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

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 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 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.