the airport arrives. This city seems kind to me, welcoming even. It whispers to me, promising me that, in time, the hurt that I know, the lonely aches and bitter betrayals that linger after a lover leaves, may yet be soothed with nourishing, strengthening poultices, that my heart isn't necessarily shattered. Here we measure distance in kilometers; my mind uses a different metric. I only consider progress - how far I have come and how much farther I have to go. Bourbon doesn't offer as much solace as it used to and doesn't make me ache any less these days, and my beer has soaked through this pad of paper. It's cold out here and they turned off the outside speakers. I have about half a pint of Zywiec left and it's almost 1 a.m. It's afternoon back in the States. My flight leaves in a few hours. I need to pack carefully; I'm taking some Polish vodka home. And as I sit here, people leave into the street, mostly alone. And I know that they know what I feel when I fall exhausted into an empty bed. And where is love in all this? It exists only on the street, in the welcoming embrace of a city that offers solace to the lonely in its history of lovers and centuries gone by. Tonight, I'll stagger back to the hotel down these same empty streets that the people who preceded me walked, the ethereal arms of a city that I had never seen before but am now saying goodbye to around me, wishing I had seen the bartender at the Saxon Pub one more time - her pixie cut black hair, sparkling eyes and smile like a prism that threw rainbows, even at its peripheries. And this is good enough. For now.

China Northwest WH2502

I'm sitting in Shanghai's Hong Qiao airport, waiting for my flight to Xi'an. I'm traveling about 2,000 miles per day right now and I'm tired. I booked the flight yesterday, less than 12 hours before departure; while most American carriers regard that as an outright invitation to perform various and sundry acts of sodomy upon several orifices, China Northwest is charging me a whopping $230 for the privilege of going somewhere I've always wanted to see. By comparison, the flight costs less than an average print run of this zine. By my reckoning and experience, it's also about 20% of what a U.S. airline would charge for a comparable ticket under similar circumstances. Thus, we think nationalized transportation is bad. I wandered around last night, trying to get lost in Shanghai. Again. It's my travel hobby. Some people like museums, others like restaurants and some prefer shopping. I like testing my sense of direction and going places where I probably shouldn't be. I wandered down side streets, looking at wares and haggling in pidgin Mandarin, the air thick with the smell of roasting pork. Steaming vats of egg drop soup in every restaurant, people lighting cigarettes on every corner. I walked past one restaurant just as the cook sneezed in his hands; he wiped his hands on his apron and went back to cooking. While I couldn't really eat any of the food anywhere (vegetarianism in China seems to mean less meat, not no meat), I started realizing that my American fear of unsanitary conditions was preventing me from fully partaking. Steam this, don't drink that, make sure everything is carbonated and for God's sake, don't eat the fruit - you could get typhoid. I truly understood for the first time what Steinbeck meant when he wrote that everyone was protecting him and it was horrible. So I wandered. I tried to get lost. Wound up talking with a dozen clerks who helped me buy a shirt. Mispronounced words in what I'm sure were embarrassing ways, based on how the girls laughed when I pointed out what I was trying to say in my phrase book. And I booked this flight to Xi'an so I could fuck off and not have anyone know exactly where I am. Disappearing is a great feeling.

The Sound Of A Distant Crush

So here's my deal - I'm 28, single, employed, on a plane to Xi'an and crushing on a girl. It's an odd situation - she lives in Northern California; I met her at a punk show. She emailed me and wrote that she didn't know if I remembered her. How could I forget? Close cropped sandy blonde hair tucked behind her ears, standing with her hands in the small of her back. She was wearing jeans and a shirt with spaghetti straps. We've been talking a lot lately - I really like her. We talk for hours - when someone asks me how I can talk to anyone for that long, I can't explain to them how it feels to connect with another person on so many intellectual and emotional levels. I've cried when I've been on the phone with her - it's the first time in years that I've felt like that. She's open and honest, smart and funny. And I think she's beautiful.

Hotel Womb

Exhaustion is setting in. I covered a substantial amount of ground today - probably 15 or 20 kilometers. I walked around pagodas. Climbed stairs. Found out that the Chinese invented proofreading and felt at home as I looked at a 1,000-year-old style guide. Talked about art with a guy who called himself Mike and realized that used car salesmen know nothing about the hard sell. Tried a Hao Mao cigarette and a Chunghwa. Drank beer. I'm back in my room now, my bedside table scattered with the remains of my day - change and a wad of bills, my watch and wallet, my phrasebook, a pack of Chunghwa cigarettes, a box of wooden matches. It's late and it's quiet. The neon lights on the building across the street trace patterns on the far wall and I'm ready to go to sleep.

