Wednesday, July 9, 2014

East London Insomnia…(Fear of the Dark)

"I am a man who walks alone
And when I'm walking a dark road
At night or strolling through the park

When the light begins to change 
I sometimes feel a little strange
A little anxious when it's dark"

- Iron Maiden 

Do we choose to be afraid?  

It's 3:30 AM, I'm in a posh East London hotel watching World Cup replays and deciding whether to shower or exercise, or both.  Stomach hurts from the flight and coffee and beer and shitty finger foods I've been eating all day.  The air is thick in here, and for some reason hotels don't trust me to not throw myself or large objects out the window, so it's sealed.  I could go outside, but then I'd have to put on clothes, and who knows what variable could throw itself at me at this time of night in a neighborhood I don't know.  These difficult choices that muddle my mind from the real gray area of my life I should be paying attention to.   

Part of my long and tenuous battle with the night is clearly based on fear.  When I was a child it was of death, basic….I knew my greatest fear and met it head on every night.  Now I just lay anxious, my fears so muddled through time and thought that they lay in an unrecognizable pile.  A pile that should get sorted through, piece by piece…cleaned and then re-assembled, like an engine.  But instead, at 33, I meet it with a begrudging inevitability.  Digging through that pile sounds exhausting and painful and the idea of letting it sit is so much easier.  Maintained happiness feels like a full-time job. 

Anyway…the question is, do we choose to be afraid?  This topic has been taking more brain space recently because of a documentary I watched called 'Don't Look Down.'    It's about two "urban free climbers", one from the UK named James Kingston, who travels to the Ukraine to team up with acclaimed Internet sensation Mustang Wanted for a couple of tandem climbs.  Essentially, these guys climb up cranes, bridges and old or new building frames, with no roping or safety, and dangle from hundreds of feet taking pictures of themselves.  It's fucking gnarly, and kind of rad, and gives you that "too high" feeling which leaves a knot in the bottom of your stomach and top of your balls just watching it.  

Overcoming and not recognizing fear, clearly plays a role in such a task.  At one point in the film, Kingston talks about the only difference between your hands hanging on to a bar at 10 feet or 300 feet is how your brain decides to see it.  I love this.  It's the same hands, and the same piece of metal you're holding on to.  He just doesn't allow his brain to receive it as fear, knowing he's done it thousands of times and has trust in his ability.  I'm inspired by this, irrational fear comes from a place that can be conquered, not simply dealt with.  


So now I find myself in a battle of wits with different parts of my brain.  The rational and irrational meeting in a heated battle to determine the speed of my heart palpitations.   Tonight I'll choose to not be afraid, and I'll win.  Tomorrow night, well…I'll deal with that when it comes. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Racist Gun Jerks…and the laws that protect them.

"The guns and the bombs, the rockets and the warships, are all symbols of human failure." - Lyndon B. Johnson

In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on the morning of August, 5, 2012, a degenerate, racist fuck-up by the name of Wade Michael Page took it upon himself to open fire on unarmed and vulnerable Sikh men and women who were just starting to file in to their Gurudwara (temple) to prepare food for Langar.  A Sikh communal meal that emphasizes equality and common roots, which was to take place later that day.   

As some women cooked the feast and children studied in the basement below for Sunday school, he walked up, and according to a weapons instructor who lives nearby, "ripped off", meaning shooting as fast as you can pull the trigger.  The head priest, Satwant Kaleka, bravely attempted to tackle the shooter and was shot twice and killed, along with 5 others.  There was a fire fight with police, one of which seriously injured before the gunmen shot himself. 

They had no clue, no chance...a terrifying scenario to consider.  

Something in particular really irked me while reading through the information of this story, besides for the obvious horror.  The weapon used in the shooting was, predictably, a legally purchased semi-automatic hand gun.  

On July 28th he walked into the "Shooters Shop" in a small town outside of Milwaukee looking for a handgun, particularly a 9MM.  
He filed the written background check, which as I'll explain later, miserably failed.   The other "check"  to buy this weapon is what really shocked me.  

Kevin Nugent, owner of the store, was responsible to "feel out" the vibe of the purchaser to determine whether he was dangerous or not.  He said in later interviews that his justification to sell included:
"He did not look strange and appeared calm."
"He didn't have a shaved head or 9/11 tattoo"
"He didn't talk stupid or act stupid"
"He raised no eyebrows whatsoever"

According to an LA Times article, Nugent added he's very strict, and said he reserves the right not to sell to customers who appear irate or under the influence.  The same article says Page paid $650 cash for a Springfield Armory XDM semi-automatic with three 19-round ammunition magazines.  He picked up the gun two days later, took it to the shops basement range for target practice and left.  

Obviously this is the weapon he used to murder 6 people, 7 including himself less than a week later. 

