Sunday, May 28, 2023

Unreadable Communication


He sat down on a chair off to the left side of the room, hoping not too many people would stand in front of his view of the stage.  He could no longer stand for hours on end at concerts, now that he was older - probably the oldest person in the room.  He was getting used to that fact, but it didn’t really bother him.  It was simply an observation, though sometimes it did make him feel old.  He always found it fascinating to overhear some of the conversations in the small club.  His favorites were when an old song from the 80s or 90s would be played pre-show, listening to some young guy explain the history of that song or the artist to his bored date.  Sadly, he knew the history, because he was that kind of music nerd and had lived it.  He sometimes had to resist the urge to bore both of these youngsters with the actual facts.  This was getting increasingly rarer.  He didn’t care anymore about that stuff and isn’t sure why he ever did.  He could hear his droning voice sometimes spouting statistics about such and such and it was hard to believe how fatiguing it made him feel.


When he was coming of age in the early 90s, he always wanted to belong to something.  He always felt he lacked conviction.  He would read Maximum Rock-N-Roll and a ton of punk ‘zines.  He learned all about straight edge, and how pretty much everyone is a “sellout.”  In a way, he wanted to believe all of the punk dogma, or ethos that was in vogue at the time, so he could lose himself in the scene.  He desired a cause.  He was outraged by a lot of things, but saw too many things in greys as opposed to blacks and whites.  Instead, all of the rules and regulations bemused him.  It all felt like the same kind of thoughts that they were supposedly rebelling against. 

In the 80s and 90s, selling out was a massive betrayal.  The thing about lesser known music, is that the early consumers become very attached to their music.  If said artist achieved any notoriety outside of their original small scene, it was considered a money grab and a complete betrayal.  It never made sense to him.  He would try to muster up outrage when a Husker Du signed with a major label, but their music was still essentially the same and most people still didn’t know who they were.  The rules seemed random to him and counterproductive.  Did these people (or scenesters) really not want their beloved bands to succeed or earn money?  Did they really want them to live in poverty eternally?  As we know now, signing to a major label or licensing a song to an ad campaign does not ensure a financial windfall, or even a reason to quit a day job, and with the evening of the playing field due to technology, almost no one can actually earn money selling music.  Sellout is no longer a thing.  Younger people now consider all past music the same, while some of us older folks still hold grudges against Top 40 bands versus our underground favorites.  To a 25 year old, there’s no difference in streaming a song by Florida punk band Spoke, or Glenn Fry’s “You Belong to the City.”

He was always regular.  Though he was fluent with all things goth, punk, industrial, noise, post-punk, and college rock growing up, he never gravitated to a particular scene.  He never adopted the regulation costume, or changed out his friends based on their music tastes.  Probably the closest he came to a look, was by being his record nerd self and wearing old Levi’s and cheaply made concert T-shirts almost exclusively.  His hair was a wreck – stringy and in the way of his face – a little like Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth, but he was built more like Black Francis from the Pixies.  However, neither of these things were conscious choices – it just happened, because all of his time and money went into finding new music, working to earn money to buy music.  He never had the drive to try to become a full on punk rocker or anything else, because he liked too much of the other stuff and the punk culture at that time (late 80s – early 90s) didn’t allow for outside interests.  You needed to look and live like a punk, not just listen to punk.  He wasn’t aware of a music nerd scene, until he reached his mid-twenties, but soon discovered that that scene horrified him most of all!  There was just as much a feeling of superiority within.  A lot of these people reminded him of Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.  They were the type who would look down their noses at others who were unaware that Australian band, The Church, had had five albums before having a hit single in the US in 1988, for example.  It was a club of one-upmanship, and often times about collecting and not about the actual enjoyment of the music.


By the late 90s, not much had changed.  He lived in a shitty apartment and paycheck to paycheck, but his costume had not changed.  Some of the old T-Shirts were still in circulation - holes and all!  His supervisor had taken him aside one time to urge him to start dressing in more appropriate office attire.  He struggled to do that too.  He didn’t fit in anywhere!  He was himself, but was looked down upon when he went to see most of the bands he liked, as well as at his job, or at places like golf courses.  He nearly always felt like a walking contradiction.  When he was in his 40s, he went to see The Jesus and Mary Chain perform a best of set, and was wearing a brightly colored golf shirt, while everyone else had teased hair, creepers, and black clothing.  He felt awkward, and judged, but he imagined that he was one of the only ones there who knew and owned the Mary Chain’s entire catalogue and had been a fan since before they were included on the Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack.


