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the beautiful destruction

Friday, May 27, 2005

Help Wanted

I'm looking for some help. As I've mentioned before, I run a small press called Poison Control. For the first book we put out, Young & Reckless, I tried contacting PusHead (aka Brian Schroeder) for an interview--as his artwork to me truly embodies the young & reckless spirit.

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Pictured: PusHead (Brian Schroeder) artwork for Metallica.

The only contact info I could find for him was a P.O. Box. So, I wrote him a letter, old-fashioned style, and dropped it in the mail. That was a long time ago. I haven't heard back. As I've long been a fan of PusHead's art, from his cover art for Kinghorse and Septic Death, to his t-shirt and skateboard graphics, and of course his most recognizable work for Metallica, I'd really love to track him down for an interview.

And while I know it's a longshot, does anybody out there have some current and dependable contact info for this guy?

Yours truly,

Perplexed in Pittsburgh

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Spell Check Is For Pussies

Ouch. Two sick days later and things still hurt. My bones ache and my throat feels like minced meat. But, oh well, duty calls. I must trudge forward and fight the good fight, advancing the knowledge of automotive, aerospace, and off-highway engineers the world over!

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Pictured: Work from the incredible Cody Hudson of Struggle Inc.

Sorry, I got kinda out of hand there. Mainly, I think I was pepping myself up, trying to place far more importance on my job than there really is.

You would think that after being absent for two days somebody in Cubesville might at least say: "How are you feeling?" or "Feeling any better?" or at least "Where the fuck where you?" Well, actually, the latter was kinda said to me... in a more roundabout way. It was guised in subtle, passive-aggressive emails: "I need the copy for [so and so's] article ASAP" or "From now on, can you make sure to correct all spelling errors before distributing copy among the editors?" Nice, very nice. I love the term ASAP, don't you?

Now you would think that the freelancers who submit copy to our prestigious and beautifully-designed magazines (I'm joking...the mags look like they were ganked straight from a Design 101 handbook... yeah! let's use tons of Photoshop filters and pretend we're artists) would at least have the brain power to hit Spell-Check in Word before submitting. Or better yet, when quoting somebody in their story, to make certain they have the correct spelling of said person's last name. But no, that's why I'm here, to clean up loose ends for people who make far more money than I do. But at least the writing is top notch, right? Nice try friend, but no. I agree, working with skilled wordsmiths would at least be inspiring. But, this is technical writing: the inspired need not apply.

Now that I'm foaming at the mouth and ready to stand atop my cube like Norma Ray, fist pumped in the air, I best cool down.

There is a bright side to all this. We're going out to lunch today. Yep, you guessed it. We're eating at a rib place called Smokey Bones.

Carnivores: 10, 547 pts.

Tree-huggin-animal-lovin-fags-but-you-eat-fish-right-vegetarians: 0

Over and outski.

Matthew "Commandante" Newton

I Want To Go Crazy With You

This post will be short but sweet. By now, you've all heard about Pat O'Brien's drunk dialing episode. Well, this website is an anthology of sorts, collecting O'Brien's sly lady killin' banter. And I'm not claiming I found this gem. I peeped it over at Arkitip.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

What The Fuck Is That?

Today is a strange day. I am at home, sick, feeling like someone beat their fists into my body for far too long, then left me lying in the rain. I'm sunburned from spending all weekend outside and my throat feels like I swallowed a chesse grater, then subsequently vomited it back up.

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Pictured: Obligatory "contemplative" wilderness photo. Taken Summer 2003 Lin Run, PA.

A moment ago, I attempted to clear my throat, as it's been hurting very bad. I did this by employing a powerful snorting-type exercise... you know the deal. However, what was more horrifying was the unidentifiable object that dislodged from the confines of my skull. Not to gross anybody out, but, oh well, I'm going to gross you out. This thing, was a postage stamp-sized hunk of dried blood (almost shaped in a perfect square), and of course some mucous. And what's more worrisome--it was hard. As soon as the thing came out though, I could breathe better and it didn't hurt as much to swallow. So, I'm thinking I should see an ENT doc. For the past several months I've been having this strange smell in my nose... kinda like an infection. After working for an otolaryngology (head and neck cancer) journal for two years, I don't think I should take any chances. I'm really hoping I don't have a grapefruit-sized tumor in my noggin. That would be an awful way to go.

