“I’ll See You Later”

I feel like I should say… something.

Today was the celebration of my cousin’s life. For 25 years I had a cousin I was never supposed to have. I can’t even remember now how we found out but one day we did and it stuck. The best I can remember, our grandpas were cousins. Except mine wasn’t my real grandpa; he was my dad’s step-dad, but he was the grandpa I’d always known so what difference did it make that we didn’t share blood?

I actually got four cousins out of the deal; five, if you count their mom. And I don’t mean to discount any of her siblings in any of this. The boys were enough younger that they didn’t want anything to do with their sisters’ friends, so we were never close. Her sister was one of my best friends for several years and both were 100% my family.

But today, we said, “I’ll see you later,” to the oldest of the four. And I feel like I should say something. Because she and I held three very important things in common: our love of music, our social awareness, and our words. And I feel like I should be using those words to say something.

I don’t know what to say.

The reality is that she and I spent several years apart. Not because of strife or ill-will. Our life paths just sent us in two very different directions for many years. When we came back together, it was so I could color the hair she was going to shave off in a week when she started chemotherapy. My cousin, less than a year older than I am, was dying.

We didn’t talk about it in those terms. She had been diagnosed with a very advanced, very aggressive breast cancer and by the time she started treatment, it had gotten into her bones. But she kicked it. Or thought she had. She was “in remission” when the tumors in her brain sent her into a seizure that would be the beginning of the end.

Today, I heard stories of her dancing through her treatments, joking with the other patients that she could get them dancing too. That is not the story of someone ready to lie down and let cancer beat her.

Even though, eventually, it did.

But she lived, all the way through it. All the way to the end.

I have felt selfish in a lot of this. My thoughts have been of losing my cousin and friend of 25 years and what the world will be like without her. Of her sons and nieces and nephews growing up without her in their lives. Of her never having the chance to see her sons drive or graduate or marry, of never meeting her grandchildren. But in all of that, my thoughts have been of myself.

Of not finding my partner.

Of not being given the same kind of love I put into the universe.

Of never being anyone’s first choice.

Of all the things I want to do that I have been too afraid to do.

Because she wasn’t afraid.

Of anything.

Not even of dying. Not even of leaving her young sons behind. Her sons she named after Nikolai Tesla and Leonard Cohen. Not of being arrested while standing up for what she thought was right. Not of doing it all on her own terms.

And by “it all” I mean life. Everything. Raising her sons, living for her art, standing up for what was right. Everything. She did it all her way.

I’ve always wanted to be that person. I have sparks of that person. I have moments where I am that person. And then my Type A, Scorpio control freak side rears its head again and my brain shouts louder than my heart, proclaiming that job security and food and shelter and my mother’s approval and her family’s approval of her (not of me; as far as they are concerned, I’m 12 and everything I do is a reflection on her) are important things and I can’t just go running off to do whatever my heart wants me to do whenever my heart wants me to do it.

Sometimes my brain is an asshole.

Fear of missing out is not just a social media concept that has come about with the invention of #FOMO. It’s a very real thing and I have it except I also have #FOF – fear of failure. Tell him you love him, the FOMO says. But what if telling him that, ruins our friendship, the FOF counters. Quit your job and move to a new, unfamiliar city, FOMO says. But how will I eat if I can’t find a job, FOF argues. Join a movement, march, protest, stand up for what you believe, FOMO shouts. They’re arresting protestors, FOF sighs in response.

And this is my daily life. And this has always been my life. Sometimes, FOMO wins and things turn out wonderfully and I’m exhilarated and energized and ready to take on the world and FOF is silenced… for a little while. Until the next opportunity to do something outlandish comes along and FOF is ready and this time, FOF wins.

I’m tired of FOF winning all the time but I don’t know, after all of these years, how to stop the cycle.

I’m trying to put together some things for some of the more important people in my life. Letters and lists and wishes. I feel a little macabre. “Hi, my cousin just crossed over to the next life and it has prompted me to tell you a few things I think you should know. Sorry about the timing…” But at the same time, it’s going to sound like that no matter when I do it. At least now there is a discernable trigger.

This has gotten so far from where I started. There were ideas in my head, when I started this, about creative writing classes in high school and about knowing that she was reading my blog, fairly faithfully, right up until the end, and about the times she’d ask all of Facebook for music recommendations, then tell me she was specifically eager to see what I had to offer her. The idea, when I started this, was to talk about her and reflect and remember my cousin and my friend. But the natural flow didn’t take me to those places. It brought me here, where I reflect on the things she was that I aspire to be. And where I say I want to try harder to be those things. For her. And for myself.

