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Bad choices made, constantly

The Longest Verse in the Bible Is…(Rolla, MO to Claremore, OK)


Jun 2, 2015 – Claremore, OK

Today was one of those days where my head was elsewhere. Not sure where. Well, I know where it was, I don’t know why. I had plans to drive a lot further than I did to make tomorrow an easier drive but ended up stopping and getting a room to get my head in order and it just got worse as the day and evening wore on. Feeling lonely and empty and unsure of the future just a few short hours after writing about how exciting it was to not have a plan. Once I start getting inside my head it’s impossible to get out and I act out with either humor or passive aggression that I generally keep to myself or use briefly and then immediately regret it. I have to keep reminding myself that even though I am out here with nobody, seeing friends here and there for brief periods of time the loneliness I feel was exactly the same in New England. They say certain smells will remain in your memory forever. The last couple of days my sense of touch has been with me, particularly my pets I left behind. I can feel exactly what the dog felt like to touch; I can picture just how he felt from nose to the tip of his tail. Same with the cat. I have great memories with the pets from the day I met them until the impossible tasks of letting them go to new owners. Before this turns into too much of a bummer, let’s switch gears.

 I am in Claremore, Oklahoma, which is near Tulsa. I could have driven a bit more but didn’t feel like tackling Texas today. I stayed here before, in 2009. There’s not much to do here aside from eat food that isn’t good for you, so that’s exactly what I did. It’s about three hundred degrees here today, everyone around here talks slower, everyone is friendly and says hello, or rather “howdy” I went looking for something to eat and for whatever reason thought it would be a good idea to go to a Chinese food buffet. In Oklahoma. The food was surprisingly okay, I’m not really a food snob and I know when I get depressed I will just eat whatever horrible thing you put in front of me. I feel like I’ve been eating a steady diet of sandwiches and French fries for this whole trip. My initial plan to “stop at cool small places” along the way was kind of thrown out the window to make room for a more relaxing trip. Just not putting too much thought into what I’m going to eat, and deal with finding places way off the route is not something I can get into. I am improvising this trip for the most part, but mostly to see stuff, photograph it/write about it, etc. Food is a secondary thing to me at this point. So this Chinese buffet. Anytime I have eaten Chinese food in other parts of the country that aren’t Boston or San Francisco I feel like I have some sort of chip on my shoulder like “yeah, you cowboys don’t know real Chinese food. I had to walk three miles in snow up to my balls to get a crab Rangoon” or, “I once sucked a dick for some scallion pancakes”, etc. There was the usual stuff at the buffet which is always slightly different and more disgusting than “back home” And then these was the seafood area. I thought to myself where I was right now: Claremore, Oklahoma. How far is the ocean from Claremore, Oklahoma? Like eight thousand miles at least. Okay, I’ll just try three of the ten different seafood things here. Surprisingly, I didn’t get sick while sitting in the restaurant.


While in the restaurant, in between trips to the buffet I thought of an idea for one of the Facebook Reviews I was doing for a while on Facebook. Someone had mentioned me reviewing all of the rest areas along the way. Aside from when I first started doing them, I never actually went to any of the places I reviewed. I just randomly found them on Facebook. I thought of the absurdity of a rest area in this part of the country having bibles in the stalls and went from there. Eating seafood at this buffet and maybe getting sick so I’d be on the toilet for a long period of time. I don’t know a thing about the bible. Sorry, The Bible. So I looked up “longest verse in the bible” Picturing a guy on a toilet for so long he’d be able to read the longest verse in there. I found it, wrote the review surrounded by gigantic white people and Native Americans from Oklahoma. Made some folks back home laugh and left the buffet feeling much better than I did when I initially pulled off the highway.

Trying to find coffee on ice or a coffee themed drink on ice in Claremore, Oklahoma proved to be a task. I found a cool little downtown area, saw a little coffee shop, pulled into a space right in front of the shop and saw the hours on the sign “Closed at 5:00 PM” Clock on my phone literally said “5:01” FUCK FUCK FUCK. If I hadn’t have searched that “longest bible verse” I may have made it. In the name of detail in my comedy I missed out on a potential cup of coffee. I got out and walked around anyway, dressed as usual in pants, a baseball hat and THREE SHIRTS like always regardless of weather. It was disgusting out, I got a few good pictures and then drove up and down the stretch of Route 66 looking for a place to get coffee, heading back to my hotel defeated and thinking I would just hit the gas station across the street for a nice hot cup of coffee. As I was pulling up there was literally a coffee shop RIGHT NEXT TO MY HOTEL. Nice small place run by a bunch of women with Oklahoma accents, regulars streaming in and out as I sat there for an hour or so reading the paper. This is the stuff. I often make jokes or comments about people and I think people get the wrong idea. I made some jokes about people in certain areas of the country and my friends would jump all over it. The reality of it is, at least with me. I don’t judge people, ever. I joke about them, but I don’t know, these people out here, living their lives and doing their thing while I pass through and have a brief friendly interaction, there’s nothing better than seeing that. I could sit on the internet all day and make fun of people from Texas or Dave Grohl, or I could just go out and live my life and ignore people that are a detriment to my life, and embrace the different people everywhere. I don’t have to agree with their opinions on religion or politics but I find nothing wrong with experiencing people from all walks of life. If you can’t appreciate that or don’t understand that I don’t think I’d actually get along with you in real life. Anyway, Oklahoma.


I went back to the room and wrote some of that stuff there, read a little and then went back out when the sun went down. I wanted something “light” so I found some fast food taco place called Taco Bueno and got some tacos which I barely finished while what I learned was the pilot episode of “Friends” played on my muted TV. Tomorrow I will go to Texas, meet some friends in Austin and stay there for a couple days. I’ve never been and am excited to see familiar people and see the city itself. So far, splitting up the trip like this. Spend a couple days by myself, see people, drive by myself is working. I am fine by myself, and always have been. There’s really nobody I would ever take on one of these trips in the car for multiple days. I need the headspace, and after this Austin stop the rest of the trip is my favorite part of the country, the desert: New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. I’ll be alone for that and it gets desolate. I love it and I can’t wait to experience it, take pictures and talk about it. Unless I die or am kidnapped. If that’s the case this will be the final installment of this series. I should be okay though, I’m scary looking.

This Mid-Life Crisis Isn’t Gonna Suck Itself (Boston, MA to Rolla, MO)


May 29, 2015 – Akron, Ohio

I realized today the worst thing about driving across country is operating an automobile. Seeing things you’ve never seen before, talking to strangers for a minute or two, reporting back to friends and family are all great things. The basic operation and maintenance of the car and making sure you don’t crash into anything or anyone else crashes into you though, that’s my least favorite part. Worrying about if the car is going to break down, if you’re going to run out of gas, if someone is going to break into it and steal all your stuff. Anything revolving around the car, the very tool you use to carry you across the interstates and small highways drives me into an insecurity nightmare. Thankfully it only lasts for a few minutes. My head is in a good place I think. I should back up though.

 Leaving this time was the hardest. I’ve done this “move” twice before (okay, one and a half times) and neither times it stuck. I feel like this time I don’t really have a choice but to make it work. I’ll make it work. I need to sleep before I get into this.

