Some Thoughts #66

    I’m finding myself to be in this surprisingly good mood of late.  I’m not sure exactly why. I’m used to being really down in the winter and I find myself feeling better than I have in a while.  It seems as though for the past year I’ve been in this state of maintaining, yet not really doing anything new or exciting.  I’ve found that when I see people who ask me what I’ve been up to - I just don’t have much to say.  After that goes on for awhile, you start to feel kinda bummed and uninspired and it can even make you not want to see anyone.  But suddenly things have taken a turn.  I find myself excited and inspired and when I someone asks me how I have been - I tell them that I’m fantastic.  It’s pretty cool actually.  I have been biding my time now, working hard at so many things but feeling spread thin to the point of not being able to get anything done - nor get anywhere with anything new.  This past summer I kind of freaked out - reached my limits and was stressed beyond words.  Then I chilled out, stopping doing a lot of extra things and somehow I ended up finding balance - because suddenly - I’m busy as can be, but I’m not stressed.  In fact putting together this issue of Slug & Lettuce was almost strange cause for the first time I wasn’t losing my mind, or stressing out.  Deadlines came and I just took it in stride.  It’s a nice feeling after being manic for so long.  So with this new found viewpoint, I’m looking forward to this new year.  Seems that the past year hasn’t been a good one for most people I know.  Not that anything terrible has happened - but many people seem to be out of sorts, or dealing with a particularly hard lot.  Since I find that things are starting to fall into place - I can’t help but think that maybe some good things will really happen this year.  I’ve been working like crazy organizing all of my negatives and photos of all the bands and punk stuff I photographed in NYC and I’m working at putting together a book.  I’ve been working on this project for years now - but I finally feel as though it’s coming together.  I’ve still got a lot of work ahead of me - but I think it’s going to start to fall into place -- and that is just the sort of thing I’m talking about - things falling into place just when you need them or want them to so that things can move ahead.  After feeling like I was drowning for so long and barely able to tread water - it’s good to get moving forward.
    My obsession with the weather is in full swing as it seems that we are finally having a real winter.  Richmond is not a place where it snows - and an inch or two will send the town into a shut-down panic.  I can’t remember having snow in December in a really really long time, even in NYC or PA.  But even here in Richmond they’ve been talking about snow and threatening snow (that doesn’t actually materialize) but in the meantime the north east and midwest continue to get covered as it seems daily they forecast snow.  It falls into my outlook that if it’s going to be cold - then let it snow.  And in the falling snow or in the hope of it - winter takes on a much more fun angle and my depression floats away.
    There has also been a good number of awesome shows this fall to get my energy level going.  Citizen Fish passed through and ended up spending more than the one night here due to van trouble.  It’s always great to be reunited with the road family and it’s a great feeling to be able to welcome old friends to a place where they can call home and go about what they need to do.  One winter I spent living on a rural farm and reading lots of King Arthur legends and I got to thinking about what a wonderful simple thing it is - to literally roll out the keg barrel when friends come to visit.  Figuratively speaking of course.  But it’s something that we’ve lost.  The celebratory feeling of a gathering.  The generosity of celebrating with friends - feeding them and making your home theirs.  I remember from when I was traveling some of the very best things that someone can tell you when you are staying at their house -- help yourself to anything you want, make yourself at home, my house is yours.  Granted you don’t want to do that with just anyone, cause sadly there are many people who would take advantage of such an offer. Though I’ve always followed the unspoken rules that house guests do certain things like washing dishes or straightening up or during a longer stay - buying toilet paper and contributing to the groceries.  It’s a give and take thing and the more you give the more right you have to take. But real good friends are like family and this sort of thing runs deep. So with the Fish in town - Richard turned the backyard into an auto mechanic shop and completely rebuilt the engine in the van while Karoline and I had an extra day to spend together.  Also had a fantastic pinnacle show with Born Dead Icons and From Ashes Rise.  This was a coming together of bands that got me so excited and inspired.  It was also one of those amazing weekends of connections.  I love it more than anything else when things come together and people gather and meet or reacquaint.  I found a couple pen pals to be traveling along with these bands and one playing in BDI.  Not only was I seeing two of my absolute favorite bands, under the very best of house show basement circumstances - but I was also getting to see some old friends and meet some new ones.  The show was rad the bands blew my world wide open - and I kid you not - I think it had a lot to do with pulling me right out of my winter funk.  Ever since they played I have been fueled by an inspired fire and it has sustained me already for a month.  At a time when it seems like so many punk and hardcore bands are joining up on these package tours that reek of the music industry - it is really reaffirming for me to see favorite bands of mine - the sort that really fill my life with purpose - to join forces, travel and tour, and play basements and - keep it real.  It’s hard to explain sometimes the things that seem the most simple - but the simple things are usually the most important.  And it’s the feeling words - connection, compassion, energy, inspiration, love, friends that really put everything together and create purpose and a reason for keeping on with it all.
