Tuesday, December 30, 2008

it's the dawning of a new era

i shouldn't even be writing this. there's too much to do. literally. there are more tasks than minutes left before i leave, but i've been wanting to do this for a while now.

despite saying it over and over again the past week, the fact that i am moving to philadelphia tomorrow is still completely surreal. so is leaving northampton. that felt a little more tangible this morning as i woke up to bare walls and piles of belongings in my bedroom. i spent the afternoon excavating the closet in which i have collected clothes in over the past 3 years.

yesterday was fun but exhausting with all of the emotional goodbyes and see-you-laters. in the morning i did my final radio show after producing "passions and survival" almost every monday since january 2006. then i had breakfast with my mom before working my final shift at evolution. so many endings making way for new beginnings.

i had a lot of fun at my going away party and really appreciated all of the great friends that came out for it to sing karaoke. i walked home after the snow dusted over northampton and was in awe of its beauty. a friend who lives in minnesota now recently pointed out that northampton looks really gorgeous when you're leaving it. well, i'll miss you dearly but don't worry...i'll be back to visit often!

i will be waking up soon and driving to philly with my best friend here who i will miss so much, emily gallagher. how amazing is it that she offered to give me a ride on new year's eve? here's to a new era...

Thursday, December 11, 2008


what a moment. when so many things in one's life are up in the air, when destiny is determined by countless variables that are all seemingly at odds with each other, every day produces a series of newsflashes: the gas almost got turned out, we decided to just tell the landlord we're moving out and not pay rent this month, my brother didn't get the job, etc.

after another visit to the city that i will soon be calling home, i'm still trying hard to make it all seem real in my head. i keep looking at the calendar: "december," it keeps reading back to me. okay. it helps a little. it also reads: "nourish," which is a lot more helpful.

somehow, we're going to have to remove everything from this apartment that i've lived in for the past 3 years. i've received advice about chopping up the huge desk in my bedroom. i guess i could try to sell things that i don't need, but i seem to be horrible at things that involve acquiring money. hmmm...

i also need to have my mail forwarded, cancel gas and electricity, find someone take over fundraising at the radio station and all the other logistical drudgery involved with moving away that's probably painfully boring to read about.

i reminded myself today about the pledge i made to myself earlier this year to leave my minimum wage job before the new year. i'm doing it! that gave me a boost.

it's happening.

Monday, December 01, 2008

last month in northampton

wake up. wake up. wake up. it's the first of the month...

my last month in northampton. it hasn't really set in yet that i'm about to make this gigantic life move, but it felt a bit more real waking up this morning. walking the streets, i reflect on the past 3 1/2 years here and what it means to be leaving this town. i know i'm ready for change, and i know that i can also come back to visit. i have a lot to do, but i'm ready for the challenge.

Friday, November 28, 2008

alone again, four years later

my voice is slowly returning to normal. during the two nights i spent in new hampshire earlier this week i drank hundreds of gallons of filtered water, and went through at least a dozen bags of herbal tea. i also ate lots of homemade cookies and pie and a third of a tofurky. maybe it all got balanced out, i'm not sure. my voice got scratchier and more painfully pubescent as the night grew later. when the period that free cellphone minutes arrived, and my sweetheart was free to chat, my words were awkward skeletons straining to breathe dusty air.

returning to northampton in the middle of another dubious national holiday yesterday, i marvelled at the deserted streets. i got dropped off at home and didn't leave until well after the sun set and then rose again. i spent a delightful afternoon and evening alone, not straining my voice, doing as i pleased with no agenda to speak of. i grabbed my guitar and then halfway through a song grabbed a book on my bookshelf that caught my eye. i simultaneously strummed a chord and read a quote from an old professor of mine on the psychology of racism. i made tea, baked a pretzel, did whatever i pleased with the bathroom door open. i wore layers and comfortable sat around with the heat off.

i could've spent the day on cape cod with my dad or walked through the streets of plymouth mourning the ongoing genocide of native peoples. but i was content in my solitude, taking care of myself, getting healthy again.

Monday, November 24, 2008

making sense of last week

last week commemorated the births of two people i'm related to and those of countless others, close and distant; along with the death of someone loved by someone i now love, and saw the death of the father of someone i work with.

it officially became cold. tension and conflict permeated the frigid air. miscommunication, straight up insults, threats of lawsuits, ignoring inappropriate friend requests--all commenced as we layered up, armed with mittens, scarfs, and winter hats. is this winter?

last week i was centered, immune to it all. i surprised the surprisers. triumphant, until i began coughing and sniffling. and now today i found myself making your lunch with gloves, my nose dripping, my vocal chords unable to articulate the words transmitted from my brain. we were all damaged in our own special way, but i left early and haven't left home since.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


sitting together in anticipation, we slowly flip the next page of the calendar: survive. the crows stand defiantly in the puddles, staring up at the emerging sun as it begins to drown out the ominous storm clouds surrounding them. the prospects of a new year are like those beams of light radiating from the sun. it's still raining on us. our feet are wet. but soon the tunnels will recede and everything will be fresh, new and, most importantly, close. we are invincible.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

dreaming of insomniacs

shake me out of my comfort zone. feed my brain with seeds of a new world. there's too much at stake right now to sit on our asses watching romantic comedies. give me your words and i'll turn it into a song. join me at the grand opening of the corporate clothing store on main street and help me hand out molotov cocktail-shaped candies to teenage consumers. bring the wheat paste recipe tonight and we'll cover the town with our maps of picnic tables. meet me at my favorite one, where we'll conduct interviews at 12:30 am. the day after tomorrow is today.

