Friday, May 19, 2006

A song in wild praise of bygone youth.

I remember.

I remember wading through the murky green of a lake, one that seemed to stretch out nearly to infinity before my youthful and impressionable eyes. I was younger, then. I remember the people with me, my beloved sister, and the lovely cousin who’s name I shan’t bother to spell, out of a terrible fear of spelling it wrong. I remember the heat of the sun beating down upon our heads, the heads that had yet to see the things that have now been seen. And I know that I remember one terribly specific feeling.

I remember how it felt to be drowning.

To be drowning, when it’s your very own kin that holds you down.

I don’t remember the reasoning that my cousin had, for forcing my skinny frame down underneath that water. My tan skin disappearing from the view of the world, only visible as a bleary collection of matter, amidst all the silt that was being kicked up by our motion. Lungs tightening faster than you would think possible, blind panic combining with overactive imagination to create a furious lack of cognizance, forcing out air and life as if they were worth nothing in that place. That place where air didn’t exist, and people learn to rot.

I don’t remember how it happened. Perhaps it was a slip of my tongue, a badly worded phrase in Italian that somehow led my cousin to believe that I’d insulted her. Perhaps it was a display of superiority, the family member several years my senior, holding me down to show me some sort of place.

Or maybe, just maybe -- it was the simple act of a child. A child, working against another. Innocence and ignorance, working in tandem, creating something else.

I was younger, then.
In that dangerous point of youth, where life and death are merely concepts, things that aren’t noticed or understood enough to be loved or feared. Where a cousin holds someone she likes just fine under a sheet of the coldest water, because cruelty was simply a new experience. Where a boy barely even bothers to properly fight for a chance to breathe, simply because complacency comes naturally. A byproduct of misunderstood consequence. The world of youth, a world beyond our world.

I sit here, still very much a young man.

No wisdom quaking through experienced bones, no life since lived in a different age hanging over my head, with songs long past echoing forever in some kind of gaping hole. I probably have no idea what it is I’m talking about, you know. Nearly all of the people that I know and love have been farther, have seen more, have moved and shaken their way to the place that they now call home. Experiencing life, day by day by day, doing things and seeing things, meeting and greeting and drinking and eating.

Doing the things that people do. Moving and moving and moving on through. And so on. And so forth. And what do I do? I do what I do. I watch. I write. I think too much. And so on, and so forth.

So it’s within these actions that I’ve seen something, I’ve heard something, something out in the world. Something that comes from people, from the mouths of those who move and live and dream through it all. A general theme that is not always spoken out loud, nor passed in hushed tones as if it were a sacred text. Something simple, spoken with actions and thoughts, and yes, those always beautiful movements.

Forget the past.

A general desire to forget the things that have been done, our times of awkwardness and the faces of our regret. To forget that which we hate and that we distrust, forget our times of weakness, and focus only on our times of strength. Sometimes it’s spoken of, loudly and brashly, using a love of the now, or desire for the future to mask the derision of the past. A common theme, within the place that we live. Looking forward, looking onward. Trying to see what can be seen, without stopping to bother about that which has been.

But forgetting to remember is a terrible thing.

Because that world…that world that has since been trampled over by our machinations, our livings and our failings, that world that is pushed down into the base of our subconscious; that world is what has taught us who we are. And it gives us a chance, to find what we can be.

And it’s all of it, ALL OF IT, that should be remembered. Not selectively choosing the moments of joy over the moments of hatred, not remembering the compliments that you’ve received, whilst forgetting the insults. All of it matters. Any moment of emptiness, alongside any moment of beauty where you felt a tear sliding down your cheek, even though you didn’t notice it welling up in the corner of your eye. Moments and moments, building life after life.

It’s hard, isn‘t it?

Life, I mean.

Look toward me, my wayward star. Believe in that which you see as truth, and let your mind, not merely your heart, guide you there.

But do not -- DO NOT -- let your heart go cold, like a stone in murky water. Give yourself a balance of logic and love, an unholy mingling of brilliance that may ferment into wisdom.

Don't forget your dreams. But don't allow them to rule you. Live, my wayward star.
Live always.

I wrote that, on an insulation sleeve that I had taken from a coffeehouse. I barely remember doing it. What does it mean? Why did I do it? Sometimes, it’s hard to know. Hard to see.

