Monday, October 18, 2010

The Book of Love

Yesterday, I made a half-hearted attempt at trying to sort through the stacks and stacks of stuff I have allowed to pile up in my place. By sorting, I really mean purging. The goal is to get rid of it all. This will not ever happen, but I like to believe that it will. After dumping a bunch of useless paperwork, I tried tackling a box of my old writing. As I’ve mentioned before, I have random notebooks and loose sheets of paper piled in drawers and boxes, crammed with handwritten writing efforts. This is when I discovered a little yellow sheet of paper crumpled up and smashed into the corner of the box I was going through. It was not titled. Since I have been unable to get myself to write at all in recent times, I thought I’d share this scattered thought from my past, which may have been a rough draft as an intro for an old issue of the “This Wreckage” ‘zine. I know I did not use it. Clearly, I came to my senses.

“I’m only pulling pieces
From the pages of my former life
Stiff and wrinkled paper
Written in a different time
Are you gonna cross the line?”
- Corin Tucker, 2010

Being careful. No, you did not want to hurt her. You left no traps. Only an open door. Biting your tongue and smiling through the pain. Everything is perfect in here. Everyone is smiling. Everyone is happy.
Being too careful. Being someone different, because what you are is not enough. Nothing will last from this. Everything built on a foundation of lies.
Nothing works. Relationships are always doomed to fail. Fear, lies, miscommunication, misunderstanding and then, finally, truth. Inevitably, truth is the end. It’s really sad too. The simple delusions we put ourselves and others through.
Nothing works. Failure can appear from nowhere. All feels fine. All feels good. All feels right. No. Let’s screw it up. Let’s walk away.
Sometimes I wish I knew someone who believes in things spiritual. I don’t believe and I can’t (this person would disregard this). I wish I could be convinced that there is a plan, because I do not like what I see. I do not like what I feel.
Sometimes I get so anxious that a big ball wells up in my throat making it difficult to breathe. My lungs quicken, my hands clench into fists and my heart pounds erratically. This feeling arises far too frequently these days and at times as disparate as being pulled over in my car by a cop to seeing what I think may be a cute girl wandering around a half mile away. But this feeling is strongest when I’m alone and wishing a girl who used to like me would pretend to again. It’s during these times when the feeling of regret becomes so overwhelming that I cannot fathom why I made such rash and harsh decisions without care for how this could affect anyone, especially me.
Last year, was easily the worst year of my life. Half of it was bad, due to my own stupidity. The other half: I had no control over. It scared the shit out of me. Three down and I was nearly the fourth. Things may have turned out better if I had. Maybe I should’ve gone. If only the nurses hadn’t acted so quickly. Maybe if a doctor had not been available. I never did like to make decisions for myself. It’s too hard.
Full circle now. I’m left feeling nothing these days. Not a damn thing. Empty. Hollow. Yes, that’s right, kind of like a relationship where one or both people has lost interest, yet they keep it going. Why keep it going? It’s going to fail anyway.
- May 7, 1992

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Can I Play With Madness?

Max V

Sunday May 9th, 9:57

A crisp wind flows eastward stretching out towards the Willamette. I am sitting on some steps downtown waiting for the Max. Today was the first warm day of the year, but a chill is beginning to settle in to the evening – making me wish I had decided to wear a jacket. A fair weather weekend, along with the Cinco de Mayo festival at Waterfront Park have brought out the crowds tonight, so I skipped the last train through because it was crammed with folks heading home for the night. To my left, a guy at the other end of the block is making balloon animals for the kids who are high on sugar and adrenalin. I watch blankly, while holding a copy of a weekly paper in front of me.

“Can you spare any change,” a voice calls out from my right. I look up to see a teenage couple reeking of cloves lord over me. The boy has his arm around the girl and they are both wearing vintage faded black overcoats and black punk rock T-shorts. The girl clings to the boy and huddles under his arm. She is wearing a short skirt and ripped fishnets. Her eye make-up is thick and blotchy. It was her who asked for the change.

“Sorry,” I reply, almost chuckling audibly. Their punk/ goth/ industrial look is so clichĂ© that I nearly forgot that it’s no longer my mid-80s high school years. Even the bands that they advertise were defunct by the time I was old enough to hit the clubs. I make a half-hearted effort to look sympathetic, but they eye me with disgust anyway, as they move on towards their next potential coin benefactor. I shudder with the freshening breeze and a bit of nerves as well. I no longer feel any connection with teenagers and their unpredictability, which makes me feel old and frail and vulnerable.

Another train rumbles to my stop and I watch the teens step on, along with the balloon animal guy and hordes and hordes of chattering families. The train is once again packed, so I choose to wait. I light a cigarette and commence looking at the paper for ads for upcoming shows. As I read, I lose focus of my surroundings, save for occasional yelps from children and a pair of belligerent voices yelling at each other from down the block. I recognize the voices as two drunken guys out roaming the street looking for an outlet for their drunken energy. My recognition comes from the familiarity of being one of those guys too many times in the past. Somehow, they recognize my past glory as well, because they head straight for me. I turn back to the paper with fierce concentration, hoping that they will continue stumbling and bumbling harmlessly on by.