Friday, November 07, 2008

we're all presidents: election night part two

we had already bounced all over downtown, but we needed a change of scenery. we needed a better setting to witness the big speech. i'm sure for some it was exhausting, but i really appreciated how on that night the only thing on people's lips was politics. it was a glimpse of what it's like in countries with a richer, more informed year round political culture. a contagious sense of participation and purpose permeated the streets, workplaces, schools, bars, and cafes--in northampton and all across the country.

we briskly walked across town as hundreds of thousands of chicagoans eagerly awaited the historic speech in grant park. when we arrived at the backroom of packards to an enthusastic crowd that had graciously saved us a seat to view the big screen tv on the wall. minutes later obama began his speech. despite my mixed, even ambivalent feelings about his victory i have to admit to being moved in that moment.

returning to the warm november night outside, honking cars and screams of joys came from all directions. i decided to embrace it by borrowing a guitar from a kid sitting on main street across from city hall. i belted out the only song that made sense:

we're all presidents. we're all congressmen. we're all cops in waiting. we're the workers of the world. there is the elite and the dispossessed. and it's only about survival. who has skill to play the game for all it's worth. and reach an obscure kind of perfection.

just before we reached the point in the song where the guitar drops out and handclaps take over, a police officer walked up to us and asked if i had a permit. he commanded me to stop playing. after he left, we resumed singing with handclaps:

and we rock. because it's us against them. we found our own reasons to sing...

we continued to sing other songs and keep the handclaps going as we walked to the dance party. the small crowd outside the basement was quietly smoking cigarettes when we showed up, still singing. but inside it was an epic celebration. we danced as hard as we could to "you can get it if you really want" and "let me clear my throat." when the ceo of the iron horse entertainment group, the owner of this building we danced in, arrived i had a thought that he might not be as excited as the rest of us.

if president obama does, as he promised on the campaign trail, to roll back bush's tax cuts for the wealthy this may negatively impact small-town capitalist eric suher. feeling fiesty, i approached him after using the bathroom to express my condolences for this potential threat to his assets. "what?!" he replied, caught off guard. "i said, i'm sorry to hear that you may lose your tax break under the new president." grumbling something inaudible beneath the booming dance beats, he was visibly angered. i smiled and just danced away.

we left a little early only to discover a smaller, but just as spirited dance party on the street. "groove is in the heart" played from a boombox as passerby smiled and cheered, some joining us. "what is love" began and we walked into the night, embracing the potential of a new future.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

spinning on that dizzy edge

last night was fun. in places like west philly, detroit, new orleans, harlem, and obviously chicago a collective bonfire of joy spread into the streets, triumphantly raging into the wee hours. in northampton it was more like an organic scented candle of relief, but we made the most of it.

as the returns came in and john mccain prepared his concession speech, we ran down the street for some live karaoke. i decided earlier that i had to sing. it had just been too long. after the band's intermission was over i chose a song from the piles of lyric sheets strewn across the bar. "surrender" by cheap trick--an appropriate lullaby for the arizona senator as his supporters, that angry sea of white in phoenix, booed obama's name.

"we played that one earlier," the guitarist informed me. "sorry."

someone else came up and sang a beatles song. i came back up with my second choice: "say it ain't so" by weezer. again for mr. mccain. but again, a song they had already played during their first set. crazy, no? so finally i chose a more celebratory tune that was a non-repeat: "just like heaven," by the cure. as i sung from the stage with this live band i thought less about the election results and more about the person i missed so much who was celebrating three states away:

show me how you do that trick. the one that makes me scream, she said. the one that makes me laugh, she said. and threw her arms around my neck. show me how you do it. and i promise you. i promise that i'll run away with you. i'll run away with you.

my performance was followed by hotel california, replete with wanking guitar solos, as the number of people smoking cigarettes outside outnumbered those watching the music. it was clearly time to move on and to witness history.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

we can all fly

let's create soundtracks to this moment. an amalgamation of your most meaningful songs of fall with mine. we'll break into that beautiful abandoned church and play these songs from the rusty boombox we found on the street, singing along at the top of our lungs. this is our last chance to not get caught.

i hope to learn more about the pronunciation of rivers, the best bicycle routes, and secret cupcake shops. and i know that you'll expertly teach me all of it. we will learn more together. we'll lay in the park, protected by the most ferocious of guard dogs, excavating the sky for cloud bunnies and horses. they all look like horses.

i close my eyes and we are rolling around in the snow, smiles ear to ear. it's cold, but we're not.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

chinatown bus & craigslist rideshare

exactly 9 hours after leaving philly i return to my home in northampton. as always, the trip was completely worth it. and despite the absurd amount of time spent enroute it was so much less stressful and traumatic (emotionally and financially) than the last time.

we were kurt and courtney for halloween. my voice was shot from singing along to every word of the misfits and minor threat (and some jawbreaker) cover bands in that west philly basement. i saw people from bard, northampton and other areas of my life as the universe shrunk just a little more. with some of them, i was too uncomfortable to say hello with my costume so i sort of avoided them. eventually, i felt confident enough being "the girl with most cake" and greeted dan berger, explaining who i was underneath the hot mess before we hugged and caught up. being there was important. it made me realize that there's a really vibrant community there that i can be a part of if i want. that i can sing-along with and maybe collaborate in all kinds of other ways.

the rest of the visit was pretty magical and i'm excited about january. congrats to lv for getting a job! everything is so ripe for potential right now. eating apple cobbler and drinking cider i think, exhale, and realize how lucky i am.