Monday, May 23, 2005

You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry

It seems alot can happen in a week. Since my last post, scads of bombs have gone off in Baghdad and far too many people have been killed (not that this is any different than most weeks, but the violence has been extreme as of late), the good folks on Capitol Hill are still bickering about things that NPR repeatedly reports on morning, noon, and night, and I've seen so much roadkill this week that, if I were an enterprising young man, I would have started my own roadside cafe specializing in carrion delicacies for Turnpike travelers.

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Pictured: David Banner (Bill Bixby) transforming into the Hulk.

This morning, I had the privelege of witnessing a public works employee clutch a deer carcass by the ankle (hoof?) and drag it through cinders and across rumble strips as if it were a bag of garbage. He was also chomping on a cigarette and waving his free arm around while apparently telling a story to his co-worker buddy. Really, what else can the guy do? I just didn't feel like seeing it on my way in to the meat factory this A.M. Oh well, I suppose I'm a better man for having seen it.

So, I think a weekend recap is in order. But don't worry, I'll keep it brief: Michelle and I worked on our yard all weekend. No, really, that was almost the entire weekend. I'm am now a student of The Mulch. I've mulched every fucking thing in site: bushes, hedges, plants, flowers, the list goes on. Our neighbor, San Juana, walked outside her house and said hello... but all I could see was yet another receptacle for more mulch. So I ran at her, arms flailing, mulch spilling from my clenched fists as I screamed at her, and she screamed back at me.

We also managed to hit up a bunch of garage sales, estate sales, and flea markets. We scored some okay stuff, nothing golden. At the flea market yesterday, I picked up an old wooden swivel desk chair to match the one I already have. Exciting. Well, kind of.

The best part of the flea market is watching in amazement as the most horrifying gathering of people attempt to present themselves in public. I saw more slimey ass cracks, sweaty cleavage, extreme cameltoes, oversized warts, gooey open wounds, and awful prison-like tattoos to last a lifetime. But that was only in a two hour period. But, all grotesque visuals aside, it was the overheard conversations that really kept me going. Of course, I can't remember half of what was said, but here's one:

Mother to 7-year-old son: "You can pee when we get to the car."

Eww. I hope I park in that spot.

Oh well, there's gobs of work to be done. So back to it.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Rainy Day Dream

Let's just escape, run until our our muscles burn and coil tight from exhaustion. We can plow forward until our bones ache with the wonderful hurt of too much time spent standing, straining, lingering in the sun, forearms red like appleskin just turned ripe.

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Pictured: Indoor ferrris wheel at the I-X center outside Cleveland.

The notion of escape, running away from the trivial daily drudgery, is nice. However, you must act upon those feelings sometime... or else, you have forgotten that action and inaction are separate from one another; that daydreams and anticipation are two very different ideas.

I often daydream that I am walking along the dusty trails in South Dakota's Badlands--a storm building behind me, just as it did when I really was there. I also daydream that I am walking down Haight Street in San Francisco, peering in storefront windows and watching all the people as they pass. I think about swimming in the ocean as a child, being flipped over by the power of the waves, salt water gushing up my nose and then down the back of my throat.

I don't want the daydream to become the only dream.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad

I've been a vegetarian for over 13 years now. I know, hooray for me, right? Just hold on... actually, I'm a terrible vegetarian. And it's not like I cheat and dine on pepperoni when nobody's looking, but I just don't eat right. And over the years, I've often thought, I should eat better, maybe I'll just eat chicken or tuna... you know, for the protein. But let me point out, I've never faltered, and never eaten meat. The last piece of meat that I ate was a grade D hamburger from a McDonalds in Niagara Falls, New York--and I haven't looked back since. Almost every friend that I have used to be vegetarian or a vegan. Even when I'm hungry, and annoyed with eating the same type of foods or whatever the problem may be, I choose to follow my gut instinct.

So, I never preach about my beliefs to meat eaters and never tell people what they should or should not be doing (although most meat eaters feel rather comfortable telling me what I do is stupid). Anyhow... let me get to the point. And I apologize for the sloppiness of this post. I just completed a magazine article (that I spent too much time working on) and I kinda hate keyboards and computers right now.

