Monday, November 15, 2010

the best ideas survive

am i still dreaming? past tense armies of ghosts haunting places that are familiar but different. embarrasingly political in content, but also, not at all. the soundtrack is that midwest folk-punker, unknown outside of his college-town cafe and bar circuit: i'm gonna go out and fuck up my life tonight. sung with a fierce ambivalence. no siento. the fortunes of the frivolous.

but before you know it here i am again...tossing the couches of the rich into their indoor swimming pools, falling asleep just before sunrise. these pictures of you branded onto my vision even after closing my eyes. i never want to wake up.

it was a truly happy village where no one was over thirty years of age and where no one had died.

Friday, October 15, 2010

super movements and the ascent into adulthood

i've been thinking a lot about growing up lately. last night i hosted an event at the wooden shoe with billy upski wimsatt, author of bomb the suburbs and no more prisons. he's currently on tour with his newest book, please don't bomb the suburbs which is both a manifesto towards building a "super movement" and a self-reflective exploration--a decade and a half after writing his first book at the ripe age of 21.

during the event, billy challenged each of us to imagine the most powerful position we could envision ourselves being in, 5 or 10 years down the road, while still servicing the movement. it generated a really important and honest conversation about how indivuals can meaningfully affect social change, confronting and balancing the inevitable compromises of being part of the system we all live in, and thinking big.

as things started winding down, billy's friend adam mansbach walked in. an accomplished hip hop intellectual and author himself, i met adam 5 years ago in madison, wisconsin during an event on his book tour that i tabled at for rainbow bookstore cooperative. he lives in philly now and teaches at rutgers-camden. i told him that i have a friend visiting from madison this weekend who i haven't seen in 3 years. everything is connected.

looking back at that period of my life, which i can now delineate as my "mid-20's," helps me put into perspective where i've been and where i'm heading now as i approach my third decade of being alive. i had this idea last week about asking all my friends who are my age, almost 30, to write about this moment in their lives, how they feel about where they're at, and about their greatest dreams as they ascend into what our society defines as adulthood. from there, i want to take what they write and publish it as a zine. then i will throw a release party on my 30th birthday in april. right now it's just an idea, but we'll see!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

first day of fall

yesterday was the last official day of summer. it was also the full moon. sarah sent me a text message about this, sort of as an equation; last day of summer+full moon=eek! endings and new beginnings aligning simultaneously. the uncertainty and magic of a new season that we call fall and sometimes autumn.

tyler called me last night while i was frying tofu. he just wanted to share a tip: at sunset the harvest moon would appear, full and larger than any other time in the next 2 decades. when that moment arrived it started raining lightly, the clouds obscuring this historic occurence. but it all made sense. friends came over to celebrate lv's triumphant 24 months of sobriety. endings, beginnings, and continuations.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

the crutch and potential of endless possibility

right now, anything is possible. this is a good thing in some ways, but also pretty scary. when i wake up in the morning now i don't know what i am going to do. i know what i need to do--my list is growing longer every hour--it's that i don't have a space to get it all done. there are infinite spaces, but no space that is mine.

yesterday morning i decided that i would return to the library to do work after taking a 2 week break. i reached 43rd street on my bike and before i could start heading north from clark park another bicyclist passed me as the light turned green. this seemingly innocuous, insignificant event turned out to shape the rest of my day. with each red light i remained just behind my fellow bike-commuter and after 5 blocks of this i decided that i had enough. i took a sharp, desperate right at ludlow and continued to 40th street. this landed me at my favorite cafe with the most unfortunate of names. i would not be returning to the library afterall.

it was nice and quiet at the cafe when i arrived. i caught up with the barista about our favorite late-80's hardcore band, the one that she had the t-shirt of the week before. "what if the outfit of the barista affected your entire day?" she suggested as an idea for a sitcom. i thought it would make a better comicbook, even though neither of us are into comicbooks.

for the next 5 hours, i got work done. despite the heavy foot traffic on display through the cafe's sprawling windows, i concentrated and was productive. today i am back at the library, confident that i can carry that work ethic over. anything is possible.