Reunion Tours

On the one hand, I was never a fan of Madina Lake. I didn’t not like them, they just never had the same effect on me as some of their contemporaries. As such, I will not be, personally, affected one way or the other, should they carry their reunion tour back to the States.

That said, even though I wouldn’t go to a reunion show if there was one to go to, I still find the whole situation a bit infuriating. And by “a bit,” I mean a whole hell of a lot.

But not for the reasons you might think.

See, here’s the thing…

There is a very distinct problem with the American music industry, in general…

Madina Lake is 100% a Chicago band. They cut their teeth on the Chicago scene, they made their name there, they played their final shows there…. When Matthew Leone was beaten and hospitalized for trying to help a woman out of a domestic dispute, it was the Chicago scene that rallied together to host benefits for him and his family.

I had started writing this piece, in my head, earlier today but then I had a conversation that kind of added fuel to my fire. I met a guy today who had been a professional drummer for a Denver-based metal band, nearly 20 years ago. As we talked about music and the like, it came out that his band was supposed to tour with a bigger, more well-known band but the label they were signed to refused to support the tour. Basically, if this guy and his band wanted to tour with this other, bigger band and really get their name out into the world, it was going to be out of their own pockets. Tour costs, merch, the whole works was going to be on them. Unless they could get some other corporate sponsor.

Which brings me back to the current Madina Lake issue.

Yes, it absolutely, 100% sucks monkey balls that they are not (probably) booking a U.S. leg for their “reunion” even though they are a U.S. band. American fans, the fans who made a reunion even necessary, are getting shafted. Again. This isn’t the first time and it damned sure won’t be the last. Because if you take a look at the tour poster that was released to announce this reunion, it is sponsored by Slam Dunk, which is a music festival in the U.K., which Madina Lake are booked to play. This reunion isn’t being sponsored by their label. They are being funded, sponsored, promoted by the company that controls the festival. Slam Dunk is not going to fund a U.S. tour. That would be ridiculous.

And this is where we come to the American industry problem. A good portion of American bands, especially in the “pop punk” and “alternative rock” arenas get big because they get lucky. There are a few, like Fall Out Boy, who worked the system and figured out how to force the masses to pay attention. But, in a lot of cases, you have stellar acts who are at the mercy of whatever whim the staffers at Alternative Press or Filter or Revolver are floating on that day. A lot of whether or not a band is successful in the U.S. is down to how their label markets them but the mainstream music media, like AP, have just as much influence on those careers.

And not just American media. The reason some American bands spend a lot of time in the U.K. is that they get press from Kerrang! or NME when the American media won’t touch them. So they tour where they are getting sponsored, where they are being supported. Slam Dunk is funding a Madina Lake reunion tour, Madina Lake is going to tour where the sponsor wants to send them.

In the U.S., maybe Hot Topic jumps in and sponsors them. Probably not. Hot Topic has more current acts to get behind. Maybe Riot Fest sponsors them. At least their hometown Chicago fans will get a reunion show, but likely that will be the only one. Maybe they get on Vans Warped Tour. A lot of maybes. Plus, the U.K. is roughly a third the area of Texas. Five tour stops in the U.K. would be the equivalent of a U.S. tour stopping in Amarillo, DFW, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi. Which, granted, never actually happens, but it’s not physically impossible, and realistically, a weekend road trip.

A full U.S. tour, on the other hand, is EXPENSIVE. And getting someone to sponsor that for a reunion of a band that had a very strong cult following but not a lot of mainstream success is going to be next to impossible.

All I can say, American Madina Lake fans, is get out your credit cards and warm up your crowdfunding button fingers because that’s probably the only way it’s going to happen. And that really does suck.

Open Letter to Davey Havok

Open letter to Davey Havok

Two weeks ago, I met you for the first time in twenty years.

I told you that I had started listening to your music when I was fifteen, to which you quipped you started writing it when you were fifteen. I stumbled and couldn’t tell you that I was fifteen when Answer That and Stay Fashionable was released and have been on the AFI trail ever since. Twenty years. Twenty-one years of my life devoted to one band.

Answer That wasn’t my initiation into “fandom;” that came later, when I was older and better equipped to understand. Black Sails in the Sunset was my first album as a legitimate fan and I haven’t looked back. Black Sails in the Sunset is still my favorite album, even as each new offering overflows with exquisite intensity.

