Some Thoughts #77

    This time of year, as the days get shorter and darker, always brings with it an instinct to start to withdraw and pull inward.  While I love this time of year cause the temperature brings some relief from the summer heat - I have also come to associate it with the seasonal depression which hits me hard.  Unfortunately this makes it hard to appreciate the changing color of the leaves and all the other fun things that go with autumn.  If you’ve been reading this zine for any amount of time, then you know that I flow with the seasons and talk about it conjunction with my mood a lot.  It’s a natural and normal thing to pull inward in the fall and winter and prepare for a bit of hibernation.  Unfortunately the way it affects me is more than a  normal instinct and it is actually rather debilitating.  Fortunately I have found a way to overcome this dilemma for now and enjoy the season for what it is.  But more on that later.  So much has happened in the past few months since the last issue that it’s hard to even get my bearings on where to start writing.
    As I finished up the last issue I was preparing to head west to the Zine Symposium in Portland, Oregon.  I had never been to a zine conference of this sort and it was exactly all that I had hoped it would be.  It was awesome to gather with so many other zine folks in such a positive, sharing, honest and unpretentious manner.  There were tons of people there tabling and attending, and loads of workshops simultaneously happening through out the day.  It was amazing and most definitely overwhelming, but fortunately in a good way.  I went to Portland expecting to see everyone I’d ever known and that made it a lot easier to deal with running into people unexpectedly. It also made it a lot of fun to meet people I’ve known for years on paper or in print, face to face, and to bond over a common love of self-publishing. And of course as it goes in the best of all worlds at this kind of function—you reconnect with old friends and meet some new ones, and I think that was the whole point of a zine social.
    I had unbelievable synchronicity in Portland.  Everything fell into place at just the right time, almost frighteningly so. I got to check out the Independent Publishing Resource Center and understand just why Portland is such a mecca for zinesters. The IPRC provides a great space for people to create zines and it was really inspiring to see so much enthusiasm and support for zine-making.  This was the first time in years I was in Portland, and the first time I got to really spend time getting to know the place and with the influx of people moving there over recent years I found that there were a ton of great people and old friends to catch up with.  I got to call Neil’s eco-house, with people constantly on the move, homebase while I was there. I conquered the city on my own with a bike, which was really a liberating experience.  One night I even went on a mammoth ride across town with an avid bike rider zine friend, to the top of a mountain where there was an incredible view of the entire city and distant mountains. I got to see this rad band Lost Sounds who have become a new favorite obsession (they’re from Memphis not Portland).  I fell in love with the artichoke plant—which at this time of year was going to seed and had these purple spikey seeds sprouting out of the already armor like studs of it’s fruit base. Needless to say I think that artichokes are punk as fuck. I learned about tree grafting and got to see some amazing gardens and eat berries off fences. I got to pal around with Arwen and we had a total amazing evening sitting on the porch, drinking some neat Oregon spruce tip beer, watching the sun set while Tragedy practiced in the basement.  I bounced around with so much excitement I got the hiccups. As normal as your friends having band practice can be, this evening was definitely one of those times that will stay firmly etched in our memories of the “remember when” department in years to come.  I live for that stuff and so consequently I felt more alive that I have in a long long time.
    Since the first time I passed through Oregon in 95, I have had this obsession with the trees and mountains there in the Cascades, always knowing that I would return to spend more time there. Finally, I returned to those alpine conifers that speak so deeply to me.  The mountain roads led me through these amazing trees and eco systems with half a dozen types of berries ripe for the picking, and those majestic trees soaring high in to the sky. Up in the high desert the sage brush grows as trees almost as big as the wind swept junipers, and there are hardly two scents and plants I like more. I could have stayed there for a long time, which is exactly how I felt years ago when I was traveling more freely, but both times I’ve been on a schedule and unable to just follow my whims.  I rolled back into Portland with huckleberry juice and tree sap on my hands and the strong sent of sage coming from my bag, to get tattooed and then hop on a place to San Francisco where I would call the MRR HQ home for a few days.  The Bay Area has been a source of inspiration for me for years now, and my annual visits kinda rejuvenate my weary soul. I walked and walked through that city and had plenty of explorations and more distractions from the amazing trees.  I got to catch up with old friends, get my fix on burritos and books and enjoy the energetic time with “my people” and the other visitors flowing through town.  I also got to follow the zine circuit and check out the new zine store called Needles and Pens which was having a zine event (with the Portland contingent) and I even had the luck of being in SF the right weekend to check out the SF Zine Conference which was in this really cool arts center space in the Mission. 
