Some Thoughts #75

Drive and Conquer - How Punk Rock Saved My Life
    Anyone who’s been a long time reader of S&L will know, that this is the time of year when I talk about how happy I am, and how great everything is and all that seasonal spring passion.  And that is true.  But.  But I didn’t think I was going to get to that point this time.  I’ve been sad.  Really sad.  Depressed sad.  The kind of depression that permeates and saturates.  I have felt unable to hold a conversation.  Unable to maintain my cheery optimism.  Barely able to continue in my day to day life.  I’ve been battling an underlying depression for quite some time.  It ebbs and flows and just when I feel critical, it goes away.  A week of rain and I feel like the gloom will smother me.  But then the sun is expected tomorrow and I feel there is hope.  It seems like the littlest things can make or break me.  Make or break a moment, a day, or me.  I know I’m sensitive, but this is too much.  My emotions are on the outside of my pours and it hurts.  I want to curl up and hide.  I’m afraid to show my face, afraid to be judged and hung.  Really, I don’t know what I’m afraid of.  I think I’m my own worst judge and so it’s in  fact my own judgment I’m hiding from.  And when you are your own worst critic, things can be rough.  I falter in these vicious cycles.  I sometimes know how to fix them, but I can’t.  Sometimes I know what the cure is, but am unable to move in that direction.  Meanwhile, my confidence wavers, my vulnerability increases, and the need to hide becomes stronger.
    I’ve been consumed by this war.  I can run back over the past few months and the impending panic and doom and emotion upheaval that I have felt, and sometimes it almost starts to make sense.  Karoline says, “we’re living in crazy times” and it seems too much of an understatement.  But I think that I have a tendency to forget how receptive I am to all the emotional bullshit and to just how much the outside world affects me. I feel week because I am unable to fight back sometimes.  I don’t want this crap to consume me. Sometimes I really feel like I can fight it, and other times that I alone really am powerless to stop it (it being whatever demon we are talking about at any given time). I want to keep track of how the media spins the stories, and how the bias is prevalent.  But it’s important to always keep the filter on and remember who is telling the news and who stands to gain—from the events, from the reporting and who will be fired for telling the actual truth.  I think my filter is pretty good, and I think that keeping tabs is important.  But I still found myself consumed in an unhealthy way.  Because I don’t believe what they are saying and I feel like I know the depth of what lies underneath the lies, it  only makes it scarier .  And so I fight these internal battles deep with in myself.  I know I should stop monitoring mainstream media. I’ve been frustrated with myself that I can feel so strongly about something and feel so helpless.  I can also so easily understand many points of view and see the twisting of facts that is are thrown out there to do just that - manipulate our emotions. I’m a pacifist.  I’m all for non-violent protest, yet I applaud those who will not passively sit back and let the world go on about business as usual. I know it’s necessary to make that statement and fuck shit up, and take the streets back and all that.  Ultimately I know that it takes all parts to make a whole. I accept the varying perspectives (to a degree) but still my internal conflicts rage.  So I got to that point where I shut down.   My instincts do not tell me to yell and scream and chant in the streets... but I’m so glad that there are thousands and millions who have. Oh I’m pissed about so many things.  I’m frustrated about what I hear and the justifications that make no sense and the blindness of so many to follow.  And I’m proud of the show of resistance because it has made a mark, and impact, and sent a message.  No, it has not stopped the war, but the resistance has been noted and that is important.
    So while I’ve been crippled into silence and hating myself for it; hating myself for not yelling and screaming and taking a more active position, for not using my words more effectively on paper, of not putting my fist in the air or my voice in the streets. Somehow now I can finally look back a bit and say, yeah, well no wonder.  As an emotional person - I’m feeling too much - and my own self-defense mechanism is to shut down and that is what I have done.  I’m not proud of it, and I’m not pleased with it, but I can’t help it. I have looked around at what so many of my peers and friends are doing and I feel inadequate.  The fact that I’m able to let the words flow now gives me hope that I will find my voice again and not stay totally silent.  I don’t want to be shut down.  But I don’t know how to stay turned on while so much horror happens on a regular basis, and not just the war... other issues touched in columns - the patriot act, abortion issues, big-business, the interconnectedness of all the bullshit that feeds further bullshit and more big-business... it’s sickening.   And I feel paranoid these days.  I feel like the terror police are going to come after us for speaking out.  Of course the threat is enough to keep many people silent. The media plays on and feeds our fear.  They want our fear and complacency and acceptance.  They want to create a fear of speaking out and challenging what is happening.  And the fact that I fell so close to accepting that fear, is scary to me.