I told you that it would mean a lot to me to add your handwriting to my small collection of handwritten tattoos. What I couldn’t tell you because my words betrayed me, was that that collection of handwritten tattoos were from three other musicians who, along with you, created the music that saved my life.

Literally.

The colloquial term is “broken heart syndrome” and looking back on that period of my life, I believe what those closest to me believed then – that I was in serious danger of going to sleep and never waking up. As it relates to you and your music, my friend, my best friend, my sister, sat up with me, night after night, and kept me distracted with AFI music and puzzles and mysteries. We watched Clandestine more times than I can even count, trying to decode the meaning, trying to determine what was in the box.

I told you that I could talk to you for hours if you’d let me. And I could have. I had twenty years’ worth of words and only thirty seconds within which to say them.

I asked you if you could write a lyric for me. What I couldn’t tell you was what that lyric meant to me. “We burn like stars” was chosen out of a full page of star lyrics that I had collected for a tattoo I had created. I became obsessed with the star imagery in your lyrics and with the allusions to fallen angels that were hidden within some of those images. Now I have your handwriting to add to that, to something that is exclusively mine, something no other fan will have.

I don’t remember if I ever thanked you. I thanked you for the autograph, for the show, for the lyric, but I don’t think I was physically or emotionally capable to say thank you for writing the songs that have gotten me through so much. Through high school where “High School Football Hero” was documentary. Through university where I was gaslighted by someone who was supposed to be a friend and where I met my soul mate who later decided he didn’t want to be the missing half of my soul. Through the destruction of that break up that could have killed me and through my most recent heartbreak as well. And thank you, as well, for providing the soundtrack for the good times in my life as well. I have met some of my best friends because of AFI. I have stood beside two of my best friends and shared the experience of seeing you do what you do best and we will have those memories for forever.

I told you I could talk to you for hours if you’d let me and I wasn’t lying. But this is where I will leave this because I am afraid saying more will fall short of sincere.

Thank you. For everything.

When You Really are Offended by Facebook Memes

Sometimes I feel like the odd girl out.

I spend a lot of time floating around on Facebook and there are a few recurring themes that tend to follow me around. Politics, especially as we approach Orwellian dystopia, cats, and this idea that people and society are to avoided at all cost but if they must be approached, they should be approached with an air of obligation and disdain.

I am disheartened by this thinking.

I love people. I am terrible at making small talk and I generally prefer to hang out and observe but I love being around people.

I am an extrovert, which, if you are to believe the majority of Facebook/social media memes, makes me not only the exception but somewhat of a social pariah. Like my desire to get out and socialize and to watch people being people and to be surrounded by people of all types makes me some kind of freak.

The ideas of seclusion, of self-imposed exile, of shunning both pants and various undergarments in favor of hiding from the world not only do not appeal to me, they make me very sad. As an extrovert, the more I am locked in away from people, the more I feel the effects on my body. I become physically tired and completely drained of energy and, likewise, motivation – in much the same way introverts explain how they feel after being around people for extended periods of time. I find myself growing irritable, moody, cranky, whatever you want to call it, exponentially, the longer I am sequestered away from people.

So, when I see Facebook meme after meme after meme talking about the desire to stay in, with head under covers, and do literally nothing but watch 18 straight hours of Netflix, I become a little – irrationally, I’m sure – angry and even a little hurt. Yes, it genuinely hurts my feelings to see so many people in my life, in my friends circles, who seem to hold extreme animosity toward all of the things on which I thrive.

I don’t even, really, need to interact with people when I leave the house. As long as there are people wherever I am going.

People ask me why I go to so many concerts. The answer is, partly, I don’t. Not really. Not in comparison to how many I would like to go to. And the second part of that answer is that I just really like being around all of the people. I enjoy the crowd. I like the chaos and the intense surges of energy. I even like the powerful emotions, which as an empathic extrovert, I can feel in tangible waves (In real life, those types of intense emotions make my brain hurt but at a concert, they are different forms of intense emotion).

I’m not sure what any of this was intended to say. I just had to say it. I am a little injured by knowing that so many people I know don’t like people the way I do. It’s ridiculous. They aren’t saying they don’t like ME when they say that, just that they don’t want to join me when I just go hang out and observe a crowd of people doing all their peopley things – from the inspiring to the foolish to the ridiculous to the infuriating.

Mourning Carrie Fisher (and so many more)

Everyone is touched, in their lives, by different things. People react differently to what is going on in the world. When you are raised in a home where a thing is prominent, that thing becomes an unwavering part of who you are. You may not love the thing as you grow into adulthood but it is there, woven into the fabric of your soul. It is a part of who you are and the thing taught you lessons.

