To the like six people who read this regularly, I’m still here.
I’ve just been busy with a book, and a zine.
And the void, always the void, which never wins.
To the like six people who read this regularly, I’m still here.
I’ve just been busy with a book, and a zine.
And the void, always the void, which never wins.
It has been one of those days.
It’s one of those days where the gray sky has been dripping cold rain on my face for days and days without relent. In my anxious state, it’s just all too easy to worry the winter sun may never come back when it sinks beneath the slate gray sheet of sky at four PM. As the long night falls, the ever-pervasive clouds snuff out starlight and moonlight alike, giving an eerie abyssal feeling to the sky. The darkness is pervasive as it is consuming. So much so that I get the feeling walking home sometimes that the blackness towering above me wants to reach down and pull me into its maw, swallowing me whole.
Like I was never here. Like I was never supposed to be here. Like gravity pulling in reverse. That’s how I described my feelings of alienation and displacement in conversation once. Like the world as it spins now, does not hold a place for any of us. It’s like that episode from The Twilight Zone, where the three astronauts return from a mission, crash landing their space shuttle. One by one each of them gets the feeling “they aren’t supposed to be here” and fade away. That’s what lonely nights in this city feel like.
Like gravity pulling in reverse.
On quiet nights like this one, were it not for the internet and panic paced twenty-four hour news cycle, I think it one could almost forget the world exists outside this city and its dim streetlights. As if the world just falls away into nothingness once you hit the city limits. So I go it alone one more night, hunkering down to write to my favorite songs in my small bedroom, shut away from the world I’m so desperately afraid of fading away from, but don’t know how to rejoin at the same time. Tonight it feels like all the clocks died at two minutes to midnight. Fuck, the whole last year feels like that. The kind of apocalypse dread and desperation that reminds you what attracted you to punk in the first place.
So tonight I lose myself for the millionth time, slipping into the spirit of sound. Ensconced in the wail of guitars and D-Beats drumming out a battle march with all the rest of the lost souls and bitter children. Screaming at the madness and sheer fucking senselessness of it all. Because I don’t know about you, but I haven’t gotten a good night of sleep in what feels like weeks. Ever since that intercontinental ballistic missile false alarm last week, mushroom clouds have haunted my dreams almost nightly. All across the city, everyone I love just wonders when the hammer might fucking drop, and that then that’s it; lights out for all of us and the roaches have their go.
Punks have been freaking out about the end of the world for forty years now, my entire adult life. I inherited these deep fears as much as the next oversensitive ex-spiky kid. I mean, shit. Discharge made a few flawless records (Let’s just pretend for tonight that Grave New World just never fucking happened, okay?) and a career off these fears. Beyond that they inspired legions of leather clad, paranoid emulators.
I don’t really know how to end this, except to say that I’m scared sometimes. I’m sad sometimes. I’m strong most of the time. If you’re reading this and we know one another, I love you so much, and I’m glad you’re alive. I want you to keep living. If you’re reading this and I don’t know you: I probably like you. I love your lives and your stories because you have them and they count for something. Here’s some tunes that I love that have been on heavy rotation the past few weeks. I hope you find something you like.
This mix represents my first attempt at what I hope will become a more regular feature of incorporating my love of music and my love of sharing music into my writing practice. As always, thank you for reading. If you’ve got feedback, or just wanna tell me what songs you loved or hated, I wanna hear it.
All the roads to the land of sky are steep:
Sheer as Beaucatcher Mountain Road,
All the way to Helen’s Bridge in spring
Black mold in blooms in an exile’s lungs
Thunderheads rumble over the hills
Raise a halo to the sky and it returns a crown of rust
Sending bicycle-bones crashing to a standstill
Weeds line the vacant lot
Where they knocked the projects down
So many years ago
Their roots burst through crumbling concrete
Beautiful in their pavement breaking bloom
And the cicadas sing beneath electric starlight
Breaking wide open the stillness of summer nights
In the midst of the homes we knew
Fate is cold and indifferent like that
Rising up to make wreckage of carefully laid plans
When it comes
You cannot hesitate
Or look back
(except you always, always do)
It hurts to outgrow
Just like it will break your heart to leave home
And break you apart to build anew
What a brutal, beautiful, terrifying year. Everyone I love struggled and everyone I love strove to do their best. I don’t really know what else to say. There was tragedy and triumph, and most importantly communities getting stronger. Here’s some of the music I loved this year.
2017 Year End List Mix
Favorite records, in slight order:
Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper LP – (Profound Lore)
This is actually my favorite LP of 2017. The only reason it didn’t make it on the mix is because the song is massive, clocking in at 83 minutes. If you somehow haven’t heard this, go listen to it. Easily one of the most haunting doom metal records ever recorded.
