Monday, December 31, 2007

year in p/review

so...2007 is just about over. what to say? hmmm....

*finished the passions and survival documentary with mark hillis
*finally quit my job at booklink
*organized a tour for ben dangl's book the price of fire
*went on said book tour for almost 2 months and over a dozen cities
*spent a month in new hampshire "house-sitting" for my mom
*started a booking cooperative with jen angel called aid and abet
*served as a broomsman at jo and dave's wedding
*returned to the midwest for the allied media conference
*stayed unemployed for half of the summer, which sucked
*started working at evolution at the end of july
*organized various fundraisers for valley free radio
*played in against me! cover band called against you!
*played in a misfits cover band called candy apples and razorblades
*wrote some stuff, danced a lot, made trouble, started a bank account

looking forward to the potential of a new year.
maybe i'll finally write that fucking book...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

library scandals

the public library doesn't open until 1:00 on thursdays. for those of us who don't have immediate internet access, can't afford dvd's at blockbuster video or the latest augusten burroughs memoir at barnes and noble we wait all morning to enter its doors. it meets our needs. or so we hope...

i arrived today at 1:07 to see that every single computer was occupied. i went upstairs to use the bathroom and when i opened the unlocked door i was greeted with a man crouched on the floor with his back turned to me, shouting "whoa!" from the 4 second interaction i deduced that he was shooting up, and apparently needed his fix so desperately that it slipped his mind to lock the fucking door. i left the library immediately, slightly trembling in horror of what i had just witnessed.

i now find myself at the smith college library on a computer that a student forgot to log out on. my gender causes me to stand out as a non-student but no one bothers to confront me. i've been here for two hours now, and it is time to go to work and endure the monthly poetry night at my dead-end cafe job. it's nice to write again....

Friday, November 09, 2007

beyond the grease-traps of everyday life

when i got to work last night my boss was there. this was unusual considering that he normally just rushes in and out once or twice a day to count the money like a capitalist tornado briefly passing through a small village. without even saying hello he commanded, "matt, the grease-trap needs to be cleaned out." for those unfamiliar with this term, the grease-trap is a contraption found in food establishments that collects solids dumped down industrial sink drains. in traditional restaurants and cafes the stench can be so overbearing and putrid that private companies are hired to do the deed. luckily for me, the collected refuse at my workplace is 100% vegan and basically just resembles a digested version of our spicy peanut noodles. this is not to suggest that the act of cleaning it is somehow not disgusting and degrading. it is both of those things. regardless, i sucked it up and filled two and half empty tofu buckets with the slimy, greasy waste that had been festering in the metal box for over a month. i thoroughly washed my hands and approached the rest of my shift with a certain sense of uncharacteristic righteousness. at that point my boss had long sped off in an SUV (one of the two he owns) which dons an "impeach bush" bumper sticker.

one week earlier we nearly ran out of bread at the cafe. right before my boss came in to (unknowingly) deal with this problem two men and a woman sat down. one of the men was eric drooker, one of my favorite political artists who's work we used for countless political campaigns at bard college. one of his prints even made its way to the cover of my senior project. eric, i learned about a month before i started this job, is also my boss' brother--a fact that i was clearly surprised and confused to learn. visiting from california with a lady friend named emma, they sat there with his (and my boss') father. i had met eric at an anarchist bookfair in montreal in may of 2003 just before i graduated, and then again at a similar gathering in san francisco two years later where he gave a brilliant slideshow presentation on a recent trip to the occupied territories of palestine. he smuggled in massive amounts of acrylic paint to create murals with palestinian kids on the apartheid wall built by the state of israel. he sang a poem at the end by his friend allen ginsberg.

