Saturday, May 07, 2016


I don’t know where to begin.  How many times have you/we heard that phrase?  For me, with Prince, it is easy. It began in a dying Pittsburgh suburb.  I have no idea how the record landed on our living room floor.  But, my sister brought it home.  It was odd, as in 1981, all she and her friend Danielle could do was weep to the end of The Who.  Wow.  They stared at Roger Daltrey's ass for what seemed like an hour.  He wore ripped jean shorts and his butt was halfway hanging out.  I will never forget my sis saying, “Look at his ass!”  There was Rush, The Who, lots of Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand.  Lots of good music.  Foreigner, Joan Jett.  My parents were recently separated.  Men at Work.  Tons of random music in the early 80s.  Then, somehow, Gretchen smuggled 1999 into the house in 1982.
Fuck!  It was a record unlike any I had ever heard before.  We had one of those old school record players that lived in a giant piece of furniture.  I honestly can’t piece that part of it together.  That is odd as it was such a sad part of my life.  I lied about running away from Catholic school in 1982.  I literally told the cops I was kidnapped and taken to an amusement park that wasn’t open.  I was a liar.  I was afraid.  My parents were no longer together.   The world was kinda folding in around me.  And, then, bam!  There is 1999
1999 came out in 1982.  I was 8.  I was in the terrible belly of Catholic school, as my mom wanted me to be in it.  I was a fucking rebel.  I brought a Playboy to school…Bo Derek none the less, and a nun stapled my finger.  Things were not going well with the parents’ divorce and I was losing my shit.  Literally.  I hated my mother so much at that point for leaving my dad in the first place.  I hated my father for living so far away.  I hated my sister for just being related to me.  I hated the sky for being blue.  I hated everything.  Everything.
Then,1999.  The cover was unlike anything I had ever seen before and it was a two record deal.  That was super weird because I had never had one of those before.  Or, more so, I never knew a double record existed.  So, Gretchen brings it home.  I guess there should be a little background about this house for a minute.  We both slept on the second floor of 203 Wessex Hills Drive.  Her room was so different from  mine.  Hers had crazy blue carpeting.  Mine?  I couldn’t tell you.  We used to literally play pirates on her floor or the other big sister game of get the fuck out of my room, brother.  Her room with the ocean of escapism was a lovely place to be until I over extended my welcome. 
Downstairs were the living room and dining room.  I spent hours upon hours watching Speed Racer there.  Gretch watched a lot of General Hospital.  It drove me nuts.  So, I was 7/8.  She was 14/15.  We were both in Moon Township public schools by then.  My mom removed me from the Catholic crap after the staple incident. 
1999. The opening.  Slow.  “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.  I only want you to have some fun.”  And then the rest of the song is all shit you’re supposed to be afraid of.  I didn’t know what judgement day was. Even in Catholic school.  It wasn’t referred to in that way.  It was a welcoming in a weird way, in a kid’s mind of brokenness  “Don’t worry” were the best words you could ever hear when your parents are splitting up.  The song is fucked up as shit though.  It’s about dying in an apocalypse….the end of the world…..the end of our existence.  At 8, it felt that way. I didn't get the Reagan fear in his words.  I internalized them in a sense.  I took “we’re all gonna die” as a very personal lyric because of the world crumbling in front of me.  At 8, when your mom and dad are fucking splitting up, it’s kinda hard to not see it otherwise. Yet, at the same point, it told you to party, to not be afraid. Profound shit for my little 8-year old mind. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Turntable and NYC

Listening to Reel Around the Fountain by The Smiths on record as I type this.  I also just found out Galapagos Art Space is moving to Detroit.  What the fuck is going on in this city?

This city is simply becoming a place that is unaffordable for people to live in and enjoy.  I moved here in the winter of 1997.  I know that is a long time ago.  Yet, my best friend and I were able to find a real two bedroom apartment for $800 in Greenpoint, a toxic wasteland.  In the past, I've written about the peach tree we had in the backyard.  We could not eat the peaches, as the entire neighborhood is encased by a superfund site.  Now, according to Zillow, that shitty apartment on Kingsland Avenue is $2600 a month.