Cold Cave – Glory (Heartworm)
Cold Cave rarely release a record that’s a miss for me. Glory is no exception. Maybe I’m a fanboy buying into the hype, but goddamnit, this song is just so catchy and Wesley Eisold is one of my favorite lyricists, constantly capturing the foul ennui and alienation of a burning world, but making you want to dance your black heart out as it burns down around you at the same time.
Ritual Veil – Wolf In The Night Tape (Self Released)
Go to Ritual Veil’s bandcamp right now and order a copy of this tape if they have any left. These things went fast. Ritual Veil make you feel like the 80’s and 90’s just never ended I mean this in the best way, because listening to this, I’m transported back to the smoky blacklit clubs of my youth while still feeling like this tape is just so fresh and exciting. You get the feeling this band is headed for big things!
King Woman – Created In The Image of Suffering (Relapse)
I was first introduced to the music of Kristina Esfandiari sometime in 2015 or 16 and have been obsessed ever since. Forlorn, hypnotic, heavy and intense. Created in the Image of Suffering doesn’t let up, even in it’s quieter moments. Somewhere I have a photo of their live date in Olympia. Kristina had just dove into the crowd, wearing a homemade shirt that says “LORENA BOBBIT”, seemingly a message to all the meathead metal bros, not ready to relinquish their stranglehold on the scene.
The Gift – Running around This Town (Time For Action)
I surprised myself with how much Oi! I listened to this year. A friend recommended this, and I grabbed it on a whim. Oi/Punk/Power Pop from France. This record is light and infectious from start to finish. Perfect for listening to on those crushing days when you want to forget the world for a minute and focus on dressing sharp as hell and loving your friends.
Outreau – LP (Une Vie Pour Rien?/Crom Records)/Rixe – Bapteme Du Feu (La Vida Es En Un Mus)
More OI! from France, but this is what you listen to when you want to psych yourself up for throwing rocks at cops and setting Nazis on fire, looking good while doing it. Music for hooligans, by hooligans. Morte Aux Vaches
Clayface – Sister is Dead LP (Total Negativity)
Local to Olympia, I have seen this band a bunch, but didn’t manage to grab a copy of this LP until almost the end of the year. This is the authentically tragic DIY Goth record Robert Smith wishes he could still make. Deeply personal and haunting.
False – Hunger EP (Gilead Media)
I also surprised myself by how little Black Metal I listened to this year. False was a big exception. Crushing, weird, and unlike most of the other metal out there. Best experienced in all their throat shredding live glory.
Hide – Black Flame EP (Joyful Noise)
Having heard Hide’s previous EP, Widdow and I went to see them at sparsely attended show with an odd mix of bands at an upscale bar in Seattle. Indie rock, dream pop, and then HIDE in all their menacing, industrial glory. For forty minutes the bar transformed into a strobe lit, black leather and lace monster. Widdow and I were so inspired that upon returning to Olympia, we swore an oath on the shores of the Puget Sound with the full moon as a witness that we would start playing music together. Maybe we’ll get around to it in 2018.
Limp Wrist – Facades LP (Leguna Armada)
Can you name a better hardcore punk record by a band that is approaching their twentieth anniversary? Me neither. One of the best queer punk bands of all time. If you want to fight about it, I will see you in the pit with all the other sweaty homos.
That’s it for now. I’m sure I forgot a ton of records that I loved. I’m sure I slept on a bunch of records that other people loved. I also loved every single record that made it onto my mix. I guess I just didn’t have it in me to write about every single record, especially considering the fact that I don’t actually know how to write about music. Anyway, the sun is out and I need to take my dog for a walk before the Pacific Northwest is plunged back into gray washed out rainy waste for another four months. Thanks for listening. Thanks for reading. ❤
A year ago tonight one of my oldest friends jumped off the rickety homemade second story of the Ghost Ship into the pitch-black first floor below her to escape the fire. None of the people she went to the party with that night made it out. She told me later the last thing she remembered was the lights going out and someone’s hand grabbing her shoulder right before she made her leap into the dark. Nobody jumped after her. She came to on the street outside of the building. She was likely one of the last people to make it out of the building.
I was sequestered on an island in the middle of the sound when the fire happened. A day later and back into cell service my phone blew up:
“She didn’t make it out…”
“Actually she’s missing.”
“Scratch that, she’s safe and in the hospital.”
I got out of my truck, stood on the ferry watching the waves lap below, and tried to get my breathing to go back to normal. Out of the myriad of things I’m grateful for here, was that all of those text messages came at once. I was lucky enough to not have shared those sick and waiting with worry hours with the rest of my friends. A second later a text from HP came to tell me that one of her close friends didn’t make it out. He had escaped, heard people were still trapped, gone back inside, only to be in there when the roof collapsed.
I got home and HP came over so we could cry together for an hour in my room.