Friday, September 03, 2010

september is an illusion

i can't emphasize enough how writing keeps me accountable--to my life goals, to my dreams. so basically, if i'm not writing then chances are pretty good that i'm not living in a way that's consistent with these things. or maybe it just means that i've been out of town. probably a little bit of both.

i enjoyed my late-summer adventure in massachusetts. it was so great to see emily and to go back down to the cape. so great to see all of my family too. we danced at silent disco in havard square thursday night, took a nap in the car and then hit the road. the weather had been dastardly all week, we were told, but became beautiful upon our arrival. we spent the weekend stretching the summer out as hard as we could. and then returning to philadelphia monday night, it's back to near 100 degrees. heatwave city. september is an illusion.

now i'm back to the grind, searching for my focus and motivation. as the restaurant school reopens from summer break i remind myself how grateful i am to not be working a wage job for someone else's profit. in order to sustain self-employment, i need to work harder and continue to take this work seriously. this is what i am doing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

working for myself: week two

Back at the library after a weekend break from work and a Friday that I wish I could re-do. Oh well, new beginnings! There is an urgency to being this week since I am going out of town Thursday. This means I need to get more work done over the next few days even though I am planning on bringing my computer on the busride to Boston.

I got sort of a boost yesterday as it appears that I have some money starting to trickle in. That began with a weekend of cat-sitting for a Wooden Shoe friend that was out of town, and then Wednesday I will be receiving my final paycheck from the Restaurant School. This money, although not much, will at least help me pay rent next week without having to dip into my savings account...yet.

It was nice to get a positive comment on something I wrote here from a couple weeks ago. I realized that my writing was probably more interesting then; when I was mentally struggling with larger life decisions instead of rambling on about all the work I need to catch up on or the mundane details of my personal income.

I'll try to keep it more interesting. And to write more too.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

day 3/4

Yesterday I worked from home. The morning was productive, but as you may have noticed--I did not write. I think I would have got a lot more work done if I had left my apartment in the afternoon to work elsewhere. It was raining and I needed a break from the library, so I felt okay about it; it's just that things really degenerated around 1:00.

I updated Inga Muscio's page on the Aid & Abet website and then posted our August newsletter. It felt good to get so much done in the morning since the first couple days I had difficulties focusing until later in the day.

My life right now is basically a constant struggle to focus, to motivate and get shit done.

Ok, back to work...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

day two

Maybe I just need some fresh air. My brain feels cloudy and unfocused. It's my second day at the central library and need to resdiscover the urgency and motivation of working independently. I have a sprawling to-do list, yet my mind wanders like a popcorn kernel sizzling in a hot pan. I'm going to take a short break from the library, venturing out into the summer heat for free food samples at the nearby natural grocery chain. When I return, things will be better. I will get work done.

Monday, August 16, 2010

working for myself: day one

After more than 11 months of being there, I quit my job last week; Friday was my last day. Today I begin my experiment with self-employment. The plan is to wake up each morning, Monday through Friday, and bike to Philadelphia's central library: my new office. It will be a challenge of self-motivation and determination. I've decided that the only way I will be able to succeed is by documenting the experience here. So everyday I will write how things are going, to keep me in check and to make this happen for real.

Today I have a lot of work to catch up on for Aid & Abet. I just started working with Inga Muscio, the author of Cunt and Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil. She has a new book coming out in November and I will be helping her manage speaking events around it. I need to finish writing up a description of her work to post on our website.

I'm also doing publicity for my friend Katy's band Trophy Wife. They have a new album and my job is to find folks to review it. There's a lot to be done!

In addition to all of that, I'm working on fall events for a bunch of other people include Heather Rogers, Tyrone Boucher, Kari Lydersen, and Cristy Road. I definitely have my work cut out for me. I'm excited to have the opportunity now to immerse myself in it without the distractions of my old job.

