Crain and I walked through downtown last night on our way to Jonas’ memorial at Static Age. Something felt off the whole way, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Somewhere on Lexington Avenue, we got stuck behind a group of drunk tourists. Crain muttered, “Godamnit, fuck” under their breath as we waited for these out of town yuppies to have some level of self-awareness that we were trying to get around them.

When we finally did, Crain commented that the two of us have been walking up and down Lexington Avenue together on and off for 14 years now.

I was so nostalgic about this place for so long when I was away. When I lived out west, thinking about the mountains and the south and Appalachia and my friends laughing in the humid glow of the dusk of matchless summer night used to cause a physical ache in my body. Like a phantom limb. Some part of you so vital, so sacred that you wonder how you keep going without it.

And it’s not nostalgia I’m feeling tonight. It’s this fathomless, nameless sense of loss that accompanies saying goodbye to so many of the people, so many of the places you loved. So many people are gone, and I wish we didn’t all have to feel so rootless. I wish the march of progress wasn’t starving people out of the cities they call home.

I wouldn’t go back to my late 20s. I wouldn’t go back to being a scowling, stomping through the world, kid. I don’t miss the turmoil. I don’t miss the hangovers. I don’t miss the volatility. I don’t miss everyone trying to find their way in the world and stepping on one another’s toes.

But I have so much compassion for all of us. Aging is hard enough. I would love it if life would stop kicking all of us in the teeth.

That ache that filled my body when I lived out west is with me tonight, even though I’m ensconced in the mountains I once called home again. But it’s not the same. We’ve lost so much. So many friends are gone. So many of us have fractured, bitterness and broken hearts or just scattering to the wind.

I’m in the place I called home for so long, but it doesn’t feel like home. Walking through town last night, I felt like a ghost haunting only myself. My memories of this place are relevant only to myself, and maybe a handful of other people.

I don’t give a fuck about sounding egotistical here, but all the punks and the freaks played such a part in making this place what it WAS. Now so many of us are nomads wandering through the wasteland of progress, forever searching for home.

When I lived here a decade ago, I loved this city so much that it filled my heart to the point of bursting. Tonight, I feel like it’s killing me. And I’m not even there, because the only place I can afford to live is 45 minutes outside of town in a house so quiet that sometimes the silence is deafening.

Fuck gentrification.

Annihilate This Week #3

I have been pacing around my house for what feels like weeks now. Nervous energy, a taste like burnt offerings and burned bridges lingering in the back of my throat. Wind and rain rattle the windows, but it’s forecast to be in the high 70’s in the mountains next week. Good ol’ spring in … February? Tree frogs singing at night, blossoms pushing through the winter blight. In February. A comfort and a sense of impending doom at the same time. Three nights this week, coyotes howl across the valley. I lift the needle from the turntable. Turn off all the lights, step out onto the porch and listen. I don’t know if it’s a trick of my imagination or not, but I hear the soft padding of feet scampering through the meadow. The wind whips wisps of clouds across the horizon, and everyone wonders just how much vinyl chloride made its way here from Ohio this week.

I wish I smoked sometimes, a contradiction for an asthmatic with an anxiety attack for every shortened breath. Smoking would give me something to do with my hands. A burning, a raw searing sensation settling my raw nerves while killing the ones that live in my lungs. (Yeah, I don’t know if that’s actual science, but it sounds cool, so fuck off.) A decade ago this summer, walking around this shitty little tourist trap mountain town at during one of the lowest of the lows, I saw graffiti on the back of a construction sign, all thick and bold lines.

 “Smoking kills, but I want to die.”

I get it, and I hate it at the same time.

All my dreams are haunted this last week. The past and present blur together in a nightmare miasma of troubled sleep. Anxiety dreams where I never left Pennsylvania. Worries about the future. The past creeping in from beyond the wall of sleep, late at night, vulnerable and laid bare. The black of night gathering outside my window knows all my secrets and has no mercy to spare. Then there is the downright bizarre: the dream where my best friend and I found ourselves in a strange amalgam of the present and a fictional past. We were on a suicide mission, baby. Loaded down with explosives, ready to strike a blow against the fascist state. We aborted the mission at the last minute, for reasons that were lost to me upon waking. Then, then, I got distracted by wanting to steal a weight bench.

Which is just maybe the most on brand shit for me, ever.

I submitted a story, some of the best work I’ve done in a long time. Then I considered withdrawing the story on account of how tired I am of the same cycles and shady characters drinking the ink from all my pens.

I don’t know what else to say.

At one point did all your living become surviving?