For me, music was a huge part of my life growing up. I would lie on the living room floor in front of the massive 70s style stereo system and listen to records and an AM radio “oldies” station for hours. I was almost always doing something else – drawing, reading, writing – but I had the music on. As I grew older, I carried the music with me. It has evolved and changed and now that massive stereo has been replaced with a tiny microchip and an internet server somewhere in a far off land. For me, 2016 has taken some of the prominent voices of that part of my life.

I was ten years old in the summer of 1991. I was helping my aunt assemble bouquets and centerpieces for her wedding while we listened to the soundtrack of Purple Rain. Although I’m sure it wasn’t the first time I’d ever heard those songs, it was my first, concentrated, “this is important” dosage. It was the exposure that would stick with me.

I can’t tell you how old I was the first time I saw David Bowie in Labyrinth (although, I can tell you I was young enough to call it Laby-rin-ith) but I know I loved it. Jim Henson was to mini me what Tim Burton has become to adult me: an enormous influence on my personality and my creativity. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t some part of me that wanted more than anything to follow Sarah into the Labyrinth and if I were to say that my love for the Frouds didn’t come from Labyrinth and the Dark Crystal, I would be naive or lying.

It seems silly to say, at this point, while talking about huge influences on my life, but Careless Whisper was (and really probably still is, cheesey as it might be) one of my favorite songs as an over-dramatic, broody pre-teen. 12-13 year old me would belt out the lyrics I didn’t fully understand to pictures of boys who didn’t appreciate everything I wanted to offer them.

The rest of 2016’s victims have been no less influential on my life, though.

Gene Wilder was in so many of the movies that introduced me to comedy as a child. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, aside, I watched those comedies 100 times over. Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silver Streak, Stir Crazy. In many ways, those movies became part of the standard to which I still hold all comedy.

Alan Rickman was Snape, but he was also the Sheriff of Notingham. And he was Metatron and Hans Gruber and he had that voice that carried his deadpan sarcastic wit with such grace and poise that even poop jokes seemed eloquent. He may very well have taught me everything I know about sarcasm and snark.

I will be 100% with you and say I was probably three years old when I watched the original Star Wars trilogy. I saw Episode I and II in the theatre when they first came out (one of them twice because two different friends wanted to take me). I did not see Episode III and I haven’t seen VII or VIII. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate their value or everything that Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia were to the world, as icons of true feminism alone. Leia as a character and Carrie as a woman were strong, powerful women in the world of the 1970s that, despite its claims of enlightenment and advancement, had not yet fully embraced the strength and power of a woman who could hold her own in an intergalactic war – or in the quiet, hidden warzone of Hollywood.

When someone mourns the death of a celebrity, they are not mourning the death of someone they have never met. They are mourning what that person meant in their lives. They are mourning the influence that person had on who they have become and who they will continue to be later on. They are not foolish or naive, they should not be mocked or ridiculed. Something that celebrity created in their time on earth touched that regular vanilla person’s life so profoundly that had that celebrity or that creation never existed, that regular vanilla person wouldn’t be the same person they are today. Something that celebrity created was responsible for a key sequence in the coding that makes that regular vanilla person tick the special way they tick today. Without that sequence in their coding, we would never know how they might be different but it might be the thing that makes them your friend.

untitled music post

Friends have started recapping their top 10s in music. Top 10 favorite albums of 2016, top 10 best concerts….

Leaving aside that if I ATTEND ten concerts in a year, I must have won the lottery or something, I don’t even know ten albums to make a list. It’s not an age thing. I didn’t suddenly get too old to know what the kids are listening to. It’s a disconnected thing. I no longer have the people in my life with whom I once talked about music. I no longer feel like I have the resources I used to have.

Steven was (is) a musician and one of the biggest music lovers I’ve ever known. He could spend hours digging through the racks of a record store. He found something new to love almost weekly. And he shared it all with me. I learned more about music, not only discovered new bands and new styles but how to find them on my own, while I was with him.

After we weren’t together anymore, I still did a lot of that. I searched for new music anywhere I could. I had to because so much of what I had to listen to reminded me of him and I didn’t want anything in my life that reminded me of him. So I went looking for something that was strictly my own. That’s how I found Kill Hannah, but that’s a story I’ve told more times than I can count.