“I’m so sorry your friend is gone.”
“I’m so glad you’re friend is still here.”
Dawn still followed night and we kept breathing and moving on. My friend came to visit during the summer. I didn’t think seeing her would affect me the way it did. I sat in my truck; waiting with the summer breeze coming through the driver’s side window. And there she was, walking up Marion Street. That peculiar gait I didn’t even realize I had memorized for almost twenty years. That’s when it hit me for real, despite having been talking about it all winter: We were a split second from never seeing that walk again.
I cried quietly in my truck for a second, Making sur to compose myself before they made their way the rest of the way up the street. I got out of my truck and hugged my friends, maybe a little tighter than usual, but not so tight as to stifle them.
Out in the woods she confirmed what HP had heard about her friend. He had made it out, then run back into the flames when he heard people were still trapped inside. I told HP later and we held onto one another and cried again, just like in December.
I don’t know how to end this, or why exactly I’m writing it, other then to commemorate time passing and acknowledge the lives lost that night. It could have been any of us, seeing as how we have all lived in, played shows at, or gone to parties in places just like the Ghost Ship over the years.
I mean, once upon a time in Denver, some of my friends paid $750 a month to live in a rundown rattrap punk house also named The Ghost Ship. We named it as such, because of the narrow stairwell that connected the first and second stories. Walking upstairs, you felt like you were in the hold of a ship. Had it never caught fire, the upstairs residents would have been trapped for sure.
I fell in love and got scabies there. Both from the same person. I have only ever regretted the latter. The thought of paying $750 a month to live anywhere in Denver is virtually unfathomable a decade and a half later as late capitalism transforms all the cities we’ve loved into shopping centers for wealthy white people who can afford to live in them.
Right after the Ghost Ship fire, a different dear friend called it quits with the Bay Area for good. Hoping to recover from a relentless depressive episode and catch his breath, he came here. Shortly before making a break for it he cried into the phone with me one night:
“There’s no place left for us to go.”
I tried to stay quiet and just listen. What could I say? I know in my heart that he’s right. All the poor people, all the POC, all the queers and the freaks get pushed out of the cities we helped to breathe life into and make “quirky” or what the fuck ever real estate developers look for when looking to make way for the next wave of speculation and get displacing.
So in the end, we make our own spaces. We almost always have to fight like hell for them. We hold those spaces close under constant threat. We build and breathe and thrive. We try to live in a malignant culture that does it’s best to take everything from us. A year ago tonight, a whole lot of us died.
I don’t know what else to say.
Sleep well, friends.
I had the dream again last night. Similar variation to the one I have been having on and off for five long years now.
My life’s greatest heartbreak and I. Someplace warm and safe. We forget just how fucking mad we were at each other. We forget all the petty bullshit. We remember the love we shared, and let go. We don’t try and start over. We don’t try and repeat toxic patterns. We just lovingly let go.
The other night Relic and I were talking about our belief in ghosts, how maybe the places that were significant for us hold our imprints and this is what ghosts are. My first thought was “Holy fuck, my sprit better not go back to Grail Street.” Because Grail Street was significant, but goddamn was it miserable. Nothing says “healthy life choices” like destroying one another and then continuing to be neighbors, too stubborn to give up cheap rent; coughing up black mold and haunted by strangers with familiar faces for a full year. I hope they don’t go back there when they’re gone either. I used to sit in my room, beneath the sound of furtive footsteps I knew too well and write stories that I never had the nerve to publish about what I hoped our specters would say to one another if they were to linger on the steps or behind the walls of Grail Street too long. When I was finally done being mad, I’d tell myself:
“Maybe we’ll work it out next time around.”
Gods, I’ve been fucked up and sagging under the weight of depression for days but I love being alive right now. I love it harder than I’ve ever loved anything or anyone in the world, because it’s the one thing I can count on. I thank every heartbreak for never breaking me, but giving me the opportunity to reconstitute myself into a different form. I thank the heartbreak for bringing out the absolute worst in me so I can learn to never be that person again.
Once upon a time we were fucked up kids who saw the best in one another. We were the loving reflections offered to haunted and straining eyes when the mirror was too painful to behold. I’ll never not be thankful for that. There are nights where I wish we could just see the best of what we’ve become. I never quite know how to reconcile that feeling. The knowing outgrowing connections is okay, and sometimes painfully (agonizingly) necessary, but you still wish you could visit every now and then. Just because whatever, five years on you are so over whatever the fuck it was you were pissed about and you can see how thoroughly someone coming up at the right place and right time fundamentally changes you forever. You want people to know that they had a profound effect on you, even when they’re gone and you’re reflecting on a dead connection.
So if we meet when we’re ghosts:
I’d say in all the years that went by, I never forgot:
How much I love your awkward teeth.
