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

England (The Rest)

I had such lofty ideas of keeping a detailed journal of my time in England, and posting it here. If falling short of my best intentions isn’t the story of my goddamn life, I don’t know what is. I’ve been home for a month now. I flew home on a Sunday. Rested for the afternoon, and went straight back to work.

I have been working so much and so hard the past weeks, that most nights I come home exhausted, blurry eyed, just wanting to fall into bed. The details of the last month are starting to blur. The details of my time in England blur even further. So for posterity (For whoever even reads this shit) I am going to get to recounting the rest of the trip and get on with other writing.

Xy snuck this photo a few hours before the Cock Sparrer gig, when I was so jet lagged it felt like my soul might leave my body, but they could have taken it yesterday. I’m always tired.

We started the day of the Cock Sparrer gig walking around Highgate Cemetery for a few hours. We saw a lot of old graves, walked around ancient masonry and saw Marx’s grave. We got so lost in the cemetery that we had to use GPS to find Marx’s grave. Luckily it was listed. When we found the grave, we had to wait a few minutes for some cranky old man to finish complaining about how a communist had no right to be buried in a British cemetery, or something.


I started to write some long, self important post just about the Cock Sparrer gig. It’s lost somewhere in my notes and files now, and I don’t feel like finding it. I guess I wanted to articulate what it meant to finally see a band whose music has been with me my entire adult life. When I was 15, I bought that orange Oi! The Greatest Hits! compilation CD that seemed to be in the punk section of every single record store my friends and I visited. The compilation was my introduction to so many of the greats, bands I have listened to and loved for my whole life. Something about the gruff, straight to the heart, never expecting life to be anything other than what it was; a hard landing and the frustration that accompanies a hard slog through hard years.

Cock Sparrer always embodied the “Having a laugh and having a say” ethos of punk that spoke to me as a kid. The music wasn’t heavy, but it was packed with attitude and determination, and even a little humor. Their records were just kind of always around. When I turned 30, a few of my friends got together and played a set of Cock Sparrer covers in the living room of some long forgotten Asheville punk house. The years I spent washing dishes at Rosetta’s, Cock Sparrer were the one band the entire kitchen staff agreed on. We listened to Shock Troops at least once a shift.

All dressed up and ready to go!

We were running late to the gig. I don’t remember why. We took a cab to the venue and got food at a Jamaican restaurant across the street. Watching the punks and skins file out of the tube to the gig, I felt a sense of relief seeing so many older faces. As my 30s have given way to my 40s, I have found myself feeling more and more out of place in a subculture primarily driven by disaffected youth. It’s not that my sense of anger and hopelessness have gone anywhere, maybe I have just become more resigned. Or less able to relate to punks half my age. I don’t know.

My point is, a bunch of near geriatric punks and skins was a welcome sight indeed.

The venue was packed. The show sold out right after Xy and I got our tickets last year. We grabbed a spot up front, and I tried not to stress too much about the two of us being the only people at the gig wearing masks. Cock Sparrer played two sets. The first being a set of deep cuts and rarely played songs interspersed with video bits projected on a screen behind the band where the members offered band history and humorous anecdotes. This was my favorite part of the gig. Xy and I both joked that it was just so wholesome that you couldn’t help but love it. Think your grandparents being unsupervised with a camcorder while making the corniest jokes and skits you can think of, and you kind of get the picture.

Out on an Island!

We eventually got tired of being crushed and a drunk dude kept pushing against Xy too much, so we watched the rest of the gig from the balcony. Cock Sparrer’s second set was full of the hits and the standards, all the songs that we wanted to hear. There was something so magical about seeing the band play songs I have spent my life singing along to. The gig ended. Xy and I bought shirts and and posters and walked out onto the street. We decided against a cab, and walked the mile or two back to the hotel, happy to have some quiet time on the streets of London before passing out.

The next day we walked around, visiting every cathedral on Xy’s bucket list and stopped at a Goth flea market at some venue. The flea market smelled like what I remember Goth clubs smelling like in the 90s, sans clouds of oxygen choking cigarette smoke. Clouds of incense and the scent of leather and hairspray permeated the air, penetrating my mask. Nostalgia overtook me for a minute, and I couldn’t help but remember the first time I set foot in the Goth club that anchored much of the subcultural gatherings that happened in the small, industrial city in Central Pennsylvania that I grew up outside of.

I was 14, going on 15. Queued up with the rest of the outcasts outside the club on a frigid January night. I got a ride to the show with some older kids. The rumor I had heard was that you had to be 16 to enter the club, but nobody ever actually checked IDs. I stood there in my boots, trying to stand taller with my charged hair, hoping nobody noticed my baby face. Nobody checked my ID (or lack thereof), I paid my $4 and walked into the club. The rest as they say, is history.

We took the bus to Bristol the next day. I caught up with Erica, who I haven’t seen since both of left Olympia for good. We caught up. Talked shit. Talked about what we’re doing, how our lives have changed, and changed for the better since leaving that dismal little city. I’ve been gone long enough, that I find little to reflect fondly on about my time in Olympia, but I’m grateful for the friendships that have endured.

We took the bus to Bath and stayed at some ancient hotel. I had a night terror the night we stayed there. I don’t remember the specifics of the dream, only that I woke up screaming. Xy said I looked “possessed” when they were trying to wake me. I don’t know. I couldn’t see. They spent the rest of the night on their phone trying to research the history of our hotel, if any murders had occurred there, if it was haunted.

I fell back asleep.

We caught the bus back to London. Walked around the city. Did last minute tourist shit, and went to see Covenant at some Goth club. The light show made me feel like I was going to pass out in the best way. Xy caught their flight home the next day. I spent another day wandering around London by myself. I took the tube to random stops in the city and walked around. I wrote in my journal, spent too much time reflecting on heartbreak and the last few brutally hard years. Time heals all wounds and wounds all heels, and there are days even a year and a half out where the ache of the last years rises up from memory and punches me right in the chest, taking my breath away.

A break from routine, an ocean between me and the pain of patterns and years hard lived etching their way across my face didn’t fix my janky life, but it was nice to have a break from worrying about the hard years ahead of us all, and my very American sense of impending doom.

That’s all for now.