Wednesday, August 31, 2016

All I Ever Wanted; Have to Get Away

So I am halfway through my annual end-of-August vacation.

It started off on a bad note; a final day of work where I felt more like I did not deserve to take the time off than ever, that there was so much that will need to be done, that my world will be insane when I get back and that somehow I am failing at my responsibilities and letting the team down. My demons often make me feel that way, and so often their insidious attacks on my soul’s foundation are kicked into high gear right at the time when I dare to allow myself a reward of some kind.

The first few days of my break were rocky at best: I hermitted myself in the house for the weekend and did next to nothing but eat and sleep and chide myself for doing nothing but eating and sleeping, and listening to my demons tell me that I am useless and going nowhere and facing 50 in January and alone and sad and miserable and man I have really fucked up this life thing. I have no friends who I feel like I can just call up and invite over (and if I did, I would be embarrassed to have them over because my house looks like hobos live in it); I have no discretionary funds to invite anyone to meet up for dinner or drinks or anything. I am alone, I am lonely, and neither seems likely to change anytime soon. The icing on the cake came Sunday, when I sat slothlike on the couch and watched my TV’s picture shrink to a line the height of a single pixel. Oh, my demons had a field day with that: “Ha ha ha, you don’t even get to watch meaningless, vapid television! You FAIL!”

Things began turning the corner on Monday…spending an afternoon with my brother was good for the soul. We have that sort of “secret language” that all siblings do, and the ability to make each other laugh uproariously about things that no one else gets, or ever could get, or even should get. A few hours together planning for my Dad’s birthday the following day really helped to lift my spirits. Yesterday was spent celebrating with Dad, and even though we met with immense frustration trying (and failing) to get a motion-sensor camera to work for him – thanks in large part to the most obtusely written instructions printed in the smallest font imaginable and littered with those goddamn pictograms that no one who speaks any language can actually decipher – the day was wonderful. Good food, many laughs, great conversations. I am blessed with a family who can go from deep, philosophical discussion to surrealistic imaginings to near slapstick-level comedy and back again, and time I spend with them is always so very enjoyable. Hell, Dad even had a spare TV he could offer as a holdover until I can actually afford to properly replace the one that died.

Today, though I cannot tell you why, the storm clouds rolled in again, both literally (an early evening thunderstorm rumbled through) and as the storms that cloud my brain when I fall prey to those damn demons. They began gnawing at me again, insisting that I am not good enough, a failure, a wretch, and that there is no hope of ever changing it. I found myself sitting in a chair, silently sobbing, wishing somehow everything were different, that I had made better choices, that I could have a do-over on Life.

I decided I need a change of scenery - to get up and get out and go…somewhere. And tomorrow, that’s what I am going to do. I am “going ghost” for a day. I do not know where I will end up, whether it will be somewhere where I stay overnight or whether I will come home the same day. It may be more of a mental scenery change than a physical one, but then again I may just get on a train and see where it takes me for a day. The need is there to shake things up, to break the dull predictability, to change habit patterns and shock the hell out of my demons -- and maybe out of those of you who know me. There is an old saying that if you keep doing what you always did, you’ll keep getting what you always got. What I’ve always been doing for these past 15 or 20 years clearly has not worked, and there was a time in my life when I was much more spontaneous, much more willing to risk, much more willing to try something new, much more likely to keep people guessing. I need a sense of that back in my life, even if just for a day or two.

I still have half a vacation in front of me; I intend to use it to its fullest. I intend to go find something or someone or someplace new. Hell, if find something I like well enough, I may not come back -- certainly not as the same person.

Midlife crisis? Who, me? Maybe. Probably likely. But then again, maybe this is the kind of kick in the ass I need to begin to make the changes I have always wished for. Time will tell whether it sticks, or whether this is me rambling on meaninglessly again.

Dammit, where’s my rum?

Monday, August 1, 2016

We've Been Here Before: The Gipper, The Donald and Punk Rock

I was in eighth grade when we elected an actor with bad hair and frighteningly hateful ideas to the White House. Ronald Reagan made sure we all knew how evil and terrible and frightening the Russians were, that if we didn't stand up and fight they'd infiltrate and destroy us. Illegal immigrants were bringing in drugs and taking our jobs. The economy was in ruins with inflation making everything too expensive for the average joe, but hey, no worries, The Gipper is here to fix it all. His campaign materials used a reassuring phrase: "Make America Great Again."

I remember the media telling us there was "no way" this county would ever elect an actor to the Presidency -- there was just no imaginable way Reagan could win, the pundits insisted.

But he did. Twice.

If there was anything good about the Reagan years, especially during his first term, it was that he was a perfect target for the North American punk rock scene to vent its angry energy toward. The UK punks had both The Queen and Maggie Thatcher to spew their bile upon, but for the first couple of years, this side of the pond had no real galvanizing figure to equal either.  Reagan fixed that.  So much great music was made in protest of that man: D.R.I.'s spat out "Reaganomics," The Minutemen imagined "If Reagan Played Disco," Canadians D.O.A. chimed in from the great white north with "Fucked Up Ronnie."  The Ramones checked in with "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg" while Reagan Youth presented an eponymously titled diatribe. Reagan's presidency provided fuel for hundreds upon hundreds of hardcore bands across the country. And for a while, hatred of Reagan fueled nearly everything Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys did. It was perhaps all best summed up with The Pop-O-Pies' wonderful "A Political Song:"

"We don't want your apathy
No fucking government gets down on me.
Can you spare any change? Can you spare any change?
Anti-Reagan and stuff, man, yeah."

So now here we are, 36 years later, and the possibility looms that we may elect a reality-TV star with bad hair and frighteningly hateful ideas to the White House.  Donald Trump makes sure we all know how evil and terrible and frightening the Muslims are, and that if we didn't stand up and fight they will infiltrate and destroy us.  Illegal immigrants are bringing in crime and taking our jobs.  The economy is in ruins and everything is too expensive for the average joe, but hey, no worries, The Donald is here to fix it all. His baseball cap even sports a reassuring phrase: "Make America Great Again."

The media kept telling us there was "no way" this county would ever elect this buffoon to the Presidency -- there was just no imaginable way Trump could win, the pundits insisted.

But he won the Republican nomination, and there are those now saying he could win it all.

So where are the current crop of punks?  Trump is ripe for the same musical evisceration, and they keep telling me punk's not dead.  So far, we've had to rely on those who were there before:  D.O.A. updated their classic as "Fucked Up Donald," and Jello Biafra is at it again with his current band, The Guantanamo School of Medicine, who are now out on the road on their "Nazi Trumps Fuck Off" tour.  The seeds are planted, the way has been shown.

A Trump presidency making America great again? Yeah, I don't think so. But if it happens, it just might make punk rock great again.  Can you spare any change?