Some Thoughts #69

    Fall has been a real time of transition thus far.  I was anxiously awaiting my 30th birthday in September. I decided it was a landmark birthday, I was really excited about it, and that I was going to make a big deal - and celebrate.  I’ve been following as so many of my friends have turned 30 - and the various reactions that they have had -- some total panic and dread - and more recently many celebrations.  I love the fact that I’ve been doing this zine for half my life and that it corresponds in such a way.  I think there is something to be proud of in being a punk at 30.  For so many years we’re led to believe that this is a phase that we will grow out of.  It’s not.  Not for me at least.  And fortunately not for more and more friends around me, even more as time goes on.  I’ve always considered myself to be one of the young ones in the pack - with so many of my best friends being older than me.  Now, I find myself somewhere in the middle.  Age is a funny thing.  Sometimes it means everything - but most of the time - I don’t really think it matters all that much.  You can get hung up on it - make it means more than it needs to.  Ultimately in many ways - we are only whatever age we feel we are.  And I say bring it on.  I love the youthful vibrancy of punk and I think that so many people who stick with punk for life have an agelessness to them.  Take the same person and style their hair and put them in a suit - and how they age.  Put the same person in a routine of life that they hate, but that they feel stuck in, and how much older they get overnight.  That is one of the beautiful things about the world of punk - it’s so much about living life on our own terms; about creating our own community, space and boundaries; about creating our own definitions - for ourselves and the world around us.  It’s about challenging and questioning what we’re told.  Charting new territory.  Fighting for changes that we want to see in our life time.  These days it’s about fighting for hope.  And believing that everything and anything is possible.  (I wrote a lot more about age and my birthday and being punk and 30 in my MRR column - it will be in the Nov issue I think).
    So after so many of my friends freaking out about turning 30, by the time my birthday came, I was ready to embrace it as I had encouraged all of them to do.  Rather than get a last tattoo, I was more inclined to get my face tattooed.  Okay, no I didn’t, and I probably won’t.  But the point for me was that this is my life.  I’m not going to change.  I’m not going to go anywhere.  So I might as well embrace it - state it loud and clear.  That attitude makes a lot more sense to me that a tradition of finalization - of doing something for the last time.  It’s amazing that there could ever be plans for a last anything with the intent to then walk away.  There was a time when I thought - if only I can see Citizen Fish one more time, then I can move away to the woods and stay there content forever.  How far from the truth that was.  Instead I saw Citizen Fish and followed them on tour.  Traveled the whole country for several months.  Then went on tour with Citizen Fish and several other bands and lived a nomadic life for years.  Talking about the beginning and jumping right in there.  So I much prefer to think of new starts and beginnings rather than endings.  And so that is how I came to approach the big 3-0 birthday.  Like the start of something new.
    And then 2 days before my birthday - the World Trade Centers crumbled to the ground.  It felt like the world was ending.  When I lived in NYC I was all into this apocalyptic doomsaying - well really , I still am.  But that city is so intense and crazy and manifests being on the edge at all times.  I had this prophecy in my head that when the shit was really gonna go down - the WTC would crumble to the ground.  I always thought they would hit NJ, and I never wanted to see anyone hurt in the process.  But much as I knew it would happen, I also never expected it to.  So when I woke up that morning to Erik’s exclamations of disbelief and shock - which got my lazy ass out of bed -- I was stunned and I didn’t believe it was happening. Even after I woke up enough to register that this was live TV, that it wasn’t a joke, that it was really happening - and I watched the building crumble live as it happened — I still didn’t believe it.  What does it mean?  How could this have happened?  Oh my god - people are jumping out of the buildings.  Oh my god - so many people are in those buildings and there is so little space in the surrounding streets to take in this sort of destruction.  I was totally freaked out by it all.  It hit me hard.  And I think harder than some people around me - because I was from NYC - I could picture the skyline, I could picture the streets.  I knew the landmarks as they were talked about.  I could picture it all happening, yet it was inconceivable what it would have felt like to be there - to see it from the river, or the rooftop, or from the street on your way to work (as many of my friends did).  It was inconceivable that the city that never sleeps was shut down - was turned into a police state where you needed ID to get around.  And I realized, yeah, everything has changed.  Will it ever be the same again?  And I wondering what the implications would be... economic, political, environmental, societal... historical, cultural... all of it.  I wondered if my friends were okay.  I spent the whole day glued to the TV and on the phone.  I couldn’t get though to people in NYC which made it even worse.  It was so insane and really scary.  As far as I know now, my people are okay.  But they are affected none the less and I’m not even sure to what degree.  It’s amazing how this kind of disaster makes you stop and question everything.  You reach out to your friends and family - talk to them - make sure they are okay.  Even if they’re on the other side of the country - you check in just to see how they are.  A catastrophe brings people together.  