June 1, 2015 – Rolla, MO

I can’t get too sentimental on this trip especially now, exactly 1551 miles into it, which is essentially halfway there. I can use a good amount of commas. Leaving New England again was bittersweet. The last few weeks there were particularly physically and mentally exhausting. I try to hide that stuff as much as I can as I don’t really feel like strangers or even casual friends need to know what I’m feeling at all times, or even every once in a while; this subject kind of came up yesterday in St Louis with my friend Mike. I’ve somehow invented some sort of persona on the internet that is certainly not me. I’m hardly a grumpy person (although I did just secretly wish every single person ever involved with Bank of America would die tomorrow night) but I guess it makes people laugh. Perhaps they are all grumpy and feel like they can relate to that person. It’s something I always have a little hard time with. First world problems, really. Who cares about this stuff, let’s talk about travel, where I’ve been, where I am now and where I’m going.

 Although it’s only been a few days into this trip I feel like this has been the best one so far. This being the sixth time I’ve done this drive by myself I’ve learned some things throughout the years of how to do this the right way, at least for myself. The one major thing is to improvise each day. Well, at least have a skeleton or idea of where you want to go and then just see what happens. There are a number of places I definitely wanted to see and things I wanted to do. One of them I wasn’t able to do yesterday logistically (go on one of those riverboats on the Mississippi) but it worked out, the day turned out great. Back to that in a minute though. I decided early on that if I saw one of those signs saying something was off an exit and it was in a reasonable distance, free, and remotely interesting I would stop it. I imagine for most people “World’s Largest Windchime” doesn’t sound that interesting, but I guess it beats the drive to work every morning, or going into the same coffee shop every day and seeing the same faces. That stuff is all great and everything but these kinds of stops, mixed with real “big stuff” like The Grand Canyon, The Alamo, etc fill in the empty spaces and break up the monotony of the long stretches. I’m not on any kind of schedule. As a forty-five year old man with no job or prospective job I guess I should probably be a little more responsible and have a schedule and idea of what I’m doing with my future but, this middle crisis isn’t gonna suck itself. Wait, is that the saying?

 My first day driving was long, I made it to Ohio at dusk and settled into a cheap but nice room up on a hill surrounded by malls and chain restaurants. As far as where I stay every night this is where I want to stay. It feels “safe” to me which I only really care about because EVERY FUCKING THING I OWN IS IN MY CAR. Granted I am taking the three bags into the room every night that have anything I would be upset about if stolen, but I feel like I’m better off than staying in the middle of a big city or somewhere dark and secluded. I felt like that first day I could have driven a couple more hours but I don’t like driving at night at this point, and even though most of the country off the interstates isn’t that exciting, especially east of the Mississippi, I don’t want to miss anything. I had dinner and discovered that Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home was nearby. I plugged it into the GPS (oh yeah, GPS. I decided early on I would not use the GPS for “general driving” I feel like you end up looking at it ticking away and if you put any destination in it you spend time in your head too much going “oh fuck, another 97 miles” the route is pretty easy, and with simple math you can figure out how long it’s going to take and that kind of thing. As long as I never go “east” I feel like I’m safe) his address and drove over there. It was pretty uneventful but I did feel a slightly creepy vibe in general but that was mainly because I was just thinking of the kinds of things he did not because I believe in “evil powers” or “bad vibes” and shit like that.

Earlier in the day I stopped in Elmira, NY, I had never even heard of it A friend let me know there was Mark Twain history here and I located the Mark Twain Study, which was basically a little enclosed gazebo type thing that he would write and smoke cigars in. The vibe in there was more my type of thing. I mean there was no vibe or feeling I felt other than just “wow he was in here and wrote ______ here” which to me is pretty heavy. That’s the kind of stuff I enjoy most. Being somewhere someone famous once stood or did something years before.

I drove to Effingham, IL next which has been a stop every trip I’ve taken out here. At first I stopped here because of a sneaker outlet here, buying sneakers. Even once arriving too late and staying overnight so I could go in the morning. I did go in there this trip but did not buy anything. I don’t really need any more sneakers at this point as there are literally pairs in my car that I bought there in 2009 that I have never worn. NEVER WORN EVER. The drive to Effingham got pretty intense with rain to the point where I had to almost pull over to the side of the road but I fought through it and kept driving at a slow speed with my hazards on as others were doing. Visibility was about a car length.

Yesterday I went to St Louis again. I’ve now stopped here three times. The first time I went under the arch in the museum there, took pictures of the river and the arch and then drove on. The second time I met up with my friend Mike who lives there. I arrived late in the afternoon and we had dinner and he gave me a great tour of the city in his car. I was struck by how much I dug the place. This time, yesterday we planned ahead to see a baseball game. Mike is a diehard Cardinals fan and knows more about baseball than most people I know. The Cardinals would be playing the Dodgers, my favorite team as a kid. With me moving to Los Angeles we both acknowledged the light symbolism of that. Mike lives in this great neighborhood that kind of reminds me of where Cambridge and Somerville meet. I arrived a couple hours before the game, we drove down and found a cheap parking space ($5.00) as we were a little close to game time to get a free spot on the street. The walk to and from the game was great. Mike knows so much history of the city, names of all the buildings, what was there before, what is happening there in the future and everything in between. His passion and deep love for his city is intense and inspiring to me. And what a beautiful city, we saw some truly amazing architecture. I took some photos but like most large things like buildings it’s hard to capture it in a photo unless you’re a professional, which I am not. Busch Stadium was great; it’s nice to be at a field surrounded by passionate fans of the game. We sat until about the eight inning and then toured the rest of the park. The rest of the afternoon was spent touring the city with Mike giving me an amazing tour. Again his enthusiasm and knowledge of all things St. Louis is wonderful. I’ve always said I thought people having “circumstantial pride” in something like where they were born or their heritage didn’t hold much merit to me, but I feel like I’ve changed my attitude on that. You can have pride in your background and where you’re from and not be an asshole about it. That’s great if you think say, Miami Florida is the best place in the world and everywhere else sucks but you sound like an asshole. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here. Well I do, but I need to get back in the car shortly. The one thing that stuck with me as I left Mike’s house was something he said “These experiences are the marrow of life” and it’s so true. Mike and I met online via what I’m doing right here, blogging. Years ago, in 1999 or 1998 maybe. We’ve remained friends since and having the ability to spend a few hours and have these real deep conversations and experiences with friends while in the midst of this big life change I’m going through makes it all worth it.

Okay, I’m on Route 66 in Missouri now and need to forget the disgusting hotel breakfast I had this morning and get back out there. I’ll post more pictures on the next entry.

A Youthful Spark

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When I think of where I started in hardcore I think back to junior high school in Swampscott. Two different events, one of them has to do with me buying weed off of one of the three known punk rockers in the town at that time (1982). The other time would be in my class when we had a substitute teacher named Mrs Quint. I had heard about her. She was supposedly this really nice woman, and she was. On the desk when we arrived for class she had a couple of stapled together booklets that said “Suburban Punk” on them. I picked one up and leafed through it. She told me it was her son’s “fanzine” I was curious enough to read some of it and then kind of forget about it. Around the same time my great aunt told me of her nephew Al who was in a band called SS Decontrol. She had a copy of the first record. It looked poorly put together and silly to me. I was used to Iron Maiden album covers. Fast forward to the following spring when I needed to buy weed. One of my burnout friends directed me to this kid Peter who was “kind of weird, a punk rocker” Peter and I became good friends, he played me a number of hardcore records, namely the compilations “Not So Quiet On the Western Front” put out by Maximum Rock and Roll and the Flex Your Head compilation put out by Dischord. We would spend days in Peter’s basement bedroom in Swampscott listening to Minor Threat, MDC, Misfits, SSD, Crass, Rudimentary Peni and just about anything else that fell under the hardcore or punk rock umbrella. Peter told me there was a show coming up at a club called the Channel. The bands were Channel 3 and Kraut, and his friend Al Quint would drive us in along with Al’s friend and Suburban Punk photographer Paul. Al was friendly and had an encyclopedic knowledge of punk rock music. He had his nose broken that day in the pit. This was the beginning of a friendship that is still here thirty-two years later.

