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PO Box 26632 / Richmond VA 23261-6632

Some Thoughts #57

    Everything has been a roller coaster of ups and downs.  I’m very sensitive to the seasons and my moods are very much affected by and altered by the sun and temperatures.  So consequently, I tend to write about the seasons quite a bit here in S&L.  Fall is always a season that I enjoy -- a break in the heat of the summer; a time when you can put your favorite sweater on, curl up in a warm place, breathe deeply of the crisp air.  I revel in these things.  But not only are the season’s a bit different here in Richmond than they are up North -- but the weather this year everywhere is totally off.  Early in September it seems to me that it got quite chilly, then warmed up fully again and repeated an alternating cycle up until now - the end of the year.  And with that change in temperature my moods have gone on a rollercoaster of up and down.  The worst came right after Halloween when not only did it get really cold for about a week - but the time changed and the dark days settled in full effect.  Quite suddenly I was reminded of my usual winter hibernation and downshifting gears and I got bummed out.  I dyed my hair black and had a fucked up allergic reaction which plagued me for a month -- through several dreaded doctors.  Needless to say that was the downside.  But then come December we’re having these 75° days again -- where suddenly it feels like spring - the sun is bright and full force and I’ve got more energy than I’ve had in weeks.  I should have written my column on that day cause I was a bounding ball of enthusiastic energy.
    The best thing that happened this season was that I intentionally took a month off from S&L.  Some of you may have noticed that this issue is being finished in December rather than November as would have been usual.  There’s nothing worse than reading in zines how and why they’ve come out late.  But since this thing has come out like clockwork every two months for years now -- and esp. this past year I’ve been really timely (due to not traveling and being dependent on tour schedules).  What happened is that once Fall finally arrive in full effect and the temperatures leveled out to a comfortable place I was itching to get working in my darkroom.  See photography is my passion.  And I’ve not had a darkroom to work in for years. Earlier this year I got my darkroom together -- but it’s in a shack in my backyard - with no ventilation and no heat -- so needless to say I’m pretty dependent on the temperature since photography is a temperature sensitive thing.  So with the temperate fall - I knew that I had a limited amount of time before it would once again get too cold to work and I decided that I would devote that month (Oct-Nov) to making my priority printing in the darkroom.  It’s such an incredible feeling to not only create something of your very own but to accomplish a long held goal.  And so as I was making those first prints in my very own darkroom - I felt on top of the world.  I fell in love with photography all over again.  Printing the images that I’d held on to for months and years propelled me forward and inspired me to get out (and enjoy those beautiful crisp clear and sunny fall days) and shoot new photos.  And the thing that I love to do is seek out decaying buildings; things that humans have left behind and that nature is reclaiming.  My obsession with urban decay has now it’s shifted a bit in the direction of abandoned farm houses and the like.  Still decay - but with more of a natural touch to it.  So as I found a few of these kinds of places I was dancing with glee in the sun, feeling that I was doing what I was meant to be doing -- those rare moments of utter synthesis where everything is perfect and you’re totally present and content with the moment.  At the best points in time -- that is how my fall was.  Presently it’s been too cold to print - but I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with some more unusually warm days here pretty soon.  If I can keep myself warm and lull myself out of my hibernation -- I’ve got thousands upon thousands of band photographs to organize for my photo book (an enormous project of which little progress had been made outside of my head) and then I’ve got a spring garden, not to mention a spring wedding to plan.  Much to organize, much to think about and much to keep busy with -- as always.