This morning was busy, so I made my fact-finding and news gathering rounds this afternoon instead. While checking one of my favorite sites Newstoday, I stumbled across a post that read:

**Holy Shit... BE WARNED, VERY GRAPHIC ANIMAL CRUELTY VIDEO**

Indeed, this person was right. This is one of the worst cruelty videos I've ever seen--and mind you, my friends and I were addicted to the Faces of Death videos and all their more brutal and bloody spin-offs, so I've watched some hellish video in my day. And granted, this video I'm about to link you to concerns the fur industry. So, for anybody that knows even a drop about the furrier trade, it truly is a savage, merciless, but yes, lucrative
business.

Anyhow, I am enraged but also sick to my stomach right now... partially because of the continued abuse and torture of animals [like the poor creatures in this video], but also with myself. When I see this type of stuff, it makes me feel embarassed to be a human. It would be different if these people were hunting food for their families. But these animals are being rounded up and slaughtered so some over-indulgent person can have a fur coat. It's so insanely stupid. The next person I see wearing a fur coat will most likely be treated to a a broken nose:

PLEASE DO NOT CLICK THIS LINK UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED TO WATCH A HORRIFYING VIDEO WHERE ANIMALS (FOXES, I BELIEVE) ARE BLUDGEONED, TORTURED, AND SKINNED ALIVE.

I have to go vomit now.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bring 'Em Back

Judging by my posts, it would seem I'm addicted to television. But honestly, I don't watch all that much boob tube, really. Over the past week, I've been reading about Dave Chappelle and how the start of the third season of Chappelle's Show has been delayed. But this morning, I heard news on the radio that he's checked into a mental hospital in South Africa.

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Pictured: Dave Chappelle, chillin'.

This shit really made me sad. From interviews and stories I've read, Dave sounds to be a down-to-earth, laid back guy. Supposedly, he thought his show would be cancelled after a couple episodes, and he would just go back to touring, doing his stand-up act. And it sounded like he would be happy with that. I just hope he gets better, as we need more young people like him--intelligent, witty, socially aware, and piss-your-pants-funny.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Farewell Carni Folk

Television really sucks. Everytime I find something that I enjoy (for example, HBO's Carnivàle) it gets cancelled. What the fuck? As I'm making my morning rounds, checking email, reading news, etc., I run across this sad nugget of information:

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Pictured: Carnivàle's "Sophie" played by Clea Duvall.

LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- HBO has pulled up stakes on "Carnivale," opting not to order a third season of the circus-set Dust Bowl drama.

Prospects for a "Carnivale" renewal have appeared bleak since the sophomore season wrapped in March; the show didn't increase its viewership, and series creator/executive producer Daniel Knauf already signed on to produce a series for the rival Showtime cable channel.

"We have decided not to renew 'Carnivale,' " said Carolyn Strauss, president of entertainment at HBO, in a statement. "We feel the two seasons we had on the air told the story very well and we are proud of what everyone associated with the show has accomplished."

###

Why would Daniel Knauf sign a deal with Showtime... what a dickbag. Though it sounds like the show would have been cancelled due to lackluster ratings anyway. And I suppose folks would rather watch Donald Trump or any number of reality television garbage instead of actual good programming--stories that aren't based around some numb-nut gimmick. Not some dull shit like Survivor, the type of show people in "Cubesville" giddily talk about and bet on who the winner will be.

I swear, the Andy Warhol quote: "In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" has become the guiding principle in not only television, but American life. The general population is desperate for celebrity gossip, candid photos, hidden video, and any other shit they can get their hands on. For the people who aren't striving to become famous, they are frantically attempting to vicariously live the life of a celebrity.

And this principle applies not only to fame-seekers, but the way that mainstream press focuses its lens on a particuliar subject matter and drains it lifeless (i.e. Terry Schievo, Michael Jackson, etc.).

I can handle no more at this moment.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

We Have Been Sent To Destroy You

It's late. I'm tired. I'm working on a piece for a magazine. It should have been turned in by now. But that's kinda my M.O. this week--falling behind. My eyes feel like they are peppered with papercuts, sizzling like baking soda dropped into a paper mache science project volcano. And, it seems, that "scrunching" thing has momentarily returned--the twitch-like reaction my face adopts when exhaustion sets in: one eyelid squeezed shut, the other open, naked eye scanning the computer screen, trying to make sense of what I've written.

