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December 31, 2013

I’m a sucker for retrospect, and while I’ve stopped caring about the symbolism of a new year, I looked forward to New Year’s Eve and Day through the rest of the year. Every year. Nothing had ever pleased me more than the idea of a change and redemption and all that, but as I’ve gotten older I realized that all of the changes in my life weren’t brought on so much by a single night’s socially induced epiphany. It’s only ever really been by necessity and happenstance that the opportunities afforded to me were even available. This isn’t to say that I haven’t worked hard to get where I am – I’ve fought tooth and nail to become who I am today and have all the prospects for the future I do. But a “resolution” never did that, so to hell with it.

No, New Year’s is my moment to reflect on what I’ve done, dealt with, and achieved in the past year.

In the past year I’ve found myself for the first time ever swept up into the pool of jobless Americans. While I was employed again within a few months time, I know that in time I will need to find something better. The cost of living in New York is high and now with the happy prospect of a family looming in the near future, the things I do for money simply aren’t adequate.

In the start of the year, two good friends of mine died. One was slow and steady with a fight that will be praised in song (and confirmed, as I’m writing the song), the other was overwhelming depression and paranoia. It was a pretty shitty way to start the year, but the grief was shared – the outcry of love for both of these men gave hope in the way terrible things bring people together. It’s a shame that this is the catalyst. Their passing also kicked me in the ass to get along with the rest of my life, and not bide time that I might not have.

So in October, I asked my long term girlfriend to become my long term wife. She accepted, and leapt into the air. In two year’s time from that date, there will be a post on whatever journal I’m keeping then about the planning process and the sleepless nights lost to table planning.

I’ve seen new cities, gone to concerts, and created pieces of art that I can honestly say I’m proud of. I’m nearly done creating a board game that I hope to actually market and sell in the next few years.

I don’t make resolutions, but I am making a schedule. It’s like Santa’s list, but more practical and less fictional. Time is finite, and whatever of it I have, I plan to use it well. Time for work, family, art, fun and games. Time to write, read for pleasure, and visit friends. Time for everything.

Time to get to it.

Two Years.

September 15, 2013
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I’ve reviewed all my online presences from the time I started using a specific expression, and I’ve come to realize I’m not the same person I was when I:

A) Started writing online in general.

B) Started writing this blog.

C) Stopped writing this blog.

“No shit, two years is a long time.”

You’re correct, reader, it is! So here are some quick accomplishments and noteworthy events from the past two years that have changed my prospective and style of writing, both topically and stylistically:

-Graduated from CUNY with a BA in English, Creative Writing Focus (and a near minor in Communications with a focus in Digital Media Design, too!)
-Worked for two years as a community organizer on a college campus with a grassroots political nonprofit.
-Had the privilege of personally pissing off state senators for a cause I care about, both face to face and long distance.
-Lost two close friends; one to cancer, the other to depression.
-Started playing board and trading card games again, after a long period of inactivity.
-Decided that drinking is not the worst thing in the world, but will only do so when in a positive mood and with the right company.
-Found the opportunity to bond with two of my siblings, something that had lapsed heavily over the years without my even noticing it.

Obviously this isn’t everything that’s transpired in two years, but these come to mind immediately.

To cut it straight, I don’t know if I will maintain this blog after this post. I don’t know if I’ll publicize it should I do so, or if it’s time to uproot and make something completely different. My current love for gaming might deserve it’s own page, with an article a day/week about something different each time. I’d like that. I hope you would too.

But whatever the outcome, rest assured that there will still be writing. There’s always places to find substance, and always ways to join as people doing stuff they love. Hopefully we can all identify with one another again, and maybe find in the end there’s always things we’ll find in common.

It’s good to be back.

Love, luck, leverage.

On: Harsh Realities

May 26, 2011

Every so often in our lives, despite how cheerful we may be otherwise, we have to come to grasp terrible things that go on. Each person may cope differently, but it doesn’t change how difficult and terrible these things might be. This isn’t about how we handle the situations though, this is about acknowledging that they even exist.

There will always be the following three things in our lives, and they will always be the hardest to accept for us: loss, rejection, and loneliness. We hate admitting that they exist in our lives when it’s time to actually handle them, and getting them out into the open is the most difficult part for us. Most other things that will bring negativity in our lives stem from these three things in some capacity or another. It’s not very surprising.