so there i was working my low-wage job, thinking about all of these things, the significance of this man's work, the dysfunctional power relations of the cafe, and before i could say hello as they were getting ready to leave my boss asks me, "matt, can you sweep the floor over here?" luckily, eric and emma were sitting by the exit near where i was ordered to sweep and so i brought the broom over there, started sweeping and said hello. i met emma and we all reminisced about these anarchist bookfairs, figured out people that we knew in common and generally connected in a way that transcended the $8 an hour i was being paid. after they left i revisited the larger questions of what i'm doing with my life, and the importance of being around radical people doing inspiring, challenging projects. in that moment i was torn in half, my body remaining inside the cafe while my heart and brain migrated beyond this space of hierarchy, brooms, and grease-traps.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

i want to be what you want me to be

it's interesting to look back on what i was doing a year ago. i spent most of last year organizing a national music festival for the now-defunct clamor magazine. i remember waking up in that tiny bed the next morning content, and remembering that it was the national day against police brutality. when i was in college i would observe "the criminalization of a generation" by wearing black.

sometimes i feel like i haven't done anything since bard college, as if the past 4 1/2 years have been a waste of time and then i think of things like the clamor music festival or traveling across the country and it helps put things into perspective. i guess i "haven't done anything" in the sense that i've been deferring my student loans (due to "economic hardship") and have yet to earn a living wage or secure health insurance. but i am reminded that there's more to life than all of this. there are other indicators of success and happiness.

i think about how much my life has changed since we were last together. the last time i was really together with anyone. the details are being censored in this limited space, but the importance lies in the general fact that i am a different person now in so many ways. this crosses my mind as i place a one hundred dollar bill inside the book about 69 love songs album. i hope you check page 69. i hope it crosses the border safely and that you're able to exchange the currency. but i'm not helping you out. i'm just indebted to the weight of the past.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

book dating

i have been known to compare the reading of books with romantic relationships. the term "book slut" refers to avid readers or people who read little pieces here and there of several books at a time. i prefer the term "literary nonmonogamy." toward the end of the summer i started reading a book that my friend ben dangl sent me called remembering tomorrow. it's a new memoir by activist, theorist, and z magazine founder, michael albert. the subtitle is from sds to life after capitalism, as the book chronicles his experiences from the 60's antiwar movement at MIT through the current era of world social forums. i enjoyed the book for the most part, but it started dragging on as i would only read a chapter or two every couple days. after over a month of this, and with 100 pages still to go, i decided to abandon the "relationship" and begin anew.

i had purchased rebecca solnit's new book storming the gates of paradise about a month ago at broadside books in northampton. the beautiful hardcover edition that they had on the shelf had been severly water-damaged so i convinced them to give me a hefty discount. simply reading solnit's introduction was a refreshing change of pace. she has such a way with words, describing with elegant detail the intersections of politics and the natural environment, culture and history. here's a taste from the intro entitled, "prisons and paradises:"

There's a widespread belief...that idealists should not enjoy any pleasure denied to others, that beauty, sensuality, delight all ought to be stalled behind some dam that only the imagined revolution will break. This schism creates, as the alternative to a life of selfless devotion, a life of flight from engagment...But change is not always by revolution; the deprived don't generally wish most that the rest of us would join them; and a passion for justice and pleasure in small things are not incompatible.

i want to read as much of this book as i can, maybe reading others here and there along the way. keep things open, try to learn as much as i can. any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

things are looking up

summer is still here even though the leaves are shedding and changing colors. i'm excited about this weekend: punk rock movie night and sleepover friday! the mountain goats and lots of friends saturday! and the premiere screening of passions and survival, the film sunday! it's all so exciting. plus...i'm finally getting over my allergies, i think. so i'm feeling much better. oh, and did i mention that we finally got internet in my apartment?! although, that could be a good or bad development. i'll keep you posted on that one...