“Hey dude, how’s it hanging?” the white guy with long greasy blond hair groans at me. I do not look up at him, but my peripheral vision ascertains his position and that of his cohort, who looks to be Native American. They are a few feet to my right, holding tall cans of cheap beer. The silent guy peels around his buddy and throws his empty can at the concrete trash receptacle off to my left. He misses badly and stumbles uselessly after the rogue can.

“Okay man. How are you tonight?” I finally respond, resigning myself to this fate, and making eye contact. He’s wearing an ancient baseball style T-shirt/jersey thing and pale ripped jeans. The guy is cut. He could easily crush my skull with his bare hands in a matter of seconds. His friend continues stomping in his heavy boots chasing the rolling beer can. Every time he catches it, he spins and shoots it erratically back to the trash – again missing horribly. This activity causes the blond guy to laugh and shout insults at him. I try to smile to feign interest.

“Kimosabe sucks like the Blazers,” he hoots loudly over his shoulder, before draining the remainder of his beer. He then takes the empty can and beams his friend in the middle of his back, which ricochets perfectly into the hole at the top of the trashcan. He releases a gut-wrenching howl and a stream of mostly unintelligible insults at his buddy, who turns around confused.

I finish the cigarette and mindlessly grab for another one, wondering if they’re going to panhandle or not, so I go ahead and offer each them a smoke from the pack. They oblige.

“Thanks dude,” the blond man mumbles with the cigarette stuck loosely between his lips. He already has his lighter out, but continues to talk without using it. “You know that today is Mother’s Day, right?” He adds, as I watch the smoke bounce up and down.

I nod with recognition of this fact, though I hadn’t really thought about it.
“No matter what, your Mom loves you, right?” Even Mr. Injun over here has a mom who loves him.”
I nod again, but feel a lump form in my throat as I try to hold back the realization that my mom has been dead for years.

“My mom passed away,” I reply, against my better judgment, as my eyes begin to sting from the smoke billowing in to them.

The blond man reaches out to grab my hand and says to me, “She’s still out there bro. She’s looking after you and she still loves you. Kimosabe! Come here! Let’s pray!”

On command, Kimosabe clods over and before I realize what’s happening, we’ve all joined hands. I play along out of a desire to avoid conflict. I do not believe in the power of prayer, nor do I believe in God. Would God let something like this happen? Well, maybe.

The blond guy stammers some familiar common prayer and after a moment of uneasy silence, I look up at their two faces. Their eyes are both clenched solemnly closed. Finally, Kimosabe says “Amen” and they bounce alive and release hands.

“Thanks,” I croak and look down at the paper folded underneath my arm. The next train is rolling slowly my way. I stand up stiffly. “This one’s for me boys,” I say triumphantly, as my escape nears and my confidence grows.

“Just remember what I said, man. She’s looking out for you…always. She has her eyes on you right now,” the white guy warns me, as I reach down and pick up the abandoned beer can and stand it on the lid of the trashcan before boarding the train. This car is also smashed full of fatigue parents and kids sticky with cotton candy and the striking smell of stale caramel corn.

I turn back and reach my hand out to shake the hands of the two guys. I feel a well of emotion spill up into my eyes and throat like a sudden rush of vomit. “Thanks,” I say, “and take care of yourselves.”

“The doors are closing,” intones the voice of the Max. I jump onto the train into the center of a couple of arguing kids and a biker with his vehicle. He is wearing some wrap around sunglasses, a stern expression, and the posture of a Private at attention. His bike dangles from a hook, swinging annoyingly between me and the handrail. I turn toward the door that shut behind me and I search for sight of the two drunken strangers. I do not see them, but I do see that the concrete trash monument stands alone with the tall boy sitting on top of the grey metal lid in memory of our strange encounter. I turn back towards the biker and see myself reflected in his shades. Behind him, written in marker, someone has scrawled “Sleep in My crotch” on the back of one of the seats. I shake my head to try and forget what has happened, but begin to wonder how I can incorporate that line in to some sort of short story.

more MAX stories can be found here:


Monday, July 5, 2010

Make Me a Mixtape

“You remind me that I'm never going to be twenty-two
listening to the alarm waking up south of North Avenue
my skin is going to wonder what I'm doing now.
So write me a letter,
tell me where you are
how to get there
and how long that it takes to tape me some songs.
Make me a mixtape
something old and something new
something I said or that we did
that reminds me of you
Make me a mixtape that makes me yours.
Don't leave out Husker Du.
Put something on that The Cars did in 1982.
It makes me yours.”

The Promise Ring, 2000

I have always made mix tapes. It has been going on for even longer than I’ve been buying music. They used to come along fast and furious. I could whip them out for myself, friends, co-workers, classmates relatives, and every once in awhile, for a girlfriend or a hopeful girlfriend. I’m not sure why, other than my near psychotic need to share my love of music. What better way is there than sharing the actual music? I’ve tried writing about music, but that’s an entirely different beast and one that never (especially with my limited abilities) quite paints the right picture. I still do my annual top albums list, but I certainly have grown tired of using the same old adjectives to describe the music I love for no real reason.

