Filed under: WTFlux
I can’t remember which event we were watching. Maybe it was gymnastics, their bodies flipping over themselves to land on a 3.9 inch surface of the balance beam. Or it was springboard diving, women launching into a pool and carving small splashes.
“When you watch this do you root for the Chinese?” DanE asked. I think he may have even asked if I secretly rooted for the Chinese, as if I worried that he and the dog would judge me for not being patriotic.
“No, actually,” I said. In fact, I’m always interested when the Medal Count chart comes onscreen and I see USA in the first slot. Sometimes I think I am secretly patriotic.
I think I root for the American athletes because I know their stories, at least I know the stories featured in the short segments shown in between competitions about their trials and tribulations. I’m a sucker for stories, especially about underdogs on their road to gold medal glory. In comparison, the Chinese athletes mostly look like two-dimensional somersaulting, diving, table tennis whacking, volleyball lobbing robots with short unflattering haircuts.
Even though I might not be cheering them on, there is a part of me that identifies more with the bowl-haircut Chinese robotrons. When I was a kid, when my brothers and I would get into trouble my dad would sometimes threaten to send us to China for the summer. I didn’t know it then, but there was no way my family could have afforded that kind of punishment, but at the time it seemed like a real possibility that we would have to live in a small village without electricity, McDonald’s, or WCs with holes in the ground in lieu of toilets- which is a first-world child’s version of a work camp.
The notion that my folks would ever pay for me to flop around a mat in a magenta leotard so that I could pursue my dream of being on a Wheaties box was never possibility. While the likelihood that had I been born in rural China, and had been vetted and tested to show promise in table tennis with my cat-like reflexes, I could see my parents sending me off to ping pong camp to bring honor to my family.
While I’m rooting for the folks in red, white and blue; I can partially see myself in red with yellow stars. But thank goodness I have zero athletic abilities because I’m a sore loser and a crybaby and the world doesn’t need to see that.
From Razorcake #66, originally published January 2012.
Now that I am solidly in my early adulthood, having spent an entire year into my 30s, I’m starting to learn quite a few things about the going-ons and such that is life. I humbly present to you 18 Things I Know About Life.
1. The people who raised you don’t know everything.
There are plenty of kids who know this about the people who are raising them, and I was aware of it to an extent. Like I knew that my parents would never understand why it was so insanely important that I collect every toy in a Happy Meal series, nor could they fully conceive of why it was imperative that they spend $50 on a B.U.M. Equipment sweatshirt so that I wouldn’t feel like a complete leper in junior high school. I had an inkling then that there were things my folks could not comprehend, but I still had faith that they knew the fundamental truths of life and would be able to impart them upon me when the time was right.
But it never happened. As I grew into my own person, filling into my own shoes and earning the almost indiscernanble lines in my face, I came to realize that my parents don’t have all the big answers and have made large, looming mistakes. I was in my mid-twenties when this sunk in. When I had an epiphany that my folks live a lot of their life in fear- which wasn’t an answer to me.
2. Raising children is a very simple way to find purpose.
Firstly, I must clarify to all parent-folk that I don’t mean that parenting is simple, but that the act of parenting is a definitive way to instill purpose in one’s life. Those who are feeling lost need only to procreate, to have a life to whom they are beholden, to stop themselves in the middle of whatever muddled life they are leading and to suddenly have a devotion. It is instant-purpose-for-life type shit. It is simple, terrifying, self-centered and courageous.
3. Entitlement is like [insert your guilty pleasure], it’s good in moderation and somewhat necessary.
I find that I constantly have to remind myself to have expectations and standards in which to live by. It speaks volumes for those of us who have not had much—be it health care, fair pay or whatever it is that you need—that when we receive an iota of it, we cling to it without thinking about whether we deserve more.
It may be baffling, but to have someone tell you that you need more of a sense of entitlement is a reminder that we need not settle for crumbs when we deserve a few slices. But be careful after you’ve got your slices, think about whether you need the whole loaf. (Damn, is that my lack of entitlement speaking again? Maybe I do deserve the whole fucking loaf! [Ugh.])
4. Don’t drink orange juice after you’ve brushed your teeth.
5. Learning the origin of words always makes you feel exponentially more intelligent than you did in the minutes before you learned the origin of the word.
Like for example, I finally figured out why the cover for your comforter is called a duvet cover. Because duvet is French for down, like a goose down comforter! (And yes, you should always have a duvet cover for your down comforter. And no, it’s not bougie to have a down comforter, it’s essential in the wintertime. [And yes, I know, you're reading a punk rock fanzine and you're thinking, "Why is this woman writing about com-fucking-forters?" Because punks sleep too and we like to be comfortable, duh!])