Monday, September 17, 2007

sickness and cleansing

i got sick thursday night. i hadn't experienced that kind of illness since i was a little kid, honestly. i still don't know if it was food poisoning (from the vegan cafe i work at!) or if it was just a 24 hour bug or something. regardless, it sucked. i had to call in to work friday as i spent most of the day in bed recovering.

in a weird way, i think i kind of needed that to put things into perspective--to confront and reassess my own mortality. i'm still not 100% as i am coughing and sniffling (allergies?) as i was before the flu hit, but i think i've begun a process of cleansing that my body clearly wanted. so, only clean living for me these's a new era.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

against you!

last month someone told me that against me! was scheduled to play northampton in september. five years ago i would have been ecstatic to see them play, as they became one of my favorite bands upon first listen. in fact, i did go to one of their shows in october of 2002 at abc no rio in nyc. it was amazing. unfortunately, they are a much different band now.

thursday night's show was part of a tour to support their major label debut no wave. i had an idea to gather some friends outside the show and do some covers of their old songs as everyone was pouring out of the club. we would sing:

we want a band that plays loud and hard every night
and doesn't care how many people are counted at the door
who will travel one million miles
and ask for nothing but a plate of food and a place to rest

i was scheduled to work thursday night. if i had gotten a free ticket i would've tried to get the night off but i didn't really try. i wanted to make fliers for the against you! performance but i never got around to it and all the people who were down with the idea couldn't make it. as i biked home from work jocelyn called from the show. the song was inaudible as i sped down the hill from florence but it was definitely against me! playing.

i biked down there as everyone was getting out and i wish i had my fucking guitar. the drummer, warren oakes, was signing autographs and hugging extremely cliched-looking punk girls in front of the ginormous tour bus. i thought about the kid who was hitchiking from gainesville earlier this summer and how warren was the first boy he had ever kissed. i just stood there dumbfounded, yearning to share the moment with someone who could understand. i called nick albertson who used to sing along to their old songs with me when we were at bard college. he lives in portland now but was in new york for a few days when i called. i described the situation and wished that he was there, on top of the tour bus with me singing:

who strike chords that cut like a knife
mean so much more than t-shirts or ticket stubs
and will stop nothing short of a massacre
and everyone will leave with the memory
that there's no place else in the world
and this is where they've always belonged

i returned to that same spot, across from pearl street, the following day to retrieve my bike that i had left there over night. it was gone. actually, it wasn't even my bike. it was emily's and she was loaning it to me indefinitely so i could commute to work.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

ready for some action

i spend a lot of time talking. "i really want to do this...i hope this happens...wouldn't it be awesome if...?" talking about ideas is obviously not a bad thing, but so often it never goes beyond that, as if articulating the desire to do something will magically accomplish that act. it doesn't work that way though. i'm ready for some action. and that's what this time of year has always been about for me...

when i was at bard i would spend most of each summer bouncing around ideas of things i wanted to do when i returned to school. from starting a band to clandestine political actions, i would brainstorm and converse with co-conspirators and then we would make it happen when the leaves started changing. it still feels like summer now but there's a new buzz in the air that i hope will inspire action. are you in?

Friday, August 31, 2007

21st century digital blah

the week's not even over yet and i've already lost my phone twice. until tuesday this had never happened to me before. it's such a strange 21st century phenomenon that we carry around dozens and dozens of phone numbers in a small device, information that is vital to our social wellbeing and communicational livelihood. we don't memorize these numbers anymore. i don't know my own mother's phone number. it's crazy. luckily i found it both times, the next day. phew...

my grandmother is turning 84 years old tomorrow. evolution is closed all weekend so i'll be able to celebrate at her house in westfield. i think i'm going to go back to new hampshire with my mom afterwards and spend the weekend up there, unless i can find a way to burlington. i think i need a little breathing room from this valley that is beginning to fill up with 18 to 22 year old bodies again. sigh...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

embracing change and mutual aid

you can feel the air changing on the streets of northampton as calendars prepare to turn to september. some mourn the end of summer, while others embrace the potentiality of fall.

yesterday, cirilia finished moving her things out of my apartment just as mike and jenn began moving there stuff in. i rearranged my room in anticipation of the couchsurfers who were arriving by bus in the afternoon. i now have sailor's amazing bed in the windowed nook, while the futon now lives across the room on the other side of my desk. it feels much cozier now.