The mixes don’t happen very often anymore. Somehow, it has mostly consolidated. I now make a couple of CDs during the year and send them out to a small core audience (a slowly growing one) of old friends, instead of sending each person their own. It is less personal, but the inspiration to make a mix CD does not occur as often as it used to. However, when the urge strikes, that psychosis returns. I obsess over every detail of the mix. I’ve been wondering what that drive is all about. But I really don’t know, other than the love of music and the communal aspects that can be derived from it. It could be that it’s simply a pleasant distraction. Something for my busy and mostly negative thoughts to focus on that isn’t destructive.

Recently, I’ve been wrestling through the annual summer mix. I’ve put together random mixes of potential songs (up to about 140) onto several CDs to listen to in my car. Wherever I drive, I am focused on what sounds best, what goes best with others. I have also been taking requests from those the mix is intended. I am confounded at times at the challenge that is presented when I receive requests of such varying styles and often vagueness. The main intention is to offer up the newest music that is upbeat and good for summertime. But I also love the idea of piecing together the puzzle of songs that are written on scrap paper and floating in my head. The next challenge is always the toughest. How to whittle 70-80 songs into a manageable 20 or so that find some kind of coherent flow? The flow is the key. Each segue way may only make sense to me in the end, but, believe me, there is always a reason for them.

Having just completed the latest installment of the summer mix, I feel relieved and relaxed. I am ready to sit back and enjoy the music and let the obsession of what goes best with what to float away. I hope that as I hand them out to my friends that it will lead to fun moments and future memories. And in the end, the mix will be forgotten, but the times we had with it as the soundtrack may be lasting.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Make Up

Gary and I were standing outside the department store sitting at one end of the mall.

“Dude! You know that these make-up chicks are hot!” Gary affirmed as he slapped me on the shoulder.

“I really don’t know man. Besides, I think I’m allergic to all of that toxic shit. My eyes always start burning whenever I’m near that section,” I responded, looking for excuses not to give this a try.

“We gotta do it. Who else has tapped this market? Just think of all those lovely ladies, who have been lonely all these years, because only other ladies talk with them. No dudes in their right mind would ever trudge in there!” Gary shouted as he grabbed my hand to encourage me. “I’m telling you, this is cash!”

We locked our fists and I accepted this sinister logic as gospel before we turned toward the store’s entrance.

The department store was a generic one in a generic mall. It was built in the 70s, remodeled in the 80s and retouched in the 90s. The mall’s lighting was a combination of soft fluorescents and giant distant skylights. The image of actual daylight, along with the faux little stick trees in pots lining the walkways attempted to give the image that maybe this is as close we may come to nature sometime in the future. The smell of cinnamon rolls, caramel corn and an overwhelming feeling of sterility attacked my senses. Inside the store, the illusion of daylight was snuffed out by strategically directed spotlights and phony wood walkways that split into two directions, framing the make-up counters. Behind this mysterious unknown land were the dual escalators, women’s shoes and purses. Gary and I stood agape, taking in the densely packed silver and glass counters that formed a daunting maze for us to maneuver.

“Let’s do this,” I grunted through my clenched teeth. We each headed into the maze, uncertain of what we would find, or how we might deal with it. He went to the left side and me to the right. Our goal, apparently, was to spot hot women working in the section and find a way to communicate with them.

My mind raced as I navigated my way aimlessly around the pathways. I didn’t know if I should pretend to be shopping for a girlfriend, or, NO! Not a girlfriend. Need to be on the market. I don’t care what Gary says, women are not more attracted to taken men (or are they?). I didn’t know what to do. I decided I was shopping for a sister’s graduation. Now that that issue was settled, I simply needed the nerve. The smells of thousands of perfumes, lotions, soaps and war paints dominated the stifling atmosphere of the store. The odors had choked the air out of my lungs and I began to wonder how women could breathe in such an environment. Estee Lauder, Avon, Obsession…so many names…with posters hinting at nudity and yet, everything looked the same. The only signs of life I could make out were employees wearing white lab coats, along with a quiet indecipherable chatter floating amongst the waves of powerful smells. My eyes were beginning to itch and sting and water. My nostrils were flooded with congestion, so I began gasping for air through my mouth. I staggered close to a young woman who was having blush applied to her cheeks by one of the white coats. They spoke to each other simultaneously using some form of advanced communication. My eyes glazed over, so my vision was like a camera lens completely covered with Vaseline. I started to think of what I had always heard about near-death experiences. Maybe this foggy light was what everyone was reaching for. I stumbled and swerved with my hands over my burning eyes, listening for voices to avoid. The conversations that I passed by continued unbroken, telling me that they were oblivious to my ragged presence. The tile floor beneath my feet felt slippery due to the constant misting of sample bottles of nasal nuances glazing the smooth surface. I removed the hands from my eyes and looked ahead through the haze to find an escape route. I spotted a hint of darkness beyond the gleaming and sparkling glares in the foreground. I lunged forward with no regard to any potential bystanders hoping to reach the other side of the make-up section. Sweat was running down my face and my back as my body temperature reached unbearable levels. I could hear the faint tickle of piano keys tempt my ears. I knew this was the piano on the other side. I was almost free! As I approached to exit of this strange hell, my eyes cleared for a moment. Beside the piano was a wooden bench and some potted plastic shrub and what looked like real dried out lichen wrapped around its base. I fell to my knees and stretched out to the bench, sitting at the base of the escalator, in a failed attempt at a dive. I cried out in agony due to the unforgiving surface on the floor crushing my knees. The piano continued its soothing tones. Already on the bench, breathing heavily, was Gary. His gasps split each word he said, as I dragged myself up onto the seat next to him: “How…did…you…fair?” I couldn’t answer. Tears were striping my cheeks as they tried to cleanse my scorched eyes. “Now that we’ve scouted out what we’re up against, we can go in with a set plan of action,” Gary blurted with renewed intent.