Hard to see the things that we’ve done, the mistakes that we’ve made. It’s hard to look back at the times when we were drowning, literally and figuratively, the times when we didn’t know what it was we could do. Those times in our youth, the times that we know now could have been fixed, had we only bothered to do the simplest thing. Simple. Once again, simply not simple at all.

Hard to look at ourselves, in a state where we were confused about right, or where we weren’t afraid of wrong. Where we took the time to leap off of things without a care in the world, and let things happen because we were too ignorant and arrogant to know any better. Just like I, just like me. Just like this asshole that’s typing this now.

Moving through life without knowing what to do. Trying so hard to move forward from their past transgressions, trying to move forward without bothering to truly look backward. Trying to move towards being great. Away from the people that they once were. Away from the things that they once did. But if they don’t bother to look at those things, to stop and remember each second for it’s true and existing whole -- then how do they remember how to be a whole person? How to be decent? How to be just? How to move past the childlike cruelty borne of morbid curiosity, into the real world where causes are known to have affects?

Why do people do what they do? What is it that they do? What is it that I do?

I watch, I write, I think too much.
And I worry. I worry that people want so much to be great, that they've forgotten something else in its stead. I worry that they’ve forgotten what it means to be good.

Looking towards history isn’t about complacency, it’s about humanity. It’s about accepting the best, and studying the worst. About learning from mistakes, those of ourselves, and of the world as a whole. It’s about ALL OF IT, THE WHOLE GODDAMN WORLD, THE WHOLE GODDAMN HUMAN EXPERIENCE! IT’S ABOUT FINDING TRUST THROUGH OUR HISTORY OF DISTRUST!

It’s about living. About being ourselves, and remembering what it is that those words mean. It’s about trying to do the right thing. If there is such a thing. If there has ever been such a thing. If there ever can be such a thing.

It’s about trying to be the sort of people, who can find what the right thing is.
Because it’s alright to forgive, but one shouldn’t forget. To forgive yourself, for your past of wrongs and rights. To forgive others, for the crimes committed against you, and against those that you love. But don’t forget.

Don’t be ignorant towards your world. If that is what you are, then you mind find yourself with the sensibility of a twelve year old, within the body and mind of a full grown man. And believe me, that is a very dangerous thing. I remember. I will always remember. I’ve forgotten so much, about so much, so many things gone beneath the sordid veneer of the subconscious.

But I want it. I want my thoughts, I want my memories. I want to remember everything. And no matter what certain pop culture icons might say, I’m still allowed to try.

Today is my birthday.

Will I make a memory, one that deserves to be remembered, one that should endure alongside all my prides and my problems? Or will I once again sit here, sitting and staring and thinking too damn much? Of course, of course, of course.

To all of it. There can be nothing else.

So please, look backward, while you think onward, so you may live forward.
Always remember that you shouldn’t forget.

Like the song says:
Even those of us who were forgotten yesterday, are waiting for tomorrow.


Monday, May 01, 2006

A word for those who Rock, and for those who Roll.

It’s been said that during a live concert, there exists a certain type of magic.

A type of magic that drives people insane.

Yes, magic. Magic that sends Men and Women, suddenly locked within an instance of mob mentality, all of them dropping sweat as if their flesh were clouds full of rain. Sweat drops flying off the faces of the surging mass, instantly condensing into steam upon hitting the blood/vomit/dirt/life of the floor. Steam that moves through the gaps between the moving, the churning, the living bodies, once again connecting them all, a moist unifying pulse, based on something that everyone in the crowd knows, something that all of them understand, something that they cannot speak in words but can indeed sing in tongues, something that they know within every part of their body, something that makes everything in that one split second alright, be it through anger or love or laughter or truth or justice or thought.


There’s just something special about rock and roll. Something special, something that all of us who listen to music that’s been spawned in dank basements and on roofs underneath an overcast sky, something that we know about it.

Even so, I’m approaching this as somewhat of an outside observer. Because much as I love it, I am not one of those people. I’ve never driven 600 miles in the back of a van for the chance to catch a single underground show, and I’ve never collected ticket stubs from the band that I’ve gone to see over and over, and over again. Truth be told, I’ve only been to a handful of concerts in my life. Few were really of consequence. But one of them…

One of them was the first and only chance I had to see the first band that I had truly connected with in person. A small club, in a small town. A band that you’ve probably heard of, but probably don’t usually think about. A band that I have loved, for a long, long time. I saw that band, and I was under a spell. One that I hope I shall never forget, even as I forget everything else that seems to matter. Rock. And. Roll.