    But we are living in crazy times, when billions are spent on war and libraries are closing. I’ve read enough sci-fi to have this strongly etched apocalyptic vision of a time when constant news bytes of disasters and horrors flow freely at all fronts, you know, digital read outs every where you turn, a constant voice in all corners coldly repeating the “facts”, and yet in this vision we have turned a blind eye cause we are already so numb and used to it.  Where pollution and disease are so rampant and out of control that we wear face masks or even gas masks.  And so as I look around me, I realize that this future is already upon us.  I mean it may not quite be a sci-fi movie, and yet I still do challenge and question the connection between movies somehow preparing us to accept what will come.  It freaks me out because I don’t want to be numb to these atrocities, and yet, there is a helplessness that ensues when (we) feel too much, and that is crippling.  The more I pay attention, the more I follow and understand our government and what they do, the more appalled, horrified and outraged I become.  And that sense of hopelessness and helplessness sets in and I try to fight it because I don’t want to get bogged down by that.  Which brings me around to the punk rock which I have so obviously let slip from my life too much.... The punk scene has always been about empowerment and fighting back, the ability to take back control, the ability to do everything for ourselves, to take things into our own hands.  Hence a culture of resistance and all of our do-it-ourselves ideals and philosophies.  We teach each other how to take a stand, how to fight for what we believe in, and to create change.  And even though the pacifist in me isn’t always much of a fighter, I need to rediscover that  empowered, we can do it feeling.  I knew I needed to get that back.  And so I did.  And the Subhumans helped get me back on track.  And so right now I kinda like to say that The Subhumans saved my life.   They  certainly helped bring the punk rock back into my life.  And punk rock saved my life.
    I really had a hard time getting my head around in the right direction to get this issue done.  I was procrastinating big time, and that just isn’t like me.  I normally  have a pace and flow, and when I knew it was time to honker down to the reviews, I just couldn’t do it.  But where as usually, I’ll be stressing and complaining, but doing it anyway; this time I was just staring at the wall;  and then suddenly, I panicked.  I missed the deadline for my MRR column and with S&L looming, I thought, there is no way I can get it together to focus.  No way I can do these reviews.  A part of me really did feel ridiculous reviewing music in a time of war.  I’m amazed that people can go on about their lives in the midst of war.  But really, what else can you do.  But none the less, I felt so crippled by it all, so emotionally distraught that I couldn’t help but wonder how so many people seemingly held it together, unaffected, or uncaring.  Or else pissed into action.  Just as I was wallowing in my self doubt, I started to get the columns for this issue and they are all so amazing.  I became so inspired because the point of the zine started to come together before my eyes.  I felt like all the voices that make up S&L were weighing in with their stories, their words and points of view and I felt like my community was coming together finally and in many ways I felt validated by my own feelings.  I was also able to understand them better.  Kinda like how when the sun came back out after 5 days of fog and rain - everything made sense again and I felt this clarity of understanding.  We are in fact all traumatized in our own ways - and whether we can organize the facts into a big picture of understanding, whether we wallow in emotions, whether we are called to action, however we take a stand it is a combination of all our voices and the sum of all parts that make a whole.  It’s the columns and voices of my friends and dear beloved people that have kept a sense of purpose alive for me in this zine and when I pull together the voices it feels so strong and powerful and full of necessity and it really has made me feel good again.  I felt the importance of collecting these pieces together and sharing them with the world.  Even when my own words waver and falter, it's reafirming that our voices still come together with a loud shout can be heard and that warms my heart like the sun.
    Sadly, I managed to skip over my usual winter/early spring trip to the Bay Area, which for the past several years has been a grounding point of inspiration.  I fell to such a low point, and knew it was in part from missing this huge chunk in my life, coupled with being bogged down by a routine I resented and a state of the world which left me feeling beaten.  When Karoline called and said “The Subhumans are ending their tour in Milwaukee, come out for the last few shows,” I hemmed and hawed for only a minute, and then made the plans.  When Karoline says “you should come...” she is always right.  Just how right this would all prove to be, even I underestimated.  I knew I was missing the punk rock in my life, I knew I was missing my people.  I knew I craved so much.   I found just about all of what I needed in a few short days around the great lakes.  It was an all go go go, no sleep, adrenaline weekend - just the sort of mania that I needed to refuel myself.  Just the sort of roadtrip that when surrounded by great and amazing things, nothing can compare.  I was with Karoline the whole time.  We got to see The Subhumans, one of my oldest and most favoritest bands,  play several amazing shows.  We got to reacquaint with a former road crew family. I was able to  reconnect with old-almost lost friends in these cities I have not been to in over 5 years.  