6. Sometimes we need to be proactive about the things we care about, just mere tolerance isn’t enough.
This is about speaking up, rather than passively letting things happen or not happen.
7. It’s a bit of a mindfuck to think that there are so many different types of jobs out there that have not yet been invented.
Like when I was a kid, I could not ever have conceived that I would grow up to work on the internet (you know, the inner netting of men’s swim trunks). It’s odd to think that some of the jobs that kids think of when they say, “When I grow up, I wanna be…”, could be obsolete by the time they’re adults. I guess this is evolution and this is how we know we are growing as a society- by making dream jobs extinct.
8. Dream jobs are overrated.
9. Clutter can be an external environmental manifestation of your life.
Organizing your stuff will help you to organize the rest of your life. I learned this when I watched an episode of Oprah in the late 90s and it’s one of the most useful things I’ve learned from television. I learned this, and how to make small pizzas using English muffins, spaghetti sauce and strips of American cheese.
10. Credit cards and good credit.
There’s this false idea being perpetuated (probably by the credit card companies) that one of the ways in which someone can create good credit is to always carry a balance on their card. It’s total bullshit. Always pay off your balance every month. Cut your credit card in half if you can’t do what the previous sentence said. Use a credit card for convenience, not as a way to borrow money for an insane interest rate. You’ll thank me later when you’ve used your excellent credit score to score a loan, to fund your independent film about slow-moving zombies who ruin people’s lives by stealing their identities rather than eating their brains. When you receive the Macarthur genius award for your insightful film exploring the undead human condition you funded with your immaculate credit—that’s when you’ll thank me.
11. Sometimes you just wanna fuck, and then you end up falling in love.
Fucking is totally normal and healthy and everyone should fuck as much or as little as they want to so long as all parties involved are consenting, safe and respectful. Sometimes its just a physical thing and then you’re over it. But if you go into it not expecting much, it’s a beautiful thing to feel the evolution of fucking to an expression of love. Yeah, I said it. Evolution of love. Deal with it.
12. It’s dangerous to keep your lip balm right next to your glue stick.
13. Wheel of Fortune is the best game show on American television.
This is a game anyone can play. I’ve seen immigrants on this show, folks who are sometimes asked to repeat the letter they’re calling out because Pat can’t understand their pronunciation, and I’ve seen these folks win. The game itself is equal parts luck and skill, rife with bankruptcy and lost turns and also big surprises like a trip to Fiji or a $5,000 gift certificate to your neighborhood big-box hardware store.
In the end, even if you don’t solve a single puzzle, they still send you home with $1,000, just for showing up and trying. Hot damn if that ain’t the American dream.
14. We’re supposed to get our vision checked annually and our eyes dialated every other year.
I got my eyes dialated for the first time just this week and it made me feel like an anime character with big black pupils for the whole night. Although I felt like a douche in the grocery store, strutting down the cereal aisle with my shades on, looking like I was some kind of produce-section hipster.
Oh, and the dialation thingy is supposed to help the eye doctor check to see if there are any tears or holes in your eyeball, so I guess it’s helpful in that way too.
15. Dog shit is karma for your shoes.
Folks who don’t pick up their dog’s shit will step in someone else’s dog’s shit. This is the most salient thing I know about karma.
16. Coffee makes everything better.
Even if you don’t drink coffee, you interact with folks who do and who are more likely to be pleasant to you because they do not feel like they’re about to keel over just from being alive and without caffeine.
17. I will always be confounded by people who are registered Republicans who are not working to protect their massive wealth (because they do not have massive wealth).
I guess I’ll just never understand working-class folks and/or people of color who vote Republican in this day and age. Like seriously?
18. Have you heard that uber-condescending quote, “Youth is wasted on the young”?
A Short Bridge for a Long Walk
From Razorcake #65, originally published November 2011.
The 12 bus was heading east from downtown Portland, across the Burnside bridge, to release everyone back into their natural habitats after their 8-hour workaturies. I stood toward the back exit, trying to breath without inhaling the smells of a packed bus. Traffic was much slower than usual, with the blare of police sirens from black and white sedans speeding pass us. I thought about where they were racing to, who will they rescue, who will be the next unarmed person who they will shoot. I thought about how the wail of the siren—weeooooooow weeeoooooooow—forced all vehicles to one side, making us stop at green lights and drowning out our thoughts.
The bus slowly rolled up onto the bridge, surrounded by other slow-moving cars. As the bus crept up to the top, blue and red lights blinked through the big tinted windows, and I squinted to find the car accident, but all I saw was a steady single lane of traffic.