Friday, October 31, 2008

the election and baseball in philadelphia or, the politics of excitement

waking up this morning in west philadelphia, i lay in bed singing: i remember halloween, this day anything goes...happy halloween everybody. there's a really special urgency enveloping this city with the phillies winning the world series the night i arrived (celebratory riots unsuing), the subsequent victory parade occupying center city as i write this, inumberable halloween parties, shows, and haunted houses later this evening, and of course the looming presidential election that has brought pennsylvania into the spotlight as a so-called swing state. folks here are on the pulse of it all, spinning the wheel of history during this exciting moment.

even though it is a really special time to be here, i feel alienated from a lot of it. these four nights will be my longest visit to the city of "brotherly love" so i am very much so a mere visitor, an outsider. but i am flirting with relocating here in the very near future. maybe this weekend is my proper initiation?

i am excited for phillies fans, but i can't sincerely express that same excitement myself since i didn't even follow the series at all. maybe next year i will study up on the team and attempt to become a fan--except during interleague play against the red sox. i kind of feel the same way about the election and specifically the obama campaign. i don't want john mccain to be president, just as i didn't want the tampa bay rays (who beat the sox in the acls) to be the world champs. but i don't share the passion for obama and his politics that a lot of folks here, and across the nation, have been catalyzed by. i will be excited for them when he is elected (presumably in a landslide, depending on how much funny business the republican machine deploys) next week, but i will not be sincerely excited about his victory, just relieved.

i think we all deserve something more: collective liberation, a fundamentally new society, not just a new commander-in-chief with a gentler vision of empire. i will be more excited by the work people are doing toward actualizing the former than an election that will be over in 4 days. this work will persist well beyond november 4th. of course, i recognize that some of the policies of a new democratic administration will have real, positive impacts on lives across the world. but i still think we need to dream of a an even bigger change. to: "be realistic. demand the impossible."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

a different kind of foliage: disaster and resistance

when i was in college, the activist lending library had a copy of seth tobocman's classic book you don't have to fuck people over to survive. that was my first introduction to this legendary nyc-based political artist who founded the still-vital publication world war 3 illustrated. during my junior year i went down to brooklyn with my roommate jon for the release party of tobocman's latest book portraits of israelis and palestinians. his unique political art has always taken on the most pressing issues of the day with an often devasting honesty.

so with all of this respect i have for him and his work, i was excited to see that he would be visiting the pioneer valley this month with the release of his newest book disaster and resistance: comics and landscapes for the 21st century (ak press). i was even more excited when erika from food for thought books e-mailed me about having seth on my radio show the day before the event! touring with his nyc friends, erik blitz and steve wishnia who play drums and bass while seth performs pieces from his books, they had a couple events in holyoke over the weekend with local artist and fellow world war 3 editor rebecca migdal at paper city studios.

on monday morning, after my interview on parapolitics with tommi avicolli mecca was aired, the whole crew squeezed into the cozy valley free radio studio. i was a little anxious about having live music on my show since it would be the first time, but it went really well. rebecca performed a piece about indigenous struggles in belize based on her recent trip there. seth followed with his account of the resistance in new orleans' lower ninth ward following hurricane katrina. the last half of the the show featured a conversation with all of them about these issues, and the challenge of artisits and activists following their passions under capitalism. they followed me over to the cafe where i work afterwards for a less formal discussion.

it was great to see the performances accompanied by visuals last night at food for thought. i wish i had gotten their a little earlier to participate in the stencil-making workshop for youth, but i had still had a really great time. it was one of those events that left me feeling inspired and connected to something bigger--a global movement of people dedicated to changing the world.

a different kind of foliage: avanti popolo

this past weekend was declared to be the peak of the fall foliage in western massachusetts. the weather was perfect, hiking trails amidst the radiantly changing leaves were over-crowded beyond capacity. i didn't get to fully appreciate and participate in all of this as much as i would've like to, but the past week has seen a different, aseasonal sort of vibrancy.

last tuesday i conducted a phone interview at vfr, along with parapolitics co-host keely malone, with san francisco's tommi avicolli mecca, co-editor of the new anthology avanti popolo: italian-american writers sail beyond columbus. tommi talked about the importance of italian-americans to reclaim their history and heritage by rejecting the genocidal legacy of columbus in favor of more admirable italian-americans such as anarchist martyrs nicola sacco and bartolomeo vanzetti. "i prefer to call this holiday sacco and vanzetti day." tommi also talked about coming out as queer--live on televsion(!)--when he was an undergrad at temple university in the 1970's and the backlash he endured from his conservative family. that story was told after he read one his poems featured in the book about his father.

on monday, as some americans celebrated "columbus day" we broadcasted this interview. that evening there were 3 events nationwide--in san francisco, new york, and philadelphia--celebrating the release of avanti popolo, with contributing writers from each city performing pieces from the book, published by manic d press. i want to thank my friend james tracy, another contributor and co-editor of the book, for contacting me about making this happen. dump columbus!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

leaving empty lives

"The truth is that I don't necessarily want things to get easier, because things that are easy also tend to be safe and boring." -Give Me Back zine, issue #4

i open my eyes and it's fall of '99 all over again. my body is propelled out of bed with ease, in unison with the sunrise on barely 5 hours of sleep. a couple days worth of clothing, a toothbrush, zines, a book, my walkman, and some mixtapes are all packed and ready to go for the absurd journey ahead. prophetic lines are sung to me in my headphones, the soundtrack to this moment recreating itself 9 years later:

i need a way to measure the distance/my fury's rising faster than bus-fares

wake up and pack your bag/to whom it may concern/there's a bus that's leaving half an hour from now/it won't take her where she really wants to go/so she sits there with her luggage at her side/leaving empty stations, leaving empty lives

there's no question that it was worth it, despite everything. i dream of timelines, maps, completed to-do lists with love notes on the back. the pros and cons of starting over, of beginning a new life bounce back and forth like a frantic ping pong match. right now, everything seems to be pointing to: yes. a new year holds the promise of new possibilities. and this is scary. but i'm more scared of staying safe. safe and bored.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


the windows in my bedroom are finally closed so i can hear the tick/tock of the clock that i forgot about over the hum of traffic. the calendar has been turned once again and now the word reclaim hangs above my head. everything is really coming together right now as my life begins to shift in new, exciting directions. the urgency of fall has arrived. i take on the weight of the elements fearlessly, even if i can only find left-handed gloves in my ghastly overflowing closet.

i want to be present for all the people in my life that are dealing with heavy shit right now...and that seems to be nearly everyone i'm close to. i'm here. fueled by the strength of autumn.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


i realized the other day that i hadn't even thought about the fact that the summer is over and i'm not going back to school. that first september after college was so strange and significant after 17 years in a row of institutional learning. 5 years later now, it doesn't even cross my mind. i'm excited for all of my friends who are back in school to pursue their dreams, but going to continuing on the path of "higher education" just doesn't make sense to me; at least not right now. it would just be something to do. but there are so many other things that i would rather being doing!