Yes, they appear to be words, placed in a somewhat logical order. But let's see what happens if we backspace here, cut and paste there, and connect this fella to that fella. Heaven's to Betsy! That's not a sentence. Let's rethink this. What if I go back and start using that other thing I wrote, earlier in the night? Oh yea, this is it! I've got this beat, the writer's block that is. I always knew I could... oh, wait, nevermind. This reads like a kindergarten student with no fingers and one eye wrote it. Let's scrap the whole thing... that's what we'll do. I'll drink some more caffeine... maybe score some speed, snort some No-Doze, that'll kickstart my tired, uninspired ass.

Eyelids are heavy. Plane roars overhead. Cats are fighting, err, maybe playing. T.V. mumbles in the background... something about cooking I think, can't quite tell. Harddrive is honking, gurgling, sounding as though it may crack and explode. Damn dial-up. So slow. Like me. Wearing down. Need an upgrade.

An aisle seat would be nice. Wow, roomy. I can stretch my legs. Quiet. Ears popped. Un-popped. Popped again, just the left this time. Damn. Oh, here she comes... with that goofy metal cart. It seems like such a... wait, I'm up. Yes, a Sprite sounds perfect. Pretzels? Certainly. Oh, you have extra? Why thank you.

Wait... don't know where that came from. Sorry. Things arent so copasetic. Winding down here at the keyboard. Looking for a way out... "The Exit" as it were. Well of course, there it is. Will you please excuse me?


Sure, I'm A Nerd

Here's a *spoiler* review, written by Kevin Smith (writer/director of Clerks, Mallrats, etc.) for Revenge of the Sith, the final chapter in the Star Wars saga. This has been floating around the Interweb for a bit and I thought some folks might be interested in checkin' it out. Since I am a Star Wars nerd, though not the type who gets all gussied up in a stormtrooper outfit or anything, I was excited to read it. But please, be forewarned: this review reveals just about every detail of the plot. So, turn away now if you'd rather check out some other science fiction gossip.

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Pictured: I think the photo really says it all (neither person is me... yet).

"Revenge of the Sith" is, quite simply, fucking awesome. This is the "Star Wars" prequel the haters have been bitching for since "Menace" came out, and if they don't cop to that when they finally see it, they're lying. As dark as "Empire" was, this movie goes a thousand times darker - from the triggering of Order 66 (which has all the Shock Troopers turning on the Jedi Knights they've been fighting beside throughout the Clone Wars and gunning them down), to the jaw-dropping Anakin/Obi Wan fight on Mustafar (where - after cutting his legs and arm off, Ben leaves Skywalker burning alive on the shores of a lava river, with Anakin spitting venomous sentiments at his departing mentor), this flick is so satisfyingly tragic, you'll think you're watching "Othello" or "Hamlet".

I saw a gorgeous digitally projected version of the flick, and lemme tell ya': this is a beautiful looking film. The opening space battle sequence is the best in any of the six "Star Wars" movies. Grievous and Kenobi's lightsaber duel is bad-ass, with Grievous rocking four sabers. The Clone Wars end rather early in the flick (about the halfway point), leaving the rest of the film to concentrate on Anakin's turn to the Dark Side, and the resulting slaughter of the Jedi.


Perfect example of how dark shit gets: remember the Younglings - the kid Jedis in training from "Clones"? As a result of Order 66, when Anakin invades the Jedi Temple with an army of Clone Troopers, he enters the Council room to find a gaggle of said younglings hiding behind the seats. They see Anakin and emerge, asking "What should we do, Master Anakin?" The query's met with a stone-cold Anakin firing up his lightsaber. The next time you see the kids, Yoda's sifting through their corpses on the floor.

Yes, it's just that dark - and rightfully so. This is the birth of Darth Vader we're talking about. The only comic moments in the flick are given to R2D2, and while good, they're all pretty few and far between; the order of the day is dark, dark, dark.


Ian McDiarmid and Ewan McGregor steal the show, but Hayden Christensen silences any naysayers who wrote him off as too whiney in "Clones". This is the flick that feels closest to Episodes 4, 5, and 6, because - for the first time since "Return of the Jedi" - there is a clear villain. And for all the shadow-play Palpatine has been upto in the last two flicks, his treachery is about as subtle as John Williams' score in "Sith." Whether he's slowly drawing Anakin toward the Dark Side during an opera/performance art piece with his promise of the Sith's power of life over death, or he's engaged in a balls-to-the-wall lightsaber duel in the Senate with Yoda, his "Little, green friend" (his words, not mine - which I kinda dug, because, interestingly, I think it's the first time anyone's acknowledged that Yoda is green in any of the "Star Wars" flicks), this is the Emperor's movie.