I'm not against a city growing.....not at all.  I'm for a city having plenty of great things to do in it for all.  That is why we live in cities; at the same point it is why we leave some of them.  New York used to be filled with tons of independent businesses.  I will find the data (just lazy right now) that shows how grossly corporate this city has become.  Or maybe, that last sentence just shows how lazy I am.

It seems like something in New York, more specifically, Brooklyn is closing down/gone altogether due to the cost of doing business here anymore.  I get it.  It is so safe, so beautiful, blah, blah.  It is forcing so many people out.  That is what it is doing.  And, if you choose to feel poor.  I'm an adjunct instructor at a very wealthy school and it drives me nuts how much more they spend on their grass than they do on me and my colleagues.

Look at the growing Northeastern PA population boom.  Check out the license plates near where you are. See how many are from out of town.  They are visiting because they had to leave.

So, back to the turntable, especially the whitest possible band to think of mentioning in this post.  The Smiths evoke a sense of privilege.  I know nothing of their real existence.  Yet, I know what they evoke in my existence.  We were well-off white kids listening to lyrics that hated our parents and what they stood for.  Or, we listened to them because they were so against our majority peers.  As white folk, they incorporated the weirdos, outcasts, goths, and people who had no idea how to really say "fuck you" except by dressing oddly.  Fuck, they were from England and so far from angry American punk rockers....whom I loved equally as well.

NYC is a record.  The first time you play a record, the vinyl changes somewhat.  The more you play it, the more it degrades.  It becomes a loss as soon as you open it.  The more you play it and become familiar with it, the less you want it to change.  Then, there is a skip, a blemish......that recording you loved so much sounded so different before.  It can never go back to what it was.  NYC is your favorite record you take good care of, but is never in mint condition.  Ever.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Horrors (Part I)

Oh, Halloween.  This is the most macabre of all holidays, yet it is my favorite one of all.  It goes back to my dad.  He was a horror movie junkie.  And it goes back to having WWOR, Channel 9, in Pittsburgh when I was a young kid.  It goes back to divorces and being misunderstood and the idea of violence as something that only took place on celluloid.  It goes back to having to move as many times as my mom remarried and wanted to please her husbands.  It goes back to this weird place called Pittsburgh; a place where zombies began and my enthusiasm for gore and terror began and still continues to this day.

Back in the day, my dad took me to so many films, many of them horror films.  As an adult, I sometimes shriek when I see parents bringing their kids to see graphic horror films.  Yet, I was that kid!  I saw A Nightmare on Elm St. 2 and April Fools Day with my dad in the theaters.  Friday the 13th Parts V and VI.  I was a little kid, but he still took me to them.  He loved that shit as much as I did.  We would talk about the goriest scenes and just end up laughing about them.  We weren't scared, we were blissful.  

Yet there is 1982 (?) when Poltergeist came out.  That year, my father was separated from my mother.  He took me to see that film and I was only nine years old.....or eight....  Yet, that movie in the theater scared the shit out of me.  Was it the clown?  Was it the corpses?  Was it the closet light?  Was it not having my father to tuck me in every night?  Was it my mom marrying someone else?  What the fuck was it that made the parts of that movie versus my reality scare me?  So hard to tell.  For sure, I needed a "closet light" to get me to sleep months after that one.

And then there is Pittsburgh itself: the home of zombies.  As a kid, there was a cemetery nearby and there was this crazy cave entrance you could go into.  We called it the devil's kitchen, I think, and we would go down there.  I'm talking boys and girls, with no spelunking gear after school with Reeboks on.  It was dangerous and stupid.  At the same point of time it was awesome.  It was scary and moreso than the horror films we were trying to duplicate and the gore scenes we wanted to make like young, amateur Tom Savinis.  You would go down, and down and down to no end until you were exhausted. To boot, it was on the side of a graveyard.  So terrifying when you really think about it, but for us, it was ho-hum.  