    I’ve decided that in my next life I’m going to be a mechanic, and an electrician, and a carpenter and study all things in the vo-tech department. Over the years I’ve got an increasing amount of respect for anyone knowledgeable in these areas because these are the things that I seem to need help with on a regular daily basis and I hate the feeling of being helpless.  Granted each time I deal with some kind of repair - whether it be on the wiring on my house or the fluids in my car, I grill them, in hopes that I can understand how they knows what went wrong and how they fixes it so that next time something like this happens I will be better armed myself.  Unfortunately my mind just doesn’t automatically grasp all that is mechanical, let along technological or electronical.  In fact, I am completely pulled into the opposite direction.  But I can’t help but know how important some of these basic skills are in daily life and how much more self-sufficient we can be by having a broad range of skills.  It’s been so empowering to be around people who have taught themselves any sort of handy skill.  From people rebuilding buildings as squats, to the roadie extraordinaire who is an ace mechanic -- these are the ways in which we take power back into our own hands and have less of a need to rely on people outside of our community.  And at a time when society itself it setting us up to be dependent on fewer options and as these choices become more and more corporate and merged into megalithic corporations - we as individuals seem to have less and less of a say.  Not only are the super-stores taking over and putting small businesses out, but we also find this happening on bigger levels.  Corporate interests rule everything - from medical care to education - the more you look into it the more you find that corporations have their paws and their financial interests involved in everything in more ways that you can even imagine.  John Stauber has written a fantastic book, Toxic Sludge is Good For You, about the public relations industry - who are the ones that cover for the corporate interests and whitewash everything into newspeak and back-wards talking so that you are led to believe one thing (which sounds good) while the corporations in control are getting what best serves their bottom line - while taking very little responsibility for individuals, society or humanity.  It’s easy to get buried by this sort of megalithic power and feel totally helpless.  And the more helpless we feel - the more they win.  Sometimes it becomes really overwhelming to realize the extent of power that corrupt politicians or corporations can have - take the movie Enemy of the State for example - all in the interest of passing a corporate interest bill you get wrapped up in murder, and crazy insane surveillance technology.  This stuff exists.  We see it in movies and get used to it day by day on a gradual basis - partly believing that this is sci-fi futuristic movie stuff.  But the fact of it is that most of the crazy insane stuff that we see in the movies is already real and often times I think the movie industry is used as a tool for introducing these wacked out ideas to us, so that by the time they are integrated into our lives, we’ve already excepted them as a form of entertainment.  You can make yourself insane getting all wrapped up in conspiracy theories and corporate government plots.  However, you can arm yourself with information.  Stay informed and question everything.  And in the process - learn how to take care of things that you need the most.  Minimize your dependence on technology and society at large.  Okay, I mean technology has a lot to offer at times - but if we give ourselves over to any one thing at the expense of remembering how to write a letter or draw a picture or use a manual camera or how to go outside and play in the fresh air - then it is only ourselves who will suffer in the long run.  Find the balance that will sustain you, that is all I’m encouraging.
    It will be really interesting to see what happening in the coming year.  Not only is it the new millennium but we’ve also got the new president.  I got so wrapped up into the election thing that it was frightening to myself.  I was so adamantly opposed to Bush that I felt a fury passion regarding the topic.  Still do - cause I really thing that things are going to run amuck under the new order.  It reminds me of when there was a whole lot of hullabaloo about the New World Order.  At the time I didn’t pay too much attention, but now I am starting to feel it.  Already there is talk of building more weapons and a possible arms race.  A failing economy.  And it seems almost certain to me that there will be some sort of war started, I think just to make Bush look competent - though in my eyes it’s really the opposite.  My opinions run deep, and I will argue for a long while, but political debate is not my forte.  I just think that things are not going to be great in the coming years.  The conservative government will likely be tied up, but they are still talking about making abortion illegal and this is something that would get me into the streets protesting and fighting cause I just think it is wrong to take away this right.  It stops my blood cold with the foresight of a bad prediction.  I guess I can relate a bunch to Sascha’s predictions and visions of the end time - cause I feel it too.  And if the shit is going to go down, it’s all the more reason to be ready.  And the punk community and the anarchist community really is that much more ready to take things into their hands and fight for what they believe in and perhaps bring about the rising sun of the future.
