5 Songs I’m Loving Now – 08/03/15

For what will be my last 5 Songs of the project, I’m listing a small selection of songs that have been very important to me over the length of the last decade. These are the songs that I discovered in one of the 10 cities and haven’t let go of since.

Neko Case – Star Witness

I feel like I write about this song once every six months, which makes it the perfect choice to kick off this list. I first heard it on a Paste Magazine compilation (back when they had a print edition) while I lived in Charlotte, but it wasn’t ’til I was living in Philadelphia and working for that infamous store that I got my hands on the full album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. I loved that album as well as each of Case’s subsequent releases, but when it comes down to it, “Star Witness” is still the song that has my heart. Beautiful, sad and stark, it’s Case at her absolute best.

The National – Slow Show

Like Neko Case, I was introduced to the National through the Paste music sampler, and I have similarly been obsessed with all of their music ever since. Although their song “Fake Empire” first grabbed my attention, it was “Slow Show,” the romantic centerpiece of the excellent Boxer, that cemented the band as my go-to band for sad sack moments of quiet desperation, of which I’ve had many over the years. And even though the age 29 has come and gone, and thus I will never be able to post these lyrics on Facebook for a lover, it still remains one of my favorite paeans to longing and desire.

Mirah – Don’t Die In Me

I was introduced to Mirah by my college girlfriend’s roommate, and though I haven’t followed her career all that much lately, there was a brief period in which I was fairly obsessed with her music. Her devotees might tell me she’s released better albums since C’Mon Miracle and I’d be willing to accept that, but nothing is going to change how I feel about “Don’t Die In Me.” For years, this was my poetry-writing-song. There was just something in the abstractness of the lyrics mixed with the directness of the music that inspired me. Even now, when it comes on I’m washed over with memories and a fuzzy feeling of loss, the sense that the past is past and I can only march forward.

The Decemberists – The Engine Driver

The first person I became friends with in Charlotte has remained one of my best friends throughout this whole decade. In that first year of my project, she and I exchanged essentially our entire music collections. I had the entire libraries of Radiohead, Ryan Adams and probably a bunch of Christian artists I rarely listen to anymore. She had a whole slew of indie bands that Pitchfork loved then hated then loved again (and probably now hate), including one of the most divisive artists under the “indie” banner, the Decemberists. Even as the band has lost their ‘hip’ cred, they’ve remained a favorite. And yes, “The Engine Driver” is a cheesy song for a writer (of fictions) to list as one of his essentials, but there it is. No shame: It’s over the top and excessively romantic and that’s all I want from my PNW folk music. Deal with it.

The Mountain Goats – No Children

Bleak as shit? You bet your ass. Kind of heartbreaking? Certainly. Filled with uncensored expressions of humanity? Absolutely. This may be the quintessential Mountain Goats song, so be warned if this is your first experience of them. By no means do I want to suggest that this is their definitive sound as each album has its own vibe and unique sensibilities (and themes, usually), but this exemplifies what John Darnielle does best: Craft unflinching portraits of the darker side of life. In the context of the album, Tallahassee‘s, longer narrative, “No Children” is one of many rough chapters in the lives of a couple whose marriage and lives are falling apart. Out of context, it comes off like the ultimate ode to shitty relationships. However it is experienced, “No Children” reveals a sad truth: Sometimes the person we’re closest with is the one who is doing us the most harm.

Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

The Final Month

Hello Again

This blog has been silent the entire month of July. Truth is, I’ve done very little writing in general this past month. There has been plenty going on personally and in the news (*ahem* Donald Trump), all worthy of discussion, but I’ve been a bit too preoccupied with living to expound on any of it.

I am slowly – glacially – working on the 10 Cities book, which is developing into a memoir/sociological discussion/cultural critique/travelogue (in that order). I have 3 rough chapters written, though by no means finished. I’ve also been working on other smaller pieces that will ideally see the light of day sooner than later.

Otherwise, though, the last few months of my life have been about experiencing New York City. I’ve been bartending and serving, visiting museums and picnicking in parks, seeing movies and live comedy, and drinking through the night. I even managed to find myself in the midst of a short romance. It has been the version of New York living that I imagined could exist when I was a high school student yearning for escape.

It has been very good.

Empty Subway

Square 1(0)

For the first time in over a decade, I will spend more than a year straight in 1 city*. In the next couple weeks – barring any unforeseen circumstances – I will sign a second year lease for my apartment. I won’t give my place of employment a 2-week notice. When I wake up September 1st, I’ll be in Brooklyn (presumably).