valerie contacted me nearly a month ago through, explaining that she would be travelling from colorado with her daughter sofia who is starting at smith college and that they would need a place to crash the night of the 27th. how cool is that? i enjoyed showing them around northampton and smith campus. they came to erika's soy party and received a very informative orientation of the five college area from kelley and amelia (who brought some pretty amazing spicy peanut noodles with tofu, i must add!). sofia learned to never attend frat parties at umass or drink northampton water without a filter. i think she'll do well here even without the fake id valerie wanted to get her.

i was able to say goodbye to them this morning when i returned from holyoke. they were sincerely grateful for the hospitality and valerie offered me a photo her boyfriend took and a giftcard to the local healthfood store. ah, mutual aid...this is what i live for.

Friday, August 24, 2007

ready for it

the summer is beginning to feel like a distant memory even though it's hot again today. i think i'm ready to change things in my life. maybe try to settle down a bit. i never got around to answering those questions for the ak press job. the idea of moving to california just isn't that appealing to me right now. perhaps i'll feel differently about the situation come january.

being back on cape cod was nice, even if it was just for a couple days. it was great to see jared again and to rock out to east coast tremors at the beachcomber. i like going back but i feel so removed from the cape especially now that my mom lives in new hampshire.

now i'm back in northampton, my home. it feels right--for now.
i'm ready for the possibilities of the fall...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

crazy day (chapter 2)

i called to erika to see if she was still looking for a place to live for september. she told me that she's moving into liz's old apartment on pleasant street with kate who was subletting my room from me march-may. good to know. the search has begun...

we hadn't hung out in a while so erika and i made plans to get dinner in amherst. i told her about all the crazy shit that was happening. i wanted to call my stepmother, who's an astrologer, to see if something out of the ordinary was happening with the stars or something. i was convinced that our trip to amherst would bring about something ridiculous like a run-in with my ex, and i was ready for all of it!

strange things did happen. it's almost too much to explain, really. i found myself running down south pleasant street in search of a special person who had just messaged me from outside of antonio's. on the way, i ran into leah and ned. "today's is so crazy! where are you guys going? freshside? my friend is waiting for me there so i'll see you in 10 minutes!" hugs outside of bueno y sano before running back for a much needed dinner. i think i ran into every person i know at freshside. the guy who gave me the bike that broke earlier in the day walked by and i ran outside to talk to him. all the dots were connecting. the ice coffee i drank at work was making me a little loopy on top of everything. i was also starving. we waited in the sweaty dining room forever until our food finally came. i inhaled a heaping plate of vegan pad thai and felt a little more stabilized. then we went on a shopping spree at newbury comics. what's going to happening next? i was up for anything.

not much else happened. i did convinced erika to stop by whole foods so i could visit my crush that works in the front end. it was about 9:30 at this point and pretty dead there. i had seen my other paralyzing crush at work earlier and it was all coming full circle. a crazy day, indeed. i went home and finished my mango flavored water, called christa, and listened to the new shellac album. i needed to stay in, take a deep breath, and let my body slow down. the day was over.

crazy day (chapter one)

yesterday was crazy. i'm not even quite sure where to begin, but to say that something larger than me was at work. a force beyond my control. it started in the morning when i received an e-mail from ak press informing me that i have moved on to the second round of their application process:

"We have narrowed our pool of applicants to a smaller group...of which you are a part."

so...good news. i just need to respond to a slightly intimdating list of questions which includes an explanation of my interest in anarchism. gulp....then if they like my answers i'll be contacted for an interview, at which point i can begin stressing out about whether i should move to california.

after checking my e-mail i rode my bike to work in the oppressive heat, arriving just in time to start my shift. my first hour on the clock was also the last hour at evolution for my coworker who just happened to be hired at food for thought books last month. they hired her instead of me and now i was sort of replacing her at my new job. coincidental, no? i learned all of this the day before when i saw her at food for thought. now here we were working together for an hour. while washing dishes i told her about the e-mail from ak press. "what is ak press?" she responded. fuck.