since i turned the page on my bedroom calendar and the word of the month changed from ambush to promise it has seemed like the pace of time has been fundamentally altered. i wake up before 9 am, but just lay there listening to news radio. there's no urgency to get out of bed like there was just a couple weeks ago. this morning i listened to awkward tributes to the victims of the 9-11 attacks 7 years ago and thought about how incredible the weather always is this week. and it is. but the irresistable force of summer adventure has seemed to have slipped through my fingers these past couple weeks. bike rides are just not the same. i don't feel invincible anymore. but the last thing i want to do is live in the past or be held captive by some potential future. for the the immediacy of the summer was all about living in the present moment, not obsessing over fears, and just going for it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

writing down the late-summer bones

the growing piles of books, zines, and overdue bills are threatening to crush me as i attempt to write again. the sheets from both beds in my room are in the dryer downstairs, dirty clothes strewn across the floor. the breeders on the stereo. i've returned to pre-summer stoicism as i breathe in change with each late-summer breath of air. i embrace change as a defense mechanism. change is exciting, both in the shifting trivialities of daily life and the potential of large scale social change--the new society beating in all of our hearts. but change is also really fucking scary. we have to numb ourselves sometimes.

i watch videos of the street protests happening in denver and st. paul against the major u.s. political parties and their conventional spectacles. four years ago i was in new york city during the republican national convention, participating in the critical mass bike ride with over 10,000 others. the idea of going to the twin cities this year was never an option. it's not desirable to me anymore to travel such distances for political uprisings. of course, i'm in solidarity with the actions going on this week and also in denver last week. i guess i'm just not a 20 year old student activist anymore. working toward the creation of alternatives is more appealing to me at this point than following around the global elite in dissent. i'm grateful for those who do. it's just not where i'm at right now.

the sort of change that is in the air here, in this peculiar valley of ours, binds us all together. flights leave for seattle and berlin, while others return from reno and oakland. we commiserate about the return of the students. we celebrate the return of better live music and the approaching beauty of autumn. change is in our water supply. it's in the first leaves to change color and fall to the ground. we commiserate and celebrate.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

the enormity of cupcakes and bunnies

some experiences are just too big, too powerful to reduce to the limitations of the written word. this is partially why i haven't written much lately. everything has just been so intense, so otherworldly, so big. language could never do this moment justice.

the moment ended less than an hour ago with a bus station goodbye straight out of the most heart-wrenching 80's movie ever produced. but there are no goodbyes, only see-you-laters. an ending opens up into a new beginning. just the beginning of something even more magical, something even bigger.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

i bet most of the people you know enjoy busrides

in southern new hampshire it got cold after the sunset. cold in a way that i haven't felt in months, that first sensation that the summer has begun to recede. the days getting shorter, the fall looming in the near future. i learned that there are two kinds of people in this world: those that enjoy busrides and those who don't. burn collector #13 entertained me on the ride home this afternoon, after the anxiety produced by the greyhound being 45 minutes late. al burians tales of travel misadventures in germany, after a much-feared family reunion there, made me like i had gone through more than the 90 minute ride from keene to northampton. there was the brief stop in greenfield in which i got off the bus to hand my brother an envelope only to get right back on, but it wasn't that eventful beyond that sketchy act. now, i'm happy to be home. ready for another adventurous weekend after a nice contemplative get away.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

complete control

woke up this morning craving the clash, knowing it would be a good day. it was a gut feeling. now i have this nice block of time to be alone in my bedroom, to confront the things i have been avoiding for weeks, months, years. laundry drying downstairs, the clash on my turntable. i put a new E string on my neglected guitar and it wasn't even on my to-do list. my arms and fingers just made it happen, as if it was a physical need like drinking water or defacating. this summer needs music! i flip the record over for the third time and anticipate a fun night ahead.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

saturday night theater

tonight we celebrated the 3 year birthday of valley free radio. it was this week 3 years ago that the station went on the air during the grassroots radio conference and barnraising facilitated by the prometheus radio project. we sat along the canal in holyoke squinting our eyes, pretending we were in venice for a night. veggie meatballs and frozen cream puffs on the grille. tomorrow is a performance of the taming of the shrew at heather's farm in the berkshire's, featuring a number of evolution characters, blueberry-picking-brunch, and the cafe will be closed to accomodate the show. another anniversary was passed recently, that being my one year working there. honestly, i never thought it would last this long. i'd like to find something new before the year's end but it is so comfortable and mindless. but on the downside...it's so comfortable and mindless. i receive e-mails about ak press hiring again and i fantasize about the bay area. but really, all i can think about is west philly. drool, drool...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

in my secret place

i want to take you far from the cynics in this town and kiss you on the mouth...

the sappiest indie-pop songs make so much sense right now, like they're in synch with the pulse in my left wrist. really, i'm just happy that my bike was where i left it last night after the rain began. it's always a gamble leaving it downtown after sunset. my heart skipped a beat as i turned that corner only to find it leaning against the street sign, a little wet but still fully alive. abandoned but forgiving, ready to ride again. it's gonna be a good day. i can feel it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


i could've been in new york city today, rescuing long-lost bicycles from brooklyn alleyways; or in brattleboro, vermont reading anonymously in coffeeshops and climbing mountains with local superheroes. but instead i'm just here, breathing. i'm wiping the cobwebs off of the growing pile of adult responsibilites multiplying on top of my desk. well, at least in theory. i'm actually sitting in the lamest cafe in town with a dozen other alienated souls, all secretly hoping that one of us will sink each other's electronic battleships. then we could all escape this strange, artificial keyboarded and flat screened world for something fresher, something that we can actually taste and smell.

i'm facing a wall of greeting cards and i think about all of the belated greetings i should be sending across the country. i haven't forgotten about you. i'm just lazy. really, i still care. in simpler times we could just leave cryptic messages on poles and 'spaceship' walls on the playground. two sets of initials added together, sketched into the paint and metal, surrounded by hand-drawn penises and titles of 80's movies. we were part of a secret club that never had to rely on hallmark logos or fancy fonts.

we returned there last night and proudly added our own messages to this twisted tapestery of scribbles and lewd comments. time stopped. and every whisper pierced our ears, as we lay there just waiting to get caught.