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Although Al and I aren’t as close as we were, we spent a good amount of time in the late 80’s in our band Shattered Silence. The first lineup I played bass and he sang, I eventually traded places with Al and took over the microphone, mostly during my time as a (non-racist, duh!) skinhead. We even did a brief set at Al’s wedding to his long time amazing wife Ellen. Al and I also worked together at a used record shop called Rockit Records, often commuting in together. At a certain point in the early 90’s I stopped going to hardcore shows; I missed the whole “early 90’s” thing that is apparently “a thing” Although I continued listening to hardcore music I didn’t really think of myself as part of that scene anymore. I certainly wasn’t one of those folks we heard about in all of those songs who “turned their back on the scene” but I just lost interest.

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In the last few years as social media has taken over everything I met a group of people on a private message board from different eras of the hardcore scene. Most of the discussion generally has nothing to do with the hardcore scene, hardcore music and more with making fun of people once they leave the private group. Some of the folks on here I knew in real life, and some I had never met. We had a couple of meet ups in person and then one particularly great one at a Seven Seconds show last August that I wrote about here. That night was great, great new friends with a common background against the back drop of one of the best hardcore bands from back in the day (at least for us). I felt like I did when I went to shows as a teenager, hanging out with similar people and seeing our favorite bands that you could easily approach and talk to. “Hey that’s Kevin Seconds just leaning on the van talking to Hank from Slapshot’s ‘wake up Hank we’re off the line!’ no big deal” It is kind of a big deal for people like me. I guess it would be the same as if your parents saw Paul Simon leaning against his Prius talking to Phil Donahue. The only difference is these popular faces in the hardcore scene aren’t on some pedestal or hidden back stage. Often you could call or write these people (Tony Erba from Fuck You Pay Me hilariously recalled on stage calling Al Quint whose phone number was in the credits of his zine) When I realized who my cousin was (Al from SSD) I got his number from my great aunt and would often call him to talk about “the scene”. This was after “Get it Away“ came out so the last thing he wanted to talk about was hardcore. He did give me a list of albums I should buy. In retrospect I realized he just told me to go buy all of the records on X-Claim! I’m pretty sure he talked about AC/DC and the band’s “new direction” And hey I do like some of “How We Rock” Al Quint sort of became one of these “legends” in the hardcore scene, not just in Boston. I mean there is literally a picture that exists of him singing with his arm around Ian MacKaye from a Minor Threat show. The closest I have to this is a picture of me in the crowd at a U2 era Seven Seconds show with an ill advised mustache…that and half of my face is on the original pressing of “Break Down the Walls”

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Al had been contacting me off and on through the years to do a Shattered Silence reunion something I imagined nobody would ever care about. We never released anything official and I really just didn’t feel like playing hardcore music in my 30’s or 40’s. When he contacted me for this recent gig, for his 55th Birthday at first I was apprehensive and after some thought I decided why not? After a somewhat depressing few months in my personal life this could be a great outlet for me to get my head somewhere else. We recruited long time friend Ian to play guitar, I would play bass, Al would sing. Our original drummer could not do it for personal obligations so we recruited another friend of Ian’s, Jimmy to play drums. I couldn’t be happier than with this line up.

 

A number of messages between the four of us started happening, Al picked out some songs we would do (I immediately shot down my song “Aqua Net Crew” which was embarrassing to do when I was 17, at 45 I don’t know if I could sing the lines “I wish I looked like Robert Smith but I need something to color my hair with” with a straight face) Instead we went with our song about Oliver North. We would do a handful of Shattered Silence songs, and some covers (Might Makes Right by Negative FX/Slapshot, Always Restrictions by Discharge, Can’t Tell No One by Negative Approach)

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Our first practice went great. I learned right off the bat Jimmy was an encyclopedia of old hardcore songs and could jump in to any of the brief jams on cover songs we fooled around with (Black Flag, SSD, Slapshot, etc.) Our second attempt at a practice only kind of happened because of a communication issue and it was just Al, Ian and myself. Playing hardcore without drums is kind of a useless exercise really. No worries, we’d pick it up a few days later with the whole band. A couple of snow day cancellations later and we were ready to meet up again. We all got to the practice spot in South Boston at the same time only to discover we didn’t have keys to get in. A week before the show. On the drive back we noticed the spot where the famous Channel club was, we decided to get out and take some photos and a hilarious video of Al and Ian “stage diving” into a snow bank. I passed on the snow bank stage dive because the camera adds about 40 pounds to me. We got two more practices in the week of the show and nailed everything. Everyone left the last night happy and confident.

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The night of the show was great. I met up with friends for dinner beforehand, got to the hall and was not the least bit nervous. Outside of hardcore I had been playing guitar in bands and played many shows, this show would be different though. I felt like I wasn’t a boring 45-year old guy reliving his youth, it felt like an actual thing. Playing music in front of people, some originals nobody has ever heard for the most part and a few covers. People danced, sang along, celebrated Al and hardcore music, it was great. The three other bands were all amazing, Stranger, Fuck You Pay Me and Dropdead. The intensity with which all of the other bands played was amazing and if you didn’t feel it while watching you were probably wasted or dead.

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(Photo by DJ Murray)

I can’t really get into writing about my experience on stage playing aside from saying it was cathartic and perfect and look forward to doing it a couple of more times. I drove home by myself slow and carefully on the snowy highway listening to John Coltrane to bring my head back down to earth with a different type of cacophony but still coming from the same place.

 

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(photo by Liz Coffey)

Strangers on a Train

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August 2014: Both of these previously pieces were posted here, I’ve put them together as one long piece here, separated into two stories about journeys I took by train. One from 1990 just after I turned 20 (Boston to San Francisco) and one from 2009 right before I turned 40 (Oklahoma City to Boston) after reading an article in Vice about travel by train I think has some good points but mostly is the opposite of my experiences I’ve had traveling by train.

July, 2009 – Oklahoma City, OK to Boston, MA

 

I caught a train out of Oklahoma City early Tuesday morning for a brief four hour journey south to Ft Worth, Texas. The night before I left, I slept about two and a half hours. Monday night. The next time I would go to sleep would be Thursday night/Friday Morning around 3:30 AM.

 

The double-decker train was an empty train, a pleasure compared to the rest of the trip which was back to back full trains. Arriving in Ft Worth it was hot as piss outside and although as the case with most train stations it was a shady area of town, I only got approached by one guy asking for change to “buy an ice cream”. I hate having tons of change in my pockets especially if I am going to be sitting for long periods of time I handed him a handful of dimes and pennies and he made his way into the train station and did indeed come out a few minutes earlier with an ice cream. Who doesn’t love an honest beggar? I would also meet an honest beggar in Chicago who asked for money for “The Jack Daniels Foundation”, I of course gave him a crisp dollar bill. I did quite a bit of writing on the trains, and since I didn’t really have a full night of sleep over three days some of it made no sense. Here is some of it:

 

“6. If enemies are not close. You will automatic win any battle. For I will move far from.”

