RAISED WITH WOLVES


Am I a Hipster?: (half-assedly) considering the paramaters of the word.
May 20, 2014, 10:23 am
Filed under: Essay, Music

I really thought I’d be sitting down to write something intelligent today. I’ve been driving all over Pittsburgh the past few days– sun shining, city bustling, women walking their kids in strollers, kids skating, birds chirping, traffic churning– and you’d figure I’d garner some sort of inspiration from it.

I’ve been in such a great mood the past few days, taking big breaths of city air, olfactory choirs of dogwood flowers, car exhaust, chlorine, and for some reason, ramen noodles. I really expected to sit down and write something about old brick buildings and painted dublinesque doors and little german town and pierogie pizzas, but instead I’m thinking about something a little shallower.

Yesterday I went and popped in on my ex-girlfriend at work, where she was finishing up a tattoo on a lanky, pretty girl. We sat on an a tacky green lounging couch — I’m sure there’s a french word for it, ya know, the  ones with the tall arm rests but no backs– and caught up a little.

She’s doing fine. I’m doing fine. I’m taking vitamins and minerals to stave off my panic attacks and mood swings. Her daughter got a pink barbie jeep for her brithday and drives around chewing bubble gum, she’s sure i’ve seen it on facebook. I haven’t. I promised myself I wouldn’t tell her about the near panic attack I had walking down the street to see her. I told her anyway. She told me that was stupid. She was right.

She said she didn’t like my beard. Said it was too “hipster”.

At first I took a little offense to the accusation. I’m not a hipster, right? I work in Natural Gas, not Mixology. I ride a Harley, not a 1988 Honda cafe racer in mint condition. I have an Alkaline Trio logo on my arm, not Cursive’s “Ugly Organ”. I watch Baseball for gods sake. And hockey! I fist fight people! I wear a wallet chain! It’s not 1998, what the hell?!?!

I began to pull the obligatory, “well I had a massive beard before it was ‘trendy'”, but I realised that wouldn’t help my case in the slightest.

Today, as I walked around the southside, with the sun beaming down and the city coming to life, I relaised it didn’t really matter.

 

We’ve always been hipsters haven’t we? Whether you were a little indie kid with a pair of brown Rebok Classics and a messenger bag, or a punk with a foot tall mohawk and a pair of doc’s, or a sceenie-weenie with cooneye makeup (boys and girls) and coontail extensioins (hopefully just girls), or a pop-punker with levi’s and a LIFETIME tee, or a thrift-store shopping art kid or whatever the hell you were, you’re still that person.

We’ve all, over the past few years, dropped through the homogenizing funnel that is the aughts (do people still call this time period the aughts? they ought to, See what I did there?) Sure the fashion has changed a little, and maybe some of us went through a screamo girl pants phase that had an expiration date of 2005 (for the most part. I’ve been to Dirt Bar recently), but I don’t think it is so much that we’ve changed, but the wider perception of us that has.

Forgive me for being too inclusive. By “us/we” I simply mean the young and fashion conscious who are interested in art. Do you think that’s an adequate description? It’s what I’m going with, anyhow.

It may come off a little “get off my lawn”, but I blame the internet. As microcosms of little music and art scenes were exposed to the greater public via social networking, youtube, blogs, etc, they sort of ceased to be so independent of one another. There was a lot of cross-breeding and, while it was probably a good thing, not to be so exclusive and incestuous, it sort of watered down certain subgenres and subsects until they were all sort of lumped into the same, lazy, unimaginative label: Hipster. It is an homogenizing catch all of sorts.

And sometime around 2008, we all just sorta accepted it. And kids that came up around that time didn’t really know the difference.

I’m still on the fence on whether or not it is a bad thing. I think that at the point where one is striving to accommodate the stereotype of “Hipster”, it has reached a meta-status. The term is too broad, so it doesn’t really mean anything. But maybe that’s easier than saying, “Well I’m a punk rock kid who plays in a folk/country band and dances to shitty EDM on the weekends, oh also I’m 30 for some reason.”. Maybe it was genre exhaustion that we were suffering from in the mid 2000’s that necessitated the term.

Either way, I’ve been to parties at House of Creeps that were attended by aging punks, prissy hip kids in wingtip shoes, genderbender queers, indie goddesses, bros, craft brewers, grafitti artists, ska kids, rockabilly motorcycle dudes, hippie teenagers in grateful dead shirts, crustpunk street kids, and oblivious hipster high schoolers.

And guess what? Everyone got along just fine. Everyone drank together, nodded their heads together, danced together, and smoked cigarettes out in the street together.