His inability to commit to anything extended into every aspect of his life.  He wanted to feel faithful to something spiritual, or to a cause, and especially to a significant other, but was never able to genuinely do it.  It wasn’t in him.  He felt that he was incapable of change.  He had seen his friends change completely when falling for someone romantically, when they were all young, and it never felt right to him.  Although most of his closest friends did find fantastic partners eventually.  When someone would commit to a band or genre in his teen years, all others would become off limits.  Back in the 80s, for whatever reason, no one was allowed to cross music allegiances.  This is not really true, but there was always the risk of being labelled a sellout or be outcasted by your friend group, if you were a Christian Death fan and then started listening to Metallica, and wearing their gear. 

He was often mystified by his attractions.  He encountered beautiful girls/women every day, but he could only conjure up a few in his memory that made him especially attracted, conflicted, nervous, itchy, and bonkers.  He could never quite figure out that rare allure.  It had to be something more than lust, but what else could it be, he wondered?  He remembered early crushes going back to his first memories.  He used to have dreams about his first grade teacher, and he remembered watching West Side Story with his Mom on TV as a toddler, and making fun of the movie, but going silent every time Natalie Wood was on screen. 


During the late 90s, his favorite record store, Ozone, where he spent hours on end, over five or so years, nerding out over their inventory.  This was the place that he would pick up all of those essential early 90s UK shoegaze EP releases.  He would load up on US indie 7” singles from labels like Slumberland and Pop Narcotic, as well as punk singles and compilations – looking for the next Husker Du or Jawbreaker to fill that void in his life, or the latest Sarah Records releases.  They had it all!  And by 1998, they had an employee who reminded him of a little of Natalie Wood.  He could never forget walking into Ozone Records on a Saturday and seeing the newest single at the time from long-time favorite Buffalo Tom, “Wiser,” which she was playing loudly in the store and dancing and singing along behind the counter.  He nearly fainted on the spot.  Could there possibly be a woman for him?  Someone he wouldn’t have to give up his identity for?  Someone who he could play records with and have it be meaningful for both? He felt his knees buckle.


“Shoegaze” was a derogatory term created by the British music press, indicating that the bands lacked any kind of stage presence.  However, these bands were varied and exciting to him!  These bands all seemed to be music fans.  Their music elicited all kinds of differing greats from the past and were infused with an energy unlike anything he had ever heard.  He appreciated that they seemingly weren’t bands made up of cocky bastards.  What the press disparaged them for, he felt was a strength.  A lot of these bands excited his imagination as they somehow merged all of the things he loved about music into affordable and frequent four song EPs.

The first band had finished their set.  He decided that they had been pretty good, and reminded him of the Lo-Fi indie singles he started buying in the mid-90s.  They were apparently local.  He briefly thought back to the old Portland music scene, which he rarely found inspiring, but commonly offensive.  His favorites were generally brought to his attention via indie labels from elsewhere.  This band had brought a devoted following of friends and family.  He was happy for them, despite being a five-piece stuffed to a small portion at the front of the stage.  The other two bands’ equipment was ready to go behind them.  He considered standing up to buy something from the merch table or a beer at the bar, but instead chose to stay in his chair.  The danger of losing it was too great.  This was his first post Covid show.  Everything felt strange, but it was great to see live music again.  There’s an anger to live rock-n-roll that always fed him in a way he didn’t understand. 

The floor in front of the stage opened up.  In his younger years, pre-Covid, he would’ve made his move to be close to the stage, but now, despite his back and butt hurting from the terrible chair, he stayed there.  He knew that standing would likely lead to him collapsing.  He was already embarrassed enough by his appearance or existence, and he was there by himself. 