Trying to cope with loss is difficult, but admitting the loss is next to impossible. When a friend dies, or a lover is made distant, or a friend becomes an acquaintance, we can never bring ourselves to comprehend what has happened. Even when it’s obvious, painful, and sometimes irreversible. Getting the words on paper and/or into our ears occasionally helps, but getting to the point where we are ready to admit what’s happened is a slow and painful process. It’s in the process of recovery, yes, but this initial step always has the steepest degree of declination. Being able to say “I’ve lost you, and you’ll never return” is more hurtful sometimes than the initial loss itself. However, without this ability, there is no hope for any recovery. This is not limited to people, this can also include the physical (a month’s rent), the metaphysical (your faith in your religion), and theoretical (will to live). However, all of these can be either gained back or ignored for long enough to forget it was gone.

Rejection is a common fear, but i is so because it’s worth many people fearing. Rejection itself isn’t all that bad, it’s just the word “no.” It’s the feeling of worthlessness that binds itself to rejection that we hate, along with the crushed hopes and the minor reconstruction of the future that we need to look forward to shortly thereafter. Incidentally, rejection is also linked to an imagined loss of something we never really had. This is compounded by other negative feelings usually, but at the root of it the initial rejection is the most difficult to comprehend. After continued rejection it becomes easier, but one’s self esteem is chipped away each time. After a series of uninterrupted rejections over a long period of time, we are whittled away to nothing… if we allow ourselves to get to this point. It’s easy enough to handle after the initial rejection as long as we don’t place much contingent on our acceptance.

Loneliness is tricky, and entwines with a number of other factors that don’t need to be discussed right now. It is one of the biggest, meanest things we can deal with in our life once it hits. We know that something is missing, but we don’t always see how to get it back. We know that we want affection and/or companionship, but we don’t usually realize what form we want, or how to best attain it. We run into the arms of lovers, when all we really need are friends. We buy puppies, when really all we want is the one person that matters most to be there when we need them. We get jealous when we see others with lingering signs of happiness, but we either contain it or delude ourselves into believing that we’re not envious. We lie to ourselves because we don’t want to admit that we do in fact need other people in our lives. It’s easier to attribute blame on others than it is to realize why we’re alone: it’s almost always our own fault.

Reality isn’t the kindest entity all the time, but these negative aspects aren’t all it has to offer. There are so many wonderful things that can come out of it, but we take these for granted because we as a species and a people are not strong enough to handle the negative. So we over-saturate ourselves with the reasonably positive and moan whenever life gets difficult.Finding reasons to acknowledge the good in our lives is the first segment on the path towards handling the negative when it happens. Be happy for the things that you should be happy about, and when something would make you unhappy, just remember that this unhappiness is transient and you’ll make it through alright in the end.

Five Bands You’ll Probably Only Like if You’re An English Major or Chronically Depressed.

May 2, 2011

I’m about to graduate with a BA in English, with a writing focus. It’s pretty funny, actually. There’s a bit of romance about the idea of being an English Major in college, mostly relating to diving into the classics of written word and reliving such powerful, meaningful sensations that we’ve never actually experienced. It makes people think that we’re witty, deep, acquainted with antiquity, and understand the human condition more deeply. Much to your dismay, we’re not very much at all like that. Literature majors read a lot, but most of the time are kind of dickish and have trouble dealing with people. Writing majors are ALWAYS dicksih, and we have a tendency to be charismatically stupid. Linguistics majors are imaginary. You get the idea.

We know about lots of old stuff, because we have no choice. The terrible “classics” of literature are mostly antiquated and obsolete, but are clung to because it makes professors feel smart. Not that Emily Dickinson was a bad poet, or that Pride and Prejudice was terrible, but really, there are poets more worthy of studying that’ve lived in the last hundred years. And Pride and Prejudice is terrible without zombies. We barely understand the human condition, because generally we hide from it behind our two-hundred year old books. Some of us are witty, but mostly just sarcastic. Some of us are deep, but mostly we’re just passive-aggressive and stupid about it.

Oh, that’s right. Bands. Here.