My back slid down the slats of the bench and I exhaled and began coughing out the toxins. This was not happening again.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lose Your Illusion

“Would you ever hurt me?” she asked me.

Her eyes burned into mine. They were serious and vulnerable like I had never seen them before. Moments before, she was laughing hysterically and uncontrollably, so much so that she blurted out her adorable snort; I froze from the sudden seriousness of her intent.

I did not know what to say. Obviously, I would never hurt her. I worshipped her. She was the highlight of my day. When I asked her out nearly a year prior, I did so hoping that it would be the moment that would lead to the pathway to my fulfilled future. That may be overstating it, but what did it matter? She turned me down.

Her question, though straightforward, felt like a complicated puzzle that most likely did not have a solution.

“No, I would never hurt you. Of course not; not intentionally. I really like you,” I stammered quietly, while staring into the beer glass on the table in front of me.

She was blocking her question to me from the couple sitting across the table from us in the booth by turning her shoulders toward me and speaking very quietly. We were sitting next to each other when that couple approached and asked if they could join us at the table. It was a busy Friday night on a nice summer evening at a bar downtown and we were there with a big group of people from work saying goodbye to a long time co-worker.

“Yes! Please!” she’d excitedly told the strangers. It turns out the couple were out celebrating a first wedding anniversary that upcoming weekend and wanted to get an early start. Our work group had taken over the group of tables in front of the bar and was getting louder and louder as the evening wore on. Inexplicably, she and I wound up sitting next to each other in a booth adjacent to our gang, but not directly involved. Originally I sat there, because I am good at sidelining myself and was not in a great mood. Somehow, this pretty young woman, who I had a massive crush on for nearly two years, joined me. There were so many times when I would try and place myself in her midst in an effort to worm my way into her heart. This time, I had purposely stepped aside, and now here she was. Occasionally, we would be visited by a carouser from our scene, but mostly we talked about what was happening around us and simply watched the activity from off to the side. When the couple asked if they could share our table, they made it clear from their words that they assumed that we were a couple. I got up and ordered another round of drinks for us and our guests from the barkeep and watched the two of them chat with her. I desperately wanted to know what they were talking about, but at the same time I really didn’t. I decided that she was probably informing them about my past overture toward her and maybe how she enjoyed toying with me by alternately giving me signs of hope and then stomping on that hope ever since I asked her out. That would explain the laughter they were all engaging in during my absence. When I returned to the table, she quickly stood up and allowed me back into my corner on the inside of the booth. Then she handed the man across the table her camera and asked him if he would take a picture. Lost in my thoughts, I did not realize that she wanted him to take a picture of the two of us. This event took awhile as he goofed around with the ‘cheese’-type photography gimmick like we were little children. This extended our posing time for what seemed like an eternity. She leaned in closer as the seconds drifted away. I could feel her velvety hair dangling against my arm and shoulder. My senses were overwhelmed by her enticing aroma. The smooth skin of her arm was placed on top of mine, so that our hands were touching. Chills were racing up and down my spine. Eventually the picture was snapped, but our pose lingered few a few moments more. It could’ve lasted forever as far as I was concerned. Then she jolted back upright and retrieved her camera. The woman across the table asked us for the same favor. She handed me the camera and I snapped a quick picture wordlessly and set it back onto the table. This is when she asked me her question. After my response, she sat quietly and mulled over my words, then, suddenly this beautiful girl stood up and excused herself.

As she walked deliberately towards the restroom, we all watched her. My heart sank as she disappeared, because I assumed that she would return to the big group and leave me alone with these two. I turned my attention to my beer and drank a big swig, wondering how I messed this one up.

“You two make a cute couple,” the woman said to me. “How long have you been together?”

“I’ve known her now for almost two years, I think,” I replied, trying to keep beer from spraying out of my mouth from surprise. This was the first time in my life that I was associated as being a part of something ‘cute.’ I scratched the back of my neck uncomfortably, knowing that somehow this misleading answer would come back to kick me in the ass.

The bartender stopped by with a tray holding our four beverages and left with my empty pint. I immediately drank from the fresh beverage, ignoring the couple’s intent of sharing a toast. The beer was terrible. They should offer something other than their own brew at this place. The couple began talking amongst themselves, sensing my silence and intent on the beer in my hand.

