Wednesday, June 14, 2017

living the dream

in the sterile office reality, she responds to the benign greeting, how's it going? with the sarcastic retort: living the dream.

living the dream?

it's clever because the person speaking those three words is absolutely not experiencing her life in that way. so, we all chuckle and sigh. yes, aren't we all just living the dream under these florescent lights, breathing in the conditioned air of the 14th floor hahaha...

it's cynical because we don't even know what it would look like to truly live the dream. we just know it surely is not this. the dream of our collective imagination exists far beyond this office building...somewhere. right?

for now, we laugh and then cry as we wake up to this banal nightmare.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

it's the end of a fucked up a year...

one year ago, in the final moments of 2015, a dog bit my leg. it was about an hour before midnight and i was just about to leave a new year's party in my neighborhood. the host's dog had been staring at me as i grazed from the snack table. when i placed the last bite of tortilla chip in my mouth it approached me and proceeded to dig into my lower thigh with its mouth.

luckily, the bite wasn't serious. it did poke a tooth-sized hole in my favorite pants and slightly break my skin, but it didn't disrupt my night beyond having to treat the small wound in the bathroom with a bandaid and neosporin before heading back out into the world.

still, the dog bite was a metaphor for things to come--and also a reflection of the state of my life at the end of last year. after traveling across the country on zine tour for the second half of 2015, i found myself back in philadelphia broke, unemployed, and my body breaking down with no access to health insurance.

as i drunkenly walked to the next party before the clock struck midnight, i sang this dead kennedys song on the street, creating a soundtrack to the moment:

dog bite 
on my leg 
not right 
supposed to beg..
oh
oh
oh

the night was redeemed with good friends and a rooftop view of the citywide fireworks show. and that's how 2016 began...

* * *

eventually, i found a job. in early february, i found myself sitting in a office meeting room  on the 14th floor of a skyscraper downtown. i sat across the table from the hr rep who looking down at my resume said: it looks like you have a lot of interesting experience here. you're a writer...what makes you want to join corporate america?

that question lingered in the room like a toxic fart after he left to summon the manager of records management. i gazed out the window toward the peco building in the west. jello biafra's voice rang in my ears as i navigated the existential dread of survival under late capitalism. was i about to become a "terminal preppie"? my future boss eventually arrived and turned out to be someone i could easily chat with about music and politics and made me feel a little better about the potential situation.

a few weeks later, i still hadn't heard anything back about the job. the day after i decided to give up and make plans to stay with family and write, i woke up to the phone ringing. the voicemail congratulated me and offered me the position of document specialist for the company's filing room.

i was disappointed. what about my winter writing retreat? but then i reminded myself how important it was to start paying rent again and, you know, get my shit together.

8 months later, i'm still working full-time there. i still have health insurance and the means to feed myself. it's not my dream job, but it's good enough for now.

* * *

in april, phil had a going away party the week before he was planning on moving to chicago. he invited some friends to read under the suggested theme "arrivals and departures." the first thing to come to my mind to share was one of my favorite mischief brew songs, departure arrival. i started reading an old essay about work and capitalism and then interrupted myself:

"this doesn't feel right," i confessed into the microphone at tattooed mom's. "i think we need some music."

i started a beat, snapping with my fingers, that the rest of the crowd quickly joined as i sang:

you know i never could fall asleep on a train 
all the time dreaming about moving away...
if i ever fall asleep i remember my dream 
where everybody's there and nobody leaves

a few days later, becca and i met up with phil for one last hang--just like the old days when we all worked together at red hook. before becca arrived phil told me that since the reading/party he had given it a lot of thought and decided not to move away.

* * *

three months later, i got to see mischief brew play at the trocadero. they opened for one of erik's favorite bands from his teenage punk years. culture shock was the band in between subhumans (uk) and citizen fish and had embarked on their first tour in almost 2 decades in support of their new album attention span.

alison and i got there right before mischief brew's set began and sang along and danced a little to all their songs. culture shock played next and we cheered on erik as he joined them toward the end of their set to sing their classic anthem civilisation street. it was a beautiful and joyous moment seeing him up their with his punk rock idol dick lucas. a couple songs later, he emerged from backstage and stopped to say hi as he made his way through the crowd. he gave me a sweaty hug as i yelled over the music, "what a dream come true!"

that was the last time i saw erik. mischief brew was scheduled to play at philamoca the following sunday before leaving for a european tour. i texted thom the day before asking if he was going. he responded with a phone call explaining that erik had gone missing.

my heart sunk.

on friday july 16th, we learned that erik was dead. it was a devastating loss, not just for those of us who were lucky enough to call him a friend, but for the thousands of mischief brew fans all over the world, whose lives were forever transformed by erik's music.

i couldn't help but return to departure arrival: "may your songs never get stuck out of my head."

