Some Thoughts #70

    I’ve watched the punk scene go in cycles over the years.  Things go from up to down on a pattern, sometimes regular and sometimes unpredictable.  Just when things seem to have fallen apart and seem so terribly depressing - the cycle rejuvenates.  That is what I am expecting to start to happen now.  At least here in Richmond, for a good 4 months I didn’t get to any shows.  For the most part from September to January - there was very little happening.  This was largely in part to there being no venue for shows. I felt so starved for my punk rock that I felt almost desperate.  I was also feeling one of my anti-social mood funks, which only compounds itself. I felt pretty pulled out of the loop and allowed myself to feel even more dis-connected.  Fortunately, that is starting to change a bit now.  Shows are starting to happen again.  The different groups and spaces around town have energy starting to boil.  It seems as though there are some things in the planning stages and it actually feels like things are gonna start happening again.  When things hit bottom, they can usually only get better.  And when nothing is happening - people tend to take more initiative to make things happen.  Now if people can only try and work together and bring energy together collectively - I think that some really amazing things could happen.
    As this issue was coming together we got terrible news about the death of a friend.  Sera Bilezikian jumped off a bridge on January 12th.  This news hit hard.  Many a day was spent just trying to comprehend and deal with this. When I think of Sera, personally, I have such a feeling of missed opportunity.  We were not close, but I felt a bond with her none the less.  My strongest memories are of letters she wrote to me from NYC when she was considering moving to Richmond.  I was so excited at the time at the idea of having a friend here.  The sad thing for me is that she did move to Richmond (this was several years ago) and that we never even really hung out, let alone got close.  We both got so caught up in our immediate lives which strangely, and sadly never quite crossed.  I always felt silly about it.  Knowing that there was this girl in town that I really wanted to spend time with, but never quite getting it connected.  Even sillier for having to write letters to some of the people in her household simply cause I just never ever saw them.  Sera spent the last 5 days of her life here in Richmond.  She had contacted me prior and said she was going to be in town - and we had talked about getting together, finally.  Unfortunately I never did get that call from her when she was in town.  Instead I got a call about her death.  I honestly felt like a light went out in our world.  Like a star ceased to shine. Sera was one of those people who shined - in her writing, in her travels, and in her interactions with people.  She was a good one.  And we lost her.  And many of us are so very sad.  The column printed in this issue is the last that she sent me, back in December.  It all has such a different feeling now. 
    There has been a lot of loss lately in many of our lives.  And each time some tragedy strikes, or a friend dies, it reminds us of how precious our time is.  And of how important our friends and family are.  And of how important the time of NOW is. I feel overwhelmed with this need to work towards NOT having regrets.  I don’t want to find myself feeling that I have missed the opportunity to get to know a person I felt an instant bond with; of missing out on getting involved with the various activities around town that I am excited about.  I often taken comfort in knowing that something, or someone is there - and feel that when the time is right - we’ll come together somehow.  Sometimes it seems like we have all the time in the world. Then something happens and you wonder why you never pursued it - why you never made it happen when you had the chance.  So as I reflect on it all, I am trying to change my perspective to really reaching out more and really trying to do those things which mean the most to me and that I care the most about.
    I have been on this obsession with having a lack of “my people” around me.  But then I feel it thrown in my face that “my people” are there; are here; - and that I have closed myself up so much into my schedule and my routine that I allow very little time to reach out and see them; spend time with them; be there for them; get to know them - whatever the case may be.  I live for the visits from friends, even though at the time I often feel stressed about the glitch in my schedule. I always do make the time - because ultimately - spending time with a friend is more important than almost anything else. It’s like playing outside on a 75° day in January and asking yourself ‘how could I stay inside at the computer on a day like this?’  When I already feel so lost on my own island, floating in a sea of solitude - those days, minutes, or hours spent with “my people” is the very thing that keep me alive.