The girl came back and stood at the end of the table. She picked up her new full drink and raised the glass to toast the anniversary of the pair with us. I held up my half empty drink and leaned my face into my other hand. I was drifting off; losing steam. I couldn’t stop thinking about her question. What was her motivation? Why would she think I would hurt her? What did she mean? It was mysterious. Did it mean she was finally showing some signs of maybe giving me a shot after all this time? Did it mean that she was wary of me, like I could be some sort of threat to her? I didn’t get it and wanted to explore it further, but I did not know how. This was a party and she was rejoining the group. I could feel energy tumble out of my body which slumped like a deflating balloon. My mind started to gather together pictures of moments that she and I had shared over our time together up to that point. The couple was carrying on a conversation, which may or may not have included me, because I was oblivious to them, though I may have been responding. I could not be sure. I was lost, thinking about all of those times that she and I had shared laughter by slinging verbal jabs back and forth about each other and our workmates; or the times when she was flustered and came to me in confidence; or those early mornings when she and I were the first ones in the office and the only two who would show up hung over. Though I was older than her, we were still the two youngest in the office. In some ways we had the most commonality amongst everyone we worked with. But she did turn me down. I took that to heart. She said she didn’t date co-workers; understandable. And that was the end of my one overture. After that event, she became distant; again, understandable. I treaded lightly for a long time and tried my best to be upbeat and leave the whole thing behind – at least that’s what I wanted her to believe. I didn’t want her to hate me or leave. I liked her too much and I liked having her around. This was the problem. The more she relaxed around me, the more I continued to fall for her. It was a trap that I could not get out of. Over time, the shared laughter and outrage at our surroundings gained a new momentum. Things were comfortable again between us - until this particular evening. What was happening?

Instead of lingering, I had told Jeff and Steph I would meet them after this thing, so I decided to bail. I said a goodbye and good luck to the couple, went to the restroom, paid my tab at the bar, sought out T and gave her a farewell hug and ran the gamut of fellow employees who shouted various things out as I made clear my intention of an early exit. The evening’s sunset was just beginning to paint the sky with a pink splash. I hurriedly stepped outside, still with scrambled thoughts and more questions with no answers. Normally, I would stay to the bitter end to find out if any of these signs meant anything for us, but nothing felt right.

I waited for the Max right outside the bar and enjoyed the warmth of the air on my air-condition-chilled arms.

“Wait up!” There she was. She was leaving with me. “I need to catch the Max too.”

“Where are you headed?” I asked her, genuinely curious if her answer would involve me in any way.

“Meeting up with some friends,” she said with a smile.

“Yeah, me too,” I mumbled as the train approached and I tossed a piece of gum into my sour mouth. The doors of the train flapped open and revealed a roar of recycled air and a loud intercom voice espousing the wonders of this downtown corner. People shuffled by us either leaving or boarding the train. I looked over at the trash cylinder on the sidewalk to toss the gum wrapper into as I stepped aboard the train behind her. The lid’s opening, which deflected my shot and knocked it to the ground, had squiggly handwriting on it that stated: Life is a hole. “I couldn’t agree more trash can,” I sighed under my breath.

“What?” she asked, looking at me from across the aisle.

“Nothing. I hope you have a good weekend.”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Road to Nowhere

This afternoon I was sorting through a bunch of notebooks and papers I have packed away in boxes. I really wonder why I do this stuff. For a few years at a time, I store every loose piece of paper that comes my way and throw it into different piles, which then eventually make it into a box, which then gets stuck into a closet. Eventually I decide I need to clean stuff up and I sort through it. Inevitably, I throw most of it away. There are always the dreaded exceptions. I run into stuff I’ve written over the years. I have never kept it in any kind of order. Most of what I’ve written, be it so-called journal entries, music reviews, short stories, whatever, finds itself unfinished on random bits of paper, or in the middle of mostly empty notebooks and for some unknown reason, I keep it. I always run into something that makes me think that maybe I can finish, or improve upon, and there’s also the stuff that catches my attention because it is so damn pathetic and because it reflects something written exactly ten years ago. What was I doing ten years ago? Let’s find out:

“May 23rd, 2000

What the hell am I doing? Someone gives me a tiny little notebook with tiny paper and I start writing a bunch of embarrassing and humiliating crap about how damn lonely I feel and what girl I have a crush on at that particular moment. Luckily, I haven’t done this much over the years. Just to get it over with, the crush is on *name withheld*. She’s way younger than me, we have essentially nothing in common (it’s debatable if I have anything in common with any woman I find attractive) and real bad for me. She’s real bad for me, because I am so damn crazy for her. I do not need to be sent over the edge with crazy, but damn she’s got me.

This tiny book is too small to write in. It’s absurd. Why would anyone buy such a thing?

Currently, I am listening to a Czech band named The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa. My hope right now is to inspire myself to write. Not write this nonsense, but to be creative and write. I need to find a way to pull myself out of this nosedive I’ve been on since like 1979. This Friday I get to go in and find out how my kidneys are doing. Can’t wait for that! I wonder when this tenuous streak of 7 years of no surgeries will end. The docs never sound encouraging, but they’ve let me go this far. I’m also wondering about this headache I’ve had for like a week now. I’m pretty used to headaches, but this one has not wavered in its intensity. That doesn’t seem right. Maybe I’m stressing out about the check up. I have always been right in my (giant) gut about when the news will be bad with these things and it is screaming this time. But, hey, after the check-up, Ryan and I are driving off to Black Butte to play golf for the holiday weekend. Could this be the last time I have a golf weekend? I really need to enjoy it. Treat it like it could be my last. Take in everything like a breath of fresh air, instead of getting so damn angry at my continual bad play. I really should give golf up. I should give up most things. I’d be better off.

