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...

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..

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.
looks perfect
the song in this cafe
the body 
feels like 
it's failing.
nothing is flawless,
despite what we project.