There she was, he thought, as a chill rushed through his entire body.  Across the room.  He would never forget her, even after all of these years.  In a black dress that draped down to her knees.  She had dark hair that still didn’t quite reach her shoulders.  Seemingly only a few years older, while the past 25 had been rough on him.  He looked like a grizzled world war veteran and grandfather, who ate all of the leftovers, all of the time.  She still looked like a young woman who could be in a new band or working in a hip record store.  She was swaying back and forth to a song, over the PA, he didn’t recognize, but that reminded him of an eighties synth duo.  A younger version of her stood in front of her sipping from a pint of beer.  Her daughter looked like a teenager, but must’ve been over twenty-one.  He remembered how he used to sneak glances at her over the top of the records he was holding up for further inspection, while trying to drum up the nerve to talk to her.  He always hoped that one of his amazing purchases would spark a connection.  He began to wonder what her life had been like over the last lifetime.  He assumed that it had been much better without him in it.

Buffalo Tom "Wiser"

Monday, April 3, 2023

Promised You A Miracle


He flopped back over onto his left side and let out a loud frustrated groan.  He thought he had gotten past getting pissed off when trying and failing to sleep.  After not being able to sleep for most of his life, he had finally let it go and accepted it.  He had learned to get out of bed, instead of fighting sleep, and try to be productive, or just zone out to the overnight news broadcasts to try to relax.  It was the spiraling thought.  It was his biggest sleep enemy.  Some sort of dreadful anxious notion that would repeat in his mind endlessly, keeping him from sleep and making him agitated.  Generally, when he was younger, these were about trying to solve some problem at school – not wanting to fall behind, or having to deal with a classmate for some reason.  Then it became work shit and sleep became that much more difficult – especially having a job that was never resolved – just a constant continuing cycle of chaos where no sense of accomplishment could ever be felt.  Yet, he had begun to feel better, once he realized that if he just accepted sleeplessness as a part of his life. 

The futility of it all is what made him so upset.  It all reminded him of his past experience with the Pain Management Clinic and the resulting overnight sleep study.  The bizarre study that took place on a Friday night one summer, where he was expected to go to sleep at about 7 in the evening.  They hooked about 500 wires to him and left him in a lightless room, with nothing to do.  According to the unbelievably handsome doctor who he consulted with the following morning, he did actually sleep some, but stayed in the first phase of sleep the entire time.  This is a phase, where the sleeper’s mind is still semi-conscious and they have incredibly vivid visions or dreams.  This phase normally lasts for less than ten minutes, but he laughed as he told Charles that he stayed there much of the night and never delved into the next phase.  He said, that it’s actually more tiring than not sleeping, again with a chuckle, as he looked to be practicing his golf grip on the pointer in his tan hands.  That was it!  Charles didn’t ask any questions either!  It was like six am on a sunny summer Saturday morning, he probably had a tee time too.  The good looking sleep doctor wrote him a prescription for Ambien, which Chuck had tried in the past and for which it had long lost any effectiveness.

Charles laughed to himself as he thought about the old Pain Management Clinic.  It had all started when his normal headaches were becoming so intense that he was struggling to function.  It was a few months after his kidney transplant, and his transplant doctor thought the PMC might be able to help him.  The clinic was designed to address chronic pain from different angles.  A patient was set up with a medical doctor to direct each case, a physical therapist, and a psychiatrist.  I met my team and they immediately referred me to a headache specialist who looked way too much like the early Law & Order detective Lennie Briscoe.  It’s amazing how little we as people know about the brain.  Treating sleep and headaches at that time was to prescribe a series of formerly antidepressant medications, of which none of them helped my headache nor my sleep, so, after a while Dr. Jerry Orbach sent me back to the PMC.  The four people I interacted with there was the receptionist, who was clearly in charge of the entire clinic and who was a voluptuous blonde named Jenna Jameson, who seemed oblivious that she shared the same name as the most well-known porn star at the time.  Charles would save the phone messages from her regarding upcoming appointments – hoping his roommates would listen to them.  His doctor was Dr. Miracle, who was eerily similar to the Orbit Gum spokeswoman with her sharp British accent and early 60s fashion sense, the psychiatrist was a creepy guy who reeked of cigarettes, had a tiny cramped office, greasy hair, and tons of cassette tapes which he had recorded of him saying things quietly over the sounds of a babbling brook or some such.  Chuck’s first and last session with him took place in a tiny windowless office crowded with stacks of file boxes, after it seemed the shrink had inhaled a tuna sandwich.  They were in facing desk chairs only a few feet apart.  Charles was incredibly uncomfortable, while the psychiatrist diagnosed him as needing sleep, so gave him a few of his homemade relaxation tapes.  Lastly, Charles would see a physical therapist each visit, who would generally employ Craniosacral Therapy on him, which would make him incredibly woozy for the rest of the day, and unsurprisingly, she was the one who diagnosed and solved his headache issues. 