Monday, August 04, 2008

ambush august

july is over and so far this new month, labeled ambush on my nikki mcclure calendar, has relentlessly deprived me of alone time. things have been really exciting but i need to stop and think in order to fuel everything else. but i can't get enough of it all. sometimes i'll give myself a quick thought break by spending a little extra time in the bathroom to sing a song in the mirror, or i'll show up early to the after-party and just lie down in the middle of the street watching shooting stars. these are the moments that sustain the passion.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

inquire within

sometimes you just need to shave your head and write up a to-do list. inhale. exhale. move forward. there's a break in the rain and i need to go take advantage of that shit. you'll probably see me from heavy traffic, singing at the top of my lungs. i want to make it all happen. now. or just give me a week to let my thoughts germinate. grow, grow, grow. then watch out. ohhhhhh! i have to go, but just wait...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

both sides of the river

when you live in a valley, the notion of horizon and the actual time of the sunset are pretty blurry, imprecise. you have to climb to the top of one of the surrounding hills or mountains to have a more authentic perception of the day's end. last night i found myself on top of mt. skinner, celebrating my roommate pete's birthday. gazing out beyond the valley below from the porch of the summit house i saw the horizon. the sun set prematurely under the cluster of thick clouds in the distance, but i can honestly say that i witnessed the sunset.

today i biked to the medows, the flat expanse of farmland that winds around the opposite side of the river and holyoke range. those pink, luminescent puddles scattered up and down its dirt roads that i pointed out last night became extreme challenges to overcome as the sun beat down on my neck. carrying my bike as i shuffled along the edge of corn crops, i forged ahead riding until the next obstacle presented itself. finally reaching the puddle-less stretch toward the airport i looked up at the summit house and thought about the chipmunk that scuttled along its base while i watched the sun set.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

late night

i want to be able to remember all of my friends' birthdays without relying on the internet to remind me. i ended up at the wrong party saturday after a long night of work and serving food to white people listening to white people playing jazz, i found myself in the cooley dickinson waiting room. as 4:00 am pressed on i was commiserating with the girl who also had a friend gettting treated for a glass-in-head injury, just before i dozed off while trying to read rebecca solnit's a field guide to getting lost. the rain and thunder raged outside as heads were stapled and i returned home to read the newest issue off the bard college alumni magazine featuring photos from my reunion. before dozing off for real. this may explaing why i feel so tired now...

Friday, July 25, 2008

the show

the show went well. i'm still laughing about the girls who asked me if i was the "owner" of the house. "i don't even live here," i said, smiling, after gaining my composure. all the bands were really great and a lot of good people showed up to rock out to a mid-week, summer basement show. even the rain and lightning couldn't hold us back. griffin and i both broke strings on our guitars. mine was right after singing: i never have and never will pledge allegience! i didn't know the rest of the words of the classic propagandhi anthem anyway so maybe it was for the best that the E string snapped. i just cut right to the outro: those who see through the lies, are quickly gagged and bound. ambition realized: tear the whole fucking thing down! ella and ben were very gracious hosts, particularly given the fact that they didn't know many people there, in their own home. they seemed like they had a nice time too.

i hope more house shows and parties happen this summer. it's so important to create these spaces, even temporarily, in which people can have meaningful interactions outside of market exchanges. no purchases, customer service, tips, or hierarchy. just fun, conversation, dancing, singing, and sharing. there's so much more to write but it's a truly beautiful day and we should all just turn our computers off and go outside...now.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

anchor of adventure

this is the peak season for trainhopping, greyhound scams, and other types of ill-advised road trips. mid-summer. even with sky-rocketing fuel costs people are criss-crossing this vast country in search of adventure and connection. with the exception of a possible day trip to nyc (anyone wanna join me?) this sunday i am feeling pretty anchored right now. i am here, in this apartment i moved into 3 years ago, with an extra bed for those on the move.

sunday afternoon hannah-(lastnamesareferfeds) contacted me on couchsurfing.com about crashing in northampton monday night. she was hitchiking from boston so wasn't certain when exactly she would be arriving, but she was aiming to get in before the potluck at 7:00 i invited her too. after work, with an hour before the potluck, i rode bikes with two of my coworkers down to a secret swimming spot in leeds. it was truly amazing. i hadn't been swimming in this area since my first summer here and after a sweaty shift and bike ride i needed it. a return trip is surely in order...

despite travelling from north carolina, hannah knew half of the people at the potluck and it was promptly invited to lori's birthday party saturday upon meeting her. she greeted my coworker with long-lost-friend-type hug as, it turns out, they worked together at the camp in rowe last summer. it all made so much sense. i biked home and hannah found a ride. we were equally tired and fell asleep early after studying maps and helping her secure a ride for the morning. she was pleased about not having to hitchike another day.

my brother arrived at my door from the bus just minutes after hannah's ride picked her up. an ostensible job-hunting trip to northampton quickly degenerated into socializing with his new bff and my incredible neighbor ani. i spent hours spamming everyone i know about the house show i'm setting up for griffin this week while they drank beer and out-sassed each other. ani fed us delicious pesto from basil she grew in her garden. i was distracted by phone calls with rumors of the iron horse entertainment group potentially interfering with the upcoming valley free radio benefit that we've worked so hard to organize. several additional phone calls clarified that the story was more complicated, but the benefit has, indeed, been cancelled.