 

“When I reach California I will burn this book finally. Words in here from 1992. Some guy in 1992 wrote about long forgotten women. Such messy writing that I purposely used so no one could read it if they found. Who knows who all of these spirits are in here, I can’t imagine I will ever need to refer back to this to improve anything in my life. I will throw this book in a barrel. Like in Repo Man when they have the ‘Plate-o-shrimp’ conversation. You know, like dudes under bridges in Los Angeles burning shit in barrels. Having a couple of beers”

 

“Feel like I will start seeing things any minute now. I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in whateveramountofdays now. I feel like ripping this map in front of me into a trillion little pieces. I stare at it and the schedule for hours. Not minutes, hours. This is all you can do here sit and wait sit and wait sit and wait. People are off sleeping, sweating and smelling up that car back there. This thick warm bad breathy hospital silence lit by a thin strip of lights on the ceiling as you sway to the back of each car trying not to bump heads and legs spilling into the aisle. You get good at this acrobatic feat by the end of the trip. Even in the shape I am in, like if I tried to operate heavy machinery, it would not be pretty. I can’t believe that this trip take 24 fucking hours to get from Chicago to Boston. It sounds like some sort of trap the Gods of confusion set. Let’s make this guy think something is true that isn’t true. Wait, what? Some moments here I blink my eyes but they don’t re-open. I enjoy sitting in these cars writing even though I just saw stars while writing that last sentence. I saw an Amish woman at a pay phone at the Chicago train station”

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The first half of this trip was pretty depressing for the most part. The second half I met a number of people that I spent a good amount of time with and finally as painfully tiring the trip was I felt like I was having a good time and was able to keep my mind in other places other than where it actually was. This first group of people I saw for a couple of days walking around and hanging together. A young man about 22, but maybe younger. Big tall, could be menacing, but a baby face. At least 6’ 4”. Also, had one leg and was on a crutch. There were two other girls, around the same age. One was a nerdy looking girl, glasses with a jeweled chain on them to hang from her neck whatever those are called I have no idea. Other girl seemed young and sheltered, kind of an unfortunate look that I won’t go into but let us say she kind of looked like this bass player from a Canadian rock band I won’t mention the name of. I kind of got the vibe that this girl was sort of a pain in the ass and these other kids did not like her. When I did meet the three of them, at the end of my trip to Chicago, or about four hours left in that journey they were mean to her. Right to her face. The young girl did not understand sarcasm and was getting ruined and not knowing it. I felt kind of bad and then remembered this is how young kids are, they judge and judge and pick on and pick on until they eventually settle in on some set of standards which is: Be a dick. Don’t be a dick. I picked the latter when it was my time. On the other hand, these other two, the nerdy white girl who did in fact know things about Star Trek and asked me “is that Gandalf?” regarding a tattoo on my arm seemed to have been around, and this kid with one leg. He was writing in some little notebook. At first when I saw him I said to myself “jeez, fucking trench coat mafia over here”. Same sort of reaction you have if you see like a Juggalo (or the more rare but better Jugallete!). You always say to yourself “Oh yup a juggallo…where’s the hatchet man thingy? Oh yup there it is on his thing there, does he have the…oh yeah there’s that thing too they all have.” And then you go on wondering what Insane Clown Posse even sound like and wondering why people hate ICP fans. There is clearly not one good reason to care about these people good or bad is there? This kid though, here I am judging him the second I see him, meanwhile I looked like an even bigger asshole on a number of occasions from age 10 to say age….39 so yeah. He was a nice kid, the nerdy girl was nice but I could see was a little too “oh my god I am in art school, check me out” for me. The annoying young girl would be on my next train from Chicago to Boston. She was going to Ohio somewhere with her mom. These people looked like they stepped off the set of Little House on the Prairie. The girl may have been annoying, but was 18 and probably never left the little town in Arizona she was from. She sat with me on the next train in the lounge car while a line of folks waited for food, coffee and drinks. She was very loud and told me a story of some young kid who ran his car into a metal fence at her school and blah blah blah eventually winding her way to September 11th somehow telling me in an un-ironic way “now that is a day I will NEVER forget”. I replied, “well yeah, you’re not supposed to forget that day”. She mentioned they had it on the television at her school when it happened and I told her we had a similar situation when I was in high school when the space shuttle with Christa McAuliffe blew up. She said “was that Apollo 13?”. I said “I’m not that old, jeez”. The whole time the line of people can hear every word of this painful conversation until finally she leaves and people stop looking at me and having eye-rolling contests with me. I never saw her again.

 

I met some interesting artists and musicians later in the evening, a tall pretty girl from Portland, Oregon originally from New Hampshire. We both thought we looked familiar but I think she was much younger which leads me to believe we probably do not know each other at all. I talked with her and these two artists from the Oakland area, one also played guitar and trombone with Citizen Fish. Very cool down to earth people I enjoyed shooting the shit with for a few hours.

 

The last day of the trip my head and body were gone. I spent the better part of the day dozing off for a few seconds here and a few seconds there. I probably looked like I was on drugs. The last time I felt semi-normal on this part of this journey was for my long layover in Chicago where I left the station, went to the Sears Tower, shot up the elevator but the lines were too long for the deck so I just went back to the lobby and had steak and some sangria before heading back to a Starbucks to charge my phones and then back to the station to wait. It was nice not moving back and forth on a train. Had a couple of good phone calls and then back to hell.

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The evening is when I met these folks above. The next day, the last day where I never even attempted to go to sleep until I eventually reached the critical/best point of being exhausted the “now I’m completely wired and don’t even know what it feels like to be tired”. From around noon on the last day until we arrived in Boston around 10:30 PM I was wired. I spent about three or four hours with this African-American woman maybe in her early 50’s. She was a writer and also a minister . We talked about life for a long time and it was great. She was an intense person and we connected on all sorts of subjects. One of those people you meet along the way that gives off a cool vibe. She has a book available online that I am going to check out. One thing I enjoy about taking these trains is you are trapped on this thing with these people and you are kind of forced to talked to them for hours at a time as long as they are willing to do the same. Most of the time it turns out to be a great conversation. As I was saying to the woman “everyone’s story is interesting on some level. If they have the gift to tell a story then that story is even better”

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I spent the remainder of the day with a guy named Dennis. He was from Milwaukee and was heading to Dorchester to see his mother who was sick. Dennis, turning 50 drives a tractor trailer, and has been with the same woman for I think he said twenty-six years. He kind of looked like Snoop Dogg, which I’m sure he would take as an insult as he told me he didn’t like rap music. He had some great stories of driving trucks in different parts of the country. We both mentioned different parts of the country we enjoyed seeing. He clearly has more miles on me and more states but I feel like I have enough experience to talk about a number of places in the US anyway. One thing I really like with sitting with some of these strangers for hours is how much you can learn about people if they are willing to tell stories and are as bored as you are with just sleeping in your seat all day. So hanging with him until the last few minutes of the journey was great as we were still swapping stories about areas of Massachusetts. Good times indeed. There were a number of other people I spent some time with but most of them weren’t as interesting or were kind of messed up.

Best part of this trip was probably the last couple of days. It was a long mentally and physically exhausting trip that I still haven’t fully absorbed. If anything it was an exercise in patience and a preview of the lengths of road I have to travel myself in August. I forgot how long some of these drives get. A three hour chunk of driving through nowhere has the feel of a five hour chunk of driving. The August trip has an ultimately happier ending for the most part, and I will have a laptop by then for documenting that trip as I go with hopefully less stream of conscious than this, which I am not even going to proofread. Here it is.