    And so I’ve been thinking again about being a compulsive work-a-holic.  Talking to Fly is so good cause she pushes herself even harder than I do.  We were talking about the many projects and deadlines we have and the general overwhelming feelings that we float in and relating to each other and not to people who don’t have that internal fire that pushes you always forward and further.  And she said “that is why I have to live in NYC” and I though, gee that is exactly what got me out of NYC. The city itself is a compulsive overachieving environment and for me, though that was an inspiration for many years, it’s also the very thing that burnt out.  Instead I find it much more conducive to productivity and much less stressful to be in a more relaxed environment where I can be a compulsive freak. So I’ve been churning these thoughts about compulsive working behavior over in my head.  Thinking how different it is to work on your own art or project - whatever it is that is your passion vs. working a “day job” for someone else.  There’s very little inspiration or passion in that -- even if you do something that you enjoy, and unfortunately few of us can say that we do actually enjoy what we do.  Even if you do though -- it’s still very different from working for yourself.  Now - being in “business for yourself” or “self-employed” can be very difficult.  Inevitably you work much harder - because you have to and many times you can burn yourself out even more and lose sight of your initial goals and dreams (due to that “business” aspect which may eat you alive).  But for the most part -- if you in what ever context have something that you feel passionate about -- something that you love to do and want to do all the time -- something with which you pour all your heart, soul and energy into -- well that is the most rewarding thing of all and the boost of energy you get from your own accomplishments, whatever they may be, if it is something you really believe in -- will only push you more. When I get to thinking idealistically and utopicly -- I picture what it would be like if we all were able to live in a society where we didn’t have to work for money, where we did what we enjoyed and participated collectively in a whole.  But then I realize a few things -- one that such a thing requires such a different attitude overall, one that would require a fundamental change at the very core of our being as to how we view work and play and all those things.  And also that not every one has the same sort of creative outlet side to them.  It’s hard for me to imagine - but some people are not even in touch with what it is that they are passionate about - what it is that they desire to do.  As an artistic and creative person -- there are so many thing that I do, want to do, aspire toward and dream about.  Time is my only factor in getting these things accomplished.  But then sometimes I think that I have a different from average drive in this area, and particularly when I look at S&L and the obsessive way that I am compelled to constantly work on it - to set deadlines and stick to them.  Friday nights come and my friends are getting together, or there is a show, or something and I’m here saying “no, I’ve got to stay home and do reviews; or no, I’ve got to get my layout done” or whatever.  And then I stop as ask myself, does it matter if this really goes to the printer on Monday?  Can it wait an extra day?  But then how easily does that slide into an extra week, or a month?  To me, that is unfathomable.  When I make a schedule - I must stick to it - that is the obsessive compulsive part of me -- but that is also the part of me that is able to take on all this work and make it happen - to see it through - and that very accomplishment further inspires me.  But back to my utopic vision -- I realize that most people aren’t like me - most everyone I know would choose a Friday night out with friends than working at home.  And in my utopic vision -- not everyone would be compulsive work-a-holics that can’t have any fun -- cause I’m a huge believer in the necessity of relaxation, “free-time” and play.  But it’s all about balance.  Unfortunately I recognize that there are a lot of people in our society who are just plain lazy and who always look for a way out (and that is what I’m talking about a fundamental change in attitude - at the core).  I keep coming back to the fact that not everyone has the same driving motivation.  I’ve been amazed over the years at how some good friends really haven’t a clue what they want to do with themselves -- and I’m not talking about on a lifetime goal kind of level -- but on a “what my dreams or goals or passions” are level.  And that is very hard for me to relate to.  And this takes me off on another tangent -- I think it’s very important to stop and question yourself often -- to ask yourself if you are happy where you are with what you’re doing?  Is this what you want to be doing?  If not - why are you doing it?  And what would you rather be doing?  Is it part of a process towards getting what you want -- or are you just stuck in a rut that you either don’t know how to get out of or that you feel you can’t.  I’m thinking about when I was doing a lot of traveling around the country at how many friends I would stay with who would say “I wish that I could be doing what you are doing” and I would try to explain to them how they could -- that it really wasn’t that difficult.  The funny thing is that many people came to think of me as a free-floating, always on the go, traveling kind of girl (which was great) -- but only a few years prior I was very tied down and felt like I was unable to go anywhere at all.  I had a job that barely made ends meet, an apartment that was so expensive I couldn’t miss a day of work, and likewise I couldn’t get ahead in order to even plan out taking time to travel or do anything at all.  And while I was stuck in that pattern I could see no way to get out of it.  I own a ton of stuff - records, photography stuff, books, photos -- the kind of stuff essential to my being and my passions that I could not just get rid of or toss away.  I often felt a “slave” to my stuff.  But I was able to get rid of what I could (and it’s amazing when the need comes to do so how much useless shit we all hold onto no matter how much of a pack rat you are or aren’t).  