According to the NRA website detailing Wisconsin's gun laws, the owner submits a background check through the Department of Justice to check for criminal history, domestic violence, involuntary commitment and tribal restraining orders.  If those are clear and you pass the eye test, after 48 hours the deadly weapon is yours.  

As if this process wasn't arbitrary and dangerous enough.  There WERE red flags on this maniac prior to the shooting.  He served in the army for 6 years before receiving a "general discharge", which are given to service members whose performance is satisfactory but is marked by a considerable departure in duty performance and conduct expected of military members.  He was demoted and given his discharge for "patterns of misconduct" including being drunk while on duty and going absent without leave.  

On top of this, the Souther Poverty Law Center had flagged both of his bands (a singer apparently) for being "racist white-power" groups.  On top of that, the Anti-Defamation league had both his girlfriend and he tied to white power extremist groups going back years before. 

With those elements in place, leaving the judgement of a semi-automatic weapon purchase to a citizen, and private store owner whose general interest is to make money is deplorable.  I'm not blaming this man Kevin Nugent for the shooting, I'm blaming the laws in place for giving that man the authority or judgement to hand these weapons out.

Our system failed, again, and will continue to without change.    

It often blows my mind how the laws can be created and bent and mangled to protect things that don't need any damn protection.  I usually like to be optimistic and or "centric" in these articles, but the fact that I need more paperwork to get car registration than a gun and still have to hide pot from the cops, while this sort of thing happens, is plainly obscene and absurd.  Down with the NRA.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sorry Millennials, I'm trying not to be a prick...

"It is not the young people that degenerate; they are not spoiled till those of mature age are already sunk into corruption."  - Charles de Montesquieu 


When I was younger, about 14/15 or so, I got massively into slower, more "metal" hardcore music.  Bands such as Snapcase, 108, Deadguy, Overcast, Converge, For the Love Of, Starkweather and Undertow, among many others, were spearheading a new direction I couldn't have been more excited about.  I truly loved it, it affected me greatly.  The only problem?  All the old bastards around my area were telling me that this music was crap.  

All the local guys (wish I could say women, but sadly, our scene was painfully male and white), would tell me this shit isn't hardcore.  You wanna be real?  You want hardcore?  Listen to Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Warzone etc.  These guys even thought Dag Nasty  was "pussy shit." This new music was so offensive to them, they just couldn't let me enjoy what I loved.  

This brings me to the 2008 Warped Tour that Gaslight did an 8 show stretch of.  I, regretfully,  spent the first few days of the tour making fun of bands.  Our friends Against Me and Street Dogs were on the tour, and we had some egotistical idea that we were part of only a small group of legitimate bands on the show.  After a few days of watching Pierce the Veil and Devil Wears Prada and bands of that genre, I decided I will not turn into that old prick that I once hated.    

I decided that even though I'm not enjoying the music, there are obviously thousands of kids who are getting something totally real and legitimate out of it.  Pierce the Veil is their Snapcase, like it or not.  When I mentioned my epiphany to then Tom Gabel, now Laura Jane Grace, I screamed over the noise "I know this isn't my cup of tea, but these kids can play, and people fucking love it"… He looked at me and said very clearly "Nope, they are really just bad."  

He may have been right.  I still can't listen to the new,  A.D.D ridden, singing like Paramore on every chorus hardcore.  But, I can't deny how much younger people love it, and the effect it has on them personally.   So I guess it's not for me to say.  This got me thinking about millennials, and the general perception that Gen X'ers and Baby Boomers have about them.  

Recently I've been hearing and reading and listening to a lot of debate about the Millennial generation.  Apparently humans born between 1981-2000.  Being born in late 1980 makes me a true transition child.  A Reagan baby who was never affected by his policies.  

I've been a part of the switches.  From the rotary dial home phone, to the push pad home phone, to the cordless home phone, to cordless home phone/answering machine packages, to alpha/numeric portable pagers, to car phones, to alpha/numeric portable phones, to data ready flip phones with a camera, to the iPhone, to the chip in my wrist that will contain my life almanac and allow the proper authorities to shut me down like a bad robot in the Jetsons, and so on…

Imagine for a minute, people of my age, that Americans born around 1996-1997 or so, have consciously known nothing of their country but terrorism and war.  Throw in a major depression, and the largest political divide our country has seen potentially since the Civil War.  It took me until 11, after we began to "liberate" Kuwait, to begin my slide into paranoia and fear.  They get to be born with it.  

According to US census data, no generation has suffered more from the financial crisis than millennials.   Median net worth of people under 35 years old fell 37 percent between 2005 and 2010; those over 65 took only a 13 percent reduction.  

Also, according to a 2012 Newsweek piece using analysis by the Pew Research Center, the wealth gap today between younger and older Americans now stands as the widest on record.  The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is $170,494, 42 percent higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for younger-age households is $3,662, down 68 percent from a quarter century ago.  