Sunday Morning Ballroom Dancing

I left the hotel at about 7 a.m. and walked over to the park at the old city walls. The walls are solid stone, stand about 50 feet high and are at least 30 feet thick. These are serious walls; they mean business. The garden is between the wall and the moat. The moat also means business. It's as deep as the wall is high and just as wide. I wandered around and watched people dance in the early morning mist while grandparents taught calligraphy to their grandchildren. Rows of people practiced tai chi and exercised with sticks; still more people sat near bird cages and chatted while the birds chirped. I'm beginning to realize that I have a knack for finding places where foreigners don't go because I haven't seen a white person outside the hotel for two days. I walk down alleys, past stalls selling chicken, pork, live carp, vegetables and cigarettes (in some cases, all at the same time) and people just stare at me. I'm not learning much Chinese - I'm resigned to being illiterate and not even functionally. I wandered around, buying scrolls of calligraphy and brushes, feeling mildly uncomfortable as I realized people were standing around me, watching. The high point of my trip to Xi'an was seeing the terra cotta warriors. They're about an hour outside the city, but probably only 30 or 40 kilometers. I could have covered the distance on my mountain bike in about the same time it took to drive it. When I got there, someone came up to me and asked if I needed a guide. We negotiated a price (about $5) and off we went. Peter (his so-called English name - it's worth noting that most people I met who dealt with foreigners had adopted an English name, presumably so people might be able to pronounce it) spoke almost fluent English and was able to help me a bit with my Chinese. I asked questions about archaeology, Chinese history, painting, preservation techniques and metalworking. We talked about almost everything having to do with the exhibit and while we were walking from building to building, we talked about our lives. He was about my age and had lost both of his parents as well, his mother at the beginning of the year. I almost cried when I saw the warriors. It's difficult to explain why - part of it was remembering my mother, knowing she had been there and seen the same thing. Part of it was suddenly being face to face with clay statues that are more than 2,000 years old. Part of it was just seeing something new. I made it through the exhibit without crying - I'm still not sure how - and when I got to Big Goose Pagoda, I lit candles, said a quick prayer for the dead and another for the living, then tossed a fistful of incense sticks into the fire. I could smell the musky smoke as it burned, getting in my hair and my clothes.

Going Underground

I was somewhere under Xi'an in a seemingly endless rabbit warren of tunnels. At the high points, the roof might have been six feet - I'm around 6'2". I should have known things were going to get ugly when I passed the last stall. The tunnels started off as an underground shopping area in a highway underpass. In China, being a pedestrian is a good way to become a hood ornament. Cars don't stop - pedestrians are targets. Most people cross the street lane by lane, like they're playing Frogger. They inch close to traffic, then dart across each lane until they cross the street. However, on major streets (more than three rows of cars in the two marked lanes), it's too dangerous to do this, so people use underground pedestrian tunnels. This particular underpass had a tunnel leading off at a right angle, sloping deeper underground into a shopping arcade. The first stall had badges of all shapes and sizes - I picked up a star-shaped Mao pin (it's on my leather jacket now) and went on my way down the tunnel. Then the stalls got fewer and farther between and the next thing I knew, the tunnel was black. I could see lights ahead of me and behind, but not where I was. This wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for intersecting tunnels that were spaced about 15 feet apart. I could have retraced my steps to find my way out, but where's the fun in that? I was already about half a kilometer in; why turn around? It doesn't get much more off the beaten path than this, so I kept going. It isn't every day that I find tunnels to explore with no map, no skills in the native language to speak of (which didn't matter since no one was around to offer directions even if I did speak Chinese) and no mention of them in any book I had seen. I had some granola bars in my backpack and I was wearing decent walking shoes, so I went forward. Obviously, I found my way out. I stumbled across an unlocked gate and I let myself out. When I got to street level, I realized that I had no idea where I was. I wandered around until I found the Bell Tower and sat there for a while, trying to get my bearings while black market currency changers wandered by, nonchalantly holding dollar bills.

What About Now?