but the craziness hadn't even begun.

biking home from work on the bike trail between florence and northampton i thought about how i should get a new, more reliable bike that fits me better. the one i've been riding for past couple weeks was from the pedal people bike lab. it's pretty rickety, thoroughly rusted, and junior sized. the bike trail ends and morphs into state street which leads directly to my building. just before i reached the intersection with main street my subpar bicycle responded to my thoughts of its inadaquacy. the chain broke in half and i just glided for about 20 feet. i stopped, got off the bike and carried it to the metal fence in front of the church and laid it to rest. i grabbed the lock and walked the rest of the way home.

when i reached my apartment there was a couple of text messages waiting for me inside my phone. one was from my roommate informing that she has decided, after much deliberation, to move back to amherst at the end of the month. this was a possibility ever since she moved in so it wasn't a shocking surprise or anything. but now it was urgently official: i need to find a new roommate in less than a month.

to be continued...

Friday, July 27, 2007


my head feels rested now. ah...i desperately needed to get away for a few days. now i'm back and i feel good, ready to take on the world at all angles (now that i have the mental/physical strength that requires).

i escaped to new hampshire after an adventure tuesday night at the pirate's ball with christa and leslie. despite my strong aversion to being one with the goths, i always have fun getting in costume and performing as if it's a weekly halloween you can just join whenever you're up for it. usually about twice a year, as it turns out.

i was the designated driver, as we headed back after the festivities were over. it's always sort of liberating to leave, especially when i haven't left this town in so long. and i really needed to this time! i ended up staying at my mom's house for a couple days, taking the bus back today in time for work.

august is almost here and i can feel a new era beginning...

Monday, July 16, 2007

abandoning dumb ideas

right before the storm hit northampton yesterday afternoon i walked away from an emotional storm with the conclusion that i had to leave town by the end of the month. it was just one more thing on top of everything else. i devised a plan to move down to the cape for the rest of the summer, live at my father's house, and try to get my old job back at the orleans whole food store. then i wouldn't have to pay rent again and could just focus on finding something better for the fall.

luckily, i thought that plan through before i called my dad. now i don't have to rush to find someone to move into my room in the next 14 days, abandon my responsibilities with the radio station, and have to leave all my amazing friends here. instead, i found a job.

tomorrow is my first day training at the evolution cafe in florence. ah, back to work...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

getting it together

so, i finally got my shit together and applied for the position at ak press today.

leaving western mass is beginning to make more and more sense each day. we'll see what happens...

Monday, July 09, 2007

home sweet home?

when i was leaving ocean park with my grandmother saturday morning we drove by a carwash that was blaring "home sweet home" by motley crue. i smiled. after a lovely week-long vacation i was strangely excited about returning "home" to northampton. i was more excited about being back with my friends than confronting my overdue rent, unemployment and related financial hardship.

i attended two birthday parties during my weekend of return. they both served well as an escape but also as a space to connect with other people in this area who are somehow making it work. i found, however, that most decent, rewarding jobs in the valley are mostly found on the periphery and are only accessible by those who can drive to westfield, whately, east longmeadow, etc.

i think i'd rather live in oakland and ride my bike to work.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


i'm in maine for the week on vacation with my family. we've done this every summer of my life so it's nice to be back and share more memories.

it's also nice to avoid reality for another week.

Friday, June 29, 2007


shit. i guess i should start looking for cheap apartments in the bay area...

Thank you so much for applying to be part of our collective. We’re sorry to say that we won’t be requesting an interview with you. We received an incredible stack of resumes and we’re sad that we can’t hire everyone. We are flattered, overwhelmed in fact, by the exceptional group of people who applied for this position. Please know that it was a very difficult decision.