He was now dreaming.  He could tell, because he was about four or five years old and there was his mom walking behind him.  She was wearing dark sunglasses.  Beside him was his childhood friend, Jon, whose family lived across the street in their old neighborhood.  They seemed to be at a carnival of some sort.  Dried and pressed grass beneath their feet, twirling rides all about, the smell of burned grease and oil.  He was wearing sandals with white socks and blue shorts.  He had a t-shirt on underneath the green cardigan sweater his grandmother had knitted him.  He was also wearing a blue bucket hat, which he had loved.  He spotted another kid nearby with an ice cream cone shoved up underneath his nose.  He immediately thought about asking his mom for one, but decided against it, when he realized that he was carrying something.  He had a scrapbook in his hands.  Within the context of the dream, he knew that it was his.  His soon to be Kindergarten teacher and his mom had started this book for him.  Inside were projects for him to work on.  It contained reading assignments, art to draw and color, things to read and places to write about various things.

His mom had not been around the family for a short while, and had taken this book with her, but now she was back and the book had some new pages.  The carnival seemed to be near the Hollywood District in Portland.  They had likely walked down the hill from their neighborhood to get there.  It seemed to be themed around movie and TV characters who were based in Portland.  There was a ride/exhibit that featured odd random characters from the old primetime cartoon the Flintstones, who were apparently Portland born.  Strange, but very Portland.  Our inferiority complex runs deep.  Our local news will report about an earthquake in Istanbul or somewhere and relate it to our quake readiness for “when the big one comes.”  They always find some reason to find a NW connection – no matter how loose – to any news positive or not

This was different from any dream he had ever had with his mom.  The only dreams she ever showed up in were the occasional dreams where she would re-appear in his life, such as it is now.  She hadn’t died.  Instead she had gone into hiding for all of these years.  In other words, she had chosen to leave.  These were disturbing, hurtful and very realistic dreams that he hated.  Over the years, he had worked to try to control his dreams, but in this light state of sleep, his influence generally just woke him.  In the case of disturbing dreams like these, he was okay with that.

His mom used to discuss various controversial subjects with him.  The first one he remembered was when Oregon passed a mandatory seatbelt law, but he remembered long discussions regarding hunting, clear cutting forests versus preserving them, the death penalty, abortion, and even daylight savings time.  She would let him come to his own conclusions, would never raise her voice or try to sway his decision, but would play devil’s advocate to test his newly found stances no matter the side he had chosen.  He learned a lot and always appreciated her approach.  It made him feel important.

He sat next to her on a park bench.  Jon, and his older sister Michelle, were waiting in line to ride a Merry-Go-Round made up of Portland based cartoon dinosaurs.  He was looking at his scrapbook.  His mom had added some pages about accepting death.  He turned to her and asked her what these were for, and she said that it was time to get back home.  All of us kids were due at our elderly neighbor’s house, the Kimberly’s.  The childless elderly couple often took care of the young kids in the neighborhood and they spoiled all of us.  We were always welcome to come in for cookies or candy, or play basketball in their driveway, or watch their television.  They were super nice.  He tried to ask his mom again regarding the death pages in the scrapbook.  His semi-conscious self wondered if these were a warning years too late?  This was before his grandmother had passed and all of the dying began.  Were they preparing him for an upcoming loss of someone close in his life now?  Were they for his own life?    His attempt to control the dream stirred him to wake up and feel more exhausted than before he laid down.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023



None of us want to be a bother, yet we all have differing ideas of what that actually means and likely apply it differently to those around us.  Trying to not be a bother has played a huge roll in my life and I’m not exactly sure why.  When asked why I’m so afraid of being a bother, I generally resort to an answer involving not wanting to be the center of attention or a nuisance, which is true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  Much like my recent realization that much of my decision making throughout my life has been made with a very temporary mindset, me realizing that I worry too much about being a bother to others has hindered my growth.  In both cases there’s nothing I can do about the past, but I can try to recognize it going forward and potentially do better going forward.