That’s when I saw him, in a dark hoodie sitting cross-legged on the bridge banister. A handful of folks, mostly uniformed, lined up along the sidewalk, all focused on the cross-legged man with his head hung low into his chest. The man looked up as if to answer a question, but I couldn’t see if he spoke as the bus jerked forward pass the waiting ambulance and cop cars, pass the traffic and on our merry way. All of us on the same ride, but going different places.
I wondered where that man went. If he decided to set his feet back onto the concrete, or if he let go and left.
* * *
It’s astonishing how easy it is for someone to feel so lonely even when they’re surrounded by hundreds, thousands or millions of people. The room moves in on the lonely—flooding oneself with anxiety and self-doubt in their inability to connect. Loneliness is not remedied by quantity, but rather the quality of connections with one another. The foundation of the connection bonds us, reminds us that we are not alone.
I have been alone and not lonely—standing on rolling grasslands and all I could see were the azure skies and lazy clouds. I stood there and inhaled and felt life and connected.
I have been in the middle of the masses, lived in cities with millions of people and felt like there was no one around. This emotional isolation can wear someone down, the exhaustion and dejection can drive someone to reconsider whether this is all worth it, Whether it’s worth it to hit to snooze button or the turn off the alarm altogether.
What if what woke you up was a clock record player? What if every morning your mickey-mouse-rube-goldbergy-contraption alarm dropped a needle on your favorite piece of vinyl and every word that was sung meant something to you. You don’t turn the alarm off—you let it play, to wake you and remind you why you have decided to wake up. You know that with this song, with this band, with this music, that there are entire communities built for it. You know you’re waking up and there is a place for you.
This very magazine has created a space, however small, nuanced, flawed and niche it is—it is still an important space. It’s valuable because there exist no other specific space just like this one, where there is a roster of personalities and bands who have found a home based on the community that, in part, this magazine has built. There are connections in these pages because we see ourselves in each other, us in you and you in I.
But maybe this is all very disingenuous on my part, considering that I have stopped listening to music. This is a music magazine after all. It happened a few years ago when I began to exhibit all the symptoms that are mentioned in anti-depressant commercials.
“Do you no longer enjoy the things you once did?”
When it comes to music: yes.
Although I’ve been able to find joy again in many of the things I’m passionate about, I just cannot seem to muster the same exuberance and celebration that music once inspired in me. It may be because music had meant so much to me, that I had used it to comfort me when I was going through my personal hell and now I associate the entirety of my music catalogue to those stormy days.
Everything is unlistenable: Reining Sound depresses me; not because of the heartbreak songs, but because I cannot feel that heartbreak any longer. Good Luck bums me out because “Come Home” is so beautiful, but reminds me that I don’t have that “home” anymore. M.I.A. doesn’t make me dance like I use to because I understand her songs about third world vs. developed world dichotomies all too well. Against Me no longer moves me, listening to them makes me feel like I’ve felt all I could feel and now I’m depleted.
The list goes on and on. Track by track, this music haunts me, reminding me of who I once was, seemingly in a past life. I was once someone who breathed this, who could not fathom not listening to music at every spare moment my ears had. I had lived to soak in sonic reverberations through speakers, to feel the electricity in the airwaves. The bands I loved, the way I used to sweat through hot shows, and the words I used to loudly recite—it was all a part that made up my identity.
And just like that.
So what the fuck am I doing here? Espousing the virtues of punk rock when I don’t take solace in it at the moment? Don’t I have fears that the muscle I used to devote to music has atrophied beyond recognition, that there is no way to resuscitate it?
I’m not so naïve as to think that although everything is cyclical, that I will round my way back to how I used to feel ten years ago. There is no winding the clock back, to when I was an eager 21-year-old, ravenous for heartbeats and unbothered by heartbreak. I am here, two feet planted solidly on the ground, wizened for the wear.
I’m here because even though this community is built on our shared connection through music, we also understand it is bigger than that. This a community built on ideas and critiques and growth. I’m still here because I believe that this space will still be around when I’m ready to appreciate music again.
I just hope that I’ll still have folks around to make me mix tapes.
* * *
Portland, Oregon is a city of bridges. Eleven bridges span across the Willamette river, bringing together the west and east sides. For a few minutes of each trip, these towering structures of concrete and steel lift us above water and carry us safely to where we want to go. Everyday, the bridges build connections, crossing back and forth like the nerves in our bodies that help us to feel.
Filed under: 29 Poems
#29: “I Lept”
because the ledge was there.
I surprised myself
because I didn’t know what was beyond.
#13: “Oh, How the Weary are Woeful”
Oh, how the weary are woeful
wondering when the sorrow will end,
only to learn that the woefulness
is someone the weary should befriend.
Poem #2: “Some Sing”
We were promised so much,
but owed nothing.
We were rewarded with the sound
of our own voices, and some sing.