And the sound of your laugh.
I still can’t refrain from breaking into a grin when I tell the story of your icy stare freezing a confused nurse while I pathetically laid on the waiting room floor.
I’d say I finally learned how to stop hating myself.
I’d say how sorry I was for my lack of patience; for not letting you grow.
Seeing the best in you was never an excuse.
I’d say whisper how sorry I am for letting you down.
For not knowing how to let my anger calm.
For holding on so tight that it stifled us both.
I hope you are warm and well, and that your demons finally laid down to rest.
I hope your body and spirit are hale and whole.
Work in progress from a larger piece written about a trip this summer.
It’s somewhere near one AM. Sam and I are driving through the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. We are speeding along route 30 between the small town I grew up in, and Philadelphia. We should be arriving in Philadelphia just past one AM. We left North Carolina at nine this morning, stopping a total of three times between our departure and now.
We just left a diner in the heart of York County. The same diner where my friends and I used to spend hours rotting with nothing else to do; smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee after punk and goth shows in the 90’s. Sam was kind enough to indulge our stopping for two hours so I could have a reunion of sorts with some old friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in close to twenty years. We are talking the kids who formed the crux of the formative years and the person I’d grow into. I’ve practically written novels about these people, and here we were; all together again, and all grown up. Our reunion was brief, and joyous. Outside the diner I promised my childhood best friend and first love I wouldn’t wait seventeen years between to see her next time. I told her I’d come meet her partner and her baby.
I meant it too. I fucking miss the east coast. I miss the oldness of it. I miss my roots. If nothing else, I miss how compact everything is. I miss how trips like this aren’t so seemingly impossible out here. Sam and I had to coordinate for a solid six months to make our cross-country meeting happen.
Sam is leaning back in the passenger seat with their eyes closed, resting. I have the new Chelsea Wolfe record playing quietly on the stereo for company. I thought about listening to Sisters Of Mercy or Cock Sparrer for old time’s sake; I have those two bands on my iPod, and they helped define my youth haunting this old highway, but this record is just so fucking good. I’m listening to it again, and composing this letter to you in my head to stay awake.
The houses that line route thirty all have their lights long off. They feel like home to me in this strange way. Oddly frozen in time, as if I could just pull off the highway and settle here, like it was still 1998, and I never left Southern York County. I imagine moving into an old house; trading bitter winter walks to the post office and writing by the fireplace for Pacific Northwest winters drenched in rain. I tell myself I could keep in touch with the outside world by buying records and zines at 3DCD (or whatever record store that opened to take its place, since I’m sure it has long since closed.) again like I was a teenager. At this present moment the idea appeals to me. Funny, because I spent the entirety of my youth scarcely being able to wait until I was old enough to escape this place. Seriously, Melanie and I would talk about it for hours. We planned that shit out. We’d dream about running away. We would hold each other close, reassuring the other one just another year or two until we were eighteen and could escape. We counted down the days until our grand departure from Southern York County, never ever to return.
Now I’m laughing at myself in the late night hours for (however unseriously) briefly entertaining the idea of moving back here.
There was just a storm. For the first time in several days it almost feels cool outside. We have the windows rolled down. The air is thick with humidity and lingering lighting. A flash will crack the sky in jagged streaks every now and then, leaving the clouds red in the afterglow. I love it. I don’t know if I’ve seen a thunderstorm since I left the south. I have missed them terribly. The storm was torrential and massive, nothing like the pervasive Pacific Northwest rain we complained about all winter. I fell in love with you in that constant drizzle and gray. The rain smells differently out here, but I smile at the thought of how that love deepened to where I smell rain, and feel that love even three thousand miles away, in a place that feels light years away from the small world we know.
I don’t know if I miss Olympia right now. I miss you. I miss the sanctuary of my bedroom on my dead end street. It feels weird and indulgent to go on a trip when it feels as if everything around me is crumbling down and the world is a goddamn dumpster fire. Who am I to go running off to meet up with some of my oldest friends on the other side of the country when there is so much work to be done at home?
Over the winter, Sam and I often reflected on the nature of impermanence; just how fleeting and fragile everything feels. The world feels a shade darker than it did a year ago. In that regard, two old friends on a road trip makes all the sense in the world. Tomorrow we will wake up in Philadelphia and wind our way through crowded city streets to meet up with one of our other oldest friends. The three of us shared the stroke of luck to meet in this city almost exactly twelve years ago. We managed to forge the kind of friendships that survive the pitfalls and anxieties of old age.
We will sit on a rooftop overlooking the city that brought us all together so long ago. We’ll laugh at the follies of youth and be thankful for having left them behind. We will give thanks to for resilience and adaptability. We will give thanks for everything we ever outran. We will give thanks for a future that may be fraught with incalculable fear, but is still yet to be written.