To all my friends and enemies, running from death, I love you, wherever you may rest.

Except the fash.

Never the fash.

This is for the hearts still beating.

Annihilate This Week #3

  1. Converge – First Light
  2. Converge Last Light
  3. Disfear – Fear and Trembling
  4. Planes Mistaken For Stars – Say Not A Word
  5. Against Me – Even At Our Worst, We’re Still Better Than Most
  6. Cold Cave – You & Me & Infinity
  7. Future Islands – The Chase
  8. X – Under The Big Black Sun
  9. Peter Murphy – Cuts You Up
  10. Lebanon Hanover – The Moor
  11. Slugger – How Much More Can We Take
  12. Unfun – Rain City
  13. Coliseum – Sunlight In A Snowstorm
  14. Evil Conduct – Time Is Running Out
  15. Thou – By Endurance We Conquer
  16. Wear Your Wounds – Shine
  17. Etta James – All I Could Do Was Cry
  18. Percy Sledge – At The Dark End Of The Street

Annihilate This Week #2

I’m happy to be making mixes to cast like a message in a bottle into the vast ocean that is the internet again. This was something I was just beginning to add to my writing practice a few years ago before my life fell apart and I stopped enjoying so much of what I loved for too long. It feels good to come home to myself just that much more.

It’s been a week since the last playlist, and I’m struggling with how to fill this space. I had a few ideas this morning, early in the AM when I was dragging my tired body out of bed. Now I am drawing a blank. It was a week of relative hibernation creativity wise. I struggled to even find time to read. I worked a lot and often found myself so drained by the end of the day that I just wanted to lift weights, play with the pup, watch bad TV and fall asleep.

I think this may be some iteration of the “American Dream”, but I’m not sure.

Over the weekend, I’m hoping to do some reorganizing and reinvigorating my writing/study space at the Signals Fill the Void bunker. I’m hoping that helps shift the stagnation of this last week. I’m not unhappy or anything, though. This week felt like a week of rest and recovery.

Highlight #1

This one occurred the week before last, but I’m noting it here, anyway. I forgot to write about it last week.

I got off work on a Wednesday and raced to Chapel Hill to get there in time to see The Chisel and End It with Maria. I got to town before Maria got off work and wandered around. Chapel Hill isn’t a city I ever think about much, despite having spent time living there a decade and a half ago. My time there was brief and the people I surrounded myself with were, for the most part, inconsequential. Walking around there feels akin to walking through another person’s memories, devoid of context or sentimentality. In hindsight, it looks more like a place marker, an interlude before moving on to better things than anything else.

We got dinner and walked to the venue. I know a few other bands played, but I’m struggling to remember who they were now. We hung outside talking shit and telling jokes during the openers, only occasionally peaking in to kinda say “nah” at whatever chugga chugga hardcore band was onstage. Fair play to you if that’s your thing. I think I’ve just seen so much of that at this point that it blurs together.   

We stood at the back while End It played, forever trying to peer over someone’s shoulder to see the stage, because we’re both so short. The bar emptied out after End It; we scoped out a bench off to the side of the room where we could sit and watch the band away from and above the crowd. We sat there holding hands, watching The Chisel play and maybe the set was a little underwhelming. I’m not sure. I was tired after work, apprehensive knowing my dumb ass was going to have to get up at 5 AM to drive back to the mountains for work in the morning. I think it’s also possible that nothing might beat the first time I saw The Chisel – with Xy in a Los Angeles dive bar packed full of rowdy punks and skins, my first punk gig back after well over two years avoiding public spaces.

The gig ended. The bar cleared out. Maria and I walked across the street and said goodnight. Just a little giddy from the gig and from sweet time shared, I made the foolish decision to drive back to the mountains at midnight. My rationale being that I could leave right then or get up at 5. Either way, I wasn’t getting much sleep, and if I left later in the AM, I had a greater chance of the slightest hiccup making me late for work.

The first hour of the drive went by fine. I listened to tunes, drank coffee, and thought about a story I want to write for some friends in Olympia. The second hour, well… That’s when the reality that I am no longer young came crashing in. Maybe I could have pulled this nonsense off in my 20s, even in my 30s, but my early 40s? Nope.

I pulled off at a rest stop near my mom’s house and slept for four hours. I woke up and kept driving west just before sunrise. I stopped at a grocery store, stocked up on food and coffee and hit the mountains just as the sun began to rise over them, bathing the landscape in brilliant orange and red. I caught that feeling I get – No matter where I go, how far I stray from Western North Carolina, nothing ever beats the feeling of returning to those mountains.