Maybe I’ll write some music reviews tonight. I’ve been considering starting up the ‘zine again; Wil and I have been talking about putting it online. If I start writing something, then maybe the motivation to find an audience will increase. I should give him a call. That’s a good way to feel like I’m making progress without actually writing. That is solid stuff there.

There is so much in the air right now. I can sense something big on the horizon, but it is elusively just out of reach. I don’t know what it is, nor can I tell if it’s good or bad, it’s just there. It’s almost tangible. It’s been teasing me with its tempting draw of major change, but not giving me any clues. Maybe it’s the upcoming useless work trip to Vegas, I think *name withheld* is going too. At any rate, I cannot wait to find out what this big thing is! Strange things are definitely afoot. I mean I had that weird Laker fan girl making moves on me at the Blazer game last week. At least Ryan said she was picking up on me. I cannot read women at all. But, boy, oh, boy, something needs to happen! The sad truth is that nothing has really changed in my life since like ’88. I’m just more scared and somehow more jaded. Life is so funny, isn’t it?”

Looks like nothing has really changed. Nice. I was right about one thing though. There was big change ahead, I was just dreading the wrong thing going wrong. That headache was being caused by a cyst the size of a navel orange sitting smack dab in the middle of my brain stem. Life sure is funny.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Two new CDs that I have recently picked up have transported me to a different time. The first one is from the great UK label LTM’s most recent release in their continuing Auteur Labels series. The series has featured some fantastic UK labels who released some of the most influential music of post-punk in the late 70s and early 80s. This release features the fantastic US label Independent Project Records founded in Los Angeles in 1980 by Savage Republic co-founder Bruce Licher. This 23 track compilation spans the history entirely (notice the clear gap from ’96-’08) showcasing its varied assortment of artists and their amazing groundbreaking sounds. I first ran across this label in the mid-to-late 80s when I picked up Camper Van Beethoven’s landmark debut Telephone Free Landslide Victory (1985), featuring, of course, their quirky single “Take the Skinheads Bowling” (included here). The next time I ran into the label was when I found the debut LP from Nebraska’s For Against’s Echelons (1987). It wasn’t until late 1990, while away at college that I encountered a For Against release on the label which absolutely changed my life. The first in IPR’s series of 10” colored vinyl only releases featured some unreleased and experimental tracks from this amazing band. This “Archive Series” debuted with the promise of a new installment every other month which could be had via subscription. These records were interesting, thought provoking, and most importantly, entertaining, but the bonus was the fantastic artwork that made up these special records. The records were numbered and pressed in an old fashioned letterpress printer and looked otherworldly. They provoked the imagination and upon arrival would send me off to stereo to absorb every nuance of these incredible products. These records expanded my horizons and exposed me to what felt like a special secret world. I started my subscription (my number was 0340) shortly after having to return home from college due to a lot of strife with my family. My mom was going through the early stages of a battle with cancer that she would eventually lose, while I was due for some serious surgery myself. These records were an oasis for me; a chance to escape from the horrors of hospital visits full of bad news and be transported to a world full of potential and discovery. Listening to this compilation reminded me of how amazing this music really was with the added bonus of hearing some of the artists from the label’s earliest releases for the first time! It is essential.

This was when my addiction to music went from bad to worse. I began to delve further into this new secret world of music that I was quickly discovering by uncovering layer after layer of how to track these things down while stuck in a small Oregon town. I started to read small regional music fanzines voraciously, mostly for the record reviews and the tiny little ads provided by tiny little record labels. I started writing letters to the bands and labels directly and mail ordering from them for the smallest of costs. Soon enough I was receiving records in my mailbox more than a few times a week! Wil and I even started putting together a little ‘zine of our own in the early 90s named, not surprisingly, “This Wreckage.” It was fun and exciting to feel involved even in the remotest of ways.

This brings me to the other new CD that’s been gracing my player constantly: Black Tambourine. This band was only around for two years at the end of the 80s and all but one of their (few) songs were released posthumously. This CD follows 1999’s Complete Recordings and tacks on six more tracks. Two are simply demos of prior tracks, while four more are new recordings of old songs from their few live sets from back in the day. Hearing this rough and tumble music with sugary sweet melodies buried beneath walls of guitar fuzz reminded me how fun and invigorating the music was and is and how clearly it inspired and drove me through such hard times. It makes me want to dig out my old records again as well as my old holey Black Tambourine T-Shirt showing the girl with the bob-haircut pointing a gun, which once led Archie Moore in 1994 (then member of Velocity Girl, former member of BT) to stop during a set at La Luna and approach me at my familiar perch with friends near the front, stage left, and ask me where the hell I got that shirt. I was speechless and the show continued, but the answer was simple. I got it when I bought Black Tambourine’s first full 7” EP via mail order from Slumberland Records for like $4 postpaid. I’m sure it included a note of thanks from label honcho Mike Schulman (also a member of BT) on the backside of a piece of scrap paper with their small discography Xeroxed on the back. This CD release is number 111 twenty-some odd years later. I recommended these guys to everyone back then. I still do.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Nowhere Man