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February 1990 Boston, MA to San Francisco, CA

 

So I get on this train in South Boston and I’m immediately feeling elated to be leaving and seeing parts of the country I had never seen. I was a painfully shy person, but being on a train for four days straight will make even the most timid person a “life of the party”. I think we were maybe two hours into the trip and we stopped in Springfield, Massachusetts. The train was relatively empty, and I was lucky enough to score two seats, so I could sit at the window. In Springfield the train sort of filled up and I see this character walking down the aisle. About five feet tall, cowboy boots, denim jeans, a denim jacket, long black “ZZ Top beard”, and sunglasses (it’s 9:30PM in the dead of winter), a duffel bag in one hand, and a guitar slung around his shoulder. I of course make eye contact with him, and he immediately sits down next to me.

 

“HOW YA DOIN BUDDY, I’M JIM (I can’t remember his name at this point), WHERE YOU GOIN!!?”

 

“Ummmm, San Francisco.”

 

“WELL IT LOOKS LIKE WE’RE TRAVELING TOGETHER, I’M GOING TO DENVER!!!”

 

“Excellent”

 

Yeah, real excellent.

 

So he starts talking and doesn’t shut up about music and traveling. It was interesting, but his voice, and overall demeanor made it a little hard to take him serious. The best part was yet to come though.

 

“YOU LIKE VODKA???”

 

“No, I don’t really drink at all”

 

“WELL IF YA DO, I GOT PLENTY”

 

He opens his jacket and has two fifths in each inside pocket of the jacket, two nips in each breast pocket, opens his duffel bag, and he literally, no joke, had a little bit of clothing, and what looked like 6 more bottles of vodka. I got up and went to the restroom, and he showed up in there.

 

“OH THERE YOU ARE, HEY YOU WANT A SWIG OF THIS OR WHAT????”

 

“No really, I’m all set”

 

So we get to Albany and I know what I have to do. I knew that we would be switching trains in Chicago in the morning, but I really couldn’t deal with him anymore. I got out of the train and went into the station and asked if I could get a room for the night on the train. It would be eighty bucks. I forked down the money and got my upgraded ticket.

 

I went back in and told “Jim” that they fucked up, my ticket stated I was to be in another train. A likely story, as anyone who knows Amtrak, you buy a cheap ticket, you sit wherever the fuck you want. I went to my room, and it was literally about the size of a stall in a restroom…okay the handicapped stall (which begs the question I often ask myself when I perpetually use the handicapped stall, can I get arrested for using this, or get a ticket? I mean it does seem to me the same crime as parking in one of the handicapped spaces, but the room in there is great, you get those railings in case you’re sick, drunk, or handicapped; it’s a whole new world in there. I imagine the women’s room to have a similar affect on me if I was to ever walk in a “good one”[as opposed to the one I was in at Saratoga Springs, New York, which was so dirty I thought I was in the men’s room]). It was tiny nonetheless, enough room to stand, and fold down the bed which was right against the window.

 

Waking up in Ohio the next morning was an absurd feeling. Ohio. Who lives in Ohio? Guided By Voices. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and ummmm…some other people that apparently love corn. So Ohio is pretty boring…on the train at least. I won’t ever just say a state is boring if I haven’t stepped on the soil there. Driving through Nebraska is as boring as watching ice melt, but when you get out and walk around a little, late, in the middle of a chilly, damp night you realize there’s nothing like it in the world. Nebraska.

 

So we arrive in Chicago, where you get to get on the double decker train. Much bigger, much more exciting. I still hadn’t seen “Jim”, but I was aware we was around. I did see him in the middle of the night actually for a couple of minutes at the bar (“why is he buying drinks with all that he has on him?”…I figured it out, he was just making his drinks even stronger, that’s apparently what you do or something when you’re a big drinker. Up the ante a little). The next time I saw him was in Denver where he was getting off. I went up to him and, knowing he was getting off for good and said:

 

“Hey Jim, I was looking for you the past day and a half to see if you wanted to hang out, we were supposed to be traveling together and all that…well, hopefully I’ll run into you again…have a good life”

 

It’s funny, all of the people I met on that first train ride it always ended with “Have a good life” What a strange departing phrase. There was no internet, well, not that I was using anyway, so there was no e-mail exchanging, and I was certainly not going to write anyone letters. I met a lot of great people. The most memorable after “Jim”, were the two old black men from Mississippi who got me drunk and told me stories about segregation, and John Lee Hooker and that kind of stuff. I have an amazing picture of one of the men reading the newspaper at dawn that I will post on here some day when I remember to scan it.

 

The other guy was an African fellow who was with me from Denver to San Francisco. He didn’t speak very good English, and he had a ton of money. He owned farms, had a big family, and traveled the world from time to time. Sam was his name. When we got to San Francisco, neither of us had been there before so we sort of hung out for a little while, until we got our shit together. I took a good photo of him at the San Francisco train station that I’d also like to put up here. I love meeting new people. I especially love it when I’m traveling though. You can’t really rely on small talk at all. You don’t have to make impressions though either. I like to put on an act from time to time when I meet people traveling. “Yeah, I’m a policeman in Boston” So this first trip was the first of a dozen of these, most of them small ones with friends, but I did three summers where it was two week excursions by myself that were both healthy, and bad for me at the same time. I had this a little on the first trip.

 

The train ride home got tedious. “Shit, Indiana again”

 

For subsequent summers, I will probably not be going on the same type of excursions though. There are no tours to follow around at my age. I am going to go somewhere though.. Either way, I need it again, and it can’t come any fucking sooner. That’s it, I’m going across country again.

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Young Til I Die (7 Seconds in Boston, Augus 2, 2014)

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The first time I heard 7 Seconds was in 1983 on the epic compilation fanzine Maximum Rock and Roll released, Not So Quiet on the Western Front. On a record with forty-seven bands their song “Fuck Your Amerika” stood out with its sing along chorus and catchy simple little riff. Like most songs on the record it was less than a minute long. Aside from some of the bigger bands like Dead Kennedys, MDC, Crucifix, and a few others most of the bands on that compilation fell into obscurity, at least in my world.

When I came across their 7” record Committed For Life at Newbury Comics a few months later I had found my new favorite hardcore band. Seven songs in eight minutes that encompassed everything I loved about that first song I heard. Where that song was yet another angry political song in a sea of angry political songs, I now had a few more songs to take in and see what they were all about. That 7” is pretty much a blueprint for everything I loved about the band and what I always thought the band was about: positive thinking, some anti-drug lyrics, songs about “the scene” and “tough guys”, all themes that would remain in their world for at least a few more releases anyway.

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When someone lists their top hardcore records of all time and doesn’t include “The Crew”, the bands full length from 1984, I have to think they don’t understand hardcore music. When this record came out, everything about it was exactly what I wanted in a hardcore record. The epitome and a building block of the hardcore scene and what it was for many years. Even the album cover with its dark picture of the band on stage surrounded by fans on stage would be something bands would use for years. More themes like anti-racism and anti-sexism came out on this record with “Colourblind” and “Not Just Boys Fun” respectively. I spent all of 1984 with my best friend at the time listening to this record. Thirty years later every lyric is still embedded in my brain.

 

They followed The Crew with the slick sounding “Walk Together, Rock Together”, recorded at Inner Ear Studios by Dischord’s unofficial engineer, Don Zientara. This record included their cover of “99 Red Balloons” which became a pretty big “hit” (at least in the underground hardcore scene) and live staple for the band.

 

Right around this time is when a good amount of hardcore bands started incorporating metal into their sound, something most people, myself included enthusiastically embraced. When 7 Seconds released “New Wind”, it was the complete opposite, in between a few faster hardcore songs was a number of slower melodic poppy songs. They still maintained their catchiness, and as I was also growing, the album became one of my favorite albums for years. I felt like I was growing with the band, which is an important thing for any music I love. The album even included a song aimed at said bands called “I Still Believe” I always thought that song was aimed squarely at the Boston bands that had “gone metal” especially with the line “they’re playing better music with a message aimed at other crowds/and they don’t include the lyric sheet ‘cause what they say ain’t proud” In the midst of an album of songs about relationships, growing older they also manage to throw in a “fuck you” to bands who turned their back on hardcore. That was an amazing point in this band’s history.