I still don’t have an answer for “what’s next?” I’m sticking around Brooklyn for a little longer, that much I know. But beyond that? Maybe France? England? Cuba? All of the above, hopefully. And so so so much more.


The Future

There are, in fact, countless possibilities for my future. I don’t know which one I want most. Not all of them are ideal.

There is a version of my future in which I never publish anything and I grow old serving wine and whiskey to dying men. Bars nationwide are filled with such clichés. There’s nothing special about me that would preclude me from such a fate. It’s just a question of whether or not I have the energy to keep striving.

There is only 1 month left of 10 Cities / 10 Years, a project that was, among other things, always about the unknowable future. That future is now mostly past.

What remains in my final month of a decade long endeavor? Well, I can think of no more fitting way to end this travelogue than with a road trip. I’m currently planning yet another cross-country road trip for the last week of the month. It’ll mark the third such journey in 2 years. I’m quite excited.

After that, I don’t know. Everything is formless and empty.

Those are the perfect conditions for creating something new. Just ask God.



*Technically I lived in Costa Mesa for 15 months, but I was always going to leave so there was no illusion of longevity.


Friday, June 26th, 2015 will go down as a historic day for the United States. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case that will forever be bedazzled with the title “Landmark,” Obergefell v. Hodges, has made same sex marriage legal throughout the United States.

Approximately 5 seconds later – or the length of time it takes a air to travel from the lungs to the rage center of the brain – the opposition declared that the fight was not over. This decision would be overturned and the gays would be put back in their place. Harrumph!

In reality, despite how much time the pundits will squeeze out of questioning if the decision might be overturned, even if the most Conservatist Conservative who ever Conserved was elected to the presidency, this law isn’t going anywhere. Same Sex Marriage is here to stay.

How do I know this? A number of reasons.

1. Roe V. Wade

Roe V. Wade is still on the books and that decision is by no means as popular as Obergefell v. Hodges. Even 8 years of a Bush presidency couldn’t overturn the LANDMARK abortion case. That doesn’t mean states can’t do their best to restrict safe abortion access to their unfortunate inhabitants, but from a national point of view, Rod V. Wade – like Obergerfell V. Hodges – is here to stay.

2. Corporate Sponsorship

On Sunday, I forced my lazy ass to get out of bed and head over to Manhattan for a few hours before work so I could witness the all out Bacchanalia that was surely going to be occurring at the Gay Pride Parade. After all, 48 hours earlier, gay people in this country won the biggest battle of their collective history. It had been predicted by one highly reputable source that this would be the “Most Buck-Wild Pride Parade Nation’s Ever Seen.

Pride Hand-in-Hand

When I got there, the first thing I saw was a float covered in cheerful, fully dressed people all wearing rainbow colored shirts that preached a message of tolerance, love and hope. Just kidding, the shirts all had the MasterCard logo on them. There were floats advertising TV shows and networks, including the Netflix float that featured cast members from Orange Is The New Black (I’m sorry, I mean #OITNB), and there were floats selling food, drinks and stuff.

Every street corner had somebody shilling rainbow colored product in the name of Gay Pride and Capitalism. Gay Pride is profitable and everyone knows that, while God is pretty popular in America, Money is King. If corporations are people, then the people have spoken.

I went down to the parade expecting Mardi Gras after dark. Instead, I found Mardi Gras at noon.

Firefighter Pride

Which brings me to my final and main reason I know the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling isn’t going anywhere.

3. Children

Child Pride

Gay Pride is where you take your family. Granted, I live in New York City, not Des Moines, so the acceptance of gays here is obviously going to be greater, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is an entire generation of children growing up in a world where same sex marriage is now legal, and no amount of anger and political fearmongering is going to convince them to change that.

As the shooting in Charleston two weeks ago proved, hate and bigotry don’t just suddenly evaporate. There will always be divisions in humanity. There will always be prejudice. There will always be individuals who feel devalued or marginalized who will then strike out at some group.

Obergefell v. Hodges will not suddenly end discrimination against homosexuals. Hell, some forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation are still permitted by law. Just as racism didn’t end in the 60s (or the 70s, or the 80s, or the 90s, or the 00s, or the…), homophobia will not disappear. The phrase, “I have gay friends but…” will continue to be the mating call of the Homo phabiens for years to come.

But. But! BUTT! (Oops, sorry, got excited). But starting with the 90s and even more so in the 00s and onward, we’ve had entire generations raised in a world in which homosexuals have basic human rights and are treated, largely, like normal human beings. Every child born since 2010 will grow up never really remembering a time when same sex marriage wasn’t a thing.