Just what is it about Rock music?

What makes it different from the rest of the musical conglomerate? What makes it so unifying, so much so that different iterations of it have spread out to nearly every walk of life, different veins that appeal to colors and creeds, that are different but still connect in a way that makes them somewhat the same? Rock and Roll. Folk Rock, Blues Rock, Punk Rock, Alternative Rock, Grunge Rock, Pop Rock, Metal Rock, Progressive Rock, Synth Rock, “Classic,” Rock?

Just what is it about Rock music?

Something about emotion, perhaps?

Of course, the truth is, all good music is emotion. All pure music, no matter who it holds allegiance toward, is something that comes from our boiling underbellies, with classical sonatas being about everything from violent confrontation to torrid sexual encounters. Music is a channel for which we know in our hearts but cannot express any other way, human emotion mixed with human ideas into their most appealing form. So which emotion does Rock embody?

All of them. Rock can be about any emotion, from the most peerless of rages, to tender loves, thoughts of scorching deserts and cooling pools of water, anything and everything within the human experience. Some might say that Rock is about anger. That the apex of its musical innovation and invention and experience can only be felt when it’s a terrible wailing growl about the hatred for this and that and the other thing. Bob Dylan’s normally calm voice going low in a Folk Rock tune, sending out an “I hope that you die.” Masters of War is a great song. But it isn’t all of what Rock is. It’s part of it, that much is certain. But not all.

Just what is Rock and Roll music?

It is emotion. But what makes it what it is, what makes all of it unified underneath itself, what makes it whole; is actually not an emotion, but a lack of one.


The existence of Rock is the absence of fear.

Rock songs can be about fear. But the best of them, the truest of them, never have anything resembling it being sent forth within those crackling voices, those voices that are rarely -- if ever -- classically trained in the ways of the vocal vocation, and are altogether better for it. Rock isn’t about training, it’s about passion. It’s about not caring about how your voice sounds on its lonesome, how your guitar sounds if it’s out of tune on a massive stage. It’s about being fearless, the instant you step out onto that stage.

It’s about leaping into the air with a tremendous scissor kick and coming down with a THUNDERING chord, sending a bone-chilling reverberation throughout the heart of the crowd. It’s about a driving bass-line suddenly thumping through the aftermath of that chord, drawing a sudden connection between it all. It’s about the Tommy Gun of a BRAT-A-TAT-TAT that moves out of wood striking drum skins. It’s about that voice tearing itself apart as it sings with everything that it has, and still manages to shout out just a little bit more. Pulling out that encore, whether we’re ready or not. And send us rolling forward on your wave of mutilation.

It’s about sending out something that transcends words, even though words are a vital part. It’s about creating a collective that surpasses individual chords and notes, even though that’s the ground that the up is built from. It’s about creating a hand built of pure adrenaline that is shoved into the collective heart of the audience, massaging into arrest and punching it back to life. Making our bodies alternate between tense stillness and uncontrollable motion. Waving lighters and fists forced towards the heavens. All of those things at once. And all without a hint of fear.

This lack of fear leads to freedom. Freedom of sight, freedom of mind. Freedom that takes hold of everyone that wants to move, even if it does nothing else than give them an inch that they can breathe in. It transcends all else. And it can come from anywhere.

I can remember hearing my favorite song for the very first time. It was on the soundtrack of something that I was watching on DVD. A song attached to a scene in which a Robot was standing amidst a field of burned ruins, and all of a sudden began to rise towards the heavens. I was sitting on a couch in a well lit room, casually sprawled on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But when that song began to play…

It was like life had suddenly stopped, and was teaching itself to begin again. All within that moment, all within the small space that I was in. I was gripped by the images and the motion, the words and the voice, that voice that I could hear was giving all it had to that instant, giving all it could give, not stopping to be afraid of giving up everything. It really didn’t matter that the song was by a band that I had never heard of.

And it really didn’t matter that the song was in Japanese.

I was lil’ Pete Wrigley, standing in front of that garage, being exposed to something that I didn’t know the name of, but knowing that it was meant for me. My song is your song. And so on.

It took me a long time to find that song again. To find the band, to find the song. To finally learn its name. To finally discern the literal meaning of the lyrics. But all of that came later. What really matters is that first moment, that first moment when it took hold of me, with nothing else giving a damn. Setting me free, if only for that moment.

Showing all of us what it means to not be afraid.
Which is the best place I can think of to bring this to a close.