Monday, August 09, 2010

8.9.10: the beginning of the end

these past couple weeks (damn, the whole summer), i have been paralyzed by uncertainty. maybe it's less paralysis than hopelessness. either way, things started looking up today. the world seems a little clearer, more hopeful.

i was sick this past week with a strange combination of invincible sore throat and achey-fever, all in the dead of the summer. so strange. i called out sick from work thursday hoping to rest up to go back in friday for one last day before the weekend. but i felt even worse friday. that morning, i got up and drafted an email to the appropriate powers-that-be at my job. the email more or less said:

sorry i'm sick. also can't come in today. can you make sure to credit me with my remaining sick days? oh, and i have decided to try to work for myself so next friday will be my final day. thanks, matt

and now uncertainty has been replaced by a well-lit end of a tunnel. i'm not sick anymore and it was a little easier waking up and going to work today, knowing that this is it--the final week before i start taking my life into my own hands.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

between self-empowerment and self-sabotage

my life is pretty strange right now. i wake up and go to work every morning. not the same job i've had since september, but it is the same employer. instead of serving hungry and tired people food and coffee, i sit around and fold things, tie things, and put things in bags over and over and over again. until there's nothing left to do and then i sit in a dank, damp basement until it's time to leave. my brain rots.

simultaneously, my to do list is through the roof. there's a lot of important work that needs to be done during the time i'm at this new job. but it just sits there untouched. fall tours, album releases, all on the horizon as i waste away my hours for barely above minimum wage.

this. cannot. last. much. longer.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

actualizing dreams

another month is almost over and it struck me that i haven't written in a while. writing keeps me accountable to my dreams. it keeps me honest. a lot has happened. a lot is happening. a lot is going to happen, with summer afoot...

last month i turned 29 years old. i don't believe that life ends when you're 30--i'm actually excited about it and am trying to embrace the process of getting older. for me, the final year of my 20's is about checking in with all of the things i have talked about doing and trying to make some of them happen. i want take advantage of that urgency to get shit done. then i can have some serious momentum when i enter my 30's next year. i will be unstoppable!

this is a 3-day weekend that just began. on cape cod and other tourist destinations, this marks the beginning of the summer season and the influx of outsiders. all that it means for me this year is that i have one extra day off (paid) from the drudgery of my wage job. returning to work next week will begin the final month of dealing with customers and pastries. my job as i have experienced it for the past 9 months will end on july 2nd. i will celebrate by going up to maine for my family's annual reunion/vacation on the beach, only to return to do odd jobs around the college.

the summer should be better as i hope to work on projects both on and off the clock. but it's the fall that i am getting most excited about. in september i will quit my job and actualize my dreams.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

the initial breaths of spring

i have this theory that after such an extreme, debilitating winter, when spring reaches philadelphia it will be twice as amazing as usual. people will feel free and inspired once again as the air warms and the days grow longer. anything--everything--will become possible.

this week has been a little preview of such exciting things to come. one of my new favorite bands, on tour from new orleans, played a house show in my neighborhood wednesday night. i hosted a lively event on art and social transformation thursday and i'm eagerly anticipating another great event at the shoe tomorrow evening. last night was the first of a monthly series of salons in fishtown coinciding with the city's first friday art festivities. lots of good people and good music.

and even though it's still unbelievable that it's happening so soon, i'm getting psyched about our trip out to portland next week! friends, aid & abet meeting, and good times are promised. along with green trees, green grass and mountains...things i haven't seen in many months.

returning to philadelphia the following week, spring will be gearing up for real. new possibilities are on the horizon...