The Republican presidential candidates may talk about how the Supreme Court went too far in their decision (for fuck’s sake, even the dissenting members of the Supreme Court will say it), but in the end, the political Right is happy to have this issue out of the debate*. They know, like all reasonable people have known for years, that the cultural shift has long been in favor of equality. A Republican party that still has opposition to same sex marriage in their platform will never reach the White House again.

Case Closed?

When Chief Justice Roberts said in his dissent that “5 lawyers” (kind of like him) had “closed the debate” on same sex marriage, he was claiming that the Supreme Court’s decision wrongly took the subject out of the hands of the American people and settled the debate. Which, you know, is kind of the job of the Supreme Court, but whatever.

Except, this debate isn’t over. The American people have never let a court decision quell their love of bickering. Roe V. Wade didn’t end the debate over abortion. We will continue to debate this topic in our schools, our churches, our bars and at our watercoolers (Cool it, though, Janet is coming).

The difference, though, is that now a class of American citizens won’t have their rights restricted while we have this debate.

So celebrate. Love wins. June 26th, 2015 will forever be an important day. A landmark day. It is, after all, the day America joined the future.

Pride In the Empire State

*Other than Ted Cruz who has no chance of being elected but wants to win the title of Most Conservative Candidate so he can put the plaque on his mantel next to his bowling trophies.

Same Sex Marriage Is Legal

This website has devoted many many words to the fight for marriage equality over the years. Today’s monumental ruling by the Supreme Court that finally, inevitably made same sex marriage legal is a victory worthy of great celebration.

In time, I will have processed the information enough to write something marginally compelling, but for the moment it just feels good to bask in the nation’s celebration. In that spirit, here are just a few of my favorite images from Twitter today.

Go out, celebrate and have yourself a Gay ol’ time!

Justice Pride Colors Pride House States Where Same Sex Marriage Is LegalWhen Can I Marry

Flag SwapGeneral Pride

Obama Winning

What I Want To Say, But Can’t: A Post-Charleston Shooting Reflection

I want to say something.

I want to say something, but I’m not really sure what.

I’m not sure I have the words for what needs to be said.

I want to say that when a white man enters a black church and kills 9 black people, it is obviously racially motivated. When the man says, “I want to shoot black people,” we don’t have to wonder what his motivation was. We don’t have to wonder if racism is still an issue in America. We can know.

I want to say that just because a mass murder happened in a church, it doesn’t mean Christians in America are under attack. There are places in the world where Christians do have to fear for their lives, and to pretend like America is one of those places is to do their struggle a disservice. To claim victimhood when you are not a victim is a monstrous act of narcissism.

I want to say that we create laws and regulations to protect us against those who would do us harm. We create laws to protect us against ourselves. Society, politics, the rule of law, these all exist because without them humanity is a chaotic mess. With them, we grow incrementally less messy.

I want to say that we do not live in the wild west, and that’s good. The wild west was horrible. People died, frequently. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies have led us to romanticize the old west as a time of Real Men and Real Women. In fact, it was a horror of constant dangers: lawlessness, poor health, racism, sexual violence and poverty. Why would we seek to emulate that period?

I want to say that a person who would put his or her right to own a gun above the lives of his fellow humanity is a terrifying human being. I don’t have children so I don’t know what it feels like to believe that I must do anything in my power to protect them, including being ready and able to shoot any attacker. I do have loved ones, though, family and friends and lovers, and I do know what it’s like to hear they have been attacked, hurt, violated. I know what it’s like to want vengeance, to want to inflict pain, violence, righteous punishment. I know the craving for justice. A gun isn’t justice.

I want to say that the world will never be perfect but that doesn’t mean we have to stop striving for it. A sailor will never reach the horizon, but she can still follow the setting sun.

I want to say that this shooting in Charleston will make us stop, consider and finally act. It won’t.

I want to say so much. Every. Single. Time. this happens. Every time a psychopath enters a church, a school, a theater, a synagogue, a mall – anywhere they damn well please – and obliterates innocent people with easily purchased guns, I want to say something. I want to scream. I want to grab people by the shoulders and yell in their face.

I want to say something.

But I can’t. Because if I do say any of that, I’m just politicizing these innocent people’s death. If I say something, I’m the bad guy because I didn’t have the decency to wait until after the mourning was finished. If I want to say something, I have to wait until there are no more tragedies, no more senseless acts of violence, no more crippling flashes of horror. I have to wait until there are no more mass shootings.

So I will never say anything.



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