It's 7 a.m. Pacific time. I'm about 200 miles northeast of Tokyo, winging my way back to California with a stuffed dolphin in the seat next to me. I already wrote you about it, but I didn't tell you what it was. I just told you that people laughed and giggled, pointed and smiled. I've talked to more people because of this silly dolphin than I did in the days before the trip. Even on the plane, the flight attendants are chuckling about this guy with a leather jacket and road warrior satchel who's carrying a stuffed dolphin with him. It's been a long time since I've had a crush, since I felt that plunging fluttering of gastric butterflies caught in a downdraft. I can't even remember how long it's been since I've done something this silly for a girl. I emailed you last night about meeting me at the airport. You work in San Jose and I'm flying into SFO with my fingers crossed and country music on the headphones. I don't think you'll make it - I'm pretty sure I'll get into Portland and find an apologetic email waiting for me, expressing curiosity about this mysterious object and regret about the timing. However - and that word makes me worry because it reminds me that I still grin like an idiot when I see new email from you - I'm still hoping that I'll walk off the plane, looking as tired as I feel, unshaven, road-weary and a little hungry with this silly dolphin under my arm, and see you standing there. I can see it - your face breaks into a smile when you see me. I start grinning. Then the people between part and you see what I'm holding. You clap your hands to your mouth and start laughing. You make me feel goofy and I love it. I can't put a word to this yet; I don't want to name it. Any word I can think of only limits the possibility of what it might someday be. It's 9 a.m. in California. You're probably leaving for work now. Five more hours until I'm on the ground. Then passport control. Customs. Waiting for my connecting flight. A small lamp lights this paper as I write on it; the rest of the cabin is dark. I have a small glass of warm water at my side and I'm starting to feel something again.

I Wrote Holden Caulfield And So Did You

The other day, I was talking to someone about pain. The precise reason for the discussion and the topic don't matter as much as his uncomfortable reaction. Some people overheard and started asking questions, so I told them as well. He stood there, shuffling his feet, and seemed more uneasy and withdrawn from the conversation; later he told me that I shouldn't speak about such things, especially not in public. He said that people didn't need or want to hear it. Based on the situation, any half-assed sociolinguist can decipher that what he was really saying is that he didn't want to hear it and might have been concerned about what people might think of him. I'm introverted and perhaps a little shy, but I've never really cared about my appearance or how people perceive me. In fact, I've found that being open and honest about emotional suffering yields more good than harm. I'll never forget talking to someone I used to work with about a year ago and mentioning that I didn't know what I was going to do for Thanksgiving. She asked about my family and it raised the topic of my mother's suicide. As it turned out, her sister had killed herself only days before and she didn't have anyone to talk to about it. We spent the rest of the day on the phone, talking about what she was going through. One moment of honesty for me is a small thing; I don't think I could ever understand how that understanding helped her. It's one thing to suffer. It's entirely another to know that none of us suffers alone.

A Note To Anyone Who Needs It

Don't get angry at yourself for being optimistic - if you lose hope, there's nothing left. Once hope is gone, the possibility of change no longer exists in any real way, nor do the mechanisms for creating that change exist in any real way within you. Hang on to your hope. Hang on to that optimism and the crushes. They enrich us all, even if they don't pan out the way we want. And you're right, you had reason to be hopeful. However, you have reason to be hopeful in general. Life tests and challenges us because it needs to see what we deserve; it frequently goes out of its way to see how much pain we can take in order to discover how much joy we can handle, and it must be the case that you cannot know extreme happiness without also knowing its polar opposite of extreme sorrow, that you cannot know pleasure without also being firmly acquainted with suffering in equal measures and intensity.

Christmas Eve In The Drunk Tank; Santa Waits For Mrs. Claus To Bail Him Out

I'm listening to the Pogues. I love their drunken desperation and rebellious spirit, their melancholy poetry and joyful sorrow. It reminds me of all those Christmas Eves that I've spent drinking because I have nowhere to go except a bar and nothing to do except drink once I get there. And I really need to find a bar that's open on Christmas. I won't need it as much this year, but I'm tired of imposing on friends and feeling waves of pity. I'd rather go someplace where everybody has their own problems, doesn't want or need to hear about anyone else's, and can't spend the time or energy on pity because they're just barely hanging on.

Too Many Late Nights, Not Enough Beer

I want to talk, but it's almost 1 a.m. and it seems like all my friends are in time zones that are three hours ahead. Talk about sadness. I buried my sadness years ago and the ghosts still linger. Talk about bitterness. I wonder when I'll let go and let all this shit pass into history. It's a down night and I've given up trying to salvage it. I'll weather the rough spots, go to bed and pass out with my arms around myself. So my mouth stays closed. I stay quiet. And I feel like my fingers are bleeding on the keyboard. I kill time with volunteering to do Web projects for people. I do zines to pass the hours and sharpen my skills. I feel like I'm waiting for something, but fucked if I know what it is. The only time I don't feel lonely is when the lights go down and the band shrugs into their guitars and starts to play. I know there are other people who feel this way, like they just can't communicate or get through to people in any meaningful way. And I still hang on to the idea of moving to some distant town to wash dishes in an all-night truck stop, going back to my furnished room and smoking in bed until the sun is up and there's no way I can sleep, just to do it all again.