Monday, February 15, 2010

current top ten: beyond invincible winter

the winter is finally starting to get to me. after surviving the most snowfall on record in philadelphia i began to feel it today. the cold air, the ice, the grey sky and dirty snow piled up everywhere, crawling under my skin.

so, i want to try to stay positive. here's my current top 10, or things that have distracted me from the nasty, nasty mid-atlantic winterdom:

-Hurray for the Riff Raff: seeing them live in new orleans last month. listening to their new cd "young blood blues" nonstop since i've been back.

-New Orleans: secretly wishing i was still there. weirdly inspiring me to pay attention to football and routing for their saints in the superbowl. hope you're enjoying mardi gras liz!

-Wooden Shoe Books: the radical nerve center of philly. i'm inspired by everyone i've met there and the events we've been able to put on in our beautiful new space.

-Andrew Jackson Jihad: fresh folk-punk anthems from arizona. one day, i hope to see them play on the subway...

-Dancin' in the Streets! Anarchists, Iwws, Surrealists, Situationists & Provos in the 1960s as recorded in the pages of The Rebel Worker & Heatwave

-Sharing a beautiful apartment with LaVange, an amazing and caring sweetheart.

-Running into my old friend Katy Otto at coffeeshop in my neighborhood and learning that she moved to Philly at the beginning of the year! Vote for her All-Ages Movement Project to get money for their vital projects.

-Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover, and What it Says About the Economic Crisis by Kari Lydersen

-Do Make Say Think: epic. instrumental. rock. their newest album "other truths" is the perfect winter soundtrack.

-Aid & Abet: we have a gorgeous new website designed by derek hogue (g7 welcoming committee/winnipeg). we have a couple of new awesome collective members and next month we're all meeting up in green, snow-less portland, oregon. that will help me get through the rest of the winter...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Remembering Howard Zinn

"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction..."
-Howard Zinn

My Junior year in high school, we used A People's History of the United States to put Christopher Columbus on trial for genocide. That book blew my mind. Instead of reciting the version of history fed to us through the lens of the rich and powerful, through their experience as oppressor, Zinn's classic work opened up a whole new world: history from below. The book tells the inspiring, though often brutal, stories of everyday people struggling to create a better society. I would never be the same.

The following summer, I was working as a breakfast and lunch cook at The Flying Fish Cafe in Wellfleet, MA. On one particularly slow mid-week July afternoon my boss, local musician and educator Lisa Brown, came into the kitchen and said to me, "Matt, there's someone in the bakery I want you to meet." I followed her through the restaurant and into the adjacent bakery to see a tall, lanky grey-haired man. "Matt, this is Howard Zinn. Howard, this is Matt." Smiling with glee, I shook his hand and talked to him about my Junior paper which compared his friend and comrade Noam Chomsky with his (and my) historical hero(ine), anarchist-feminist Emma Goldman. He thought that was pretty cool and said that he would mention it to Noam!

Life changing moment. Check.

Lisa joined the teaching faculty that September at Nauset Regional High School and during the first week back to school invited Howard to speak one evening to the students in the School Within a School program. He was still on the Cape with his wife Roslyn who spent each summer in Wellfleet, where their son Jeff directed a local theater company.

It was such an honor seeing him speak about his life in my high school auditorium. He spoke about how his experiences as a bombardier in WWII opened his eyes to the inherent horror of war, his solidarity with black students during the civil rights struggle, and his belief in people's power to change the world.

I raised my hand and asked what young people who want to make a difference can learn from the past. He said that we need to find other people who want the same thing and work together, that we can't make as much of an impact alone. It has been organized movements, he explained, that have changed the course of history, not single figures like our history books pretend.

Over the years I had the great privilege to see Howard speak several times. I also rang up his groceries once, and shook his and Roslyn's hands in their driveway while walking around their neighborhood with my college friend Nick, who's parents lived down the street.

But most importantly, I continued to be inspired by his writing and tireless struggle against war and oppression, his contribution to social justice and a better society.

So, needless to say I was saddened by today's news that Howard Zinn died at the impressive age of 87.

Even though he is not with us anymore his work will live on forever...

"And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

Rest in peace, Howard.