In my experience, things haven’t always been this way.

If you’re out of college and still give a shit about music, fashion, art, etc, people are going to call you a hipster. Even if you are pogo-ing in the crowd at a New Found Glory show. I guess its nothing to be pissed about. This is me trying to convince myself more than anything, if it isn’t painfully obvious.

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Kerrville Folk Festival: “Dream Girl”
August 16, 2010, 11:39 am
Filed under: Adventures, Essay | Tags: , , , ,

June 2nd


Last night, I dreamed about a girl. I’m not sure who she was, and I suppose that her identity isn’t so important here. What is important is that she was not Stephanie. As vague and fuzzy as her face was, I could tell that she was some other girl from some other place.

We worked together in a hospital, and we sent evenings cuddled up together watching the news. I was so terribly happy to have her in my life, and even though I knew I wasn’t in love with her, I was overwhelmed with joy that she chose to spend her leisure time with me.

Apparently an ambulance driver was drunk, and had crashed into a chemical plant. As the girl and I left work, we could see the plant on the horizon billowing dark, noxious smoke into the air. I panicked at the sight of it, seeing demons in the towering smoke plumes, wondering how I would protect her from something entirely outside of my control.

We hid inside and waited, not knowing what else to do; feeling as helpless as the patients to whom we tended. Later, I discovered that the ambulance driver had returned to the hospital, parking the ambulance in the basement by the morgue. There were remnants of poison gas from the explosion on his vehicle and body, and he was infecting the entire hospital.I picked up the girl like a doll, covered her face with a mask, and ran to find help, tripping over the driver’s empty liquor bottles.

I don’t know what the outcome was. I only know that I ran around the hospital, in dirty scrubs, frenzied, looking for help.

The thing most vivid about the dream, that stuck with me when I woke up, was holding her warm body, feeling a faint heart-beat, close to mine in a panicked embrace. And when I was roused awake by the sun pouring into the bus window, landing squarely on my face, I was sad that I had lost her, that dream girl.

Almost immediately I was ashamed. Why does it seem like its only the girls who exist comfortably out of reach that inspire me to write poetry and dream dreams? Here I was, sitting up on the couch, like an asshole, missing some girl who didn’t exist. Its always the detroit lesbians, the canadian snow nymphs, the midwestern literary types, the lonely mothers, that send me into ecstatic, lunatic frenzies and make me regret every life decision i’ve ever made, that leave with with this pervading sadness? Why does the girl I love not elicit these feelings in the same capacity that these “dream-girls” do?(I say dream girls because I have built up an notion of perfection in my head, I’ve idealized them to the point that I know as little about them as the vague, cloudy girl in my dream).

It is because I’m a naive dreamer. An Idealist who entertains spectacular little quasi-domestic fantasies in his head. Stephanie is too real; existing all at once beside me, and I love her, but in my demented mind, she often becomes commonplace.

And fiction prevails. These women are as good as fiction: dotted-line cut outs, vapor, vague representations of feminine holiness to worship from afar. And it’s always been this way, and maybe it always will be. I’m afraid this will lead to the most pathetic type of loneliness: that brooding desperation one brings on himself out of dissatisfaction with his own reality.



Imbue sounds like a word a Gothic band probably uses.
May 18, 2010, 6:20 pm
Filed under: Essay

It sounds dramatic and possibly sentimental in my head, but I have a (possibly rhetorical) question to present:

How do normal people deal with the drama of human interaction? How does one deal with the pain, rejection, vulnerability, jealousy, alienation, self-loathing, and so on, that accompanies basic, intimate, interpersonal relationships? I’m asking this because I have come to realize that I am not capable of dealing with these damning intricacies. There are times when I would rather retreat and hide, and become a hermit, than have to face the obligatory baggage of loving someone.

People always go on about how it is worth all of the risk and the pain to love someone, and I’m just not so sure if that is the case. Is it worth enduring that soul-emptying, crushing, feeling when a person or situation or thought or delusion is occupying every square inch of your body-your marrow and blood cells and skin and mind completely imbued with the growing monstrosity? I told you this was going to be dramatic.

Sometimes it’s all just too much for me. Does everyone feel this way? Is this a normal feeling? I’m not asking my readers to play pop-psychologist because I’ve (probably) taken the same classes as you have and, sure,  I don’t watch daytime TV or whatever but I’m sure you’re just as qualified as I am to spew psycho-babble. I’m just looking for some confirmation I guess. Or maybe I’m just looking to confess that the human experience is sometimes completely overwhelming to me. I feel weak and unprepared for most of it and maybe that explains some of my deficiencies. I am very surprised I spelled that word correctly just now– “deficiencies”.