    This has been a hard issue to get together.  The beginning of the year isn’t much better than the end of the year for trying to pull together an issue.  Everyone is broke and  feeling a financial crunch, for a myriad of reasons. I really have to thank all the people who regularly advertise and those who sent ads in to breathe life into this issue at the last minute.  I also want to thank Barney and Gabe Harper who contributed nice donations to Slug & Lettuce.  This zine is really a reflection of all of us, and with out the contributors and the advertisers - it simply doesn’t and won’t exist.  So thanks to all those who help to make it happen.  I gotta tell ya that when it all comes together it’s a really great feeling.    I like to think that Slug & Lettuce is in part a reflection of the punk community.  That it is a forum and a medium for the many voices of ‘my people’ and for ‘our community’ to communicate.   I’ve come to realize that what I think and see to be obvious, is not necessarily the case to everyone else around me. Communication has always been one of my main objectives with this zine.... and I like to think that people feel that feel connected to S&L also feel that they can and even should contribute.  I am always open to people’s contributions - whether of writing or artwork on general ideas.  Space is always limited.... but I would like to think that this is a bit of a bulletin board.  And I am always interested in feedback.  One thing which I’ve been really into is the idea of sharing book recommendations. Some of the very best, most kick-ass, change-my-life books have been recommended to me by friends and sometimes total strangers.  Anytime someone talks about a book that created intense feelings, emotions or a flow of ideas and perspectives - I find myself wanting to get a hold of that book. So with this issue I asked a few people to share their favorite books, and I plan to continue to do so.  I think it’s important to focus on underground independent publishers and writers, especially those which are new and current.  However I don’t think that the recommendations and reviews in any way need to be limited to time frames or publishers. If it a book makes an impact, and you want to share it - then write about it and share it with readers here.
    Someone asked me how many books I read a year.  I really had no idea, so this past year I kept track of each title I read.  It turned out to be 47 books.  I thought that was pretty cool - almost a book a week.  It’s interesting to be able to go back and look at that list and remember each of the books and also to see whatever patterns develop from book to book.  On one hand 47 sounds like a good amount, but then when I look at the list and consider how many other books I wanted to read or that I have looked at, sometimes even a book a week seems like nothing. I thought that maybe I’d list all the books I read, but instead that I will just tell you about some of the latest ones that I read... and maybe if you’re an avid reader too, you can keep track of the books you read and then share them with others - or with us.
My Winter Book Reading Recommendations:
    Tales of a Female Nomad: Living At Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman. (Crown Publishers) This is the story of a middle-age woman who finds herself with an unsatisfied feeling in her marriage and her life in Los Angeles.  She longs to travel - so she starts out with a trip to South America which end up as the beginning of a long and continual journey.  She travels to remote places with the intentions of getting to know the people.  She lives as one of them, rather than as a tourist.  She finds a village in Mexico and asks the people if she can live with them for a month. She treks through Thailand, New Zealand, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Israel and the Galapagos Islands and travels extensively and spends many years in Indonesia.  In almost each case it works out amazingly and she gets to know some incredible people who’s stories she shares.  Rita becomes a nomad, traveling from place to place, while living on a minimal budget which she sustains as a children’s book writer.  This book rules.  I was so taken with her story and so inspired.  In many ways it’s not that different from the nomadic traveling that many people I know have done.  Even SERVAS - a travelers network that group she links up with in Israel, is kinda similar in a more structured way, to the way the informal network of the punk community and the way many of us take in fellow travelers. This is the kind of story that shows that anything is possible.  If you have a dream to travel, like Rita did - pursue it and you might open up a whole new door to life.  I highly recommend this book.
    I plowed through two books by Chris Bohjalian because of the incredible sensitivity and storytelling of such controversial topics.  The first is Trans-Sister Radio which is the story of a man who decides to go through a sex-change and live as a woman.  The story is told with amazing sensitivity and also really concrete detailed information.  I found myself really curious about the different aspects of trans-gender, the different ways people identify, the different operations, and approaches and this book, which is a fictional story, truly answered each and every question that lingered in my mind.  The story is told through the direct accounts of all those involved and deals with how the changes in Dana’s sexuality affect all those involved - including the stigma of a small town.  This is truly one of the best books I’ve read.  It’s really a ground breaking story and one that will forever stay with me with a long-standing impact. The other book by the same author is Midwives.  Also a sensitive story about  a much respected midwife of many years who is very much respected in her Vermont community - until a woman dies giving birth at home.  Suddenly the midwife is being charged with murder and negligence and the entire idea of home-births and midwives comes into question and gets put on trial.  Once again, an intense and intimate story of how these people’s lives are affected by the persecution of a small town for open and radical ideas. (both books published by Vintage Contemporaries) and are easy to find.