And that of course was the one amazing thing to see - how people really did come together.  And then the wave of blind patriotism hit.  And much as those first few days I thought the flying flags acknowledging the loss made sense; when it turned into a ‘let’s get revenge and bomb them back, regardless of who it is that is responsible - someone must pay’.  Now the bombs are starting to drop and it’s getting scary and sad all over again.  We’ve been bombarded with the media, with the flags, with patriotism, with analyzation, with deep depression, sadness and destitution... we’ve been inundated to the point where I think many people are looking the other way and ceasing to pay attention.  But I think that is a mistake.  I think it’s an important time to pay attention - to seek out alternative media sources; to check out independent media sites on the web and read The Nation, In These Times, The Progressive and Mother Jones.  To watch the BBC and read foreign perspectives.  It’s important to try and understand how we got to this place we are now in.  How the actions of the US in foreign lands are starting to come back home to haunt us.  How our policies have pissed people off.  It’s important to look through the media - whatever source it is - to see what angle is being spun, who’s interests are being served, what corporations are footing the bill.  There is always an angle, and usually a bias.  It’s important to not take anything at face value and to always look deeper.  The propaganda being spewed about fighting the forces of evil, fighting those who hate our freedom, defending the nation against terrorists by shopping and being good consumers --- all seem to me to be angles which are used to get us blinding following - not questioning the absurdity of it all.  And shopping to fight terrorism is absurd.
    Following 9-11, I feel into a real funk.  I didn’t see the point in trying to go about the routine.  I was way stuck on this idea that these buildings were gone - and that what mattered yesterday might be irrelevant today.  It’s amazing how quickly our priorities can change when faced with intense situations.  What we fret and stress over one day can become so frivolous and ridiculous in light of life or death situations.  Then the weather changed and I got sick to compound it all.  So I sat back, I started reading and enjoying time with friends and family.  I made a special effort to get plenty of sleep, and to enjoy my days as best I could.  This is kind of a theme that I have been obsessed with of late anyway - living in the present moment and making the most of it.  And forced with a major disaster - I figure that there is no time like now to reevaluate my life and my priorities and make sure that I’m really doing what it is that I want to be doing.  And so this issue comes out a bit late - and the schedule for the next year of deadlines is going to be pushed back to accommodate that delay (and also avoid trying to put together the next issue right before the holidays - which has been a disaster in years past). It seems that everyone involved in S&L ran into some kind of snag with this issue cause there was a lot of stuff that should have been reviewed that wasn’t - and for a lot of different reasons.  Sorry.  It’s getting really cold already.  Surprisingly early based on the past several years weather patterns.  I know we’ve got plenty of beautiful days ahead of us this fall - and fall is an awesome season (besides losing that hour of daylight and watching the days grow shorter, darker, and colder.)  But I’ve got my St. John’s Wort tea and tincture and my sun-box light and I am ready.  I hope.
    Looking over the past few months shows through the photos that I have has really made me realize that despite my insane roller coaster ride of a mental state -- it’s been a really fun season.  I got to see so many of my favorite bands.  Even with Twisters shutting down and us having no real regular steady venue for all ages shows here in Richmond - we’ve done pretty good.  Our collective info shop - 818 Space has hosted some amazing shows.  The sort of shows that have made me think “this is the punkest show I’ve been to in years - the sort of thing that could give this place and this town a good name” and so I hope it does cause it is a good town and could use a lot more active people to get involved in supporting the local scene.  Some days I get so bummed out, feeling that there is such a lack of support for those who really try to make things happen.  All to often people would rather tear things down that to help put them together and build them up - and this is an attitude which I don’t think I’ll ever understand. 
    Somehow I managed to get to a lot of amazing shows and see many of my absolute favorite bands.  So many times I felt myself feeling that everything in my life was validated and had purpose just by the gathering of people and the bands that were playing.  The all day show in Philly with Tragedy, Deathreat, Born Dead Icons, From Ashes Rise,  Strike Anywhere and 10 other bands was amazing beyond words.  I knew it was going to be a good show - the sort of day that I had to do whatever it took to get there for.  But it was so much more than I had ever even thought it could be.  I was surrounded by so many old friends and faces and I was absolutely overwhelmed beyond words.  It seems like it took me hours to get from here to there - and somehow I never did get it together enough to even get a bundle of S&L to the doorway table of the show where all the flyers were.  I was so dumbstruck with seeing old friends that I had in no way expected to see - and to realize that there is this imaginary line somewhere around DC that separates the North East from here - and that I spent the better part of my life in the Northeast and it was so RAD to be around my people again!!!  Talk about being inspired and feeling like their is purpose in my life.  It’s that sort of get togethers - the wonderful unexpectedness of it all that keeps me sane and alive.