Abecedarians "They Said Tomorrow"

In 1990, I first heard the amazing song “They Said Tomorrow” by Abecedarians, which has a repeated line about the singer trying to build up the nerve to approach a someone he is drawn to: “If I bother you/please tell me to go away/I don’t want to bother you/but it’s not for me to say” and it hit me at the time like a ton of bricks.  It encapsulated so much of what I’ve always felt.  I’ve always felt like my presence alone is an unwanted intrusion.  I do not have a ready reason why this is and I don’t think it’s particularly important.  What I do know is that feeling this way has prevented me from trying a lot of things.  In that song “They Said Tomorrow,” it displays the other definition of ‘bother,’ which is to not try something period.  The narrator of that song keeps putting off this supposed urgent need, instead saying to himself “I’ll try it again tomorrow.”  This other side of the coin is intriguing me today, because it calls to motivation.  Have I been more concerned about disturbing others, or does it have to do more with me not wanting to disturb myself?  Did I not ask the girl out on a date, because I was afraid of bugging her, or was it because I was afraid of her saying yes?  It cannot ever have been about rejection, because that was pretty much my expectation.  After missing a week of school as a little kid, and falling woefully behind in math, did I not ask the teacher for help, because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, or be a burden, or because I didn’t want to do the extra work to catch up? 

Not sure any of these questions are answerable in a definitive way, or if they’re even relevant.  The important part is to recognize, going forward, when I am about to use ‘bother’ as an excuse, I need to consider the response further.  If the past week has proved anything to me is that I am not far from needing to be taken care of to survive.  During the past week or so, I have fallen in public, which is scary because there’s little chance that I will be able to get up again on my own, I have found it nearly impossible to climb out of bed, I am struggling to eat or prepare food or even obtain groceries, I struggle to focus to fill out or even read health insurance paperwork, I canceled a doctor’s appointment, because it was too much effort to get there.  I will have to be a bother.  This cannot go on.  It’s depressing as hell.  I don’t know how to ask for help.  Perhaps, ‘bother’ to me, has always meant ‘burden’ – a heavy load to be dragged around.  I am trying my damnedest to get through this.  I wish it were a switch I could flip off.  

I have been blessed with family and friends that want to help, but I honestly don’t know how to accept it.  I do not feel like I deserve it.  It’s not so much that I don’t want to be a bother, it’s that I don’t think I’m worth the bother.  Perhaps that is where I need the most assistance – help to find the ability to accept assistance and accept it gracefully. 

Sunday, February 19, 2023

The Sun is in Our Eyes



The Sun is in Our Eyes


There is some kind of scientifically enhanced surgery going on with how precisely this collection of songs tugs at my heartstrings.  The Sun is in Our Eyes is melodramatic and depicts the romanticism of past love in a very unreal light.  I know we’d all like to believe that from our past there’s the one perfect match that got away, but the reality is generally far different.  There’s commonly a very good reason they are no longer a big part of our life.  Yet, for some reason, it’s very powerful to look back into our pasts and overly romanticize a stolen kiss at summer camp and the delightful innocence of it all.

Firstly, I need to thank DJ Krissy Vanderwoude for this, because she played a song by UJU on her radio show, Drowned in a Sea of Sound. a couple of weeks ago.  I cannot contain my enthusiasm for this album!  This is one of those: ‘was this made for me?’ sort of albums.  Okay, I have to slow down.  UJU is from the Philipines and The Sun is in Our Eyes is their second album.  I do not have much prior experience with Filipino bands, other than going nuts over Julie Plug’s sparkling bright debut Starmaker way back in 1998/99.  UJU do share Julie Plug’s incredible pop sensibilities, but instead of the overt chiming pop rock of JP, UJU explores a dreamier approach.  In fact, the first few songs remind me heavily of the quiet approach of that first EP by The Arrogants.  There’s a simplicity to the songs that really helps set a particular reflective mood.  Much like the power of Robert Wratten’s songwriting, and more specifically, during the brief Northern Picture Library period.  There’s an ambient atmosphere combined with nakedly emotional lyrics that pretty much wins me over every time 