Last night’s Boston show of course, opened with “I Still Believe” which doesn’t hold the same weight it did at the time it was released, especially in Boston, but if you look at the last line of the song “an empty pedestal and all these heroes, where’d they go? When I find myself a hero I’ll be sure to let you know” Well, Kevin Seconds is that guy. I haven’t really followed the hardcore scene as much as I did thirty years ago, but I still regularly listen to all of the bands I listened to in my formative years. Kevin Seconds err, in my eyes, is larger than life; up there with Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, Keith Morris, Glenn Danzig, Jello Biafra and any of the other iconic front men from American hardcore bands. Kevin is a hero, an icon and someone who deserves all the respect he gets. He still looks like pretty much the same guy I saw live for the first time thirty years ago at The Paradise, still has the same charisma and ability to work a crowd.

The set they played last night included songs from their whole history including a number of ones from their newest record that fit perfectly in with old staples like “Young Til I Die”, “Regress No Way”, and the extremely old “Skins, Brains and Guts” which I was amazed they still knew how to play. Kevin, along with his brother Steve Youth, long time drummer Troy Mowat and guitarist Bobby Adams (who also doubles as a smooth jazz guitar player!) gave me exactly what I needed, a quick trip back to what it was like in the 80’s at hardcore shows, a good time. No fights, hanging with friends and good music. I’m glad I made it out. I took some videos of the show I’ve posted here.

1313 Words About 30 Minutes in Wal-Mart

 

I don’t really have any kind of fashion sense, especially since I never go anywhere besides work, Starbucks, supermarkets and gas stations. I wear the same thing I’ve been wearing for however many years now. Jeans, never shorts, steel toed boots, two t-shirts and a “work shirt” over those. Usually one of those Dickies ones in blue or black. Even if it’s 107 out, this is the outfit I have on. Unless someone I love dies and I have to go to a funeral, I’ll probably never wear a suit or a tie for the rest of my life. I’m fine with this. I don’t care what other people wear and try my hardest not to associate with anyone who does care about trivial things like clothing. So it was with great sadness that I tore the black Dickies shirt I had owned for about five years now. (The blue one I wear has been going strong since the 90’s, really) The closest place between where I live and where I work to buy one of these is Walmart. I imagine there are other places I can buy these shirts such as THE INTERNET, but I really needed to get this shirt today if I wanted to satisfy the OCD thing in my head that was starting to make some noise at the fact I’ve been wearing the blue one exclusively for a couple of months now.

 

This particular Wal-Mart also has a Subway in it. Subway is currently enjoying a spot at the top of the fast food chain game world in the United States according to recent articles I didn’t read but saw the headlines on Huffington Post. Since I brought no lunch to work with me today I decided I’d give it another try. I hadn’t eaten at Subway in a year or so. I’ve recently lost a good amount of weight, about forty pounds, so most fast food is out of the question at this point. SUBWAY HAD THAT GUY THOUGH SO IT MUST BE GOOD FOR YOU. I figured I could find some sort of cold cut thing in there and I’m not eating chips anymore so I should be okay…but not really.

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I walk in and the Subway is on my right, I notice about five people in line so I decide to go find the shirt I need first. I panic a little as they only have the tan ones, and since I’m not about to join the Nazi Party I certainly don’t want one. Also, I don’t want to look like a walking cantaloupe. Finally I notice there is one black one left, my size on the shelf below, not hanging on the peg. I grab it and make my way to the registers which are all about a dozen people deep. I figure I can take the shirt into Subway and pay for the shirt after.

 

The line in Subway is significantly shorter now aside from some old woman and what I presume is her daughter. They are ordering…I try not watch the Subway people making the sandwiches and pulling the various meats out of the little trays as it really is disgusting. It would be what I imagine watching a video collage of yourself being conceived and born is like. While in line I am also keeping tabs on the lines out in Wal-Mart CENTRAL I guess we’ll call it. I briefly look at various escape routes and where cameras are located, and think of where I’m parked thinking I can just walk out with the shirt and not pay for it. It’s Wal-Mart, I would not feel a shred of guilt stealing from them. Sort of how you feel when you see someone young fall down on the ice and don’t stop to help them. They’ll figure it out. While I’m daydreaming about minor theft a guy steps in front of me in line, he’s apparently with the women in front of me and they were holding his space. I was pretty excited to learn this same gentleman was here to order FOUR FUCKING SANDWICHES. I briefly thought about how I joked on Facebook earlier about someone ordering three breakfast sandwiches. That story was not true at all. A guy did order one breakfast sandwich in front of me this morning, but as is often with things I post there, they are made up incidents created for humor. Most people can relate to mundane little annoyances like that and that’s where my humor and daily observations often come from. THIS FUCK IN FRONT OF ME THOUGH, NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT HIM AND HIS FOUR SANDWICHES AT ALL. This whole process adds about nine minutes to my experience in the line. I notice he is talking kind of softly when he orders each sandwich, like he knows he messed up my whole life and now I am staring at him with daggers. He is finally gone and I order my cold cut sandwich which I just ate and it was truly disgusting and I will never go there again as long as I live, but I don’t want to get into that.

 

I decide against stealing the shirt after briefly thinking I might be able to just put the shirt on over the ones I already have on. I’d have four shirts on. Maybe I could go hang out with Mr. Four Sandwiches Guy. I scope out a line to stand in. The express line at Wal-Mart by the way is “LESS THAN 20 ITEMS” What the fuck kind of express line is that? HOLD ON, LET THESE FIVE PEOPLE WITH NINETEEN DIFFERENT TYPES OF DORITOS AND BOYS UNDERWEAR AND FAST AND FURIOUS DVD’S GET IN FRONT OF YOU AND YOUR ONE SHIRT OVER HERE IN THE EXPRESS LANE. I find a line with five or six people. I look ahead and the woman checking out is putting potted plants on the conveyor thing which for some reason makes me sigh. I don’t know why I think a potted plant will take longer than say, a can of Glade to deal with but I do. Just then the dreaded happens. The lighted number above the register starts blinking and the cashier is now holding up a pair of boots. Probably not as intense as my semi-expensive steel-toed ones, but nonetheless, work boots. WHO THE FUCK PICKS AN ITEM THAT ISN’T PRICED? The cashier decides to leave us and go find the price herself. WAIT WHERE IS THE SHOE DEPARTMENT. WHAT IF IT’S ALL THE WAY IN THE BACK? WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF US NOW? Another woman shows up and rings up the rest of the boot lady’s items. Now there is one party in front of me, a woman in her sixties and a younger woman who have a carriage filled with stuff. The older woman suggests I go in front of her as “you look like you probably want to eat your lunch there” ARE YOU SAYING I AM FAT? We had a little small talk banter about the other Wal-Mart’s around. She apparently enjoys the one in North Reading. I let her know I’ve been there as I used to live in nearby Woburn and fuck I would rather be in the back of a police car on the way to the joint for stealing a $17 shirt from Wal-Mart than having this conversation with this perfectly nice lady. Just then a new register opens and I am motioned over. I swipe my card and the whole transaction takes maybe two minutes. I thank the lady who was going to let me go in front of her and now I think I am going to go stick a Sharpie down my throat and get rid of the Black Forest Ham and Turkey on Seven Grain Wheat. Perhaps I’ll write about how that goes.