The last fifteen minutes dovetail nicely into Episode 4 (or just plain "Star Wars" for you non-geeks), and the movie is full of link-up moments as well.


- At flick's end, Threepio and Artoo are given to Captain Antilles (with the caveat that the Protocol's memory be wiped).


- The twins, natch, are split up. Leia heads to Alderann with Bail Organa, and Obi Wan hands Luke over to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru (indeed, the closing shot is Owen holding Luke while looking out over the setting suns of Tatooine - mimicking the shot of the adult Luke doing the same in "Star Wars", complete with callback cue from Williams).


- After he succumbs to the Dark Side, Anakin tries to convine Padme that he can overthrow Palpatine, and together, he and Padme can rule the galaxy as husband and wife.

- Vader and the Emperor stand beside a younger Grand Moff Tarkin on the bridge of a Star Destroyer, overlooking the earliest construction stage of the Death Star.

- Yoda telling Obi Wan that, as he heads to Tatooine to hand over Luke and go into exile, that he should spend his time learning to commune with those who've crossed over to the next stage of life, as Yoda maintains he's been doing with Qui Gon (and Ben will later do with both Luke and Yoda, in "Empire" and "Jedi").

- And, hands-down, the best link-up to "Star Wars" moment that I enjoyed the most: Bail Organa and Yoda stepping into the hallway of the Rebel Blockade Runner that opened "Star Wars". Unlike all the high-tech CGI wizardry of the rest of the prequel Trilogy, this is a low-tech looking set, right out of circa '77, and for some reason, it really captured my imagination. I mean, this is the same exact hallway in which we got our first look at Vader, oh so many years ago, and I appreciated the *** out of Mr. Lucas including it - because it really felt like a nod to the hardcores.

Look, this is a movie I was genetically predisposed to love. I remember being eight years old, and reading in "Starlog" that Darth Vader became the half-man/half-machine he was following a duel with Ben Kenobi that climaxed with Vader falling into molten lava. Now, twenty six years later, I finally got to see that long-promised battled - and it lived up to any expectation I still held. I was sad to see the flick end, but happy to know it's not the end of the "Star Wars" universe entirely (I've read stuff about a TV show...).
"Sith" doesn't happen; "Sith" rules

Monday, May 09, 2005

Welcome To The Clusterfuck

Monday... oh how it toys with my emotions. Today started off extra special. We had a last-minute staff meeting here at the J-O-B, first thing in the morning mind you. An hour later, and extremely anxious-feeling, I returned to my desk... cubesville some may call it. Here, I found myself staring at my computer screen, contemplating the

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Pictured: Kissing coppers by the infamous Banksy.

most suitable way to escape the premises without being seen and without anybody noticing that I am missing. If I were smart and prepared, I would have purchased a blow-up doll and dressed it like myself, leaving it to sit in my seat while I motored away in my car, laughing like a rabid jackyl. However, I am ill-prepared as usual. So I will sit here for the remainder of the afternoon attempting to sharpen my focus just enough so that I might get some work done.

On the good side, this past weekend was fucking beautiful. I got to work in the yard on Friday... a task I was annoyed with at the time (due to my normal end-of-week exhaustion) but one for which I reaped the benefits on Saturday and Sunday (as we spent alot of time outside). Also... I hung up our hammock in the backyard, which was exciting. It's a spot I'm certain to waste countless hours in as I drift in and out of sleep beneath the warm rays of the sun.

And, last but not least, I recently threw my hat back into the freelance writing circle (not that it wasn't there before, I just slowed down for a bit as I edited and released
Young & Reckless). So I've got a slew of exciting new projects I'm working on -- some for new mags, others for old pals, etcetera. An essay that I'm really excited about is for a new mag called Lemon. It's a piece about an imaginary friend, named Billy Bommy, that I had when I was a kid. Billy Bommy was more a tool I used to entertain family members and advance my own pre-kindergaten agenda than a full-fledge imaginary friend I suppose. But, either way, I'm excited to dig through that subject matter.

Lastly, I've been brainstorming and getting organized for two big personal writing projects: 1.) the followup to Young & Reckless... a book titled Fame & Misfortune that will be bigger, better, and more balls-to-the-wall than its predecessor Young & Reckless, and 2.) My own book, a collection of humorous, heartbreaking, and reckless essays about a myriad, or should I say clusterfuck, of real-life experiences I've had. So friends and family beware, the gloves are off and I'm bringin' you all down with me, Jose Canseco style... ha, ha, ha, ha... er, just jokin'. it will be fine, really.