Add to those facts that they are the "study" generation for the effects that 24 hour news, brevity technology and smart phones have on people.  Just like my generation and prescription drugs.   When I think about it, I'm impressed they don't all have nervous fucking breakdowns.  And no wonder why you'd turn into a bit of a narcissist when every tool used to shape your own identity is one of self-aggrandizing.  For the way they are, how can I blame them?  I'd like to see someone of my parents generation have the capacity and comprehension to tweet, listen to music and write a dub-step song on their phones all at once.  I can't even figure out what happened on Lost, let alone navigate Tumblr.  They can, we can't.   

The people coming out of this generation have a growing cynicism of the "American Dream", and as far as I can gather, they have a right to.  And I assume as the years pass, everything they created will find balance and the next group of young people will talk shit about them.  That's the way of the world.  

But maybe it shouldn't be.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

Dancing with the reaper, in Spain...


"The road to the future leads us smack into the wall. We simply ricochet off the alternatives that destiny offers. Our survival is no more than a question of 25, 50 or perhaps 100 years." Jacques Yves Cousteau
About a month ago, in a 36 hour period of time, I lost somebody I had loved my entire life,  lost somebody else I liked very much and respected, and heard of the passing of someone I had a close, yet fleeting 6 weeks with. 

The older I get, I seem to always lose something while I'm gaining something else. The amount of people I've known who have simply come and gone from my life is extraordinary.  I'm only 32, but through experience, lived and observed, I can safely conclude that getting old is not for sissies. 

Any number of thousands of things can kill you everyday. To be able to escape all these variables and wind up on the better side of luck can only last so long. But with each passing birthday, and fuck, each passing day, I find it remarkable to still be alive.  The general math is that each year of touring subtracts 3 years from your life, I'm in my 60's in rock and roll years.  Mick Jagger is 286 years old. 

I wish it wasn't taboo to tell young children not to look forward to birthdays. But to tell them when they reach these age pinnacles, while celebrating with cake and friends and clowns and bowling that...in reality, it's a celebration for them simply not dying. Well done on avoiding catastrophe for one more year kid.  I'll never utter this to a proper child, but come on....are we really partying in honor of the day of their birth?  I don't think so.  

Many years ago I was at The Fest in Gainesville, Florida.  The morning after we played, I wound up going with friends to the Top, a bar that serves delicious vegan biscuits and gravy on Sundays.  I went for food...but, since I went with members of Fake Problems and Look Mexico, I wound up drunk on whiskey by 1:00 PM.

While walking away to start seeing bands, I stepped off a curb and my face came two inches from a speeding bus. My hazy mind barely recognized the severity or danger. An occurrence where every element involved...my shoes, my hat, the size of my feet, not to mention innumerable variables that went into the bus, its driver and passengers could have changed the outcome.  For some reason, that day, I stayed two inches away from being a "senseless" tragedy. 

But really, it makes perfect sense. The more you live, the worse your odds get. Even with these fucking wheat grass shots my girl makes me drink.   Adding to my already growing sensibility that no day, or no situation should ever be taken for granted.  

Soon enough I'll be broken down to elements. Perhaps my soul will advance in some kind of cosmic or spiritual journey. But more than likely, I'm plant food. Which usually turns into animal food, which people eat. So, ironically...I guess death turns us all into cannibals.  That's fun! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Blogging, Flogging, Jogging and Logging...

As anyone who checks up on this site periodically already knows, I'm shitty at keeping this updated and consistent.  But, in all honesty, I don't really think I've had much to share lately.  The things happening these days are not for public consumption and I'd be a typical and thoughtless character to just toss any old junk on here for you to waste your time on. 

I do feel that the blogging and social media waves that have happened over the last 10 years or so are absolutely watering down legitimate content.  It wasn't always the case that a random drummer for a band could have access to the same soapbox and platform that the President uses.  I barely passed high school English and could not, with a straight face, break down most commonplace grammatical law. 

And here I sit, on a bus in Bristol, England...wondering what the fuck to talk about. 

Sorry, nothing yet.  Wait...here's a thought. 

I would like to call out to the men of the world to act on a movement of decency and courtesy involving public restroom toilets.  As a man, who by the cruel hand of fate must sit down to tackle my stomach a good 3 times a day, I'd really rather prefer to not sit on a pool of your urine.  It's one of those simple concepts that everyone got yelled at by your mother for, pick up the seat when you pee, put it down when you're done.  If these simple rules are followed, the fabric of human decency and interaction will improve. 

Most men I know who have an issue with this is due to their OCD's and fear that their precious little hands will touch something remotely dirty.  Even though, logically, most public toilets are cleaned once a day.  Even dirty ones get a touch-up every few days.  When is the last time you cleaned your toilet at home everyday?  So I ask you this, frightened Freddies, you're only afraid of touching the remnants of pee from someone you don't know? 