So now, a huge jump forward to 40.  I love being fucked with in safe ways.  I went to Blackout the other night.  It is a place you have to sign a waver to go through.  You are in a living horror film at times, at others, you are just asking yourself why in the fuck are you doing this.  It is a rush.  Your pulse rate is up due to sensory deprivation, a bag over your head, pitch black all around you......

In a weird way it is bliss.......only at this time of the year.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Last week, or maybe two weeks ago, I turned on The Weather Channel to see what the weather forecasters had in store for me.  Instead, there was some weird survival show.....could you survive________?

Fill in the blank.  The one I tuned into had to do with whirlpools.  They are really scary things.  Fuckers suck you under.  They begin, but nary a soul knows where they end.  They have a scientific explanation for them; two currents meeting and kinda fighting one another until there is no dominance between the two.  Therefore, they form this abyss that sucks everything down into it as long as it can.  How far down depends on how strong the currents are; how long also depends on how strong they are.  A strong whirlpool may never have an end.

Leigh and I are fine.  Yet, I get stuck in these eddies every so often, especially after moving.  I came across a photo of me and my grandma today.  The photo was taken at my mom's funeral service.  Yet, I said to Leigh, "Look at me and my grams."

I should have said, something along the lines of...this is me and my grandma at mom's funeral.

Yet, I couldn't.  Grandma Gaffney, Mary A., and I look so good together.  I'm in a suit, she is in fine clothes.

The words we wish we could say become these things that get all swirled up, taken down, swished around and abused.  I get caught up in the things I wish I said versus those I do say.  At times, those words keep on falling further and further away until they are too far to be found again.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

A Point....and Maybe Reality?

It is very hard to think about leaving a place you love.  I don't think I've ever lived in a place I've loved as much as Brooklyn.  Here is where the grammar plays it's weird role.  I wrote in the present perfect.  It holds a tense and an aspect.  The tense is present via "have" and the aspect is where it gets tricky.  Aspect is the "feeling" per se.  Aspect is meant to be transitional.  As it is defined in modern grammar,  it is also known as a mood.  Therefore, in my understanding a "mood" can change.  A tense can't.  You did or you didn't do something.  Yet, the the definition of "have" is as ambiguous as they can come.

I've never lived in a place I have loved as much as Brooklyn.

And, that sentence and it's tense and mood are problematic for me.  I haven't lived anywhere but Brooklyn for so long.  I leave here and I want to live anywhere else.  At least for a moment.  But, then it was Portland, Oregon, that really made me feel okay about leaving.  Yet, as always, I'm here.  Teaching only evenings and late afternoons, missing baseball games, dinners, cooking, ideal times for cycling.

It is such an odd feeling to know how much better your life could be in another place if you could only commit to it; that means giving up everything a place says is important.  The east coast, with all of its greatness and ambition, becomes less and less attractive in my case.  What the fuck am I?  An adjunct professor (hurumph?).  No.  I'm a token in this game of a city of antipathy.  I don't even have a title other than "lecturer" or "visiting" according to where I work.  The sad irony is that I have 14 years as an educator under my belt and teach in higher ed.  My experience and capabilities are only noticed at the micro level.  The macro (full-time, benefits, pay appropriate for hours worked, research opportunities, etc.) are considered worthless at this point in this region of the U.S.

Alas, there is Portland.  They have a living wage out there.  Meaning, I'd make 1/6 or so of my current salary if I slung coffee or bartend on an hourly basis.  Yet, that is the point, in an odd way.  If I were good at something out there, I'd be valued.  No matter what you do: flipping burgers, slinging coffee, cold-calling, you get paid at least $11 an hour.  Perhaps my sights are way low, perhaps my ambition is fleeting, but that sounds okay to me.  $21,120 a year before tips sounds great to me in a weird way.  It is a place that embraces everything I love. EVERYTHING.  The jobs that exist otherwise are swallowed up by those who live there.  Fair enough.

Therefore, it is Brooklyn, boring and overpriced, and lame these days.....that is where I live and will most likely die.

Back to the verb tenses/moods:  Will always means maybe.....