Journal 10/1/19

South Hills, 2:50 PM, 91 Degrees

Siting in the alley a block up from Eden and watching an old man on his smoke break from the restaurant on the corner.  His beard is gray.  His apron is a dirty white.  His eyes dart between the sweltering asphalt and his phone.  This part of town reminds me of Lancaster or Southern York County, sometimes I start to feel claustrophobic when I’m out here.  I’m sitting on the cooking pavement trying to find shade and drinking the kombucha the woman who owns Eden comped me.  White clouds, without rain pass overhead giving the street a brief break from the heat, and I could almost miss the cool gray falls of the Pacific Northwest.  This time last year I was settling into a misty fall and winter living with one of my favorite humans on the planet, and I feel the ache of that absence right now.  I’ll make sure to text them when I’m off work later.

Instead of missing anything more or picking up my phone, I find myself remembering the pregnant gray storm clouds of a South Florida late summer day.  I remember the way they’d gather in the late afternoon, all gray and heavy and ominous right before the sky opened up and the rain came down in blinding sheets so thick you could barely see a few feet ahead of you.  The world would cool down for a few blissful hours, and sometimes the streets would flood.  The kids would all come out to run around in the water once the lightning stopped.  Now I think about those clouds and the feeling of dread that comes with 90-degree fall days in October in the Northeast and I think about acid rain and rising seas and how long before she sinks.

Nothing to do for today, but jump back on my bike and finish my rounds.  The man across the alley just finished his cigarette.  Looks like we’re going back to our respective grinds at the same time.  I hope he’s done with work soon too.

Journal Excerpt – 9/30/19

Slept hard last night, like the dead.  I think the travel took it out of me.  I left my phone in the kitchen and managed to stay in bed until 9:30.  Only part of the road that I really remember is stopping to stretch in a Vermont cemetery where most of the graves seemed to be over a century old.  I scratched my eye somehow and spent part of the drive precariously trying to blink the blurriness out of my right eye and keeping the car under 80 mph just in case.

I feel a total lack of enthusiasm for my day job today.

Reading the other night went okay.  I thought about reading a piece about my mom intended for use in a collaborative project with Sam, but it didn’t feel ready, so I switched to an excerpt from a prose piece about Olympia – a recounting of a sweet date with HP and the night W and I thought we were going to die.  Felt good to write about a one and place that is safely relegated to the past at this point. I finished with a newer poem.  Being onstage was at once both exhilarating and terrifying.  I sweated it out under the lights in my Ben Sherman knockoff.  I need to work on my inflection and delivery.  I felt flat, on autopilot.  I don’t even know how long I was up there.  Time melts away onstage, especially when the venue is dark and the only lights are on you.  I know I got a strong round of applause as I left stage, but I was too scared to look out at the crowd.  I walked backstage a cathartic mess of nerves and wanted to hide.  I have this feeling like I just want to be so real that it shines through everything else.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  I think sometimes, people just want to be entertained.  It worked last time I was on that stage, reading about lost love and forgiving my momma.  Tonight, it felt like it felt flat.  I’m not sweating it too hard.  There are good nights and bad nights.

I felt like a raw nerve after I read, and just wanted to hide.  I found a spot behind some ancient bleachers way in the back of the theater and crawled under them to hyperventilate.  The person who went on after me and closed out the night did this jokey nude performance art thing, where they walked onstage mostly naked and gradually had people who were in the know hand them clothes until they were dressed  As they were walking off stage, they said: “Did you know that in Vermont that it’s illegal to take your clothes off onstage?  That’s it.  That’s the performance.  Bye.”

It was funny, but maybe lost on me, prudish as I can be at times.  The staff working the event asked everyone to put their phones in a box, so nobody could creep and sneak photos.  Totally understandable.  I got up from my hiding place and surrendered my phone and then went back to the shadows to try and remember how to breathe.

I hid until the house lights came back on and then got my phone and went outside.  A few people told me they were into what I did and I think I smiled weakly and said thank you.  I never know how to take praise, even though I know how much we all want it on some level.  I guess it’s just that I bare my soul up there and I wonder how voyeuristic it might feel for someone else to see, and I also get that someone might wanna shield their eyes.  I don’t know.