Early single, “Promises,” borrows the guitar melody from New Order’s amazing “Leave Me Alone,” (full overly melodramatic disclosure: pretty much any evening during my high school years, I was probably listening to “Leave Me Alone” with an intense desperation wanting everyone to leave me alone, despite the fact that they did - especially the girls.  Of course, it isn’t until the spectacular sixth song, “Anywhere, Everywhere,” that a burst of Adorable’s “Sunshine Smile” type guitars sprawls out like a splash of bright color.  The album takes a much more shoegazey turn, sound-wise, the rest of the way, especially, the epic crashing wave that is the title track..  There’s a foggy atmospheric haze to many of these songs that reminds of Singapore’s motifs, or Australia’s Lowtide.  However, Leeju Jung’s vocals are an entirely different game here.  She does not blend her voice in like another instrument like so many shoegaze artists.  She really sings, but she does not fall into that dreadful American Idol-style of oversinging.  Instead, songs such as the bouncy, “We Should’ve Walked, but We Ran,” feel like something sung by Rachel Mayfield’s former band, Delicious Monster

There are so many great songs here that pull those emotional strings!  “Summer’s Gone and so Are You,” I mean C’MON?!!  Then there’s the intensely exciting instrumental “Was it the Sound of a Car Crash, Broken Glass, or the Moments I’ll Never Get Back?” which paints a dramatic picture, where words would be too much.  The closing “I’ll Be Alright (I’m Still Here)” is repetitive, but undeniably pretty and reassuring and romantic as hell.

Yesterday morning, after listening to this album over and over about a half dozen times, and deciding that I wanted to write about it, I learned that UJU is now taking a “hiatus.”  I guess it’s a good thing that there’s another album to discover!


UJU "THe Sun is in Our Eyes"

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Half-Life, Remembered

When I was in High School, I worked at a pizza parlor, and sometimes I made and rolled the dough.  The dough room was long and narrow and very white.  There was a small radio that sat on a ledge near the high ceiling by a row of windows that were far too high to see out.  Up on the window ledge a radio blared, far beyond its sonic capabilities, a radio station that had a penchant for late 80s Top 40 hair metal.  The white walls were decorated with beer and wine cooler posters, brought in by beer distribution sales reps.  All of them depicted attractive models in bikinis holding bottles of beer.  One, in particular stands out in my memory.  It had three models laying out on a Budweiser logo blanket, while wearing Budweiser bathing suits.  Somehow they had become Budweiser.  I used to stare at this poster for hours.  It’s no wonder I used to get a little aroused every time I saw a can of Budweiser.


Back then, I used to buy all kinds of posters.  None of them were beer posters.  Unsurprisingly, I bought a lot of rock-n-roll posters of my favorite bands.  I especially enjoyed those subway style posters, which were large and more graphic in design.  I was not really interested in posed band pictures, or live action pictures.  My most treasured poster was a massive New Order Substance poster with the blue flower thingy.  During those times, and into my early twenties, I began to amass quite a collection of great music posters, bumper stickers, concert flyers and badges.  For some reason, I never displayed them.  Those posters never made it onto a wall at any place I’ve ever lived.  None of those stickers were stuck on anything.  Those posters remained inside a pair of poster tubes for years, until I finally donated those tubes to charity years ago. 


When I went away to college, my dorm room roommate became a close friend and he immediately decorated his side of our shared space with Siouxsie and the Banshees and Iron Maiden posters.  The room became his.  I remember staring at giant pictures of Siouxsie Sioux and Eddie, while trying to go to sleep.  My side of the room remained blank, until about mid school year, when I finally put a small concert flyer for a band named Skin Yard that I had ripped off of a telephone pole.  I placed the flyer too high on the wall, and it was mildly askew.  Its meager presence only enhanced the otherwise emptiness of the walls.


I’ve begun wondering why this is.  I mean, I had tons and tons of artwork for coveted bands in posters that I could’ve proudly displayed, but I never did, nor did I have any inclination.  Oddly enough, I think it’s due to my health.  When I was diagnosed with Von Hippel Lindau (VHL) in 1985 as an 8th grader, I think I began to see life and any lifestyle that I would ever choose as temporary.  I’ve mentioned it on this space before, but I was 13 when I decided to never have children due to the genetic danger of passing VHL along, but beyond that I think I began to be wary of getting involved with relationships in general, because I felt that they had no chance of lasting, I think I lost a lot of ambition due to the idea that I would constantly be side-tracked by continuing health crises, so I have a history of working at jobs, just to earn money, not to try to maximize my potential.  Ironically, I have stayed at jobs forever, again, I think it’s because I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and by “other shoe,” I mean serious surgery.  Instead of being ambitious, I just remain in place until the next surgery.  I think this notion of temporariness has affected my life on more levels than I can ever realize.  I think it is the reason why I have always been reluctant to make my home – feel like my home – something as small as decorating the walls. 