after our vfr meeting to discuss all of this tony and i came back to my apartment to meet up with paul who had just woken up from a nap. the second house party of the day, also featuring my lovely roomates, winded down as they got ready for bed and roseredd stopped by to say hello. she gave me, tony, and paul a ride to the basement before she drove home to clean the yankee candles off her skin. the basement was too much fun, well, for me. they sat on the couch in the corner feeling too old. i talked to everyone i could about the show the following night and danced hard in between. we walked home before the music ended and had a little sleepover to avoid any drunk driving to chicopee. i'm not used to waking up with a boy in my bed, but i felt okay about that. paul is spending the day with his friend lee checking out the massage school in easthampton and applying for jobs. ostensibly.

tonight is the show. griffin and her true believers should be on their way down from montreal but i haven't heard from them yet so i'm just waiting in anticipation. waiting to rock...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

the edge of honesty

my former, 22-year old self looks over my right shoulder as type this, moralizing, carpel tunnels on fire. how could i truthfully explain to him what i've done? really. honestly. the blood, the guts, the stained sheets. dozens of scandalous tales scribbled in haiku form to melt his naivete and post-adolescent world view. he remains there, on both shoulders, filtering my experiences and emotions into the words you read. did all of these things really happen? the sweat, the late night bike rides, the stories that only one or two people have ever heard. i want to tell you everything, honesty dripping out of my nostrils, oozing out of my lips onto this computer screen. but not tonight. he looks down at me and ties my wrists together with elastic bands and duct tape. "you're never gonna guess what happened last night..." a message in a bottle to be read on a different shore. i have a crush on your words. on your truth.

Friday, July 18, 2008

doing my laundry

i think you're right. the ocean definitely helped me clear my mind. i was pretty quiet that week in maine around my family, but the whole time my mind was racing with the wildest dreams and ideas. i've been trying to actualize all of that since i've been back. finally got around to publishing my interview with erick lyle (soon to be be on towardfreedom.com--who are paying me!), and have just been writing more in general. i've also been playing my guitar everyday, reconstructing those fingertip callouses again, in preparation for the show i'm setting up here for griffin and her true believers next week. that's been nice. biking more too. now i just need to get my shit together with the tours i'm booking for aid & abet. i also need to dance more. and swim. it's all about balance. i think i can do it. all of it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

sesame tofu

during that (first) summer of poverty katie z. came to visit and graciously took me out to lunch. sesame tofu and miso soup at the only pan-asian restaurant in northampton i was familiar with at the time. we used to go there back in the day and ordering my "usual" brought me comfort. going out to lunch was sort of a reintroduction to society after selling books to finance unsuccessful payphone calls to a certain cellphone in manhattan that never picked up. desperate voicemail messages left as nocturnal insects infested the streetlight outside the bus station. my future boss had to leave a message on my roommate's phone informing me that i was hired. things didn't turn around until, during my week of homelessness, i met my new bestfriends on a back porch of a third floor apartment downtown.

today i went out to lunch, alone, at said pan-asian restaurant. for old time's sake i ordered my usual and reflected on these peculiar three years, where i've been how i got here, how i returned over and over again. i used to say, "i'm here...for now." but now, this is where i live. and it's good.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

surprise show

i wasn't planning on going to a show in a crowded record store yesterday.

after biking over the connecticut, through hadley (with a pit stop at a certain air-conditioned natural foods chain), and into amherst on the bike trail i found myself walking around the center of town. that's when i came across the flyer for a show at mystery train records. " tuesday july 15," it read. "6 pm sharp!" it was just after 6...perfect. bands were still setting up when i arrived to familiar faces and the buzz of a pre-sunset, midweek summer rock show. predictably it didn't start until after 6:30, but still giving me time to catch fat worm of error's set before i had to meet thais down the street.

the last time i saw fat worm was when they opened for deerhoof at pearl street a couple years ago. they played much quieter this time which worked well given the setting. i enjoyed their experimental performance even if it was visually obstructed by the towering thurston moore who intermitently flipped through the surrounding records while bopping his head to the music. we returned to the show later but it was a little too hot and stuffy to stick around so we walked past emily dickinson's house and back.

i got back on my bike well after the sun went down and fearlessly plowed through route 9 toward northampton. reasonably well-lit by all of its gas stations and strip malls, the road only fucked with me once as i skidded through a small patch of soft dirt on one darkened strip. i returned home sweaty and exhausted with no desire to socialize or dance. but i felt good.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

superheroes against the elements

the hazy sun was setting as i sat on my back porch in my underwear, eating mac & cheese. it was then that i noticed the plot of land--adjacent to the dumpster below--that would make the perfect guerilla garden. come plant seeds with me. we'll feed the whole town and the absentee landlord will never notice.

the map on my wall takes on a whole new meaning upon discovering that i can reach any point on its surface with my bike. the town boundaries, even the mighty river and mountain ranges don't look so scary anymore. but then i wake up in a cold sweat to the sound of cars driving through the rainy street. and i'm freaked out. the summer's first bike ride in the rain, or do i wait for the fucking bus?

i face my fear, dry pair of pants tucked in my bag next to cd's and the newest issue of doris. i arrive at the radio station 10 minutes late, but am welcomed by my own voice on the speakers reading an essay embracing failure in a society obsessed with success. and overcoming fear.

come ride with me in the rain.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


it's hard to wrap my mind around the synchronicity of the past 12 hours. as i biked to work underneath angry summer clouds yesterday afternoon i had pretty much give up any hope of finding a late night ride to brattleboro for the end of the show. at that point it seemed implausible. but by 7:00, after a few phone calls to/from my newest friend i still hadn't met, i had a ride! it was actually going to happen! we closed up quick and early and i raced home after locking up the cafe, my mischief brew t-shirt drenched in sweat as i walked in the door. lisette came over with cassie to hang out and get to know each other a bit before we hit the interstate. diane entertained us and concocted some fuel for our trip north. after parting ways with cassie we hit the road with nonstop conversation about our mutual friend in boston over her perfect mix cd featuring every song i had listened to earlier in the day.