I’ve decided that I can always feel pride in how much of myself I pour into my writing, how hard I work at it, even if I don’t always connect with a reader or an audience.  I don’t think I’m always necessarily palatable as a person, or a writer, but when I connect with people, I do so on a pretty rad level.  All I can be is brutally honest and keep working.

Brief Non-writing update to my like, five followers and those Nazis that were watching my shit for a while.

This has been one of the best weeks of my life, holy shit.

I am so close to finishing my Bachelor Of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, after so much hard work.

So many cool projects on the horizon.
Swimming in sweetness and support.
Sometimes I wake up to texts from my sweetheart, and can’t believe how I lucked out, except I know how hard we both worked to become the people we are and deserve one another too.

Tonight I will read a piece of writing on a stage where the mighty BLACK SABBATH once played when they were at the apex of their sonic power.

Does this mean I’ve made it?

Doing everything in my power to keep my body and brain healthy.

 

 

Dating during this whole mass extinction thing is wild.

We sit
Next to one
Another in bed
Skin pressed to skin
You smile while you knit
And I’m drunk
On the delight of it

With a baseball game
On the radio
The window open
To the last strains
Of summer drifting in
From a skyline I never thought
I would come to love
Looming concrete and steel above
Not indestructible
But close enough
For now

I scribble in my journal
Trying to give my words
The bloodsoaked weight
Of a Lydia Lunch or
Any other horror adjacent

I Let the pen rest
With a breath
And your head
On my chest

Try as I might
I don’t got the heart
For wringing the wrath
Out of my body tonight
I wore that shit out
Of me last year
And the year before that
And the year before that one too.

Talking about being born
Like a burn ward
Skin always too thin
Too sensitive to exist
Over and over and over
How your bones can ache
And age, slamming small hands
Against a lifetime’s weight
Of storm clouds begging to break

Drive home
Across down
Real late at night
Sailing across an
Asphalt sea and blinking lights
The windows down
Fingers curl around the wheel
Freshly dipped in the afterglow

All the cold songs
Written for cold hearts
I used to love
About never falling in love
And tears flowing
To help the flowers grow
Play real loud on the stereo
Singing me all the way home

Those songs seem so silly now
Or at least like the sounds
Ears would be grateful to outgrow
Waiting
Not in love, but kind of in love, or
Making our way to that graceful falling
Or close enough
Waiting
for the curtain to fall
And the war to come home.

HIDE – 8/15/19

It’s nice to go to shows and see gray hair, and crow’s feet and smile lines.  It’s a relief to see aging punk rockers still rocking the double studded belt look coupled with their receding hairlines.  I don’t know if I was totally aware of what a toll it took on me to go to shows in a city where I would often be fifteen years older than many of the punks in attendance.  This especially in a subculture that discards and writes off its elders every generation or so. 

Speaking of the new destroying the old, each time I see HIDE perform, Heather Gabel and Seth Sher outdo themselves completely, both sonically and in stage presence and intensity. So much so, that I think back to the first time I saw them in a near empty bar in Seattle with one of my very dearest friends, and how that gig almost seems like a tame folk punk show played in a community garden in comparison to the aural horror and menace they unleashed on Brilloboxtonight.  I go to shows in my new city alone a lot, which doesn’t bother me at all.  I just hang in the back and read in between bands.  I find that the sense of being alone in a crowd helps me concentrate more than I might at home.  Tonight, I biked to the show late, with a copy of Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado in my backpack.  At the show, I read “Inventory” from that collection of short stories while I waited for HIDE to set up.  If you haven’t read the story, I’m not going to give you spoilers, if you have, you might have an idea why that particular story felt fitting to read while waiting for HIDE to set up.  