Regrets have been a huge part of my life.  I have tortured myself ever since I became old enough to make any kind of real decisions, and just now, I think I know why.  I have experienced a lot of life’s stops and restarts due to VHL and its various surgical maintenance needs, and I can attest that they are difficult and frustrating.  Yet, the fact that I have never allowed myself a sense of purpose, or home, or permanence, has been devastating.  I have short changed all of the people I’ve met along the way too.  I have a small handful of long-time friends who I grew up with pre-VHL, but I could have had more, if I ever let people in.  I think this mindset is a big reason why I have always been so slow to trust.  The more I consider this notion, the more I realize that I have lived the last 35+ years with a mentality that I cannot be a part of things, because I’ll only be around for a moment.  It’s like a life philosophy based on the idea that I don’t want to play the game at the party, because my ride will be here any minute.  It feels ridiculous, but I can honestly say that I have never made these decisions to avoid things consciously.  I have agonized over missed opportunities, due to these decisions for eons.  Looking back at my life under this new realization makes everything feel pretty damn ridiculous, but I really am that clueless!

Sadly, there’s nothing I can do about the past.  Perhaps, I can now move forward with clearer thoughts and more informed decision making, though I worry that it’s too late.  I am at that age where I should now be reaping the benefits of all of those important life decisions of the past – those decisions that I made with the mindset that I didn’t have a future to consider, nor did I believe that future me worth the bother.


Sunday, January 15, 2023

(image for) drawing on canvas



(image for) drawing on canvas


After several singles the past couple of years, Japanese four-piece, SPOOL, return with a full length at the end of 2022!  There is something special about this band, but to be honest, I have a difficult time putting my finger on it.  They are always solid.  They mine a style that is a psychedelic indie rock that reminds me of the early Teenage Fanclub, when they were more similar the Dinosaur Jr than the Byrds

This new LP fits right in, yet mines another adjacent style.  The songs and production here are very straight ahead and streamlined.  SPOOL have often employed a dreamier, exploratory sound, but here the basslines are tight with the massive sounding drums.  This album would’ve fit neatly into the US dominated 4AD record label years from about 91-95.  I’m talking about when 4AD began releasing alterna-rock hits by US bands like Pixies, Throwing Muses, Belly, and especially the Breeders.  I’m not implying that Spool sounds like these bands, or is copying their sound, I’m just saying that if you appreciated these artists, you might enjoy this one. 

From the tight thumping of the momentum gathering opening instrumental “fu_ka_n” to the closing melancholy “nevv song,” this album is pleasing at every stop.  The highlights for me are the vaguely Lush-like ”Somewhere,” which scratches many itches, along with the heavy and cranking “In My Head,” which includes a guitar line that sounds like a buoy beacon in the distance, and the two minute scorcher “P-90.” “Light of the Sun” is amazing too, despite ripping off the opening of Adorable’s 1994 “Vendetta” single.  What a song to steal from though!!  It becomes its own rocker by the time the first verse comes in.  The three pre-LP singles are all nice inclusions, though surprisingly, three of the quieter additions.

SPOOL, have easily earned the honor of being a band that I will continue to purchase prior to hearing new offerings.  I know that sounds silly, but I take that very seriously.  There aren’t many that my tightwad hands will ungrip for sound unheard.  It almost feels like they’re taken for granted after only three excellent albums.


SPOOL "(image for) drawing on canvas"

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Going Missing


For a television season or two, during the late 00s, on Sunday evenings, CBS used to air the television shows Cold Case and Without a Trace back to back.  I will not go into the quality of these shows, or a breakdown of them in any fashion.  I had consistently watched both of them prior to their pairing.  I liked them both.  I liked the idea of Cold Case and how they would pair music from the time of the unsolved murder in the flashback scenes.  I always thought that would’ve been a fun job.  Wish I had thought of it.  Without A Trace was always intriguing to me, because I have always been incredibly fascinated by the idea of going missing without a trace.