    So I’ll end this with telling you about what I’ve been reading lately. Inspired by Mike Straight’s writing about John Steinbeck - I finally got around to reading The Grapes of Wrath.  How it is that I have managed to never read this before is almost kind of amazing to me - considering that it’s about share croppers and migrant farm workers during the depression - which happens to be the time period of photography that has been my favorite and my obsessive study for many years. I was totally overcome with the intensity of complete injustice and the incredible strength of the human spirit to persevere. I got to asking everyone I came across while reading this, if they had read it - and sadly no one had.  Everyone knows it’s a classic, but no one seems to have read it.  This is a book that must be read.  Especially for people obsessed with class struggle and the injustice of struggling workers.  It kinda reminds me of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which I read about in a zine years and years ago - saying that anyone remotely interested in animal rights had to read this book.  It’s about how the FDA standards in the meat packing industry were passed and it’s intense. I read The Jungle then and felt the need to recommend it to everyone as a very important book. The Grapes of Wrath has similar landmark historical importance - and it’s so intense and radical that I am almost not surprised that it’s a banned book in some places.  I highly recommend it!!  After writing about losing my mind, I was recommended to read  A Fine Balance  (by Rohinton Mistry) which takes place in India in the 70s during the Emergency.  I found that the essential premise of this story was very similar to the Grapes of Wrath.  Both stories are rife with class struggle and massive injustice at the expense of others.  They are parallel stories of despair and absolute destitution.  About losing everything and finding the strength and resolve to push on. About humanity. The strength of the human spirit.  Compassion.  Giving everything when you have nothing. And seeing how those who do have, tend to give nothing and are in turn miserable, angry and beat their neighbors down to elevate themselves.  Everyone is trying to simply maintain.  To get by.  To maintain what dignity they can and ultimately their humanity. I found that having read these two book right before and around the events of 9-11 really brought new perspective.  It made me really think about life.  About my life. About priorities and what really matters.  We think we have problems in our daily lives and it just  doesn’t  even compare to the lives of people in the depression or in an untouchable caste system in India.  But the events of September really did kind of create the sort of horrid tragedy that is felt in these two stories and it gave me a lot to think about.
    On a lighter note I read another book by Chelsea Cain (she edited the Girlhood’s in the Counterculture book reviewed in the last issue) - this one called Dharma Girl: A Road Trip Across the American Generations - about a road trip with her mom who is dying of cancer and they’re return back to Iowa and the hippie commune area where she grew up.  And while I haven’t read it yet, I’ll mention the newest book from Seal Press - called Breeders edited by Ariel Gore from Hip Mama... it’s stories from a new generation of mothers (and includes writing from China (the Future Generation) and Ayun Halliday (from the East Village Inky).  I also finally tracked down Daniel Quinn’s new book - After Dachau - which is as amazing as his other titles - Ishmael and The Story of B, and approaches the story telling in a similar manner, yet throws you for a total loop as well.  It’s a re-telling of history with a total twist.  Taking place far into the future - it’s how the future is looking back on our recent history and the spin that has been twisted into it.  I highly recommend all of Daniel Quinn’s books. They are all the sort of books that change your perspective on the world around you in a very deep way.  (And they should all be easily found at the library).  Ya know, the library is really one of the coolest things that we have in our society.  I mean books are precious and invaluable.  And they’re also very expensive.  What better institution in line with DIY anarcho-punk ideals could there possible be that a free public library.  Think about it.  Support it.  Visit it.  All the books you can read.  Maybe not the most radical, and maybe not the most current - but fish in there awhile and you might be surprised what you find.
    So I don’t know.  The bombs are dropping.  The temperature is plummeting.  Soon the plants will be dying.  I feel a bit morose and depressed on one hand, and yet, I’m inclined to stick with my optimistic philosophy and make the most of my days. I feel strongly that it’s important to put our time toward that which we believe in.  We can try to be prepared for whatever life throws our way.  Survival skills and preparedness are important.  Reaching out to your friends and family - telling them what they mean to you, speaking your mind, sharing your feelings, remembering how to communicate - these are all good places to start I think.  And most of all, and best of all -- have fun doing whatever it is that you’re doing.  Make the most of today!
-Chris(tine), October 2001