MySpace was a great resource. When I was going through all of that, MySpace had all of their musicians divided up by major labels, indie labels, and unsigned. You could scroll through page after page of links to profiles for bands including “for fans of…” lists of other band each one sounded like. Within the next year, that feature kind of stopped working and then it went away completely, relieving me of yet another resource for new music.

Ryan and I had shared a lot of music before Steven came along. Years later, we tried to pick up the same conversation but it was different because I had had new influences. A fundamental difference in the conversation was now, he though “indie” was a style of music, whereas I considered it a tax bracket.

And as time went on, I found more people to talk with and we’d talk for a while and then we’d stop talking about music and start talking about other things. Or figure out that we didn’t have the same tastes and start talking about other things.

And pretty soon, I stopped seeking out new things. I’d go to shows and if I liked the opening acts, I’d pledge to dig into their catalog when I got home but most of the time, I didn’t. I listen to the radio and add songs I like to my ever-expanding Spotify playlists but it never goes farther than that. I don’t look into the artists themselves, just snag the songs I liked. But I didn’t have anyone to share with and it soon it wasn’t nearly as fun to find new things.

There is something in my personality, something in my wiring that makes me want to share the things with other people who will get as excited about them as I do. When I don’t have those people, I stop looking for things to be excited about.

And so, the moral of this story is that I don’t have ten best albums of 2016. I, honestly, don’t even have one.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that

Yesterday, November 8, 2016, the American people made a decision. We were given the choice, ultimately, between and a man and a woman. We were given the choice between a (failed) businessman with no political experience and a woman who has been working in the Federal government for several years.

We were given the choice between a man who spews ignorance and hatred every time he opens his mouth and a woman who has presented herself with dignity and grace at every turn.

We were given the choice between a man who all but bragged about sexually assaulting women as young as 15 and a woman who was forced to deal with her husband’s infidelity in a very public arena.

We were given the choice between a man facing civil and criminal court dates in the near future and a woman who was convicted by the court of public opinion several times over, even after two FBI investigations proved she had done nothing wrong.

Make no mistake, the American public was given the choice between a man and a woman and we chose the man, despite the magnitude of his crimes and the content of his (lack of) character, simply because he was the man. Because he is a white man. Because he is a rich white man.

At the very core of this decision has been an air of rampant misogyny. The newly elected president of the United States, Mr. Donald J. Trump, has spewed hatred toward every group of people that is not him for the past year. He has publicly mocked people with disabilities. He has vowed to deport Mexican immigrants and build a wall to keep new immigrants from entering the country. He has called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. He has proposed facilities and tagging systems for Muslims that are Nazi concentration camps in everything but name. He has ridiculed veterans and women and treated women as property and objects to be owned.

In her capacity as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made decisions that may or may not have led to American deaths at an American embassy in the Middle East; decisions we, as civilians, will never fully understand, decisions that had to be made in the time it took to take a breath, decisions that may have not had favorable outcomes, regardless. And ultimately, the events that led to making those decisions were the events that kept her out of the Oval Office.

It was never about her acquiescence in the way she received the Democratic nomination. It was never about the platforms upon which she was running. It was never, really, about the emails. It was always about what is (or is not) between her legs. It was always about that part of her anatomy her opponent bragged about grabbing.

All of that was meant to be an introduction to a post I intended to go a very different direction. I apologize for ranting. I apologize if I sound bitter and angry. I do not apologize for BEING bitter and angry. I am angry. I am angry as a woman that as an American I will be represented in the world by a man with so little respect for me, simply because I have two of something he only has one of.

Maybe that’s what misogyny is really about. Men are mad that women were given two X chromosomes and they only have one.

I could spend the next four years, angry about what happened yesterday, angry at 180,000+ people in Florida who voted for Gary Johnson instead of Hillary Clinton, ultimately tipping the scales toward Trump. I could fume and fight, rail against his attempts at destruction of the things that make me proud of my country, that made me proud of President Obama.

Or I could use the next four years to bring out the best in everyone I know. I could do good things and love the people around me. I could offer kindness to the groups he has vowed to hurt. I could be the bigger person.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. I am going to love with all of my heart. I am going to create. I am going to stand up for others. I am going to mourn for those who suffer in the next four years. I am going to show the world that Donald J. Trump, a misogynistic, racist, homophobe, may have been elected as the president of the country where I live but he does not represent me. To echo eight years of conservative rhetoric, “He’s not MY president.”

I voted for her. I live in a state where the majority of my neighbors voted for her. The majority of my friends voted for her. Of that, I can be proud, even if I can’t be proud of the choice others made.