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.