Sundays have been important days for me since I was in High School.  Back then it was my music day.  I remember doing my school work mostly on that day, while listening to my most recent music discoveries and reading books about music.  Then in the evenings, I would listen to my favorite new music radio shows, before tuning in to MTVs 120 minutes for more music.  The main thread here, is that I would spend the day alone, focusing on enjoying my interests.  They were days where I would recharge.  Ever since, I have tried to keep that tradition alive.  I am slow to make plans for activities or social things on Sundays, because of this.  However, as a mostly Monday through Friday worker bot, over the years, Sundays became a day of dread.  Here I would be dedicated to languishing in my pursuits, all while trying to ignore the building dread in my gut about the idea of returning to work the next day.  One day, perhaps I will try to explore this mindset of not living in the moment, and focusing on only the negative side of things, but that time is not now.

For about a year, my Sunday evenings would end with a double TV shot of Cold Case followed by Without A Trace.  There was something satisfying about the two shows that quelled some of that work dread and always had me feeling all kinds of things about life.  I don’t know why, but I think it was the sheer sadness that came from both shows.  Both shows always centered around investigations where each victim’s life is uncovered and we get to learn about all of the horrible shit in their lives.  All of their bad relationships, hidden pain, and their dark secrets.  I guess I found it grounding to see that we’re all effed up in different ways.  It also taught me to truly realize that everyone has their issues and to be more understanding in general. 

A few years ago, I wrote about my strange fascination with a local missing person case (Jennifer, She Said), where I touched on how I identified with her case, and I still feel it in a way that makes me a little nervous.  I don’t think I have the courage or the whereabouts to go missing.  Without A Trace was a perfect show for me. It was generally tragic and sad, it contained all kinds of unresolved emotions, and it tugged at my odd desire to go missing.  Unfortunately, the missing I want to go, is one where I am also unaware of the details, so I can enjoy the mystery. Where there are people looking at clues from your life and finding importance in them, when literally no one else ever would.

 In a sense, I have gone missing before.  There were times, during my dialysis years, where I would be hospitalized for up to a week, and would not alert anyone, besides my workplace, and even then, not always.  You know what?  It was never a big deal.  My lack of communication was mostly a case of sheer laziness, and most of the time, no one noticed.  There was no FBI investigation.  There weren’t any panicked phone calls from family or friends wondering what happened to me, or even why my car hadn’t moved from a strip mall parking lot for five days and nights. 

Truly, I do not understand my interest in going missing.  During my last hospital stay, after a brain surgery, I struggled with hallucinations.  For a long time, I believed that I was under constant threat via kidnapping, which led to torture and likely death.  It was all incredibly real and clear that none of that stuff would be something to wish for.  None of that was real, and it was some of the scariest stuff I’ve ever experienced!  So no, I really don’t want to go missing against my will and I really don’t seem to be able to go missing on my own.  I remember one weekday morning about five or six years ago, I decided to drive to the ocean instead of going to work.  I left my phone at home, drove to a quiet, isolated beach, and sat in amongst some giant piles of driftwood with my head in my hands in an attempt to shut out the world.  It was cool and cloudy, and yet somehow, I still got a wicked sunburn, and when I returned to work the  next day, my manager asked me where I had disappeared to the day before, I told him that I needed a day away, and he was completely understanding and cool with it.  It really pissed me off! 

Maybe I want to go missing from my life as it is.  Perhaps it’s a desire to start over in some fashion – to rid myself of all of the responsibilities and obligations I feel each day.  Whenever I get asked what I would do, if I could do anything I want, I struggle to answer.  I’m not sure what I want, or I’m not sure I can allow myself to want things.  I know I want to escape from my health problems, and the constant obligation of checking up on the state of my poor health.  Instead, like so many of us, I wish for unattainable things, while trying to achieve some sort of record for denying myself any joy in life!  It’s clear that there is no reward for working those extra hours, or whatever.  No wonder I want to disappear! 

I vaguely remember an episode of Without A Trace where a woman went missing, and it turns out that she wanted to set up a fake kidnapping, so she could escape her life and start anew in some other country.  However, her fake kidnapper instead decided to really kidnap her, and it all went badly, until our TV heroes intervened just in time to save her from death.  That feels exactly right.

Maximo Park "Going Missing"