Wednesday, November 14, 2018

from a notebook in a west philly coffeeshop on the evening of the midterm elections

as the work day drags on, we sit in our respective cubicles almost 100 miles apart. we listen to the playlists we shared with each other. "yours is helping to make my day here more pleasant." our imaginations are crushed by excelspreadsheets, but the music playing in our headphones keep us centered. this personalized soundtrack to a dreary tuesday afternoon in the office keeps us going. these songs help bridge the gap between the double lives we live. we're physically at work but our minds are hitchhiking across state lines, dreaming up adventures as a bowie song kicks in and the data reports melt away into the gutters of the corporate septic system. "it's like i'm keeping you company at work." i smile and forget what the fuck i'm even supposed to be doing. what am i doing? i wish we were dancing instead. i want to feel this music and nothing else. no more distractions or to-do lists or e-mail notifications. just beats and rhythms and melodies and vibrations and heartbeats. more music, less work.

Friday, November 09, 2018

music & work, revisited

three years ago, i found myself in tuscaloosa, alabama. i had spent the better part of the previous four months travelling with my zine about music and work. my dear friends dave and jo were both teaching anthropology at the university of alabama and were able to set me up with a number of events on campus. these workshops created space for students to share their experiences working in the service industry and the music that made those jobs either more tolerable or, often, even more insufferable. it truly was a space to honestly share our experiences about life under capitalism.

fast forward to fall 2018. a local artist here in philly tracked me down after learning about the music & work project and my zine. she is collaborating with a UK-based artist/composer to explore the songs that workers in philadelphia listen to while selling our labor to survive. the research will culminate in a chorus of whistlers performing an original composition next spring. this is a nod to how workers historically would whistle songs of solidarity together in the workplace. and they would get away with it since the boss was unaware of the political lyrics.

so we were able to connect wednesday night and talk about these questions of music and work. we could've talked for hours, sitting on that bench in rittenhouse square. but then at 6:00 the church bells rang and we walked across the street to the philadelphia ethical society for, appropriately, a panel discussion on philadelphia labor history. 

i'm excited to engage in these ideas again and to be inspired to keep writing and listening and working. 

Monday, November 05, 2018

you don't hate mondays

the worst thing about daylight savings is that it will be dark when we get out of work. on this gloomy, rainy monday i'm dreading the transition into night, into darkness. of witnessing this shift from my desk, through the window of the office building. like some greater force prematurely turning the light switch off on us. and in doing so, extinguishing the possibilities beyond wage labor that we have all taken for granted since april.

but i don't hate daylight savings. i hate capitalism.

on friday night my dear friend nazia shared a preview of her brilliant new book on islamophobia and the paralyzing limitations of liberalism. in a small west philly apartment this group of organizers and educators met to share food and drink, radical inspiration and solidarity. these abolitionist salons will help keep us all sustained in this increasingly dark political moment. i feel so privilege to be part of it.

i also took a last-minute trip to baltimore this weekend. red emma's--the radical bookstore/restaurant/bar/cafe/community center--recently re-opened in an even larger space than their previously location on north ave. i took a bus down from philly primarily to check it out and i'm so glad i did--especially since the new location is just a 5 minute walk from the bolt bus stop. plus i got a one dollar return ticket!

i really could've spent the entire weekend just at red emma's: coffee/books/vegetarian food/coffee/books/beer...repeat. the entire street level is completely dedicated to the food and drinks side of things and the subterranean floor is where the bookstore and event space is located. i ended up buying the new 33 1/3 book there about the raincoats' self-titled album which i can't wait to read.

it was also just really nice to further connect with new and old friends. over beers at red emma's bar and then delicious homemade burritos across town and finally at the weirdest (and extremely fun) karaoke bar i have ever experienced in my life.

my one dollar bus was late sunday morning, but i didn't even care. it felt good to have a mini-adventure and also feel the bright autumn sun on my face before returning to the darkness of mondays and cubicles. 