Pin 'Em Up

Several weeks ago, Michelle and I stumbled across a surplus of these incredible framed illustrations at an antique shop. There were probably about 10 to 15 different illustrations—each one torn from the pages of 1930s to 1960s era pin-up magazines. We liked several of the pieces, but they were kind of pricey, so we figured we'd look online (thinking we'd find a better deal).

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Pictured: 1930s era Alberto Vargas pin-up girl painting

It turns out that these painting and illustrations were done by an artist named Alberto Vargas, who later went on to contribute his work to the likes of Playboy and Esquire. And the prices we saw at the antique shop, $25 - $30 each, were rather good when compared to the hundreds and even thousands of dollars for a Vargas print. Either way, I thought some of you might enjoy the eye candy: Gallery 1, Gallery 2, and Gallery 3.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Friday Afternoon Dance Machine

I am by no means claiming credit for this little animated gem. It's been floating around a message board I check every once in awhile. It makes me almost pee my pants everytime I see it... marvelous.


Pictured: Jean Claude Van Damme wreckin' shop on the dance floor

If this hasn't inspired you to get out and grab life by the short and curlies... nothing will. Not only is Jean Claude wearing a pair of Z. Cavaricci pants from the late 1980s, he also seems to slip a little air guitar into his routine. Nice, very nice. Enjoy the weekend. And... Happy Mum's Day.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

There Are Others There To Breathe For You

It's been a serious week—car trouble, work-related aggravation, homeowner drama, and an overall somber mood on my part. Most of which hasn't been mentioned, mainly because I feel it's just so damn boring. As some of you may have noticed, the posts haven't exactly been bubbling with joy. But, when placed beneath the weight of the mundane and un-extraordinary, my mood tends to plummet. But there was one incredible moment this week that deserves mention: 11 years ago, this week, I first met Michelle. This is the time we officially consider our anniversary (yes, there is that other day, the wedding anniversary, that competes and often overshadows this day).

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Pictured: Matthew & Michelle (he, he), illustrated by Ashley Wood for his POPBOT series.

We were both young. I was 17, Michelle 19. Her hair was cut short then, bouncing in straight locks at her chin and dyed a fiery red. She often pinned back the longer strands with a barrette—a minute detail which I loved.
We had known of each other in high school but were never really friends. But I always wanted to know her, it seemed we shared something quiet and familiar, and potentially incredible.

It was strange that we crossed paths in the post-high school limbo that my life had become. After dropping out in mid-11th grade, I had lost all interest in my surroundings, opting to sit in the confines of my parents' house playing guitar for 10-12 hours at a time. I still saw friends, but felt things were slipping away from me, like the air had turned cold, become unbreatheable.

High school had been a bad experience (though it also had its share of brilliant moments). In ninth grade, after years of academic excellence, I began to care very little about studying. My moods wandered, shifting from sad to black and bottomless. In 10th grade, I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. And, as if dealing with the odd quirks of having to apply deodorant in a ritualistic manner (a practice that left my armpits raw) and count every footstep I took wasn't hinderance enough, I stumbled into an odd and dramatic relationship with a girl—a situation I could have done without.

After twisting downward for far too long, and dealing with school counselors, school programs for troubled youth, medicine, therapy, and any other quasi-solutions to my rather normal teenage condition, my parents let me quit school—on the promise that I get a job and my GED. The GED part was simple. I didn't study because I didn't care. But the trade off of sitting in a room for one day for 6-8 hours and taking a test to escape the final year and a half of high school seemed too good to be true. So I sat and wrote essays, filled in the bubbles on the Scantron test sheet, struggled with the math, and soared through the history. I almost enjoyed it. The woman grading the exams liked me, told me to wait around for about fifteen minutes and she'd give me my results. When I returned she was smiling like a proud aunt. Not only did I pass, she said I had scored incredibly high. Victory number one: Partial confidence restored.