    As for what I have been reading of late - I’ve been on a fiction binge - plowing thru the new Anne Rice book - Merrick - (one of my favorite writers) and a new woman sci-fi writer I just discovered - Sherri Tepper.   A Gate To Woman’s Country was recommended to me as a good utopia female power story, but I ended up reading The Family Tree first - about plants growing out of control and taking over - needless to say I was lured right in. When I wasn’t looking for a new book - We Borrow the Earth: An Intimate Portrait of the Gypsy Shamanic Tradition and Culture by Patrick Jasper Lee literally jumped off the shelf into my hands.  I’ve had a long-standing obsession with gypsies - I find a lot of parallels from the nomadic tribes of punks to the gypsies - and since this book was all about the magic of earth worship: every page that I glanced at was about talking to trees and getting down with the land, about healing with herbs and a persecuted culture - I was hooked and I’ve been really getting into this.  Sebastiao Salgado is an amazing photographer.  He makes the most beautiful images that cause me to sigh at the depth and beauty. He’s known for documentaries of people all over the world, and he has a book called Migrations: Humanity in Transition that absolutely tantalized me.  It looks at nomadic people across the globe from Asia to Latin America to Africa -- looking at refugees displaced people.  Again - I felt the connection to our own tribe of nomads.  This is an expensive book - but so worth seeing - especially if you love photography.  I’m also a sucker for photos of dogs - in fact, sucker is an understatement, as dogs and photography are two of my favorite things.  I got two really cool books - Canine by Henry Horenstein, which is a very photographic look at dogs thru his large format camera.  They are abstract studies with a play of depth of field and they are as breathtaking as Salgado’s work but for a different reason.  Also there is a new book called A Thousand Hounds which is a look at the history of photographing dogs since the 1800s - very cool.  Many years ago I got to know a book called Shelter which is a very 70s book that look at all kinds of structures and alternative building methods.  It’s oversized and heavily illustrated with tons of photographs and a down-home feeling with the hand-written parts.  Covers all types of historical building techniques of tribes to more modern innovative free-form styles.  Domes, buses, stone, adobe, you name it.  Anyone into alternative building should get to know this one.  (I was glad to see it still in print).  May Sarton has been a big inspiration for me - especially during the moody winter months - so I picked up her biography with the intentions of some good winter reading, but I haven’t delved in yet - it’s next on my pile.  I’ve got a thing for back-to-the-land themes and I also have an obsession with apples - so The Orchard by Adele Crockett Robertson, which is a memoir of one woman’s attempt to save the family orchard during the depression, was incredible.  Her strength and perseverance was inspiring and empowering.  So many books.  I am not kidding when I say that I live thru books and life for books.  I’m still working on the osmosis by touch of all the information in a book cause there is so much I want to read and so little time.  A few more recommendations on the publication front: Clamor (which I have not managed to get properly reviewed) is an awesome zine gone magazine by Jen (from Fucktooth and the Zine Yearbook fame) and Jason (Praxis)... they have really got it together and are doing an awesome quarterly publication that with wonderful and diverse coverage of alternative media and culture... there is always so much of interest in each issue - it’s just amazing - and there are always lots of contributions by your favorite zine-writers.  Check it out if you haven’t already.  Also I always highly recommend the Sun.  Derrick Jensen has a fantastic on-going interview series in each issue which always brings some really thought-provoking critical thinking and introduces some very inspiring people -- many of whom I have sought out additional reading by.  I can’t recommend the Sun and Clamor enough.  I’ve also taken to reading In These Times and the Nation -- both have heavy emphasis on lefty political views and I have really enjoyed reading perspectives that are critical and thoughtful and yet removed from the standard anarchist or punk zine writing (with out touching the daily paper or TV news points of view).  So with all of that, grab some hot tea or coffee, curl up in a warm place with something good to read and find some inspiration to tie you over till spring.  It’s also a really great time of year to look at seed catalogs and think about the spring garden.  Before long it will be time to start seedlings indoors and keep the compost pile out back turning over.  Even if you’re not planning a garden - it’s still a good time of year to plan and dream for the rebirth and growth of spring, which is what I look forward to.  Until then.... rock on. Chris(tine) 12/00