Last week, Jeff and I watched a Henry Rollins speaking tour DVD. It was hilarious and angry and dark like one would expect. Surprisingly, Rollins did a few minutes about how everyone is “hot.” He explained that no matter how we individually feel, there is always someone out there checking us out. This made us laugh, especially considering that about 5 years ago, I self-proclaimed myself as “hot,” knowing the absurdity of the statement, but using it in an effort to feel a bit more confidence. It seemed to work for a few weeks early on, before I once again forgot to believe that I’m hot. Whether or not I believe that I’m hot, or submit to the truth: that I am not (aside from that one freak that according to Rollins is checking me out); I am beginning to wonder if I am even visible.

As long as I can remember, I have been one of those people who seem to go unnoticed. This is not a complaint. Sometimes being easily forgotten or invisible has its benefits. There have been many instances when I should’ve found myself in trouble (especially during High School) for certain shenanigans, and found myself sneaking away blameless. There was that one time when I shoved Larry off of the third story deck of Dorian’s apartment years ago and couldn’t convince him that I was the one who did it. I am frequently, one of those people who can be introduced to people repeatedly, because they never remember our previous encounter. Again, this can often be a good thing. How many times have you wanted a second or even a third chance to make a first impression? Believe me, it is an opportunity that I relish, because I never feel good about how I come across. But why should I worry, when no one will remember anyway?

Of course there are also the downsides. I can be at a business and find myself completely ignored for endless stretches of time. I am the guy who goes to the bar and never gets served, even if there are no other customers. The most unusual case of feeling invisible that has happened to me on several occasions is when I find myself downtown at the edge of a curb at a crosswalk waiting for the signal to change and someone will walk over and stand directly in front of me. And when I say in front of me, I mean so close that I have to move back, or my nose would be buried in the back of their head. It is mysterious. It’s moments like that, where being a seeming ghost really sucks. I understand my invisibility in many instances, because I am very quiet and reserved and can sometimes exhibit an endless amount of patience. What I do not understand is always being the breaking point in a line that people decide to cut through. I am not a small guy yet, when waiting in a long line for something, I am inevitably the weak link, which will allow passersby the get through from one side of the line to the next. Do I exude some signal that lets people know that I am the weakest link, or am I simply invisible?

So, where does this leave me with my experiment about being hot? I’m not so sure. There are always exceptions to every rule. If we accept Rollins’ theory that everyone is hot as a truth, then I need to find a way to become visible. It’s hard to be hot when you’re not really there.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

another bright spark

He keeps his eyes on Stacy across the room. Bright lights flash behind her. Glass clinks and clanks chip at his ears. Music thumps over the top of everything. He feels boxed in; almost sensory deprived. She smiles at the guy she is talking to. Earlier he and Stacy had been involved in a heated discussion. They were always arguing. She irritated him with her attitude. To him, she was insufferably conceited. He took it upon himself to try and knock her down with nasty quips, jabs and a general mean spirit. Sometimes he made him so angry that the sound of her voice made the inside of his head itch. Her overwhelming fragrance made him want to purge the bile that would churn in his gut in her presence. Yet, here he is staring at her as she mingles with most of their co-workers. Was he jealous? She was having a good time and all could do was sit away from the group and drink beer after beer. He thought of her as a virus.

A few months prior, on a similar night out, they had gotten into an argument that isolated them from the rest of their co-workers. Before they realized it, everyone had made their way someplace else. The little party was over. They had continued to drink through their disagreement until their insults had ceased to make any sense. They had stayed so long that he had missed his last bus home, while she had outlasted the person she had hoped to get a lift home from. At least she lived within walking distance. Reluctantly, she asked if he minded walking home with her. Despite enjoying the idea of her facing a cold walk home alone through a shady neighborhood, he agreed to go with her. He had nowhere to go anyway. While they stumbled towards her place, their constant debate and verbal abuse simmered into actual quiet conversation. They both asked each other simple questions regarding each other’s pasts. She confessed to him of a former engagement that was broken due to her fiancĂ©s infidelity. After that had happened she had cropped her long blond hair down to nothing in protest. He felt a pang of sympathy for her and stayed silent. Once they reached her home, they caught her roommate getting ready to go to bed. Stacy introduced them to each other and then invited him in for a drink.

Her laugh snapped him out of his memory. She looked at him momentarily and then returned to her conversation. He was pretty sure that she was aware that he had been watching her all evening. She put one of her hands across the back of her neck for a moment and then fussed with an earring, while keeping focus on the new guy. The look in her eyes reminded him of that one night.