Life is not necessarily a Salinger short story, but sometimes, maybe.
May 12, 2010, 11:04 am
Filed under: Essay, Literature | Tags: , , , , ,

I think I have found the key to my depression, and perhaps the depression of many people like me. The reader may not be surprised or even impressed when they get to the conclusion I’ve drawn, but the epiphany has shed light on what just may be the root to many of my problems. The realization came to me sometime last week during a less than stimulating conversation with one of my friends.

I feel very unfulfilled with life on a daily basis. Day to day interaction with the average person bores me. Actually, I’ll go a step further: I can not stand talking to most people. Few people  challenge me intellectually, spiritually or existentially. This sounds like an arrogant statement, but I assure you, it has little to do with the way I feel about myself or my own intellect, and has everything to do with how I feel about others. These standards aren’t coming from an internal source, but from something outside of me.

And it’s not just people that disappoint me; it’s places, events, and situations–the entire drama of my existence.

And that is the key word: Drama. I realized that the external source from which I draw my unreachable expectations is books and film. I expect the people with whom I come into contact to be characters. I want the places I visit to be settings. I want the things I do and the nights I have to be plots and subplots and when none of this adds up to some meta-American novelization of the Life of Russell Womack I’m disappointed and depressed.

(back cover of The Life of Russell Womack)

When I’m out with my friends, standing around in some bar, or on some dance floor or whatever, I’m looking around at all of the people and conversations and blank stares and drunk mouths and I want to be back in my room, my face buried in a book.

I never wanted to be one of those people:  the kind who uses books or movies as escapism. I used to actually have a hard time reading for too long because it felt pointless to sit around reading about some other person’s life instead of out living my own. I used to criticize people who could read all day out under some tree or holed up in their room because they were missing out on life. It’s kind of like when you are a kid and its 1998 or something and you’re sitting at home on New Years Eve watching MTV or Dick Clark’s rockin eve and you’re on the couch watching other people have what appears to be the time of their lives.

And now I’m one of those people. I don’t know if its because I’ve settled into some state of complacency or if it’s just because my expectations are too high. I mean, they are  unrealistic expectations in the most literal sense because they are derived from fiction.

When a writer sits down to write his novel or short story or screenplay, he theoretically very deliberate in every aspect of the story: each character, every detail, every twist and turn of the plot, every symbol, description, every sentence , every word is ideally thought out meticulously. Nothing should appear for the sake of itself; otherwise it is completely gratuitous.

And that’s the real problem here. So much of my life just seems gratuitous. What is the big picture here? What is the significance of this moment? Can I derive meaning from this interaction with this person/song/little dog/sunrise/car ride/drunken fight? And if not, what is the goddam point?

And this is where my frustration comes from. I’m just not fulfilled unless my life is playing out like literature. And there have been many many times in my life that I felt like I was living out my own short story, and I was actually the protagonist– the hero even. Sure, there’s always the bathroom scene that gets left on the editing floor (unless there is a good soundtrack song playing in the back ground. I argue that any menial task can be turned into a montage with the right song), but I was generally content with the way life was going. We were all characters and the plot seemed deliberate, even when I didn’t know exactly where it was headed.

But these days I feel like life is less than meaningful. Living in this big city, in this big house, with these raging parties and very little of it feels like it is important, meaningful or artistic. Most of the people I meet disappoint me, and most of the things that I see seem commonplace and boring.

So what is my problem exactly? This isn’t a rhetorical question. I genuinely want to know how to fix the way I feel. Should I find fulfillment in the day to day and stop using literature as the standard for the way a meaningful life should play out? Or should I find inspiration in those pages and live my life as if I’m getting closer and closer to the last chapter, looking everywhere for meaning and truth?




Car Crashes…backyards…
April 14, 2010, 6:36 pm
Filed under: Essay, Spirituality, Travel | Tags: , , , , ,

Today I was supposed to write a blog about my car accident, but I had no real motivation to do so. Anyone who wants to hear the story probably already has, and, sure, there are some high quality anecdotes from the situation, but ultimately, I’m not sure there is anything personal a reader could extract from my experience. So what’s the point in retelling it?