* * *

in december, i found myself in upper darby where erik's wife denise was hosting the 17th annual fistolo solstice party. they invited me back in 2003 after i met them and stayed at their house on a road trip that fall. i couldn't make it that year or any of the years since i moved to philly. it felt really important to be there this year with so many of denise's other friends that have been there for her over the past 5 months since losing erik.

as i was leaving, some people were putting together a gingerbread house decorated with icing that spelled: FUCK 2016

later on, they brought it outside into the cold and foggy december night and blew it up with fireworks.

* * *

goodbye, 2016. here's to a new year of struggle and resilience. 💗

Sunday, September 11, 2016

fully-clothed in a west philly coffeeshop

sitting in the same seat at the same cafe where i first began to fantasize about grad school...7 years later. now i live in the neighborhood again and even though i finished my grad program over 2 years ago my life isn't all that different than that day i sat here doing that initial research. and that reality may seem grim, but it also means anything is possible, despite the overarching uncertainty of what lies ahead. 

* * *

i wasn't able to make it to the naked bike ride those first couple years living in philly. it started when i first moved here and after i left this neighborhood--along with the relationship i moved here for--i was finally able to participate. in reality, it's more like a scantily-clad critical mass ride: that uniquely liberating experience of taking over an entire city with thousands of other people on bikes. it's one of the freest moments i've had in my life. 

i went two years in a row, sporting my pink undies and faded red sunglasses. since then i have been out of town, visiting friends and family in massachusetts that particular week. but yesterday i was here, in philly, and just decided not to go. partially because it has just been too fucking hot. but also since i wanted to go to a reading that my friend denise invited me to. i've only seen her once since erik died so it seemed important. and it was. so i definitely made the right decision, but seeing photos today of all those semi-naked joyful cyclists taking the streets back from cars made me wistful. 

maybe next year?  

Monday, November 30, 2015

back to...and everyone's the same

last event
last word
last city,
no show.
the ink spills out of my pen
all over my phone
and my journal.
and now 
there are ants.
everything 
looks perfect
from
far
away,
the song in this cafe
whispers.
the body 
feels like 
it's failing.
nothing is flawless,
despite what we project.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

a late capitalist rant

so what's going on?

that shift in tone revealed this was going to be a serious talk. and that seemingly benign question was essentially demanding: in order to receive our support you must defend not only what you're doing with your life, but your entire value system. also: we have your value system all figured out. and: this is why it makes us feel uncomfortable...

i believe in relationships, but not partnerships. the only thing that truly matters are the people in our lives that we develop and maintain a vast array of connections with. this is how we grow. this is how we make sense of the chaos in the world. this is how we don't just fucking give up. no one has a monopoly on that--we all deserve way more than that. and this is not about sex. stop saying "just friends." all relationships are important--in different ways. stop saying "in a relationship." we are all in relationships with the people that are present in our lives.

but back to the matter at hand...

i believe in dignity. but i'm also not dogmatic. i don't want to be doing something that i hate, something that is disempowering and soul-sucking for 8 hours straight, 5 days a week. for the rest of my life. fuck that. but it's not even about me. i want to live in a world where that is no one's reality. the current system is unacceptable. but i recognize the reality that this is where we're still at. i just think we need to tear this motherfucker up.

and now it's time to get real.

after putting me on the defensive about the direction of my life, you explained that you're worried about my future. oh, and that you love me. but i don't need the condescending speech. it's actually not helpful at all. and it just shows how out of touch you are with what i have been doing, what i am continuing to do in the world.

i'm actually really excited about my future. but thanks for pretending to care.

Friday, September 11, 2015

these frameworks labeled "home" (revisited)

back at home. sometimes it's less about roots and more like an anchor. that paralysis of childhood, of being stuck with no way forward. but this is temporary. and i wake up from this dream and everything is moving too fast. everything is too real. i open my eyes again and now i'm standing in the dark library. it's after midnight and even though it's haunted, i'm still turned on. you lean against the railing and my ears are ringing in the silence. is this weird? hearts race. ghosts whisper. i don't want to go home.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

this is everything

so. i made it happen. i quit my job, put myself out there, traveled all over, engaged in conversation and ideas, saw old friends, and made some new ones. and now i'm back. i just woke up again in the waiting room, not sure what happens next. this is always exciting and scary. here i am.

and then my phone rang--one of my dearest friends reminding me that the only thing that really matters are the relationships we maintain with the people in our lives. these human connections are all that is truly keeping us going. and if we pay enough attention and continue to care for them, then truly magical possibilities await. this is everything.