Thursday, November 01, 2018

hello, old friend

in november people inspire each other to write words. the temperature has dropped and the collective introspection arrives alongside post-halloween hangovers and the political anxiety of yet another electoral spectacle choking the air we breathe. our imaginations are hungry. they have become lonely. and so we write.

i'm not writing a novel, but i'm back here just before the end of this strange year. who would have thought when i started this blog in a public library in madison, wisconsin nearly 14 years ago that i would be sitting here today in a dystopian future. i'm here on the 14th floor of a corporate office building in philadelphia covering the front desk for the receptionist's lunch break. the florescent lights drain the life from my eyeballs as the hum from the air vents vibrate the dropped ceiling tiles above my head. i stare at this screen and think to myself: "how did i end up here?"

hello, old blog/friend.

yesterday i listened to every misfits song i memorized by heart in my youth. i even got a chance to sing one to a room of drunk strangers. strategically moving the cordless mic a full foot from my mouth, i passionately shared with them how much i NEEDED their skulls.

earlier in the evening, i found myself at the anarchist bookstore where i have been coordinating events for nearly a full decade of my life. even though i was by far the oldest person in the space (besides a set of parents) i still felt like one of the kids at the halloween show. after a black and white screening of a live cramps gig from the 1980s, local riot grrrl band cherri col@ charmed us with an acoustic set replete with covers by the ramones, lady gaga, and the rocky horror picture show soundtrack. afterwards i turned all the lights back on, turned up my (real) misfits playlist, and started putting the chairs back in the basement.

as the kids lingered around, the dad of the band's drummer came up to the counter and told me i was being way too nice--noticing that i clearly was ready to lock up and get on with the rest of my night. eventually i did interrupt a photo shoot in the back to say that i was just about to close up the shop. i hope their night was almost as much fun as mine. hopefully they will all...remember halloween. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

another new years (backwards/forwards)

2017 (backwards)

this year began with moments of personal irresponsibility and the looming specter of trvmpism. new years was followed by the black friday of bad decisions as we all awaited the inauguration (protest) later that month. 2017 started messy and has had its share of regressive moments since then. but it has also been the year of growing up, of truly taking seriously concepts like accountability and solidarity.

it was important to get together with like-minded people to help make sense of the dumpster fire our country is further descending into. a couple friends started a reading group last winter that morphed into an affinity group. we cancelled our discussion the day of the airport protests to join in against the racist muslim ban at the philly airport. we kept reading and discussing a radical politics that aims beyond dogmatic sectarianism to carve out a space between the dead-ends of liberalism and nihilistic anarchism. we spent april scheming for may day and then marched alongside undocumented activists with juntos from south philly to city hall. we never got around doing our collaborative writing project, a manifesto of sorts, but there is still potential moving forward as we take seriously the challenge of anti-fascist organizing in the 21st century.

one of the personal low-lights of the year for me was getting hit by a car biking to work on the second day of march. it could've been a lot worse though. i was saved by the kindness of so-called strangers that lies dormant under the everyday pressures of late capitalism; only to flow like lava in moments that truly matter. and i finally have health insurance--something i did not have access to at the beginning of last year. by the end of the month i was biking again and even got the driver's insurance company to cover my bike tune-up with a bunch of new parts to boot. i was reminded of how lucky i was later in the year when a young woman was struck and killed by a private garbage truck while biking to work in center city. i was sick that week, otherwise i would've come out the next day to help form a human protected bike lane at 11th & spruce in her honor and in solidarity for all those who have been killed while biking. and that week the city repainted the bike lane. we need more than that though. i'm thankful for all the people organizing to make the streets safer for those of us who get around on two wheels.

in 2017 i got to see a lot of live music which i am also grateful for. in these dark times, there will still be singing. some of my favorite bands came through philly and these experiences of transcendence beyond whatever-the-fuck the president tweeted that day and beyond the mundane realities of the corporate office space really helped me get through the year. highlights included: against me!, propagandhi, downtown boys, pile, the proletariat, the mountain goats, and hurray for the riff raff.

i did spend 40 hours nearly every week in that office this year. working in the file room allowed me to see those live shows, to have access to health care, and to feed myself. but it is not a long-term sustainable situation, spiritually-speaking. my two year anniversary on the job is coming up in a couple months and i don't want to be there much longer than that.

so what awaits the future then?