we pulled into brattleboro and i didn't have to climb through jen's window, as her second wind kicked in just before midnight. we successfully bumped into each other amidst legions of crusty traveler kids spilled out onto eliot street. the bar downstairs boomed, "it's gettin' hot in here so take off all yo' clothes..." little did the booty dancers, emerging for the night from woodwork, vermont, know that it was much hotter in the upstairs tinderbox and people actually were taking off all their clothes!

after the second to last band finished their set, i set out to search for erik petersen. mischief brew was scheduled to play next but he was nowhere to be found. i brought him a copy of the zine, big hands issue 5 1/2--"the chumbawamba issue" as a present. but the zine still remains in my bag.

jen and i returned from our pitstop at the weathervane and guy from brooklyn was getting ready to play announcing, "i'm not erik petersen but i'm gonna do the same thing he would've done...rock out!" or something. the point being, erik wasn't playing. halfway through the replacement headliner's set i confided to jen that, in fact, it was my fault and i would explain it after the show.

there's an punk rock legend that it is bad luck to listen to the band you're going to see the day of the show. i recklessly disregarded this legend and played erik's split with robert blake as i was sweeping the floors and washing dishes earlier in the evening. i even mentioned the risky significance of this act to my coworker. i fucked it all up. my apologies to the disaffected, dog-owning youth of brattleboro and their train-hopping friends from across the states who walked to the squat three doors down disappointed. it was all my fault.

somehow this almost made the experience even better, more romantic. of course, it would've been great to see erik and to sing along with his impassioned anthems with dozens of others who love his music as much as i do. but this was a blemished fairy tale, not a sterile disney-fied one. as we sat on the sidewalk at 2 am, i felt happy to be alive and endlessly entertained by the mingling of crusties from the show and sketchballs from the bar all sneering at the local cops doing laps around the block just waiting for something to happen, anything.

as i bought my bus ticket home, i thought about that bus that i couldn't afford 3 years ago. i thought about the empty feeling i had sitting in forbes library reading about the fest online, bittersweet knowledge of an experience so close by, but so far out of reach. i felt catalyzed, and excited about the fun, new people in my life and the growing potential of adventure summer 2008.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

three years later: triumph or tragedy?

three years ago, i moved to northampton from madison. the first month i lived here i wrote a song. the last song, incidentally, i've written:

i woke up today. not knowing where i would be tonight. but i knew where i wanted to be. it was just a question of whether or not i'd get there. so i got out of bed. and grabbed three hardcover books. to sell to a used bookstore. because i'm fucking broke. but ten dollars won't get me across the state line today. now it's 1:24 in the afternoon. and the bus is about to leave without me. i'm stuck in this town. and i won't be rocking out tonight. but i'll do what i can with these precious hours that have been given to me. even if i can't afford the busfare.

it's ridiculous how history repeats itself in such obscure ways sometimes. three years later, i am no longer the new kid in town and have a supportive community of friends. this enables me to be less dependent on bus schedules and even the almighty dollar itself. but bratt fest has returned and, three years later, i am once again stuck in this town singing my favorite bands' songs in my head instead of in front of them at the tinderbox in brattleboro, vt...or maybe not?

my friend erik's mischief brew will be "headlining" friday night and although i am working that night at the cafe he isn't scheduled to play until 1:00 am! maybe i can finally make up for the tragedy of 2005...anyone up for an adventure?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

i knew angels who've been dancing with some devils

this summer we will perfect the art of sharing smiles with strangers but not saying hello. that universal gesture which transends language and national boundaries. we'll discover secret swimming spots only reachable by bicycle. adapt our bodies to thriving on 5 or less hours of sleep each night in top-floor apartments on fire. we'll proudly spit on air conditioners that spit on our heads as we walk down the street. our phones will be converted into electronic pipebombs so that when the phone company calls about delinquent payments it will make national headlines. boom.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

new people and poverty

this seems like one of those weeks where everyone i know has a different theme. one or more forces shaping their lives in most interesting and sometimes frustrating ways. my themes this week are: meeting new people and dealing with the reality of poverty. there's a couchsurfer from norway waiting for me at the bus station as i write this. travelling in the states this summer she sent me an urgent message last night about escaping new york city, in search for a place to crash in northampton. and then there's joan's friend from boston, who is teaching art in northampton for the summer, is going out tonight dancing.

and i did that terrifying math equation where the totals of checks i wrote didn't quite match up with the balance in my checking account. sigh...i'm just glad that things seem to always work out, especially in the summer.

Monday, July 07, 2008

silverware and the arc of history

"my father worked in this building 80 years ago." my eyes widened, jolted out of the drudgery of a monday afternoon lunch rush. "i was passing through so i figured i would eat where he used to work." the building where i currently work. back in the day the whole building was a silverware factory and the space where the cafe is now was where joe's dad worked. as i made his tofurky sandwich i thought about how history connects people and places, the stories that are buried underneath the floors we walk on everyday. we continue this trajectory as we walk.

"ha! we could use some silverware up in here!" del joked. i thought about what it must have been like to work in the same space 80 years ago.

my boss stopped by to take the money from the cash register and i noticed the temperature in the cafe rising immediately after he fled. sure enough, the bastard turned the air conditioning off again to try to save a few bucks as we sweat balls. with an hour of steamy dishwashing ahead of me i turned it right back on. i thought about joe's father and imagined what his boss was like and the working conditions of a factory in mid-summer before air conditioning. some things never change.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

off the radar summer

there's something romantic about being somewhere where nobody else wants to be; places off the radar in any given season. a small alaskan port in the dead of winter, only a bar and gas station open to the fittest survivors. returning to northampton from a week in "vacationland" i realized that this is, in some ways, the summer equivalent: a place that people leave this time of year. this off-season in the pioneer valley began yesterday.