Better writers than me have argued that the best music and art holds a mirror up to the culture at large, reflecting its ugliness back to us.  In doing so, it forces us to face our failings both subculture wise and as a species.  I know this is what drew me to the worlds of punk and goth in the first place and I know this is the argument so many of us used on our parents when they wanted to know why we insisted on listening to Dead Kennedys (or really whatever offensive band you loved as an adolescent) loud in our rooms decades ago.  “Fuck you, dad!  They’re just telling it like it really is!”.  I feel like I once saw Marilyn Manson, a far lesser artist than HIDE, and one with a much more contrived presentation and aesthetic make the same argument on Donahue or some similar television show in the 90’s, that he wasn’t telling kids what to do or think, but was just a vessel with which to expose them to the hypocrisy and contradictions of the dominant culture.  

Somewhere though, that message became compromised and watered down, and this writer felt like Marilyn Manson gave suburban kids permission to be shocking and edgy at the mall before going off to college and getting a job. HIDE is holding up a very different mirror to our culture and our collective participation in the both quiet and loud atrocities that take place across the world and at home.  When Heather Gabel opened tonight’s show repeating instances of verbal harassment experienced while simply being a woman walking through the world in the coldest and most guttural screams imaginable, you get the feeling she is not only railing against the outside world, but demanding the audience examine what parts of that world they have internalized and brought to this small, smoky room with them.  One song blended into the next and the venue fell into brief silence punctuated by the sample of a voice saying “When you depersonalize another person… it seems to make it easier to do things you shouldn’t do.” while Gabel writhed on the floor in front of the audience in mock submission.  I couldn’t help but think back to being a child in South Florida in the late 80’s, coming in from playing outside to my mother watching Ted Bundy’s final interview on the night of his execution.  I watched a few minutes of the interview with my mother, long enough to watch Ted Bundy blame place the blame for his hatred of women on pornography all while the jackass from Focus On The Family ate it up because it fit his agenda, more than examining our collective hatred of women did.  

I can think of few bands I’ve seen in recent memory that take the stage with a more driven intensity than HIDE in the past few years.  I don’t really know how to write about the mechanics of creating music, so I don’t really know how to write about it in a lot of ways. I could scarcely begin to understand how Seth Sher creates the noise onstage that he does, but he does so to astonishing effect.  I’m going to admit here, that even scarcely an hour after getting home the details of the show are a bit fuzzed out.  I spent the entire set standing up front stage left, not even dancing, just standing transfixed, aware that I was witnessing something truly powerful and cathartic, and occasionally pulling out my phone to snap a photo or take a video, more to document how the show made me feel for self-reference, than to take any sort of fancy photos.  I’m not a good photographer anyway.  

 I remember when Trump first got elected, some were moved to comment along the lines of “Well at least we will get powerful at and music out of these dark times.”.  While acknowledging the privileged nature of that statement (as in, there are a lot of people experiencing these dark times from cages, and a lot of people who might not live to see the end of them), I don’t disagree with that sentiment.  The Punk and Industrial scenes were borne of the turbulence and tension of the 70’s and 80’s.  While I feel like HIDE’s art stands powerfully on its own, regardless of whether it is being created within the confines of an ascendant fascist state or not, I cannot help but find the synchronicity HIDE’s momentum as artists coupled with the particular cultureal moment we are in to be both terrifying and comforting at once.  I just looked at my journals and photographic records and found that my aforementioned dear friend and I first saw HIDE on March 13th, 2017, just two months after Trump’s inauguration, and just a year and a half after thinking we were going to get beaten to death by Nazis together.  I distinctly remember returning home to Olympia late that night and sitting beneath a cold winter moon on the shore of the Budd Inlet, promising one another that we would continue our shared resistance to the powers that shape our world, be it through art or activism.  We had just witnessed something that powerful.  Tonight, at the conclusion of HIDE’s set, the stranger who had been standing next to me snapping photos (no doubt, better than my own!) and I simply turned and acknowledged one another with an exhausted warmth as if to say “Did you fucking see what just happened, and are you okay now?”  

I rode my bike home, exhilarated, feeling hopeful for our collective subcultural future, if nothing else.  These are vicious times, and HIDE creates art to not to provide comfort in those times, but to encourage the listener to rise up in the face of them.  On my ride home, I couldn’t help but think of two very different Industrial and Post-Industrial acts of a bygone era – Death In June, and Boyd Rice’s NON.  Both bands have created searing industrial soundscapes and both bands have been dogged by accusations (that this writer happens to agree with, and an immense amount of evidence easily found via google seemingly supports) of fascist and far-right sympathies, if not outright agendsas for much of their careers.  In defending themselves, both individuals (I cannot bring myself to refer to Douglas P as a musician) often use the same argument – that they are just utilizing fascist imagery, referencing it in song, and lastly dressing up in its trappings to hold a mirror up to the culture at large, to make the listener uncomfortable, to think.  