I wanted to continue here with my victory theme. However, you can't really consider love or fate something you claim. It is something that just happens. And Michelle and I happened at just the right moment. The night we met, I was hanging around with an old friend of mine, doing just about nothing, and he was wearing on my nerves as usual. I didn't drive, so mooching rides was kind of my M.O. We were at the mall and bumped into Michelle, spoke to her for a bit and hung out. My friend was trying to be suave I think... but he was somewhat of a goof, so it was more a source of humor. Michelle later met up with us for fine Mexican cuisine at Taco Bell. As usual, my friend began complaining that he had to get home (he probably had school the next day... not me). Michelle was going to oakland to meet up with some of her friends, so I decided to tag along. We talked in the car on the way to Oakland, and while I felt a bit nervous, I also felt extremely comfortable and safe at the same time. We ended up at the CMU campus, visited some friends of Michelle's, a sordid crew of folks she had met at different raves over the past year or so. We then moved to another house, a story with several amusing historical details that are too time-consuming to get into.

Later that night we ended up outside my parents' house. The moment was strange and beautiful, forever tucked in my thoughts. She was saying goodbye, but we still stood there for a moment. Then I leaned in and kissed her. After that we drank orange juice in my parents' kitchen, leaning against the Formica countertop, while my Dad sat at the kitchen table. I remember the orange juice was filled with pulp, so we joked that if you used your teeth, you could strain out the pulp, hence creating pulp-free juice. A small but useful nugget of information.

We then became inseperable and still are to this day. My mother used to say: "Michelle saved you." And that is true. She came into my life at the perfect time and saved me from destroying myself. I owe her everything. She cares for me, loves me, keeps me safe, keeps me sane, keeps me invigorated, keeps me laughing, keeps me thinking, keeps me striving and moving forward. There is a quote, one of which Michelle knows the origin, that is appropriate: "When you can't breathe, there are others there to breathe for you." Michelle does this for me often. I love you Michelle, you're the Bonnie to my Clyde. Happy Anniversary.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Welcome To Wonderland

Sometimes I get this euphoric rush, the type that resonates through my bones and vibrates my blood. It almost takes over my body, coaxing me to tremble with energy. It feels like many things: Hope. Invigorating optimism. Renewal. Fresh-faced opportunity. Today I am longing for this sensation, urging it to return and kick me in the

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Pictured: A photograph from the portfolio of Zen Sekizawa © 2005.

ass, convince me that all is well. So far, it hasn't. Without this euphoric sensation, I feel lost. My eyes feel gray; legs heavy like old wood; spine harboring the ache of too many days spent motionless. I know the direction will change, and this coveted feeling will return. But today it's not here, and I feel like I'm struggling to breathe.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Death On Earth

How often do you think about death? And, how does it end for you? My mind conjures too many scenarios: Will I die in a fiery plane crash or slip away in my sleep? Will I drown in a strong undertow or will my heart just stop? I don't think about it too often, but when I do it makes me feels fragile, like things could just stop working at any minute, and the reaper would be there waiting, sicle (and boombox, I hope) in hand.

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Pictured: Reference photography from the always impressive morgueFile.

Death is on my mind for a reason. While toiling away in my cube here at work, I was reminded of a revelatory moment I had several years ago:

I had just left work and was sitting in traffic at a red light. It was summer, late afternoon, and very hot. The sun was glaring through the side window, my eyes were squinted, almost sealed shut. My mind was running rampant, as usual, pondering a scattershot array of things...

Wait, I should probably preface this story with some explanation as to why I believe this was a revelation. Or perhaps it was a moment of clarity, I'm not sure what to call it... anyhow. For as long as I can remember, I've always felt that I was working up to something big in my life. And by big I mean important, good, worthwhile, meaningful.

Throughout my life this sense of expectation has changed form depending on my interests and aspirations. As a young kid, I of course felt I would grow up to be super human, like Spider-Man, The Hulk, or maybe Superman. In junior high, there was a brief stint where I believed basketball might be my calling, but it was in stiff competition with music... and I hated having to focus on more than one thing at a time. So music won out. And it appeared, for quite some time, that this was indeed The Big Thing I had been preparing for since day one. But after high school, things kind of fell apart with the band, and the answer seemed to have slipped away from me once again.

Around the age of 18 or 19, I began tinkering with the idea that I could be a writer. It was creative, worked with my penchant for reading and useless as well as useful facts, and didn't seem as much a REAL job as some of the others out there. So I was accepted to a writing program and got to it. Somewhere in here, music popped up again... I was probably about 21 at that time. I now had two interests again clammering for my attention. And the battle ensued for me to decipher what path to choose, which way to go. So that brings me back to where I was... sitting at a red light in the hot summer sun.