The Gaslight Anthem – The entire band is a coming of age narrative. The singer sounds like Bruce Springsteen if he could keep in a key long enough to finish a song, with reverb splattered across for color. The music itself is kind of catchy, but even the first track off the second album is based on a Charles Dickins novel… heavily so. They’re engineered to make you long for something lost, in a way that makes you keep listening to them as if you’re going to get it.

The Decemberists – This is a fantastic band for history majors too, but I’m not one, so I don’t really care. There’s little more antiquated in modern times than the way this band has modeled itself. With expressions like “boxing ears,” calling someone a “rake,” and eventually writing an opus from the inside of a whale about revenge, it’s hard to find something that’s less targeted towards those of my ilk.

Mumford and Sons – These guys have a distinct advantage in the fact that they’re English. They’ve also got the folky groove going on that The Decemberists fell short of. They have songs that talk about broader feelings than the two above, but most of it is ultimately the sort of thing you’d encounter in an introduction to poetry class. They’ve got imagery of the heart and head communicating on the nature of love to one another, and a dozen songs mostly about remorse and love. That’s what most people don’t really get about English majors, we’re kind of blinded by the same feelings that blind everyone else. Except that we get hung up on it, and write about it until we’re numb to it. By that time, we realize that years have gone by, and we’re miserable with our lives. And all we have to show for it is a bunch of poems and songs that say the exact same thing, with different dictions.

R.E.M. – Ooh, a popular one! This sacred cow needs to get tipped, because realistically REM were an unlikely success story that could’ve only came up when they did. They’ve marketed themselves as a “smart” band, and even had the audacity to say something along the lines of being a cultural elite, the likes of which only exist in Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Thom Yorke (footnote in Chuck Klosterman’s IV, page 140). That said, most of the music is reasonably uninspired and is only seen as being “smart” because they make obscure references. The reaction is similar to the looks I get when I reference that Gregor Samsa awoke one morning to find himself transformed into a monstrous vermin.

Humanwine – Oh. My. God. Antiquity? Check. Obscure references? Check. Odd genre (shanty/cabaret-punk)? Check. This band needs to tour with Mumford and The Decemberists something fierce. And they need to play in NYC, so the English majors, hipsters, and morbidly depressed kids can all congregate in one place and write sad poems together while they pretend to be a hundred years out of place and victims of society for it.

They’re all awesome. You’ll probably enjoy them reader, because you’re probably a depressed English major that found this page by accident, wishing you had something more to look forward to in life than poetry slams and late hours in Starbucks with free wifi.

Open Letter to the Reader

April 23, 2011

Dear Readers,

Sorry I’ve been neglecting you. It isn’t that I’m not writing and creating, it’s actually quite the contrary. I’ve been writing frequently, and working on music and visual stuff again.

I wrote that poem I promised some time ago about Gummi Bears. I’m half finished with a short fiction story, and two satirical pieces for a local pub are finished. There’s 20,000 words or so of stuff I can’t/won’t publish too, which will be sifted through and the best lines from it will be put into the best possible placements. We’ll decide exactly what that means later.

Musically I’ve been getting much more back to my roots with my acoustic guitar. I haven’t completely neglected electronic music, but it’s definitely not as important at present. As you might remember if you scroll down two posts, I wrote a few lyrical songs recently. Both are getting small followings in the area, with a few folks found humming the chorus to “You’re A Dick” at random in the places I haunt these days. I’ve also been arranging things that were never intended for acoustic guitar in such a way. You haven’t lived as a musician until you’ve attempted to make Nine Inch Nails sound good unplugged. Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” doesn’t count either, no cheating kids.

My visual work has been much more important to me lately than it was for the past year or so. I’ve worked on odd mediums, fun PhotoShop arrangements, and started playing with sculpture beyond my readymade attempts in 2008 (coat racks and duct tape, for giggles).

I’m even graduating finally.

There’s so much going on, I suspect you’ll understand, begrudgingly. I’ll be back to you soon enough, with something more than a post a month and letters of apology.

Yours sincerely.

Distancing Ourselves

April 4, 2011

No one’s satisfied with their day to day lives, and think back fondly to times in the past that they imagine were happier. These times were actually usually pretty terrible too, punctuated with happy moments between whatever was ailing them at that time.