After watching HIDE perform tonight, I couldn’t help but think that the music of DI6 and NON could more accurately be described as the artists holding a mirror up to the culture as they wish it to be, one where the might makes right and the strong tread upon the weak, a world where white men get to speak and act with impunity – The very same world HIDE seeks to obliterate.  Where Death In June, so many of the bands they inspired provide the listener space to fantasize they are the perpetrators of atrocities (If you can make a convincing argument here that the song “Of Runes and Men” is anything other than Douglas P jerking off to the thought of being born 30 years earlier so he could have joined the SS, I will eat that “Sometimes Antisocial, Always Antifascist shirt I wear 8 days a week.*).  I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of relief at a changing of the guard of sorts within the Industrial and dark cultures.  In the crowd tonight there was none of the fascist dog whistling sometimes present at Industrial shows of yesteryear.  No boys with dumb fashy haircuts.  No fucking pseudo SS uniforms.  No Totenkampf or Sonnerad patches..  Just a bunch of outcasts gathered together in a small room, and two uncompromising musicians, asking, no, demanding that the audience confront their collective demons and their complicity in the horrors of rape culture and misogyny.  

What are we going to do?  What are we going to create in the face of such horror?  What are we going to do to bring it all crashing down?  What are we going to build in the ruins? 

*Just kidding.  I won’t.  Douglas P is a fascist.  Period. Point blank.  Fuck that guy.  

Mediocre photographic evidence:

3.14.4.18

One.

The first time I saw you:
You were magnetic
With your cracked tooth grin
Tattoos gracing your skin
Your steel toe boot
Stomp across a scuffed
Hardwood floor painted
The color of one hundred
Midnight hours passed
In delicious summer stillness
Your eyes
Catch mine
You smile
And I smiled back
The humidity hanging
Thick in the air
Turned electric, sending
My skin tinging
For a moment
Like an alien
Sensing a kindred spirit

Two.

Two hours later
Dancing at the show
Sweaty and smiling
On the precipice
Of “punk for life”
I wonder
Just when we get
Too old for this
Fifteen years after
I screamed the words
“Young until I die!”
For the first time
The band
Right on the cusp
Of stardom, or what passes
For it down here
On this dirty living room floor
Is giving it their
Absolute all
You introduce yourself
In the sweaty afterglow
Wild hair stuffed
In a knit black beanie
Despite the summer heat.

Three.

Two years on
All fucked up
On sleeplessness and loss
And expensive liquor
Twenty-one days since
A single shotgun shell
Shattered the world
Of almost every person I know
Back home

So I came out here alone
Breaking in steel toe boots of my own
Praying to stomp my way down
Enough strange streets
Turn down enough blind curves
Walk up enough steep hills
To outrun this
Sadness swallowing sadness

We share a drink
And a fierce affinity
For one another
Intelligent eyes
Growing harder
And harder
I look at you
And see a mirror.

Four.

You are my friend
And one of the
Best and brightest
I know
Sitting in your parking spot
Making the most
Of our small hours
Before the dawn

I wouldn’t go back now
To visit those hours
Inhabit those shed skins
But I wish
I could visit
To hear the grace
Of your laugh
And the light
Behind your eyes
One more time

Five.

The sharpness in
Your words matches
The razor glint
In your eyes
I’ve seen that malevolent
Glow pouring out of my
Own skull, tasted that venom
Dripping out of my mouth
So many times before

Blessed as we are
With this curse
Brilliant minds, that move too fast
And suspicion to match it
Paranoid thoughts pushing
A soul past the red line
Like the time
Our friend kissed
That boy who
Wasn’t your boyfriend
But you wanted him to be
Even though you claimed
It was all no big deal
Later.