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North Carolina to Pittsburgh in Seven Hours

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I took one good long look at the rug of the hotel lobby, and realized I would be in for, at the very least, an interesting stay.

“Sir,”

She broke my concentration

“Your room is around the back, 113. Enjoy your stay.”

“Thanks” I replied and walked out into the thick pea soup air.

August was a hot month for North Carolina. I had already withstood a week of this nasty hot weather, but today was extra brutal. I walked by the pool on the way to my room and noticed an old white-as-a-ghost man sitting by the pool. We both made eye contact, and then broke when a young boy jumped into the pool screaming something unintelligible.

The smell of a new motel room is always nice, like a new car. After the stale ashtray of my car’s interior, any new smell is always greeted with a pleasant sigh. One time, I was in Pittsburgh, or rather outside of Pittsburgh. My reservation should have been changed weeks before, but I didn’t, so I stayed in some small blue collar town with all kinds of factories and Ford trucks, and men with mustaches, and white people with nice SUV’s and black people with dirty sidewalks, and fast food restaurants filled with acne covered Puerto Rican boys. This was the epitome of traveling to me. The people who lived in these towns I passed through. The people that live and breathe the towns always make me feel unwelcome. “People watching” is a favorite way to pass time when I have time between travel days.

So I’m in this outskirt of Pittsburgh and I show up at this run down motel that is in between a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a McDonalds, and about nine hundred other generic signs burned into your brain. I get the key to my room. Before I even open the door, I am greeted with an odor that makes me practically gag. It’s the smell of a room that apparently had someone smoke maybe a carton of cigarettes (in a row) in a room with an air conditioner blasting (with a dirty filter). Not wanting to deal with this for more than five more minutes I did what any smart traveler would do, I fumigated the room with steam. This was a trick I learned…that day. “Improvisational fumigation” I turned the shower, as well as the sink on full blast and turned the heat all the way up on both of them. The steam started pouring out of the bathroom swiftly. First little puffs of steam here and there, until eventually I had the Iron Maiden stage set (during the pre Bruce Dickinson era, Killers [Paul D’ianno, vocals] tour of course. As later tours seemed to have specific themes, like the Egyptian/Graveyard mood on the Powerslave tour, or the Blade Runneresque Somewhere In Time tour. The room started to get unbearably hot, so I opened the door, with a good weeks worth of facial hair, and a cigarette dangling out of my mouth to discover a family loading into the room next to me. I made eye contact and said hello to the wife first, the young daughter, and then to the father, as what must have looked like a scene from a Fellini film took place behind me, and eventually around me. Smoke and steam can have a cool effect sometimes. If used in an original manner such as greeting a family from Connecticut in the midst of trying to fumigate your room from the smell of cigarette smoke (while yourself smoking), one feels like some sort of character. The smell did eventually go away, and I never saw the family again the rest of my stay.

I rested easy that night, as the stench was gone, and in a day or two, Pittsburgh would be a dim memory for me.

Back to North Carolina.

I get to my room and it smells wonderful.

“That new car smell!” I think to myself.

I throw the television on as usual, and go outside to get the rest of my stuff. A suitcase full of clothes, clean and dirty, a messenger bag filled with notebooks and journals filled with bad art, and worse memories, three CD cases filled with a total of 500 CD’s, and my trusty boom box. I can’t sleep in the dead silence, as my ears ring all the time and it keeps me awake, so I lull myself to sleep with anything from Miles Davis to Black Sabbath. Heavy metal is easy to go to sleep to actually. I set up the boom box and throw in the Duke Ellington trio CD (definitely one of the best things the Duke ever did in my humble opinion. With Charles Mingus and Max Roach rounding out the rhythm section, how can you get a better trio than that?) and immediately skipped to Caravan (track 8, which when one looks at the history of Track 8’s from tons of releases, you’ll see the attraction to this sacred home in album sequencing history, check it out: Bowie’s Man Who Sold the World: seven tracks before getting to the title track, Van Morrison gives us the beautiful When That Evening Sun Goes Down eight tracks in on Tupelo Honey, the Beach Boys Pet Sounds boasts (arguably) the greatest song they did in God Only Knows eight tracks in, my favorite track on the brilliant Stones Exile on Main Street, Sweet Black Angel is guess what, track eight. Even the Beatles knew what they were doing when they put the creepy Happiness is a Warm Gun 8 tracks in on the White Album. The Smashing Pumpkins Gish offers the listener Tristessa at number eight, T-Rex gives us Telegram Sam eight tracks into The Slider. This is obviously not an accident. Track 8 will be revered for years to come as the key spot to hook the listener and make a classic record just that, a classic record. One example of this not happening is on the seminal Replacements record Let it Be, where the weakest track on the record Seen Your Video is erroneously given the coveted track 8 spot. The albums best song actually opens the record as I Will Dare, or arguably opens “side two” with My Favorite Thing. There are good arguments for both songs. I Will dare boasts the best pop hook in the history of guitar playing this side of You Really Got Me, where My Favorite Thing presumably filled thousands of mix-tapes throughout the eighties. Both are great songs regardless.), one of my favorite songs of all time, made most famous by Dizzy Gillespie. I turned the volume down on the television set and started to fade off.

I dreamt of this big mountain I was driving on. It felt like I was driving for hours as my eyeballs felt like dry golf balls whatever that means. I was hot in the car as I drove down this huge mountain, and it surrounded me. There was mist and fog along the sides of the mountain that made it impossible to see how high up I was. My ears were filled with hot air. I felt all of this vividly in this dream. Perhaps it was the actual long hours I had been driving in reality, mixed with a steady diet of caffeine, nicotine, and THC I was living on for days that made me have such rich, alive dreams. So I’m on this thing driving not really knowing where I’m supposed to be going in the dream. Just following everyone else for the most part. Everyone is going just fast enough to make it uncomfortable, and unsafe. I feel like I am going to drive off the mountain. In the dream I am with someone else, they sit in the back seat, each time I look in the rear view mirror to see them they turn their head away so I can’t see their face. They sometimes obscure their face without turning their head confusing me even more, as I try to concentrate on gravity and speed at the same time. I picture the car driving off of the side of the mountain into the woods. Traveling at speeds well over one hundred miles an hour, this is a very real vision within a dream. I picture the car tumbling violently over jagged rocks and tree branches breaking, and the contents of my car being thrown around like balls in one of those bingo things. I picture myself landing though, and walking away from the car. Nobody is in the back seat. A bunch of broken picture frames and empty coffee cups litter the area in and around the car. I manage to get the crushed trunk open with the help of a piece of the bumper (?) and retrieve my most coveted possession, the boom box, and the CD’s. I start walking through the barren woods, knowing well I can’t climb back up the valley and make it to the highway above. I go through the CD’s and find Simon and Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and put it in the boom box and begin my descent into the woods.

I awaken to what sounds like someone hammering nails into a giant aluminum silo. I look out the window, and the father from the family is actually packing things into his car. I can’t figure out what he was doing to make such a racket, but I keep investigating. Pretty soon the mother, followed by the daughter come out of the room and start talking to the father. What looks like an argument turns into a kiss on the cheek from both women as they leave the parking lot and walk towards the gas station across the street.