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Pictured: Illustration by Tyler Stout for Poison Control's Young & Reckless.

The light was red, the traffic deep. I had the radio on, maybe it was a CD, but nothing stands out in my memory. And that's when my "working up to something big" theory popped into my head, as it often did, and still does, and I began to churn ideas and plans around in my brain... causing me to get lost in thought, as often happens.

And that's when it felt like my brain had been purged of a thousand interruptions, ideas, and daydreams. The air smelled strong of heated asphalt and fresh lush trees. I looked straight forward, staring at the traffic light and just beyond it, the onramp to the Parkway East, and I realized what it was that I had been working up to my entire life: Death.

It was odd to me, but it felt like I had been awakened. It was as if somebody shook me, like you'd see somebody shake a drunk in a bad sitcom to sober them up. And though this message my seem morbid, it is anything but that. To be shaken and told that death is looming, that it's the end of the line (even though I realistically know that) was so bizarre... but also beautiful.

It's kinda like somebody saying: "You're thinking about this far too much. Enjoy this now, while you can. Time is slipping away, but you have the amount you need, so get things done."

And while I felt somewhat disappointed that my lifelong theory had basically deteriorated on me, relegated to nothing more than a morbid almost obsessive fear of death... I also felt refreshed, freed of my own self-imposed burden.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Love Your Freedom? Thank A Republican.

My stomach is twisted in a tight knot this morning. And not your basic knot... I'm talkin' some intricate Boy Scout or elaborate nautical type shit. The source of my anxiety is simple to decode though and rather fucking boring at that: morning traffic, Monday madness, and looming deadlines.

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Pictured: Stencil done by London street artist Banksy.

But as I was arriving to work, I was treated to some crazy Republican humor. It was a bumper sticker, plastered to the bumper of a giant SUV (how surprising) that read: "Love your freedom? Thank a Republican."

Now, I'm not endorsing that I rail against Republicans this morning. Because honestly, I don't give a fuck about their beliefs. Sure, I don't care for their penchant for religious insanity or desire to puncture holes in Alaska's coastline (all in an attempt to pursue oil that will just run out... fuel cells you ignorant dicks. Or how about hydrogen? It's not a pipe dream anymore... although civility between two pompous political parties is). But the Democrats are no better, just a bunch of disorganized hacks.

But what insults me more, is the fact that any political party be so egotistical and self-absorbed to believe that they have anything to do with freedom. For a country forged in the blood and suffering of revolution, we have become such a wimpering mass of bickering fools... too concerned about the interests of lobbyists and doing favors for one another that The Work of The People is now a myth. Nobody can see that we should work for the greater good. I'm so sick to my stomach with hearing red state/blue state babble. That's just water cooler speak for young professionals who want to pretend they are politically active by slapping a pro-Republican or pro-Democrat sticker on their car.

Lately I feel so disenchanted with politics that living in a Unabomber-style plywood shack sounds about the best option. And though I'm not one for quoting song lyrics, Sage Francis has a great line that pretty much sums up how I feel today: "I'm not right wing or left wing, I'm the middle finger."

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Storm Clouds Gathering

Good fucking Christ! Have you ever felt crushed beneath the weight of the weather? My seasonal affect disorder is kicking me in the balls today. Pittsburgh is a wonderfully bizarre city, but I could honestly do without its suicidal weather patterns.

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Pictured: DJ Shadow performing; The Private Press tour (2003).

The local meteorologists love this shit too, it gets them all worked up: "It looks like early morning commuters are going to be in for quite a surprise... snow in April? I think so. Hope you didn't change out these snow tires yet. Back to you David." And while I'm rambling... I fucking hate David Johnson from WPXI (tabloid journalism disguised as nightly news). I wish somebody would slap that shit-grinning smirk off his face. He seems to absolutely adore death, disaster, and devastation: "A young boy mauled and chewed to pieces by a rabid aardvark? Stay tuned for the details to this (chuckle) and many other shocking stories." What a dick.

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Pictured: DJ Shadow performing; The Private Press tour (2003).

Oh well... in unrelated, and somewhat less angry news, I was sifting through some old digi-photos tonight and found a couple cool but blurry photos I snapped during DJ Shadow's Private Press tour in 2003. That's all for now. I'm feeling very unproductive and even less creative in the writing department at the moment. Sleep tight.


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