2018 (forwards)

i need a change. the most obvious and responsible direction for me would be to dedicate myself to looking for and applying to more meaningful jobs "in my field." but that, honestly, still feels so impossible and out of reach. i'm not opposed to it, it's just that nothing out there work-wise is an end goal of desirability to me. the only potential future life change that excites me is going back to school. but not into traditional academia--fuck that. i have no interest in studying for the gre's and entering into that cut-throat culture that so many of my friends are either drowning in or have jumped ship from altogether. going back to school for me would mean being in the pioneering class of goddard college's phd program. after many years--and collaboration between faculty, students, and alums--the program's proposal has been approved by the college and is now awaiting external accreditation. they are aiming to accept applications this coming spring to begin fall 2018. that way i could work and try to save a little between now and the summer and then i would be back to vermont in august, ready to dive back into research and transformation. can't wait to say goodbye to office life forever!

i have said this every new years i've been in philly, but 2018 will be the year i start playing music again. phil and i talked about dedicating one night each week to it. i want to play bass and sing and maybe some acoustic guitar and drums. i want to learn and write and record songs. i want to play live again. i'm no longer content just being a spectator, a consumer of other people's music. i'm ready to go beyond karaoke and create again.

and 2018 will be about further taking seriously those themes of accountability and solidarity, of embedding them into my life even deeper. i still have so much to understand about how the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy has fucked me up. And now is the time to really do the work, alongside comrades and accomplices, to dismantle these destructive systems together.

this will be the year. i can feel it.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

strange holiday // sunny solitude

thirteen years later, here i am--all alone on this strange holiday. alone, for now. this is what solitude looks like: it's reflective, conscious, and healthy. i'm sweeping my bedroom floor, doing laundry, and thinking about the future--all while remaining contemplative, focused on the present, on the gift of this sun-filled november day. this is refuge from the daily cycle of over-stimulation, work, and consumption. i am awake and alive. my mind is clear.

i think about all those years i drove to plymouth to march on cole's hill, against systemic amnesia and legacies of genocide and erasure. today i am not merely complacent to bask in the mediocrity of two paid vacation days, brain turned off in obedience to a four-day weekend granted by our corporate overlords. but it is nice. you could even say i'm thankful. i guess i'm somewhere in between those two points. after all, it was the militant labor movements of last century that produced such opportunities...for some.


this is a strange moment. i find myself retracing all these life decisions, many of which i now see as unhealthy and destructive, like revisiting the ghosts from christmas past. i'm confronted by the revelation/reminder that i was never immune to the patriarchal conditioning of the dominant culture--the ways in which boys are empowered from the very beginning with the lure of endless possibilities while girls are instructed to wear pink or suffer the consequences. how we are all disciplined to never deviate from those rigid paths assigned to us, or else. and none of this is new for me, it's just that i have become viscerally aware of the ways in which i have perpetuated these structures and how my own desires continue to be colonized by rape culture and gender oppression. oof. but i'm not paralyzed by this despite its dark heaviness. i feel committed to further challenging myself and others in my life, together.


and i also need to find a new home soon. as i approach my 9th anniversary in phladelphia i remain open to moving away, starting over somewhere else. i could move a few blocks down the street in west philly or completely reinvent my world. either way, i want to try to live my best life and be more conscious of what that means to me as i get older.

this is what i'm thinking about on this strange holiday, with this sunny solitude.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

when everything opens up

summertime brain fog give way to cool air inspiration and clarity. wake up and take a deep breath. inhale the freshness, exhale your unhealthy habits. delete and disable. wash it all off your body parts. go outside. in the park you discover old friends and new possibilities. compare notes. conspire toward something better. regional differences transcended by that thing that continues to connect us all, beyond internet service and hourly wages. our shared stories are bigger than we can even begin to understand. this meal we share, these soft clouds above us--this is everything. 

delete and disable. connect and expand. conspire and evolve...