I feel foolish that I need to write this, to call out to humanity to help me.  The time it would save me to pull my pants down and start my business without playing janitor.  Not to mention the serious environmental impact my "barrier" of toilet paper that is most often laid on top has.  I'm sad to say my carbon footprint grows, because you're too lazy or afraid to pick up a seat. 

I'd bet good money that if they did a swab test, your penis is dirtier than the toilet seat.  Maybe you should wash your hands to touch that. 

Ok...hope that was worth your 5 minutes. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Winter, Darwinism and Natural Disasters...

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness." - John Steinbeck

It's cold again, it was bound to happen.  Every year there comes a time when it becomes inescapable.  This will now be my 32nd winter.  It feels impressive saying your age like that, makes me feel like a Game of Thrones character. 

Ned Stark - "How old are you? What say you young squire?"
Me - "This is my 32nd winter, sir."

So my pre-winter "training" is over and I'm in full cold weather mode.  Said "training" consists of subjecting myself to all levels of cold, via ill-suited clothing, leading up to the coldest months.  The logic is that I'm preparing my body for the forthcoming winter, and if Darwin is right, adapting and overcoming the cold. I think it makes sense, who knows if I'm right. 

But, there is something to say for people who have to live through winters.  Part of the reason that the Californian and Floridian "perpetual sun" vibe can begin to irritate cold weather peoples.  Winter is hard.  It's dark, and cold.  The days are short, the foliage is dead.  At night the only life is steam from passing mouths, building rooftops and greasy grill exhaust from the local fry and dies.  There is a solitude.  A bleakness. 

And what I'm trying to get at...an understanding between the people who have to endure them. 

Prior to last year, the upside to dealing with the brutally hot summers and ice cold winters  of New Jersey was the fact that we were mostly exempt from natural disasters.  Tornadoes, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Tsunamis and Hurricanes are a foreign news piece for Jerseyites. All we have to do is deal with a few blizzards a year, buy some gloves and an ice scraper for your windshield, maybe a blower if you have a big driveway,  and you're mostly set. 

Well, not anymore.  I think one of the reasons some people from here weren't too worried about Sandy is because, historically, the hurricane warnings have been "crying wolf" my entire life.  At least twice every summer, since I was little kid, we've had hurricane warnings.  All with different weird names, all of them decrease in power by the Carolinas, or magically veer east over the Atlantic Ocean before they get to us, leaving merely a thunderstorm that half the populous bought canned food and generators for.  

Apparently things have changed.  The coast is pushing back and some serious re-consideration of where property is built, and more specifically HOW it's built is very much in the for-front. 

I'm off-topic, all I'm trying to say is...winter is cold, people who don't have them are soft, and global heating might be real. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Glaswegian Water...

"Ocean: A body of water occupying two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills."  - Ambrose Bierce

Backstage room in Glasgow, Scotland ... the 02 Academy.
5:39 PM, listening to the Blood Red Shoes sound check.
Waiting for Dave Hause to shower so we can go find some food. 

The current question posed to me at the moment:  Should I wipe the top off of the half-drunk "floater" bottle of water on the table in front of me...then drink.  Or, do I set this computer down and lean over to the 2 cases of unopened water bottles on the side of the couch. 

I have a slight ethical objection to opening the new water while there are 3 half-drunk ones with-in my eye sight.  Early in elementary school I participated in a workshop that was designed to terrify me about the worlds fresh water problems.  About how people, specifically Americans, grossly overuse our fresh water supply with things like long hot showers, gigantic washing machines and backyard pools.  Their presentation was profound to my young mind, and with the exception of the occasional long, hot shower...I have become uber conscious of it.   This is why I'm willing to risk contracting an oral disease by sharing a mouthpiece with some member of my band or crew.  Doing my part, just a little. 

But then, the older I get, the more I fear little colds and infections and such.  I've definitely heard of a lot more 32 year olds dying then I did 25 year olds.  Which makes me more reticent of taking that disease leap of faith and just opening the new bottle, ensured of its sterility.  The added environmental benefit is that I can personally guarantee it's completion, knowing that those 16 ounces of precious fresh water have gone to good use.  If Scotland had recycling, I'd certainly do it, but they don't...so that's an environmental impact I must ignore at the moment. 

I also think that making yourself available to a certain level of dirt and disease is positive for the overall functioning of your immune system.  Just saying. 

The most interesting thing to me, personally, about posing this question is...how casual my life must be at the moment to even consider such a quandary.  But on the other hand, maybe it's the little things that a lot of people ignore that could make a difference if said thoughts were collectively active.  Who knows, that leads to a totally new set of questions. 

I drank the floater, by the way...