The family is a foreign thing to me. I can’t really imagine what kind of things go with being a family person. Here I am traveling around the country in my car to amuse myself. I have a ton of money to just waste on nothing but rare blues records and cigarettes, and this guy probably has an agenda each day. “Today we need to leave the hotel room at seven in the morning so we can make our way to Hershey Park by noon. At ten o’clock this evening we will go to dinner at this restaurant I found in the travel book. This is what will go down. This is how my family will spend their vacation” Me, I’m showing up in these towns and cities and grabbing the yellow pages and looking for used record stores, book stores, and whatever else to look at along the way.

I close the drapes in the room and walk over to the boom box, The Ellington CD probably stopped playing 7 hours ago. I press the play button and crawl back into my seven thirty in the morning bed hoping to hit the town later in the day. Wondering how I fell asleep in North Carolina and woke up back in Pittsburgh.DSC02435

Dead Man Walking

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 I’ve now been involved in three layoffs in my life. The first one, I was laid off with a number of other folks, these last two (at the same company) I was saved.

 

At my last job, for part of my eleven years there I was head union steward. On more than one occasion I would get a call from a manager (usually that one from the warehouse with the ponytail and mustache that smoked weed and looked like a roadie for Black Sabbath) telling me they would be firing someone that day and I would have to represent them. More often than not they would have them finish working on some project and then fire them. When I say “project” I mean some menial task like emptying trash, sweeping an area or moving a bunch of heavy shit. I remember one particular employee calling him out on it once “you mean you had me do all that shit today knowing you were gonna fire me, that’s bullshit”

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Walking around work knowing someone is going to get fired or laid off that day is an awful feeling to have inside you. Even if the person was a horrible employee, there is still that little piece of empathy you carry. I heard about today’s layoff about a week ago. It is pretty slow at work right now and without getting into details and politics about my boring mundane job, they could have done things a lot different there the last few months and avoided this, but I’m just some guy that works out back, what do I know? They would be getting rid of four part time guys and one full time guy; I knew the whole list of employees that would go. Now I just had to work with these guys for a week knowing they would soon be gone. At one point last week one of them asked me if I could get a “direct deposit form” from the office. I told him I’d get it “next week, she’s out the rest of this week” (she wasn’t) I figured if I could hold him off a few days, he didn’t know he wouldn’t need a direct deposit form anyway. I briefly considered somehow talking him out of direct deposit, but couldn’t come up with any arguments quick enough. Is there a pro-paper check movement out there? Doubtful.

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In my opinion, the best way to deal with a layoff as a manager doing the firing is to do it when the employees that are staying are nowhere to be seen. The last thing you want to do is parade a bunch of freshly fired people past the employees that get to stay. From what I understood, they were going to do this at lunch today while the remaining five of us would be out of the building. In one particularly awkward moment, direct deposit dude asked me what I was doing for lunch. We often get lunch together. I had to quickly come up with some excuse and for some reason came up with “Oh, I have to call my doctor…” I have no idea where that came from or what kind of answer to “what are you having for lunch today?” this was. I don’t have a doctor. I haven’t had a doctor since I was probably seven years old. I should probably get a doctor at some point, but that’s a situation for another day. I know in my head I had the scenario planned out for him if he questioned me more. Which was basically me going to some place to get lunch and talking on the phone to my fictitious doctor while I drove. What if he had said he didn’t mind me talking on the phone while he was in my car? I didn’t have a back up plan for that. I’m a horrible liar. For whatever reason, they gathered the employees ten minutes before lunch, not informing me or anyone else. So there we were standing around like a bunch of jackasses in the hot-as-piss warehouse as their supervisor walked them out of the office with their little green folders just like I got when I got laid off that one time.

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I went through the air-conditioned office to get to my car so I could go get lunch. On my way through I walked past the desk of the manager/owner who did the laying off. On his computer screen was a website for some ultra expensive looking hotel called “The Manhattan Club” for one of his upcoming business trips. I drove to a supermarket up the road that sells premade sandwiches and meals. As I got out of my car it seemed as if the hot air outside smelled of mashed potatoes. For a moment I wondered how horrible it would be to sit in an 81-degree warehouse eating mashed potatoes. I went with something more sensible. 

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Jeff Hanneman Dying Was Like That Time John Lennon Died, But Worse

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When Jeff Hanneman of Slayer died last week it was like that time John Lennon died, but worse. When Lennon died I was ten years old and although I listened to The Beatles for most of my young life, him dying in 1980 wasn’t really that big of a deal to me. I was a kid, I didn’t have any kind of connection to him aside from the melodies he wrote and performed that sounded good to my ears. For guys like me, who spent most of their formative years up until the present in the “metal scene” or “hardcore scene” Jeff Hanneman was a God.

Being a young and naïve teenager, I thought once I got into punk rock and hardcore music I wouldn’t be able to listen to heavy metal music anymore. (the pic of me above, I seem to be okay with Iron Maiden, Rush and The Misfits) At one point I made the switch over to hardcore from metal but that’s a whole other story. I published a fanzine covering hardcore and punk music when I was 14. I had the great fortune of interviewing some of my favorite musicians from the time. These artists were generally always approachable and friendly. My first interview was Keith Morris of Circle Jerks and Black Flag, I interviewed Peter Stahl from Scream, Corrosion of  Conformity, Lyle Preslar of Minor Threat and many others…Around my third issue of the zine I wanted to interview the band Siege. My friend Mark’s cousin Kevin was the singer. As it turns out, Kevin was no longer the singer. The new singer was living in Marblehead. MA and I went to interview him at his house.  (as far as I know they never did any shows with this singer) While there he played me two records: Metallica – Ride the Lightning and Slayer – Hell Awaits. He only had to play me the two opening songs and I was sold. Metallica’s Fight Fire With Fire with it’s pretty acoustic intro that then explodes into the first thrash metal song I ever hear, and then Hell Awaits which as you might know begins with what sounds like a Bosch painting coming alive. Demons speaking backwards, which I quickly discovered was “JOIN US” over and over backwards.

One of the main reasons (along with seeing Cliff Burton wearing a Crimson Ghost Misfits shirt or James Hetfield wearing a Discharge shirt) was Jeff Hanneman. When you saw pictures of Slayer they all looked like typical metal guys, making ugly faces, “throwing up the horns”, etc. but then there was this bleached blonde dude with punk rock stickers all over his guitar. He seemed like the most approachable guy, and he was a fan of the same music I was.

Both Hell Awaits and the EP Haunting the Chapel were on heavy rotation for quite some time as a teenager and then Reign in Blood came out. The band, now signed to Def Jam recorded with Rick Rubin, who had up until then produced LL Cool J, Run DMC, and the Beastie Boys among others. What? Rubin basically took all the reverb out of Slayer, sort of the opposite of what AC/DC did with Back in Black. Instead of sounding like the music was recorded in some cavernous chapel in the deepest level of hell, every instrument was completely up front and dry. The album was a quick twenty-nine minutes. It’s widely regarded as the best thrash metal album of all time.

Jeff Hanneman wrote, in my opinion (and it should be yours) the best Slayer songs. Angel of Death (the “Ace of Spades” of Slayer, yet I’m still not tired of hearing it. Sampled by Public Enemy, which means Spike Lee has heard part of the song Angel of Death by Slayer, not knowing it’s about Josef Mengele!), Post Mortem (my favorite Slayer song), pretty much every song on South of Heaven, most of Seasons in the Abyss, and much more. His songwriting has stayed with me much more than most of my other “favorite” bands. I could probably recite every lyric on Reign in Blood, he was the “quiet” member of the band, his guitar solos, which basically sound like demons being strangled to death stick in your head forever, sort of like the guitar solo in Something by The Beatles. That makes more sense; Hanneman dying was like when George Harrison died but worse.

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