I’m alive. And I’m thankful. I’m lucky that my ear was the only thing harmed. So many minor things could have happened differently that would have end in my head being cut off, or my fingers, or my jugular severed, or, as my mom commented “at least it wasn’t your junk”. Continue reading



Raised with Wolves
March 31, 2010, 10:23 am
Filed under: Essay | Tags: , , ,

I wrote this in Springfield. I performed it at our last Epiphany poetry reading in ’08 and got the crowd’s undivided attention. They were drawn in and maybe a little offended, but either way I walked away to the sound of applause. I submitted it to our literary magazine and I was denied because it was deemed “subversive” by our “progressive” club sponsor. Deemed subversive due to the word “faggot”, and references to alcohol and otherwise crazy acts. Oh imagine that: poems that read like a Sunday Schooler wrote them were included in the collection, but I was black listed for portraying a realistic high school experience.

Anyway, here it is. Yes, i have other things to blog about, like my car accident and my trip to SXSW, but i’m on a lot of hydrocodone and there is still dried blood in my hair, so this is what you get.

This is the piece that inspired the name of this blog, and the visuals that inspired my recent, obnoxious, obsession with Lupis Canis. It is essentially a short chronicle of the rise and fall of my group of friends bookended by poetry. Hope you enjoy it. I hope it makes you cry.

Raised with Wolves

I was raised with wolves. We ran barefoot through the streets at night. We sprinted through woods and climbed barbed-wire fences. We waded through creeks and ponds, and swam in the cold Gulf of Mexico. We relaxed in the middle of cemeteries, surrounded by relics of the dead. We were drawn to the heat of the flame and the lure of the highway. We were vicious, dangerous, and my God, we lived life.

Ever since middle school, I seem to attract a cast of unusual characters. I don’t know what it is with me, but misfits, outcasts and rebels have always been in my company.  We were the volatile, unruly, foolhardy, irreverent, boisterous, non-conforming, reckless, violent group of boys that good girls always stayed away from, but by whom they secretly wanted to be seduced (or at least that’s what we told ourselves). I’ve always been involved with a motley crew of lonely video-gamers, angsty musicians, drunken country boys, colorful punks, careless daredevils, and romantic dreamers—and I’ve loved every gasoline drenched second of it.

In high school, we spent our time instigating fights with “popular kids,” scaling the sides of buildings, building bonfires, skinny dipping in ponds, surfing on top of cars, skateboarding well into the early mornings,  and blowing things up. Our music was fast and loud and so were we. We were widely regarded as those “crazy faggots” at school because of how we dressed and acted, and we were perfectly fine with that. We knew we were freaks, and if we ever forgot, even for a split-freaking-second, the jocks, preps, rednecks, and disapproving teachers would promptly remind us. It didn’t matter. We learned to accept the disrespect people showed us, not because we believed we were wrong and were serving penance, but because we knew we were right and rejoiced in our persecution. We were martyrs: patron saints for those kids who wanted so badly to break out of the shells imposed on them but could not reach down and find the guts to do so.

After high school, people came and went, as people tend to do. Friendships disbanded and re-formed and post-high school years began to take a toll on our numbers. We watched our tribe change shape over time, but it seemed to retain a spirit of unity and a sheer, uninhibited, brutal passion. However, as time passed some people were becoming less interested in fireworks, road trips and punk rock music, and more involved with silly things like jobs and college. People moved off and took important pieces of our childhood and our lives with them. Some guys got serious with girlfriends, and eventually got engaged, and then married. It’s hard to get someone who works in the E.R five days a week to “come out and play” on the weekend, especially when your invitation involves four-wheelers, ropes, and skateboards. It’s also hard to convince someone who’s engaged that it’s a good idea to sneak into hotel swimming pools and go to gay bars on the sea wall on a Friday night. I’m absolutely horrified that I’ve woken up to a world where some of my friends’ ideas of a good time are fruity alcoholic drinks and watching reality TV in their apartment with their fiancés.

I was raised with wolves. We danced around primal bonfires at the beach. We hopped trains through town. We broke into school buildings and played cards on their roofs. We slept five people to a bed, smelling like mud and smoke. We were drawn to the abrasiveness of the concrete and the call of the ocean’s tide. But eventually, one by one, wolves left the pack and the wild—for a shot at a life of domesticity.



Satan lives….?
February 27, 2010, 4:40 am
Filed under: Essay | Tags: , , ,

I’m not sure why we feel the need to personify evil in the form of Satan; to give it a name and a face and a pitchfork. It’s asinine really, to believe that there is some breathing, walking institution of evil who is vying for our souls. Mankind did not choose to follow satan, mankind chose to follow itself. We are, collectively, the devil. Our selfish nature, our hidden desires, our lusts, our hatred, our prejudice is more demonic than any fiery caricature could ever be. We are using Satan as a scapegoat. It’s time for us to take responsibility. We are the evil in this world.