    I crossed the bay to Oakland and had more good timing to drop in at the Long Haul’s 20th anniversary party which was the ultimate Berkeley-esque experience with punk bands playing inside, the locals playing acoustic outside, while the hippies, freaks, wingnuts and anarchists all converged in a way that reminded me of ABC no RIO in the early 90s. After the zaniness of all night parties I met up with my girlfriends Adrienne and Beth and we jaunted around Berkeley and then ultimately ending up at Gilman for the Strike Anywhere - From Ashes Rise show.   That show is ultimately what got me to the west coast on this particular weekend.   It was an amazing packed show as I knew it would be, with two of my favorite bands—full of all that perfect punk rock energy that just made me giddy with pride with all that can be possible. Even thought I hadn’t seen them for months, hearing those songs I know and love so well, with my Virginia girls by my side and hundreds of California kids going crazy, not only got my instincts of a fist in the air at the right moment but reminded me just how much I love Strike Anywhere. From Ashes Rise just rocked the world. By this point I was feeling like I had this family from Portland as well as San Francisco and the best part was I knew I’d be seeing everyone again the following weekend in Philly for the Pointless Fest.  There’s nothing like keeping the momentum going when things are good.  But first me and the girls went from Gilman to this Speakeasy in an Oakland warehouse where this old Oakland punk who has been living in the Oregon forests, and brewing magical infused beer, came to do a gothy performance and share the special brew.  It was a dreadlocked freakfest in the very best way that only a town like Oakland can have.  I was so sad to leave the west coast, I almost stayed.  I felt like I had rediscovered so much of what has been missing in my life.  Not just seeing my people and reconnecting with old friends but there is an energy and life force that made me feel like myself again - so very much alive - and so this time around I’ve been working on bringing some of the home with me.
    As soon as I got home, it was time to curse my responsibly of having a job which kept me from seeing Damage Deposit, Contravene and two days of the Philly fest.  But the two days I did go to were amazing kept the momentum flowing. Erik & I left Richmond at 3am, and I left my camera bag sitting in the middle of my living room floor.  Of course I only realized this as we were entering Philly at 7am.  I can’t begin to tell you the horrid feeling of utter and total shock at realizing that YES, I FORGOT MY CAMERA.  Fortunately Krissi & Donna were able to save the day and they picked up my camera and brought it to me in Philly.  I can’t thank them enough. The Pointless Fest was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced.  I knew it was going to be overwhelming and I knew it was going to bring together (in theory) everyone I’d ever known and people I didn’t expect all at the same time. The west coast contingent was there.  My favorite bands were there - Born Dead Icons, Tragedy, World Burns to Death, Inepsy, and Aphasia were just a few of the highlights.  Long lost pen pals showed up.  All the punks from my old stomping grounds in the North East and even new friends I’d hung out with on the west coast from London and Australia. There were bands playing all day long and so much happening that you could watch every single band like I did, and then you’d step outside for a breath of air and realize that there were entire microcosms outside of people so enwrapped in catching up that they probably never even made it inside. In the end you always feel like you missed out on something. So I felt like I did pretty damn good in seeing every single band that played in those 2 days. I honestly couldn’t stand the thought of missing a one—that is just how good the line up was and I feel that I should talk about each and every one, but there is no time or space for that now. It was so awesome to just feel so at home and surrounding by old friends, and punks that were punk as fuck, but devoid of any bullshit. It was kind of rejuvenation that I long for, the feeling that makes life worth living, and everything worthwhile. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that is the shit that I live for, which validates my entire life, which gives me hope and purpose and keeps me going.  Besides the obviousness of why this fest with so many of my favorite bands and people was so good and so important—what was perhaps most amazing of all—and that was how well it was pulled off.  I mean 4 days of non-stop punk rock, in the middle of summer in a hot basement.  It was run totally DIY. It was like a gathering of the tribes that was actually a reunion of the extended punk rock family.  It’s as if everyone there knew just how cool this was and how important is was and there was no drinking, smoking, fights or bullshit inside that hot sweaty basement. So cheers to Tony & Greg and everyone else who pulled off this amazing fest. And as Jack said, “It’s a good time to be punk.” Indeed
    I think it took a few weeks to fully recover from all that travel and punkness.  I had a hard time readjusting to the routine of life and had a few breakdowns and epiphanies in the process.   Then in mid-September we got walloped with Hurricane Isabel which reeked more havoc on Richmond than anyone would have ever imagined possible.  The city was totally shut down for a few days,  completely without power. There were so many trees down everywhere it was virtually impossible to get around. The water was contaminated due to the lack of electricity. I love a good wrench in the system that stops us in our tracks and breaks up the daily routines.  I think it’s important to not take things for granted and to be reminded of what is important and where our priorities lie.  I am such a slave to my schedule and routine, that I look for forces outside of my control to halt me in my ways, and so I can really appreciate it when it happens.  The hurricane did that for me. As devastating as the destruction was all around me, being relatively untouched myself and not knowing anyone who had really had any serious problems, it was easy to just enjoy the whole thing. I took advantage of the time to catch up on long neglected letters by candle light and tried to change my schedule around to maximize the daylight, but I’m still a night owl and Erik & I would stay up reading by flashlight listening to the battery radio talk about the state of emergency across the destroyed city.  It was pretty intense. But all those huge old trees fallen, really broke my heart.