The Subhumans were on tour with the Enemies, a band I like, and was really excited to see. We got to visit some of the hot spot important places, the zine stores, info shops, and cafes  where amazing things happen.  Quimbys in Chicago has the most zines and diy comics I've ever seen in one place.   We got to check out the A Zone in Chicago, Arise, Extreme Noise, and the Seward Cafe in Mpls.  And of course,  Fuel, Comet and the Palamino in Milwaukee.  All of these places have been created by us, and it’s so inspiring for me to get to see these places.  And of course we had the momentum of the road trip, the camaraderie of a tour, the celebration with friends and catching a bit of the high flying passion at the end of a great tour.  I remember that feeling and realized just how much I missed it.  Being on the go with no sleep and needing no sleep because the momentum pulled us forth.  Karoline & I called it the “Drive and Conquer” weekend, and indeed it was that.  I am always saying that I want to “conquer the world” which usually just means that I want to get everything done - do more than I ever have time for.    I feel like I finally figured out how to do that - by not sleeping. For a few days I feel in love with life again and the social anxiety, and mental disorder that has plagued me for months slipped away. So I like to say that I found myself again.  It’s like the fog lifted and the weights hanging form my limbs were removed. Such a relief, and so simple, I had to ask myself why I couldn’t have done this before - but even a few weeks ago I was afraid of talking to people, terrified to leave my house.  And now it seems all it took was getting away, getting on the road, seeing my best friend, seeing my favorite band -who just happen to be the people and the band who have been repetitively pivotal in my life.  I used to say “just one more time of seeing Citizen Fish, and everything will be okay in my world” then it was “if only I could just follow them on tour”.  So it really should come as no surprise these guys would be what set me back on track again.  It was a special tour they had - with the Enemies bringing an infectious energy and passion for everything going on.  They even had  coordinated dance move for Apathy (which I think originated in Pittsburgh) —just the sort of thing Karoline & I would have done and did.  These guys grew on me and the catchiness of their songs  found a place in me that will continue to give me energy and make me dance.  Just like the Subhumans song “Apathy” which I will never again listen to in the same way.   I rediscovered the Subhumans and remember just how great a band they are.  I'm not sure how I could have forgotten just  how much I like them, and how important and influential they have been.  Seeing and hearing "Cradle to the Grave' live was intense.  And all those favorites - religious wars, no, fade away.  All those songs which directly or subscionsious have had such an impact and effect on me over the years.  Hearing it all there in the right moment was magical  in a goosebump sort of way.  Now I wish I'd been listening to them for days and weeks before seeing them.  Yet it's amazing how it all comes back.  I just wish I could do it all again.    And when things are “on” and go right, they really do go right.  The beer doesn’t make me sick, the lack of sleep doesn’t leave me tired, and the photos come out.  And most important of all I find my life again, and remember what makes me tick, what inspires me, what motivates me, and I find the IT that I need. The IT which I crave.  Which is mostly about a connection, the inspiration, the adrenaline, the feeling that my friends and punk rock give me.  The feeling that we do this and it matters - it’s special - it means something. Punk rock is my culture and my community, and I’m damn proud of it.  We conquered, and truly, the punk rock saved my life, once again.  Now back home in Richmond, holding onto that will be the key cause I want  to get back out there in the world and go go go.  I’m tired of being in one place, tied down, bogged down by my work-a-holic compulsiveness.  I want to cut free and fly.  But it’s full blown spring here - and as I expected, it's like the best spring ever.  It's lush and beautiful, the earth smells rich and amazing, the plants are all bursting with blooms and their own energy.  It took awhile, but I feel like I’ve finally come out of my winter hibernation and I feel like I found myself again on the other side.  I must send out my sincerest thanks to those who have helped me get through these dark days - Beth, Erik, Mary, Karoline, Adrienne, Dave, Brian, Mike, Sascha, everyone who helps out with S&L, all those who wrote letters of support which were encouraging... and everyone who has been there for me, listened to me, tried to pull me back up.  Big thanks also to the Subhumans, the Enemies, Avail, Strike Anywhere, Felix, Dan & Profane Existence, and to everyone who continues to fight for what they believe in and what they care about and doesn’t forget the passion or the conquest. And of course to those amazing friends who create the soundtrack for our lives - because it’s so much more than just a soundtrack - it’s the pulsing beat of our hearts.  Thank you.       xoxo               
 -Chris(tine) mayday 2003

CLASSIFIED ADS Sorry.  It just didn't work out this issue.  I know a lot of you really like the classifieds, and so do I.  But this time around there were a few extra columns and so many reviews and the type is already smaller than the normal too small, so the classifieds just didn't make it.  Sorry.  Next time I promise.  BOOKS... A couple good ones to mention - The Chelsea Whistle by Michelle Tea is an awesome account of adolescence in her upbeat writing style.   Atlas of the Human Heart is Ariel Gore's story.  She's the popular editor of Hip Mama.  Both books are on Seal Press.  More book reviews next time.  If you've read something good and want to share it with me or S&L readers - please write your own reviews and send them in.