You sent a text
To our other friend
Telling her you hoped
Her clit shriveled
And fell off

“Goddamn, girl.
I wish you hadn’t said that.”

“What?
She fucked me over
And now she doesn’t
Deserve to ever
Feel pleasure again
I don’t see what the big deal is.”

Like it was the most rational thought in the world

I shuffled my feet nervously
Beneath the table
Reminding myself
To never get on your bad side
After all
We are so much alike
And I been on my own shit list
For most of my life.

Six.

I have been in bed
For four days now
The diagnosis came Monday
And with it a shattering
A feeling of never being
Able to trust myself again
I could stay here
In this room
Forever
Let heart starve out
Go to oblivion
Nobody calls on the phone
And I feel a loneliness
Like I’ve never known

And then you are at the door
Pulling me up into your arms
And into the world outside my window

“Come on, let’s get something to eat
Your brain may be trying to get the best of you
But this shit doesn’t have to be a death sentence.”

Seven.

Christmas comes.
And you, Josef
And I, are all alone.
Running from the worst
Goddamn heartbreak
I ever known
And the kind of cold
That cuts to the soul.
I made the three
Of us dinner
And we ate together
Thankful for the sanctuary
Found here in one another
From the heartless
Rain of this wretched city

I didn’t take any pictures
Of that night
But now I wish I had
You were too on edge
Looking out the windows
Over your shoulder
As if some unknown enemy
Would cross Eastside Street
And knock on the door

I mostly remember trying to play off the tension
And Josef hating the movie I pirated
And with good reason
That shit was way too violent
To watch on Christmas

And I see now
All the little red flags
I should have seen back then
The Storm getting ready to rage
Suspicion bordering on madness brewing
In the world behind your eyes

Eight.

New Year’s Eve
And We’re fighting
In earnest now
Outside a bar
That I didn’t even want
To be at anyway
Feeling like a thousand
Eyes are staring at me
In judgement
And condemnation
The beginning of
A long and painful
Process of separation
From this city

The same city
We both arrived in
With such cautious hope
Once upon a time
Like shaking hands
With something waiting
To gnaw at your insides

Struggle to comprehend
The reason and rationale
Behind your wrath
But the silence
And the evasive glances
Drive the final nail
In my new year.

Call it good
And leave the party
Before the countdown
To midnight even begins
Walk the tracks
Alone all the way home
In the bitter cold
Which I like
More than rain soaking to the bone
Ring in the new year
On the phone
Sitting at my desk
Staring out the window
Whispering nervously over
The phone to my best friend in this world
Because I got a feeling
That all hell
Might be coming home
For both of us
In the year to come

Nine.

I see you crossing the street
Through the fog
Walking home alone
The rumors been swirling
Around this lonely
Little town for weeks now

We all know
But don’t know
How to hold
Or how to even sit
In proximity to your pain
And the paranoia that follows
Praying to all the gods
Above and below
For your freedom
The best lover not a one
Of us ever got to know
From sorrow
Thirst
Hunger
Want
And loneliness
To wrap you in its arms
And bring you safely home.

Ten.

You are my friend
And still one of
The best I’ve known
Pacing around in the back yard
Pointing the finger of suspicion
In every direction
We’ve all known loss before
But goddamn,
It never came to me
Quite like this
There’s a first time
For everything, I guess.

Watching the mask of sanity
Slip away not with a whimper
But with a plaintive wail
And every accusation imagined

I drive home
And want to cry
I want a flood
To fall from my eyes
To wash this city clean
From all the bitterness
And all the fights
And all the plots contrived
That drove us to this point
That we may finally sleep
Through the night

Twelve.

We sit in the sun
In the bed of my truck
Outside the storage building
Where we both rent units now
You smoke a cigarette
And we soak
In that familiar
Feeling of defeat
Staring down the barrel
Of uncertainty and instability
For the hundredth
Time in this life

When you sold
Most of your stuff
I never told you
How I raced down to Rainy Day
And begged them to sell
Your records back to me
“Look, my friend is just
In a very dark place
I’ll pay double whatever
You gave her for all this stuff
So I can keep it safe for her
Until she’s well again.”