Somewhere Love And Justice Shine, But It Sure As Shit Ain't Here

And this shit is your response to punk? You counter the fire of Hot Water Music with Britney Spears, Avail's rage with the Backstreet Boys? You think you can extinguish what we started by throwing money and marketing into your mindless, soulless placebo for our hurt? I came by my rage honestly. It's born from loss and heartbreak, from compassion and sympathy. My anger was fired in your kiln of conformity as I saw who got left out and it's too late to try to break me. After everything I've seen and done, after everything your culture did to me, I swore enmity against the cold life you offered as a consolation prize. You asked what my price was. I just stared at you. And I know what that refusal means. You buy what you fear; you co-opt it. And if you can't buy it, you try to destroy it. So I'll invite destruction because, although it's not as good as what I have planned, it's better than your alternative. I don't know if I'll win, but I'll go down fighting. And it all breaks down like this - my integrity against your money. My truth against your bullshit. And it doesn't matter how many battles I lose - I've already won the war.

Let's Hear It For Bucket Seats - Let's Try It Like This

I used to read Cosmo because I wanted to know what kind of advice it dispensed. I wanted to know what kind of inadequacies it was instilling in the woman I was with; now, I'm sometimes curious about the inadequacies it's instilling in women I might date. And frankly, it terrifies me. Every page tells every woman that she isn't good enough, but if she buys this lipstick or pair of shoes, if she tries that sexual position or the other diet, that men might find her attractive. And it makes me sick in every way I can think of to know that women pay to have this shit rammed down their throats, as if the surrounding world isn't enough of a self-esteem destroying experience on a daily basis. Magazines exist to tell people that they are doing things incorrectly; it's their nature and their sales base depends on it. Every month, they have to destroy the ideas they planted the month before, just to leave something new and equally damaging in their place.

Pearl Harbor Television Program Directors

And this reminds me why I don't watch TV. The women are all beautiful; the men are lantern-jawed alpha male stereotypes. Every video merely reinforces the notion that wealth is all that matters - cars, jewelry, mansions. And I see nothing that says anything to me. I don't see anyone who looks like me, who's saying the things I need to hear. I may have been dancing around this lonely hotel room earlier but it's only because I wanted to move. Music can inspire change - there's a long tradition of singers and songwriters who have used art as a match to light the fuse of revolution - but these days, most music doesn't say what I need to hear. Maybe other people with better lives than mine appreciate insignificant pop songs, but there's a hard road behind me and I want to march to a beat in 4/4 time with an orchestra of Les Pauls backing it up. These days, I can really only rely on myself; I need to hear music that gives me strength and inspires me, that makes the road easier to walk. And I know that someone else must be leaning against a wall in a room in this city or another one, a vacant bed behind them, staring out at empty streets through a rain-streaked window. Grey smoke curls up from the ashtray, matching the sky, matching my mood. And I knew something else that matched once. At least she said it did. But that was years ago in a hotel room in another city with another dawn rising over a stark desert horizon. And these memories tangle up in themselves, coiling around each other, inseparable as new lovers clinging to each other, hoping that maybe this time love will stay instead of vanishing in a moment that can't be forgotten, leaving only a lingering bitter residue in its wake. And I just heard what I needed. I saw people who looked like me - pogoing geeks with glasses and bad hair, singing along to a song extolling the virtues of a six-string. Before its blissful three-minute pop rush had made it to the chorus, chills were sprinting up and down my spine like Jesse Owens on his best day in his finest hour. I'm still lonely, but those power chords were enough to stave off the worst of it for a little while.

Sometimes, Music Is Your Only Friend

Lame night. Lame people. And I'll go to work tomorrow. Put on a happy face. Smile and say hello. People will laugh at things I say and I'll grin this snaggletoothed grin of mine that shows my lack of dental work over the years and my crooked, crowded teeth. Another co-worker will tell me about their single friend who I should meet. And I'll leave work late because the sound of an empty apartment door closing resonates like the sound of a crypt's gate. I'll pleasantly excuse myself from the invitations to that fashionable night spot or this trendy restaurant with over-priced food. I'll sit on my steps and smoke quietly in the cool night air until I feel too tired to stay awake. Until exhaustion claims me and I fall into unconsciousness like I'm stumbling into the arms of a former lover who's still kind enough to go drinking with me. My bourbon will remain untouched for the night. My dobro will wait patiently on its stand like a woman who leans upward for a kiss that never comes, her gesture unnoticed by an inattentive lover. And my hands won't get any better at chording and all the things I'll try to play will sound like Jandek; malformed progressions that should have been aborted before they were birthed. And yet I can pull my guitar into my lap, even if I can't do the same with a girl who giggles at the attention. I can hold it close and touch it and listen to the sounds it makes as I caress the strings, even if rosewood is nothing like skin and steel strings don't give as well as flesh. I can still try. At everything. And I may fail, but it's not the first time and it won't be the last. And I do it because I may fail, but more importantly, just once, I might get it right.

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Last modified on Wednesday, March 26, 2008