And I fortunately was able to store much of what I needed to keep in a safe place.  And I hit the road with a months rent to my name.  I said good-bye to all the things that tied me down and kept me in place and that was the best thing I ever did.  So not only do I encourage people to follow their desires but I think it’s important to question where you are at now.  And if you find yourself wanting to do something in particular more than anything -- then make it happen.  Set your mind to it and when you do that -- anything is possible.  Sure there are always obstacles to get through or past and sometime they are a lot harder than other times and you do have to be realistic about the approach.  But I’m a firm believer in the “I can do anything I really set my mind to” theory.  And it is so easy for us to get bogged down with our life -- to create traps for yourselves that we don’t feel we can get out of for whatever reason - and especially while we’re young -- it’s even more important to get out there and see the world.  Travel, explore, follow your heart.  Maybe the things you dream about are right underneath your fingers and you don’t even have to go anywhere - you just need to put your energy in a different direction.  My point is: let your dreams go wild, be idealistic and make big plans and then figure out how to make them realistic and possible.  Sometimes the little steps are the most rewarding (and also the most important).  Take steps in the direction you want to go.  And keep track of where you are at and how it feels.  If you aren’t happy -- then change something in your life.  And if you are happy -- if you are where you want to be then enjoy it.  Enjoy those moments of synthesis where everything feels in place -- when nothing could be better -- enjoy it, embrace it and share it.  The littlest things can make such a world of difference.  I mean saying thank you to people, or smiling at people -- in daily interactions with people -- esp. those who work in stores or service industry jobs -- be compassionate - it goes a long way and ultimately will come back to you.  I’m going to end up on a hippie-esque, self-help sounding tangent if I go any further, but it’s stuff to think about.  It’s the kind of thing I think about every day.  But really - the stuff about having something that you are passionate about, something with which you are obsessed with, some goal that you want to accomplish in your life -- think about it.  That is how exciting the darkroom has been for me.  That is how exciting traveling has been for me.  It’s so important to know when the time is right for something - to know when to throw in the towel and likewise to know what you’re own limits are.  And even within the punk scene - it’s so easy for us to become so passionate about something that we push ourselves obsessively too far (remember balance is very important).  That is one of the reasons why, sad as I am to see Profane Existence call it quits -- I respect them for knowing when the time came to do so.  It’s hard to stop doing something that you’ve done for a long time, esp. when there are people expecting something from you.  For the same reason it was hard for me to pull myself out of ABC NO RIO, hard to leave NYC in many ways.  Hard to postpone doing S&L for a month (or a day).  But that month that I took working in the darkroom gave me so much inspiration.  I came back to focusing on S&L with so much renewed energy -- not only did I receive a lot of really good music to review but I was actually ready to do the reviews.  I was ready to read a hundred zines and feel connected to the punk community again.  But sometimes those little breaks are what keeps us going.
    There’s been a lot of good shows of late, but when I don’t write about stuff fresh in my head -- sometimes it just doesn’t feel right.  Damad was here recently and that was incredible.  They’re one of my all-time favorite bands and seeing them rocks my world.  Getting to hang out w/ them for a whole night was also cool.  Talking with one of their friends who had never been to NYC about going there to play ABC NO RIO got me so excited and passionate about that place that I was tempted to jump in the van and go with them (but of course I didn’t).  Seeing Catharsis in both North Carolina and DC was rad.  That is a band that I will always make the drive for and consequently they are the band these days that I base my road-trips around.  Right around the time that I was feeling kinda bummed out, disconnected from the punk community and those parts of it where I draw my inspiration -- I went to Greensboro to see Cavity, Refused and Catharsis.  There was a vegan pot-luck before hand where I ran into some old friends I hadn’t seen for years, some unexpected friends out of context (always a cool thing) and the usual bunch of wonderful people I expect to see there.  Pot lucks are one of my favorite things.  Gatherings of punks -- sharing their favorite foods is the best way to share that community feeling -- and it was just the thing that I craved, missed and needed that it brought me to tears of happiness.  That was one of those moments of synthesis -- where I was so much in the present moment and so utterly content and happy with it that I felt like a giddy girl on top of a mountain.  So giddy in fact that I drove 2 hours in the wrong direction on the way home.  The other show with Catharsis was in a restaurant after hours - it didn’t start till 2am.  How cool is that!?  On a local level -- I finally got to see 400 Years - which was a goal long in coming which reached all of my expectations.  And it’s been cool to see Ann Beretta and ATP both draw a huge following (totally different ones).  Local bands are an important thing here in Richmond -- they seem to be what the whole scene is based around.  And it’s always a cool thing when bands that are your friends and bands that you like a lot, start to have people who you don’t know coming to their shows - and lots of them.  It’s a very cool thing.
    So on my seasonal obsession - I’m getting prepared for the cold dark days ahead.  I’m prepared with some good warm blankets on a big bed with as always a stack of books to read.  And I will try to hold my head up and make it till spring when I will once again be jubilantly in love with the rejuvenation process of life itself.  Until then - enjoy and happy new year!  Chris(tine) Dec ‘98