For example, if someone realizes that they’re growing away from their older friends, they’ll look back to when they were closer with those friends. They won’t remember that those friendships were born from other friendships that had fallen apart, all they’ll see is that this person used to be closer to them than their family. They won’t notice that they were just as unhappy at that time, they’ll only realize that what they’re recently missing was present then.

I have no idea why it is that we cannot just be happy with what we have. If I had to guess, I’d say it probably has something to do with a drive to always be better. We’re conditioned to want more, want better, want best. There is nothing less than the best in the eyes of my generation. We can’t settle for just having one or two friends that we care about, we need to have 500-2000 of them on facebook.

So why is it that we all – myself included – still long for things that are long gone, as if they’d never vanished?

I’m not referencing friendships that had distinct start and end points, or ones that revolve around microcosmic cults of personality. There are people that have been in our lives that, while there, made massive impacts in our lives. Some that we valued as very close friends, who for whatever reason kind of phased out of our daily lives. Without a trace, without as much as a puff of smoke.

Maybe some of them were friends by proximity, and the only thing we had in common with them was the daily activities. Everyone has friends like that from class, work, and commutes. Not all of these people are merely friends of convenience and civility. Some of them are people that we saw each day by choice, making friends that will actually be there for whatever reason they’d be wanted. When these people fall away from our lives, it’s noticeable and painful… but not immediately. Contact dwindles, and new friendships start to slowly emerge in the new time. People that we used to look to when sharing something funny/a daily trial/a knowing glance become phased out slowly by new people that we see more often but don’t know as well. The new people are exciting and uncharted, we know the old friends inside and out. We feel comfortable leaving them behind for a time, we know them already. What more is there to really learn?

Maybe that’s the fatal flaw in our collective thinking. We assume that just because we know someone already that they won’t change, or that they won’t do the same thing you’re doing. They’ll find someone with your traits, and then get closer to them. They’ll find someone new and exciting, and think that you’ll not change.

In a month’s time, we’ll barely speak anymore, if ever. We’ll be too busy with our new friends to notice that our friends are no longer there for us, or that we’re not there for them anymore. And just like that, the friendship’s last breath quietly passes.

This is about writing music.

February 27, 2011

It seems that when personal turbulence arises, we produce better art more frequently. It’s a broad statement, but consider for a moment that most of the great artists of any age had very problematic lives. Some were insane, some were abused, some were addicted to opium. This isn’t to say that you need to get addicted to opium, schizophrenic, and prison-raped to become a great artist, or that you would even be great if those things did happen. Just a common trend.

For example, I’ve been dealing with a lot of nonsense over the past few weeks, and in that time I’ve written four songs – two with lyrics. I’ve written music on and off since the end of high school, but I stagnated in the middle of college. I don’t think any of it’s all that notable, but I’m still proud of my music. The times that I’ve written music since college started have mostly been difficult ones, and that pain and annoyance produced some of what I feel to be my best work. I also haven’t written lyrical work since my last major period of personal turmoil, in 2006. I’d attempted once or twice, but I didn’t really see any reason to it.

None of my lyrical work is ever happy, even when I try to write something uplifting. The four lyrical songs I’ve written, when summed into one sentence each, are as follows:

A girl becomes addicted to heroin and dies.

Triumph over a bad reputation by way of Chess.

Imagining personal success while naysayers live depressing, wretched lives.

A dick dying in a fire.

I’ve tried to write happier songs in the past. Songs about love, and hippies, and gummy bears. Actually, I’m still trying to write the last one. But none of these songs ever seem to come about when I try to push them out. Even when the music is cheery (as the fourth song above is), the lyrics are usually harsh and grim.

However, the music itself is always more important when I write it than the lyrics are. Every song I’ve written specifically for someone so far has been entirely instrumental, even if I’ve arranged it for lyrics after. If a person is important enough to have a song written for them, then the lyrics had better be perfectly fitting. That’s why I’ve got two songs waiting for words that might never get them. That sort of perfection is almost impossible, without either embellishing or understating.

I’ve said things like this in the past though, for poems that would never be completed… until they were, three days later. Maybe something wonderful will come from this post, and I’ll feel inspired to complete a song that I started in high school that never got lyrics (though it has a melody line that could easily support them).

What I can say with certainty though is that there will be more music on the way, and there will be more words.