I threw my hands up
In exasperation when the
Guy behind the counter
Offered to sell me the
One of your records I
Could even identify
For seventy dollars.

You give me your bookshelf
Saying you might come back
For it someday
Even though I know you wouldn’t
And we carry it into my unit
And I padlock the door behind us
I see the resignation
Like set deep in your eyes
And feel a morbid sense
Of relief at what
That resignation replaced.

Thirteen.

You send a text message
To my phone right before
You get in your car and drive south
Straight out of my life

“I’m sorry.
I know you did your best
And you’ve been such a good friend
I just don’t know what’s real anymore
And I have to go.”

Fourteen.

Everyone hates what happens next
All the worry
And the wishing
Praying to the gray
Sky above us
Even though we
Are no longer certain
It even listens
For you
To just
Make it out
Of this.

Fifteen.

The last time I saw you
You were scared
And all alone
Smoking a cigarette
Flying a sign at a rest stop
Outside your busted car
Somewhere along the I-5.
When I stopped to piss
I had a feeling I would
See you standing there

I said hello
Gave you fifteen dollars
Told you I loved you
I didn’t try and argue
Or even address the demons
Taken up residence
In your head

I got back in my car
Drove and drove and drove
Away from Washington
Through Oregon
Straight to California
Luna and I didn’t stop
Until Los Angeles
Where the sun finally shone above us

Standing at the observatory
above the glittering ocean
Of electric starlight
I wished for a way
For the light
To wash away
The resignation
That comes with
The knowledge
That you can love
Your friends
As hard
And as true
And as purely
As anything you have
Ever loved in your life

But sometimes that love
Is not enough
To keep a flame alive.

Brief notes on the politics of desirability

I remember the last queer dance party I went to. It was towards the end of my final summer in Asheville, stunted in the shadow of a terrible relationship.  All summer long, I felt like a ghost haunting myself. I remember standing there in the bar just thinking I hate this. I hate the meat market, and I hate the desirability politics and the plastic performativeness and predictability of it all. I hate feeling like I have to pretend I give a shit who you think is hot to keep up. I hate feeling like I have to scramble to fuck whoever will have me just to feel as desirable as the rest of my friends, because that’s the commodity we trade in.

I said as much to the people I was with, and tore out of there to go pick Josh up so we could drive my loud ass truck up and down Riverside Drive blasting the Military Affairs Neurotic LP and look for shit to break. When I replay the scene in my memory, I have a drink in my hand and I throw it on the floor, shattering the glass to as if punctuate my valedictory statement. That’s wrong though, because I wasn’t drinking that summer. I think the image just makes for a better story.

Roaring past the city limits with the engine opened up and the windows down to the late night, I laughed a lot and breathed easier. That entire summer was bereft of laughter in a big way. I remember a sense of coming home, like punk has always been the one thing that holds true for me, long after everything else cheapens and falls away.

I came back to back to Asheville with a sweetheart a few years later when I was well again. I took them to meet some friends, sitting on the front porch in the sun.  As soon as the sweetheart got up to piss, someone made sure to comment “and they’re so hot too” and I just remember feeling like fuck you. You’re talking about this person who I’m sharing the most intimate parts of myself with, but apparently how fuckable you think they are has the final say. I think that’s when I realized how much the culture I had been surrounding myself with had contributed to my sickness.

Shit just mirrors commodification and capitalism and I feel gross.

Riding my bike home from a friend’s house tonight after working a long and hot day on the same bike, I think about how deep my alienation and exhaustion with queer social dynamics runs, like to the point where I wonder how I even identify. The ways I experience desire and safety in intimacy are often in flux, save for a few constants which would probably be described as boring and heteronormative for a lot of people. I don’t think I’ve had a single queer relationship that I didn’t end up feeling disposable on the other side of. Maybe that’s me. Maybe it’s BPD. Maybe it’s having such a hard time existing in this body. I don’t know. I just know I feel too tender and too smart and too vicious for it all. I wonder a lot what will happen to some of my friendships if I find my soul no longer aligning with the identity of mine they are most comfortable with because it fits into their worldview.

Shit mirrors capitalism and I feel gross.