    We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese by Elizabeth Norman, is the story of the women nurses who got stuck in the Philippines during WW2 and inadvertently ended up being the first American women in combat. These are the personal stories of what these women went through - how they came to be army and navy nurses in the first place, how they got thrown into the middle of the battles of war; how they continued to tend to the soldiers; ended up captured and held as prisoners for many years; and the INCREDIBLE strength and perseverance which got them all through it.  The intensity of these stories and the amazing strength of these women are such an inspiration.  They go through so much and live to return home to very little respect and recognition for all that they did.  That is the gut wrenching sadness of it all.  But the writer documents and captures the spiritedness their stories and it makes you have so much respect for these RAD WOMEN!  In fact it gave me a whole new appreciation for being a nurse in the first place.  These women were hard-core. (published by Random House)
    When I was in high school I got really into the civil rights movement of the 60s.  I got to know a bit about people like Abbie Hoffman and I even found his book Woodstock Nation at a thriftstore.  It’s written post-Woodstock and it’s thick with radicalism of the time period. I re-read this book and man oh man, it renewed my obsession with this guy and this era.  Truthfully as I was reading this book I was almost surprised that it was ever even published because it is so radical and anti-establishment and so very much about rabble-rousing and tearing down the system.  Reading this book now made me realize how much the activists of today have been influenced by the likes of Abbie Hoffman, whether they know it or not.  I also have an autobiography of Abbie’s also which I really look forward to reading because I feel this incredible connection to his radical ideas and how it all relates to the activism of the present.  If you are not familiar with Abbie Hoffman, get to know him.   
    I just finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  Karoline has been on me to read this book for years it seems, and finally I did, and I of course kick myself for having taken so long because this is a book that I now in turn want to recommend to everyone to read.  It’s a futuristic story of how our society develops when those in power take away all the rights of women,  setting up a new system where women of child-bearing age are cherished for the children they might bear (to those who are sterile, and in power) while all of the rights of the women are taken from them.  The women are not allowed to speak, to read, and clothed heavily, and are in fact quite taboo.  The story has many layers and it’s kind of an investigation into this horrid future time when the narrator jumps back and forth to her present and past and how things came to be the way they are.  It’s spine-chilling and intense.  I saw an interview with Margaret Atwood and she was such a spunky character that I was even more drawn to her and her many books which I intend to delve into in the near future.
The usual moody stuff...   
    So I have my repetitive ways and I write about a lot of the same things, and it’s become sort of a joke.  I’m a moody person, strongly affected by the seasons, and winter is depressing. Following the weather patterns, I really thought that this winter was going to be a rough one, and I wanted Richmond to get snowed in. I want to hole myself up in the house, and work through all the things that time never permits me in my daily schedule.  I long for that break of the pattern to purge - to write letters, and to read for hours on end without interruption.  I want to live in a mountain cabin again so I can get down with the land and I get deep into myself. I am definitely feeling the urge to roam, to travel, and to wander aimlessly.  To explore and to seek out amazing places and amazing people.  But I also realize that I can make that happen now and here.  There are amazing people right here in Richmond that I barely see.  That needs to change.
    The events of the world have really been getting me down.  The lack of my involvement and the lack of things happening in this town have got me down.  So anything which gives me that glimmer of possibility; any sign that things could change, gives me some hope.  In the middle of January we had some unseasonable 75° weather which really helped change my outlook on everything. It’s amazing, even though ultimately it’s so predictable - how very much alive I feel on those sun-soaked days.  I found myself in the garden, cleaning out the dead tomato vines from last summer and dreaming about the seeds I will plant soon.  I found an endless amount of energy and I felt really positive about everything.  I could feel the energy in the air of possibility.  Anything which lights a bit of a fire under me - which gives me purpose and focus - is something that I will grab onto.  And right now in the present I feel pretty good about the possibilities.  I want to do as much as I can to grasp onto those opportunities and reach out more to those I care about and to pursue those things which seem the most important.  And while on many levels, this issue was hard to pull together, now that it’s done, it just feels good.  And I’m also looking forward to jumping into other things in the coming weeks even if winter is about to settle back in.  Who knows maybe I will still get snowed into the house.  But I’d take the sun shining over being snowed in, any day.
Rock on.... Chris(tine) 1/02