I made it to the office with five minutes to spare before my shift. My student was already waiting for me. I clocked in, set my stuff down, and got to work. Let me brag for a minute, friends. I fucking nailed that session. It was one of those shining moments at work, where I am able to connect with a student and send them away from the session feeling more confident in their abilities than they felt when they came in. My supervisor even stepped out of her office to compliment me on how well I handled the session.

And the whole time, I’m laughing to myself.

“Nobody knows I’m doing this shit on 4 hours of sleep in the back of a car.”

This type of punk rock foolishness, the late nights, the long drives, the gambling on gigs that have the potential to be life changing, or some mundanity that I’ve seen a thousand times before, I know how the sands are falling to the bottom of the hourglass on them. I’m getting older. Comfort calls. So do responsibilities and the weight of age.

So I will enjoy these opportunities to live life on my terms while they remain.

Highlight #2

This week we made serious progress with training my little chaos pup. A solution presented itself that seemed so obvious that I kick myself for not thinking of it sooner. With a new training regimen, I’ve noticed the ways he’s calmer, feels more comfortable in the house, and less anxious. I’m stoked.

Highlight #3

I got to work with a student who reminded me so much of someone I knew when I was a teenager who started shooting dope when we were kids, and to my knowledge, addiction has been a part of her path ever since. My student was bright and articulate and spoke without apology about what personal struggles she wanted to write about. She just didn’t know how to get the words out. We worked on an outline, and she left the session knowing what she wanted to write and how to start her project.

I thought about it for the rest of the day, how all the stories we tell, the stories we hear, they don’t have to end in tragedy. There don’t have to be sad scripted endings, and the written word is a way to circumvent those tragedies and write stories with new endings.

I’m not articulating this point as well as I’d like, but you get it.

Low Point #1

The state of the world. I mean… Have you seen this place lately? It always feels just a little strange to find so much contentedness and happiness in my personal life, while everything else is burning down. Did you see that the Doomsday Clock is now set at 90 seconds to midnight? I was joking with Grier about how it fucking figures that the world stands on yet another precipice, just as I’m coming to love living in it.

I’m only a little embarrassed to admit that that early to mid-2000s “Even if the world ended tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today” patch that you saw all over crust punk and folk punk kids resonates with me a bit now.

Low Point #2

I went on a miserable, and I mean miserable date. We talked on OKC for a day or so and I had some hesitations. I’ve had hesitations all around about dating for a while now, but I figured I’d meet up and feel it out. As soon as the person walked into the bar where we agreed to meet up, I could feel it. It was like both of us just said, “Nope.” I’m not sure what my body language telegraphed, but this person could not have broadcasted “not interested” any louder.

What followed was an hour or so of strained conversation where I sipped my mocktail and wondered when I could get a word in edge wise, ducking strange, and invasive questions about a close friend, and then a merciful ending.

I laughed about it with a friend who was DJ’ing, paid my tab and then went to my car to check on my little dude in his travel crate. I pulled out my phone to call Molly, and was just saying, “Yo, I just went on the worst date” into the mouthpiece, when I noticed my date was sitting outside the bar smoking and waiting for their ride, well within earshot.


Let that be a lesson to you, kids. The greater the length at which someone blathers on about their self-tokenizing identity markers and “organizing” activities in a dating profile full of leftist academia buzzwords and superficial social justice language, the greater chance they are going to be a vapid, insufferable chump in real life.

Bullet dodged; shit talked.

That’s all for now. I turn 42 next week. I’m happy. I’m healthy. I am largely content in a way I never thought possible. I’m grateful. Take care of yourselves. Take care of one another.

Annihilate This Week Volume 2.

  1. From Ashes Rise – Reaction
  2. From Ashes Rise – Hell in the Darkness
  3. World Burns to Death—Babylon Endures
  4. Lions Law – The Reaper
  5. The Bois – S.H.A.R.P. Worldwide
  6. The Chisel – You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
  7. Mess –  Don’t Look Back
  8. The Last Resort – Beyond The Promised Land
  9. Angelic Upstarts – Ghost Town
  10. Slapshot – Say Goodbye
  11. The Cure – M (Live)
  12. Chain Cult – Witch Hunt
  13. Rancoeur – Rancouer
  14. She Past Away – Rituel
  15. Sisters Of Mercy – Nine While Nine
  16. Shannon & The Clams – The Boy
  17. Hub City Stompers – Dead Nazi Stomp
  18. Prince Buster – A Change Is Gonna Come
  19. Megative – One Day All This Will Be Gone
  20. Swans – To Be Kind