less than an hour out of the car with my grandmother i found myself back at the cafe disoriented, ocean air and sunblock still fresh on my skin. tables full of ugly families adorned the other side of the counter and my fantasy of a quiet, short night seemed threatened. but things began to look up and by 7:30 it was totally dead and we just started closing up. i was home in record time and got to decompress a bit before biking back to florence for a very fun house party where new people came out of the woodwork to properly celebrate.

perhaps summer arrived here at some point while i was away, as thunderstorm after thunderstorm bombed this valley and the population completed its annual evacuation. after no-holds-barred adventure in montreal followed by a week on the beaches of maine with the fam i am back, ready to dig into projects i have been neglecting for months. there's so much potential in this land devoid of tourism. i'm inspired to push myself this summer: long bike rides across state lines, playful danger, spicy food, explosive ideas, soundtracks to indelible moments. all nourished by my sweaty, cramped fourth-floor apartment. the masses have fled but the summer is here. i can taste it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

dispatches from the reunion (part 1)

after 5 years, i've been told, one can no longer defer student loan payments. over $20,ooo dollars in debt now, i am still seeking deferment based on "economic hardship"--5 years after receiving my degree from bard college. it was this day in 2003 that i graduated, which brings me back to annandale-on-hudson ("back to my old school" as fellow bard alumni steely dan once sung), for my first reunion.

reuniting based on shared educational experience can be a pretty strange phenomenon. my friend jared used to fantasize about returning for our high school reunion in a limosine and performing an identity completely at odds with his actual life. reunions are often social magnifine glasses which reduce us to empty soundbytes: "what have you been up to these past 5 years?"
we are restricted in this environment from honestly expressing ourselves.

of course, this is all just heresay as i just arrived on campus and have yet to squirm through any disingenuous intereactions. but i'm prepared.

i'm really glad to be here actually. this is evidenced by the amount of energy and money i spent today getting here. after a couple of potential rides from fellow alumni/ae fell through, i entered the abyss of online transportation options for non-car owners. i replied to craigslist ads for rides to not-so-nearby new york city, calculated unimaginable bus routes between the pioneer valley and this mid-hudson valley, and navigated the foreign terrain of the auto rental economy.

sitting at my desk, unpacked and flustered i was about to jump in the shower and run down to the northampton bus station to catch the 11:25 bus to kingston, ny--via albany (2.5 hour wait) and springfield, ma--when tony called. he offered me a ride to the closest car rental place that offered one way rentals. this gave me a couple more hours to get ready and retrieve my pay check, which i will obviously need this weekend. so now i have this sweet ride until 1:00 pm tomorrow. the only question marks that remain are: where will i sleep tonight (and tomorrow night) and how the hell am i getting home? i'm just glad i made it.

i drove around the campus when i got here. passing the office of financial aid i thought about the pile of overdue notices in my bedroom from sallie mae. i think my experience here was worth it, but now i find myslef at this crossroads and i'm not sure what to do. despite all this, i'm going to have a good time this weekend and party like it's 1999--the year i first arrived here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"writing in your journal in union square is so high school"

[new york, ny] 4/8/08

27 years old and back in new york for the first time in nearly a year. fresh off the bus/subway, i sit in union square soaking in the fresh air and the sun. the process of adjusting to being in this congested urban environment is difficult, particularly if you're a little out of it from sleep deprivation. the pace of life is on fast forward and, entering into it, you are forced to join a race that is of no use to you. a race in which the destination is undeclared but seemingly important enough to rush millions of people in unison, this park is an island of slow motion where we seek refuge from the race to nowhere. the starkness of my trek through the bowels of times square was interupted by a friendly smile and accompanying eye contact offered by a female around my age. i smiled back and continued smiling for the next minute or so before i settled at the platform to wait for my train downtown...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

the emerging spring (part 27)

the snow is finally starting to melt, the days are getting longer, and i am ready for change. this is when i thrive. i've been searching for the focus and motivation to balance all of the parts of my life, all of things that i want to be doing. this year is all about going for it and being more ambitious. i'm starting to get paid to book tours for aid & abet which just blows my mind. jen angel and i are working on workshop proposals for the allied media conference in detroit this summer. for the first time since i've lived in northampton i feel secure financially, putting away tax refunds in my savings account and cutting back one of my shifts at the cafe in order to focus on this tour for independent journalist mark engler's new book how to rule the world.

i had been thinking about going away for the summer but i'm leaning toward staying here and getting shit done. i also need to get new strings for my guitar so i can have that ever-so-important musical release at my finger tips once again. and hopefully conspire musically with some friends this spring/summer.

this past weekend was the first time in probably over a decade that i hung out with both of my siblings (outside of larger family gatherings). paul came to visit from new mexico for 4 days, but has decided to stay and escape a pretty unhealthy situation out there. i hope he can find something better for his life. i had breakfast with him saturday when he got off the bus from new hampshire. right before he left to meet with a friend in springfield for dinner sarah arrived from the cape. we all reunited later in the evening for dancing and pool at diva's. so great to see them both again.

for now, i look toward the emerging spring for inspiration. it's time to get serious and make it happen...

Friday, January 25, 2008

our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate

there's a famous quote (often attributed to nelson mandela) that declares how the primary obstacle that prevents many of us from accomplishing our dreams is not the fear of failure, but the fear that we actually are capable of realizing our wildest desires. that is what is truly holding us back. every now and then i turn towards this idea for inspiration, but i think that my biggest obstacle is lack of self-control.

i just got a beautiful, brand new computer and i'm hoping that i will use this tool wisely, toward realizing my full potential as a writer and thinker and doer. this is such a monstrous challenge for me though. the first days that i have owned this computer have been the story of lack of focus and procrastination. i struggle to resist the bountiful temptations of the world wide web as my deadline for a book review passes by me. even monetary compensation for said review doesn't seem to be enough motivation to get my shit together.

of course, the act of writing all of this is an attempt to get my head straight, to get into the groove of writing, and meditate on these issues that are holding me back from creating amazing things...