In case it interests you, we will be hiring again in the spring of 2008. Please apply again then, if you’re inclined.

Thanks again,
Erika, Joan, Matthew, and Mitch
Food for Thought Books
106 N. Pleasant Street Amherst, MA 01002
(413)253-5432 (phone)(413) 256-8329 (fax)

the dialectics of living in northampton

somewhere sympathy is more than just a way of leaving.
somewhere someone says 'i'm sorry.'
someone's making plans to stay.
-the weakerthans

walking down main street yesterday i had an old song in my head. it was by a local cape cod band i liked in 8th grade called cheesewheel: "why am i here?/what have i done?/why am i the only one?" the angsty bridge of their classic "chicken statutory" asks. i used to ask myself these questions a lot when i first moved to northampton. unlike most other people my age, i did not move here to attend school. so what the fuck am i doing here? i've come to peace with all of this recently as i continue to lay down roots after two years, but i've been putting my current situation into perspective as i walk the streets, as i brush my teeth:

*i am unemployed but living in an overpriced apartment.
*two of my closest friends here just moved away, beyond western mass.
*the one thing i am invested in here is a dysfuntional, volunteer-run organization that is facing a financial crisis and a lawsuit.
*i haven't been inspired to write a song since the month i moved here, two years ago.
*it's hard to avoid drama in a small town, other than staying in alone every night.
*the local, bookstore collective hasn't called me back about doing an interview.
*ak press is hiring for their collective in oakland, ca.
*i spent an hour yesterday filling out a 210 question "personality test" at the local whole foods.
*have i mentioned that i am unemployed and am living in an overpriced apartment?

after spending a weekend in detroit i am reminded of how nice northampton is. problematic, culturally homogeneous, and limiting in many ways...but nice. a comfortable, safe place to live with a thriving pedestrian-friendly town center. where corporate chains go out of business and are replaced by locally-owned pizza parlors and coffeeshops. where anyone can sell art or sing their hearts out on the street and i can go out dancing almost any night of the week for free, and freely dance the way i want without being harassed or beat up.

i sit here in the town's beautiful public library, working on a new equation of hope and action. some say that hope prevents action because it removes our agency, putting faith in some higher power. others say that action is not possible without hope. sometimes i think i'm hopelessly hopeful. some may say i'm naive. i think we need a vision for what is possible and then do the work to make it happen, both in our daily lives and in the bigger-picture sense too. begin at start:

*i have an incredible new roommate that practices what she learned in communication studies.
*there are lots of amazing people, many close friends here, and i meet new ones all the time.
*it's summer and the possibility for adventure is infinite.
*i don't need to depend on geography for the work i love to do, just a good desk.
*there are potential musical conspirators emerging from the woodwork.
*i have a new bike.
*valley free radio has begun a new era.
*not working is amazing and our apartment is half the cost of a smaller space in new york.

well, come on and let me know...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

a check

june is almost over and i need a reality check. i don't want to live in a society where people have to pay to live in their homes. but for now, i do. and for now, i have to pay too. the problem is that i haven't been working so there's no surplus income to filter from an employer to a landlord. there's nothing there. i've been living back in my apartment since the first of the month in denial of this looming crisis. i can pretend that i am free all i want, but that doesn't making living in the current society free. i can joyously live for pleasure every single day, but when the end of the month arrives i am expected to pay up. like a slap in the face, a cold shower, or a wet willy penetrating my ear canal: i am harshly reminded that the rent is due.

time without work is a blessing and a curse. even those who "love their jobs" usually want nothing more than a break from the routine. we all crave this 'free time' in a society of unfreedom. but to truly enjoy this time is an overwhelming challenge. even for those of who have an analysis of the work ethic and all of its trappings, we tend to take this moment for granted and can never overcome the economics of anxiety. and then in desperation our analysis is set aside, our standards deterioriate, and we submit to selling our bodies and our time. simply to live. simply to stay alive. well, maybe it's not so simple.

june is almost over. and i need a check. help.