    Of course the punks are always the best at making the most out of little and so it seemed that there was more happening our city without electricity than normal. Strike Anywhere had their record release show the night after the storm.  The whole city is out of electricity  but the club operated by generator and the show went on.  It was awesome!  Erik & I rode our bikes to the show and it was dark in those city streets, let me tell you.  Darker than you would ever have guessed cause we just get so used to all those street lights and traffic lights and porch lights and light lights everywhere.  It was awesome to be sleuthing around our town on bike with flashlights and running into trees blocking the road at every turn.  The next night the punks prevailed again with a generator show in a riverfront warehouse with a bunch of local bands and a beer bash birthday party.  I thought it was so amazing that here we are with no electricity and the punk rock can not be stopped.  
Working in a photo lab, all I’ve seen for the past month or so are photos of the storm’s destruction. I saw some flooded homes, crushes houses, and totally devastated areas.  I know people in the heart of the city of Richmond who were still out of power 10 days after the storm.  So perhaps it is easy for me to say that 5 days in the dark and 2 days off work was “fun”. I thought of it as a time for quiet self-reflection. It was also enough to make us think about the electricity we depend on and how our lives are structured around these needs. I think that important to think in terms of reducing our dependency and finding ways to be more self-sufficient and self-reliant.  That is why I enjoy these wrenches thrown into the system. Being prepared and knowing that you can take care of yourself is always an empowering feeling. And high-fives to all the punks who know how to make the most out of very little and appreciate what we’ve got when it’s good. But now, a month plus later, things are back to normal and I await the winter snows to throw that wrench back into the city’s rhythm.
    So as the season changes and deepens into autumn, I have been fighting my own battles with my brain. I have a serious problem with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  What this means is that I’m extremely sensitive to the shorter, darker, and colder days of fall and winter.  I need to have a certain amount of sunlight to keep my mood elevated and even the lacking intensity of the sun in the winter is not enough to pull me out of the despair.  My appetite increases, I become over-tired and lethargic, I feel unable to talk to people and do the things which I normally enjoy, and I get really down on myself with this lack of confidence that spins downward cycles in my brain.  In other words - it’s a clinical depression that just plain sucks. I finally sought therapy and have ultimately ended up on some meds to try to battle through this serious depression that has been hitting me harder each year.  It’s been amazing what a difference it has made.  I never wanted to take meds.  I never thought I needed them.  I have good skills for self-reflection and analyzing and I am well aware of what is causing my funk.  I have my light box therapy, my teas and tinctures, and good friends to talk to who understand.  But it got to the point where this just wasn’t enough and I knew I needed to do something else.  I still fought the idea of medicine cause I don’t want to be a slave to the pharmaceutical companies, or the insurance or even the job which supplies the insurance etc.  I feel like as punks we spend so much time fighting the system and knowing how to beat it and treat ourselves in a more DIY fashion.  But I also knew that my brain was short circuiting and the depression that was inevitably hitting earlier and harder was going to kill me.  So I gave it and said, fuck it, it’s worth a try.  I feared that the meds would make me feel doped or tired or that I would lose the edge of over achiever productivity that I’m used to.  And I’m stoked to stay that none of that has happened.  What has happened in that I feel like myself.  I’m able to stand outside watching the leaves fall and not be preoccupied with the death of the garden.  I am able to put together this zine and not be a stressed out lunatic.  I’m able to make decisions without getting caught in these vicious cycles of despair and indecision.  I don’t feel like this bizarre freak, unable to leave the house or pick up the phone.  And most important I don’t feel overwhelmed by this feeling that I am drowning, nor do I feel like I’m totally stuck in a fog of cloudy haze.  As so many people have been talking openly about depression, a part of me doesn’t want to jump on the bandwagon.  But this is something that I’ve been dealing with for a long time and it’s only gotten worse.  And so for now, the fact that I feel like I have my brain back is very liberating and empowering and just plain awesome. 
    So this season has been an extreme balance of highs and lows.  I had some of the best times and some of the worst.  Had a frenzy of punk rock euphoria and travel experiences that had to be balanced with accepting the schedule and self-imposed structure of my home life.  I freaked out and crashed and hit my bottom.  I really had to do a lot of thinking about what I’m doing and where I am and where I want to be and all these big heavy things that I have been calling the mid-punk crisis, when actually the only thing that I didn’t doubt was punk rock. I feel like I’ve come out stronger and better for it all.  And I have huge hugs of thanks to all the friends who have stood by me and helped me though the trying times, and the amazing exalted fun times as well.  You all know who you are and I love you dearly.  But I have to thank Erik the most, because he stood by me through the darkest and ugliest of it all, and held my hand and waited for my brain to work right again, all the while believing that I would come out on the other side of the fog, myself again.  I love him so much for standing by me and believing in me.  So here’s to the punks, and the trees, and the rad bands and zines, and storms that throw wrenches in the routines, and the kids who put on amazing fests and to everyone who gets it and knows it is worth it, and keeps on loving and fighting for what really matters.