one year ago, in the final moments of 2015, a dog bit my leg. it was about an hour before midnight and i was just about to leave a new year's party in my neighborhood. the host's dog had been staring at me as i grazed from the snack table. when i placed the last bite of tortilla chip in my mouth it approached me and proceeded to dig into my lower thigh with its mouth.
luckily, the bite wasn't serious. it did poke a tooth-sized hole in my favorite pants and slightly break my skin, but it didn't disrupt my night beyond having to treat the small wound in the bathroom with a bandaid and neosporin before heading back out into the world.
still, the dog bite was a metaphor for things to come--and also a reflection of the state of my life at the end of last year. after traveling across the country on zine tour for the second half of 2015, i found myself back in philadelphia broke, unemployed, and my body breaking down with no access to health insurance.
as i drunkenly walked to the next party before the clock struck midnight, i sang this dead kennedys song on the street, creating a soundtrack to the moment:
on my leg
supposed to beg..
the night was redeemed with good friends and a rooftop view of the citywide fireworks show. and that's how 2016 began...
* * *
eventually, i found a job. in early february, i found myself sitting in a office meeting room on the 14th floor of a skyscraper downtown. i sat across the table from the hr rep who looking down at my resume said: it looks like you have a lot of interesting experience here. you're a writer...what makes you want to join corporate america?
that question lingered in the room like a toxic fart after he left to summon the manager of records management. i gazed out the window toward the peco building in the west. jello biafra's voice rang in my ears as i navigated the existential dread of survival under late capitalism. was i about to become a "terminal preppie"? my future boss eventually arrived and turned out to be someone i could easily chat with about music and politics and made me feel a little better about the potential situation.
a few weeks later, i still hadn't heard anything back about the job. the day after i decided to give up and make plans to stay with family and write, i woke up to the phone ringing. the voicemail congratulated me and offered me the position of document specialist for the company's filing room.
i was disappointed. what about my winter writing retreat? but then i reminded myself how important it was to start paying rent again and, you know, get my shit together.
8 months later, i'm still working full-time there. i still have health insurance and the means to feed myself. it's not my dream job, but it's good enough for now.
* * *
in april, phil had a going away party the week before he was planning on moving to chicago. he invited some friends to read under the suggested theme "arrivals and departures." the first thing to come to my mind to share was one of my favorite mischief brew songs, departure arrival. i started reading an old essay about work and capitalism and then interrupted myself:
"this doesn't feel right," i confessed into the microphone at tattooed mom's. "i think we need some music."
i started a beat, snapping with my fingers, that the rest of the crowd quickly joined as i sang:
you know i never could fall asleep on a train
all the time dreaming about moving away...
if i ever fall asleep i remember my dream
where everybody's there and nobody leaves
a few days later, becca and i met up with phil for one last hang--just like the old days when we all worked together at red hook. before becca arrived phil told me that since the reading/party he had given it a lot of thought and decided not to move away.
* * *
three months later, i got to see mischief brew play at the trocadero. they opened for one of erik's favorite bands from his teenage punk years. culture shock was the band in between subhumans (uk) and citizen fish and had embarked on their first tour in almost 2 decades in support of their new album attention span.
alison and i got there right before mischief brew's set began and sang along and danced a little to all their songs. culture shock played next and we cheered on erik as he joined them toward the end of their set to sing their classic anthem civilisation street. it was a beautiful and joyous moment seeing him up their with his punk rock idol dick lucas. a couple songs later, he emerged from backstage and stopped to say hi as he made his way through the crowd. he gave me a sweaty hug as i yelled over the music, "what a dream come true!"
that was the last time i saw erik. mischief brew was scheduled to play at philamoca the following sunday before leaving for a european tour. i texted thom the day before asking if he was going. he responded with a phone call explaining that erik had gone missing.
my heart sunk.
on friday july 16th, we learned that erik was dead. it was a devastating loss, not just for those of us who were lucky enough to call him a friend, but for the thousands of mischief brew fans all over the world, whose lives were forever transformed by erik's music.
i couldn't help but return to departure arrival: "may your songs never get stuck out of my head."
* * *
in december, i found myself in upper darby where erik's wife denise was hosting the 17th annual fistolo solstice party. they invited me back in 2003 after i met them and stayed at their house on a road trip that fall. i couldn't make it that year or any of the years since i moved to philly. it felt really important to be there this year with so many of denise's other friends that have been there for her over the past 5 months since losing erik.
as i was leaving, some people were putting together a gingerbread house decorated with icing that spelled: FUCK 2016
later on, they brought it outside into the cold and foggy december night and blew it up with fireworks.
* * *
goodbye, 2016. here's to a new year of struggle and resilience. 💗
Sunday, September 11, 2016
sitting in the same seat at the same cafe where i first began to fantasize about grad school...7 years later. now i live in the neighborhood again and even though i finished my grad program over 2 years ago my life isn't all that different than that day i sat here doing that initial research. and that reality may seem grim, but it also means anything is possible, despite the overarching uncertainty of what lies ahead.
* * *
i wasn't able to make it to the naked bike ride those first couple years living in philly. it started when i first moved here and after i left this neighborhood--along with the relationship i moved here for--i was finally able to participate. in reality, it's more like a scantily-clad critical mass ride: that uniquely liberating experience of taking over an entire city with thousands of other people on bikes. it's one of the freest moments i've had in my life.
i went two years in a row, sporting my pink undies and faded red sunglasses. since then i have been out of town, visiting friends and family in massachusetts that particular week. but yesterday i was here, in philly, and just decided not to go. partially because it has just been too fucking hot. but also since i wanted to go to a reading that my friend denise invited me to. i've only seen her once since erik died so it seemed important. and it was. so i definitely made the right decision, but seeing photos today of all those semi-naked joyful cyclists taking the streets back from cars made me wistful.
maybe next year?
Posted by matt dineen at 5:49 PM