After she had invited him in, they sat next to each other on her couch and sipped from bottles of cheap beer. Their conversation continued examining each other’s histories, until she shifted gears to find out about his romantic status. He confessed that he had none. She seemed surprised, which kind of shocked him. She told him that any woman would want to be with a guy like him. Stacy leaned over closer to him and softly told him that he needed to open up and be himself and the women would find him. Then she leaned back again and laughed that awful laugh.

He bristled from that memory and orders another beer from the waitress. He wondered if this is what his life will be like. The only passion he had ever exhibited in his life was to solely spew venom at those who bugged him. The only sign of life he had ever shown – going back to grade school – had always been with the girls who grinded his nerves. The girls he liked would have never known, because he could not convey those feelings. It was always the girls who pissed him off. They were always girls who would not back down and they were the ones who always stuck with him. They are the ones he still remembers, while his actual crushes faded away.

The waitress set his latest beer on the table and took the empty pint. She says, “Is everything okay?”

“I don’t know,” he responds without looking up. He didn’t want to see Stacy having a good time anymore. Seeing her made him hate himself, because she made it clear that his anger was all that kept him going. Apparently “being himself” meant being an ass.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Top 20 of 2009

1. Sophia There Are No Goodbyes (2 CD) (Flower Shop UK)

"I lost my head in a landslide"

In Sophia's world, everything pretty much sucks. I can see how one would not like Robin Proper-Sheppard's music. His voice is kind of whiny and so are most of his lyrics. Yet, somehow, he manages to produce some of the most immaculate songs. He has an everyman vibe in his words which tempers the navel gazing self absorbed world he seems to live in. The pristine arrangements give this album both a soft glowing warmth and a grey day chill. His songs are geared toward the reflective and the instrospective, but there are catchy upbeat tunes like the 3 minute strummer "Obvious" that can real in even the most jaded with it's hook. The entire album seems to be about a break-up or divorce and touches on the bitterness, anger, loneliness, denial, confusion, regret, etc that seems to come with such complications. It's powerful and needs time to sink its teeth in. The second disc is a nicely recorded solo acoustic show (save for a few songs with a string quartet) recorded in Vienna on Valentine's Day of 2009.

2. The Rifles Great Escape (679 UK)

Second album, now a quartet. Continuing my love of uk punk-pop bands in the lineage of The Clash to China Drum. Careering blasts of frenentic joy and heartfelt working class sentiment. Timeless.

3. Camera Obscura My Maudlin Career (4AD)

Took me awhile to warm to this one. Feels a bit stiff at first. It's a grower and the more plays it gets, the more striking it gets. These Scots seem to be getting better with age. Plus there's a song on there about their 2007 show at Wonder Ballroom here in Portland.

4. Metric Fantasies (Metric)

This fourth album from Metric is a clear attempt for them to reach the stars, or at least the stadiums. This album is strikingly straight-forward and straight-ahead and crammed full of stadium rock anthems for the masses to chant along with. It would turn my stomach if it wasn't s well executed. Their first 3 LPs were all distatsteful to me upon first listen, but grew to be favorites over time. This one was instantly on heavy rotation, but it remains to be seen how well it will age.

5. Great Northern Remind Me Where the Light Is (Eenie Meenie)

I've gushed about them elsewhere.

6. Bob Mould Life and Times (Anti)

Mould is the man.

7. Editors In This Light and on This Evening / Cuttings II (2 CD) (Kitchenware UK)The difficult third album? Some changes. More electronics. More experimental. Bringing in new influences beyond the Bunnymen/Joy Division touchstones. Bleak black bleak. Love it.

8. Chairlift Does You Inspire You? (2008) (Kanine/Sony)

Multi-instrumentalist three-piece who made it big with their iPOD ad song "Bruises." Of course, in the iPOD world one song gets downloaded and the band forgotten. However, this debut album is pretty damn good. It is very 80s in a Book of Love crossed with Alphaville sort of way. They forge an added identity with some impressive biting social commentary on some of these songs as well. Especially the opening two tracks: "Garbage" and "Planet Health."

  9. Dinosaur Jr. Farm (2 CD) (Jagjaguwar)

Dinosaur Jr. are like an old furry stuffed animal that's worn out and beat up, but still kind of cute and inviting. This may be their best album from start to finish. Good to see the original lineup back together and staying together.

10. For Against Never Been (Words on Music)
Wow! The return of orginal guitarist Harry Dingman III has these Nebraska vets re-invigorated. This album takes me back to the original fire I had for this band's music when I first bought their "In the Marshes" 10" vinyl EP in 1990. It was mysterious and spooky and evoked the best of the original 4AD vibe with an added edge. They've never not been good, but this is why I first bought in.

11. Twilight Sad Forget the Night Ahead (Fatcat)
12. Drakes Hotel Sparks That March (self-released)
13. Ducky The Automobile (self released)
14. Thrushes Some Come Undone (2006) (Birdnote)
15. A Place to Bury Strangers Exploding Head (Mute)
16. Ballboy I Worked on the Ships (2008) (Pony Proof UK)
17. Desario Zero Point Zero (Darla)
18. Idlewild Post Electric Blues (Cooking Vinyl UK)
19. Longwave Secrets Are Sinister (2008) (Original Signal)
20. Nouvelle Vague 3 (PeaceFrog UK)